The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 19, 2000


A Favorite Cookbook Author Fondly Remembered

At risk of dating myself, I have to admit that when I got married back in the sixties, my favorite cookbooks were written by the New York Times food editor, Craig Claiborne. Oh, I used Julia Child's The Art of French Cooking whenever I had a dinner party in those days, when dinner parties were not passé or had not become potluck. But it was Craig Claiborne I counted on to see me though a meal I could always be proud of.

When I read of his passing in January at age 79, it brought back fond memories of delicious home-cooked meals throughout the years, along with piles of recipes clipped from the Sunday New York Times Foods section, stored away in my recipe drawer in the kitchen. I continue to use those recipes until this day.

Now when I look at the Food Section of the Sunday Times, I wonder who in the world has time to concoct exotic dishes like Shitake-Crusted Chicken with Spinach Sauce, featured several weeks ago. I'd rather settle for a delicious lamb hash made with left-over roast lamb or a low-fat, no-salt Chicken Breasts with Sweet Peppers dish that can be made in 20 minutes. With recipes like these, there is no last minute dash to a specialty shop hoping to find Champagne vinegar or shitake mushrooms. An ordinary supermarket will do.

Craig Claiborne grew up in Sunflower, Mississippi with a mother who was an accomplished cook. She opened a boarding house and it was there, close to the cooks, that he developed his interest in food and food preparation. After studying hotel service in Switzerland, he went to work for Gourmet magazine. In 1957 he joined the New York Times, where he served as both its food editor and restaurant critic. He wrote 20 books including The New York Times Cook Book published in 1961, which is probably his most popular cookbook. He retired from the Times in 1986.

In the late seventies, when he was advised by doctors to limit fat and salt in his diet, he wrote Craig Claiborne's Gourmet Diet, which introduced Americans to low-sodium and low-fat cooking.

As the owner of four Craig CIaiborne cookbooks and many clippings gathered over the years, all now rumpled and frayed, I remain one of of his biggest fans.

In honor of Claiborne, several of his recipes are printed below. They have remained favorites of mine and other Carlisle cooks as well.

Indian Keema with Peas

3/4 cup finely chopped onion

1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh ginger

1 tsp. finely minced garlic

1 Tbs. peanut, vegetable or corn oil

1 Tbs. curry powder

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground turmeric

1/4 tsp. ground coriander seeds

1/4 tsp. ground cumin

1 pound ground meat, such as lamb, beef or veal

1 cup chopped fresh or canned unsalted tomatoes

1 Tbs. lime juice

1 tsp. sugar

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/4 tsp. crushed hot red pepper flakes, optional

1 cup peas

1. Combine the onion, ginger, garlic and oil in the container of a food processor or electric blender. Blend to a fine purée.

2. Spoon and scrape the mixture into a small skillet and cook, stirring often, until mixture almost starts to brown, but do not brown. Add the curry powder, cinnamon, turmeric, coriander and cumin and stir to blend.

3. Add the meat and cook, stirring and chopping down with the side of a heavy metal spoon to break up any lumps.

4. When the meat has lost its raw look, add the tomatoes, lime juice and sugar. Add a generous grinding of pepper and the hot red pepper, if desired. Cover closely and let simmer for 30 minutes.

5. Add the peas and continue cooking until the peas are tender, 5 to 10 minutes. Serve with rice, cucumbers and yogurt, carrots with yogurt or mint with yogurt.

Basic Bread Crumb Stuffing

1 small onion, chopped

1 stalk celery with leaves, chopped

1/3 to 1/2 cup butter

1 to 2 tsp. poultry seasoning or sage

1/2 tsp. salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbs. chopped parsley (optional)

5 cups stale bread cubes or crumbs

Water, milk or giblet broth (optional)

1. Sauté the onion and celery in the butter until tender but not brown.

2. Combine the seasonings and the bread crumbs, toss together with the onion mixture and, if a moist dressing is desired, add enough liquid to barely moisten crumbs.

Lamb Hash

1 Tbs. butter

1 large onion, minced

3 sprigs parsley, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

2 slices bacon, minced

3 cups chopped cooked lamb

1 cup meat gravy or stock

1/2 cup canned tomato sauce

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 cup heavy cream, approximately (I use less)

2 Tbs. grated parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to moderate (325°F.).

2. Melt the butter in a heavy skillet, add the onion and sauté until golden. Add the parsley, garlic and bacon and cook briefly.

3. Mix in the remaining ingredients except for the cream and cheese and bake, covered, one hour, stirring from time to time.

4. Place the hash in greased individual casserole dishes, cover with cream and sprinkle with cheese. Brown under a hot broiler.

Eggplant and Chicken-Liver Casserole

2 medium eggplants

1/4 cup butter

1/2 pound chicken livers

1/4 pound fresh mushrooms

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 eggs

1/3 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg, or more

1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs

Melted butter

1. Preheat oven to moderate (350°F.)

2. Peel the eggplants, and cut them into one-inch cubes. Cook until tender in boiling salted water barely to cover. Drain well and mash with a fork.

3. Melt half of the butter and cook the livers until done but not over cooked. Melt the remaining butter in a separate skillet and cook the mushrooms until wilted. Season both livers and mushrooms with salt and pepper. Chop the livers fine.

4. Beat the eggs, cream, cheese and nutmeg together until well blended. Combine the eggplant, chopped livers, mushrooms and the egg mixture. Mix well and spoon into a buttered one-quart casserole. Cover with bread crumbs and sprinkle with a little melted butter. Bake for twenty to thirty minutes.

Chicken Breasts with Sweet Pepper Strips

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, about 2 pounds

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

3 Tbs. unsalted butter or margarine

1/2 tsp. finely minced garlic

1/2 pound sweet red or green peppers, cored, seeded and cut into thin strips, about 2 cups

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 Tbs. finely chopped parsley

1. Sprinkle the chicken with a generous grinding of pepper.

2. Heat 2 Tbs. of butter or margarine in a skillet and add the chicken pieces skinned side down. Cook for about 4 minutes, or until golden brown on one side. Turn and continue cooking for about 4 minutes.

3. Add the garlic and pepper strips. Cook for about 4 minutes. Add the wine. Cover and cook about 4 minutes longer.

4. Remove the chicken pieces to a warm serving dish.

5. Add the remaining Tbs. of butter or margarine to the peppers and stir. Pour the peppers and sauce over the chicken. Sprinkle with parsley.

Other Carlisle cooks remember Craig Claiborne

Carolyn Shohet "His recipes that I use are basic and good; but he can be elegant, as well as classic down-home. He was such a gentleman. He would have been a nice person to know."

Kathy Coyle "Claiborne is a classic reference for me. If I get something and I'm not sure what to do with it, I go to his cookbooks to see what kinds of things he does. I've never been disappointed."

Lyn Oleksiak "His red cookbook, Craig Claiborne's Gourmet Diet, is the one I use. It's the one where he uses less salt and substitutes all sorts of interesting herbs."

Sylvia Willard "The New York Times Cookbook was the first really approachable and reliable cookbook I used to bring me from the '50s era Betty Crocker age into the wider world of cooking. Many cookbooks have followed, but I still rely on that cookbook."

2000 The Carlisle Mosquito