Cooking up the best from the 'inn' kitchens
Memories of country inns often include picturesque country walks, fine antiques, whimsical collectibles, friendly dogs and cats and small luxuries, like tea in the afternoon, sherry before dinner and bedroom fireplaces with crackling fires.
But there's another aspect of America's country inns that fascinates author Gail Greco: the food. Her latest book is "Great Cooking with Country Inn Chefs" (Rutledge Hill Press, 1992, $24.95), and it includes menus from more than two dozen inns and small hotels across the United States.
"Some of the best cooking in the country is going on at these places," Ms. Greco says. "Country inn cooks haven't really been recognized. . . . I knew what I was tasting was easy enough to do at home, and I wanted to share it, . . . especially with the people who don't get to travel to the inns."
Two of the inns are in Maryland -- Antrim, in Taneytown, owned by Dorothy and Richard Mollett, where the chef is Michael Sell, and the Inn at Buckeystown, owned by Dan Pelz, with partner Chase Barnett. Mr. Pelz is the chef.
Ms. Greco has been visiting and writing about country inns for about 10 years. She lives in Derwood. Most of the photographs in the current book were taken by her husband, Tom Bagley.
The Inn at Buckeystown is described in a section of Ms. Greco's book called "Cooking Inn Season." Although it features a summer menu, for the Fourth of July, the soup and muffins would make a great winter lunch or first course for a hearty winter meal. The muffins are among Ms. Greco's favorites. Here are the recipes:
Cream of red pepper soup
Makes 8 servings.
1 pint water
4 large red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 quarts hearty chicken broth or stock
1/4 cup (half a stick) butter or margarine
1 quart half-and-half
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons cornstarch
fresh chopped dill for garnish (optional)
In a medium saucepan combine the water, peppers and onion, and boil until tender. Pour the mixture into a food processor and puree.
In a large stockpot, heat the chicken stock or broth over high heat. Add the vegetable puree, butter, half-and-half, salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to simmer. Dissolve the cornstarch in a small amount of cold water. Stir in the cornstarch and cook the soup until thickened. Serve hot, garnished with the dill, if using.
Creamed corn muffins
Makes 12 muffins.
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
16 ounces creamed corn
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl mix together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and sugar. Stir in the milk, oil and eggs, incorporating until just wet. Stir in the creamed corn.
Pour the batter into 12 greased muffin cups, filling the cups to the brim. Bake the muffins for 25 minutes, or until puffed and a tester comes out clean. Let the muffins cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out.
Does packaging play a role in your food-buying decisions? Are you more likely to buy a product because it comes in a clever or convenient container, or because the packaging is somehow more friendly to the environment than other forms of packaging?
If you're a package-conscious person, you may be interested in knowing the winners of the seventh annual Du Pont Awards for plastic-package innovation. In the past, all the awards have been for food packaging; in the 1992 awards, given out last month, a non-food category was added. The awards are sponsored by Du Pont in cooperation with the National Food Processors Association.
The four winners in the overall category are: Del Monte metal snack cups with plastic easy-open ends; Ocean Spray clear plastic 1-gallon containers with integral handles; Eagle snacks in puncture- and burst-resistant polyester film; and Land O' Lakes "Hot Solo" cheese spread in single-service, microwaveable pouches. In the environmental category, the winner was Kraft 24-ounce pourable salad dressing bottles made with 25-percent recycled plastic. In the non-food category, the winner was "Precitube," the first inside-the-tube airless pump to dispense products such as hand and face creams.
Honorable mentions went to: Creaco fluorescent light tubes with a special shatterproof coating, a safety feature that makes them perfect for food-processing plants; Glofoam food trays produced with recycled carbon dioxide instead of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbon (CFC); and Formula 409 refills in containers made with 65 percent less plastic than the 22-ounce spray bottle.
News reports last year that the hydrogenated vegetable oils in margarine or shortenings could contribute to the risk of developing heart disease confused, even angered, consumers who had switched from saturated-fat foods to lessen that risk.
The truth is, too much fat is bad, regardless of the form it comes in. And most Americans eat too much fat -- about 36 percent of calories consumed, instead of the recommended 30 percent or less, according to government statistics.
A California maker of edible oils wants to help. Spectrum Naturals is introducing Spectrum Spread, a non-dairy, cholesterol-free and non-hydrogenated spread made of canola oil. Hydrogenation of vegetable oils creates trans-fatty acids, which have been shown to raise the level of harmful elements in cholesterol.
Spectrum Spread comes in a 10-ounce tub with a suggested retail price of $2.49. Initially it will be available at health-food stores and some specialty food markets. Among stores in this area carrying the spread are Fells Point Coffee & Cheese, in the Broadway Market, OK Natural Food Store, 11 W. Preston St., the Health Concern, 28 W. Susquehanna Ave., Towson, and David's Natural Market, 5430-C Lynx Lane, Columbia.