These three cookbooks went viral before the Internet existed – and they still hold up today

Not long ago, an editor reminded me, “A cookbook can’t be everything to everyone.” Has this always been true?

My mind immediately flashed back to 1982’s “The Silver Palate Cookbook,” by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. It was a comprehensive source for a generation of home cooks in America. More than three decades after it was published, I wondered whether it, and a few other influential cookbooks of that same year, would hold up in a drastically different culinary era.

According to the owner of New York’s Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks, where she sells rare and vintage titles, a lot of people still use “The Silver Palate” as a basic cookbook. “They don’t have Fannie Farmer, ‘Joy of Cooking’ or Betty Crocker,” Slotnick says. “Not only do people continue raving about it, but they continue to buy . . . copies to replace the ones they’ve worn out, and they’re buying it for their children.” The first printing of “The Silver Palate Cookbook” was 37,000 copies; that tally now stands at 2.7 million and includes the 25th anniversary edition.

Named for the gourmet takeout and catering shop the authors opened in 1977 on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the cookbook combined recipes with Lukins’s whimsical drawings, select quotes from notable figures, proposed menus and stand-alone technical notes. Looking at chapter headings such as “The Charcuterie Board,” “Chicken Every Which Way,” “Soup’s On” and “Piping Hot Pasta,” which has a pasta glossary to help you choose the best noodle to suit your purposes, one realizes an entire cookbook could be built from any one of those concepts.

And when I reached Morash at her summer house in Nantucket, Massachusetts, she had just put up a batch of tomato freezer sauce from “The Victory Garden Cookbook.” She says fans stop her on the street to tell her they still cook from it. There have been 315,834 copies sold – not as many as those other two books, but it’s not small potatoes.

“I always had that cookbook on my desk when I worked in publishing,” Slotnick says. “It’s very personal.” Not one for gardening, she appreciates the pages for their words. “It’s the kind of book that you can just read. And I do more reading of cookbooks than cooking, and so do a lot of my customers.”

When asked whether, in hindsight, Morash would make any changes, she replied, “The only thing I would do if I was going to do it again now is to reduce the amount of butter. We’d go to olive oil instead.”

I might disagree.

Skimming the cookbook a few weeks ago, I was compelled to try the recipes that intrigued me. Morash’s cheese-crowned Oven Asparagus Puff turned out to be a refined frittata. The Sweet Cabbage Strudel would make as elegant and memorable a holiday side as any I can think of. And I don’t understand why we don’t saute cucumbers all the time. Each dish employs butter and, to my mind, is better for it.

As my mother and I pored over her copy of “The Silver Palate Cookbook,” she stopped at the Braised Short Ribs of Beef. “I never made this recipe. But as I’m reading it, I would make it,” she said. “It’s similar to how I cook now.” We tried them for dinner, and I have been craving them ever since.

I brought over the Applesauce Raisin Cake for dessert, because Mom had written “great” beside the recipe in her book. When I shared my intention to bake it with Rosso, she asked if I would be macerating the raisins – a step that isn’t mentioned in the book. “Constant tweaking is a very good thing!” she encouraged.

Some recipes, however, are best left alone. “Our tastes have changed over the years,” Rosso wrote via email. “And then there are some things that just seem as fresh as they did 40 years ago, and even though we make salmon mousse at least once a week, it still tastes like I’m experiencing it for the first time. Haven’t changed a thing.”

That’s how I feel about the Tarragon Chicken Salad from “Entertaining” (“Cocktails for Two Hundred: Country Fare” menu). Whether I make it fancy and spoon it atop a sliver of Carrot Bread the way you would for canapés, like Stewart did, or eat it right out of the bowl, it could be any day of any year – 1982 or 2017.

– – –

Druckman is a New York food writer and cookbook author.

– – –

Oven Asparagus Puff

4 servings

This is a slightly richer, possibly more elegant take on a frittata. Its crowning glory is a crust of Muenster cheese, which has mozzarella’s melting powers with a sharper, nuttier flavor to recommend it.

Consider putting mushrooms, spinach or broccoli in here for an alternate take. Serve as a light lunch or supper.

Adapted from “The Victory Garden Cookbook,” by Marian Morash (Alfred A. Knopf, 1982).

Ingredients

12 ounces to 1 pound asparagus

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

2 tablespoons chopped onion

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons water

6 large eggs

1/3 cup heavy cream

Freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups grated Muenster cheese

Steps

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Peel and roll-cut asparagus (to taste; see NOTE, below) into 1-inch pieces. You should have 2 cups.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, until softened.

Add the asparagus, sprinkle with the sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt; stir-fry for 1 minute, then add the water, cover and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, moving the pan to keep the asparagus from sticking. (This step should brighten the color of the vegetable.) Uncover and cook for a few minutes, until the pan liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat to cool slightly.

Whisk together the eggs, cream, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and the pepper (to taste) in a mixing bowl.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in an ovenproof baking dish (10 inches square) set inside a larger skillet on the stove top, or in a 10-inch ovenproof skillet. Pour in the egg mixture and cook for about 3 minutes over medium heat until just the bottom has set.

Arrange the asparagus and onions in a single layer on top of the egg mixture. Transfer to the oven (if you used the baking dish, you can leave the skillet behind). Bake (middle rack) for 5 minutes, then remove from the oven to top the dish with the grated cheese. Return to the oven and bake for 15 to 25 minutes, until puffed and the cheese has lightly browned.

Serve right away.

NOTE: To roll-cut asparagus, give each spear a one-quarter turn as you cut it on the diagonal each time, into 1-inch sections. (The facets this creates will lend more texture to the dish.)

Nutrition | Per serving: 450 calories, 22 g protein, 6 g carbohydrates, 39 g fat, 22 g saturated fat, 375 mg cholesterol, 970 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 4 g sugar

– – –

Sweet Cabbage Strudel

10 servings as an appetizer, brunch dish or side; makes 2 strudels

This is more sweet-and-sour than sweet, and it’s not a dessert, but it’s not entirely savory, either; in short, it’s a complete surprise, and an unforgettable one.

Make it part of a brunch spread, thinking of it as you might a kugel or blintz dish. You could also serve it as an appetizer. Best of all, add it to your holiday repertoire and bring out as a side dish for the holidays.

When you’re working with the phyllo dough, it’s best to keep it under damp paper towels.

Serve with sour cream.

Adapted from “The Victory Garden Cookbook,” by Marian Morash (Alfred A. Knopf, 1982).

Ingredients

1/2 cup raisins

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus 8 tablespoons (1 stick), melted

1/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)

1 tart apple, peeled and grated (can hold it in water to avoid discoloring)

5 cups shredded green cabbage (from 1/2 head)

1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed

1/2 cup sour cream, plus more for serving

10 sheets phyllo dough (about 7 ounces; defrosted if frozen)

1/4 cup finely crushed dried bread or cracker crumbs

Steps

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use cooking oil spray to grease a baking sheet.

Place the raisins in a small bowl and cover with hot water; let sit for 10 minutes, then drain.

Melt the 4 tablespoons of butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Stir in the sugar and lemon juice; cook for 2 minutes until the sugar has dissolved.

Stir in the apple, cabbage and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, then uncover and increase the heat to medium-high; cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring, so much of the excess moisture evaporates.

Let cool slightly. Taste and season with more salt, as needed. Stir in the raisins and sour cream, then taste again for salt.

Place 1 sheet of the phyllo dough on a clean, damp kitchen towel. Brush with some of the melted butter, then sprinkle lightly with some of the crumbs. Repeat this layering 4 more times.

Spread half the cabbage mixture across a narrow end of the dough, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border on both sides and a 4-inch border on the top. First, fold in the side borders, then fold down the 4-inch border.

Use the edge of the kitchen towel to help guide/roll the filled phyllo into a log/strudel. Transfer it to the baking sheet, seam side down.

Repeat with the remaining butter, phyllo, crumbs and cabbage filling, to roll and create the second strudel. Transfer to the baking sheet, alongside the first strudel. Brush the tops of both strudel with any remaining melted butter.

Bake (middle rack) for about 40 minutes, or until the strudels are crisped and golden brown. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before cutting.

Nutrition | Per serving: 190 calories, 3 g protein, 28 g carbohydrates, 8 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 20 mg cholesterol, 190 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 13 g sugar

– – –

Tarragon Chicken Salad

4 to 6 servings (makes 4 cups)

Chicken salad is timeless; chicken salad flavored with tarragon – or sometimes dill – and studded with nuts and fruit was a 1980s special. In this old recipe, Martha Stewart doubles down on the sweet-and-savory combination by serving her chicken salad on slices of nutty, cinnamon-spiced carrot bread. It was popular at parties, as an hors d’oeuvre.

She suggests grapes or apples as possible mix-ins and notes that cucumber or baguette rounds would make fine bases; endive boats or lettuce wraps would also work.

Serve on thin slices of Carrot Bread (see related recipe) or thin rounds of French bread or cucumber slices.

MAKE AHEAD: The chicken can be roasted, cooled and refrigerated 2 days in advance. The chicken salad can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Adapted from “Entertaining,” by Martha Stewart (Clarkson Potter, 1982).

Ingredients

Unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 medium onion, thinly sliced

Leaves of fresh herbs, such as parsley, thyme and basil

2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (about 10 ounces each)

Juice of 1/4 lemon

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon (may substitute 1 1/2 teaspoons dried tarragon)

1 1/2 tablespoons sour cream, or more as needed

1 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise, or more as needed

1/2 cup finely chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Steps

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Use some butter to generously grease one or two baking sheets.

Scatter the onion slices and a generous amount of herbs in the pan(s), then lay the chicken breast halves on top, skin side up, in a single layer. Sprinkle with lemon juice, then season lightly with salt and pepper. Roast (middle rack) for 30 to 40 minutes, or just barely done; the meat’s juices should run clear). Do not overcook. Let cool.

Shred the cooled chicken meat or cut into cubes or slivers and place in a mixing bowl, discarding the skin and bones. Add the tarragon and season lightly with salt and pepper, tossing to incorporate.

Stir together the sour cream and mayonnaise in a separate bowl, then add to the chicken a bit at a time to produce a salad that is creamy but not wet. Mix in more sour cream and mayonnaise, as needed.

Taste for seasoning, adding salt and/or pepper. Stir in the celery and the pecans, if using.

Nutrition | Per serving (based on 6): 140 calories, 21 g protein, 0 g carbohydrates, 6 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 60 mg cholesterol, 180 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar

– – –

Carrot Bread

12 servings (makes one 9-by-5-inch loaf)

This is quite moist and not too sweet; plus it’s a lovely color.

It goes nicely with Tarragon Chicken Salad (see related recipe).

MAKE AHEAD: The bread is best when eaten within a day, but leftovers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days. Reheat in the oven or toaster oven.

Adapted from “Entertaining,” by Martha Stewart (Clarkson Potter, 1982).

Ingredients

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar

3 large eggs

3 cups grated carrots (from 6 large carrots)

1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Steps

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use some butter to grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into a mixing bowl.

Combine the 16 tablespoons of butter and both sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer; beat on medium speed for several minutes, until fluffy. Stop to scrape down the bowl.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating to incorporate after each addition.

Add the flour mixture to the bowl; beat on low speed until incorporated. Fold in the carrots and walnuts (by hand) until evenly distributed, to form a fairly smooth batter.

Pour into the loaf pan, spreading the batter evenly. Bake (middle rack) for about 1 hour, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes, then dislodge the loaf from the pan and cool completely before serving or storing.

Nutrition | Per serving: 370 calories, 6 g protein, 37 g carbohydrates, 23 g fat, 11 g saturated fat, 85 mg cholesterol, 230 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 18 g sugar

– – –

Braised Short Ribs of Beef

6 servings

This is a quintessential slow-cooked, cold-weather comfort dish; it tastes like Sunday Roast. Once you’ve assembled all the ingredients and quickly seared off your meat, there’s little left to do. It practically cooks itself.

Adapted from “The Silver Palate Cookbook,” by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins (Workman, 1982).

Ingredients

4 pounds boneless beef short ribs, cut into 2-inch lengths (can use bone-in)

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

8 cloves garlic

1 1/2 cups canned Italian plum tomatoes, with their juices, preferably no-salt-added or low-sodium

2 medium-to-large carrots, cut crosswise into very thin coins (2 cups)

2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced (3 cups)

8 whole cloves

1/2 packed cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

3/4 cup red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

2 teaspoons kosher salt, or more as needed

1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

3 to 6 cups low-sodium beef broth

Steps

Season the short ribs generously with black pepper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or heavy pot with a lid over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the short ribs and brown them, 3 or 4 at a time, on all sides. Transfer them to a paper-towel-lined platter to drain as you work.

Return half of the ribs to the pot (off the heat). Scatter with half the garlic cloves, then layer half of each vegetable (the tomatoes and their juices, carrots and onions), in order, over the meat. Add 4 whole cloves and sprinkle with half the parsley. Repeat with remaining meat and other ingredients, ending with a layer of chopped parsley.

Stir together the vinegar, tomato paste, brown sugar, salt, the 1 teaspoon of black pepper and the cayenne pepper in a liquid measuring cup. Pour over the meat and vegetables and then add enough of the broth to cover.

Place over medium heat. Once the liquid starts to bubble, cover with the lid and transfer to the oven. Bake/cook (middle rack) for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until meat is very tender.

Taste; add salt and/or pepper, as needed. Serve warm.

Nutrition | Per serving (using no-salt-added tomatoes): 680 calories, 66 g protein, 20 g carbohydrates, 39 g fat, 14 g saturated fat, 240 mg cholesterol, 1,180 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 12 g sugar

– – –

Applesauce Raisin Cake

8 to 10 servings (makes one 10-inch tube pan cake)

When Julee Rosso learned this cake was on the agenda, she suggested the raisins be macerated, which wasn’t part of the original recipe’s plan. She consented to adding salt to the batter, which may be standard baking practice now, but wasn’t something you did back in 1982. Although the authors specified a “chunk-style” applesauce and pureed it, we took a shortcut and used smooth applesauce. If you prefer a few small apple pieces, you can substitute chunky applesauce.

MAKE AHEAD: The raisins need to macerate for 30 minutes.

Adapted from “The Silver Palate Cookbook,” by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins (Workman, 1982).

Ingredients

For the cake

1 cup raisins

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

1/4 cup apple brandy or Calvados

3 cups flour, plus more for the pan

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan

2 cups granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 cups homemade or best-quality store-bought plain, no-sugar-added, smooth applesauce (may substitute chunky applesauce; see headnote)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the icing

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

Steps

For the cake: Combine the raisins, orange juice and brandy in a small saucepan over medium-low heat; cook until the liquid begins to bubble slowly. Turn off the heat and let sit for 30 minutes. Drain and discard the liquid from the raisins.

Meanwhile, combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Use some butter to grease a 10-inch tube pan, then add enough flour to coat, shaking out any excess.

Combine the butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer; beat on medium speed for 3 or 4 minutes, until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the applesauce and vanilla extract. Stop to scrape down the bowl.

Sift the flour mixture over the wet batter, then add the raisins, stirring gently until evenly distributed.

Pour the batter into tube pan; bake (middle rack) for about 70 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the icing: Sift together the confectioners’ sugar and cinnamon into a small bowl. Dribble in the citrus juices, stirring constantly to form a smooth icing.

Drizzle the cake with icing. Let it set before serving or storing.

Ingredients are too variable for a meaningful analysis.

RELATED STORIES:

One week left to enter Holiday Cookie Contest

‘Moto: The Cookbook,’ brings the late Homaro Cantu’s restaurant back to life

Paul Kahan’s first cookbook, ‘Cheers to The Publican,’ worth the 20-year wait

Original Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *