FILL YOUR BINS with nostalgia, for if you pore through this season's cookbooks, you will find that to be the main ingredient.
This is not the spring of single-food cookbooks. The gimmick books are lying low. How-to's are staying hidden for the time being. The cookbooks coming off the pressed recently are mostly personal stories and recipes to accompany them, the getting-to-know-you cookbooks.
If you wonder why, you can expect to find our next season, for these are the first nudge toward the next big trend: regional American cooking. The Junior League, Ladies' Club, community church and folk festival cookbooks are coalescing; farm kitchens are being invaded by tape recorders and steno pads. Home cookin' is going big time.
Betty Groff's Amish cooking has been big time for years now, ever since her restaurant in Mt. Joy, Pa., received the public favor of such critics as James Beard and Craig Claiborne, leading to her consulting for Time-Life cookbooks and appearing on talk shows. Her first book, "Good Earth and Country Cooking," was the first major cookbook to come out of that distinctive Pennsylvania Dutch seven-sweets-and-seven-sours culinary tradition. Thus, her second book, "Betty Groff's Country Goodness Cookbook" (Doubleday. $17.95), has had an audience waiting for it.
Her recipes, like the stories she tells in her book, intertwine the old and the new. You meet her father, who used to cook samples of steak for the customers of his butcher shop, and learn how to make his sausage. The plot is thickened by walk-in appearances by Beard and Claiborne. Groff's home, restaurant, family and countryside appear in full-color photographs as well as bucolic line drawings.
This is, as you might guess, not a typical Pennsylvania Dutch cookbook (or wouldn't be if there were enough Pennsylvania Dutch cookbooks for anything to be typical). It presents the kinds of recipes a farm wife who runs a restaurant and is on the board of directors of an insurance company might make: as worldly as tartar steak, and as homey as two different methods for homemade tomato juice. The grand Pennsylvania Dutch tradition is represneted by corn rivvel soup, schnitz and knepp, hasenpfeffer, baked dried corn pudding and Groff's most famous dish, Chicken Stotzfus. Shoofly pie is inevitably included (a rather damp one, we found on testing it). And she gives the recipe for the marvelous cantaloupe pickles she sells commercially. Some of these recipes have been reprinted from her first cookbooks, and some of them could be found in the Junior League cookbook of any town in America. But there is plenty of good, hearty country food. Groff especially knows her potatoes. And one should keep this book in mind for the fall; it is hard to come by a good recipe for concord grape pie.
An ocean away is La Varenne, a Parisian cooking school run by British-Americn (and ex-Washingtonian) Anne Willan."The only fully bilingual French cooking school," according to Willan, La Varenne is introducing itself to American cooks through its new book, "La Vareene's Paris Kitchen" (Morrow. $12.95). Why to American cooks? They are most of La Vareene's students, and recently La Varenne's staff has been traveling around the United States giving coking classes. While most French chefs who visit America bring foie gras and the like into this country, La Vareene's carry ingredients from this country to France, particularly flour for testing recipes meant to be used in American kitchens.
This book is not a cooking course; rather, it is a personal introduction to a cooking school -- its chefs and their style. The chapters are divided by the seven teachers rather than by soups, fish, meat and such. And each chef is, naturally, quite different from the others. But the book comes together via the description of the school and its aims, the back-of-the-book chapter of basic recipes (stocks, sauces, pastries and cakes, fillings and frostings) and the menu-planning index. While Willan claims that the school favors "a simple approach," these are complicated recipes, weighty with aspics, mousses and pastry-based dishes. There are certainly some simple recipes -- carrot puree with mint, for instance -- but the book's greatest value is its tricks and tips: how to properly beat butter into a sauce, how to avoid a potato puree tasting stale or a mustard sauce tasting bitter -- and its personal variations on standard dishes, such as shellfish quiche baked with raw shellfish. In addition to the ordinary (beef stroganoff, crown roast of lamb), the book includes inventive preparations such as salmon scallops with spinach mousse and duck ragout with pears. It is certainly the most delectable school catalog one could find.
The French accent is quite different in La Brouche Creole, a spiral-bound cookbook out of Louisiana, by Leon E. Soniat Jr. (Pelican Publishing Co., 1101 Monroe St., Gretna, La. 70053. 48.95). Here is another reminiscence, this time of a grandmother and her kitchen, but it slips into wishful thinking -- wishing you had some turtle meat, an herb garden, a few mallard ducks, a possum to roast, and a steady source for andouilles. Most of all, it makes you wish you had a Creole grandmother who would take the time to make a proper slow-cooked roux for you. This grandson may do his grandmother honor in prose, but one wonders whether she would be proud to keep company with such abundance of liquid smoke or frozen turnip greens. Soniat sometimes displays more exuberance than expertise, yet he comes up with a few useful hints (softening butter by squeezing it through your fingers as you whisk it in) and includes a multitude of pecan recipes and all the Creole wonders such as calas cakes, trout marguery, bananas Foster and a real New Orleans sauce remoulade.
So hot-off-the-presses is the paperback edition of Kay Shaw Nelson's "The Complete International Salad Book" (Bantam. $2.50) that the author herself didn't know it was out yet. It is just in time to tempt heatwilted palates with more than 350 variations of salad, which, according to Nelson, "can be made with virtually any food in the world and served at any meal." Now that your seed catalogs are filed away, you can contemplate their fruits with this book, which begins with a world history of salad, basic data on buying, cleaning and storing greens, and a miniencyclopedia of herbs, spices, garnishes and equipment. Its breadth is its strength. Where else for $2.50 can you find between two covers American history (caesar salad, crab louis), a tour of the world (caponata, Finnish herring, guacamole, Thai beef), a salad for all seasons, nine chicken salads, nine potato salads and the only salad recipe that was delivered on stage? And with all that, the restraint not to include a recipe for banana-pineapple-cherry candle salad.
Twenty-two years after its first printing, "Cooking Without Recipes" by Helen Worth (reissued by Bobbs-Merrill. $10.95) is still full of fresh ideas for cooks. And cooks still need her "budget memo" tips and her buying and storage suggestions. Her charts alone -- fruit fillings for a 9-inch pie, cereal cooking times and measurements, seasons and handling of fresh vegetables and fruits -- make this worth reissuing four times, as it has been. While there are indeed recipes in this book, its backbone is the "pattern," a kind of basic nonrecipe from which to build and vary, say, salad dressing or better cake or fritters. "Cooking Without Recipes" is a question-answer, a dictionary, an adviser, a friend in need.
The grandmother is Sumatran in "Indonesian Food and Cookery," by Sri Owen (Prospect Books, London), so instead of teaching you to cook a roux, she tells you how to polish your ceramic tiles (with the dry coconut leavings from squeezing out the milk). This British publication is hard to come by, being distributed by the University of Virginia Press and costing $10.95 even as a paperback. And for most cooks it wouldn't be worth the trouble even if it cost $2 at your newsstand. The recipes require candlenuts and shrimp paste, lime leaves and fiddleheads, not to mention withered banana flowers (when you can hardly find even a fresh one). It uses enough coconut for a tropical forest. Besides, the recipes that were tested were disappointingly bland. So why mention it? It is a fascinating guide to Indonesian life, food habits and favorite cafes. Its chapters on sambals, side dishes and bean curd are intriguing. And surely it is rare to find, at least in English, 43 pages of botanical notes on Southeast Asian spices, fruits and vegetables.
Also on the "don't rush out to buy, but somebody may need it" list is "Judith Bell's Guide to U.S. Cooking Schools" (Dorn Books. $6.95). (Notice how many authors are including their name in the title these days.) Its recipes are standard fare, and the text is full of puffery such as "tantalizing array" and "flavor and savor." It is neither comprehensive nor completely up-to-date. But this listing and description of the backgrounds, repertoires and teaching styles of cooking teachers around the country could be a useful source book. It might give you an idea for a vacation: six-day crash courses, escorted tours of France, or a tour of the markets in the teacher's home city. (What better way to see San Francisco's markets than with a local cooking teacher?) Some of the cooking schools serve lunch, which is handy to know when you are visiting. And many are connected to cookware shops that might be interesting to visit. So far, this is a better idea than product, but it is only the first edition; the 10th edition probably will be indispensible. SPICED CANTAOUPE (2 pints) 2 pounds firm ripe cantaloupe 1 cup sugar 1/2 cup water 2/3 cup cider vinegar 4 drops oils of cinnamon and clove (equal parts)*
Wash the cantaloupe, cut it in slices, and remove the seeds and rind. Cut melon into 2-inch pieces and pack into sterilized jars. Combine the sugar, water and vinegar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir until all the sugar is dissolved. Pour the hot syrup over the melon in the jars. If necessary, add boiling water to fill jars completely. Add the oils to the syrup. Place self-sealing lids and covers on the jars. Process in a home canner for 15 minutes, timing from the moment the water comes to a full boil.
*Oils of cinnamon and clove may be purchased at a drugstore. Ask the druggist to mix them and to put them in a bottle with a dropper. I use the oils because they do not discolor the melon. -- "Betty Groff's Country Goodness Cookbook"
Notes: This can be made with cinnamon and clove from your spice shelf. Also, it can be kept in the refrigerator and eaten the week it is made, rather than processed for longterm storage. SHOOFLY PIE (9-inch pie) 1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust Crumb topping: 1 cup flour 1/2 cup light brown sugar 1/4 cup vegetable shortening Liquid bottom: 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 cup boiling water* 1 cup molasses 1/4 teaspoon salt Whipped cream or ice cream (optional)
Combine the flour, brown sugar and shortening in a bowl and cut with a pastry blender or rub together until it forms fine crumbs. While preparing the liquid, put the unbaked pie shell in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes. This prevents the bottom from getting soggy.
To make the liquid, dissolve the soda in the boiling water in a bowl.
Add the molasses and salt and stir to blend well. Pour the liquid mixture into the prebaked pie shell, and sprinkle the crumb topping evenly on top. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake 30 minutes longer until the center does not shake when it is moved.
Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.
These pies freeze very well. -- "Betty Groff's Country Goodness Cookbook"
*Note: This pie was quite liquid. Other recipes use as little as 1/2 cup boiling water. PORK CHOPS DIJONNAISE (Cotes de Porc Dijonnaise ) (4 servings)
This preparation is good for veal chops as well as for pork. When lean bacon is not available, Canadian bacon is an excellent alternative (saute it only briefly). 1 tablespoon oil 1/3-pound piece lean bacon, cut into small strips (lardons) 18 small onions, scalded and peeled 4 1-inch-thick pork chops 1 tablespoon flour 1/2 cup dry white wine 1 cup white veal or chicken stock Bouquet garni (1 sprig thyme, 1 bay leaf, 10 or 12 parsley stems) Salt and pepper 1/4 cup heavy cream 2 tablespoons dijon mustard, or to taste 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
In a large skillet heat the oil, add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and most of the fat is rendered. Take out, add the onions browned and most of the fat is rendered. Take out, add the onions, and brown them. Take them out, add the chops, and brown on both sides. Remove them and discard all but 2 tablespoons of the fat in the skillet. Sprinkle in the flour and cook until bubbling.Add the wine, stock, bouquet garni, and salt and pepper and bring to a boil, stirring.
Replace the chops and bacon in the skillet, cover, and simmer on top of the stove or in a 350-degree oven 25 to 30 minutes. Add the onions and cook 15 minutes or until the chops and onions are tender. Remove the chops and keep warm on a platter or plates.
If necessary, boil the sauce to reduce it until well flavored. Add the cream, bring back just to the boil, and take from the heat. Stir in the mustard at the last minute and heat but do not boil. (Note: If overheated, mustard becomes bitter.) Discard the bouquet garni, taste for seasoning, and spoon the sauce and onions over the chops. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve. -- "La Varenne's Paris Kitchen" DEVILED SARDINES (Sardines a La Diable ) (4 o 6 servings)
The waters around Sardinia are particularly rich in sardines, hence the name. These good, inexpensive little fish are excellent prepared simply, as below. 3/4 pound canned skinless sardines, packed in oil 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper 2 tablespoons dijon mustard 1/4 cup flour 1 egg, beaten to mix 1 cup dry bread crumbs Oil for frying 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Drain the sardines and put on paper towels to absorb the remaining oil. Blend the cayenne pepper with the mustard and coat the sardines on all sides, being careful not to tear the flesh. Roll in the flour, dip in the egg, and then roll in the bread crumbs. Heat the oil to 350 degrees and fry until golden, just about 20 to 30 seconds.Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with parsley and serve. -- "La Varenne's Paris Kitchen" Tunisian Mixed Pepper Salad (4 to 6 servings)
North Africans are devotees of salads made with flavorful sweet green peppers and plump red tomatoes that are grilled over charcoal and then peeled and seeded. This traditional dish, called mechwiga or meshwya, is subject to variation. Garnishes of tuna fish and pickled lemons may be added, if desired. It's a good salad to serve with pre-meal drinks. 6 large green peppers 6 large tomatoes 3 large onions 4 garlic cloves, crushed About 1/2 cups olive oil Juice of 1 large lemon 3 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander or parsley Salt and pepper to taste 2 hard-cooked eggs, shelled and cut into quarters 6 pitted black olives 6 pitted or stuffed green olives 2 tablespoons drained capers 6 flat anchovies, drained
Broil peppers, tomatoes and onions until skins blister, turning once or twice while broiling. Peel off skins, remove pepper and tomato seeds; cut vegetables into small pieces. Combine vegetables with garlic, oil, lemon juice, coriander or parsley, salt and pepper; spoon onto a plate shaping into a mound. Top and surround with remaining ingredients. Serve with pieces of pita bread or crusty French bread. -- "The Complete International Salad Book"
Note: Less oil can be used, if preferred. Don't worry if bits of skin are difficult to remove from broiler vegetables; they will just add flavor. This salad is fairly mild in flavor; Tunisians may like to add a healthy dose of red pepper or hot pepper sauce. REMOULADE SAUCE (2 1/2 cups) 3/4 cup olive or salad oil 1/4 cup lemon juice 1/4 cup creole mustard or prepared brown mustard 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish 2/3 cup finely chopped onion 2/3 cup finely chopped celery 2 tablespoons finely sliced green onions with tops 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley 2 teaspoons paprika 1 teaspoon salt 1/8 teaspoon pepper 1/8 teaspoon cayenne 1 clove garlic, minced
Combine all of the ingredients and mix well. Chill.
Serve over seafood or with sliced meats. May be stored, covered, in refrigerator 4 days. -- "La Bouche Creole" SWISS GREEN SALAD WITH CHEESE (4 to 6 servings)
The best cheese for this salad is flavorful emmentaler. Serve the salad as a first course or accompaniment for roast meat or steaks. 1 medium-sized head chicory 1 small head leafy lettuce 1/2 pound swiss cheese, cut into cubes or slivers 2 tablespoons drained capers 1/2 sour cream 2 teaspoons wine vinegar 1 to 2 teaspoons sharp prepared mustard 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish Salt, pepper to taste
Wash and dry chicory and lettuce; tear into bite-size pieces and refrigerate. When ready to serve, put greens in a salad bowl. Add cheese and capers; toss lightly. Combine remaining ingredients; pour over salad; toss. Serve at once. -- "The Complete International Salad Book"