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The Cutco Cookbook, Meat and Poultry Cookery: Comfort Food

beef stew

StewInBowl2I made this recipe a few weeks ago, but have been too distracted by other things to get the post written and published. Nothing big, you understand, nothing dramatic. Just the effluvia of holidays and working and trying (and failing) to catch up with the million other things I have going on.

I had a day free enough that I StewBeefMoreChoppedwas able to go to Whole Foods to look for meat. (Whole Foods is a bit of a trek for me to get to, and it’s usually full of crazed people so I really have to psych myself up for the trip.) I was originally hoping for something to roast, but I saw that stew meat was on sale and I thought I’d make beef stew. So after I got home I paged through the remaining cookbooks for promising recipes. There were BrowningBeef2a few for beef carbonnade that looked good, but I opted for a more basic hearty beef stew with potatoes and carrots, and found a good recipe for that in the Cutco Cookbook.

Cutco is a knife manufacturer based in Olean, NY; it’s been in business for about 50 years. The cookbook I have was published in 1956, and offers a lot of StartingToStewclassically middle-American meat dishes: roasts, chops, stews, braises, grilled cuts, and “variety meats.” There are also illustrated guides for using the full range of Cutco knives — clear, professional illustrations — and then odd little cartoons throughout the recipes. I got this book for Recipes of the Damned and wrote about brains, but many of the recipes outside the “variety meats” chapter seem RedPotatoesfairly reasonable.

The beef stew was a straightforward affair. I cut the stew beef into smaller chunks, tossed it with some seasoned flour to coat, and browned it in hot vegetable oil. I then added some diced onion and garlic, sauteed that for a few minutes, and then poured in some boiling water and a can of diced Carrotstomatoes, plus a bit of salt and about half a teaspoon of worcestershire sauce. I covered the pot, brought the contents to a simmer, lowered the heat, and let it cook for about an hour and a half. While it cooked I halved some small boiling potatoes, chopped some carrots into chunks, and peeled a dozen white pearl onions. When the timer went off I added those vegetables AddingVegsto the pot, covered it again, and let them cook 20 minutes; then I added 1 cup of frozen peas and let it cook another 15 minutes. And that was it.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the stew tasted great: very hearty and simple, and the flavor of the beef was good. It was a nice meal for a chilly winter BeefStewevening, and the leftovers were terrific reheated.

Verdict: Success. So that’s one more cookbook off the list. I’m going to have to bite the bullet and make some scary recipes in the coming weeks, if only so I can start trying other new recipes without feeling guilt about the project. In the meantime, I may have to make some more of the beef stew.

Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone: An Unusual Savory Stew

quinoa chowder with spinach, feta and scallions

ChowderBowlWithEggI had a big master plan for the year, and when I fell behind in the first six months I made a second master plan to get caught up. But in the past few weeks, for a variety of reasons I’d rather not get into right now, I got off schedule again. Over the weekend I found myself looking for a recipe I could make based on ingredients I had on hand. I poked through the pantry shelves CookedQuinoaand found the better part of a bag of quinoa, left over from the Three Bowl Cookbook, and thought that looked like a great possibility. Since quinoa is popular with vegetarians, I checked the indexes of the vegetarian cookbooks I haven’t used yet, and in Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone I found a few offerings that were ReadyIngredientsnot basically just cucumber and tomato salads.

The chowder takes a little bit of prep time, but is fairly simple to actually cook. I started with my vegetable prep: slicing fresh spinach, dicing a clove of garlic and a jalapeno pepper, peeling and dicing a couple of red potatoes, slicing a bunch of scallions, and chopping some GarlicChilePotatoescilantro. I also prepared a hard-boiled egg, following instructions elsewhere in the book, and peeled and chopped it.

Then it was time to start the actual cooking. I rinsed some quinoa and brought it to a boil with two quarts of water, then covered it and let it simmer for 10 minutes, while I diced some feta. I then drained the quinoa but AddedWaterScallionssaved six cups of the cooking liquid (which was pretty much all the liquid that had not been absorbed into the grain).

In a large pot, I heated some olive oil and sauteed the garlic and jalapeno pepper, then added some salt and cumin and the potatoes and let that cook for a few minutes. Then I added the reserved quinoa water and half AddedQuinoaSpinach2the scallions, brought it back up to a boil and let it simmer until the potatoes were tender. The recipe said this should take about 15 minutes, but I checked the potatoes at that point and let them cook a few minutes longer. Then I added the spinach, the rest of the scallions, and the cooked quinoa, and let that cook together for about three minutes. I removed the pot from the heat FinishedChowder2and stirred in the feta and cilantro, then ladled up a bowlful and garnished my serving with some of the chopped egg.

The stew had a complex flavor, with the different elements — spinach, egg, quinoa, chile, feta — playing off one another. Each bite had a bit of fire, a rich undertone, a bitter edge, and a nutty substance. I’d never have put these ingredients together on my own, but the result was truly delicious.

Verdict: Success. This is a terrific winter dish. I think I may go for seconds.

The Moosewood Cookbook: Hearty Veggie Fare

ratatouille

RatatouillePlatedI’ve owned The Moosewood Cookbook for years, decades perhaps, and cooked from it quite a bit. It’s very charming, with hand-lettered recipes and illustrations, and it has a kind of cute hippie tone to it — lots of whole grains and bliss. But don’t let that fool you. The food in here is good, and the recipes are varied. There are a few starch-intensive recipes but for the most EggplantCubespart the dishes present great combinations of vegetables, textures and flavors. My go-to minestrone recipe is in here, and I see from marginal notes that I’ve made the rarebit before (“more horseradish, get a wire whisk, need LOTS OF BREAD,” say my notes).

I’ve never made ratatouille from either this book or any other. I’m ZucchiniGarlicPeppersnot sure why. It’s not at all difficult, and it’s an excellent vegetarian dinner. It was a good choice for a cold night. New York’s in the middle of a cold snap, though we’re weathering it much better at our place now that we’ve replaced the broken middle blind in the front windows — especially since in the process Scott discovered that all three windows were slightly open at the ZucchinitomPastePeppersTomatoestop, which explains the draft and chill that we’ve had since *ahem* 2005.

I started by doing most of my vegetable prep, then heated some olive oil in a heavy pot. I crushed in some garlic and added diced onion and a bay leaf, then let them cook until the onion was softened and translucent. Then I added a little red wine, some OnionsGarlicBayLeaftomato juice and a diced eggplant, and let them stew for about 10 minutes. I did the last of my chopping (the tomatoes and parsley) and washed the cutting board and dishes while it cooked. When the eggplant was softened a bit I added some diced zucchini and green pepper, as well as some herbs, and let them continue to stew. Now it was time to add tomato paste and diced Ratatouille2tomato and let it simmer a little while longer. When the vegetables were tender I turned off the heat and stirred in some chopped parsley.

I served the ratatouille over rice, topped with grated romano cheese and some chopped Kalamata olives. It was delicious: The vegetables were tender but not mushy, and the flavors were RatatouillePlatedOliveslively and complex. And there are leftovers, so I know what I’m taking for lunch on Monday.

Verdict: Success. This is definitely going into my repertoire. It comes together pretty quickly, so I could probably make it on a weeknight, and it would be ideal for a brown-bag lunch.

Vegetarian Soups for All Seasons

Moroccan-style vegetable stew

StewPlated3Vegetarian Soups for All Seasons is another in my cache of vegetarian cookbooks, and it’s got some wonderful recipes in it. Delicious, healthy options, representing a range of cuisines. As you might guess from the title, the book organizes soups by season, so it made sense to work from the fall chapter.

Moroccan-style vegetable stew is ButternutSquash4a fairly simple blend of root vegetables and a modest amount of spice, served atop couscous. Preparation could hardly be easier. I started by prepping my vegetables: chopping fairly sizable chunks of butternut squash, potatoes, carrots and onions. The butternut squash took a while to cut up because the rind is hard and resistant to safe cutting, but the other ChoppingPotatoesvegetables went from whole to chunks in moments.

Now it was time to start cooking. I heated some oil in a stew pot and added the onions, cooking them until they were soft and golden. Then I added the squash, potatoes and carrots, plus a can of diced tomatoes and enough water to cover the mixture; I ChoppingOnionbrought this to a boil and stirred in some turmeric and some cumin, then covered the pot and let it simmer for about 45 minutes. During that time I cleaned up the kitchen, then poured a cup of dry couscous into a heatproof bowl and brought two cups of water to a boil. I had to fiddle about a bit to get the water to come to a boil at the time I needed it, just a bit over 15 minutes before the rest of the Stew4stew was done, which meant a few passes with the kettle until the timing was right. So just after I’d poured the water over the couscous and covered the bowl to steam, I added a can of chickpeas (drained and rinsed) to the stew, with a little salt and pepper, and let it simmer another 15 minutes.

When the couscous was ready I uncovered the bowl and fluffed CouscousFluffedthe steamed nuggets with a fork. Then I spooned a fairly generous serving of couscous into each bowl, and ladled in some stew. Dinner was ready, with virtually no work required after the chopping — apart from steaming couscous, washing some dishes, and opening a bottle of wine.

The stew was tasty, though it needed a bit of salt. The flavor StewPlatedwas rich and savory, and this is one dish that is overflowing with beta carotene.

Verdict: Success. Easy prep, tasty stew, healthy meal. This one goes on the list of favorites.

Vegetarian Express

curried chickpea stew, green rice, tossed salad

StewAndSaladWe’re back, babies! I’m still catching up with the rest of my life, but it’s time for another 107 Cookbooks post, with dinner cooked using the new stove. You can see it in the second photo at right. Isn’t that nice? A smooth ceramic top, and it heats quickly and efficiently. The oven works well too, but wasn’t needed for tonight’s recipe.

NewStove1Vegetarian Express is a book I’ve owned for some years, and used to be one of my go-to cookbooks. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve made the rotini with spinach, chickpeas and sun-dried tomatoes…well, I probably couldn’t retire tomorrow but I could at least get a new MetroCard. I stopped using it as much when I began eating meat again, but frankly, I should add it Saladback into the regular rotation, because the recipes are good and the preparation is pretty quick. It’s clearly written, too; the instructions are neatly organized, and the recipes are arranged in menus so it’s easy to assemble a wholesome dinner.

The cookbook promises meals within 30 minutes. I didn’t quite reach that tonight — it was more Onionlike 60 — but that’s partly because I hadn’t organized the ingredients as well ahead of time as I might have and partly because I didn’t have enough clear counterspace to streamline my prep. But it was straightforward nonetheless. I started with the rice, which I made in a rice cooker. (It was supposed to be brown rice but I GreenPeppersdidn’t have any.) While it cooked, I prepared the lettuce for the salad, then diced onion, green pepper and garlic for the stew. I heated some olive oil in the stew pot and sauteed the onion and green pepper, then added garlic, chickpeas (canned, rinsed and drained), curry powder (a nice hot blend from Penzeys) and some water. This first stage of the stew StewStage1cooked for about 5 minutes. And I spent a few minutes being grateful to have a working stove.

While it cooked, I cut the large stems off the parsley and chunked up some scallions. These went into a food processor to mince. I set them aside and tended to the next stage of the stew: I added a can of sliced tomatoes with the liquid, two StewSecondStage310-ounce packages of frozen spinach that had been thawed and squeezed, and a bit of salt. This cooked for another 10 minutes.

By this point the rice was done. I had forgotten to melt two tablespoons of butter, but I cut the cold butter into the rice and let it sit for a moment to melt, then stirred in the parsley and ParsleyScallionsMincescallions along with some salt and pepper. I mixed this up well and let it sit warming in the cooker for a few more minutes while I finished chopping celery and rinsing cherry tomatoes for the salad. Everything was ready, so I put some rice into bowls, then topped it with the stew, and dished up salad.

GreeningTheRice2Verdict: Success. The stew was tasty, with a good blend of flavors; the spinach, tomato and curry blended well, and the rice was a good base for it all. (Brown rice would have been good too.) The prep was simple and it was easy to keep things organized and to clean up afterward. I will be making this again, and using the cookbook RiceAndStewCloseup2again.