Cooking Cove: Food memories from way back when

Cooking Cove: Food memories from way back when

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By Barbara Beltrami

With her passionate reminiscences and mouth-watering descriptions of comfort foods from way back in our childhoods — things that were part of our mothers’ and grandmothers’ regular repertoires; the kinds of things we neither cook anymore nor see on menus — my friend has motivated me to comb through old recipe files and cookbooks to try to duplicate them. I have done so with the caveat that they will never be as good as the ones we remember. How could they be? However, as my new muse in this as in so many things, I am dedicating this column to her.

Tomato Aspic 

Ask any Southern lady and she will tell you that this dish is a standard at luncheons and funerals.

YIELD: Makes 8 to10 servings


2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin

¼ cup cold water

¼ cup boiling water

4 cups tomato juice

1 tablespoon chopped onion

½ green bell pepper chopped

1 celery rib

1 teaspoon brown sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

½ teaspoon celery seeds

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Nonstick cooking spray

Fresh bibb lettuce leaves

Fresh parsley for garnish


In a small bowl, sprinkle the cold water over the gelatin; let sit 5 minutes. Whisk boiling water into gelatin until it is dissolved. In a large saucepan, combine the tomato juice, onion, pepper, celery, brown sugar, salt, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce and celery seeds. Bring to a boil over medium heat; simmer, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes; pour through wire mesh strainer into medium bowl; discard veggies or save for another use. Stir in gelatin and lemon juice. Spray a 10-cup ring mold with nonstick cooking spray; pour mixture into mold; chill 6 hours or until set. Unmold onto plate lined with lettuce leaves; garnish with parsley. Serve with shrimp salad and deviled eggs.

Old-Fashioned Crabmeat Casserole

Casseroles were very popular decades ago. The combination of crabmeat, butter and breadcrumbs makes this a rich but oh-so-delicious seafood dish.

YIELD: Makes 4 servings


1 large egg

1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 stick unsalted butter

1½ cups unflavored breadcrumbs

1 cup half-and-half

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 pound cooked crabmeat (picked over to remove any bits of shell)


Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly butter or grease a two-quart casserole dish. In a small bowl whisk together egg, parsley and mustard. In a medium saucepan melt 6 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat; add one cup breadcrumbs and half-and-half; cook stirring constantly, until slightly thickened. Remove from heat; add egg mixture and salt and pepper and stir just enough to incorporate but not cook egg. Fold in crabmeat; transfer to prepared casserole; sprinkle with remaining bread crumbs; dot with remaining butter. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Serve with rice.

Julia’s Oatmeal Lace Cookies

Julia was the daughter of a slave. That’s how many generations the recipe

for this childhood favorite has been around.

Oatmeal Lace Cookies. Stock photo

YIELD: Makes 12 to 15 cookies


1 cup whole grain oats (old-fashioned not instant oatmeal)

¼ stick unsalted butter plus butter for greasing baking sheets

¾ cup medium brown sugar

1 egg

Pinch or 2 all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon vanilla or to taste.


Generously grease two baking sheets and set aside. Preheat oven to 275 F. Spread oatmeal on another baking sheet and toast it for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Set aside and let cool. Raise oven temperature to 350 F. In a large saucepan, melt butter over moderately low heat; add sugar and mix well. Remove pan from cook top, stir in egg and oatmeal; beat until blended, then thoroughly blend in flour and vanilla. Drop batter, about one tablespoon at a time, about two inches apart as cookies will spread, onto greased baking sheets. Bake about 10 minutes or until cookies are firm and edges are slightly brown. Let cool a few minutes on baking sheets, then with sharp spatula, carefully remove to wire racks, Serve with ice cold milk.