THE MENU Iced Clear Borsch Smoked Tongue Rice Salad Tomato, Wilted Red Onion and Basil Salad Various Mustards, Chutneys and Relishes Peach Spice Roll
THIS IS A hot weather meal to temper the oppression of summer by anticipating the cool of the fall. It begins with a bright and light iced clear borsch with a sparkling color and the deliciousness that comes from combining fresh beets with chicken broth. Next is a simple main course of cold smoked beef tongue served with various mustards, chutneys or relishes. Accompanying the meat is a rice salad refreshed with lemon juice, lime juice, thinly sliced celery, green onion and parsley. The rice is unmolded on a platter and surrounded by sliced homegrown tomatoes, the only kind to eat, and wilted red onions dressed with a little olive oil, vinegar and fresh basil. Dessert is a homey dish that combines the autumnal flavor of gingerbread, the deliciousness of diced peaches, now at their seasonal best, and the complacency that comes when a principled yet most satisfactory substitute has been found for whipped cream.
The meal also affords a cook the satisfaction of using up half a dozen of the infinite numbers of frozen egg whites that accumulate in the freezers of thrifty people who make lots of mayonnaise, hollandaise, custards and other egg-yolk-hungry dishes. Three whites are used to clarify the borsch and three more form the benign basis of the filling for spice roll. They should be defrosted a day in advance and brought to room temperature before they are beaten.
The soup should be made a day or even two in advance. The beets are peeled and put through the coarse-grate blade of a food processor. They could, of course, be grated by hand. Beets do leave a rather brilliant color behind, but not long, especially if the affected hands find such a useful occupation as scrubbing potatoes under cold, running water.
Smoked tongues come plastic vacuum-wrapped and are usually found among other smoked meats in supermarkets. Tongue is cooked in plain water for 45 minutes per pound, and can, of course, be cooked the day before. However, the tongue must be peeled while it is hot, when the skin can be easily zipped off.
The rice salad is made with converted rice because it does not stick. Gluey rice is bad enough hot but really revolting when cold. The trick in flavoring the rice is to add the olive oil, lemon juice and lime juice while the rice is hot. Then, when it has cooled, the parsley, celery, scallions and chives are stirred in to provide freshness and crunch.
Fresh tomato slices are very pretty around the rice salad. It is worth the tiny extra effort to peel the tomatoes, especially since so many of the new varieties sport elephant-tough skins. Wilting the red onion rings in salt makes them even milder. This is desirable since the tomatoes themselves should dominate. I use only the smallest amount of vinegar on tomatoes, which provide their own good ration of acidity. To overcome the accidental splashing of too much vinegar, I keep some wine vinegar in an empty worcestershire sauce bottle so that I can dole out the contents a drop at a time through the plastic inset.
The peach spice roll, an adaptation of a Dione Lucas recipe, is best made the day it is to be eaten, although a few hours in the refrigerator will do no harm. A rather liquid batter is mixed in minutes and baked in a sheet that is turned out when it is cold. The sheet is then filled with an Italian meringue made by beating hot corn syrup into the egg whites. The result is a creamy but unfattening deliciousness into which diced peaches that have been macerated in cognac and vanilla are folded. ICED CLEAR BORSCH (8 servings) For the soup: 2 bunches beets 7 13 3/4-ounce cans chicken broth 1 cup dry white wine 1 tablespoon lemon juice 3 egg whites Salt, if needed For the garnish: 8 tablespoons sour cream 1/3 cup loosely packed dill leaves, stripped from stems 1 clove garlic, peeled Grated rind of 1 lemon Freshly ground pepper
Peel the beets, put them through the coarse grate blade of a food processor and combine them in a large saucepan with the chicken broth, white wine and lemon juice. Beat the egg whites until stiff and add to the pan. Place over medium heat and bring to the boil, stirring constantly. Cook for 5 minutes, remove from heat and set aside for 10 minutes. Line a large strainer with a double layer of wrung-out cheesecloth and ladle the soup through into a large bowl. Do not push on the shredded beets and debris that remain in the strainer. When the strainer fills, discard the beets and continue. Let the soup cool to room temperature and taste for salt. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
A few hours before serving, prepare the garnish. Pour off any water that has accumulated on top of the sour cream and turn the cream into a bowl. Mince the dill leaves by hand or in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add to the sour cream. Press the garlic through a garlic press into the sour cream. Stir in the grated lemon rind and pepper. Refrigerate until needed.
To serve, ladle iced soup into chilled bowls and top each with a tablespoon of the sour cream mixture. SMOKED TONGUE (8 servings) 4-pound smoked beef tongue
Rinse the tongue, place it in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, with the cover askew, for 3 hours (45 minutes per pound) until the tongue tests tender when pierced with a fork. Remove the tongue from the water and let cool for no more than 10 minutes. Peel the tongue while it is hot, using a towel to protect the hands, by starting at the broad end and stripping the peel off toward the tip. Trim the underside of the tongue and discard the bones and fat. Let it cool, cover and refrigerate. Two or 3 hours before serving, slice the tongue and arrange on a platter. Cover and refrigerate until half an hour before serving. Serve with various mustards, chutneys or relishes. RICE SALAD (8 servings) 3 1/3 cups water 1 teaspoon salt 1 1/2 cups converted rice 9 tablespoons olive oil 3 tablespoons lemon juice 1 teaspoon lime juice 1 cup loosely packed parsley leaves 3 stalks celery, cleaned and strings removed with a potato peeler 4 scallions, cleaned, with 1/3 green tops left on 2 tablespoon minced chives Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Bring the water and salt to a boil, add the rice, cover and cook over low heat for 25 minutes, or according to package directions, until done. Immediately add to the hot rice the olive oil, lemon juice and lime juice. Toss lightly until the rice is coated, set aside and cool to room temperature.
Mince the parsley by hand or by dropping it into a food processor with the steel blade while the motor is running. Add to the rice. Slice the celery very thinly either by hand or using the thin/slice blade of a processor. Add to the rice. Slice the scallions thinly and add to the rice along with the chives. Season with salt and pepper and toss to mix well. Pack into a bowl and refrigerate, covered. The rice can be unmolded a few hours before serving and when it is thoroughly chilled onto the middle of a serving platter and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature about half an hour before serving. TOMATO, WILTED RED ONION AND BASIL SALAD (8 servings) 1 large red onion 2 teaspoons coarse salt 4 large, ripe tomatoes 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar About 14 fresh basil leaves
Peel the onion, slice it as thinly as possible and separate the slices into rings. Place in a bowl, sprinkle the salt over the rings and stir. Set aside for half an hour until the onions are wilted. Drain and pat dry on paper towels. The onions can be refrigerated for a few hours.
Drop the tomatoes, one at a time, into boiling water for 20 seconds, remove, peel and core. The tomatoes can be prepared to this point a few hours in advance and refrigerated. Finish the salad about an hour before serving. Slice the tomatoes and arrange in overlapping slices around the rice salad or down the length of a serving platter. Drizzle the oil and vinegar over the tomatoes and arrange the wilted onion rings on them. Mince the basil and sprinkle on the tomatoes. If refrigerated, bring to room temperature before serving. PEACH SPICE ROLL (8 servings) Softened butter to grease 10-by-15-inch jellyroll pan plus its waxed paper lining For the sheet cake: 1 cup flour 1 teaspoon ground ginger 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1 teaspoon ground allspice 1 teaspoon ground cinammon 1 teaspoon baking soda 1/3 cup (5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon) unsalted butter, melted and cooled 1/3 cup unsulphured molasses 1/3 cup light corn syrup 1 egg, beaten 1/2 cup hot water 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar For the filling: 1 pound peaches (about 3 medium-large) 1 tablespoon vanilla-cognac or 2 1/2 teaspoons cognac plus 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/2 cup light corn syrup 3 egg whites Confectioners' sugar as needed
Butter a 10-by-15-inch jellyroll pan liberally, line with waxed paper, leaving about a 3-inch overhang at each end and butter the paper liberally. Set aside.
To prepare the sheet cake, mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the melted butter, molasses, corn syrup, beaten egg and hot water and mix together thoroughly, using a wire whisk. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread it evenly with a spatula. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes and remove from oven immediately.
Rinse a cloth towel in cold water, wring it out and place it over the cake. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes and then refrigerate the cake in its pan for 30 minutes. Remove the towel and slide a small knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the cake. Sprinkle the 1/2 cup of confectioners' sugar evenly over the top of the cake and cover it with two long, overlapping pieces of waxed paper. Hold the paper firmly with the ends of the jellyroll pan and carefully but quickly flip the pan over. The long side of the cake should be parallel to the edge of the work surface. The cake will be lying on the fresh waxed paper, with the lining paper and jellyroll pan on top. Lift off the jellyroll pan (if it resists, wring the towel out in hot water and place on the pan to loosen it) and carefully peel off the lining.
Make the filling. Bring a pot of water to a boil, drop the peaches in for 20 seconds, then skin and pit them. Cut the peaches into a quarter-inch dice, add the vanilla cognac or cognac and vanilla extract, stir, cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
Place the corn syrup in a small pan and heat it over medium heat until it registers 230 degrees on a candy thermometer or until it is thick enough to form a thread when a bit is rubbed between the finger and thumb. Remove from heat. Beat the egg whites with an electric beater until they form soft, not stiff peaks when the beaters are removed. Beating constantly, slowly add the hot corn syrup in a thin stream. Continue beating until the mixture is thick and forms very stiff peaks when the beaters are removed. Fold the peaches into the beaten egg whites.
To assemble the roll, spoon the peach-meringue mixture on top of the cake and spread it evenly with a spatula. Roll the cake by lifting the waxed paper up so the cake rolls over onto itself. Continue until a roll is formed. Lift the finished roll with the waxed paper and roll onto a long wooden board or serving dish, such as a fish platter. Camouflage any cracks with more confectioners' sugar. The roll can be refrigerated for a few hours before serving. To, serve, cut on the diagonal into 1 3/4 inch slices.