Nostalgic Gourmet
by Leba Dawkins
Jun 01, 2011 | 1770 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In these fast-moving analytical days of dissecting every morsel we eat, this column is about preserving the original taste of “don’t change” recipes.

Trust the Original Recipe

A hundred or so years ago, a recipe shower for the bride was an important occasion. For some it was only an exchange of hand written recipes, but for others, a book was published with the giver’s picture and recipe. On the first page, this rhyme was written:

“Whatever you happen

To think of our looks

We’re sure you’ll acknowledge

We’re very good cooks.”

Regardless of how and when recipes are exchanged, a small problem still exists: A few will modify the recipe and then say, “It doesn’t taste the same. Did you give me the spinach loaf recipe you brought to the church social?”

My answer was probably, “No, I gave you the right one. Did you use Gruyere cheese?”

“No, I used Swiss.”

Did you use bacon drippings?”

“No, I don’t believe in using bacon grease; I used olive oil.”

In defense of experienced cooks everywhere, it’s extremely difficult to write down a recipe that we’ve been slinging together for decades and even harder in this Google-Age where so many variations are available on the internet.

Take my favorite spinach dish for example: If altered in any of the following ways, the original flavor and texture is lost.

Spinach: Frozen is faster, but fresh can never be beat for distinctive taste. Plus — frozen doesn’t drain well without being smashed into pulp.

Cheese: Although a soft, mild cheese like Gruyere perfectly complements the spinach, Baby Swiss, Provolone and even Ricotta will delight the taste buds with variation, but alters the original taste.

Bacon drippings: Any other oil will alter the taste.

Cracker crumbs: Switching to whole grain will not only alter the taste, but change the consistency.

Spinach Loaf

2 cups cooked and drained spinach

2 well beaten eggs

3/4 cup grated soft cheese

2 tablespoons bacon drippings

1 cup saltine cracker crumbs

1 tablespoon vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Blend all six Ingredients well. Pour in 5- by 7-inch greased loaf pan and bake for 25-30 minutes.

While many folks love serving this dish with a mushroom sauce, I prefer a mild artery-popping Creole Sauce. Spice it up as much as your taste buds demand.

Cook and dice 4 slices of bacon. Sauté a couple of tablespoons of diced onions and green peppers in a little of the bacon fat until wilted. Add 1 cup of peeled and diced tomato flesh; continue sautéing until soft. Add 1 cup chicken stock. Salt and pepper to taste.

Bring stock mixture to a boil and then lower heat. Mix 2 tablespoons flour with a little of the hot liquid and then add slowly to other ingredients. Cook on medium for about 5 minutes. Add more stock if too thick. So simple … so good.

Leba also writes the “Upon Reflection” column that runs bi-monthly in the Banner’s Sunday edition.