Sunday, April 29, 2007

My Silver Palate

Last Monday evening found me kicking back on the terrace outside the Central Park Boathouse, overlooking the Lake, enjoying a glass of white sangria with some of my colleagues. Along with 250 other people, we were there to celebrate the publication of the 25th anniversary edition of The Silver Palate Cookbook. The party was pretty fabulous: waiters passed hors d'oeuvres, buffet tables offered tastes of some of the book's main courses, and a guy was even taking partygoers out for gondola rides on the lake.

By the end of last week, I finally got around to checking out the goodie bag, and pulled out an apron, a bag of cookies and the book itself. I brought the book home to my mom over the weekend, and the two of us pored over it, she reminiscing about her old b&w edition--which she may or may not have sold at a garage sale at some point--and me learning the story of Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins's claim to fame. The women opened a gourmet food shop called The Silver Palate on New York's Upper West Side in 1977, and it became a tremendous success. They wrote their cookbook in 1982, and it arrived on the scene in the same decade as chichi creations like Newman's Own Oil and Vinegar Salad Dressing, Tofutti, and Boboli Pizza prefab crusts. With its recipes for Cream of Mango Soup, Cold Poached Salad with Blueberry Mayonnaise, and Pizza Pot Pie, The Silver Palate Cookbook fit right in with that chic aesthetic. It went on to sell more than 2 million copies.

Fruity soups and bizarre combinations notwithstanding, The Silver Palate Cookbook actually contains some terrific recipes. Its Chicken Marbella is a legend, and while I haven't cooked it yet, I tasted it at the party, and it was delicious. This weekend I made a Sesame Mayonnaise, which we drizzled over grilled asparagus and also used as a salad dressing. Made with rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil and a touch of Szechuan-style hot and spicy oil, it was a tasty French-Asian hybrid. I also made an Orange Pecan Bread, which my mom said was definitely a keeper and could contend with my grandfather's favorite birthday treat, an orange raisin cake from none other than the famous Aunt Winnie.

I'm definitely going to keep my Silver Palate handy, and plan on making Chicken Marbella for my next dinner party. Maybe we'll even have Mango Soup... for dessert.--S

Sesame Mayonnaise

1 whole egg
2 egg yolks
2 1/2 T rice vinegar
2 1/2 T soy sauce
3 T Dijon mustard
1/4 c dark sesame oil
2 1/2 c corn oil [I used only 1 cup of vegetable oil for a thicker dressing]
Szechuan-style hot and spicy oil

1. In a food processor, process the whole egg, egg yolks, vinegar, soy sauce, and mustard for 1 minute.
2. With the motor still running, dribble in the sesame oil and then the corn [or veg] oil in a slow, steady stream.
3. Season with drops of the hot and spicy oil if you use it, and scrape the mayonnaise out into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Orange Pecan Bread
1 loaf

8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
3/4 c sugar
2 eggs, separated
Grated zest of 1 large or 2 small oranges
1 1/2 c unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
Pinch of salt
1/2 c fresh orange juice
Orange glaze (see recipe below)

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan.
2. Cream the butter. Add the sugar gradually, beating with an electric mixer until light. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, and the grated orange zest.
3. Sift the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and add the dry mixture to the batter alternately with the orange juice, beginning and ending with the flour. Gently mix in the pecans.
4. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold them carefully into the batter.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, set on the center rack of the oven, and bake for 50 to 60 minutes.
6. Spoon the hot glaze over the bread as soon as the bread is removed from the oven. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

Orange Glaze
Enough glaze for 1 cake

1/4 c fresh orange juice
1/4 cup sugar

Combine the orange juice and sugar in a small saucepan and simmer gently for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until a light syrup forms. Remove from the heat and keep warm until using.

Recipes courtesy of The Silver Palate Cookbook

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