Good morning, companions at the kitchen table. As the year begins, Euela Laubenheim recalls a December feast that included sirloin steaks, prepared in cast-iron skillets on a stovetop, sliced into delicious, juicy portions. “I would like instructions for cooking a cast iron steak on a stovetop.”
Since many of us were visiting over Christmas and many were having visitors, the next request is for the best local hostess gifts.
Kathy Markovich provided the first example, and you’ll find it in the Just a Dash feature at the end of this column. When you go on a visit and want to give your guests an edible gift representing the best of our city or our region, what foods do you buy? (There are those we know who prefer Chattanooga Whiskey as a host or hostess gift and carefully pack it in suitcases for transatlantic flights.) But for now, we’re asking questions. questions about edibles and not about drinkables.
You might want to open your stew folder because there have been, and always will be, some great stew dishes to trade.
Lookout Mountain’s Linda Morris followed your conversation thread, and Chicken Spectacular from two weeks ago reminded her of “a very old and cherished recipe that I’ve shared over the years with many friends and relatives.”
1 package Uncle Ben’s Long Grain & Wild Rice
1 can cream of celery
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons grated onion
1 tablespoon diced chilli
1/2 cup sliced water chestnuts
1 can (4 ounces) sliced mushrooms and stems
2 cups cubed cooked chicken
1 can French-style green beans or 16-ounce package frozen green beans (optional)
1 can (14 ounces) artichoke hearts (optional)
1/2 cup sliced almonds (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Buttered breadcrumbs or stuffing mix
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
Cook the rice according to the instructions on the box. Mix soup, mayonnaise, onion, chili, water chestnuts, mushrooms, rice and chicken together. Add your choice of the 3 optional ingredients, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a greased 2-quart saucepan. Top with breadcrumbs and cheese. Bake at 350 degrees until bubbling and lightly browned on top, 20 to 30 minutes.
OLIVE OIL DIPS
Kathy Markovich has several things to say about the demand for olive oil seasoning for dipping Italian bread.
“While I think you can just add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pepper and parmesan cheese to a plate (which I often do), this recipe really takes it a step further.”
Herbed olive oil dip
1/2 cup fruity extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced lengthwise
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
Coarsely grated parmesan cheese
In a lidded jar, combine the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper and rosemary. Shake well. When ready to serve, shake again and pour into saucers. Sprinkle with parmesan. Use as a dip for crusty bread.
The second nomination for a Carrabba’s Restaurant Olive Oil Seasoning Impersonator came from Valerie Bowers.
Mix of herbs and spices for dipping bread in olive oil
coarse sea salt
Crushed red pepper flakes
Freshly cracked pepper
Chopped fresh garlic
In a jar, combine equal amounts of dried parsley, oregano, basil and rosemary, and shake well.
When ready to serve, place a teaspoon or more of the herbs, depending on the number of ladles, in a shallow bowl. Add sea salt, red pepper flakes, pepper and garlic. Pour the olive oil over it, and stir.
Variations: Not a fan of any of the ingredients? Leave besides. You’ll always have a delicious dip for crusty bread.
— Notes on olive oil: As with any dish, the quality of the ingredients is generally proportional to the quality of your dining experience. A good number (some say up to two-thirds of brands) of olive oils are cut with less expensive oils. This results in reduced flavor and nutritional benefits.
My preference is organic first pressing (extra virgin) olive oil and I order mine from Dr. Mercola’s website. There are, however, many authentic brands available at grocery stores in the area, such as Publix, Whole Foods, and Fresh Market – the latter, in my opinion, having the best selection.
— Notes on herbs: I’ve always bought bright green organic dried herbs, and I don’t keep them in the cupboard for too long. I recently discovered Green Garden Organic Herbs. They are freeze-dried to better preserve this quality of fresh grass. Alas, I only found them on Amazon and Whole Foods online.
CORN BREAD TWIST
Jim Wilson recommended a cornbread salad that was attributed in a cookbook to Jimmie Ruth Wilson.
2 packages (6 ounces each) cornbread mix
Pinch of sage
1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chiles, drained
3 large tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup chopped green peppers
1 package (1 ounce) ranch dressing mix (dry)
1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
2 cans (15 ounces each) pinto beans, drained
2 cups cheddar cheese
10 slices crispy cooked bacon, crumbled
2 cans (17 ounces each) golden whole-grain sweet corn
Prepare cornbread mixture according to package directions, adding sage and green chiles. Cool slightly and crumble. Mix tomatoes, green onions and green peppers together; put aside.
In another bowl, combine ranch dressing mixture with sour cream and mayonnaise.
Spread with cornbread crumbs, pinto beans, tomato mixture, cheddar cheese, bacon, corn and dressing. Chill, covered, in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours before serving.
JUST ONE PULL
A first nomination for locally flavored food gifts came from Kathy Markovich. She wrote, “Chattanooga is blessed with several wonderful bakeries. I highly recommend Bread & Butter’s Not Quite White Sourdough to go with an olive oil dip for bread. Every time I visit family in Arkansas, they ask me to bring some of these breads with the priest’s Mad Café.”
Included in the requests that started this fare swap was an affirmation of the Southern custom of bringing food when visiting a home. Another appealing custom is to bring food to a home where sickness or other hardship has come. There is a certain generous person who never asks; she simply informs, “A breakfast casserole will arrive at your house at 6 o’clock tonight.” And everyone loves a breakfast casserole, so why even ask?
Blessings on all who bring food, purchased or prepared, to another door, to a neighbor or to a distant friend. And let’s continue to do this for each other. What about?
About next week: Come. Please.
— Stovetop steak, cast iron
— Edible hostess gifts
TO JOIN US
Fare Exchange is a long-standing hangout for people who love to cook and eat. We welcome both your recipes and your requests. Be sure to include specific instructions for each recipe you submit, and be aware that we cannot test recipes printed here.
Address: Jane Henegar, 913 Mount Olive Road, Lookout Mountain, GA 30750
E-mail: [email protected]