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Recipes Over the Back Fence

Recipes often do more than merely produce a good dish. In days long gone, when it didn’t take two incomes for families to survive, most women were home-keepers. Neighborhoods were bustling little communities. On wash days, clotheslines near back fences brought neighbors together, and talk was about what was served at last night’s dinner table, what to buy at the market, and how to cook it.

These were the pre-supermarket days. Grocery stores were small, produce and ingredients were few. Back than it was far simpler to do the daily shopping.

Remember, these were also the days when it was standard practice to repeat each weekly menu--meatloaf on Tuesday, chicken on Sunday, etc.--so new ingredients and dishes were rarely attempted. This repetitious routine probably sounds boring, but it wasn’t; you would be surprised at how nice it was to look forward to meatloaf on Tuesday.

Recipes were also an easy way to make new friends. Next to sharing food at your table, a recipe can be a welcome gift.

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Today, putting clothes into a dryer is a time-saving, easy job, but we do it alone, as we do so many things. Collecting recipes and talking about cooking with neighbors rarely happens.

I can imagine someone exchanging the recipe for this fresh orange cake with her neighbor. It really tastes like fresh orange in a tender sponge cake. The crop of navel oranges this year has been sweeter and more flavorful than ever; try to use them for this recipe.

The recipe for wild rice is based on a dish I had in a restaurant. The restaurant version was a risotto with a sprinkle of wild rice that was quite wonderful. The creamy risotto, combined with just a little wild rice, looked appealing, and the nutty rice was such a good contrast.

I’ve adapted this recipe, changing it so it can be made more easily. I’ve substituted riso , a pasta that looks like rice and cooks in just 10 minutes; it is also creamy.

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FRESH ORANGE CAKE

1 large orange

3/4 cup butter

4 eggs

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1 cup sugar

1 cup flour

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

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1/4 cup powdered sugar

If using thick-skinned orange, remove peel with paring knife and then remove zest from white part of pith. Cut zest and orange into 6 to 8 pieces, put in food processor and process until orange is pulpy and zest is in fine bits. Set aside.

Melt butter in small pan over low heat. Set aside to cool.

Beat eggs with electric mixer until blended and foamy. Continue beating and slowly add sugar. Beat until thick and light-colored, about 5 minutes.

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Add flour, cornstarch and salt. Mix on lowest speed 1 to 2 seconds. Remove bowl from mixer. Gently fold dry ingredients thoroughly into batter using spatula. Gently fold orange and butter into batter.

Gently pour batter into greased and floured 9x5-inch loaf pan. Bake at 325 degrees until wood skewer comes out clean when inserted in center of cake, about 75 to 80 minutes. If top starts to become too brown, place foil loosely over top. When done, remove from oven. Let stand 5 minutes, then turn out onto rack. Dust top with powdered sugar. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Each of 8 servings contains about:

376 calories; 282 mg sodium; 153 mg cholesterol; 20 grams fat; 45 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 0.12 gram fiber.

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RISO AND WILD RICE

2 1/2 quarts water

Salt

1/4 cup wild rice

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1 cup riso or other rice-shaped pasta

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic

6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

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Bring water to boil in large pot. Add salt. Add wild rice, stir, and lower heat, but maintain boil. Cook wild rice 25 minutes and add riso. Cook 10 more minutes. Drain riso and wild rice.

Put into bowl. Stir in olive oil and garlic. Season to taste with salt. Toss to mix well. Sprinkle some Parmesan over each portion. Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about:

246 calories; 245 mg sodium; 7 mg cholesterol; 13 grams fat; 24 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams protein; 0.22 gram fiber.

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