When I moved into my beloved Russian Hill apartment years ago, my sis gave me some essential cookbooks, one of which has become a go-to favorite. George Bradshaw was an amazing contemporary writer and in the 50’s he began to write about food. His 1969 book, Suppers and Midnight Snacks, became a novel of sorts for me. I would curl up in a quiet corner and imagine myself preparing his suggested menus while holding a martini and dressed in an elegant caftan. It was the 70’s after all, back when Doris Day and Dinah Shore were the penultimate hostesses. An updo, a caftan and a long cigarette holder were the gracious hostess’s costume of choice.
Over the years I have tried many of George’s recipes and still yearn to try more of them. I especially adore the chapter titled Lonely Pleasures.
“With any luck, one spends a certain amount of time alone. This means of course that you eat alone, and can indulge any outrageous taste you secretly harbor. The pressures are off, there is no home economist or gourmet looking over your shoulder – unless of course, you have the misfortune to be one yourself – and you can let go.”
Better words have never been spoken, George, although I secretly wish you had titled this section Solo Pleasures. As one who has the pleasure of indulging meals at home singularly I prefer not to emphasis the lonely aspect.
His writing is highly amusing, especially where he goes on to describe all the things one can do whilst dining alone, including reading a novel, watching the sun set (obviously he never lived in foggy San Francisco), and telephoning.
“…I have a friend who calls me up the minute she begins to eat celery – the reception is perfect…”
Amusingly enough, and coincidentally, I too have a very dear friend who does exactly the same thing. We will be chatting along on various fascinating but mundane topics, and then Crunch, Crunch, Crunch!!!
“What are you eating, now?” I ask with an underlying chuckle, and think of this book. She will reply, “Celery” or “Tortilla chips with guacamole” or, like yesterday, “Bok choy from the garden. I’m pruning it before the gophers do.”
I recall to her memory this chapter in the book and we break off into peals of laughter, interspersed with crunching. Naturally.
In this chapter is a section of cooking one can do during a rainy Saturday to prepare oneself for the week or weeks ahead when, alas, the servants have departed, never to return, and yet one needs a decent meal after a long day.
George prescribes, and I have frequently followed his sage advice, preparing a variety of entrees that can be cooked and bagged into portions and frozen, but that have panache: crepes, beef stew, and chicken in a veloute with artichokes.
One of my favorites is what he calls Chop Chops. They are a purée of flavors suspended in gelatin and then frozen, to be added into soups, sauces and sautes for a little como se yama zing.
If for no other reason, you must obtain this book, and read this chapter. The story on truffles still has me in stitches. Although it is long out of print, one can find a decent copy on Alibris. And then you can thank me later.
2 envelopes of unflavored gelatin
1 c H2O
6 cloves of garlic
3 medium onions (I use white)
1 bunch of watercress
10 sprigs of parsley (Italian or flat leaf)
Juice of a large lemon (or 2 Meyer lemons)
Special equipment: four mini ice cube trays – if you can find silicon ones that would be ideal, for reasons explained later. They are 1/2″ deep and each makes 90 cubes.
Melt the gelatin in the cold water, then heat gently to dissolve it. Allow to cool. Peel the garlic and the onions and chop roughly. Cut off the stems of the watercress and the parsley and use the leaves for stock another time.
Place all ingredients into a blender and purée until you have a beautiful jade-green purée.
Pour the purée into the mini ice cube trays and freeze overnight or until solid.
Now comes the tricky part. Unless you have silicon mini ice cube trays, no matter how you flex the trays, apply hot wet towels or curse at them, the cubes will not easily part from the trays. This has to do with the gelatin. However, if you use a very sharp small knife and score around the edge with the tip, then plunge the tip down into the tray the green chop chops cube will pop right out.
Store immediately in an airtight ziplock bag. You will have enough chop chops to last an entire year, or to share with a friend!
- Add a cube to a saute pan in which you have pan fried chicken breasts or a little piece of filet of sole, add a little white wine for an instant sauce.
- Do the same but with red wine for sauteed beef medallions.
- Makes a wonderful sauce allowed to thaw and added to homemade (or store bought) mayonnaise for dipping steamed artichokes or a dressing for asparagus or lightly sauteed fish.
- Add four cubes to a pot of soup or stew, they will provide almost all the seasoning you need.
- Melt with butter or olive oil and serve over fresh summer squash or any sauteed vegetable.
The uses are endless and it is amazing what a great flavor one little cube will add.