About Monica Kass Rogers

The "Lost Recipes Found" lady

Jalapeno Creamed Spinach

Creamed spinach–Texas style! Rich with cream & cheese and spiked with pickled jalapeno, this is a Dallas classic from the ’70s. Searching out how people ate in different regions during different decades, there’s nothing more helpful than community cookbooks. Compilations of favorite recipes from cultural, philanthropic, civic & religious groups, schools & institutions, these spiral-bound booklets invariably carry at least one or two truly worthy dishes. This creamed spinach–which I first found in my 1976 Dallas Junior League Cookbook–is my adaptation of another adaptation done by Cheryl & Bill Jamison in their 1999-published, American Home Cooking. Sans canned-creamed-soup and minus the processed cheese, this is a gourmet side dish worthy of birthday dinners and holiday feasts. The pickled jalapeno adds a lot to the flavor.

Apple Pie Baked in a Bag (Streusel Top)

Sunday afternoons at my grandma’s house were full of simple entertainments. Rummaging through her button box to find the fanciest, winking pink or gold buttons was a favorite pastime. So was raiding the gumdrop dish, and, creating masks out of the brown paper bags she kept next to the refrigerator. The thought that just such a paper bag could be used for baking apple pie never occurred to me. But it did occur to Grandma–and to Nicholas Soyer, chef at the Brook’s Club in London, who worked out the basics in his 1911-published “Soyer’s Paper Bag Cookery.” Turns out baking pie in a paper bag helps steam the apples to tenderness–without burning the house down. Since launching Lost Recipes Found, I’ve had requests for such a pie many times. Here, then, is a tasty version, adapted from Adrienne Kane’s United States of Pie. And if you’re looking for more apple-y recipes? Try our recipe for Richard Thomas’ Apple Spice Cake & Whiskey Frosting or, this simple Boo Leet’s Apple Crisp, or our Apple Pie Slices, or for a main dish, this recipe for Porkchops with Sauerkraut & Apple Stuffing.  More apple recipes coming, too!

Jam Tart or Best Bar-Cookie

The bar cookie is a thing of beauty. It brings with it the promise of plenty, the memory of picnics and luncheons and family gatherings where people talked long and laughingly and  dessert was a reward worth saving room for. With all the press about farm-to-table and eating in season, it’s nice to remember that the humble bar cookie was showcase for that long before it was en vogue, featuring whatever came from the garden or farmstand–fresh first, and then “put by.”

Every two weeks, I get to test all sorts of bar cookie recipes, serving them to my guests at the Pig & Weasel, our living-room house-concert series and arts incubator. Last night, this recipe was the winner. The buttery crust works well pressed in to tart pans for a fancy scalloped edge, or, just pressed into typical 9 x 13 casserole dishes, or–doubled for a crowd–into half-sheet pans. For the filling, I have used jams I made myself from fresh apricots, figs and berries, but in a pinch you can use store-bought fruit spreads. (I like Trader Joe’s organic fruit spreads made with fruit & grape-juice concentrate.)

I found this fantastic crust recipe in a 50th anniversary community cookbook put out by the Womens Advisory Committee of the Sears Roebuck YMCA of Chicago in 1952. I like it with my homemade fig filling, or this apricot filling. And for more bar cookie bliss? Try one of my other favorites, such as these coffee-and-molasses dream bars.

Watermelon Gazpacho

When you’ve had your fill of fresh sliced watermelon–if that’s even possible, try this very-refreshing gazpacho concoction as a first course soup, or, as a party “shooter.” I trimmed this recipe down from a version Chef Travis Bensink does for crowds at Heirloom restaurant in Chautauqua, NY. It’s really easy to make: Just chop the vegetables, scoop the flesh from half of the melon and blend all together in a large, non-reactive bowl with an immersion blender, adding the olive oil in a slow stream and adjusting the salt/pepper/vinegar seasonings to taste at the end. Pour it all into a fine-mesh strainer to remove all of the pulp for a very-refined, beautifully colored and nicely bodied silky soup.

I brought home one of those beautiful, round, so-dark-green-they’re-almost-black seedless watermelons from the farmers market and made the gazpacho to serve at a party as shooters, and also served it at home as soup.  For the shooters, cut a small slice from the left-over half of the melon and trim it into mini wedges to slip over the rims of your shooter glasses.  Adorable.

Purslane Pesto

My dad’s a very frugal man. Back when we were little, nothing grew in our little strip of city side-yard but zinnias and lilies—except for this one, vine-y weed. It had succulent green leaves & wiggly, moss-rose-looking pinky-red stems and positively flourished. Dad looked it up and told us it was called Portulaca (portulaca oleracea) a wild-growing edible found in North America as far back as 1430 AD, also known as purslane, verdolaga, pigweed, or—my personal favorite: little hogweed. Dad promptly stopped treating purslane as a weed, and started eating it all sorts of ways, simply because it was edible and it was free. The rest of us did not.

Fast forward 30 years. I’m at a high-end tasting dinner with a bunch of food writers at “The Traveling Chef” Christopher Mangless’ Three Three Five dining studio in Green Bay, WI. Somewhere about small plate 18 or so, there appears this very familiar green. It tastes lemon-tart, and the leaves are, in fact, succulent. Purslane! Planning to tell my dad “…you’ll never guess what I just ate at a fancy restaurant,” I did a little research first and, Wow!

Turns out this wild thing is fantastically good for you. Purslane contains more Omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable.  A half-cup raw has 300 to 400 mg of alpha-linolenic acid—that’s five times more than spinach! (A re-boot on why we need Omega-3’s?  According to Washington, D.C.’s Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health, Omega-3s are  “essential for normal growth and development and may play an important role in the prevention and treatment of coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, other inflammatory and autoimmune disorders, and cancer.”)

Lets tally that up: Grows like a weed…tastes delicious… is incredibly good for you. Hmmm… Instead of weeding purslane, maybe you should harvest a few handfuls and try this pesto shared with me by Chef Travis Bensink of Heirloom Restaurant at the Chautauqua Institute, Chautauqua New York. It has a nice tart, grassy taste and the inclusion of walnuts instead of pine nuts boosts the alpha-linolenic acid content even more. Travis likes to serve it with fish (Arctic Char or halibut.) But it tastes good with just about anything. (….just ask my Dad.)

Spiced Peaches with Whipped Cream Pound Cake & Mascarpone

I’m not sure when I first tasted home-made spiced peaches. It could have been at Grandma’s house or a church potluck. Or maybe one of dad’s parishioners stopped by with a canning-jar full of the luscious things as a thank-you gift. But the flavor memory of sweet peach exoticized with clove goes deep. To my mind, putting spiced peach with perfect pound cake, a little mascarpone and a drizzle of the rose-colored syrup, is a heavenly thing to do. The combination has a permanent spot on our family-favorite recipes roster.

To make the peaches, I started with a recipe I’d found in my very-thick 1902 “Woman’s Favorite Cookbook,” written by Annie R. Gregory, “assisted by one thousand homekeepers” and published by H.H.Taylor out of Bay City, MI. It called for nine pounds of peaches, five pounds of sugar, a pint of vinegar, and cloves, and assumed—as a lot of old recipes did–that I would know just what to do from there :) With a little practice, I figured it out. The idea for the whipped cream pound cake started with a recipe I’d tried from a country-singers cookbook: The basics were there, but the recipe needed some changes to improve the texture and flavor.  Because the cake has whipped cream as an ingredient, I decided not to plate the finished dessert with more. Instead? A schmear of mascarpone cheese mixed with a little of the spiced peach syrup is very nice.

Blueberry Pie

I’m not sure if you have ever had trouble getting a fruit pie to “set up.” But I do know the oxalic acid in blueberries can make it a challenge. With this recipe, I use plenty of cornstarch (or tapioca starch) and let the pie bake a full hour, or even a little more, until the filling bubbles like a cauldron. I like LOTS of berries in a pie, so use a good six cups of them, mounded in a deep-dish, nine-inch pie plate. During the heat of summer, I don’t like to fiddle with lattice crusts (a delicate pie pastry is even more-so in a hot kitchen) so did mine with a regular crust on top. Do be sure to cut some good sized vents or decorative holes, on top.

Gale Gand’s Brooklyn Blackout Cake

I’m putting this post up again, in answer to a request for this Ebinger bakery classic. This recipe comes to us compliments of Chicago-based chef and baker, Gale Gand, who went to great lengths to re-created the Blackout Cake. As Gale tells it: “Ebinger’s was a chain of bakeries in Brooklyn renowned for the purity of its ingredients, the sparkling cleanliness of its stores, and the deep chocolatey-ness of this cake. Even though the last Ebinger’s finally closed in 1972, devotees kept Blackout Cakes in their freezers for years afterwards.” Recreating the cake, Gand didn’t have access to one of these freezer fossils for analyzation purposes. Instead, she relied on the taste-memories of Ebinger’s fans who grew up in Brooklyn. Gand included this group as her taste-panel.  Says Gand, “They’re a tough crowd, but they tell us we’ve finally got it right. The custard filling is finally the perfect deep, velvety, very, very, dark brown.”

Sugar Snap Barley “Risotto” (Vegan)

Risotto swept American diners off their feet in the late ’80s and early ’90s, helped along by chef experts such as Lidia Bastianich and Marcella Hazan, who made it look so easy and so good. But super creamy, calorie-laden versions like Risotto Milanese, made with high-starch short grain white rice and plenty of butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano are a tad rich for today’s tastes. This silky vegan update uses quick-cooking  barley, a high-fiber, high-protein par-boiled whole grain that has a satisfying nutty flavor. As with classic risotto, we make this one with a sofrito of olive oil and onion, toast the barley in the sofrito and then add white wine, vegetable stock and hand-shelled sugar snap peas. For a little textural contrast and crunch, we sprinkle each serving with pea shoots.

Monte Cristo Sandwich

Ham, turkey and melted cheese on egg-dipped, butter-crisped white bread, the Monte Cristo sandwich made waitressing at the local Denny’s in that godawful brown polyester uniform, almost worth it. Perhaps because the fried bread’s a lot like French toast, The Encyclopedia of Guilty Pleasures puts the Monte Cristo in that “strange netherworld between breakfast and lunch,” making it perfect for Hobbit “elevensies.”

Most basically an Americanized Croque Monsieur, the Monte Cristo is purported to have first appeared under that menu moniker in 1950s California. Disney started serving it in 1966 at its Blue Bayou and Tahitian Terrace restaurants on New Orleans Square in Disneyworld, and chain-restaurants popularized it ever after. LRF’s triple-decker version riffs on a Los Angeles recipe that Gourmet magazine ran in 1968, in response to a reader request.