WITH GREAT GUSTO (a cookbook review)

The following was a cookbook review I wrote in 2003 shortly before making a trip to Cincinnati to visit friends and relatives, and travel through out the state. It seems only fitting, since I am about to make a trip back to my native state of Ohio AGAIN this September, to review with you one of my favorite Ohio cookbooks.

“WITH GREAT GUSTO” is a satisfyingly thick cookbook from the Junior League of Youngstown, and was actually a 2003 reprint of their original 1987 compilation.

The Junior League of Youngtown is an organization of women committed to promoting volunteerism, developing the potential of women and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Their purpose is exclusively educational and charitable. All of the proceeds from the sale of their cookbook will be used to fund programs and projects sponsored by the Junior League of Youngstown. (It’s always a plus to know that a cookbook you’ve bought, and enjoy, is also serving a greater purpose, don’t you agree?)

The cover photo of “WITH GREAT GUSTO” is a topic in which I am especially interested – this is Lanterman’s Mill, built in 1845-46. Mill Creek MetroParks acquired the historic landmark in 1892 and is one of the many pioneer industries built along Mill Creek. It operates as it did in the 1800s, grinding corn, wheat, buckwheat and oats. I’ve been to a number of historical old mills throughout Ohio and even to one in Indiana. Lanterman’s Mill is a beauty. (If you are interested in visiting Youngstown, there are several beautiful black and white photographs throughout the book of other historical sites in the area. These are all the work of Abby Courtney, a professional portrait and nature photographer).

As for the recipes – well, rest assured, there is a great deal to choose from in “WITH GREAT GUSTO”. The Junior League of Youngstown, which is celebrating 75 years of service to its community, has obviously devoted much time and effort into their book. The Table of Contents lists many of the familiar – Appetizers and Beverages, Breads, Eggs and Cheese, Soups and Sandwiches, Pasta and Grains, Vegetables, Poultry, Seafood, Meats, Cakes, Cookies, Pies, Desserts – and a few extra, such as Lean but Lavish, Party Hearty, and Chef’s Fare.

Under Appetizers, you will find a few of the recipes familiar to most of us, such as Artichoke or Avocado Dips, but the majority of the sixty appetizers listed are new and different (to me, at least). Recipes such as Hawaiian Spread, and Hungarian Cream Cheese, Hot Swiss Shrimp Dip and Stuffed Grape Leaves, Lobster Pie and Mini Quickie Quiches all sound delicious and tantalizing. You are certain to find any number of new recipes to try for your next party.

Under “Beverages”, you will find some recipes I bet you haven’t seen elsewhere – ranging from Christmas Buttered Rum to Frozen Whiskey Sours, Lynchburg Lemonade and South-of-the-Border Slush. For the faint of heart, there are recipes for you, too, such as Strawberries-in-the-Snow Punch, Transfusions (yes, that’s the name of a recipe) and Strawberry Monkey Juice.

Next is a collection of “Breads”, some of which clearly reflect Ohio’s European heritage, such as Easter Bread (Tsourekia) which is Greek, and Greek Sweet Bread, traditional German Stollen and Krofi (Bismarcks) but look also for quick bread recipes such as Apricot Nut Bread and Beer Bread (a bit of a twist from the original 3-ingredient beer bread recipes that made the rounds a few decades ago). There are also quick bread recipes for Cranberry Bread and Banana Bread—and for something different, Filbert Calico Loaf which, along with toasted filberts, contains fresh cranberries and rolled oats. Sticky Buns appear to be a favorite recipe in Youngstown – you can choose from Quicky Sticky Buns, South Street Sticky Buns, or Sarah’s Pineapple Sticky Buns. (As for me, I am heading for the kitchen to make the recipe for Zucchini Muffins – I just happen to have a big freshly picked zucchini on my kitchen counter).

Under the category of “Eggs And Cheese” are such wonderful recipes that I can’t decide which to try first; I may have to start with Bauernfruhstuck (German Omelet) and work my way through all of them, ending in Woodstalk, one of the most unusual recipes I’ve encountered in recent years – but it sounds delicious. Seldom have I seen, aside from Hungarian cookbooks, a recipe for Palichinkas which are Hungarian crepes and which I have written about before, but pay attention, as well, to the great quiche recipes – Spinach and Cheese Quiche, or an easy-do Spinach Quiche made with a package of Stouffer’s spinach soufflé, Crab Quiche in Bacon Crust with Cheese Sauce or Marion’s Crustless Quiche. Look also for some new and different breakfast casserole recipes which can usually be prepared the night before and then just popped into the oven the next day.

The next chapter contains recipes for Soups and Sandwiches – and what soups! What sandwiches! Soups range quite literally from A to Z – starting with Alpine Cheese Soup and ending with Zucchini soup! But nestled in between you will find Basque Vegetable Soup, Broccoli-Cauliflower Soup, Cincinnati Chili, Fresh Mushroom Soup and something that took me by surprise, called Grated “Dough” Soup – this is quite similar to my grandmother’s “Rivel” soup.

Sandwiches include Chicken Fold-Ups, Crab Salad Broil (yes, it is a sandwich, served open face on an English muffin), but look also for Dana Point-Blue Lantern Express (a chicken pita sandwich) and Moussaka Sandwiches, Ham and Cheese Party sandwiches and Real Bar-B-Q Beef Sandwiches.

Next chapter is devoted to Salads and Dressings – be sure to check out the easy Antipasto Salad which serves 10 to 12 and would be very appropriate for a dinner party. Also nice for parties are Chilled Rice Salad, Cauliflower Salad, Cranberry Frozen Salad and Greek-Style Tortellini Salad (and here I thought I had invented this recipe at Sue Erwin’s!). I like recipes such as this, and Marinated Cauliflower Salad or Roasted Red Peppers and Mozzarella with Basil Vinaigrette, because they can be made ahead of time and improve with marinating in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. Under the section for dressings you will find recipes for making home made Blue Cheese Dressing, French Dressing, Ginger-Orange Fruit Dressing and Raspberry Fruit Salad Dressing. Is it only me or do you also find that homemade dressings make all the difference in the world on a salad? I have been smitten with making my own dressings this past year; one of my favorites is a wine vinegar dressing such as featured in “WITH GREAT GUSTO”, called Wine Dressing for Salad – a simple mixture of a few ingredients, mixed in a blender for a minute, but oh, what a difference it makes on a salad!

“Pasta And Grains” offers such wonderful recipes as Homemade Ravioli, Noodle Potatoes (mock Pierogies), Pasta e Fagioli and Beef or Chicken Rice Pilaf. Be sure to try the recipe for Tortellini Casserole, which I think would be especially delightful for a dinner party.

The chapter for “Vegetables” proves that eating your veggies doesn’t need to be boring – not a chance; whether Asparagus Casserole or Marinated Asparagus (one of my favorites), Broccoli Pie or Zingy Carrots, Scalloped Mushrooms or Company Peas, Zucchini Casserole or Zucchini Lasagna – there is something here for everyone. As a matter of fact, I was especially delighted to find a recipe called Sweet-Sour Green Beans; my sister and I were just recently talking about our grandmother’s recipe for this dish, which I didn’t know how to make. This sounds just like grandma’s dish! Another recipe that caught my eye is Sweet Potato Casserole – I’ve been searching for one, for several years, that doesn’t contain a ton of sugar and butter and eggs – this is it, just a small amount of brown sugar and butter and only two eggs. Yum!

Next is a section lavishly devoted to Poultry – over forty recipes for chicken or turkey, ranging from Chicken Breasts Paprikash to Chicken Cacciatore, Chicken Florentine and Chicken Tetrazzini. Well, you know what I always say – you can’t be too rich or too thin or have too many chicken recipes.

Many of these poultry recipes would be perfect for a dinner party – or for a change of pace for your own family. I’ve been going over all of the recipes and many of them require few ingredients – Moist ‘n’ Crispy Onion Chicken, for example, calls for only four ingredients and that includes the chicken breasts. Think: Cantonese Turkey, Chicken Marsala, Crisp Herbed Turkey Pieces, Ginger Pear Chicken with Walnuts, Suzanne’s Chicken Divan or Chicken Chablis.

Under the heading of “Seafood”, you can choose from Baked Stuffed Shrimp Franco, Fried Shrimp Cantonese, Heavenly Scallops or Seafood Luncheon Casserole—there are these and nearly twenty more delicious recipes from which to choose. Now, “Meats” is another story – there are over sixty recipes in this section, but it’s not all beef. In addition to favorites that have stood the test of time, such as Beef Brisket and Easy London Broil, Hamburger Stroganoff and Beef Stew, Eye of Round in Wine Sauce and Chinese Beef and Peppers, there are, in addition, welcome recipes for Stuffed Cabbage Leaves, City Chicken (made the authentic way with Veal!), Veal Piccata, and Roast Leg of Lamb, Black Forest Pork Chops (made with a can of pitted dark sweet cherries – this is sure to become a favorite), Herbed Roast Pork and Chinese Pork Roast. There are recipes such as Skewered Ham with Pineapple and Liver with Rosemary and Onions that I guarantee you I am going to try very soon.

Rather than lumping everything sweet under “Desserts” as many community cookbooks tend to do, “WITH GREAT GUSTO” divided them into individual sections, such as “Cakes”, “Cookies”, “Pies” and last, but not least, “Desserts” that really are what I think of as desserts.

There is such a wealth of recipes offered under these categories, (almost sixty just for cakes, nearly fifty for cookies, thirty five for pies, and over fifty for actual desserts) – that you will have a hard time deciding which to make first.

Ask-for-Seconds Cake is a recipe for oatmeal cake that I used to make quite often and can vouch for—betcha you can’t eat just one piece! There are also recipes for Banana cakes, carrot cake, cherry fudge cake, cheesecakes and tortes. The Dobos Cake a la Holiday reminded me of my grandmother’s Dobos torte. Check out some of the easy recipes that simplify preparation time by using a cake mix, such as Easy and Delicious Amaretto Cake and Eggnog Almond Angel Food Cake, Grasshopper Cake and Lemony Yellow Cake, Mom’s Famous Cherry-White Cake, Turtle Cake, and Pumpkin Pie Cake.

However, don’t overlook made-from-scratch cake recipes that are sure to become family favorites, like Raisin Spice Cake, Orange Nut Cake, and Italian Cream Cake. For really special occasions, you may want to try Frank Miller’s Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate-Chip Cake or – and this is the recipe that has really caught my eye – Holiday Almond Candied Fruit Log that is made with phyllo dough and assorted candied fruit. This sounds heavenly!

The section titled “Cookies” offers a number of ethnic favorites, such as Czech Butter Horns and Greek Butter cookies (Koulourakia) as well as Greek Tea Cookies and “Buckeyes” – which, although it’s with the cookie recipes, I’ve always thought of as a confection. Buckeyes (the confection) are enormously popular in Ohio and probably unknown in most other states.

There are also recipes for Holiday Spritz, Mom’s Oatmeal Cookies, Lemon Bars (both I and II), Reese Cup Cookies and Pecan Kourambiethes—plus quite a few more.

The section for “Pies” proves, if there is any doubt, that Midwesterners are still baking and eating pie. Recipes range from Autumn Apple-Cranberry Pie to Blueberry Crumb Pie, Dutch Lemon Pie and French Apple Pie, Margarita Pie and Mile-High Raspberry Pie. “Surprise Pie” is an updated and revamped mock apple pie which contains Ritz crackers.

Desserts are next and there are so many good recipes (over fifty!) – that it might have qualified to be a little cookbooklet of its own. Many of the recipes are easy to make and don’t require too many ingredients, such as Coffee Whip (three ingredients) and Chocolate Mint Dessert (six ingredients), Apple Oatmeal Crinkle (seven ingredients) or Basic Butterscotch Sauce (four ingredients). You can whip up Chocolate Angel Delight using a store-bought angel food cake (seven ingredients, counting the cake) and have everyone thinking you slaved in the kitchen all day, or serve your guests New Zealand Pavlova (six ingredients) and have them all wondering how you do it. There are recipe under “Desserts” that do call for more ingredients and/or more preparation time, but I find that the majority of these Dessert recipes were really designed for today’s homemaker who is usually in a hurry and doesn’t have all day to make a dessert.

If you are counting calories or watching your cholesterol, there is even a section called “LEAN BUT LAVISH” that should impress you. Recipes range from Diet Banana Milk Shake or Peach Froth, to Where’s the Beef Low-Fat Chili (made with ground turkey), Open Face Turkey Reubens and Diet Chicken Diane. There is Turkey Kiev for Two and some very simple but light dessert recipes, such as Pastel Whip Dessert and Water-Ice-Melon (two ingredients; couldn’t be any easier).

Next is “Party Hearty” – a surprise section of “WITH GREAT GUSTO” that features seven party ideas (Welcome to the Big Apple, An Old Fashioned Outdoor Party, Medieval Dinner, along with several others) – and then provides you with everything you need to know for preparation, decoration – and the recipes to go with. This is such a great idea; I’m surprised no one else has ever thought of it. Oh, I’ve seen cookbooks that offer a variety of party recipes but not one in which everything you need to know is at your fingertips. Let’s take a look at one of the party ideas, St. Patrick’s Day Party. You are provided with a list of decorating and party theme ideas (i.e., “Group together small pots of shamrock plants for centerpieces, and sprinkle with gold glitter) and then you will find the recipes, starting with Devil Bites, an appetizer—followed by Colcannon (Potatoes and Cabbage), Irish Cabbage, Irish Soda Bread, Irish Brown Bread, and for dessert, — Blarney Stones (a cookie), and Irish Coffee with Bailey’s Irish Cream.

“Chef’s Fare” is last, but certainly not least. These are celebrity recipes, the celebrities being, of course, famous chefs—such as Bert Greene, Marlene Sorosky, and Nathalie Dupree, names you will certainly recognize.

Seldom have I found a Junior League cookbook that offers quite so much as “WITH GREAT GUSTO”. There are over 700 recipes in this great cookbook and every one of them winners. Being a Buckeye, myself, perhaps I am a tad prejudiced—but it is so delightful to find many favorite dishes that I grew up with and can’t say I’ve found all that many in other Ohio cookbooks. I’m so smitten with this cookbook and the interesting photographs of places throughout Mill Creek MetroParks that I’d like to visit Youngtown this summer, when I visit my brother’s home in Ravenna, Ohio.

“WITH GREAT GUSTO” by the Junior League of Youngstown can be ordered a number of different ways. The cost of the book is $20.00 plus $5.25 per book for tax and shipping.

Checks are to mailed to:

With Great Gusto
Junior League of Youngstown
201 E. Commerce St, Suite 320
Youngstown, OH 44503

Make check payable to Junior League of Youngstown

Now, ordinarily, I would offer whatever other listings I might find for a book on Amazon or Alibris.com, Jessica’s Biscuit or wherever else I find books – I found one listing on Barnes & Noble for the book but it was $16.00 + shipping and handling so you wouldn’t be at an advantage buying a pre owned copy in this instance. Trust me, it’s worth the $20.00 plus shipping & tax.

Happy Cookbook Collecting!
Sandy

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4 responses to “WITH GREAT GUSTO (a cookbook review)

  1. You certainly do a good job reviewing cookbooks – I swore I wouldn’t buy another cookbook, but I’m thinking of asking for this one for my birthday next month.

    • Well, as one Buckeye to another, this is a great one to have in your collection. Maybe one of these days I will work on a list of all my favorite Ohio cookbooks. (mostly Cincinnatis)

  2. Thanks for the review!

  3. Quilt32 – thanks for the compliment. I have been hoping to attract some attention from clubs or organizations that would like to have their cookbooks reviewed – I did a lot of this throughout the 90s for a newsletter called Cookbook Collectors Exchange (got the books free to keep)- so I thought maybe just posting reviews of some of my own favs will build up to something. “With Great Gusto” is really worth the money; I think it’s been through another printing (or two) and the latest edition has over 700 recipes in it. And I will be in Ohio the end of September–would like to visit some of those old water mills if time permits.

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