My Primer


Above my kitchen table is a bookshelf overfilled with cookbooks. Some of these books were gifts, their spines still intact. Others speak of my travels – ‘the Patissier, recipes and conversations from Alsace, France’ or ‘La Cucina di Spannocchia’, a souvenir from a week spent on an Italian farm outside Siena. On this shelf also rests a dog-eared copy of ‘Better Homes and Gardens Great Cooking for Two’. My first cookbook – copyrighted in 1992. When I skim the recipes now, I’m struck by their simplicity– several pan sauces flavored with instant chicken bouillon granules and the thyme always “dried”. One recipe, annotated with my words “Good, Easy, Comfort Food,” calls for sautéing sweet potatoes (not yams) and chicken breasts and finishing them with a simple wine reduction of white wine, water, the ubiquitous bouillon granules and dried thyme. I remember the sweet potatoes, absorbing the sauce, softened and flavored by it – and my sense of triumph as I consumed dinner. Another recipe, labeled “Nummy,” was Maple-Glazed Stuffed Cornish Hens – hens filled with a bacon-pecan stuffing and glazed with maple-Dijon syrup as they roasted. Today, I would scoff at such a simple recipe. In my 20’s, I believed myself an accomplished cook, crafting a dish suitable for a Christmas dinner. I scribbled annotations for each recipe I attempted, a habit I picked up from my mom. Most notes are a simple “good” while some recipes, like Mushroom and Blue Cheese Stuffed Pork Chops, are elevated with the words “very good”. I remember making this recipe for a potential lover and, on another occasion, for my mother on her first night back from the hospital. He couldn’t eat his – he was too nervous. She couldn’t eat hers – she was still feeling ill. It is, however, a  delightful and edible combination of flavors – pork, blue cheese, mushrooms, pecans and green onions. Some annotated recipes, like Coriander and Honey glazed Pork Ribs (Tastey! [sic]), I don’t remember cooking. The recipe I still break out is for Sweet Yogurt Scones. While not an actual scone (the texture isn’t quite right), they are a quick and easy Sunday morning treat. It’s a forgiving recipe that is amiable to substitutions, saving a trip to the grocery store for rarely on-hand pantry items.

Apricot Scones

Apricot Yogurt Scones

Sweet Yogurt Scones
From Better Homes and Gardens Great Cooking for Two

1 cup     All Purpose Flour
2 T.         sugar
1 ½ t.     baking power
1/8 t.     salt
¼ c.        margarine or butter (I use butter)
1              beaten egg
1/3 c.     plain yogurt or dairy sour cream (flavored yogurt works great, as well)
½ t.         orange or lemon zest (my addition)
¼ c.        dried fruit, raisins, or currants soften in hot water (my addition)
1 t.          sugar
¼ t.         cinnamon

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together the first four ingredients. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs (don’t use a food processor – it results in a gummy scone). Make a well in the center. In a small bowl, stir together the egg, yogurt, zest and dried fruit, if using. Add the yogurt mixture all at once to the dry ingredients. Using a fork, stir just until moistened (don’t over mix). Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surfaced. Quickly knead dough for 8-10 strokes until dough begins to hold together. Pat into a 6” circle. Cut into 6 wedges. Stir together sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over scones. Place wedges 1” apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 11-13 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Serve warm with butter and homemade jam (they don’t keep well).


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