Clinton era expected to return broccoli to White House plates


January 20, 1993|By ROB KASPER

WASHINGTON — Washington-- Like many matters in Bill Clinton's new administration there is, as yet, no firm policy on what's politically correct cuisine. But after a few days nibbling around the edges of the inaugural celebration, I am willing to make a prediction: Broccoli will return to the White House, but it will be steamed.

The insight for this is Liza Ashley, who cooked for Clinton and his family during his reign as governor of Arkansas. Ms. Ashley and Crescent Dragonwagon, a Eureka Springs innkeeper, are the sources of almost every media report on Arkansas food. Both have fresh cookbooks.

Ms. Ashley's -- "Thirty Years at the Mansion" ($16.95 August House) -- was published in 1985. But it has just been reissued with a new cover showing Ms. Ashley posing with Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, the folks she used to feed. In Washington for the inauguration, Ms. Ashley answered bushels of questions on the tastes of America's first family, revealing, among other things, that the Clintons are pro-broccoli.

Ms. Ashley, born outside Little Rock, is in her 70s and considers herself a southern cook. Ms. Dragonwagon, in her 40s, grew up in New York and moved to Arkansas about 20 years ago. She wrote several children's books before her "Dairy Hollow House Soup & Bread" cookbook (Workman $12.95). And she knows the Clintons.

At an inaugural week brunch for the media, held about a block away from the White House, Ms. Dragonwagon described her food as "nouveau Arkie." She served a tasty skillet corn bread, and remarkable black-eyed pea soup with salsa and creme fraiche. Ms. Ashley was also there. Her lemon chess pie, a reported favorite of the new president, was served for dessert.

Crescent Dragonwagon's black-eyed pea soup

cooking spray

1 pound black-eyed peas, washed and picked over

1 1/2 -2 quarts vegetable stock or water

2 bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1 tablespoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon dried summer savory

1 teaspoon cracked coriander

freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup additional stock or water

1 cup spicy hot vegetable juice

1 tablespoon Pickapeppa or Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon tamari/shoyu soy sauce

1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

2 salt-free Morga vegetarian bouillon cubes

3 cloves garlic, peeled, put through press

1-2 tablespoons corn or peanut oil

1 large onion chopped

2 medium carrots, diced

1 large green pepper, seeded, diced

2 ribs celery with leaves.

garlic oil

Spray pot with cooking spray, add beans and stock, cover, soak beans overnight.

Next day, add more stock until beans are covered by 2 inches of liquid. Bring to boil, reduce heat to very low. Add herbs and

several grinds of black pepper. Cover beans and let simmer, stirring occasionally until you can easily squash bean on side of pot. Keep soup over low heat.

Dissolve tomato paste in more stock or water, add to simmering black-eyes with vegetable juice, sauces, Morga cubes and garlic. Stir well.

Add oil to 10-inch skillet, and saute onion over medium heat until transparent. Add carrots, pepper and celery and cook until they soften, about two minutes. Stir vegetables into simmering soup.

At this point the soup is thick. If you want it soupier, add more stock. Taste. Turn up volume by adding salt, pepper and maybe garlic oil.

Ladle into bowls. Top with finely diced salsa, dab of creme fraiche.

Liza Ashley's lemon chess pie

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened

5 eggs

1 cup milk

1 tablespoon flour

1 tablespoon cornmeal

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

grated rind of 3 lemons

1 9-inch unbaked pie shell

Cream sugar and butter. Add eggs and milk, beating well. Beat in flour, cornmeal, lemon juice and rind. Pour into shell; bake at

350 degrees about 35 to 40 minutes.

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