Still hot stuff after 125 long yearsIt's hot now. But, of...

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January 31, 1993|By Karol V. Menzie | Karol V. Menzie,Staff Writer

Still hot stuff after 125 long years

It's hot now. But, of course, it's always been hot. Tabasco pepper sauce, made by the McIlhenny family on tiny Avery Island, La., is 125 years old this year. Beloved of generations, the sauce invented in 1868 by Edmund McIlhenny, a New Orleans banker, has graced the tables of Lord Kitchener on his relief expedition to Khartoum in 1884 and Teddy Roosevelt in the White House in 1906. Britain's Queen Mother likes it in her lobster cocktail. Soldiers forced to eat military rations have long known of the spicy power of Tabasco, and it is currently packed in every Meal Ready to Eat. Astronauts are also fans.

To celebrate this noteworthy condiment, Edmund McIlhenny's great-grandson and current McIlhenny vice president Paul C.P. McIlhenny has written a Tabasco cookbook (with Barbara Hunter, Clarkson Potter, $14) with 85 recipes from crayfish etouffe to orange-kumquat chutney, along with tips and family reminiscences and photos. Here's one of the recipes:

Scallops

in double pepper sauce

Serves four.

1/4 cup olive oil

5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

1 pound bay or sea scallops

3/4 cup slivered red peppers

3/4 cup slivered green peppers

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 teaspoon Tabasco

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons drained capers

In a large skillet, heat the oil and add the garlic. Cook untigolden, about 1 minute. Add the scallops, peppers, onion, Tabasco sauce, and salt. Stirring constantly, cook for 5 minutes, or until the scallops turn white and the vegetables are tender crisp. Stir in the capers and serve immediately. For years Allan Taylor's Grandma Ida dazzled family and friends with her special "mondel bread" cookies -- a kind of biscotti, with a cinnamon-sugar coating all over. She was generous with the recipe, too, but only her grandson Allan succeeded in duplicating her treat. Mr. Taylor, who has a kosher bakery business called Perfections by Allan, sold his first batch of mondel bread at the Jewish expo last year -- and 350 pounds of it were snapped up. He began producing the bread in two flavors, cinnamon-walnut and chocolate chip, and now it's carried in 27 stores in the Baltimore area. Among them are Miller's Delicatessen and Seven Mile Market in Pikesville, Eddie's of Roland Park, Graul's in Ruxton, Farm Fresh in Greenspring Shopping Center, Cross Keys market and Belvedere Market. It costs $5.99-$6.99 a pound.

Mr. Taylor, a Baltimore native whose father runs a meat stall at Cross Street Market, says he picked up a lot of his baking skills when he worked at a Dunkin' Donuts shop as a teen-ager, though he later studied hospitality management at Essex Community College.

Grandma Ida's recipe is difficult to make, he says, because the consistency of the dough has to be exactly right. "It's so easy to mess it up," he says, and adds, laughing, "It's actually a nightmare to make." The result, however, is a dream.

The names are almost enough to evoke the place: Apple dumplings. Shoofly pie and soft pretzels. Scrapple and knackwurst. Bread pudding and German potato salad.

The Pennsylvania Dutch country of Lancaster County will be celebrating those foods and more from Feb. 15 to Feb. 20, at farmers markets, restaurants, bed and breakfast inns, cheese makers, wineries, shops and specialty purveyors, and museums throughout the county.

The event celebrates the family farm -- virtually all Lancaster County's 5,000 farms are small and family-owned -- and traditional cuisine. There are special events every day, plus tours, markets and special foods served at area restaurants throughout the week.

For a brochure on the food festival. or for more information, call the Pennsylvania Dutch Convention & Visitors' Bureau at (717) 299-8901, Ext. 2331.

There's good news this year for lovers of Florida specialty citrus fruit: There was no freeze to endanger the crop. As a result, the harvest of tangerines, tangelos and temple oranges is expected to be the largest in a decade, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates.

Florida agriculture officials predict the big crop -- as much as 8.6 million boxes -- will mean favorable prices for consumers.

These specialty fruits, called T-fruits, are all hybrids, and are available only between October and March every year. They're the perfect snack food: They come in their own biodegradable package, which peels off easily; they're high in vitamin C, potassium and dietary fiber. And a jumbo-sized tangerine has just 46 calories.

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