Sunday, October 18, 2009

Back to Ursula's, after years, for Thanksgiving Turkey

When we were still living in Spalding Lake, I used to go to cooking classes with Ursula, a funny German lady who has been running a cooking school on Cheshire Bridge Rd. since the 60's. She is still going fact, she catered Jimmy Carter's birthday party at the Carter center earlier this month. I plan to share some of her recipes that I think have merit. They are my interpretation of her recipe and hopefully you can follow them. Just be thankful that you didn't have to try to read my handwriting....even I had a struggle.
This is her 2009 Holiday was truly amazing.....very moist and nicely browned despite the cooking bag. Enjoy!.............Sue (aka Grandma Sue, aka Elle's Mom)

Thanksgiving Turkey a la Ursula 09

Preheat oven to 415 degrees (400 degrees for a convection oven).
Use a 12 -14 lb. turkey (plan to buy about 1 lb. of turkey per person)

Line a baking pan with foil. Use a Reynolds Turkey Bag (ignore any directions that come with the box). Spray the inside of the bag with PAM.

Inside the bag, make a bed of:

1 ½ - 2 cups of sliced onions
1 T. fresh garlic, minced
3 stalks of celery, sliced
½ T. fresh rosemary
½ T. herbes de provence
½ cup soup greens (dried).

Wash out turkey and dry thoroughly. In a mixing bowl, put a 14 oz. package of turkey breakfast sausage removed from the casing. Add a 12 oz. container of Stauffer’s spinach soufflĂ©. Both should be at room temp. Mix in:

3 T. dried minced onions
1 t. dried minced garlic
½ T. fresh rosemary
1 T. Chef Merito turkey seasoning
½ T. herbes de provence.

Mix. Gently loosen the turkey skin from the breast and put the sausage-spinach mixture under the skin. Put a handful of onions and ½ T. rosemary, ½ T. herbes de provence, ½ T. turkey seasoning into the body cavity. Tie the legs together loosely and put the turkey in the bag on top of the veggie pile (don’t slide the veggies back....lift the turkey in carefully). Push back the bag so you can pour ½ cup white wine (which you have already brought to the boil) over the breast skin to seal the pores. Pull the bag back around and seal it tightly and tuck the twisted end of the bag under the turkey. Cook a 10- 12 lb. turkey for an hour (for every lb. above 12, add 5 min.) After the cooking time lower the heat to 400, open the bag (don’t steam burn yourself) with a knife, and fold it back to expose the breast. Put in a thermometer in the thigh and cook until the temperature is 165 degrees.

PAM a pot and transfer the contents of the bag and any juice in the pan to the pot and heat on the stove. Add 1 envelope of brown gravy mix (McCormick) and 6 oz. shitake mushrooms that have been peeled, degilled and sliced. Simmer for a couple minutes and add 2- 3 T. cream.

Babe's favorite: Basmati and Wild Rice with Blood Oranges

In grad school (for the first time, I should say), I studied lots of different things, but I ended up completing a master's degree focusing on the scientific, legal, and policy perspectives on concentrated swine feeding operations (aka factory hog farms). It was an interesting topic, actually, and I could go on and on about it, but the point is that my family and friends started showering me with pig-themed gifts. For the most part, I was ambivalent, but my mom really hit a homerun when she presented me with Babe's Country Cookbook by Dewey Graham. It is a vegetarian cookbook, of course, because who would want to eat Babe or one of his friends. (If you've seen earlier posts, you will learn that the answer is "me"!) However, despite the fact that I'm an omnivore (except when it comes to disgusting packaged processed foods), I tend to eat vegetarian for the majority of my meals, and this is one of my very favorite cookbooks (vegetarian or otherwise). Everything that I've made from it has been completely fantastic. There are other recipes from it that should be posted first based on how often I make them, but I had typed up this one for a facebook "note" a few months ago because I was so happy with it, and, well...I'm feeling lazy and trying to get a good start on this blog, so I decided to go with some recipes that were already typed. It truly is delicious and seemingly nutritious, so give it a try!

Basmati and Wild Rice with Blood Oranges
(adapted from Babe's Country Cookbook by Dewey Graham)

1 cup wild rice
4 cups water
1/2 tsp. salt

Thoroughly rinse wild rice in cold running water. Drain. Bring water and salt to boil. Add wild rice and reduce heat to gentle simmer. Cover and cook until tender but toothy, about 45 minutes. Pour off any remaining water. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes off the heat, then fluff with fork and transfer into a large handmade ceramic bowl ( is a good source for said bowl!) Reserve.

1 cup basmati rice
3 cups water
1/2 tsp. salt

Same procedure as wild rice, except cook for 10 -12 minutes, and no rest period before fluffing.

1 large blood orange (or navel orange), zested and supremed [chilling segments]**
1 cup pecan halves, toasted in 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes until lightly darkened and fragrant
1 cup golden raisins
4 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 bunch fresh opal (or other) basil

While rice is cooking, prepare ingredients. Turn basmati rice into wild rice and toss together while still hot. Add raisins, orange zest, scallions, olive oil, and lemon juice and toss together gently. Add salt to taste. Set aside to stand for 2 hours at room temperature to allow flavors to develop fully. When ready to serve, cut basil into long thin strips. Stir the pecans into the rice, arrange blood orange segments prettily on top, and garnish [liberally - it's good] with the basil. Serve at room temperature. Can be eaten as a salad by itself, or as an accompaniment with an omelet, quiche, or other egg dish. Makes 4-6 servings.

**Supreming an orange is just a fancy way of describing cutting an orange to remove all of the segments intact without any pith or membrane. If you google it, you will find videos and what not (and if you are a Top Chef fan, you will remember that it was one of the mise en place quick fire challenges at the beginning of, I believe, season 3 in Miami). The key is a good sharp knife and a little practice. I'll admit it here,'s just so cool to be able to do this quickly and easily that I started cutting oranges like this all of the time. You'll feel like a rock star!

Corn Salad ala Heather

My friend Heather is a wonderful cook, but even more than her cooking skills, I love the way she writes recipes. They are an adventure, because she is a very intuitive chef. If she doesn't have one thing, she'll substitute something else. Exact measurements...optional. Of course, every time she cooks for me, I want the recipe so I can recreate the amazing meal. I've found so far that it's never quite as good when I make it alone, probably because half of the fun of cooking and eating with Heather is that she's so fun and funny that I am already so happy from just being around her that everything tastes better. I'll call that "the Heather effect".

For example, here's her corn salad recipe. I tried to get fancy and high-brow by buying the end-of-the-season corn at the farmer's market and cutting it off the cob myself. The problem was that I let it sit in the fridge for 6 days first. Big mistake. Fresh corn should be eaten as soon as you get it home from the farmer's market. I should have known that, because, as a little kid, my grandmother used to take me to Mr. Laurino's farm in Tinton Falls, New Jersey, and she'd want my grandpa to have the water boiling when we got home so that we could immediately boil the corn to stop the sugars from being converted to starch. It was like candy! I couldn't get enough. I always miss my grandma just a little bit when I'm eating fresh corn (my grandma was a great cook, but I'll share more about her in another post).

So, here is Heather's recipe for corn salad from a recent e-mail. I've edited it very little, because, well, I like hearing her voice in the recipe.

Corn Salad

1 tablespoon olive oil
Corn scraped from 4 ears (about 3 cups - ?)
1-2 seeded jalapenos
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
2 teaspoons champagne vinegar
4 teaspoons lime juice
pinch cayenne pepper
1 scallion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

Heat olive oil in skillet. Add corn, jalapenos, 1/4 tsp. salt. Saute over medium heat 7-8 minutes until corn is tender.

In a large bowl, toss champagne vinegar, lime juice, 1/4 tsp. salt and cayenne pepper. Add cooked corn/jalapeno mixture. Wait until it cools. Then add scallion, cilantro, and cherry tomatoes, toss, and serve.

"Okay, so that's it. Here is all the stuff I do differently:

1) I use frozen corn, like you saw. No time in my life to scrape actual fresh corn from ears. I use a 16 oz bag of frozen corn. Don't worry about thawing it; just take it out of the freezer when you start chopping everything. Oh, and - if you do use fresh corn scraped from ears, I find that I cook it longer than that 7-8 minutes. One time, almost 20. Just keep tasting it and make sure it's tender.

2) In addition to the jalapenos, I put in some red onion, probably about a 1/4 cup or a little less. Cut it and the jalapenos very small, and let it sit in the oilive oil as the oil warms up, so they lose some of their bite and give a nice flavor to the oil.

3) Add the corn out of the bag. If some of it is still frozen, that's no problem. Just don't pour in any of the water if there is any. The corn will thaw very quick in the hot pan, and since it already is going to be "tender" like the recipe calls for, just cook it for as long as you think is right. Add the salt, taste it a bunch, and don't let it get mushy. Oh, and - add some black pepper too. I hardly ever use salt without pepper. But, I love black pepper, and I especially love coarsely ground black pepper. If you don't, skip it. If things don't taste right, add more salt.

4) The champagne vinegar is extremely hard to find, and in my opinion, white wine vinegar tastes exactly the same. I've been making this salad for a few years now, and the first time I had it with champagne vinegar was when I ate it with you. It's just as good with white wine vinegar, I promise.

5) I use lime juice out of the bottle usually; I have other better things to do with my fresh limes. Do what you want.

6) Instead of a "pinch" of cayenne, I definitely usually do more of a "shake." Just one, though. Oh, and again - I never put in salt without pepper. But that's just me.

7) Add all the vinegar, lime juice, cayenne, and salt according to the recipe, stir it up, and then stick the mixture in the fridge for like 30 minutes (if you can wait that long - this salad is also perfectly acceptable if you eat it warm, in my opinion). When you take it out of the fridge, taste it. You want it to be basically 'to-die-for' good. Usually I add more of everything, except cayenne - another splash of vinegar, another splash or two of lime juice (be liberal with the lime juice), and definitely more salt. Salt goes way too well with corn and lime to skimp on it.

8) At the end, I usually put in more than one scallion, because I love them. I also cut basically all the way up the green part until it gets not crunchy. Also, I love cilantro, so I probably put in almost a 1/4 cup. Also, I usually use grape tomatoes, because they're more plentiful at the grocery store. I actually kind of like grape ones more, too, because they tend to be sweeter than the cherry, and it helps to match against the acid of the vinegar and the lime juice.

So, that's it. As you know by now, I am incapable of sending a short, to the point recipe. Mostly because I often drive people crazy, because I usually don't follow recipes to the letter - I just use them for inspiration, sort of. ;) I hope you make it again and again, and enjoy - figure out what you think tastes the best to you!"

That, for the uninitiated, is a Heather recipe. How can you not love this woman? And let me just say, when she made it for me a few weeks ago, it was, in fact, "to-die-for good".

Mom's recent adventure with Shrimp and Grits

When I was little, my mom used to go to cooking classes by a lady named Ursula. I always found this a little funny/odd, because my mom is a great cook, but later in life, she took me to a class, and I suddenly understood. It was very entertaining, and a great way to have a little lunch and an outing with her buddies (under the auspices, I'm sure, of improving her "skillz"). She stopped going for a long time (perhaps because she was found out?), but just recently she was given a few classes as a present from her friend's son. Here's the result of one such class. I'm a bit trepidatious about posting it here, because I have not personally tested the recipe,'s a much less time-consuming version of the shrimp and grits recipe that I recently made (and will also post, though not today), and Mom said she's made it twice and it's great (even as leftovers).

Grits, Peppers, and Shrimp

1 cup quick grits
1 Tbl. chicken bouillon granules (not cubes)
1 cup cream
1 oz. butter
1 Tbl. olive oil
1/2 tsp. Hokan chili oil (this is a spicy oil that gives a nice little kick)
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, half diced & the other half reserved**
1 yellow onion, cubed
2 Tbl. whole garlic, smashed and chopped
1 1/2 lbs. shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cut in half lengthwise
2 tsp. lemon pepper
1 1/2 cup shredded cheese (they used a mixture of gruyere and havarti, but Mom thinks any non-yellow cheese will work)
Pam cooking spray

**Save half of the green pepper for a flower decoration (aka cut the pepper so that it creates pretty rings that can be used as a garnish).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (325 for a convection oven).

Stir together the grits, bouillon granules, and 3 1/4 cups cold water in a microwave safe bowl. Wet paper towel segments to cover the dish, and microwave on high for 6 minutes. Stir, recover (redampening the paper towels, if necessary), and microwave another 6 minutes. Stir in cream until no lumps remain.

Spray a little Pam cooking spray in a large pot, add 2 oz. butter, 2 Tbl. olive oil, and 1/2 t. Hokan chili oil. Saute the diced red and green bell pepper. Add the cubed onion and continue to saute. Add the garlic. (Meanwhile, "Pam" a 2 1/2 - 3 qt. pan and put the grits in the pan.) Add the shrimp to the pepper and onion mixture and saute until barely pink (not done). Add 2 tsp. lemon pepper, toss, and add the shrimp to the pan of grits. (If you want, you could cook everything to this step the day before and then cool and refrigerate the pan, covered.) Top with cheese and bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees (325 if in a convection oven). (If you made the ingredients a day ahead and they are cold, bake for 40-45 minutes.)

A great way to raise dough: Pumpkin Bread

During college, I started a group called Eco-Reach. It was/is a great organization that connects undergraduate and graduate students and professors in the University of Georgia Institute of Ecology (and other related departments) with local schools and community groups in the Athens area to teach kids science and environmental awareness in a way that is, perhaps, a bit more interdisciplinary. My favorite program was one I developed on fall leaves from a variety of sources. We talked about the pigments in leaves (what elementary school kid doesn't like learning big words like "chlorophyll" and "anthocyanin"?) and used coffee filters to perform basic chromatography. We did the leaf dance that demonstrated the life cycles of trees from seed to tree to decomposition - so fun! And best of all, we used grated up crayons, wax paper, irons, and beautiful fall leaves to make art projects, which was, of course, my favorite part!

Of course, grated up crayons can be expensive, so we quickly determined that we should hold fundraisers, and because of limitations on what we could do as students, we started holding bake sales. I made the mistake early on of baking many loaves of pumpkin bread for the bake sales, and pretty soon, I wasn't allowed to bring anything else to bake sales, pot lucks, or any other Institute gatherings, despite assurances to my friends that I was really capable of so much more. It became so extreme that I went several years without being able to make pumpkin bread because I was so tired of it, but luckily, that period is over. Besides, it is a simple, delicious, easy-to-use-ingredients-in-your-pantry recipe, so there could be worse things! Enjoy!

Pumpkin Bread

3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil, scanted
4 large eggs
1 16 oz. can pumpkin (I think they've only sold 15 oz. cans for at least 10 years, but...whatever - that works fine)

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger

2/3 cup warm water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two loaf pans. Put sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, and pumpkin in a medium bowl and beat to blend. Combine remaining ingredients EXCEPT water in a large bowl and mix. Stir pumpkin mixture into dry ingredients and blend. Slowly add warm water and stir until homogeneous. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately one hour until golden brown and done. (To test doneness, insert clean, dry knife into center of bread. If it is clean when removed, the bread is done.) Cool for 10 minutes in the pans. Remove bread from the pans and finish cooling on wire racks.

If I'm really feeling fancy, I like to serve this sweet bread with pumpkin whipped cream. Simply make slightly sweetened whipped cream and fold in 3 tablespoons of pumpkin (and if I'm doing this, I put a little extra pumpkin in the bread recipe to make up for that extra ounce!). Cut bread into rectangles and place on a platter around the bowl of whipped cream.

For some fun articles about Eco-Reach (including one with a picture of me in college), check out these links:

Pork chops with pomegranate fennel "slaw"

This is a recipe that my dear friend, Heather Vitale, shared with me. I am giving you fair warning now - it is completely addictive. I find myself eagerly anticipating pomegranate season, and yesterday, while at Wegman's grocery store with another dear friend, my dreams were answered. That's right...beautiful pomegranates and fennel were both on hand, and all I can say today is "'s what's for dinner"!

In my yard in Athens, I actually tried to grow pomegranates. I got two plants from the organic plant producer that supplied all of my apple, pear, and cherry trees in my "orchard", because I thought they had to cross-polinate, and I did my best to take care of them. One year, I did actually have a pomegranate on one of the little trees (which looked more like a shrub), but either my brother ate it or the deer did...I never had the pleasure, and I'll never know the culprit for sure.

Pomegranates do have one downside - they are sort of a pain to prepare. Be sure to wear an apron, because you will get splattered with juice! I tend to use the water method, where you slit the skin and try to break off larger pieces to work with, and then I sort of "mumble" off the seeds from the white part gently into a bowl of water, and any of the pith that I miss seems to float away from the seeds. While somewhat time-consuming, I find it relaxing, and I figure I'm using up some of the calories that I'll soon be eating. I don't include any bruised or mushy seeds, so I usually buy two just in case I have to leave out a portion of the seeds. I've been known to throw in a little of the wispy fennel fronds into the slaw, as well, just because it looks so pretty. Also, the pomegranate fennel slaw could be used on its own as a side dish or "salad", and I can also picture it with a hearty fish, like salmon, or with a chicken breast (though I haven't tried it yet...if you do, let me know how it works!).

Pork chops with Pomegranate Fennel Slaw

1 lb. fennel bulb, outer tough parts peeled and then coarsely chopped
3 Tbl. vegetable oil
1 cup pomegranate seeds (from 1 large pomegranate)
2 scallions, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp. seasoned rice wine vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
2 tsp. honey
1/4 tsp. salt
4 (1/2- to 3/4- inch thick) pork chops (preferably organic and sustainably raised, of course)

Cook fennel in 2 Tbl. oil over medium heat until tender, approximately 15 minutes. Transfer to bowl, stir in pomegranate seeds, cilantro, vinegar, scallions, honey, and salt.

Season the pork chops with a little salt and pepper, heat the remaining oil until hot but not smoking, and cook the pork chops until deep golden brown, approximately 4-5 minutes per side. Serve topped with the pomegranate fennel slaw. If you have any leftovers, be thankful - it's great the next day for lunch (even cold or at room temperature)!