Comfort Food

Comfort Food

Timbales Irving

Washington Irving died in 1859, 40 years after he wrote two pieces that most of us know. Rip Van Winkle was his magical story about a Dutchman who was lured to a ghostly place, drank the liquor of the partiers … fell asleep and woke up 20 years later.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow frightens kids of all ages with the tale of the headless horseman!

Irving was a short story writer, an essayist, biographer and a historian who penned accounts about many important historical figures. He served as the American Ambassador to Spain in the 1840s.



Just months before his death at age 76, Irving published a five-volume biography about George Washington. Washington Irving was named after the General turned President, and new inaugurated President Washington blessed 6-year-old Irving when meeting him in New York City.

I think Washington Irving was the first of his kind. He had family in England, so he spent many years visiting them. He published much of his work in the United States and in England in an effort to strengthen his copyrights. In the United States the laws were slim and poorly enforced. By publishing in both places, he could protect his work against infringement.

He worked to encourage other American authors. Hawthorne, Longfellow, Melville and Poe are on his list of mentees. He did the same for British writers including Lord Byron, Charles Dickens and Mary Shelley. What impact he had on the literary world of that time. He pushed their talents as a trade, assured that they could make a living writing.

Washington Irving didn’t like school and frequently cut class to enjoy the theater! When yellow fever hit New York City in 1798, his family sent him to Tarrytown to escape the city. In Tarrytown, he learned about a little town named Sleepy Hollow with all its Dutch customs and ghost stories! On a trip to visit Johnstown, New York, Irving passed through the Catskill Mountain region. He later wrote that the Catskills had a witching effect on his childhood imagination. Rip Van Winkle was born out of that imagination!

Irving spent twenty years in Europe, but when he returned to America, he toured the Midwest and the west. His writings covered topics that he had experienced. He revived Christmas in America, based upon the traditions he had experienced while abroad. He launched the foundation for the Santa Claus and a sleigh that we still enjoy today. Irving’s St. Nicholas jumped in his wagon and flew over the New York treetops!

He was a popular American. Streets, parks and towns have been named after him. I was not surprised to find a food named after him … and one of his favorite restaurants … Delmonico’s!

Delmonico’s served many timbales, but the dish certainly did not find its beginnings there! The word timbale comes from the Arabic word that means drum. The mold is the shape of a drum and the dish is found in the earliest history of Sicily. In her book, Pomp and Sustenance: Twenty-Five Centuries of Sicilian Food, Mary Taylor Simeti tells us that the timbale (tummala) gets its name from that Mohammad Bin Thummah, an ancient Arab ruler over Sicily during, an ancient Arab ruler over Sicily during a four-centuries long occupation that began in 661. The Arabs introduced rice to Italy and rice is a primary ingredient in most timbale recipes.




Timbales are made in more ways than I can list! They sometimes include pasta shapes, rice or beans. Some are sweet and some are savory. Vegetables are included and all kinds of ground/minced meats. Some are layered and others have meat in the middle with an outside layer of rice or vegetables.

If you were cooking during the 1970s and 80s, you remember the popularity of individual meatloaves made in muffin cups. My family loves the crusty edge of a big meatloaf, so the individual size made us really happy! We made something ordinary into something fancy! That is what a timbale is… something simple turned into something extraordinary!

I’m going to give you a simple timbale recipe today, but first I want to tell you about the recipe created by Chef Charles Ranhofer at Delmonico’s. The timbale named for Washington Irving … and prepared for Irving … was made with wild game. A thin slice of a truffle was placed in the bottom of the mold. Triangular slices of the truffle were placed up the sides of the mold and game forcemeat was placed over the slices, but just enough to cover the sides of the mold. A combination of cooked rabbit, rice and white sauce was placed in the middle of the mold. The timbale was plated with a champagne sauce.

Here’s an easier version of a timbale with an Italian – Greek flair. If you don’t have timbale molds, use custard cups, souffle dishes or cupcake pans.

My timbale is made in layers. I used the Pampered Chef Greek spice mix.




Debbie's Greek Flavored Timbales


For the rice layer:
2 cups cooked rice.
Zest and juice of a lemon
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 egg

For the meat layer:
1 pound ground beef
2 teaspoons Greek spice mix
1 Tablespoon minced dried onion
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 Tablespoons ketchup
1 egg

Additional ingredients:
sliced mushrooms
feta cheese

Mix the rice combination. Mix the meat combination. Butter (or use cooking spray) the timbale molds. Place a slice of mushroom in the bottom of each mold. Fill half the mold with the rice combination and press it firmly into the mold. I use a cupcake sized wooden press tool for this, but you can use your fingers or the back of a spoon.

Place a 1/4 inch layer of feta cheese over the rice.

Fill the remaining portion of the mold with the meat combination and press it firmly.

Place the molds on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Let the timbales cool 30 minutes before unmolding. If you are worried about them sticking, run a knife blade around the edge. They should drop right out of the mold.



You can serve these with any kind of sauce you like, but I sauteed sliced mushrooms and brussels sprouts in butter with another sprinkle of the Greek spices. And plated my timbales with the vegetables. Delicious!




This post is a part of my 2021 project, Foods Named after Famous People! The Irving Timbale was probably a favorite at Delmonico’s and this similar version might become a favorite at your house! Enjoy!

Haman Who?

Many years ago, I had a dear friend who was old enough to be my mother. She was Jewish, although she didn’t practice her faith. She did practice some incredible cooking that was based on a foundation of having been raised in a Jewish kitchen! I was happy to tag along on some of these cooking adventures … and my husband was happy that I did. Our favorite dish was something she called “chopped liver” and my husband called “chicken liver pate”! My friend Louise mashed her cooked livers with a potato masher … but throw a new 1970s food processer in the mix and you have a beautifully creamed pate. I use her recipe still today and have shared it with scores of friends.

Louise brought a cookie to a Christmas cookie exchange one year that was a cute, buttery rich gem filled with jam. It reminded me of a Colonial tri-cornered hat. When I asked for the recipe later, I learned that it had nothing to do with Colonial times or Christmas for that matter, but everything to do with the Old Testament days of Queen Esther!


Haman Recognizes His Fate” by Rembrandt (1606-1669)

The name of the cookie is Hamantaschen and here’s the story. Haman was the bad guy in the story of Queen Esther. Hamantaschen symbolize Haman’s pockets … filled with bribes … or perhaps Haman’s 3-cornered hat (which Rembrandt did not depict in the painting above!) … or possibly Haman’s ears!

Esther and Mordecai Writing the First Purim Letter by Aert de Gelder, c.1685


Esther was a young Jewish woman in Persia who was first taken to the King’s harem. King Xerxes fell in love with her and made her his Queen. Through her guardian and cousin Mordecai, Esther learned that the King’s prime minister Haman had a plot to kill all the Jews. That would include Queen Esther, even though Xerxes didn’t realize she was Jewish. She came to conclude that she had to save the Jewish people, even if it meant giving up her secret and facing punishment or possibly death. The purpose of the story is to tell us that God puts us in the right places at the right times and that God is always working in the background. Esther told her King. The Jewish people were saved. Xerxes had Haman hanged and Esther remained his Jewish Queen.

I like the fact that food historians aren’t really sure what the three points of the cookie resemble. It is possible that the cookie is called ‘ears’ stemming from the Middle Ages when it was customary to cut off a crook’s ears. Maybe Haman lost his ears in addition to being hanged. Religious historians even think it could mean that Haman finally came to realize the power of the Old Testament Patriarchs Abraham and his two sons. It could simply resemble his three cornered hat.

The cookie is part of the culinary celebration of Purim. This year, Purim is celebrated February 25th – 26th. The holiday commemorates saving the Jewish people from Haman. I don’t think you have to be Jewish to want to celebrate the knowledge that God is always at work in the background of our lives!

These little cookies are delicious. You can use lots of things as the filling, but the originals had a poppyseed jam in the middle. Mine, which are not beautiful, are filled with something called Traffic Jam … a combination of fruits! Some people put a cream filling in them and others make them in a savory version. My next batch will be filled with herbed goat cheese, and we’ll enjoy them with wine!




Easy Hamantasch


3 eggs
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons almond extract
1/2 cup orange juice
5 cups of flour and another half cup for rolling.
1 Tablespoon of baking powder

Beat the eggs and sugar until fluffy. Whisk in the oil, almond extract and orange juice. Blend the flour and baking powder. Combine the flour a cup at a time … into the wet ingredients. I use the dough hook on my mixer to make this easier. The dough looks a little like pie crust. If it is too sticky, add a little more flour.

Roll the dough on a floured surface 1/4 inch thick. Cut into circles. I find a 3 inch circle is easy to work with. Place the circles on a greased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Brush them with egg wash, so the corners will stick together. Put a Tablespoon of jam in the middle and pull the edges up, pinching the corners together. Bake them for 12 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool them on the cookie sheet before removing them. If the jam runs out … let it! My friend used to dust her cookies with powdered sugar! They are so good.

This post is a part of my 2021 Foods Named after Famous People project! The star of this story is without a doubt … Esther! Without old mean Haman, though, there wouldn’t be a story.

Enjoy!

Earl Grey Tea Cake

I’m a coffee drinker, but I also love hot tea … when I want it! I’m partial to Earl Grey and I have to agree with thousands of other enthusiasts who complained about a change in the blend. About ten years ago, Twinings changed their blend. To me, the blend isn’t nearly as strong or as flavorful as it was prior to the change If Twinings has changed back to the old recipe, I can’t tell it. I use K-cups and I use tea bags. Maybe the loose leaf is better. Earl Grey tea has Bergamot in it. Some varieties have lavender included in the blend. I really like that. Another is blended with the petals of blue cornflowers.



1st Earl Charles Grey


Who is Earl Grey, anyway? The first Earl Grey fought for the British as a distinguished general in America’s Revolutionary War. He rose in rank to become a Commander in Chief of the British forces in America. He was known as “no flint Grey” because he instructed his soldiers to remove the flints from their muskets at night and to fight only using their bayonets.

This peerage was created in 1806 for Charles Grey, who was Baron Charles Grey. He was first given the title Baron Grey of Howick, which is located in the County of Northumberland (his family’s land). Later he was named Viscount and then he was given the title “Earl”. The Grey family was very prominent and there is a very long line of nobles,

Charles Grey, the 1st Earl Grey is not the star of my column today! It is his son, also a Charles, but titled the 2nd Earl Grey! Known as a Viscount as long as his father was living, #2 held many political posts but served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from November 1830 to July 1834. He was a member of the Whig Party and in 1833, it was his government that enacted the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. 800,000 enslaved Africans were freed in Jamaica, South Africa and Canada.

2nd Earl Charles Grey

In 1834, Grey resigned his position and gave up politics completely. His party was arguing over Ireland and he wanted away from the battle. Grey #2 was a friend of the Prince of Wales. He was very well educated and known as one of the finest orators of his time. He was married with children and

Duchess of Devonshire
had many extra marital affairs! It was an affair he had with a married woman, before he had actually married, that resulted in a child that was raised by his parents as though she was his sister (or other accounts say as his niece). Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire was the child’s mother. The 2008 movie, Duchess, tells the story!


Earl Grey tea is named for the 2nd Earl Grey. Why and how is up for debate. One story is that he received a gift of tea flavored with bergamot oil and lemon as a reward for ending the monopoly held by the East India Company on trade between Britain and China.
Another story tells that the 2nd Earl Grey saved the life of a Chinese nobleman’s son who was drowning. The tea was blended as a gift, but Lord Grey never visited China, so there is probably something not so accurate about that story!

What does seem to be accurate is that the tea was first referenced in 1824. The tiny Bergamot orange grows in Italy and the addition to the tea leaves help eliminate the bitter flavor of water with too much lime in it. Lady Grey served it at and made it popular. She was frequently asked to sell the blend, so Twinings came in and established the brand. It was probably first blended by the tea house Jacksons of Piccadilly, which was later bought out by Twinings.



Enjoy the tea but use it to make a wonderful tea cake that probably originated in a Royal household. There are several recipes in historic cookbooks, but the true originator is not known. There are also many recipes online, today. Some call for the addition of lavender. Others actually tint the cake batter a light purple color. Some recipes suggest a glaze or icing. I didn’t do any of that to the recipe I used, and the cake was delicious. Simple, buttery and delicious.




Earl Grey Tea Cake



1 stick of butter, soft

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla

2 cups flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup milk

2 Earl Grey (or Lady Grey) teabags


Prepare a bund pan by spraying it and dusting with flour. Heat the cup of milk and steep the teabags in it for ten minutes. Cream together the butter and sugar … then cream in the eggs and vanilla. Sift together the flour and baking powder and add half of it to the flour mixture with half the tea steeped milk … blend well then ad the remaining flour and milk and cream until smooth. If you want to ting the batter, do it when you add in the vanilla. If you want to add lavender petals, stir them in at the very end.

Pour the batter into the Bundt pan and bake it at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Invert the cake after it cools about 30 minutes. Sprinkle it with powdered sugar or drizzle on a glaze. I just added a little glitter sugar!






This cake is good all by itself. You can add a little ice cream or whipped cream … or in the tradition of my mother … serve it with a spoonful of fruit cocktail! I’m a fan of canned fruit cocktail, but I’m a bigger fan when I add fresh fruit to it. I received beautiful Kiwi in my weekly produce delivery, so I peeled and sliced them and added them to the canned fruit. I almost always add sliced bananas … sometimes sections of an orange, halved grapes or other fresh berries. The foundation, though, is always a simple can of fruit cocktail!




This post is part of my 2021 Foods Named After Famous People project! You can find similar posts by clicking the menu button. I’ll also share it with a couple blog parties, so check out my sidebar.

Enjoy!

Black Bears came for Sunday Dinner!

I fix Sunday Dinner one time each month for my daughter, son-in-law and Miss Phoebe!  I started this tradition a couple years ago, but Covid slowed us down.  I'm not slowing down this year!  I've now had both doses of the vaccine and my family will have it as soon as they are allowed.

Our January Sunday Dinner was fun!  I set the table in a Black Bear theme and used a very special black bear as the centerpiece!  I carried this heavy wooden bear back from Portland, Oregon.  He sat on my lap on the airplane!  I had watched a guy carving the bears with a little chain saw.  My husband loved black bears, so I bought one for him!  Yes, I could have shipped him ... but it just seemed more appropriate to carry him home!



Red and Black Buffalo checks joined red and white and black and white checks to make a quite eclectic tablescape!  Phoebe and I shopped the house and took the checked trees from a winter vignette in the living room!  Phoebe helped me set the table, too ... but she argued with me about the placement of the knives!  Her mother sets the table properly for every meal, but I think she wanted to see just how far I'd let her go!  She finally gave in!  Teenagers!





Our place setting was warm an inviting.  The color red is always an inviting color to me!  My place mats are made from flannel.  What could be warmer?  The stoneware is about as casual as it comes!


The menu is has a unique theme.  Phoebe bought me a Downton Abbey cookbook for Christmas, so I wanted to use a couple recipes from it.  I'm posting weekly columns about foods named after important people, so I included Lady Curzon's soup.  There is a relationship between the real Lady Curzon and the fictional Lady Grantham.   Read about it RIGHT HERE!


The only turtle in the soup was the puff pastry turtle floating on the top!


Look how pretty the salmon is ... all wrapped in puff pastry!  I seasoned it with a maple flavored spice blend and it was delicious.


Our favorite cheesy potatoes are made with cheddar cheese, a little provel cheese and a good chunk of Velveeta!


I decided at the last minute to make grilled rolls of beef.  This was a thinly sliced sirloin roast, so in order to get some nice medium rare meat, I rolled and tied them. 



Who doesn't love Banana's Foster?  If you need the recipe, just click my new post at Bananas Foster!




Bananas Foster


My husband, Joe and I ate our way across New Orleans a couple of times.  Both of those adventures included dinner at Brennan’s with Bananas Foster for dessert!  Bananas Foster became a popular dessert at home, too … and every single time I made it, I had to hear the story about Joe’s pet tarantula.   Joe and I both grew up in Southern Illinois, the land between America’s two mighty rivers … the Mississippi and the Ohio.  


River trade, which became prolific with the middle 1800s because of the creation of the steamboat, brought many things to rural Southern Illinois.  At the same time, boats were carrying to New Orleans wheat and corn … The boats delivered (from New Orleans) fresh oysters to the port in Cairo, Illinois (a town right at the southern tip of the state).  The boats delivered fresh tropical fruits including bananas.  Those big stalks of bananas were then delivered to local grocery stores across the region.  Produce grocers were responsible for separating the ‘hands’ of bananas from the stalks.  There is where the big ugly spider comes in!  They were frequently found hiding in the big stalks.   A grocer, who normally killed them, saved one for Joe because Joe had been begging him for one!  Joe’s pet tarantula lived several months, but mysteriously disappeared over a weekend when Joe had gone on a camping trip.  I’m sure his mother had something to do with that disappearance!  I cannot count the number of times Joe told this story to our dinner party guests as I assembled the ingredients to make my Bananas Foster sparkle!



Bananas Foster continues to be the number one dessert in the Crescent City!  This popular dessert found its way on many New Orleans menus because of the fact that bananas came into the Port of New Orleans and the city had plenty!  More than plenty! 

Recognition of Richard Foster at Brennan's

Owen Brennan owned the popular restaurant and his sister, Ella, managed it.  One afternoon in 1951, Owen told his sister to create a unique dessert to honor the New Orleans Crime Commission Chairman, Richard Foster, a close family friend.  A banquet honoring Foster was scheduled in the restaurant and would begin just a few hours later.  The story says that Ella said, “Damn you, Owen” but rushed to the kitchen to get creative.

What did she grab first?  Bananas!  She remembered how her mother used to caramelize bananas for their breakfast when they were children.  That is what she did … adding rum and banana liqueur and flaming the dessert at the table for the guests to see!  A final quick dash of cinnamon made the flames sparkle.  Ella had been impressed by Baked Alaska as it was flamed at a competitor’s restaurant, so she was determined to out-do that performance!  Served over ice cream, Bananas Foster stills rules!



Bananas Foster


This banana topping is delicious as originally served over ice cream.  Try it over pound cake, waffles, pancakes … or over your favorite bread pudding recipe!  I usually prepare one banana per person!  I almost always use butter pecan ice cream instead of vanilla.  There are many flavors that would be wonderful.

 

 

¼ cup butter

⅔ cup dark brown sugar

3 Tablespoons rum

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 bananas peeled and sliced

¼ cup coarsely chopped pecans

Vanilla ice cream

 

 

In a heavy deep skillet, melt the butter.  Stir in the sugar and vanilla and when the mixture begins to simmer heavily, add in the sliced bananas and pecans.  Cook the bananas for a couple minutes.

Now is the time to ‘flame’ the rum as you pour it in and have your cinnamon ready to add to the flame!  Why?  Because the cinnamon will cause the flame to sparkle.  You almost need 3 hands to do this, so ask for some help.

The original preparation included flaming, but you don’t have to do that if it scares you!  It is impressive, though.

Serve the warm topping over ice cream.



This post is part of my 2021 project, Foods Named after Famous People!  I'll share it on a couple blog parties, so look at my short list on my sidebar!  You can find more posts about famous people by clicking my menu tab!  Enjoy!

 

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