Two For The Road


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The San Diego Union-Tribune
Newspaper Article
By Caroline Dipping
June 29, 2005

Story about Gwen McKee & Barbara Moseley's cross-country search for the best recipes.

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Two For The Road

  1. 1. Two for the road Best pals have covered the country, compiling the best of each region's recipes By Caroline Dipping June 29, 2005 In their quest to find the best recipes America has to offer, Gwen McKee and Barbara Moseley have shared a lot in the past 23 years. The best friends from Mississippi have worn out four vans, logging more than 70,000 road miles and fortifying themselves along the way with a neon-orange melange called Hot Cheese in a Jar. They also have racked up more than 40,000 air miles, cooked in cramped motel kitchenettes, pored over 10,000 cookbooks, become media darlings and made 25,000 phone calls, all in the pursuit of recipes. Oh, and they have published more than 40 cookbooks together. To date, their Best of the Best State Cookbook Series has sold 2 million copies. It's a lot of Jell-O under the bridge. McKee and Moseley's culinary odyssey began in the early 1980s. As housewives with teenage kids, both women knew their way around a kitchen. McKee also had some experience in JACIE LANDEROS / Union-Tribune developing and publishing cookbooks on the local level, and she was constantly being asked what her favorite recipes were. Starting in her own back yard, McKee made a list of every Mississippi cookbook she could find. She hatched the idea of publishing a collection of recipes gathered from the best cookbooks in the state, and in 1982, quot;Best of the Best From Mississippiquot; hit the bookstore shelves. Soon, best friend Barbara Moseley also was heeding the call of the cookbook. quot;When I stepped into the water, I really had an ulterior motive,quot; Moseley said from her office at Quail Ridge Press in Brandon, Miss. quot;I was going to help Gwen so I could get her back on the golf course. She was spending entirely too much time working.quot; But a snowball effect was already in motion. After 5/4/2009
  2. 2. Mississippi, the duo went next door to Louisiana, then on to tackle Texas. By 2004, McKee and Moseley had conquered every corner of the country, publishing 41 books for the 50 states. (Because of their size and population, some states share a cookbook, such as Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine in the quot;Best of the Best From New England Cookbook.quot;) Quail Ridge Press Barbara Moseley (left) and Gwen McKee have traveled more than 100,000 miles together over Each new book sold like hotcakes, and McKee and the past 23 years, evaluating cookbooks to find America's top recipes. Moseley became culinary celebs of sorts. Eight years ago, the duo began hawking their books on the QVC shopping channel, and earlier this year, Saveur magazine featured the cookbook series in its quot;Saveur 100quot; annual list of culinary favorites. All along, McKee and Moseley have held fast to their motto: Preserve America's food heritage. quot;We want to put into our books things we are afraid might get away,quot; said McKee, also from the Quail Ridge Press offices. quot;People love traditions in their heritage. They want to make the same rice pudding their ancestors made. quot;Some are getting serious enough to write it down. Oh, please, write it down!quot; Local treasure troves McKee and Moseley visited each state at least twice (Texas took four trips), taking as many back roads and visiting as many little towns as they could. They scoured local newspaper archives and visited chambers of commerce and libraries. Church suppers offered a treasure trove of good community recipes. In itty bitty towns, the best collections of local cookbooks usually could be found in the big drugstore or restaurant. Each cookbook in the Best of the Best State Cookbook Series contains at least 300 recipes culled from the most popular cookbooks published in the state. The cookbooks came from numerous sources, including Junior Leagues, Girl Scout Troops, community organizations, restaurants, noted chefs and good home cooks. All the recipes have to meet the ironclad criteria laid down by the ladies: Does it taste good? Would you make this again? Is this good enough to make somebody ask you for the recipe? Can you buy these ingredients in your grocery store? McKee and Moseley challenged their taste buds to try everything, even if it was just one bite. They sampled many things they weren't crazy about, but they strived to keep open minds. Baked lutefisk from Minnesota and Dutch Pennsylvania scrapple did not create fond memories for McKee, yet they both made the cut in their states' cookbooks because of their deep roots in the regions. The two women also encountered exotic dishes such as pickled rattlesnake. 5/4/2009
  3. 3. quot;Some people want to punch your buttons,quot; McKee said. quot;We always had some things, like a possum recipe in the Kentucky book ... fried pork brain sandwiches in Indiana. quot;I tried it, and in truth, it wasn't bad at all. You can fry almost anything.quot; Ethnic influences McKee and Moseley are particularly delighted by the ethnic recipes that find acceptance in various communities. Early in their travels, they learned to hit as many cultural festivals as they could. quot;The most unusual cookbook is Hawaii,quot; McKee said. quot;Their cooking is more Polynesian with American influences, whereas all the rest of the books are American cooking with other ethnic influences.quot; For all the diversity bubbling in America's melting pot, McKee and Moseley did notice one strong trend from state to state: Fast, simple recipes reign supreme. quot;Quick and easy is the very biggest thing,quot; McKee said. quot;Everybody is busy. More and more recipes call for things already prepared, like a bag of chopped onions out of the freezer. quot;People don't mind at all, not anymore. They don't put their noses up at a can of soup. It has to be something that is doable.quot; The women insist they have no favorite state. So many prized dishes have sprung from their travels that they have gone on to create a four-cookbook quot;Hall of Famequot; series showcasing dishes that many people singled out as all-time favorites. Over the years, collecting recipes almost became secondary to the adventure of getting to know their country. quot;We had a passion for it,quot; McKee said. quot;We loved finding good recipes. We loved meeting the people and hearing about their pride in what they cooked and how it related to their state.quot; What territory is left uncharted? The ladies are retracing their steps to create second editions of their state cookbooks. Florida and Mississippi, the sequels, are in circulation now, and the women are currently resetting their sights on Tennessee and Kentucky. The quot;Best of the Best From America Cookbookquot; will be released in August. It supplies recipes characteristic of each state and tells a little about the state, along with snippets from McKee and Moseley's road diaries. To order any quot;Best of the Bestquot; book or learn about McKee and Moseley's other books, call (800) 343-1583 or visit Grilled Salmon With Garlic Cream and Tomato Butter 5/4/2009
  4. 4. 4 servings 4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets Salt and white pepper, to taste 4 basil leaves, for garnish TOMATO BUTTER 2 large tomatoes, quartered 1 clove garlic 1 sprig basil leaves 2 sprigs parsley 1/2 small carrot, cooked 2 shallots, sliced (divided use) 1 cup dry white wine 2 tablespoons very good sherry or red wine vinegar 6 ounces unsalted butter, softened Salt and pepper to taste GARLIC CREAM 1 medium-sized baking potato, peeled and sliced 6 large garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced About 1/2 cup milk About 1/2 cup heavy cream Salt to taste For the Tomato Butter: In a blender or food processor, puree the tomatoes, garlic, basil leaves, parsley, carrot and 1 shallot, and reserve. Chop remaining shallot and place in a large saucepan with the white wine and vinegar. Reduce over medium heat until 1 tablespoon remains. Pour in reserved tomato puree and cook over medium heat until it is thick. Reduce more if necessary (most of the liquid should evaporate, making the flavor intense). Whisk in butter, a little at a 5/4/2009
  5. 5. time, over low heat. Strain the tomato butter into a clean saucepan and season with salt and pepper. Add more vinegar if necessary. Keep warm. For the Garlic Cream: In a saucepan, cook the potato slices and the garlic in milk and cream (equal amounts to cover) until the potato is tender. Puree in a food processor and strain into a pan. Thin with cream if necessary. Add salt to taste. Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Grill fillets for 3 to 4 minutes on each side over a hot grill, or until just cooked. Spoon Garlic Cream onto each plate and surround with Tomato Butter. Top with a salmon fillet and garnish with a basil leaf. (From quot;A Taste of Providence,quot; in quot;Best of the Best From New England Cookbook,quot; edited by Gwen McKee and Barbara Moseley, Quail Ridge Press.) California Tri-Tip 12 servings 2 (2-pound) whole beef tri-tips 11/4 cups beef broth 2/3 cup lime juice 1/2 cup olive oil 2 tablespoons dried cumin 2 tablespoons dried coriander 5 garlic cloves, minced Vegetable oil Salt and freshly ground pepper Remove fat from tri-tips. Whisk broth with lime juice, olive oil, cumin, coriander and garlic until well blended. Place tri-tips in a glass baking dish. Pour marinade over beef and cover. Refrigerate at least 6 hours, or up to 24 hours. Remove tri-tips from marinade. Cook over medium-hot coals, turning occasionally, about 1 hour for medium-rare, or until desired doneness. Brush meat with vegetable oil frequently while barbecuing. To serve, cut across the grain into thin slices; season with salt and pepper. (From quot;Jan Townsend Going Home,quot; in quot;Best of the Best From California Cookbook,quot; edited by Gwen McKee and Barbara Moseley, Quail Ridge Press.) 5/4/2009
  6. 6. Hot Cheese in a Jar Makes 6 jelly jars full 2 pounds Velveeta cheese 1 medium onion, grated 1 (5.33-ounce) can evaporated milk 1 pint Miracle Whip salad dressing 1 (8-ounce) can seeded jalape×o chiles, chopped Melt cheese in top of a double boiler. Add onion, evaporated milk, Miracle Whip and chiles to cheese, and mix well. Pour into 6 (8-ounce) jelly jars. Cool, screw on caps, and refrigerate. Serve as a dip with bread and crackers. (From quot;Cowtown Cuisine,quot; reprinted in quot;Best of the Best From Texas Cookbookquot; edited by Gwen McKee and Barbara Moseley, Quail Ridge Press.) Grasshopper Pie Makes 1 (9-inch) pie 16 Oreo cookies 30 marshmallows 3/4 cup milk 1 cup whipping cream 1 jigger (1.5 ounces) creme de menthe 1 jigger (1.5 ounces) creme de cacao Crush cookies very fine, and place half in a pie plate. In a saucepan, melt marshmallows with milk and cool. Whip cream with the liqueurs. Fold whipped cream mixture into cooled marshmallow mixture. Pour over crushed cookies. Sprinkle rest of crushed cookies on top. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. (From quot;Easy Livin',quot; reprinted in quot;Best of the Best From Mississippi Cookbook,quot; edited by Gwen McKee and Barbara Moseley, Quail Ridge Press.) Ham and Cheese Potato Salad With Tangy Shallot-Herb Dressing 8 servings 5/4/2009
  7. 7. TANGY SHALLOT-HERB DRESSING 2 shallots, peeled and minced 1/2 cup dry white wine 1/4 cup white wine vinegar 1 cup mayonnaise 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley 3 tablespoons chopped tarragon 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill Generous dash Tabasco sauce 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard SALAD 2 pounds red new potatoes, scrubbed 3 cups cubed cooked ham 2 cups coarsely shredded Swiss cheese 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, drained and cut into small strips 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions 3 tablespoons chopped parsley 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill 1 small head romaine lettuce, washed and dried Sprigs of parsley, for garnish For dressing: In a non-corrosive saucepan, boil shallots, wine and vinegar until liquid is reduced to 1/4 cup. Cool. Whisk into mayonnaise, herbs, Tabasco sauce and mustard. Chill until ready to serve. Makes 11/4 cups. For salad: Cut potatoes into 1/4-inch slices. (Leave peel on.) Place in a steamer and steam for 8 minutes, or just until fork-tender. Remove and lightly toss with 1/2 cup of dressing. Allow to sit for 30 minutes. 5/4/2009
  8. 8. In a large bowl, gently toss together the potatoes, ham, cheese, tomatoes, onions, parsley and dill. Toss the remaining dressing into the salad. Taste and correct seasonings. Coarsely shred the romaine. Make a bed of the lettuce on a platter and spoon ham salad over top. Garnish with parsley sprigs. Serve at room temperature or chilled. (From quot;More Cooking with Marilyn Harris,quot; in quot;Best of the Best From Ohio Cookbook,quot; edited by Gwen McKee and Barbara Moseley, Quail Ridge Press.) Almond Buttercream Cake 12 servings 1 box Duncan Hines butter cake mix 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter 3 eggs 2/3 cup water BUTTERCREAM FROSTING 1 large package (6 ounces) vanilla pudding (not instant) 2 cups milk (divided use) 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature 2 tablespoons butter 1 (3 3/4-ounce) package sliced almonds 4 tablespoons sugar (From quot;Symphony of Flavors,quot; reprinted in quot;Best of the Best from California Cookbook,quot; edited by Gwen McKee and Barbara Moseley, Quail Ridge Press.) In a mixing bowl, combine cake mix, 1 stick butter, eggs and water until well blended. Bake in a greased and floured angel cake tube pan according to directions on box. Let stand at least 4 hours. For frosting: Combine pudding mix and 1/3 cup milk. Mix until smooth. Bring remaining 12/3 cups milk to boil in saucepan. Take off heat and combine with pudding mixture. Return to heat and bring to full boil, stirring constantly. Cool 3 to 4 hours. Place waxed paper over top of pudding to prevent formation of a skin. 5/4/2009
  9. 9. Blend 2 sticks unsalted butter with electric mixer until creamy. Add pudding by tablespoonfuls until all is used. (Pudding and butter must be at room temperature or buttercream will curdle.) Melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat in frying pan. Stir in almonds and cook until they start to become golden. Add 4 tablespoons sugar and stir until sugar is melted and almonds are golden brown. Cool on waxed paper. Remove cake from pan and cut into three layers with a sharp knife. Top each layer with frosting. Reassemble and frost top and sides. Cover with almonds. Store in refrigerator. »Next Story» Find this article at: Check the box to include the list of links referenced in the article. © Copyright 2007 Union-Tribune Publishing Co. ? A Copley Newspaper Site 5/4/2009