Cookbook Author's Recipies tell a story
By Karen Welzel
As seen in The Tribune-Review

Sukey Jamison
S.C. Spangler/
Tribune-Review

Jamison Farm
at a glance

Owners: Sukey and John Jamison Size of herd: Average of 150 sheep and lambs, depending on season. Butchering weekly.

Products: Whole lamb, cut to order; leg, racks, shanks, kebab chunks, steaks, roasts, stew meat, shoulder, organ meats, bones, chops, tiny T-bones.

Prepared foods: Barley soup, plain stock, pie, three kinds of sausage. Some products can be ordered only with purchase of lamb meat.

Recipes: The recipes included here are from "Recipes from Sukey and John," a small book available for $4. They were developed and tested by Sukey Jamison, co-owner.

Where to buy: Mail-order through the Web, at the farm, or at selected Giant Eagle stores.

Details: 800-237-5262 or www.jamisonfarm.com.

For Joan Nathan, a recipe is not a recipe. It has to be a story, about people and a place.

The prolific cookbook writer, PBS television host and expert on international Jewish cuisine, 63, spent five years searching for material for her latest book, "The New American Cooking" (Alfred A. Knopf, $35). It's a star-spangled salute to this country's melting pot of cuisines, food innovations and the history of ingredients, from the longtime harvesting of indigenous wild rice by American Indians to the recent "birth" of sugar snap peas.

"I love going to tiny, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, where everybody is unique," she says from her summer home on Martha's Vineyard, Mass. "And I'm curious about food firsts. That's what started me going on this book."

The award-winning author will be in Pittsburgh this week to offer presentations and cooking demonstrations at Giant Eagle's two Market District stores. And it's likely she'll be looking for more folks and foods to write about.

The last time she visited Pittsburgh, she says, she fell in love with the region's popular Italian deep-fried zucchini, which she tasted during a lunch.

"I should have gotten that recipe," she sighs.

But she did give honor and glory to Western Pennsylvania products in "The New American Cooking." Sukey and John Jamison, of Jamison Farm, in Unity Township, Westmoreland County, offered her a tour of the grassy acreage where they raise prime lamb and shared their recipe for Lamb Stew, developed by the late chef Jean-Louis Palladin of the Watergate Hotel.

And she relished a visit to DeLallo's Italian Marketplace in nearby Jeannette, marveling at the vast array of Italian specialty foods produced and sold by the DeLallo family, who have been in the grocery business for more than half a century.

Nathan says her culinary tales often are discovered just by looking around her. A resident of Washington, D.C. -- where immigrants love to share their native dishes -- she often gets tips from friends and acquaintances. It's the same with her social circle at Martha's Vineyard.

"I met some guy with Google who knew the head of Yahoo," she says. "He knew a noodle maker, and I went to find him."

She features chef Thomas Liu of northern California spinning and stretching noodles, along with his seafood chow mein recipe.

Nathan tests all of the recipes herself.

"If I don't want to cook the recipe, I won't put it in the book," she says. Her husband, attorney Allan Gerson, is her "guinea pig," along with an array of invited friends.

"He has a forgiving palate," she says.

At the Market District stores, Nathan will demonstrate Brisket with Apricots and Apples, a recipe from her sister-in-law, and an old-fashioned Apple-Apricot Crostata, both from "The New American Cooking."

"A lot of people don't know how to handle brisket," she says. There are two important rules: cook it long, and cook it with the fat.

In addition to her latest book -- which is being considered for a television series -- Nathan's publications include "The Foods of Israel Today," "An American Folklife Cookbook" and the double-award-winning "Jewish Cooking in America." She was host and executive producer of PBS television's "Jewish Cooking in America with Joan Nathan."

Nathan also writes for The New York Times and was guest curator of Food Culture USA at the 2005 Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

POTICA

Potica (pronounced po-TEET-sa) is a paper-thin sweet bread filled with walnuts, honey, sugar and butter. It's a staple for celebrations in Hibbing, Minn.

  • Butter, oil or vegetable cooking spray, for greasing pan
  • 10 ounces walnuts (3 cups)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 large whole egg
  • 4 tablespoons light or heavy cream, divided
  • All-purpose flour, for rolling
  • 2 sheets prepared puff pastry dough (about 17.3 ounces), thawed if frozen
  • 1 large egg yolk

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 11- by 9-inch jellyroll pan wilth butter, oil, or vegetable cooking spray.

To prepare the filling, put the walnuts in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add both sugars, the honey, cinnamon, 1 whole egg and 3 tablespoons cream. Pulse a few times, until the mixture is the consistency of a chunky paste.

Flour a table or other flat surface and roll out 1 sheet of puff pastry dough to form a 16- by 12-inch rectangle. Smear half of the filling over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border all around.

Starting at the narrower 12-inch end, roll up the puff pastry like a jellyroll, tightly but gently, tucking in the sides as you roll. Place the dough in the prepared baking pan. Repeat with the second sheet of dough and the remaining filling.

Mix 1 egg yolk with the remaining tablespoon of cream and brush over the potica. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool slightly and transfer to a serving plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 2 loaves (6 servings each).

JAMISON FARM LAMB STEW

One of the places Joan Nathan visited while researching for "The New American Cooking" was Jamison Farm, in Unity Township, Westmoreland County. Sukey and John Jamison raise some of the most prized lamb in the country. "Americans are familiar with leg of lamb, but we don't often cook lamb in a stew," writes Nathan. "The Jamisons learned this recipe from (the late chef) Jean-Louis Palladin, who made it using one of his signature secret ingredients -- V8 vegetable juice." Nathan dedicates her book to Palladin, a French-born chef who was a stickler for fresh, natural and seasonal foods. Serve this by itself or with rice or pasta.

  • 9 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 4 sprigs fresh sage or 1/2 teaspoon dried
  • 5 small sprigs fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried
  • 9 small sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 9 large fresh basil leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 pounds stewing lamb (shoulder), cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 medium-size onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped shallots (about 2 shallots)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3 cups V8 vegetable juice
  • 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
  • 3 cups lamb, veal or chicken stock, or water
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 ribs celery, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 white turnip, peeled and coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup chopped leeks (about 1 leek), both white and green parts
  • 2 cups (about 8 ounces) white or cremini mushrooms
  • Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced (about 1 1/2 cups)

Put the parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme and basil in the center of a piece of cheesecloth and tie into a sack, using a string. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy stockpot over high heat for 2 minutes. Scatter the lamb cubes in the hot oil and saute them for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. You need to do this in 2 batches.

Add the onion, garlic and shallots and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the wine, V8 juice, tomato paste and broth, stirring to blend in the paste. Season with the salt and pepper, and drop in the prepared herb sack. Bring everything to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30-45 minutes.

Add the celery, turnip and leeks, and simmer for 25 more minutes or until almost cooked.

Wash the mushrooms in the lemon juice, cut them if half if large and add them to the stew along with the carrots. Simmer for another 15 minutes, remove the herb sack.

Makes 8 servings.

THE ULTIMATE POTATO PANCAKE

This recipe is from celebrity chef Daniel Boulud, of Restaurant Daniel, in New York City. He suggests varying the pancake by grating celery root, pumpkin or acorn squash into it, and serve it warm with goat cheese or arugula and smoked salmon.

  • 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 6 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Crème fraîche, smoked salmon or sour cream, for garnish

Grate the potatoes by hand or in a food processor using the grating blade with the smallest holes. Scoop up one-fourth of them at a time, using your hands, and squeeze out and discard the excess liquid.

Put the handfuls of grated potatoes in a mixing bowl and add the eggs, chives, salt and pepper. Mix well, until everything is very well blended.

Heat about 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 10-inch nonstick saute pan over high heat. Place one-fourth of the potato mixture in the middle of the pan and, using a spatula and your hands, spread the pancake out as thinly as possible until it covers the surface of the pan. Be careful not to burn yourself.

Put the handfuls of grated potatoes in a mixing bowl and add the eggs, chives, salt and pepper. Mix well, until everything is very well blended.

reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook the pancake until the bottom browns, for about 5 minutes.

Invert a plate that is just slightly larger than the pan over the top. Flip the pan over so that the pancake drops onto the plate, then slide the pancake back into the pan. (The brown side is now facing up.) Cook for about 4 more minutes, until the underside is browned. Flip the pancake over and onto a plate. Keep warm in a low oven as you cook the others.

Repeat these steps for the remaining pancakes, starting with 1 tablespoon oil for each one. Serve plain or garnished with crème fraîche, smoked salmon or sour cream.

Makes 4-6 servings.

LEMON TART

Nathan based this recipe on one from Suzanne's Restaurant in Dupont Circle in the District of Columbia. The crust baking instructions are from a recipe in her revised edition of "Jewish Holiday Cookbook" (Shocken Books, $29.95).

For the Sweet Butter Pie Crust:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, more for rolling dough
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Dash salt
  • About 1/4 cup cold milk

For the filling:

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 4 lemons
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

To make the crust: Cut the 2 sticks butter into small pieces and toss into a food processor along with 2 cups flour, 1/4 cup sugar and the salt. Pulse until the texture is like very coarse meal. Pour in the milk a tablespoon at a time, pulsing until the dough comes together in a ball. Be carefully not to add too much milk, or the dough will be impossible to roll out. Shape the dough into a disk, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and, on a floured surface, roll it into an 11-inch round. Place the dough into a 9-inch tart pan or glass pie plate and press in all around, trimming the excess. Set the pan on a baking sheet. Using a fork, prick the sides and bottom.

Line the dough with parchment paper, then fill with pie weights or dried beans, just enough to cover the paper. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the dough just begins to brown. Remove the beans and parchment and let the crust cool.

Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees.

To make the filling: Pour the water into a heavy saucepan. Add 1 cup sugar and bring to a boil. Slice 1 lemon into thin circles. Drop them into the boiling water, lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, uncovered. Drain and set aside for the garnish.

Grate the zest of the remaining 3 lemons to get 2 tablespoons zest, then squeeze the lemons to get about 3/4 cup juice. Whip the eggs and the remaining sugar in he bowl of a heavy-duty mixer at medium speed. Gradually add the lemon juice and zest.

Place the mixture in a medium-size saucepan, add 4 tablespoons butter and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, being careful not to boil, until the lemon thickens into a curdlike custard, for about 5 minutes.

Pour into the baked tart crust and bake for 20-25 minutes or until firm. Garnish with the lemon slices.

Makes 8 servings.