Virtually every cook in every kitchen in the world relies on spices of some sort to enhance the natural flavors of our foods. It’s a given.
But in 1958, apparently the American public needed a handy instructional guidebook called How To Use Spices. I discovered this beauty in an antique shop in northern Michigan. If you haven’t tried it, spend a few minutes digging through vintage books to uncover the forgotten culinary ways of our recent past.
Published by the American Spice Trade Association, this vintage gem is ripe with culinary insight and invites to reader to “join us in gazing into the crystal ball” of spices. In fact, when asking readers to use the spices on their shelf, they reveal, “The flavor genii is asking to be released from the container to help you live a little.” You have to love that!
With a truly helpful chart on spices, their description, flavor and compatibility, the book also offers a slew of recipes for seemingly forgotten mainstream foods like buttered cucumbers, dill codfish balls, and tuna “franks.” Hmm. Think I might pass on those. But two basic recipes caught my eye and I whipped them up for lunch. Weird combination, I know. Snap Beans with Peanut-Browned Butter Sauce and Chili Cheese Pinwheels. Here are my updated renditions of these 1958 “spicy” treats.
Peanut-Browned Butter Sauce
Though the original recipe called for the sauce to be served over one pound of snap beans, you can use this sauce with almost any green vegetable, including shelled English peas or even asparagus. Use at least 1 1/2 pounds of
vegetables – preferably two – or you’ll be eating spoons full of butter. Today I opted to serve French style green beans. And in fact, I didn’t have regular peanuts so I used honey roasted. Salty sweet and delicious!
4 Tablespoons butter
4 Tablespoons chopped dry-roasted peanuts (I always use salted)
1/2 teaspoon Fleur de Sel (or Kosher salt)
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
freshly ground nutmeg to taste
Method of Preparation:
- In saucepan, melt butter over medium high heat until it begins to brown. Take care not to let it burn. You’re looking for a rich, deep color and a nutty flavor. If you cook it until you see bits of black or smell smoke, start over and take more time.
- Turn heat to medium then add chopped peanuts and seasonings. Cook for several minutes until flavors blend.
- Serve over cooked green vegetables.
Ancho Chili Cheese Pinwheels
Let’s update the spices in this half-century old recipe, shall we? With the development of readily available chili powders, chili oils and dried chilis themselves, our taste buds have become accustomed to varying levels of chili heat and smokiness. I don’t like to fire up my mouth when I eat, so I lean toward the mild yet zesty smokiness of ancho chili powder. Feel free to substitute your favorite variety. If you want to take the heat up a notch, substitute pepper jack cheese instead of using Cheddar and add a few sprinkles of hot sauce prior to rolling the dough.
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder, divided
4 Tablespoons vegetable shortening (I use Crisco)
1 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese, divided
2/3 cup whole milk
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
smoked paprika for garnish
Method of Preparation:
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Prepare baking sheet by spraying lightly with vegetable oil.
- Combine flour, baking powder, salt and 1/2 of chili powder in mixing bowl of food processor fitted with the chopping blade. If you do not have a food processor, a hand pastry blender or two knives will work just fine.
- Add 1/2 of cheese and all of the vegetable shortening to mixture. Pulse for a few seconds at a time until mixture resembles coarse meal.
- Add milk a little at a time while pulsing, using only enough to form soft, crumbly dough.
- On clean floured surface, roll dough to 1/4 inch thick. Try your best to keep dough in the shape of an even rectangle, evening out sides by trimming and relocating if necessary. This will ensure the best rolled pastry. I trim my ends with a pastry scraper, then use the same pastry scraper to aid in lifting the dough to roll.
- Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with remaining cheese and chili powder.
- Beginning at the widest side, roll jelly-roll style. Using a very sharp non-serrated edge knife, cut dough into 1/2 inch thick slices and arrange on prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with smoked paprika or more ancho chili powder.*
- Bake for 12-13 minutes until golden brown.
*If your dough is too soft, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes before slicing.