Summer collided with fall here in Austin yesterday afternoon, in the form of a downpour that has managed, in less than a day, to take the temperature down twenty degrees. Welcome to Texas. Even before it started, the sky was overcast and the air heavily humid, so it seemed like just the sort of day to go through my recipe files and winnow out the unworthy. I’ve been meaning to do it for at least a couple of years, but only realized the other day how bad the problem had gotten when I could barely lift the plastic folder out of its storage drawer. Probably just too many recipes with butter in them.
You know that file – you’ve all got one. It’s where you put the recipe for chicken cacciatore that you saw Giada making last week and it looked so good. Never mind that your neighborhood Italian restaurant makes chicken cacciatore to die for (and available for takeout) or that your child is allergic to tomatoes.
Oh, look – there’s Aunt Tilda’s recipe for gooseberry jam. Let’s be honest, now – when’s the next time you really plan on making that, even if you can find all the canning equipment? You hang onto the card because you loved Aunt Tilda, but you don’t have to keep it in this particular file.
And then there are those pages you’ve torn out of Good Housekeeping or Ladies Home Journal, or my particular obsession, The New York Times. I found a recipe for Asian Hot Pot I saved from Real Simple years ago, that claims to take only 25 minutes of “hands-on” time; and when I realized it would take me 25 minutes just to find the ingredients in my pantry, much less chop and slice them, I tossed it. There’s another one – for “Shaved Artichoke Salad” from the Times. It looks gorgeous and I really love artichokes,...but wait – notice that the first ingredient is “8 baby artichokes, cleaned.” I don’t even know where to buy baby artichokes around here – in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen baby artichokes in a store where I shop, and when I thought about the time it would take to clean them and prepare them like it says in step 1, I almost fell over laughing. I have definitely overchosen in this category.
But my favorite type of useless recipe is the one like “Citrus Tilapia with Spicy Red Sauce” that I picked up at a demo in my grocery store. I was hungry and they were handing out samples, so I took one and made believe I was really interested in the recipe – nodded thoughtfully and took the card. And now I notice that the whole thing comes out of two bottles of stuff I have never bought and will never buy. Toss that one.
It’s like cleaning out your closet: if you haven’t made that recipe in a couple of years, get rid of it. I feel thinner already.
One to Keep: Wonder Bread Pastry Cups
When I was a kid, I loved to take Wonder Bread and smash it flat before eating it. Well, it turns out that the same sort of technique is useful in a quick and easy way to make those little pastry cups for serving hors d’oeuvres. That’s right, take your basic white sandwich bread, roll it flat (about 1/8 inch thick) and, using a biscuit cutter, cut out circles 2 ½ -3 inches across (yield one circle per slice). Brush both sides with melted butter, press them into mini-muffin tins, and bake at 375º for 9-10 mins. Voilà! Pastry cups!