Monday, July 22, 2013

roquefort grapes and strawberry pie

Other than roquefort grapes, the most memorable thing that happened in the kitchen yesterday was that I said to Owen, "One day I'll be dead and you'll be sorry."

I used to think lines like that were reserved for mothers in Philip Roth novels, but have proved myself wrong. The remark came out at some point during our never-ending conversation about putting cereal bowls in the dishwasher, setting the table with the utensils facing the same direction, picking up socks, practicing trombone, turning off the TV after 7 or 8 hours, and whether or not RIPD is actually an awesome movie and my refusal to see it means I'm closed-minded.

We pretty much keep this going round the clock, with breaks for camp, sleep, and trips to the supermarket. He was unfazed by my remark. I don't know whether that's good or bad.

It was our turn to host Sunday dinner for my family and I tried to compose an eclectic meal consisting of delicious dishes chosen without regard to food groups and convention. I was inspired by a spectacular meal my friend Mary served recently comprised of lobster bisque, lobster tacos, and chicken tagine. No vegetables, salad, or dessert.

I was pleased with my free-wheeling menu on paper. Here's how it worked in reality:

We started with cute little roquefort grapes that people consumed on the deck while drinking wine, shucking oysters, and making "jokes" about how I should just give our baby goats to the organic meat vendor at the farmers' market and ask for their pelts as payment.
I love how she's studying him.
I wrote about roquefort grapes in the last post and don't want to repeat myself, except to say that I love them inordinately. The trouble with roquefort is that it's too rich and salty to eat in quantity. Refreshing, thirst-quenching grapes solve this problem! And introduce another. We had leftover roquefort grapes and I snacked on them all day today. They are irresistible and, aside from the grape part, terrible for you. The recipe is at the bottom of the post.
my new love
After a while we moved on to the oysters casino I came across in Time-Life's American Cooking: The Eastern Heartland. What are oysters casino? A New York specialty made by topping oysters with bacon and sauteed vegetables then popping them under the broiler. Sounds swell, no? I'm not giving the dish itself a thumbs down, just this particular version, which lacked richness and zest. Not a hit with anyone. I might try this recipe next time I spend all that money on oysters.

Next came the chicken potpie. According to Time-Life's American Cooking: The Eastern Heartland:

"In Pennsylvania Dutch cooking, potpies are pieces of noodle or baking powder dough. They are boiled with meat and often potatoes to make rib-sticking potpie stews that are named for the kind of meat used. Thus . . . chicken potpie, though it bears no resemblance to the pastry-encased potpies typical of other parts of the United States."

In short, this was not potpie but thick chicken noodle soup. Nourishing fare for a cold Monday in January when you're recovering from the flu. Less ideal for a Sunday dinner in July.
overdid the color enhancement
We finished with fresh strawberry pie from Time-Life's American Cooking: The Northwest. Half of the berries were uncooked, the other half simmered into a sweet cornstarch paste that held everything together. This pie was popular, but not quite delicious enough for me to disseminate the recipe.

Only the roquefort grapes were that good.

Roquefort grapes, adapted from Martha Stewart's Hors d'Oeuvres.

Wash and dry 1 pound of seedless grapes (green or red). Toast some nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds; I used walnuts), then chop fine. Cool completely. In a mixing bowl, beat together 8 ounces of cream cheese, 1/4 pound of roquefort, and 2 tablespoons cream until smooth.  Roll the grapes in the cheese until they are covered with cheese -- but not too thickly! This is crucial: You want a very thin coating of cheese. Think of the earth's crust on one of those models from elementary school. Thin like that. After the grapes are covered with cheese, roll them in the nuts. Chill for a few hours. You want these to be cold and firm, not at all gooey.


  1. Mmmm. The Roquefort grapes sound like they taste an awful lot like my mom's cheese ball- so delicious and sooo bad for you. Can't wait to try them. On another note, your running dialog with Owen sounds all too familiar. I can't remember if Owen is 11 now, but 12-yr old Charlie, who lives at my house, and I, have much the same conversations daily. Now, however, they include the popular subject of hygiene- why it's important to wear deodorant Every Day, not just sometimes, and the concept of regular showering. I had to smile big when I read what you said to him. That's something my mom would've said, and now I would say it too...

    1. Does he insist on debating why hygiene even matters? Owen doesn't debate hygiene (yet?), but everything else becomes a philosophical debate and while it sound charming and in hindsight will probably seem so, it is exhausting and maddening. Why does it MATTER if the forks and knives are facing the same way? That kind of thing.

    2. I just had to crack down on my 12yo Literal Boy. I do not want to debate everything. Right now arguments with me are costing 25cents. I'd up the price but he'd be broke in a day. I think the idea is sinking in. I'm willing to debate important life decisions with him. I'm willing to talk intelligently with him IF IT IS A SERIOUS POINT. The rest of the arguing just to argue? I am done. (forks, yes. deodorant, yes. showers, yes. Why? "Are you interested in paying for the answer to that?")

      On another note, have you ever made ice cream sandwiches? I need a cookie recipe that isn't too sweet but holds up to ice cream. Preferably chocolate.

    3. When I make ice cream sandwiches I use snickerdoodles. There is a chocolate version of snickerdoodles, too. My recipe comes from Betty Crocker, but I'll bet these recipes everywhere online.

    4. I've made ice cream sandwiches using gingersnaps -- I'll look into this. You need the right cookie, one that's thick and not too brittle.

    5. Oh, yes. The arguing comes with the territory, I guess. I like the idea of charging per argument; I may give that a shot! I do charge both my boys if they can't find something, and I know it's there. I give them fair warning though-it works like a charm! Whatever wasn't there is suddenly found!

  2. I was reading the part about the pot pie and initially thought the strawberry pie picture was the pot pie.....Roquefort grapes sound delicious. If the cheese is really thin they might not be too horrible for you. Is it frustrating to get an even coating of cheese? How much roquefort and walnuts do you have to lick off your fingers between each grape? Sophie would appreciate Owen's plight what with all the work that is required of them on a daily basis.

    1. I didn't say so in the post, but getting the cheese on the grapes was not fun. That's why I ended putting too much on each grape.

  3. Yummy choices! I have lived in Pennsylvania all of my life, and have always thought of chicken pot pie the way it was described by Time-Life. Definitely not a summer dish, but I love when my dad makes it for me in the winter! On a side note, we enjoy clams casino -- delicious and light and not as expensive as oysters, which if I am paying for I tend to want to just eat them raw.

    1. I have heard of clams casino and maybe I'll try them instead of oysters. But I've never shucked clams. Is it hard?

  4. Your menu sounds lovely, and your pie is most startlingly beautiful! I seem to recall my grandmother making chicken pot pie during the summer. Farmers do a lot of hard work in the summer and need solid food. Another of her favorite summer dishes was on the opposite end of the spectrum. She called it cherry pudding, but it was a plain white cake with sour cherries (picked from the tree beside the house) mixed into the batter, baked, cut into cubes, and served in a large bowl with milk poured over the top. When she served this for dinner, she didn't serve anything else except bread and butter and the standard picked beans, pickled beets, etc. As a child I thought this was very peculiar and very disappointing as a dinner, but everyone else loved Cherry Pudding nights.

    1. This is one of the strangest, loveliest dinners I have ever heard of. Did she pass down the recipe for cherry pudding? Pouring milk over it. We don't do that kind of thing anymore, do we.

  5. It was the Strawberry Shortcake recipe from the Mennonite Community Cookbook, minus the strawberries, with the homegrown sour cherries stirred into the batter. I think my grandmother looked on it as a welcome break from cooking a hot meal.

    2 1/2 C flour
    2 t baking powder
    1/2 tsp salt
    2 eggs
    1 C sugar
    1 C milk
    2 Tbsp melted butter
    1 tsp vanilla

    Send out some kids to pick and pit a pint of sour cherries.

    Combine ingredients in the standard way. Bake in 2 greased 8-inch round cake pans at 375F for 25-30 min. Cut into cubes, distribute into large bowls, and pour on some cold whole milk. Provide various sweet and sour pickled items, and bread and butter, as accompaniments.

    I'm glad this struck your fancy. :)