Stromboli

This isn’t a grandma recipe. But it is something that I make often, and I first started making it based on a recipe card my Aunt Cathy tucked into a recipe box I received at my bridal shower one hundred 19 years ago. Anyway, my neighbor called me from the grocery store yesterday, asking what she should buy in order to make the stromboli she’d had at my house recently, and that made me think this one’s worth sharing.

(I don’t have photos now – but next time I make this I’ll add them.)

First, you need dough. The easiest thing is to buy a fresh one at your grocery store. 99 cents at Trader Joe’s! Second easiest is to keep those frozen bread doughs in your freezer – but then you have to remember to get it out and thaw it, like, weeks  days many hours in advance, and honestly, who has time for that? When I want stromboli I WANT IT NOW.

Your third option is to make your own. The lowest-impact method would be to remember 2.5 hours before dinnertime to throw the ingredients into your bread machine and run the dough cycle. Again, I’m no master of forethought, so…

I usually end up making my own. I base mine on the BH&G New Cookbook’s (and yes, that book was a bridal shower gift too) pizza recipe.  You know the one – with the red plaid cover. Anyway, here’s how I do it:

In a bowl, put 1.25 cups AP flour, 1 package active dry yeast (about 2.5 tsp from a jar) and 1/4 tsp salt. Add 1 cup warm water and 2 Tbsp cooking oil. With electric mixer, beat 30 seconds on low, then scrape bowl, then 3 minutes on high speed. Or two – I never time myself. Till you’re bored. Then, with a wooden spoon, stir in as much of 1.5 – 2 cups more flour, then turn the whole blob out onto a floured work surface and knead in the rest. 6-8 minutes of kneading, till the dough is moderately stiff and smooth and elastic. It won’t be sticky. Cover and let it rest, at least 10 minutes, as much as 30 or so – till it starts to rise. It doesn’t have to double. But if you forget about it and it does, that’s OK, just punch it down and proceed.

Now, on your floured work surface, roll that dough out into a pizza pan-sized circle. Next: Fillings! On the half closest to you, leaving room around the edge, layer sandwich-sliced pepperoni, hard or genoa salami (or both!), and lunchmeat ham, alternating with slices of provolone and mozzarella cheese.  Don’t be shy with the cheese; you’ll regret it.  Sprinkle the toppings generously with dried oregano. Fold the other half of the dough over top the fillings, moisten the inside edge of the dough, then crimp with a fork to seal.

Transfer the whole thing to a baking sheet sprinkled with corn meal (or flour). With a sharp knife, make a couple of slices on the top of the dough so it doesn’t explode. Because that would be bad.

Bake this in a preheated 375 degree oven for, um, I dunno, 15 minutes? I never time myself. The dough will be golden brown and either there will be cheese oozing out the top or you’ll be able to hear the filling sizzling inside.

Remove from oven, let sit for a few mins before slicing. Serve with your favorite marinara, warmed, for dipping. My favorite brand is Don Pepino in the yellow can. It’s yummy!

Enjoy!

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Ham Salad Sandwiches

There’s a memorial service later today at my church – one of our members has lost his battle with leukemia. I volunteered to help prepare food for the luncheon. The coordinator suggested I make some small sandwiches – ham, roast beef, whatever.

In thinking back to any number of post-funeral lunches I’ve attended, I have to say, one constant is that there are always ham salad sandwiches. At least in Pennsylvania there are! Now, I don’t have a ham salad recipe from either of my grandmas, but that’s probably because this is one recipe that everyone just knows how to make. Or at least, everyone of a certain generation did.

So, I went looking on the internet, and I found this one from Paula Deen, which is exactly who I expected would have a good ham salad recipe.  The good thing about meat salads is, you don’t have to follow the recipe exactly in order for it to turn out good. You can eyeball and estimate instead of painstakingly measuring the ingredients. I doubled this, and then some. I substituted sweet pickle relish instead of the hot pickles Paula suggests. I will be spreading it on small dinner rolls for the luncheon.

HAM SALAD – from PaulaDeen.com

Ingredients:

2 cups leftover ham, chopped in a food processor
1 cup finely diced celery
1/4 cup finely minced sweet onion
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 hard-boiled eggs, diced
1/4 cup hot pickle relish, drained
1/2 cup mayonnaise

Directions

Mix all ingredients until well blended.
Serve on crackers or bread as a sandwich.

Pig Stomach (Hog Maw)

Folks, don’t judge before you read about it. Try to stay with me for this one.  I remember my Grandma Losch making this, usually when Uncle John had butchered a pig.  It’s called Pig Stomach, also known as Hog Maw. Now, don’t get all grossed out and wrinkle your nose, because the stomach is really only the vessel inside which is roasted a savory mixture of seasoned meat and vegetables that’s really quite tasty. You don’t really eat the stomach part. Think of it as a sausage casing. Check out what Wikipedia has to say about it here.

Now, I don’t actually have my grandma’s recipe for this, so I turned to my friend The Internet to find one. And I got really lucky! Here are a couple of sites that have good descriptions and recipes for this traditional Pennsylvania Dutch recipe:

Teri’s Kitchen – she has a great recipe for Pig’s Stomach that looks to be very close to what I remember.

AllRecipes has a version of it here.

Lastly, I found a nice story by Donna Godfrey about her grandmother’s list of food required to feed the many folks who would be involved in a Mennonite or Amish barn-raising. At the end of the story is her grandma’s recipe for Pig’s Stomach, which she called Dutch Goose.

I also searched for images and found a great set, taken by a fellow Central Pennsylvanian. Thanks to cthoyes for letting me borrow these photos so you can get an idea of what this looks like:

If you don’t happen to be butchering your own pig (and really, nowadays, who has time?), you need to track down a pig stomach.  There really is no substitute. Where I live, that probably means I would first have to find a butcher shop, because I don’t think they have this at Safeway in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.  However, in regions where people would not look at you funny when you ask for this, you may be able to snag one at a grocery store with a good meat department. This fellow found one at a great grocery store in Central PA, Karns Market:

Pig Stomach, a.k.a. Hog Maw
Pig Stomach, a.k.a. Hog Maw

Then, you make the filling, which contains bulk ground sausage, potatoes, and other yummy-good things:

The Filling
The Filling

Then, you put the filling into the stomach – not YOUR stomach, silly, that comes later – the raw pig stomach. Think of it like stuffing a giant sausage casing:

Pig stomach, Ready to bake
Pig stomach, Ready to bake

Then you bake it and it gets all juicy and yummy good. For Realz.

Just slice 'n' eat!
Just slice 'n' eat!

The thing about this dish is that, even though I remember my grandma making it, I myself have never made it and I sure don’t know anyone my age who has made it.  It’s definitely a regional thing and may in many ways be a generational thing. My children may never eat this.  If nothing else, I have tried to capture it here so that you know a little bit about where I come from, a little piece of the history of rural Central Pennsylvania.

If you have memories of eating – or making – this dish, I would appreciate reading about it. Please leave a comment below.

Ham Bone (Bean) Soup

This is another one of those recipes that’s difficult to attribute to one grandma or the other, because both of them made it regularly. Frankly, this soup is best made by little old ladies – members of the Grange or the Lions Club or the Moose or Elks or the Fire Company or the Lutheran Church – cooked for hours in giant iron kettles and served up at community festivals such as carnivals or parades, or weekend church supper fundraisers where you can take it to go if you bring your own quart jars along.

I myself am neither little nor old, nor a member of any of those groups, and I do not own a giant iron kettle. Nevertheless, I cooked me a half-ham last Thursday, and my dear husband knows me well enough to have saved the ham bone because he knew I would want to do something with it.

This is very simple recipe, and because it appeared in print, here is Grandma Losch’s version:

hambonesoup

When I say “in print”, I am referring to the Faith Lutheran Church cookbook, circa 1976, and believe me when I say, this is one cookbook I keep going back to. My grandma’s recipes are well-represented, as are those from my aunts, cousins, as well as many lovely folks from the church in which my own mother grew up. The contents are priceless, and frankly, so is the cover photo:

faith-cookbookCheck out that kitchen, people! The harvest gold countertops! The dark wood cabinets! The orange linoleum! Such a period piece!

Sorry, got distracted there. Some of Grandma Losch’s “greatest hits” are in this cookbook, and you’ll see many more of them here in future installments. But for now – where was I? – oh yes – Ham Bean Soup. Or, as it’s listed herein, Ham BONE Soup. And I suspect it was bone rather than bean because Grandma was a child of the Great Depression and she was as thrifty as the day is long.  She could make a good soup out of a bare bone and whatever else was in the fridge. This is the woman who reused plastic bread bags. She made us rewash styrofoam plates and cups and plastic cutlery.  I used to be embarassed by how “cheap” she was, but now I realize she was simply trying to “reduce her carbon footprint.” She made “Dandelion Gravy”, which, frankly, I couldn’t get over because I watched her walk out and literally pick grass (dandelion leaves!) from the yard, then cook to drippings and a sweet/sour sauce.  FRUGAL was her middle name! Actually, her middle name was Margaret, and that’s what my mom chose as my first name, and my middle name is the same as my other grandmother’s, and… well, now you understand, don’t you?

WHERE WAS I? Oh yes, the Soup! It’s a simple recipe. I took pictures! And, I had to make emergency substitutions and embellish a wee bit.  If you want to go Old School, follow what’s pasted above. But here’s how I did it, using the leftover baked ham and the other stuff I had in my pantry:

1. RE-COOK HAM BONE IN WATER. For, like, a couple / few hours.

hambone-in-pot

2. SOAK SOUP BEANS OVERNIGHT. Grandma’s recipe calls for “soup beans”, where “soup beans” equals those dried navy beans, I think. However, all I had was some dried pinto beans, and I had not had the forethought to soak ’em overnight (who can remember?), so I threw them into a pot and boiled them for, like, a couple of hours, which is pretty much the same thing as soaking overnight:

soak-beans

Once the ham bone is cooked and the beans have boiled until soft, you are ready to rock ‘n’ roll with the rest of the ingredients, where “rock ‘n’ roll” equals throw ’em all into a pot and cook, cook, cook:

ingredients

A couple of points about how my other ingredients vary from what’s called for in the recipe: First of all, I don’t know why she lists “tomato juice” because my soup was pretty watery and tomato juice wouldn’t have helped me there. Also, tomato juice is something I never have just laying around, and if I do, I’m saving it for Bloody Marys. So, I substituted a small can of tomato paste, and that worked great.  Plain tomato sauce would work, too. But it has to be PLAIN, not, like, Ragu or some other flavored sauce, OK?

See those clear bags of Celery Flakes and Bay Leaves? I had no fresh celery (actually, I did, but when I went to get it out I discovered it had partially frozen, and celery frozen is just nasty) so I used some dried celery flakes from my favorite spice store, Penzey’s. (Have you shopped Penzey’s? They mail order, and also have retail stores, one of which happens to be within 8 miles of my house. [Be still my soul.] The spices are excellent quality, and less expensive than what you can get in the grocery store. If you like to cook, you need to shop Penzey’s!) Well, my grandma didn’t have Penzey’s, but she had the next best thing – she lived next door to my aunt and uncle, who ran a small country-crossroads grocery store at the bottom of their hill, and she could call down and just ask “Troupie” to bring something up for her. Like celery and tomato juice. And an onion, too, please. If it’s not too much trouble.

Bay Leaves: I threw in a couple while the soup was cooking. Why? I thought it’d make it better. Grandma’s recipe doesn’t call for them, but I threw caution to the wind and snuck ’em in there. (Also, I’m trying to find ways to use them up, because I got pretty excited and bought that huge bag of them at Penzey’s.)

Lastly: Grandma’s recipe calls for chopped hard boiled eggs. I seriously have no recollection of her putting eggs into her soup… so I don’t put ’em in. I give you permission to buck tradition – like I did – and just skip the eggs. But – shhhh – don’t tell anyone, OK? About the added bay leaves OR the omitted eggs.

OK, so you put all of that into the pot with the ham broth and the beans and keep on cooking it, again, for maybe another hour or two.  Stir it occasionally to keep the beans from burning to the bottom. OR, throw it into the crock pot at this point and let it cook all afternoon. You’ll also want to add the extra ham here, too, and pull out the bone at some point and clean it off and add that ham to the soup as well. 

Ideally, your soup will thicken into a hammy, beany, salty stewy soup. Mine did not; I carelessly used too much water.  But it tasted good, and heck, if you add enough saltine crackers, any soup will thicken right up. Here’s what it looked like right before Middle Son (a.k.a. The Boss) inhaled his:

hamsoupincup

You can freeze this soup, or just keep it in the fridge and reheat it over and over for, like, days on end. It gets better every time.

In further proof that I am my grandmothers’ granddaughter – aside from the wicked hammertoe that appeared when I turned 40 – I offer this: Soup Husband Curt and I are sitting at the table eating this soup, and he says, “Good soup!” To which I reply, “meh, it’s watery, and it doesn’t taste ‘hammy’ enough.” And he was all, “OKAY Mary Losch, quit selling yourself short!”  – because any of you readers who were lucky enough to know Mary Losch know that nothing she made was ever perfect. The pie was “weepy” or the crust wasn’t quite flaky enough, or… something. But I couldn’t help it; the soup wasn’t perfect. It just wasn’t! But it was good, and it reminded me of the grandmas and that’s all that matters, right?

Right.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go wash out a breadbag…