1940s Archive

Food Flashes

Originally Published June 1945

A fine experience for the nose! Take a deep whiff of that Spanish saffron. The powerful, sweet aroma permeates your very being, it lingers in the nose. Only recently arrived and in the Ellen Grey Shop, 800 Madison Avenue, it sells for around $90 a pound. But no wonder the stuff runs into big money—these thread like flower stigmas are of a special species of crocus, hand-gathered, dried in the sun, with but three stigmas to a flower, each only one-quarter inch long, and requiring 2,000 flowers to weigh out an ounce.

To be good, saffron should be fresh, not above a year old, orange red in color, of sweetish aromatic odor, with a warm bitterish taste. Ellen's saffron is just that. It sells by the half-ounce in cellophane envelopes, and that's enough to last several months, for it takes but the merest pinch to scent and color a dish. Saffron lovers may like a few of the stamens to give today's unexciting teas exotic fragrance and taste.

There is a cheddar-like cheese spread of rich, creamy softness, its flavor touched by just the right tingle of sharpness, which is selling in bulk at Vendôme Table Delicacies, 415 Madison Avenue. About 1,000 pounds are on hand, at eight points a pound. It is a golden spread which at room temperature spreads like butter and similarly melts in the mouth. A spread with merit piled on a finger of dark bread, a merit heightened when enjoyed with a high-ball.

No points for those cheeses made spiritous, and the selection is unending—Edam in Sauterne, Gorgonzola in brandy, Swiss blended Willi Kirsch, Stilton with Port wine, Cheshire with Sauterne, Roquefort with brandy, Cheddar in Port. The Gorgonzola and Roquefort of brandy blending have a Rabelaisian pungency pleasing to men, but too strong for our palate. We prefer (he cheeses less pungent blended with wines; eight-ounce jars $1.15, twelve ounces for $1.70.

Mung bean sprouts, those crisp, tender bits you find in chow mein and chop suey, promise to be around the large city markets as commonly as spinach. Bean sprouts for the grocery store trade is an idea that had its beginning in San Francisco, then traveled east into Denver, Duluth, Detroit, Chicago, Cincinnati, Boston. New York. All these cities have firms growing sprouts for the chain grocers as well as for the Chinese restaurants and the Chinatown areas.

Until the war, the bean sprouters imported mung beans from the Orient; now they are being grown here by the thousands of acres. Largest growing areas are in Oklahoma, Mississippi, Arkansas, California, Georgia.

Sprouting is done, chiefly by the Chinese, in growing rooms, heat and humidity controlled. Seeds are grown in great crocks or galvanized containers, with a harvest every five or six days. These crops grow without soil, being water-fed by gentle sprinklings every few hours. When the sprouts are two to three inches long, the harvest is dumped into vats of running fresh water and given a thorough rinse to remove the seed coating which floats to the top, and which is easy, then, to skim off. The cleaned sprouts get a final fresh-water rinsing, then are put into boxes, cellophane covered, and off to the stores.

The sprout is happily at home in chow mein or chop suey. but try them in omelette, in green salad. Sprouts may be sautéed with onion to serve as a plain vegetable; and they're good in cream sauce. Sprouts need to be cooked but ten to fifteen minutes, only long enough to remove the “raw beany” flavor.

In Vienna, cooking was their Sunday fun. As some people take up photography or antique collecting, the Gottliebs turned to the invention of fine dishes. On cook's day out. Gertrude and Paul moved into the kitchen. Superb little Sunday suppers were prepared for their innumerable friends.

Six years ago they came from Vienna, home gone, friends scattered. What they feared missing most was those Sundays in the kitchen. Two clays in America, and a friend suggested a cocktail party in their honor. “Let me make the hors d'oeuvres,” Gertrude Gottlieb offered. Guests said, “Too lovely to eat.” But almost as they said it, the hors d'oeuvres were gone. “Make some for me,” the women began asking. Gertrude obliged. She made other things, too. salads, desserts; then Iter husband began helping. They set up for business in Sunnyside, Long Island, and for five years catered important parties in Manhattan—Broadway affairs and society's doings. With success assured, the Gottliebs moved into town to open for business at 250 East 57th Street, the sign reading: Ritz Plaza Caterer.

Gertrude's hors d'oueures are jewel-small and colorful as flowers in an old-fashioned nosegay. One we must tell about is a thin ring of bread spread with egg paste, on this a silver-sided anchovy curled to hold a half teaspoon of bright rose caviar, this in turn studded with a snip of black olive. One of the open-faced oblong sandwiches is covered with the thinnest of thin slices of Cheddar, and super-imposed on this is a tall, graceful daisy, the stem made of green pepper. the flower carved from slices of hard-cooked egg. The picture is framed in a curlicue border of golden egg paste. Small hors d'oeuvres go to parties in bonbon cups—less muss for the fingers, less danger of spilling.

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