I’d bought the books last year at a thrift store two days before my head exploded. By the time I was up and cooking, I’d completely forgotten about the thrift store cookbook score. My recent discovery was a lovely Easter present. A new cookbook always puts me in a good mood, and here were five of them. A bonanza!
The first book I picked up was Michael Field’s Culinary Classics and Improvisations: Creative Leftovers Made from Main Course Masterpieces.
Michael Field was a successful concert pianist in the fifties and early sixties who had a passion for cooking. By 1964, that passion had become Field’s career. He got started by holding “socialite cooking classes in his Manhattan apartment.” Ultimately, he started a culinary school in New York City, wrote cookbooks and magazine articles, and was a consulting editor for the Time-Life Foods of the World series.
Field died in 1971 at age 56. Among the accomplishments cited in his Time magazine obituary are debunking “such myths as the need to wash mushrooms, devein shrimp and press garlic” and preaching the “imaginative use of leftovers.”
Field’s primary rule for using leftovers is the source of leftovers must be “of the highest quality.” To this end, Field provides classic recipes for roasted and braised meat, fish, and fowl. He uses the leftovers from these dishes for the remaining recipes.
For example, Field gives a recipe for Yankee Pot Roast, the leftovers of which can be used in his recipes for Pot Roast Pie with Braised White Onions and Mushrooms, Pirog of Beef, Bigos, Cannelloni with Beef and Spinach Filling, Pâté of Pot Roast, or Cold Braised Beef Vinaigrette.
Here’s my take on Field's Cannelloni:
Cannelloni with Spinach Filling (Κανελόνια με Σπανάκι)
Serves 4 (makes 8 cannelloni)
Adapted from Culinary Classics and Improvisations by Michael Field (Alfred A. Knopf 1967)
Cannelloni is a very flexible dish, and is a terrific way to use up leftovers. For stuffing, combine the spinach with sautéed mushrooms or leftover chicken, beef, pork, lamb, or roasted vegetables. It’s great with homemade pasta, but can also be made with plain crêpes or store-bought manicotti tubes. The tomato sauce may be made special for Cannelloni, but the dish tastes great with leftover or jarred sauce. I made my own pasta, hand-cutting noodles with the extra dough. The noodles are terrific in homemade chicken soup. Although Cannelloni may be made in one large pan, I like using individual gratin dishes for ease of serving and because it allows me to freeze assembled but unbaked cannelloni for future use.
Pasta (or substitute crêpes or purchased manicotti shells):
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. water
3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups half and half
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 pound cleaned, fresh spinach or 10 ounces frozen spinach, thawed
1 cup diced onion, 1/8” dice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 cup finely chopped leftover roast meat or leftover roast vegetables (see vegetarian variation below)
1 Tbsp. dried oregano, crushed
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
1 cup tomato pasta sauce, puréed (use your favorite tomato sauce recipe or a good quality jarred pasta sauce)
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Make the Pasta: Mix all the ingredients in a food processor and process until the dough clumps together, adding water if necessary. The finished dough should be very stiff. Dump the dough out on a floured surface and knead for 2 – 3 minutes, or until the dough is smooth, shiny, and elastic. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
Following the manufacturer’s instructions, use a pasta machine to roll out the dough, half at a time, until the pasta has gone through the second to the last setting on the pasta machine. Let the pasta sheets dry for 10 minutes. Trim the edges and cut the pasta sheets into 5” lengths. You need 8 pasta rectangles. (NOTE: Cut the rest of the pasta into noodles, let them dry, and store in an air-tight container until ready to use.)
Cook the pasta rectangles in boiling, salted water until they are al dente. With a slotted spoon, lift out the pasta sheets and put them in a bowl of cold water. Dry the pasta rectangles by laying them out on paper towels.
Make the Cream Sauce: Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the cream in a slow stream, whisking rapidly and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens. Stir in the cayenne and salt, remove from the heat, and set aside until ready to use.
Make the Filling: Blanch the spinach in boiling, salted water for 1 minute. Drain and rinse with cold water. Squeeze as much liquid as possible out of the blanched (or thawed) spinach, and finely chop it. Put in a bowl.
Sauté the onion, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, in olive oil until the onions soften and start to turn golden. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the onion mix, meat, oregano, and parmesan to the filling and mix together thoroughly. Taste and add salt or freshly ground black pepper, as needed. Mix in the egg.
Assemble the Cannelloni: Preheat the oven to 375°F
Lay out 8 rectangles of pasta, evenly divide the filling between them, and roll them up. Spread a little white sauce in the bottom of a baking dish large enough to hold all the cannelloni or 4 individual gratin dishes. Place the cannelloni in the pan seam side down and side by side. Cover the cannelloni with tomato sauce and then cover the tomato sauce with the remaining cream sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. (The recipe may be made ahead to this point and refrigerated or frozen.)
Bake for 20 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling. Put under the broiler until the tops are nicely browned; watch carefully, it is easy to burn the cheese.
For meat in the filling, substitute 2 1/2 cups diced mushrooms (1/4” dice). Sauté the mushrooms, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, in 1 Tbsp. butter and 1 Tbsp. olive oil until the mushrooms are nicely browned.
This is my entry for Weekend Cookbook Challenge: Vintage Cookbooks hosted by Chocolate Moosey.