Methuselah ate what he found on his plate,
And never, as people do now,
Did he note the amount of the calorie count.
He ate it because it was chow.
He wasn’t disturbed as at dinner he sat,
Devouring a roast or a pie,
To think it was lacking in granular fat,
Or a couple of vitamins shy.
He cheerfully chewed each species of food,
Unmindful of troubles or fears
Lest his health be hurt by some fancy dessert,
And he lived over 900 years.
what this book is about
I probably don’t need to tell you what this book is about. It is likely that you can just thumb* through it faster than you can read this explanation to know what it contains. So I will begin by telling you what it isn’t.
First, it isn’t Rocket Science. After spending my entire lifetime around rockets, from my college years spent half-time at White Sands Missile Range as a co-op student, through 40 years at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a research engineer, and another 10 years as a day-a-week paid consultant to them, I am at last fully retired and prepared to focus my writing skills, technical though they may be, to another area of interest. Those interested in my rocket science writings may
merely select the "author" reference at the top of this page or
Google my name on the internet.
Second, it is not what I would call a real cookbook, but rather, a set of recipes, anecdotes, and history. A cookbook is a teaching tool, one that contains a considerable amount of information on the fundamentals, style, and techniques of food preparation, definitions of the jargon that is used, what to stock in your pantry, how to organize and prepare for the actual production of a dish or meal, and then, tons of recipes neatly categorized by subject matter. A cookbook is there to encourage those who are shy or in doubt, to motivate those who are curious about new tastes and textures, and to challenge those who need new culinary goals.
Third, it does not try to be broad in its coverage of topics usually found in most cookbooks. You won’t find a lot of lunch or dessert recipes, for example. You won’t find calorie counts and grams of fat, salt, and carbohydrate, either. I just have not taken the time to figure those things out. I reason that if you follow my dietetic guidelines, given later, that these counts just have to be reduced over their fattier, higher-carb, saltier counterparts. The interested reader may certainly compute these things using an online recipe calculator, such as this one. If you do, please relay the results to me for inclusion a later upgrade of this work.
Fourth, I do not treat recovery of leftovers. Other cookbooks will tell you what to do with them. My rules for surplus are:
• Don’t prepare more than you can eat, so that you don’t have any.
• If you have prepared a meal, parts of which are worth retaining, then eat them for lunch the next day, warmed up, or chop them up with meat, cheese, and eggs for breakfast †.
• Toss them out before they become leftovers.
If you find yourself with remaining orts that you can’t apply one of the above rules, then consult another book.
So, now a word about what the book is about. It is mostly a set of descriptions of dishes that I have prepared, that I have recorded because I thought I would like to prepare them again, and that I might prepare differently without some documentation of my previous efforts.
Thus, by reading it, you can probably tell pretty much what the Tausworthe family regularly dines on. It is all about us. In addition, I have recorded anecdotal information such as how I discovered a dish or why and how I changed it from an original recipe, or some personal or historical notes that I found interesting and wanted to remember.
Besides recipes, however, you will find that there are a few techniques, dos, and don’ts that I use by design or by habit that may be different from the norm. These are collected apart and described in one place because they would otherwise have to redundantly appear repeated in a number of recipes if I did not. They are included because they either describe a dietetic necessity, promote efficiency of preparation, or communicate a certain aspect of the culinary craft.
my discovery of food
I was born during the years of the Great Depression of the 20th century. Money was scarce and jobs were hard to find. I was too young to know these things, though. We were not really poor, but had the necessities of life: food, clothing, and shelter. I grew up with four siblings in rural communities across Texas and New Mexico, graduating high school in Elida, NM, population 300, twelve of which comprised my graduating class. I was salutatorian. I married the valedictorian, a union that lasted 14 years and provided the world with my Ph.D. degree and two outstanding, brilliant children.
Growing up, our daily protein derived mostly from fried chicken, fried fish from the local rivers and streams, chicken fried steak, whole milk, eggs, ham, bacon, cheese, hamburger, and luncheon meat. We ate very little salad or vegetables other than potatoes, rice, green beans, pinto beans*, and dill pickles. Mother made the best tacos I can remember, greasy, but really tasty. Margaret Warren, a friend of Mom’s, made the best flat enchiladas, with an egg on top.
It was in my freshman year at New Mexico State University (only a college then) that I ate my first broiled steak, first pizza, first guacamole, and first lobster. I can still remember the sheer delight in the experiences—they were truly wow!discoveries that I might have missed had I been eating these things regularly while growing up. It was in my first year of marriage that I ate lamb, a banned product in the cattle country I grew up in. It too, ranked in the wow!discovery category.
The fare during the college years was mostly American, but laced with Southwest influence. After all, the La Posta Restaurant, my gold standard for all New Mexico cooking, was nearby, inexpensive, and really good! The wow!discoveries of this era included posole, guacamole, sopapillas, taquitos, chiles rellenos, tostadas, and the Famous RO*TEL®-Velveeta® cheese dip† you can still find right there on the RO*TEL® can.
On completing college and buying our first home, in Altadena, CA, we frequently entertained in our new surroundings and made a practice of ferreting out the fine restaurants in the area. I found that I love to dine the classic cuisines of France, Italy, and the American Southwest. I also developed an appreciation of classic Chinese, Thai, German, and most ethnic and regional foods.
Another set of wow!discoveries spewed during this era: cheese and meat fondues, Beef Wellington, and the subtleties of wine. Most of these occurred at restaurants or in the homes of friends.
But I found that when I ate these foods in restaurants, they generally had too many calories and carbs and too much salt. Plus, I learned quickly that it just costs too much to go out for quality dining every day. So, I began to learn how to make these things and yet not hurt my pocketbook or my health in the process. My wife and I shared kitchen duties, so I learned my way around a stove.
We subscribed to the “Cookbook of the Month” club and amassed a double-shelf-load of them before the Great Divorce of 1969 ended the influx. I got half of them in settlement, most of which I still have and consult frequently. When the marriage ended, I was left with a shelf of cookbooks, sets of dinnerware and kitchen utensils, and no like for frozen prepared meals. I swore then, and have kept the promise to this day, that I would never fix, nor willingly eat, a frozen TV dinner.
I could cook. I did cook. I liked to cook. It became my way of getting my mind off the cares of the world and the intensities of my job* at home in the evenings. At times I could even impress a date who could be coaxed to come over, to spare the expense of dining out, of course. Even now, when I go out to a restaurant, I tend to order those entrées that I can’t do well on my own. I then take mental notes in case I want to try it out at home. “Gourmet, every day” became a motto. I continued to accumulate cookbooks and to try those recipes that beckoned to tickle the palate.
My second marriage endowed me with an opportunity to craft my kitchen skills more regularly. In order not to feel so guilty about not doing more chores around the house, I undertook the daily food preparation task, and Camilla let me. It was still a collaborative event in the kitchen, as she generally makes salad, and we both set up and clean up.
A wow!discovery early in this era was sweetbreads, alá financière and alá Stoney Point Restaurant in Pasadena, CA. I learned to make the former, but I could never duplicate the latter.
Soon after marrying Camilla, she and I began to write down some of my recipes, in the form of little notes on scraps of paper that accumulated on my desk for 30 years or so. This work is the translation of that pile into a set of more readable recipes, with anecdotal dialog, commentary, and a little history added in.
The first such recipe scrap that was recorded, dictated to Camilla while I prepared the evening meal, began “First, make two Manhattans, and insert one in wife.” Then followed the recipe for Beef Strong Enough, which may be found among the entrées here †. Interspersed in the recipe instructions were sporadic admonitions, such as “check occasionally on levels of Manhattans and replenish as needed.” Such frivolity was removed, however, when transcribed, since it was not germane only to that recipe*.
why this book?
In any new or used (especially used) bookstore you will find a large section devoted to cooking. The internet is richly rife in recipes. Cable television has a continuous cacophony of cuisine commandments. If you are like me, you have a shelf (or more) of cookbooks and recipe files in your kitchen.
Practically anyone today who can read or watch TV and boil water can cook the classics and regional cuisines of the world, or various variations of them, given the plethora of provenience now at hand and the range of fresh and preserved ingredients found in supermarkets.
So, why does the world need another cookbook? It doesn’t. But I needed a place to stash my own recipes for my own use. The stack of oddly shaped notepad scribblings that contained them had become unwieldy and awkward to search through. I had been accumulating them since the early 1970s. An electronic form beckoned, and, since I am somewhat of a computer hack, I began to organize them in a file directory that I appropriately labeled “RCP.” The scrap pile began to diminish as I recorded their contents and discarded the scrap. However, there is still a pile of them that remain, awaiting transcription.
My primary purpose, then, was to capture the content of my notes in electronic form for later use, when I liked that which I had cooked, so that I could get rid of the rubble on my desk. Some were annotated as romantic dinners at home with my attachment on some appropriate occasion, such as a birthday, anniversary, or holiday. Some of them were crafted for entertaining, often resulting in requests for copies of the recipes, which I gave freely. This was now made easier by their being in electronic format.
It should also be noted that, to the chagrin of some readers, the preponderance of the recipes are not simple, few-ingredient formulas that can be easily and quickly prepared. Had they been so, I would not have needed to retain them in written form. The complexity of a recipe is not a daunting factor, for I view cooking the evening meal and preparing for a party as recreational cooking, as alluded to earlier.
Over time, other reasons for keeping notes emerged. First, I tend to gain weight if I overeat; second, salty foods are bad for my blood pressure, and third, carbohydrates are bad for my Type II diabetes. So I had and have special dietary motivations for altering the recipes appearing in my cookbooks. My goal was and is to reduce their carbohydrate, salt, and fat contents to amounts tolerable in my metabolism. But, at the same time, I did and do not want to compromise significantly the gustatory quality of the dishes. Keeping and updating notes was a means to these ends.
I should interject at this point that this diet is my guideline, not my bible. Anyone who leaves out carbohydrates and fats thereby exists on high levels of protein, which tends to raise the levels of uric acid and urea in the blood. The body eliminates this uric acid and urea by pumping lots of water into the kidneys and urinary tract to help it flush out, which causes a loss of essential minerals from the body, including calcium, which leads to osteoporosis. Uric acid in the blood also leads to a painful condition called gout! So it is prudent to augment the diet with limited amounts of carbohydrates and (unsaturated) fats.
Of the foods arranged in pyramid form frequently found in meal planning literature, such as the 1992 USDA diagram shown here, virtually all of the foods positioned in the top (fatty) and bottom layers (mostly carbohydrates) are verboten, as are some of the others in between—those with high glycemic indexes. So, out of necessity, I turned to a “mostly mid-pyramid*” diet.
My secondary purpose in transcribing the recipes, then, was to record my adaptations in order to prevent future reinvention and the possibility I might not get things quite right in doing so. I also wanted a place to enter some of the insights I gained, or the circumstances surrounding a discovery, or the delights I may have had in the process, or the caveats that should be noted in the preparation, or some curious note about the occasion. Each recipe is introduced by such a narrative.
The motivation for developing this work in book form was to generate something that could be given to family and friends during the 2010 holiday season as a memento of the occasion. It is a group too large to buy anything but menial objects for, so we have traditionally (for the past few years or so, anyway) made the items that we give to them. I also devised an internet web site, http://rocketscientistskitchen.com for those recipients who had rather access the recipes online, as well as for any others in netland who might find their way into the site and wish to try out some of the items they find.
Since then I have published yearly supplements containing recipes developed over that year in the same style and genre as those published earlier. Each of these has eventually also been incorporated into the web site, for completeness. If you peruse the table of contents or view some of the later additions, you will notice that the titles of added topics appear with a distinguishing marks, such as “‡” in the 2013 edition. These have been added so that original and subsequent contributions are readily distinguished. The complete list of supplementary recipe markers appears at the end of this chapter.
about the recipes
In retrospect, after so many years of food preparation, to me it almost seems easy to make meals taste good if you can sauté in butter, deep-fry in lard or oil, add salt, and sweeten with sugar. When asked “is it hard to cook with butter?” my late good friend Bruce Crow replied, “No, it’s hard to cook without it!” I agree. But I had to do it.
Many of the recipes, suitably altered, have come from other sources, in particular those belonging to time-honored, beloved classic and ethnic traditions. Some have also come from friends and family. The remainder (naturally the best), I have invented myself. Almost all have been transmogrified, either by necessity or through experimentation, to better align with family appetites and health concerns.
Occasionally, the results of such transmutations were amazingly welcome and worthy of recording for future re-preparation; these are the ones recorded here. Some of them were developed back in the days before I had to worry about calories, salt, and carbohydrates, when the dining experience alone was of primary importance. They are included, mainly for nostalgia; the astute reader can pick them out on sight.
In summary, the recipes you find here are, generally speaking, inspired by classics and ethnic haute cuisine, or my concept of these. But they are different*, in that I have tried to make them low(er) in fat and salt than their classic counterparts, without sacrificing taste (beyond the bound set by belt hangovers, excess hypertension, and hyperglycemic shock). Many have said that they prefer my versions over their antecedents.
Because the ones based on classics are not the true classics, I have tried, in most cases, to name them distinctively, so that you may recognize their origins, but in a way that conveys a sense of gaiety to be derived in their preparation, albeit my humor in doing so often takes on the form of an attempted witticism* or pun. (My friend Art Zygielbaum might enjoy them—he’s the best punster alive—but he might also cringe at my meager attempts at pundom.)
In all cases, I have tried to title them with a little flair to indicate the elegance I encounter in their ability to please my aging palate.
All the recipes are written as simply as their makeup allows. I do presume that the reader (mostly me) has a certain elementary familiarity with the basic skills, ingredients, and techniques, as well as possession of the basic required kitchen utensils and equipment, that allow the instructions to be followed. The recipes tend to be most abundant in the dinner entrée category, but there are others that treat appetizers, breakfast, and lunch. One category that gets short shrift* is desserts. It is really hard to make good desserts without carbohydrates!
Occasionally in itemizing ingredients, I mention the name of a nationally or regionally recognized brand. This does not mean that I consider that brand better than another. I used what I found in my pantry or refrigerator or supermarket at the time. If it did the job I noted that fact in the recipe. If you prefer another brand, try it.
Many of the recipes do not list the number of servings. Except where noted, I was cooking for two. Invariably, there was enough left over for subsequent lunches. This is probably the reason there are so few lunch recipes appearing here. We ate the previous evening’s leftovers for lunch.
As for organization, most cook books are separated into chapters that are subcategorized usually by main ingredient. That is not the case here. In my original haste to complete the work on time, I presented each recipe pretty much in alphabetical order by name. There are a few exceptions, as when one recipe is used as the basis for another. I hope this does not prove awkward for the reader.
As perhaps in all creative works, the proper amount of material to be presented is a judgment call. My professional undertakings were always limited by launch windows, discovery opportunities, and funding limitations. But this work could have been extended ad infinitum with recipes that were constantly being tweaked as part of my daily meal preparations. The press of the 2010 holiday season was the signal to stop work on that edition. But there were still more scraps of paper littering my desktop that I wanted to add.
The next task then was to develop an internet version of this work, which came online in May, 2011. New recipes were incorporated in that first web publication, but many scraps of paper still remained on my desktop. However, the majority of the original work remained intact in that presentation.
The first online format of the cookbook became problematic for a number of reasons, chiefly because of the amount of work required to enter new or rearrange old recipes and because of the poor quality of recipes printed out at reader request. The second edition was thus devised to correct many of these issues and to incorporate corrigenda and new material. As of the publication date, my desktop, temporarily, is clear. It was brought online as of the date appearing at the end of this chapter.
As mentioned in a previous section, a recipe that appears in an edition other than the original is distinguished here by a distinctive symbol appended to its title, which allows it to be readily identified in the Table of Contents and where they occur on the web site. These symbols and the corresponding release dates are found in the final section of this Introduction.
As indicated earlier, many of the recipes given here had origins elsewhere, from books, newspaper columns, friends, family, and restaurants. Some are mentioned in individual recipes. The remainder must remain unnamed, not from choice, but from my lack of recollection in attempting to recreate the background absent among my notes. All have been altered in some way, either to fit my dietetic guidelines, or to better satisfy my palate or pocketbook. Some of my favorite books frequently used as sources are found listed in the bibliography†, but citations to individual recipes are not usually present.
I also must acknowledge the encouragement of my wife, Camilla, in the production of this work. Her daily ingestion of my preparations without complaint (except when solicited or the fare appeared grossly unfitting*) has made the development of the recipes a joyful task. She also, in large part, instigated the writing of this work and has acted as coach, critic, and guinea pig during its development.
I must say that we have enjoyed the process of constructing this little tome-let. Although the recipes themselves are tailored to our household tastes, it is my hope that you will nevertheless enjoy reading their descriptions, find some among them worth the venture to prepare, discover tastes that you will relish ingesting, and, perhaps, hit upon a few that you will even rave about.
If you like what you find in these pages, please know that, although they were produced as a labor of love, your generous favorable reception of their contents is deeply appreciated.
Robert C. Tausworthe
January, 2013 ‡
January, 2014 ♯
January, 2015 §
January, 2016 ¶
January, 2017 ⁑
January, 2018 ✠
January, 2019 ☆