Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Toni’s Easy Spinach Casserole

We got this recipe from our friends the O’Briens (of VooDoo Prayer fame) back in the 80s. They got it from a vegetarian Seventh Day Adventist friend from their hippie days. Her name was Toni. We have passed the recipe along countless times over the years, and one of the people to whom we gave it was another Toni (Graham née Booker), who submitted it to the Mesquite’s Eats cookbook from which I copy it now. Toni to Sally to us to Toni to MBC cookbook back to us to the web.

This is fast, easy, and always a big hit. We normally end up making a double recipe, as we did tonight for our Small Group.

Preheat oven to 350F.
  • 2 Tbsp butter (¼ stick), cut into small squares
  • ¼ lb. sharp cheese, cut into small squares
  • 1 10 oz. pkg. frozen spinach, cut into small squares
  • 2 eggs, cut into small squares (just kidding)
  • 3 Tbsp. flour
  • 12 oz. carton cottage cheese
1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.
2. Put in a buttered baking dish (I prefer a 9 x 9 glass pan for one recipe, a 10 x 13 glass pan for a double; a single recipe works well in a large pie pan, too.)
3. Bake at 350 degree oven for 1 hour or until well-browned.

Serves 4-6, who will love the way it smells.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Robertson Davies

In the header to this blog I quote Robertson Davies (from whom I have stolen... adopted the phrase “ornamental knowledge”), but I am shocked to find that I have not quoted him here to any degree. So here I make a poor attempt to remedy that oversight.

It used to be that we did our e-mail using hard-drive resident programs known collectiviely as “e-mail clients” and that it was common to set up a standard signature to go out at the bottom of all our e-mails. Very quaint, I know. I have just opened my old e-mail client and pulled up all of my Robertson Davies sigs. These run from 1994 to about 2005. There are far more quotations marked in the hard copies of Davies that I own, but search/copy/paste is so much easier than opening all those books and typing.

N.b. that in plain text e-mails, sent in lower ASCII, the convention was that text surrounded by underscores indicated italics, and asterisks (stars) indicated bold text.

“...the most strenuous efforts of the most committed educationalists in the years since my boyhood have been quite unable to make a school into anything but a school, which is to say a jail with educational opportunities.”
-- Jonathan Hullah, M.D., F.R.C.P., narrator of
Robertson Davies’ _The Cunning Man_, I [4]
“It is so easy to plan lives of humanitarian self-sacrifice for other people.”
-- Jonathan Hullah, M.D., F.R.C.P., narrator of
Robertson Davies’ _The Cunning Man_, II [13]
Welsh rhetoric is part of me, and my curse is that the world is full of literal-minded morlocks who don’t understand, and think I’m a crook because their tongues are wrapped in burlap and mine is hinged with gold.
-- Robertson Davies, _The Lyre of Orpheus_
Canadian National Prayer according to the omniscient narrator of Robertson Davies’ _The_Lyre_of_Orpheus_:

O God, grant me mediocrity and comfort; protect me from the radiance of Thy light.
“Oh, I wasn’t suggesting that we *do* anything,” said Maria. “I was just suggesting that we *talk* a little more compassionately.”

Robertson Davies, _The Lyre of Orpheus_

There is a point in a man’s undressing when he looks stupid, and nothing in the world can make him into a romantic figure. It is at the moment when he stands in his underwear and socks.
-- Robertson Davies, _The Manticore_
And in the Middle Ages, how concerned people who lived close to the world of nature were with the faeces of animals. And what a variety of names they had for them: the Crotels of a Hare, the Friants of a Boar, the Spraints of an Otter, the Werderobe of a Badger, the Waggying of a Fox, the Fumets of a Deer. Surely there might be some words for the material so near to the heart of Ozy Froats better than shit? What about the Problems of a President, the Backward Passes of a Footballer, the Deferrals of a Dean, the Odd Volumes of a Librarian, the Footnotes of a Ph.D., the Low Grades of a Freshman, the Anxieties of an Untenured Professor? As for myself, might it not be appropriately called the Collect for the Day?

Professor the Reverend Simon Darcourt, musing in _The Rebel Angels_
- by Robertson Davies
It was in dealing with stupid pupils that his wit was shown. A dunce, who had done nothing right, would not receive a mark of Zero from him, for Hector would geld the unhappy wretch of marks not only for arriving at a wrong solution, but for arriving at it by a wrong method. It was thus possible to announce to the class that the dunce had been awarded _minus_ thirty-seven out of a possible hundred marks; such announcements could not be made more than two or three times a year, but they always brought a good laugh. And that laugh, it must be said, was not vaingloriously desired by Hector as a tribute to himself, but only in order that it might spur the dunce on to greater mathematical effort. That it never did so was one of the puzzles which life brought to Hector, for he was convinced of the effectiveness of ridicule in making stupid boys and girls intelligent.
Robertson Davies, _Tempest-Tost_
“Oho, now I know what you are. You are an advocate of Useful Knowledge.”
“You say that a man’s first job is to earn a living, and that the first task of education is to equip him for that job?”
“Of course.”
“Well allow me to introduce myself to you as an advocate of Ornamental Knowledge. You like the mind to be a neat machine, equipped to work efficiently, if narrowly, and with no extra bits or useless parts. I like the mind to be a dustbin of scraps of brilliant fabric, odd gems, worthless but fascinating curiosities, tinsel, quaint bits of carving, and a reasonable amount of healthy dirt. Shake the machine and it goes out of order; shake the dustbin and it adjusts itself beautifully to its new position.”
-- “Cobbler” Humphrey challenging Mackilwraith in chapter five of _Tempest-Tost_, book one of Robertson Davies’ Salterton Trilogy
“Curiosity killed the cat,” said Hector....
“I deny that,” said Cobbler, “the cat probably died a happy martyr to research.”
Robertson Davies, _Tempest-Tost_
“She herself was a victim of that lust for books which rages in the breast like a demon, and which cannot be stilled save by the frequent and plentiful acquisition of books. This passion is more common, and more powerful, than most people suppose.”
-Robertson Davies, _Tempest-Tost_
“...nothing is more fatal to maidenly delicacy of speech than the run of a good library.”
-Robertson Davies, _Tempest-Tost_
The third book of the Salterton Trilogy (_A Mixture of Frailties_) centers on a young girl from a very conservative protestant sect who earns the opportunity to go to England & Europe to study music. There’s quite a bit of good grist over the clash between her upbringing, her own moral standards, and the shockingly loose morals of musicians. There comes a great moment where she is given advice that includes the lines “If you’re living in what is pompously called sin with Revelstoke, you’d better be sure you are enjoying it, or you will soon find that you have neither your cake nor your penny.... the biggest mug in the world is the sinner who isn’t getting any pleasure from it”. And the first book (_Tempest-Tost_) has one of the world’s most pompous teachers as a main character, so you KNOW I enjoyed that.
“[Coincidence is a] useful, dismissive word for people who cannot bear the idea of pattern shaping their own lives. [It] is what they call pattern in which they cannot discern something they are prepared to accept as meaning.”
-Robertson Davies, _What’s_Bred_in_the_Bone_
Much may be learned about any society by studying the behavior and accepted ideas of its children, for children...are shadows of their parents, and what they believe and what they do are often what their parents believe in their hearts and would do if society would put up with it.
-Robertson Davies, _What’s_Bred_in_the_Bone_

Friday, May 13, 2011

Blender Hollandaise

A good hollandaise can be very fussy to make right. (Wait! My egg yolks are scrambling! (or curdling with the lemon.)) So when a colleague dropped the May 2011 edition of bon appétit (the Italy issue) on my desk, this little gem from Eric Ripert caught my eye. I think I’m going to pick up some asparagus on the way home this afternoon.
  • 1 ¼ cups (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, plus more
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fill a blender with hot water; set aside. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until foaming. Remove pan from heat. Drain blender and dry well. Put egg yolks and 2 Tbsp. lemon juice in blender; cover and blend to combine. Working quickly and with blender running, remove lid insert and slowly pour hot butter into blender in a thin stream of droplets, discarding the milk solids in bottom of the saucepan. Blend until creamy sauce forms. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and with more lemon juice. Serve immediately.

If you go to the original recipe at the magazine’s page (linked to the title of this post), you can watch a video of the procedure.

(Eric Ripert’s video is gone for now, but here’s another one.)

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Green Beans with Balsamic Red Onion

The original of this recipe is from the June 2010 issue of Diabetes Forecast. That article is linked to the title of this post. Over the last year, I have greatly simplified the procedure for quicker cooking and fewer dishes to clean. The trade off is a slight reduction in texture differences. I normally cook this for two people and so merely eyeball the amounts. You will need:
  • Green beans
  • red onion
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • almond slivers
  • salt & pepper
SWMBO prefers her green beans softer than I do. I can eat them raw; she hates when they squeak on her teeth. If you prefer crisper beans, you can skip steps 2 & 3 and just add the beans after the onion has been cooked.


  1. Choose a good, heavy skillet with a lid. Warm it on the stove.
  2. Put a shallow layer of water in the skillet, add the green beans, and simmer/steam them until they are almost cooked to your preferred level of crisp/soft.
  3. Remove and set aside the beans, dump the water, and let the pan dry / rewarm on the stove.
  4. Make sure the pan isn’t too hot, as olive oil smokes at a low temperature and is nasty when it does.
  5. Put a bit of olive oil in the skillet.
  6. Add one thick, quartered slice of red onion for each person.
  7. Sauté the onion to desired level, stirring frequently. I like it when it just clarifies, SWMBO prefers it caramelized, so I usually cook it until it has clarified and the edges and thinner bits are browning.
  8. Splash in some balsamic vinegar, add the green beans, stir, and cover for a couple minutes.
  9. Check, stir, recover as needed.
  10. Salt and pepper to taste, toss on some almond slivers, stir, and remove from heat.
  11. Serve it up.