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Cooks' Exchange: Rediscovering delicious restaurant recipes

Cooks' Exchange: Rediscovering delicious restaurant recipes


Growing up in an isthmus city gave us so many opportunities for fun. By the time August approached, we already had established favorite shorelines to swim in the four lakes surrounding us, or we were busy hiking through heavily wooded parks where we played and picnicked with families, best friends, and neighbors well into the evening when fireplaces and bonfires provided what was needed for frying hot dogs and hamburgers.

Often our fun included places to visit like Vilas Zoo where we’d talk to the animals, discover a nearby shoreline to test fishing with a drop line or cane pole, or casually float down the Yahara River on inner tubes. We seemed to walk everywhere, but if a bus was needed, cost was nickel or dime. Whatever we did to celebrate the moment, ideas of what was waiting for us the next day depended only on the weather.

With September approaching, my thoughts and those of readers preparing smaller recipes found me reaching for an old and still favorite cookbook featuring “America’s Best Restaurant Recipes.” The cookbook to serve 2, 6 and 24, written and published in 1973 by Barbara Kraus, brought smiles to my face, returning me to 1993 when I needed a favorite recipe to begin this column and was reminded of one of my all time favorites shared by Mario’s in Dallas, Texas.

Frittura Delizie Romano

10-ounce package of frozen chopped spinach

6 tablespoons ricotta cheese

¼ cup freshly grated romano or Parmesan cheese

¼ cup dry bread crumbs

1/8 teaspoon salt

Pinch of freshly ground white pepper

1 egg, beaten

2 tablespoons flour

Vegetable oil for deep frying

1 cup homemade tomato sauce

Cook spinach according to package directions. Drain well in a strainer, squeezing out all liquid with the back of a spoon

Combine spinach, ricotta, romano or Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and egg in a medium bowl. Lightly flour your hands and shape mixture into 1 1/2-inch ovals. Roll ovals lightly in flour. Heat 2 inches of oil in a heavy saucepan or deep frying to 350 degrees. Fry 5 or 6 at a time for 3 or 4 minutes of until lightly brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve with tomato sauce. Yield: 15 balls

Note: Although spinach balls will keep for a week in the refrigerator, their texture will be less crisp than the freshly fried. Preferably freeze them for as long as 2 or 3 months. Thaw and reheat uncovered in a preheated 350 degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes until heated through and crisp once again. If you have had them in the refrigerator, reheat as above, or fry in a lightly buttered skillet.

The spinach balls are also good served as a side dish with poultry or roasts.

This recipe from the same book serves just two and comes from Evans Farm Inn, McLean, Virginia.

Cream of peanut soup

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons chopped celery

2 tablespoons chopped onion

1 tablespoon flour

1 ½ cups chicken broth

¾ cup light cream

3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter

1/8 teaspoon salt

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon paprika

Melt butter over low heat in a 1-quart saucepan. Add celery and onion and cook until tender

Stir in flour; blend with a wire whisk until smooth. Gradually add chicken broth; cook until slightly thickened mixture comes to a boil. Stir in light cream, peanut butter, salt, pepper and paprika and heat thoroughly. Yield: 2 ¼ cups

Note: Cream of peanut butter soup will keep 1 week in refrigerator. Soup can be frozen 1 to 2 months. Although it can be frozen with the cream, it is better to freeze before cream is added; thaw, reheat and add cream.

This seafood recipe is from Dobbs Houses Luau, Memphis, Tennessee. It works with lobster or shrimp.

Su su lobster curry

4 tablespoons butter

½ cup finely chopped celery

½ cup finely chopped onion

2 tablespoons mushrooms

2 tablespoons canned bamboo shoots, chopped and drained

¾ cup peeled and diced apple

1 ½ tablespoons curry powder

1 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon cornstarch

2 teaspoons water

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup cooked lobster meat

Melt butter over low heat in a 10-inch skillet. Add celery, onion, mushrooms, bamboo shoots and apple; cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in curry powder and blend well. Gradually add cream and cook until mixture comes to a boil. Blend cornstarch and water until smooth in a small dish. Stir cornstarch mixture into skillet; add salt and cook, stirring constantly until sauce thickens. Add lobster; cook until heated through. Serve with rice and chutney. Serves 2

Note: This dish is equally delicious with shrimp, using 1 pound fresh or frozen for 2 servings. Curry will keep at least 1 week in refrigerator.

This side dish comes from Mountainside Inn, Point Pleasant, Pennysylvania.

Carrots Mountainside

1 cup water

¼ teaspoon salt

8 medium carrots, scraped and sliced

6 tablespoons butter, softened

1 tablespoon sugar

½ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

2 tablespoons Grand Marnier

Combine water, salt, and sliced carrots in a 1-quart saucepan. Simmer until carrots are tender, about 20-30 minutes. Drain carrots and puree in a food mill or blender, or press through a sieve. Return carrot puree to saucepan and add butter, sugar, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until heated through. Add Grand Marnier just before serving.

Yield: 1 cup.

Note: Carrots can be made ahead and refrigerated or frozen after step 5. Thaw and reheat in a saucepan over low heat; add Grand Marnier before serving.

This dessert is from The Buccaneer Inn, Sarasota, Florida.

Golden nugget cake

5 egg whites at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup Ritz cracker crumbs

½ pound of dates, chopped

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

Whipped cream

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a medium bowl beat eggs until frothy. Gradually add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Fold in pecans and cracker crumbs. Reserve 2 tablespoons chopped dates for top. Fold in remaining dates, vanilla, baking powder and salt. Spread mixture into a greased jelly-roll pan, 10 x15x1½ inches. Sprinkle reserved dates over top. Bake in preheated oven 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned and firm. Cool. Cut into 15 3-inch squares. Serve with a dab of whipped cream.

Note: Cake squares store for weeks in a plastic container. They can be frozen and will keep for 2 to 3 months.

Recent request: Fall recipes

Contact the Cooks’ Exchange in care of the Wisconsin State Journal, P.O. Box 8058, Madison, WI, 53708 or by email at

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