Creating a Menu from Nothing

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Green Tomato Pie
Pastry for Two-Crust Pie
Momma’s Potato Salad
Italian Eggplant Bake
Golden Corral’s Seafood Salad
Southern Style Deviled Eggs
Spicy Herbed Oil
Thick Herbed Oil

“A dash of this. A pinch of that.” The mark of a talented cook is the ability to apparently throw a number of ingredients together and serve up a delicious dish for any occasion.

A green tomato pie, for instance, is one way to make that mound of tomatoes disappear, and mixing up a bowl of potato salad will use some of that produce from the fridge. It’s all a matter of personal taste, and the courage to create something from nothing.

At times, Recipe Box resembles such a dish. In this issue, we have a dash of this and a pinch of that. While the recipes may not combine to make a complete menu – at least not one I’ve ever seen – the recipes are sure to please, and a few will likely end up in recipes collections around the world – mine included.

Muriel Kroening of Berlin, Wisconsin, is looking for a recipe for green tomato pie.

Muriel has come to the right place. The responses from our readers fill a folder about 2 inches thick.

Lavina Mack of Bakersville, North Carolina, writes, “Take your favorite apple pie recipe, and substitute tomatoes for apples, sliced the same as you would the apples. Follow the recipe to the letter. Drizzle about a tablespoon cider vinegar over the top of the pie filling before putting on the top crust. I forgot to do this once, and you could really tell the difference. It wasn’t nearly as good as with the vinegar.”

James Morrow of Chicago sends this note, “This is wonderful served warm with vanilla or butter pecan ice cream! My mom and grandma made their own pie crusts, but I use the 15-ounce package of refrigerated pie pastry.”

Debbie Holden-Trout of Baltimore sends this version.

Green Tomato Pie

3 cups green tomatoes, sliced
Pastry for two 9-inch crusts (recipe follows)
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup water

Heat oven to 425°F.

Slice tomatoes into thin rings; do not pare. In large saucepan, place tomatoes and cover with boiling water; let stand 10 minutes. Drain.

Place tomato slices in unbaked pastry shell. In bowl, combine, sugar, flour and spices. Add molasses and water. Pour mixture over tomatoes. Cover with top crust.

Bake for 15 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 375° and continue baking for another 30 minutes.

Pastry for Two-Crust Pie

2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup shortening
1/3 cup cold water

In mixing bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut shortening into flour with pastry blender or two knives. Do not over mix; these are sufficiently blended when particles are the size of peas.

Add water gradually, sprinkling 1 tablespoon at a time over mixture. Toss lightly with a fork until all particles of flour have been dampened. Use only enough water to hold pastry together when it is pressed between fingers. It should not feel wet.

Divide dough into 2 equal portions. Roll dough into 2 round balls, handling as little as possible. On lightly floured board, roll one ball of dough into circle 1/8-inch thick and 1 inch larger than diameter of top of pie plate. Carefully place bottom crust in pie plate.

Roll remaining dough for top crust. After filling bottom crust, place top crust carefully over filling. Moisten edge of cover crust with cold water. Press edges of top and bottom crust together tightly with tines of fork or with fingers. Bake as directed.

Harold Sanders of Edwards, Missouri, hopes to find a recipe for potato salad.

Barbara Brown of Atlanta sends a recipe that just about covers all the possibilities with potato salad – and each version sounds terrific.

Momma’s Potato Salad

5 pounds potatoes, red or russet
6 eggs
1 large onion
1 clove garlic
1 large cucumber
2 cups chopped pickles, sweet or dill, or 2 cups chopped olives, green or black
1/2 jar capers
1 tablespoon horseradish
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons mustard
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons paprika

If you use red potatoes, boil them first so they can be easily peeled; cut up. If using russet potatoes, they can be peeled and cut up first. Some people like to leave the skins on the potatoes.

In large pot, boil potatoes in enough water to cover. In smaller pot, boil eggs.

Chop onion, garlic and cucumber, as well as pickles or olives. Each type of pickle or olive gives the salad a slightly different flavor. If using small capers, leave whole; otherwise chop capers.

Drain potatoes; peel potatoes and cut into small cubes. Chop eggs.

In large bowl, place potatoes and eggs. Add chopped onion, garlic, cucumber, pickles and capers. Add horseradish, mayonnaise and mustard. Mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle top with paprika and place bowl in refrigerator. Tastes best the second day.

Marilyn Steele of Flint, Michigan, hopes someone has the recipe for Italian-style eggplant dish that was in a Campbell’s Soup Cookbook in the 1960s or ’70s.
Several readers, including Naomi Haebler of Midland, Michigan, have such a cookbook and send this recipe.

Italian Eggplant Bake

1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut in 1- to 11/2-inch cubes
1 large onion
1 medium green pepper, sliced
1/2 small clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon leaf oregano, crushed
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 can (10.5 ounces) condensed tomato soup
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
Garlic Croutons (recipe follows)
Grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 350°F. Cook eggplant in boiling salted water for 3 minutes; drain and place in shallow baking dish (10-by-6-by-2 inches).

Cook onion, green pepper, garlic and oregano in butter until tender. Add soup, water and salt. Heat; pour sauce over eggplant. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring often. Remove eggplant from oven. Turn temperature up to 425°.

Top eggplant with croutons and sprinkle with cheese. Return to oven; bake 15 minutes more. Yields 6 servings.

1 slice white bread, cut into cubes
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1/2 small clove garlic, minced
For basic croutons, brown bread cubes in butter, stirring constantly. Season to set off soup flavor.

For Garlic Croutons:
Melt butter in skillet; add garlic. Lightly mix in bread cubes; cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until bread is crisp and brown.

Juanita Barker of Elkton, Virginia, requests a crab salad recipe. She says it uses imitation crab meat, and the salad served by Golden Corral restaurants comes close to the one she remembers.

Juanita Smith of Amelia, Virginia, sends a newspaper clipping with this recipe.

Golden Corral’s Seafood Salad

1 1/2 pounds imitation crab meat, squeezed to remove excess water
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced spring onions, both white and green parts
1/4 cup diced green pepper
1/4 cup ranch dressing
1/4 cup mayonnaise

In large bowl, break up crab meat. Add celery, onions, green pepper, dressing and mayonnaise. Mix well. Yields 6 to 8 servings.

Bertha Hart of Louisville, Kentucky, requests a recipe for deviled eggs using deviled ham.

A fellow Grit reader sends this recipe.

Southern Style Deviled Eggs

6 eggs
1 can (4.5 ounces) deviled ham spread
1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
1 tablespoon mayonnaise, or as needed
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 pinch paprika
3 pimento-stuffed green olives, sliced (optional)

In saucepan, place eggs and cover with cold water. Bring water to boil and immediately remove from heat. Cover and let eggs stand in hot water for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from hot water, and run under cold water to cool. Peel eggs, and cut into halves lengthwise.

Remove yolks from whites, scooping a little bit of white along with yolk to make a more generous cup for filling. In medium bowl, place yolks. Mash yolks with deviled ham, relish and enough mayonnaise to make a smooth mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon mixture into egg whites, or pipe with piping bag for a more elegant look. Garnish filling with a sprinkle of paprika, and top some with a slice of green olive stuffed with pimento. Chill until serving. Yields 6 servings.

Terri Elswick of Flower Mound, Texas, would like to learn how to flavor olive oil.

Sarah Vaughan of Waterville, Maine, sends a page of recipes, with these instructions: “Each flavored oil can be made by first placing the herbs and/or spices in the bottle, then adding the oil. The bottle should be kept in a cool, dark place to season for two weeks, then strained and rebottled. Refrigerate until needed and then bring back to room temperature before using.”

Spicy Herbed Oil

1/2 tablespoon peppercorns
1/2 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 red chilies
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 pint olive oil

Place peppercorns, coriander seeds, bay leaves, rosemary, chilies and fennel seeds in sterilized glass bottle. Cover with oil.

After two weeks, strain out spices and herbs; rebottle flavored oil. Yields 1 pint.

Gust Vreneos of Cathedral City, California, sends another page of recipes, with this tip: “Flavored oil is so easy to prepare you’ll want to keep a batch for everyday use. Don’t panic when this clouds up in the fridge – it will clarify at room temperature.”

Thick Herbed Oil

2 large cloves garlic, peeled
2 large green onions, trimmed, cut into 1-inch lengths
1/2 cup light-tasting olive oil
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh herbs – mix of basil, sage, thyme, rosemary
1/2 teaspoon salt
Crushed hot red pepper

In food processor or blender, combine garlic, green onions, olive oil, herbs, salt and crushed pepper to taste; process until as smooth as possible.

Can be made 2 days ahead and kept refrigerated, covered airtight. Warm slightly in microwave oven or on stove top, and stir just before using. Yields 2/3 cup.

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