By Karin Glendenning
Community News Writer
Carol and Ferber Tracy?s kitchen in their North Chattanooga home is designed for two cooks, since the couple likes to cook together. A long, narrow island stretches down the middle of the room providing lots of space for culinary tasks.
?It?s actually a potting bench that we bought from Ikea. We had granite installed on top to match the granite on the counters,? said Mrs. Tracy, who added that she hangs most of her pots and pans from the piece. Deep green walls with white trim, lots of cabinets, stainless appliances and a wide and shallow pantry make the room both attractive and very functional.
The Tracys, now empty nesters, have lived in their condo near the river for seven years. Their grown children now live with their own families all over the country: Lisa in the California Bay area, Jennifer in New York City and Scott in Colorado. Their eight grandchildren range in age from seven months to 19.
Mrs. Tracy said she didn?t cook until she met her husband. ?We developed it together,? she said. Now Mr. Tracy cooks most of the meats, and Mrs. Tracy does the vegetables, they said. ?We grill out all year long,? they added.
?I roast a lot of vegetables with garlic and olive oil,? Mrs. Tracy said. She often roasts canned, organic peeled tomatoes, she said, rolling them in olive oil and cooking in the oven. ?They have such an intense flavor and go with everything,? she said.
She also roasts eggplant, squash, sweet potatoes, peppers, onions and broccoli and steams or sautes spinach, beans, asparagus and cauliflower. ?I love garlic and put it on everything,? she said, adding that she grows herbs such as basil, parsley and rosemary.
The couple eats lots of fish, grilling or poaching it. To grill wild salmon, Mr. Tracy washes it first in cold water, and then pats it dry. He brushes the skin with olive oil and sprinkles it with lime juice, ginger and dill before grilling for about five minutes, he said. He also likes to prepare fresh, whole boned trout, poaching it in white wine and water and serving it with a sauce.
?We call our cooking ?mix and match,?? said Mrs. Tracy. For example, they will take a basic salad dressing and change the types of vinegar, mustard, pepper and cheese to complement the other dishes they are serving. ?We use a lot of Cavender?s and Paul Prudhomme seasonings,? Mr. Tracy said.
Mrs. Tracy said her husband is known for his Caesar Salad. ?I wash the lettuce and make the croutons and he makes the dressing and puts the salad together,? she said. ?The secret is to use the best quality champagne vinegar,? Mr. Tracy said.
For another of his specialties, he butterflies tenderloin steaks, or filets and cooks them in butter in a skillet for about two minutes per side. He serves them with mushrooms and onions sauteed in wine with pepper and tarragon. ?They taste great and smell so good when they?re cooking,? he said.
Mrs. Tracy said one of her favorite meals to prepare is Peking Duck. ?I make it for Ferb twice a year and serve it with Mandarin pancakes. I used to make hoisin sauce from scratch, but now I buy it,? she said. The Tracys also love elk. ?It?s an absolutely wonderful red meat,? Mrs. Tracy said. ?Our son Scott gets it for us in Colorado.?
The Tracys said they rarely use recipes today, cooking instead from experience and using fresh ingredients with minimal preparation. ?Carol comes up with something that?s delicious but does it instinctively. She really doesn?t need a recipe. There?s a certain amount of adventure involved,? said Mr. Tracy.
The recipes they share with readers today are ones they have tweaked and with which they continue to experiment.
FERB?S CAESAR SALAD
(Mr. Tracy said the secret to this salad is using the highest quality champagne vinegar. He said he got the recipe from ?the Joy of Cooking? and has added to it to suit his tastes.)
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 can rolled anchovies and capers, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil from the anchovies
Dollop Jack Daniels #7 mustard
Generous grating of black pepper
Juice from 1 lime
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
2 heads or 3 hearts Romaine lettuce, washed, torn and spun dry
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
Carol?s Croutons (recipe below)
Mix dressing ingredients well. In large wooden bowl, mix with hands lettuce, dressing and grated cheese. Top with croutons.
Optional: Add shredded boiled lobster, stir-fried or poached scallops, and/or boiled and peeled shrimp.
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons butter
Olive oil to cover bottom of large fry/saute pan
3 to 4 slices Ciabatta bread, cubed
Salt and pepper
Heat garlic and butter in oiled pan over medium-low heat. Add bread and stir around with tongs or 2 wooden spoons to coat all sides. If needed, add more olive oil, a little at a time. Continue to cook, stirring, until croutons are crisp on all sides. Sprinkle with salt and white pepper. Stir well. Remove to plate that is covered with a paper towel to absorb extra oil.
BASIC SALAD DRESSING
(The Tracys said this dressing is especially tasty when grated Pecorino Romano, feta, goat, blue or Roquefort cheese is added to the salad with the dressing. ?Champagne vinegar is best with the blue and Roquefort cheeses. Experiment.?)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic, champagne or red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Poupon, dry ground or any good brown mustard?
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper or 1/2 teaspoon whole pink peppercorns
Combine all ingredients and mix in jar. Shake to mix well and keep in refrigerator.
Cover pork tenderloin, chicken breasts or any chops for at least one hour before grilling with generous amounts of the above ingredients.
1 15.5-ounce can salmon
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup soft bread crumbs
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon tarragon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups flour (1/2 bread flour and 1/2 whole wheat)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup shortening
6 tablespoons water
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon water
Drain and flake salmon, reserving 2 tablespoons liquid. Saute pepper and onion in butter until tender. Add to pepper mixture, salmon, reserved liquid next 7 ingredients. For pastry, combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening. Gradually add water, tossing with a fork until moistened. Form into a ball and roll out to a 9- by 12-inch rectangle. Reserve pastry trimmings for garnish. Form salmon mixture into a loaf in center of pastry rectangle. Fold edges of pastry over salmon. Moisten edges and seal well. Transfer loaf to baking sheet, seam side down. Mix egg yolk with water and brush over pastry. Cut fish shape from reserved pastry, place on top of loaf and brush with egg yolk mixture. Prick pastry with fork. Bake at 400 for 25 to 30 minutes, until lightly browned. Serve with Celery Dill Sauce (recipe follows).
CELERY DILL SAUCE
(Mrs. Tracy said she doubles or triples the sauce recipe.)
1 10.5-ounce can condensed cream of celery soup
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon dill
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
Combine all ingredients in saucepan and heat until blended, stirring frequently. Makes 1 and 2/3 cups sauce.
E-mail Karin Glendenning at email@example.com