By Marsha Fottler –
Fifi O’Neill popularized the home decor concept of Romantic Prairie in a dreamy and delightful book that is a homespun house tour across America featuring farms, cottages, bungalows, even urban dwellings and outdoor spaces where homeowners have embraced the Romantic Prairie style of living. The important elements of the architecture and interior design include local artisan-made furniture, heritage objects and the use of natural materials to furnish a home simply but with comforting abundance. (For a review of that book go to the October, 2011 issue of Flavors And More).
Now with The Romantic Prairie Cookbook, O’Neill brings her readers into the kitchen where she combines idyllic photography by Mark Lohman with recipes for both comfort food and surprisingly elegant dishes to serve at your Romantic Prairie table – inside or al fresco.
There is a conscientious farm-to-table environmental ideology at work here as O’Neill travels the length and breadth of the United States finding nostalgic generational recipes (100 of them) served on vintage platters and plates in bucolic settings. Rustic furniture and heritage linens are part of the total picture.
The recipes are mostly easy to make with ingredients readily available at farmers markets, supermarkets, your own backyard garden or a city herb garden flourishing in clay pots on the windowsill. The range of recipes is broad from simple pancakes to pot roast to venison stroganoff or a zucchini-goat cheese tart. The recipes also cover all occasions from spontaneous picnics to planned celebratory holiday meals with everything else in between.
The Romantic Prairie Cookbook instructions are clear, measurements are given both in metric and imperial, and each recipes is accompanied by a brief story about the cook who contributed the dish to Fifi’s Romantic Prairie exploration. There are color photographs of the finished dish and also charming vignettes showing how to serve the dish within the context of a Romantic Prairie table setting. This is particularly helpful because we eat with our eyes, no doubt about it.
(Serves 8. Make a day ahead)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon diced onion
sea salt and ground black pepper
¾ cup honey roasted peanuts
Put a small amount of fresh water in a medium pan and add broccoli. Bring to a boil and blanch for 3 minutes. Drain and put the broccoli in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process and retain its bright green color. Drain and transfer to a salad bowl. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, vinegar, Tabasco, sugar and onion. Mix well and season with salt and pepper. Add dressing to the cooled broccoli and toss to coat. Wrap the salad bowl with plastic wrap and let the salad marinate overnight in the refrigerator. Sprinkle on peanuts just before serving.
(Serves 4. Serve hot as a side dish or cold as a salad)
2 red or yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded and diced
kernels from 2 ears of corn (sweet corn)
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup canned or frozen lima beans
2-3 scallions, white parts only, chopped
1 large clove garlic chopped
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
pinch cayenne pepper
4 slices bacon, diced and cooked until crisp (optional)
sea salt and ground black pepper
Pour olive oil into a nonstick pan, add the bell peppers and sweat for 3 minutes. Add the corn kernels and sweat for 3 minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes and sweat for 3 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients except for the bacon and cook together for an additional 3 minutes. Then add the bacon. Serve hot or cold.