Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Blasts from the Past

Remember all of those cassaroles from the 1950's.  Most of them were awful!  To this
day I cannot abide canned mushroom soup!  That was in almost everything back then.

A dear childhood friend, Rhea Waugaman Clagett, made a cassarole over 40 years ago when
faced with feeding a crowd.  We were in her home in Annapolis, Maryland and since we
were all just married, we did not have a lot of money.

She put on the loveliest buffet and the cassarole she made was Johnny Marzetti.  I just remember
it had ground beef, green olives, lots of cheese and was yummy.

I am in the process of organizing recipe binders and found many I had used in catering for
"1950's retro" themed meals.  I started thinking of this cassarole and searched the internet for the recipe.

Of course as with almost all foods, there are many variations on this dish.  I never did find the
exact one Rhea made (must ask her for the recipe soon) but forged ahead and made one for
dinner's grey, chilly with a snow storm warning in effect so I thought a comfort-
food type meal was called for this evening.  However, where this was mostly noodles with a
little bit of hamburger in the past (a wonderful "stretcher"), I only made about 2 cups of noodles
and had almost 2 lbs. of ground beef! I  also put a combination of mozzarella and muenster on top,
nice and gooey! (The BOB did look at me a bit funny when I served him his plate as this is not
our style of eating).  I thought it very tasty and it brought back great memories!

Johnny Marzetti Recipe

1-1/2 lbs. ground beef (85%)
1/2 c. sliced green olives (optional)
1 c. chopped onion
1 c. chopped green pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
2 c. cooked noodles (elbow macaroni, penne, egg noodles)
25 oz. tomato sauce, jarred or homemade
salt and pepper
dash red pepper flakes
olive oil
4 oz. mozzarella, grated
4 oz. muenster, grated

1.  Heat saute pan and then drizzle with oil.  Saute onions, add green pepper and then garlic,
stirring for about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
2.   Remove to warm plate and add the ground beef, breaking into small pieces and turning til no red remains.  Add the onion mixture, the olives and tomato sauce.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Add dash red pepper flakes, stirring to incorporate.
3.   Boil noodles til al dente and drain.  Place noodles in cassarole dish and mix with 1/4 of the beef mixture. Then top with the remaining beef mixture.
4.   Add cheeses on top of the beef and bake at 350* in oven for 30 minutes.

Another fun, fun food item from the old days was tomato aspic!  In the 14th century, aspic recipes
were found in  Le Viandier, a recipe collection.    Cooks went wild for the next several centuries, encasing anything they could think of in aspic.  Eggs in aspic (not my favorite!), meats, including tongue, in aspic. I resurrected  the tomato aspic several times for catering events, much to everyone's delight.  My Mother used to make this, served on fresh greens as a salad.  She would be quite creative and innovative with our salads.  One of my favorites was pear halves (I think they were canned bartletts) with cream cheese in the center.....yum!

Tomato Aspic

3 envelopes Knox unflavored gelatin
3 c. cold tomato juice (I used V-8 juice)
2 c. cold tomato juice (V-8), heated to boiling
1/4 c. lemon juice, strained
2 T. sugar
1-1/2 t. Worcestershire sauce
4-6 dashes Tobasco

1.  In large bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 1 c. cold juice and let stand 1 minute.

2.  Add hot juice and stir til gelatin is completely dissolved, about 5 minutes.

3.  Stir in remaining 2 c. cold juice, lemon juice, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and Tobasco.

4.  Pour into 5-1/2 c. ring mold or bowl and chill til firm, about 4 hours.

5.  To serve, unmold onto bed of greens and garnish with fresh vegetables, or serve as side
with Chicken Salad.

A really nifty take on the aspic was in a Gourmet Magazine many, many years ago incorporating
Prosecco........boy, did I have trouble obtaining that!  Here in Pennsylvania the liquor stores did
not carry Prosecco then!  I made mine in individual small rounded, sloped bowls and it was the
best presentation ever! The berries "floated" in the clear gelatin.   (I probably have a photo somewhere!)  Here is a variation on that recipe, using a terrine.  This is a fabulous dessert to
offer in Summer.

Prosecco and Summer Fruit Terrine

4 c. mixed fruit such as berries, halved seedless grapes and/or peeled and thinly sliced peacahes
2-3/4 t. Knox unflavored gelatin
2 c. Prosecco (Italian sparkling white wine)
1/2 c. sugar
2 t. fresh lemon juice, strained

1.  Arrange fruit in a 1-1/2 quart glass, ceramic or nonstick terrine or loaf pan.

2.  Sprinkle gelatin over 1/4 c. Prosecco in a small bowl and let stand 1 minute to soften.  Bring
1 c. Prosecco to a boil with sugar, stirring til sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat and add gelatin mixture, stirring til dissolved.  Stir in remaining 3/4 c. Prosecco and lemon juice.  Transfer to a metal
bowl set inside a larger bowl of ice and cold water.  Cool mixture, stirring occasionally, just to
room temperature.

3.  Slowly pour mixture over fruit and chill, covered, at least 6 hours.

4.  To unmold, dip pan in a larger pan of hot water 3-5 seconds to loosen.  Invert serving plate
over terrine and invert terrine onto plate.

And then, of course, there was the 1970's rage:  fondue.  I had the requisite fondue pot with the forks
and was always on the hunt for emmentaler cheese.  In the late 1990's I served cheese fondue as
part of an hors d'oeuvres buffet and it was quite fun seeing people react to this for the very first time!


1/2 lb. Emmental cheese, grated
1/2 lb. Gruyere cheese, shredded
2 T. corn starch (cornflour)
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 c. dry white wine
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. Kirsch, cherry brandy
1/2 t. dry mustard
pinch nutmeg

1.  In small bowl, toss the cheeses with the corn starch and set aside.

2.  In the ceramic fondue pot, rub the inside with the garlic and then discard.

3.  Over medium heat, add the wine and lemon juice and bring to gentle simmer.  Gradually
stir in the cheeses.  Melting the cheeses slowly makes for a smooth fondue.  Once smooth, stir in
the Kirsch, mustard, and nutmeg.

4.  Serve with chunks of bread, apple chunks, blanched vegetables, spearing with fondue forks
or skewers and swirling in the fondue.

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