I received a lovely note from a reader in Lewes who has been trying to get the recipe for Outback Steakhouse’s Tangy Tomato Dressing. They wouldn’t give her the recipe. That’s not nice, is it? But it’s also very common, because large chain restaurants need consistency to keep us coming back. They often supply their restaurants with pre-prepared and packaged items for which the restaurant is well known.
It would surprise me if the chefs or cooks at these chains have any clue as to the ingredients in their sauces and dressings. So, all I did was type into Google, “Outback Steakhouse Tangy Tomato Dressing” and up it popped in one of my favorite foodie websites, at www.topsecretrecipes.com. When the number of requests for a particular recipe comes his way, Todd Wilbur develops a knock-off recipe for those of us who have tried to obtain it from the restaurant.
I made a copy of the recipe and sent it to my reader in Lewes. I asked her to let me know how close this clone comes to the real deal. She wrote back right away and says she’ll use this website to find other restaurant recipes. Plus, she made the dressing and said, “All my family loved it!” The folks at Top Secret Recipes have marketed several cookbooks with recipes they’ve duplicated. It’s easy to find at Amazon.com.
And speaking of foodie websites, one of my newest favorites is Cookstr.com — works well with my last name, wouldn’t you say? I first heard about the site from a book I read earlier this year by Will Schwalbe, titled “The End of Your Life Book Club.” This book so touched me that I bought copies for family and friends.
If the title sounds like a downer, it’s not. Will’s mother, Mary Anne, was a world traveler on humanitarian trips to Pakistan and Afghanistan and developed what doctors believed to be a rare type of hepatitis. Months later, however, she was accurately diagnosed with a form of advanced pancreatic cancer, which is almost always fatal, often in six months or less.
Will and his mother began a book-club-for-two as they passed the time during her chemo treatments. Mary Anne proved to be a champion who lived for two more years. She and Will enjoyed a shared passion for reading, so the two years gave them time to exchange great conversations and love before her passing.
My husband, Jim, and I also have a passion for reading and discussing the wide range of topics we cover. I bought this book for him for Valentine’s Day, and it is now on our church book club list for this fall. At the end of the book, Will provides an appendix of the list of books they read and discussed. I’ve now read many of them, going back in time to re-enjoy such oldies as “Marjorie Morningstar” and “Howard’s End.”
Will Schwalbe worked in publishing and digital media; he was also a journalist, but he wanted the freedom from the publishing world to begin a new website — Cookstr.com. He and his mother discussed this option at length during their “book club,” and she encouraged him to follow his dream. He is now the CEO of Cookstr.com, with Kara Rota as editorial director of the site.
An interesting chain of events brought Will and I together. We are now penpals via email. He’s interested in the books I’ve been encouraged to read from his book and also the books I read on my own. He’s a delightful, insightful and happy guy and just recently shared with me that a new book will soon be on the market. I plan to be one of the first in line to buy it.
I originally signed out his book from the South Coastal Library (they have several copies), and when I went to pick up “Marjorie Morningstar” and “Howard’s End,” which I had put on hold, the gal at checkout knew right away. She said, “You’ve read Will Schwalbe’s book, haven’t you?” We had a long discussion about what a wonderful book it was, and she said she was ordering copies for her children.
From the inside cover text: “The result is a profoundly moving tale of loss that is also a joyful, and often humorous, celebration of life: Will’s love letter to his mother, and theirs to the printed page.”
This week’s www.Cookstr.com email makes my mouth water. One of the recipes is an Apple & Olive Oil Two-Layer Cake with Maple Icing to help celebrate Rosh Hashanah, which began this year at sunset on Sept. 4 and continues through Friday, Sept. 6. The recipe is from a new book that’s already been praised by the New York Times, titled “Ottolenghi: The Cookbook,” by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. Recipes include vegetables, legumes, grains, meats, fish and baking.
Ottolenghi has been around — a childhood in Jerusalem, plus traditions from California, Italy and North Africa. I know I’ve made a weak promise not to buy any more cookbooks, but this one is a major tempter!
You know, maybe I’ll do what I’ve done before: donate money to the South Coastal Library in memory of my favorite Cook — Dorothy, my mother — and ask them to specifically purchase this book for the library. That way, I can copy the recipes I want, share the book with all of you, and keep my promise to not buy any more cookbooks. More than 400 cookbooks should be enough for one person, right?
Now to some recipes.
I don’t like hot oatmeal or any other hot cereals, but if you put oatmeal or oat bran into a bread or muffin, I’m all over it. Back in 2011, I found a recipe at Cooks.com for Applesauce Oatmeal Bread. The recipe makes a single 8-inch loaf, but all ingredients go into one large bowl and you mix by hand — couldn’t be easier. This bread is so moist and tasty — one of my favorites. Plus, it freezes well and makes a great gift bread.
Applesauce Oatmeal Bread
Printed from Cooks.com
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
• 2 eggs
• 1 cup applesauce
• 1/2 cup vegetable oil (I use canola oil.)
• 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
• 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1-1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
• 3/4 cup raisins
Method for Applesauce Oatmeal Bread:
In a large bowl mix all ingredients until well-combined. Pour into a well-greased (I use Pam) 8-inch loaf pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pan. Serve with butter, cream cheese or with my favorite — Mackay’s 100% Natural Fruit Scottish Three-Berry Preserve (strawberry/raspberry/black currant). The preserves are a bit pricey, but, hey, I’m worth it! And you are, too. Yield: 1 loaf.
Whenever I go off for a day of errands, I always pack my lunch. I don’t do fast food, so an assortment of small bites in my lunch box provides me with proper nutrition. One of my new favorites is a recipe for Tortellini and Veggie Salad that I found in a 2009 issue of Ladies’ Home Journal. Prepare the ingredients the day before you need them, and zippity-do-da, you have super quick salad to take on the road.
I don’t like the aftertaste of bottled dressing, so I make my own by pouring into a small jar extra-virgin olive oil, some herbs de Provence or salt-free Italian seasoning and my favorite syrupy balsamic vinegar to taste. Shake it up, refrigerate, and it’s ready when you need it.
My new balsamic vinegar first came to me as a gift from Bob Cairo, my go-to physical therapist. It’s from a company called Drizzles. Although they make several types of vinegars, my favorite is the one Bob gave me: Sweet Balsamic Vinegar. He purchased it at their store at 16 Strawberry, Cape Charles, Va. I have since purchased bottles online for myself and for gifts at Sales@DrizzlesOlives.com. A little goes a very long way.
Tortellini and Veggie Salad
Toss cooked and chilled cheese tortellini with diced fresh tomatoes, cooked green beans, a handful of baby arugula and Italian dressing.
Zucchini is such a versatile vegetable. I know that many of you are still enjoying zucchini from your gardens. Spicy Marinated Raw Zucchini is another favorite salad. I found the recipe ages and ages hence in a magazine — alas, I did not write the name of the magazine on the recipe. I’m getting much better at doing that, but some of the recipes I regularly use have been in my files long before I started writing this column.
The recipe calls for a full teaspoon of crushed red pepper. If that’s too spicy for you, start out with 1/2 teaspoon.
Spicy Marinated Raw Zucchini
• 4 zucchini, thinly sliced, lengthwise (I do not peel.)
• 2 shallots, sliced
• 2 tablespoons canola oil
• 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
• 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
• 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Method for Spicy Marinated Raw Zucchini:
Toss the sliced zucchini with the rest of the ingredients. Season with salt and black pepper. Refrigerate for at least one hour and up to eight hours before serving. Yield: 8 servings.
I make hearty soups all year long and keep containers in my freezer for busy days when I’m out and about and don’t want to deal with a time-consuming meal. Long ago, I found an interesting recipe for Rustic Lima Bean Soup. When I make it, I often go into the garage and shut the door behind me. I wait for a couple minutes, then walk back into the kitchen. I do that just to get a fresh whiff of the delicious aroma of this soup.
You will see by the chunky ingredients that it indeed deserves the title “Rustic.” I visualize a peasant woman cooking this soup in a large black kettle over an open fire. This soup also freezes well.
Rustic Lima Bean Soup
• 2 cups dried lima beans (I buy organic beans at Good Earth Market in Clarksville.)
• 4 tablespoons canola oil
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1/2 pound meaty salt pork (rinsed, if crusted with salt), cut into 1/2-inch cubes, or a meaty ham bone or ham hock (I use a meaty ham hock.)
• 4 onions, peeled and quartered
• 1 cup canned tomatoes (I use a 14.5-ounce can of diced tomatoes.)
• 2 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
• 1 cup finely chopped celery
• 2 quarts boiling water
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
• Dash of freshly ground black pepper
• Croutons, optional
Method for Rustic Lima Bean Soup:
Place the beans in a large bowl, pour enough cold water over them to cover, and soak overnight. Drain the beans and put them into a 6-quart pot with the oil, butter, salt pork or ham hock, onions, tomatoes, garlic and celery. Pour in the boiling water and add the salt, Worcestershire sauce and black pepper.
Place over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 3 to 4 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching and adding additional boiling water if needed to prevent sticking. If you’ve used a ham hock, when cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the hock and add to the soup. Don’t strain; serve as is, and garnish with croutons, if desired. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.
I found a delicious slow cooker recipe in an old special magazine edition of Betty Crocker Soups, Stews & Chilies that really is worth the effort. I serve the stew over noodles and top with sprigs of fresh parsley. Instead of the boneless beef chuck roast, I use 3 pounds of lean beef stew cubes and cut them a bit smaller for better distribution; they work great and save lots of time.
Country French Beef Stew (Slow Cooker)
Betty Crocker Soups, Stews &
Chilies Special Magazine Edition
Prep time: 25 minutes
Start to finish: 7 hours, 45 minutes
Servings: It says 12, but 6 to 8 is more like it.
• 6 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
• 1 boneless beef chuck roast (3 pounds), trimmed of fat, cut into 1-inch pieces, or 3 pounds lean beef stew cubes
• 1 large onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
• 3 cups ready-to-serve baby-cut carrots
• 1 cup red Zinfandel wine or nonalcoholic red wine
• 3/4 cup Progresso beef-flavored broth (from 32-ounce carton)
• 3 tablespoons Gold Medal all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
• 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon pepper
• 1 can (14.5 ounces) Muir Glen organic diced tomatoes, undrained
• 1 package (8 ounces) sliced fresh mushrooms (about 3 cups) (I always use organic mushrooms.)
• 1/2 cup dry-pack julienne-cut sun-dried tomatoes
• Hot cooked egg noodles, if desired
• Chopped fresh parsley or basil leaves, if desired
Method for Country French Beef Stew:
In a 12-inch nonstick skillet (definitely use at least a 12-inch skillet), cook bacon over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp. Spray a 5-to-6-quart slow-cooker with cooking spray. Place bacon in slow cooker. Discard all but 1 tablespoon drippings in skillet.
Cook beef in bacon drippings over medium-high heat 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until brown. Add onion; cook and stir 1 minute. Spoon mixture into slow-cooker. Stir in carrots, wine, broth, flour, basil, thyme, salt, pepper and canned tomatoes.
Cover; cook on low heat setting 7 to 8 hours or until beef is tender.
Stir in mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes. Cover; cook on low heat setting 20 to 30 minutes longer or until sun-dried tomatoes are tender. Serve stew over noodles; sprinkle with parsley.
I have several Martha Stewart Living cookbooks. All were gifts, and I’m never disappointed with any of the recipes I use. One top favorite is so easy and yet looks great with any kind of meat, fish or poultry.
Roasted Plum Tomatoes
From “Great Food Fast” (Martha Stewart Living) cookbook, page 329
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
• 8 plum tomatoes (about 1-1/2 pounds), cored and halved lengthwise
• 1 tablespoon olive oil (I always use 2 tablespoons.)
• 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
• Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Method for Roasted Plum Tomatoes:
Transfer the tomatoes to a rimmed baking sheet; toss with the olive oil, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, and 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper until coated.
Arrange in a single layer, cut sides up. Bake until soft; about 30 minutes. Yield: 4 servings.
Editor’s note: If you have recipes to share, or recipes you want, contact Marie Cook, Coastal Point, P.O. Box 1324, Ocean View, DE 19970; or by email at ChefMarieCook@gmail.com. Please include your phone number. Recipes in this column are not tested by the Coastal Point.)