Rediscovering Old Treasures

by Cate on April 16, 2005

One of the “challenges” I have given myself is to really start cooking from my cookbooks more. I have amassed quite a collection, over 1000, and that does not include all my clippings. They’re an untapped resource, and I want to make sure I get the full benefit from them. That said, a few times a week, I am determined to pull a random cookbook from the shelf and find a recipe to make.

I bought A Slob in the Kitchen by Karen Duffy about a month ago. I was always impressed by how she handled her diagnosis of sarcoidosis some years back (which causes soft body parts to develop hard, grainy spots that impair the functioning of whatever organ they strike) and how she continued to display her upbeat, kick-ass, take-no-prisoners attitude. Her cookbook is all about exerting minimal effort in the kitchen to yield maximum results. Hey, I can wrap my mind around that one!

In it, she has a recipe for John Zaccaro Jr.’s Penne with Vodka Sauce. If you don’t recognize his name, he founded the world-famous Ravioli Store. So no doubt, the guy knows pasta recipes. Well, for the first recipe I made out of this cookbook, I picked a winner. Simple and delicious, I would definitely make this again. Might add some minced garlic and/or diced ham to the recipe, but otherwise, it was pretty darn perfect the way it is.

Going out with my sister tomorrow and figured that was a good opportunity to make another dessert recipe … that way, I can give her and my brother-in-law half of it, thereby giving away half the guilt. Pretty nifty, eh?

So, dug out ANOTHER underutilized cookbook, this time Donna Hay’s Off the Shelf. I made her Orange and Almond Dessert Cake with Orange Syrup. Moist beyond belief, it is a great light dessert.

We’re putting our house on the market in June, and I’m trying to whittle down some of the burgeoning stock in my pantry. Packing all my cookbooks and magazines will be a chore in itself, I don’t need to add food on top of it! So that said, I’m trying to choose recipes that use ingredients I have on hand. It’s amazing what you can whip up with stuff you already have in your kitchen. Both of these recipes didn’t require a run to the grocery store – can’t get much better than that.

Weekend is here – make it a good one.

John Zaccaro Jr.’s Penne with Vodka Sauce
Serves 4

1 pound penne
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1/2 cup vodka
4 tablespoons butter
1 red onion, sliced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook just until al dente. Drain.

In a cup, steep the red pepper flakes in the vodka and set aside while you get on with making the sauce.

In a skillet, melt the butter and saute the onion over medium-high heat until golden and translucent, 5-8 minutes. Add the vodka and pepper flakes and simmer for 2 minutes.

Stir in the tomato paste. Reduce the heat to low and add the cream and grated cheese. Stir well and heat thoroughly. Toss with the drained, cooked pasta.

Orange and Almond Dessert Cake

2 oranges, washed
125g (4 oz) butter (1 stick), softened
1 cup caster (superfine) sugar
5 eggs
2 cups ground almonds (about an 8 oz bag of sliced almonds ground)
1/2 cup self-rising flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder

orange syrup:
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
1-1/3 c (10 1/2 fl oz) water

Preheat oven to 350. Line the base of a 9 in tin. Place the oranges in a saucepan of water, cover and simmer for 10 min or until soft. Remove from the water and chop roughly, removing any seeds. Process the oranges, butter, sugar, eggs, ground almonds, flour and baking powder in a food processor until smooth. Spoon the mixture into a tin and bake for 1 hour or until cooked when tested with a skewer.
To make the orange syrup, place the sugar, orange juice and water in a saucepan over medium heat and simmer for 5 minutes. To serve, cut the warm cake into wedges and spoon over some of the syrup. Serve with thick cream. Serves 8-10.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Sue April 16, 2005 at 3:45 am

Sounds like a great meal. I love pasta w/vodka sauce. Thanks for the reminder.


judy April 16, 2005 at 12:20 pm

Hi. I finally figured this out. Love your blog-I check it everyday and then the clbb. What does your dh say about all your cookbooks. Keep the recipes coming. shoezoo


Anonymous April 16, 2005 at 10:30 pm

Wow- you have hit the 1,000 mark with your cookbooks!!! Good on ya!!! I know I have owned close to that many in my lifetime but with moves I always did a culling…of course I have regerted some of those and have actually rebought some books…it is an addiction pure and simple!

Keep up the great work on your blog- I am loving it.



Cate April 17, 2005 at 1:30 am

Suebob – do try the recipe, simple and tasty, I’m sure you’ll like it.

Judy – glad to see the comments are working for you. DH doesn’t say a word about my cookbooks – he likes to eat as much as I like to cook. I’m lucky that way. :)

Hey Kima … yup, hit the 1000th mark some time again. I should say that I just gave up counting at the 1000th mark! It definitely is an addiction (obsession?), but there are worse ones to have. ‘Sides, with all the good company, how could I go wrong?


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