Joni Woolf: Old fashioned cookbooks or Internet? You decide

Published 1:00 pm Tuesday, April 5, 2016

As one who has collected cookbooks for many years, and who refers to them regularly not only for recipes but for entertainment, I have searched the Internet only occasionally for a recipe I could not find in one of those 50 or so books I keep on a kitchen shelf. Easter at my son and daughter-in-law’s (Wes and Elizabeth) home in Savannah was, in some ways, an education for me. Always an excellent cook and presenter of delectable dishes, Elizabeth had gone to the Internet with a passion. Not only did she present an Easter feast that was lovely and delicious; she also gave us an early start with a breakfast bread pudding that readers will want to try. So here are her recipes; though fairly easy to access on the web, I am printing here for those who may prefer the word on newsprint.

5 whole eggs
3 egg yolks
2 1/2 cups coconut milk (or whole milk)
1/2 cup honey
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon rose water
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of fresh nutmeg (about 1/2 teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 loaf challah bread, cut in half-inch thick slices
2 pints fresh or frozen raspberries, plus fresh raspberries for topping
Maple syrup and powdered sugar, for serving
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
2 tablespoons butter, cold
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, coconut milk (or milk), honey, vanilla, rose water, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Submerge each piece of challah bread in the egg mixture, allowing the bread to sit at least a minute and soak up the eggs. Arrange the dipped slices of challah in the prepared baking dish. Pour the remaining egg mixture over the bread slices in the baking dish. Add half the raspberries between the slices and on top. In another medium bowl, combine the slivered almonds, coconut flakes and brown sugar. Add the butter and use your hands to incorporate the butter into the almonds/coconut. Sprinkle the mix over the top of the bread slices. Sprinkle a handful of raspberries over the top. Cover and place in the refrigerator one hour or overnight. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the French toast is golden and crisp. If the tops of the bread begin to brown, cover the French toast with foil.
And that was just breakfast! The Easter feast boasted scalloped potatoes in a recipe that I will now use instead of my ancient, home-made one; a slaw with Brussels sprouts that you won’t quite believe, and a spiral-cut ham that Elizabeth basted with a mixture of a half-pint jar of homemade peach preserves and a half-pint Dijon mustard. Following are recipes for the scalloped potatoes and the surprising, delicious salad.

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup half and half
1.5 oz. pkg. Boursin cheese with Herbs and Garlic, broken into small chunks
3 lbs. Russet potatoes, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. and arrange a rack in center position. Spray a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. In a medium saucepan, add cream, half-and-half and Boursin cheese and heat over medium heat. Stir constantly until mixture is smooth and cheese has melted. Remove pan from heat, and set aside. Arrange half the sliced potatoes in overlapping rows in prepared baking dish. Generously season with salt and pepper and pour half the cream and cheese mixture evenly over potatoes. Repeat with remaining potatoes and cream mixture. Bake in preheated oven until potatoes are tender and the top is nicely browned, about 55-60 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with chives.

For the Vinaigrette: Combine 1 lemon, juiced; 1 orange, juiced; 1 large shallot, minced; 1/3 cup olive oil; salt and pepper. In small bowl, briskly whisk together the lemon and orange juices, shallot, olive oil and salt and pepper until emulsified. Set aside.
For the Salad: 6 slices cooked bacon (crisp cooked and crumbled); 2 dozen Brussels sprouts, stems removed and finely shredded; 1 cup almonds, roughly chopped; 1 cup Pecorino-Romano cheese, grated.
In a salad bowl, toss together the bacon, Brussels sprouts, and almonds. Drizzle with the  vinaigrette, sprinkle with grated cheese and toss to coat. Chill until ready to serve. Store leftovers in the refrigerator up to two days.

If I tell you that Elizabeth also served home-made biscuits, and for dessert a scrumptious coconut pie that stood six inches tall, would you be impressed? I was. Impressed not only with her gift of food preparation and presentation, but of her love for our family, which is a little zany and unpredictable, and very often unstructured. And she still loves us. And feeds us. How lucky can you get?

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at