Fall Cooking and Swapping Recipes
The Pleasure of A Recipe Chain E-Mail
There is a recipe chain e-mail making its way through cyberspace and it finally landed in my in-box. I hadn't participated in a chain letter since I was a teenager. Back in the day, these early pyramid schemes promised a huge payoff if you'd only send a single dollar to the first name on a list, adding your own name and address to its end and then passing the letter on to friends and family to do the same. I knew the math could work and I believed that everyone else would play by the letter's rules and we'd all get rich. I lost more than one dollar on that blind faith and never made a dime.
I hate to think I am still that gullible but when my friend Claudia sent this modest request -- just one recipe to just one person and then pass it on -- I thought, well, why not? I was curious to see what would happen and besides, I was too ashamed, editing this web site and all, to dare decline. I scoured my address book for people I believed were both home cooks and tolerant enough to take this on and only one declined (rightly so since she had already done the recipe chain twice). So I sent off a favorite salmon recipe I learned from Dorian Mecir at Dorian's Seafood -- "Baked Salmon with Leeks and Dill" (see our link to the recipe) -- and waited.
Within a day recipes started coming into my in-box and some of them are very good. For instance, a "Soufflé with Roasted Eggplant." The soufflé technique is very classic and the seasonings and pre-roasting of the eggplant will, I am certain, make a flavorful side dish. Another is for a very appealing "Roast Chicken with Orange, Garlic and Thyme" that its author says is a "tweak" of several chicken recipes in The Joy of Cooking. And there is a "Zucchini Frittata" -- made more substantial with the addition of a cup and a half of Bisquick and lots of grated cheese -- that could become a favorite.
[Because I don't know the copyright origins of the recipes and no one sending them could have known I'd want to publish them, I can't yet share them with you. But I will contact the authors, test the recipes, and see what I can bring to you via The City Cook.]
Next, the recipes came from surprising places. So far two from Australia, including a recipe for a classic Australian cake called "Lamingtons!" (the recipe title came with the exclamation point so I include it here), and a really appealing Asian-spiced grilled salmon from a home cook in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
Some of the others were interesting in the range that they showed. One sent a very traditional recipe for cream puffs made with the tricky and twice-cooked pâte à choux pastry dough while another offered a side dish made entirely of things from cans (mandarin orange sections are one ingredient) that are mixed together in a plastic bag. Not usually my kind of thing but I'm guessing that it actually tastes great (okay, don't throw a Sandra Lee cookbook at me).
Recipe swapping has been around for generations, with mothers passing their ragu secrets to their sons, or a grandmother teaching a granddaughter to make pot roast; family favorites are shared in collated Xeroxed pages passed out at summer reunions; and church lady recipe books with hand-drawn covers and plastic spiral bindings are still sold one copy at a time to raise money for a community center. We city cooks don't always have the proximity for this kind of recipe village but we still want to reveal the pleasure we get from cooking. That's why e-mailing a recipe to a stranger can be a joyous act. It is not the same as merely swapping a cookbook; instead it is sharing the experience and the triumph of making a satisfying and often beautiful meal.
Fall Cooking and What's in Season
Before the recipe chain hijacked my focus this week, I had planned to write about fall ingredients. Since it is autumn in New York, I'll give you northern hemisphere home cooks a reminder that due to the lingering warm weather, our Greenmarkets are still bursting with the best of the harvest and apples and pears have started to arrive.
Bell and chili peppers (see our article, "What's in Season: Peppers") are at their colorful peak so dig out your favorite pepper recipe. Or make this the year when you perfect your own winning pepper recipe, one that everyone will ask to share -- and invite friends to come to dinner and celebrate the joy of city cooking. I promise that it's a far better reward than receiving a chain mail envelope with a dollar bill from a stranger.