Savory and Nourishing Lenten Fare

This is the second article in February of the School for Housewives 1907 series published on February 10, 1907, and is a discussion on spinach.

I absolutely love spinach and use it every chance I get in my cooking.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of The Washington Times.

Savory and Nourishing Lenten Fare

Spinach the Broom of the Stomach

I WAS not the first to call it that! I wish I had been! In my opinion it outranks all other spring vegetables in virtue as a gentle and agreeable alterative of unhealthy conditions incident upon winter weather and the abrupt change from winter to spring. Dandelion greens have their merits, as we shall see by and by. But they are coarse in quality, and less palatable than spinach. Their chief recommendation, beyond their medicinal properties, is that they are cheaper than the more aristocratic spinach, which, let me remark in passing, is held at exorbitant prices by some marketmen, unmindful of the gracious possibilities wrapped up in the lush, dark-green leaves.

Spinach, when sold by the least conscientious of greengrocers, is cheaper by far than medicine, if only because, in its action, it adds no sorrow therewith. “I would not owe my health to a disease!” says a scornful satirist. Spring medicines of man’s devising poison before they cure. Juicy fruits, succulent salads, dandelions, asparagus and spinach taste good and act pleasantly upon liver and blood, the beneficiary, meantime, blissfully unconscious that he is “under treatment.” Meat heats and clogs the sewerage of the human system. Green vegetables are assuasive and cleansing.

Spinach shrinks so much in the cooking that our caterer must make allowance for this failing in purchasing. A quart will make a family soup, but two quarts are not too much for a dish of spinach a la creme, or spinach boiled plain.

CHEAPER THAN MEDICINE

It ought not to cost over 15 cents a quart. Should the grasping huckster demand 20, or even 25, reflect that you are treating your household with “kitchen physic,” and be complacent in the superiority of your regimen over the sulphur-and-molasses administered by our granddames in the times of ignorance in which our children can hardly believe.

They loved us as well as we love our bairns—those resolute dames of yore. It was principle, and sincere regard for our best interests, that made them line us up on balmy spring mornings, and, beginning with the baby in arms, pour a great spoonful of treacle and brimstone, beaten to a baleful mess, down our protestant throats. It was done before breakfast (also upon principle) and three days “handrunning,” after which came “three days off,” and then three more of the “spring sweetening” purgatory. It was supposed to act directly on the blood. Of the effect upon stomach and temper nothing was said—or thought.

USES FOR SPINACH

As soon as spinach comes home from market, lay it in very cold water if it is to be used that day. It will revive and plump up, growing crisp and comely, just as your cut flowers respond to the scent of water.

When ready to prepare it for cooking pick the leaves from the stalks. The stalks, if tender, may be utilized in the soup, but strip them of the leaves. Wash all carefully in two waters to rid the leaves from grit and insects.

Spinach Cream Soup.

Put your spinach, prepared as above, into a saucepan, with a cupful of cold water, and bring to a fast boil. Keep this up until the spinach is tender and broken to pieces. Turn into a chopping tray, straining off the water in which it was cooked, but not draining the vegetable. It must be quite moist. Chop very fine and run through the vegetable press. It should be a soft paste. Have ready a scant quart of boiling milk in a farina kettle. Never forget to drop a pinch of soda into milk when you boil it. In a frying pan melt two tablespoonfuls of butter, and stir into it a tablespoonful of flour. Cook and stir smooth, add to the spinach paste. Let the whole simmer for a minute. Pour in the hot milk, stirring all the time; take from the fire, season to taste with salt, pepper, a little sugar and a dash of nutmeg, and pour out. Strew sippets of fried bread on the surface of each plateful.

Spinach a la Creme.

Freshen and crisp the spinach as directed in the preceding recipe. Cook the leaves, dripping with water, in the inner vessel of a double boiler. Do not add water. Enough juice will exude in cooking for all purposes. Cover the kettle, and keep the water the outer at a hard boil until the leaves are broken and tender. Stir and beat up from the bottom several times. Press out the moisture in a colander, turn the drained spinach into a wooden bowl and chop as fine as possible.

Make a “roux” in a saucepan of two tablespoonfuls of butter and one of flour; cook for a minute and add the spinach, beating it well as you do this. In a separate vessel have half a cupful of cream heated with a bit of soda as large as a kidney bean. Turn this into the smoking-hot spinach, beating diligently to get the mixture smooth. Season with salt pepper, a little sugar, to correct the crude acid of the spinach; add a dash of nutmeg. Beat and cook for three minutes and serve. Garnish with triangles of fried bread laid about the edges of the dish.

There is no more delicious preparation of spinach than this. It is too little known in America. Some French cooks add lemon juice.

Boiled Spinach (American Style).

Prepare the spinach as already directed. Put over the fire in the inner vessel of a rice boiler, with no water except that on the wet leaves. Cover closely; fill the outer boiler with hot water and cook the leaves tender. Drain off the water and chop fine in a wooden bowl. Put back over the fire, and stir into it two tablespoonfuls of butter with a little sugar, and pepper and salt to your taste.

Mound on a hot platter and garnish with hard-boiled eggs cut in slices. A prettier garnish is the yolks of hard-boiled eggs rubbed to a line powder through a sieve, and strewed thickly over the mound. Shred the whites fine and lay about the base.

A Spinach Souffle.

This is a nice way of using left-over spinach. If it was creamed at its first appearance on your board, it will need no more chopping or beating. Add to it the beaten yolks of two eggs if there is a cupful of spinach, increasing the number of yolks proportionately if you have more of the “leftover”; a tablespoonful of melted butter and salt and pepper to your liking. Stir a pinch of soda into a cupful of sweet cream, mix with the other ingredients, and, this done, dip in the whites of the eggs beaten to a standing froth. Turn into a buttered dish and set at once into a brisk oven. Bake to a light brown and serve immediately.

Spinach Daisies.

Prepare and boil the spinach as for spinach a la creme or “in American style.” Press out all the water that will come away through a colander. Chop very fine while hot and mix into it a “roux” made by cooking together two tablespoonfuls of butter and the same quantity of flour. Season with pepper, salt, a little sugar and a suspicion of powdered mace. Cook all together for three minutes, keeping the spoon busy all the time. Have ready some scalloped pate pans. The more sharply scalloped they are the better will be the shape of the “daisies.” Butter them lavishly and press the cooked spinach firmly into them. Set in a shallow pan containing enough boiling water to keep the spinach very hot while you make a white sauce by “drawing” a tablespoonful of butter rolled in cornstarch in a cupful of milk. It should be really white and thick enough to mask the green when poured upon it.

Now turn out the forms of spinach upon a hot platter and pour a large spoonful of sauce over each. Lay rounds of cold hard-boiled eggs on the shapes and you have a pretty dish.

ASPARAGUS

The favorite vegetable of all classes, rich or poor, and one of the earliest in the spring market, is slightly medicinal. The mildly aperient qualities that make fresh asparagus desirable diet are not found in the canned stalks and tips. Moreover, the stronger chemical agents used as “preservatives” destroy much of the nutritive values of the succulent plant. The slightly bitter flavor characterizing the green vegetable is lacking from the pale, straw-colored spikes standing erect and close in the jars that crowd the grocer’s window as the days grow long and the new crop threatens to push out the old stock on hand.

The faint bitter is the wholesomest trait of our patrician asparagus. Robbed of it, and cooked and canned, it is as nutritious as so much wet cotton and well-nigh as insipid.

Asparagus a la Vinaigrette.

The salad whose popular name stands at the head of this recipe makes a delicious entree in the course of a Lenten dinner where fish has played the leading part.

Cut off the thickest and toughest portions of the stalks. (N. B.—Put them away carefully, with an eye to a vegetable soup to be served at the family dinner next day.)

Lay the edible tips attached to the upper parts of the stalks in cold water for an hour. Tie them then into loose branches with soft strings. Put these into a broad saucepan where they will not be crowded; cover with cold water, slightly salted, and cook gently for twenty-five minutes—for a shorter time if they are very young and slender. Make a dressing of two tablespoonfuls of vinegar, two tablespoonfuls of French mustard, half a teaspoonful of sugar, a saltspoonful of salt and half as much white pepper. Rub all these condiments together in a bowl until you have a smooth emulsion. Then begin to beat in oil and keep at it until you have incorporated six tablespoonfuls with the “emulsion.”

Set the vessel containing the dressing in a pan of boiling water, stirring frequently. When it is smoking hot, leave in the water while you drain the asparagus, remove the strings and lay in a deep dish. Pour the hot dressing over it, cover closely to keep in the strength of the vinegar and set away to get cold. When it is cool, set in ice until you are ready to serve it. Pass crackers and cream cheese with it.

Baked Asparagus.

Scrape the upper halves of the stalks down “to the quick,” as it. That is, get off all the hard, horny skins.

Let me say that asparagus, cooked in any way, is much more tender and digestible if the stalks be thus freed from the outer casing.

Boll in hot salted water until tender. Drain off the water and chop the asparagus —not so fine as to make it mushy. Make in a saucepan a “roux” of two tablespoonfuls of butter and the same of flour, and add to it, when it has cooked for a minute, two cupfuls of milk, heated, with a bit of soda dropped into it. Stir over the fire to a cream; add the minced asparagus when you have seasoned it with salt and pepper, and set it aside to get cold. Then beat into it three eggs whipped light and two tablespoonfuls of cream. Pour into a well-buttered dish and bake in a quick oven. Cover with paper for twenty minutes. Remove the paper and brown. Serve at once.

Asparagus a la Tom Thumb.

The tips alone are used for this dish. Scrape the stalks and lay them in cold water. They will work well into a cream-of-asparagus soup.

Cook the tips—none of them more than two inches long—in boiling water slightly salted. Meantime, make a rich white sauce by stirring into two tablespoonfuls of butter one of flour and, when it is smooth, a generous cupful of milk. Season with white pepper and salt; add the hot asparagus tips; cook for one minute and serve upon rounds of toast, laying six tips, side by side, upon each round.

ARTICHOKES

Italian artichokes look more like a flower than a vegetable. The taste for them, like a fondness for olives, is believed to be a matter of education. I cannot recall the time when I did not like the odd-looking things. They are as peculiar in taste as in appearance, and the slightly acrid, aromatic “bite” they give the tongue is disagreeable to some eaters. In Italy they are cheap. In the United States they are absurdly dear at certain seasons. I never eat them without the association, mingling with the aforesaid “bite,” of a whisper launched at me by the mother of a rich and fashionable hostess at whose table I was lunching with eleven other women:

“I do hope you are fond of artichokes!” said the handsome dowager, leaning well toward me. “My daughter would have an artichoke course. She says it is so ‘chic’—don’t you know? I think it awfully extravagant. For, would you believe it, she paid 50 cents apiece for them! I shouldn’t have the heart to eat them, even If I loved the bristly things. And I don’t!”

I was “fond” of the “bristly things,” and I swallowed the half dollar’s worth apportioned to me the more zestfully for the sauce of the naive comment.

Boiled Italian Artichokes.

Don’t pay 50 cents apiece for them. Watch the markets and you can get them for less than a quarter of the sum. Especially if you know where to find an Italian huckster, who never fails to have them when Lent is on. If they are large, one will do for two portions.

Cut the stems close to the body of each “flower” and lay all in cold water. Leave them there for half an hour, watching to see if any drowned insects rise to the surface, and removing them.

Cook in boiling salted water for another half hour, drain and, with a sharp knife, cut each neatly in half, from crown to stem. Put into a hot root-dish and pour over them this sauce:

Into six tablespoonfuls of melted butter beat a tablespoonful of lemon juice, half as much onion juice, a half teaspoonful of French mustard, a pinch of salt and of paprika, last, a teaspoonful of salad oil. Stir to scalding over the fire, remove the saucepan to the table and add, carefully, a beaten egg. Beat for a minute and pour over the artichokes; or,

You may serve with them a simpler bearnaise sauce, letting each guest help himself to it.

Bearnaise Sauce.

Put the beaten yolks of two eggs into a saucepan and set into another pan of boiling water. Add, drop by drop, three tablespoonfuls of salad oil; next, as slowly, three tablespoonfuls of boiling water; then the juice of half a lemon, a dash of cayenne and a little salt.

Serve hot.

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
The Housemothers’ Exchange
Removing Stains
Shouting Through the House

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