Find out more on the Vices Series.

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Smoke & Secrets

Book  1  –  The   Vices   Series.  

Ross is conflicted, torn between his heritage as a tenth-generation tobacco grower and his profession as a physician. Many health problems have been linked to tobacco use, and as a doctor Ross must both treat the consequences of using tobacco and discourage its use. This personal conflict is one of the themes of the book.

Ross is based on a real person, a surgeon practicing medicine at a major medical center whose family has been involved in tobacco for generations. He once related his experiences, including his parents’ chagrin when he announced he intended to become a doctor.

Many Kentucky towns in tobacco country have wrestled with banning smoking in public places, and sometimes the debate has become acrimonious. On one hand is the argument that cigarette smoke should not be forced on anyone, and on the other hand is the feeling that a community that produces a substance should not prohibit its use, for that may smack of hypocrisy.

Tobacco has a long, complex and fascinating history closely tied with the history of the United States.

A tale of two cobblers

Peach Cobbler1

Cobblers are like religions.

There are different varieties and different offshoots of the different varieties. Catholic, American Baptist, Missionary Baptist, Free-Will Baptist, Presbyterian Church in America, Presbyterian Church of the USA, Cumberland Presbyterian Church, you get the drift.

It’s all good. So it is with cobblers.

The Crust Dilemma

For any fruit, there are two kinds of crusts, pie-like and biscuit-like.

The pie-like cobbler crust is self-explanatory. The peaches and filling are topped by a crisp pie-like crust that can be left whole or latticed. The differences between pie-like cobbler and regular peach pie are thus:

  1. cobbler has no bottom crust,
  2. cobbler filling tends to be a little runnier than pie filling, and
  3. nobody really makes peach pie much. I mean, why?

Pie-like cobbler takes more time and is a little more trouble. But for those who are crust lovers, and I am one, nothing beats it.

You can make your own crust and feel smug. Or you can use store-bought. I won’t tell.

Peach Cobbler with Pie-like Crust
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tbl cornstarch
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 cups peaches (about 6), peeled and chopped
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbl butter or shortening
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbl sugar
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ c milk

Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, baking powder, and salt. Work in the shortening with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a small bowl, slowly add milk, a tablespoon at a time, and work with hands until mixture forms into a ball. Chill 30 minutes.

Mix ½ c sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon in 2 quart saucepan. Stir in peaches and lemon juice. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir 1 minute. Pour into ungreased 2 quart casserole dish. Keep mixture warm.

Roll crust dough to thickness of about ¼ inch. Use crust whole or cut into lattices and weave on top of peach mixture. If using whole, to avoid tearing the crust, fold it into fourths, then transfer onto peach mixture and unfold. Cut around the edges and crimp. Or use store-bought crust and use the time saved to read a book.

Bake 25-30 minutes. Read while it’s baking, then again when enjoying

Peach Cobbler2

Biscuit-dough cobbler is admittedly easier. The dough is poured into a pan, often a 9×13 size, then the peaches are poured on top. This dough rises to the top as it bakes and creates a—wait for it—biscuit or scone-like crust.

A bit more bread-like but just as satisfying.

This cobbler is great in an oh-no-I-forgot-I-have-to-take-something-to-Aunt-Dinah’s-for-Sunday-dinner kind of way. My grandmother favored this kind of cobbler for its ease. This is her quick-and-dirty-recipe.

Easy Peach Cobbler
  • ¾ stick (6 tbl) butter or margarine
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tbl cornstarch
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 cups peaches (about 6), peeled and chopped
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

While preheating oven to 350 degrees, melt margarine in a 9×13 inch glass dish. Mix next five ingredients thoroughly in a bowl. Pour batter over the margarine in baking dish. Do not stir. Mix ½ c sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon in 2 quart saucepan. Stir in peaches and lemon juice. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir 1 minute. Pour over batter mixture in dish. Do not stir. Batter will rise to the top. Bake 35 -40 minutes or until golden brown.

Take a peek at about 20 minutes to make sure it’s not too brown. Serve with ice cream. And a book.

Peach Cobbler3

Let me know how yours turns out!

Bets and Black Books

Book  2  –  The   Vices   Series.  

Baked Wild King Salmon

Baked SalmonTurns out, there are five types of salmon commonly eaten in North America. As a landlocked human, I was ignorant of this. King, also known as Chinook, Sockeye, Coho, Keta, and Pink. King is prized for its high fat content (always tasty, if not good for you) and tender, flavorful flesh. It is the earliest in season, and a large salmon can weigh up to 50 pounds.

Leo and Billie have dinner at the SW Steakhouse in Wynn Las Vegas. It’s known for its steaks, of course, but Billie chooses salmon instead for reasons that are best left for the reader to discover.

The dish served at the restaurant is Oven Roasted Wild King Salmon. It is served with Israeli salad, green chick pea hummus, and falafel spiced panisse. Yum.

Here is a good approximation of the recipe, courtesy of the New York Times.

Salmon Roasted in Butter
  • 4 tbl (1/2 stick) butter
  • 4 tbl minced chervil, parsley or dill
  • 1 salmon fillet, 11/2 to 2 pounds
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Lemon wedges

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Place the butter and half the herb in a roasting pan just large enough to fit the salmon and place it in the oven. Heat about 5 minutes, until the butter melts and the herb begins to sizzle.

Add the salmon to the pan, skin side up. Roast 4 minutes. Remove from the oven, then peel the skin off. (If the skin does not lift right off, cook 2 minutes longer.) Sprinkle with salt and pepper and turn the fillet over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper again.

Roast 3 to 5 minutes more, depending on the thickness of the fillet and the degree of doneness you prefer. Cut into serving portions, spoon a little of the butter over each and garnish with the remaining herb. Serve with lemon wedges.