After a lifetime of gleaning recipes from chefs and kindred cooks from around the world and developing recipes of her own, Drucella Smith thought her collection might be as interesting to others as it was to her. So she decided to write a cookbook.
Smith, who lives at Franke at Seaside with her husband, Ed, self-published “Drucella’s Secret Recipes” at the end of 2010. Morris Press Cookbooks printed 225 copies, and a little to Smith’s surprise, they all sold within five weeks. “They were inhaled, really,” Smith says, recalling the experience.
First, she dropped off a few books at the library at Franke, which is in Mount Pleasant. Smith then met with the administration of the retirement community to let them know of her intentions: to split the proceeds between Franke’s subsidized living and First United Methodist Church on the Isle of Palms. Then a blurb about the book appeared in Franke’s newsletter. It was a spark.
“I think a good many (people) out of kindness or thinking that it was going to charity would buy one,” Smith concedes. “Then they started reading it. People have said they read it like a book, not like a cookbook ... cover to cover.”
In turn, those people started buying the cookbook for family members and friends. The stockpile soon ran out.
This June, Smith came out with a revised, enlarged edition and another printing of 225 books. The 221-page cookbook offers a few hundred recipes, variations included, and covers a range of categories from appetizers to main dishes, cookies and candy. There’s a bonus plastic insert that can be placed on the counter and used as a book stand.
Smith sells the books for $20 by phone, 881-1158, or via email at email@example.com. There is an additional $4 shipping cost.
Smith first got the travel bug in the late 1950s, when she worked for an airline as a secretary for a high-level manager. She continued to travel extensively later on while employed at an engineering firm that was a subcontractor for NASA.
“Anytime I had a minute ... I was going anywhere I possibly could,” she says. “Sometimes I would take my family, and sometimes not.”
Smith says she learned early on how she might obtain a chef’s special recipe.
“I went to a restaurant and I ate something I really, really liked. I told the server how wonderful it was. All of a sudden the chef appears and said, ‘The server said you wanted to see me.’ I said, ‘Yes, I did. This is the best (dish) I’ve had in my entire life.’
“Well, when a chef comes out of a kitchen, summoned by a customer, they expect the customer to be complaining that something was wrong. It’s pretty rare that someone says, ‘I have to talk to the chef because this was so fantastic.’ So I said, ‘Could you give me the recipe?’ And he was delighted.”
As for the “secret” recipes, which appear randomly throughout the book: It means the recipe was given to Smith with the promise that the source not be divulged — perhaps to protect “signature” recipes from leaking out to competitors.
Smith spent all of her life in the Cleveland area until 18 years ago. That’s when she married her second husband, Ed, who was living in the Lowcountry. Former neighbors in Ohio, the two started dating after the death of Smith’s first husband.
Smith has pursued her passion for cooking throughout her life. That included taking gourmet classes and entering a number of recipe contests, some of which she won.
Once she was invited to a pineapple contest in Hawaii. While her “Hawaiian Sun Tan Pie” didn’t capture the grand prize, she still feels the payoff was a handsome one: an all-expenses-paid, two-week trip to the islands.
She still enjoys cooking, too, even though the couple can get all of their meals at Franke. (A ham and bean soup was on her stove one day last week.) She especially loves making hors d’oeuvres.
“I do it for fun, I do it to please people, and I have a husband who loves to eat,” Smith says. “Those are good reasons ... and I can still do it!”
Caprese on a Stick
Makes 25 to 30
1 pint grape tomatoes
8 slices deli mozzarella cheese, sliced ¼-inch thick
25 to 30 extra-long toothpicks with frills
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
Slice 25 to 30 grape tomatoes in half. With small cutter (the size of the center of the tomato) cut 25 to 30 round pieces of mozzarella cheese. Place 1 cheese round between the 2 halves of each tomato. Skewer with long toothpick or skewers.
Mix oil, vinegar and sea salt. Baste tomato skewers and allow to marinate for at least 1 hour. Turn occasionally. Sprinkle lightly with minced basil before serving.
Tips: Try to purchase grape tomatoes of the same size. If you need these in a hurry, just baste and marinate in Italian salad dressing for a half-hour.
If you would like to suggest a good home cook to be profiled, email firstname.lastname@example.org with “Good Cook” as the subject line. Briefly describe the person’s talent and how you know him or her, and provide their phone number or email address so we can contact them.
Old-fashioned pound cake is still a class act
One pound each of butter, flour, sugar and eggs made it a cinch to remember the ingredients in an age when many people couldn’t read. Hence its name: pound cake.This finely textured, moist, golden cake has a British heritage dating back to the early 1700s. But over time, bakers fine-tuned the recipe to make smaller, lighter cakes. Baking soda and baking powder were being added as leavening agents by the early 1900s.Pound cakes are popular in the South, and it’s hard to imagine a social gathering with food without a pound cake among the desserts.Of course, people have fiddled even more with the ingredients, so variations abound today. Still, there’s something gratifying about a simple, well-made piece of pound cake. Not overwhelmingly sweet and subtle in flavor, often by vanilla and almond extracts, it’s a classy finish to a meal.Or a nice start to the day, for that matter. Pound cake is a delicious treat with that morning cup of coffee.Beth Pendergrass of Florence recently requested recipes for orange pound cake. That wasn’t too challenging for the Lowcountry bunch.Nancy Kruger of the Isle of Palms passes along this recipe:Orange Pound CakeIngredients11/2 cups butter, softened3 cups sugar5 eggs31/2 cups of all-purpose flour1 teaspoon cream of tartar11/2 teaspoons baking powder¼ teaspoon salt¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons milk¼ cup orange juice1 teaspoon vanilla extract1 teaspoon almond extract2 tablespoons orange zestConfectioners’ sugar (optional)DirectionsCream butter; gradually add sugar, beating at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Combine flour, cream of tartar, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk and orange juice, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix until just blended after each addition. Stir in flavorings and orange zest.Pour batter into greased and floured 10-inch tube pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 25-30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar if desired.The recipe from J.L. Howard of Edisto Island promises a hint of tanginess from the buttermilk in the mix. The recipe comes from the “Barefoot Contessa,” food television’s Ina Garten.Orange Pound CakeMakes 2 loavesIngredients½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature21/2 cups granulated sugar, divided use4 extra large eggs, at room temperature1/3 cup grated orange zest (about 6 oranges)3 cups all-purpose flour½ teaspoon baking powder½ teaspoon baking soda1 teaspoon kosher salt¾ cup freshly squeezed orange juice, divided use¾ cup buttermilk, at room temperature1 teaspoon pure vanilla extractFor glaze:1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted11/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juiceDirectionsPreheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 81/2x41/2x21/2-inch loaf pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper.Cream the butter and 2 cups of the granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. With the mixer on medium speed, beat in the eggs, one at a time, and the orange zest.In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.In another bowl, combine ¼ cup orange juice, the buttermilk and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide batter evenly between the pans, smoothing tops, and bake 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.While the cakes bake, cook the remaining ½ cup of grandulated sugar with the remaining ½ cup of orange juice in a small saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolves. When the cakes are done, let them cool 10 minutes. Take them out of the pans and place on a baking rack set over a tray. Spoon the orange syrup over the cakes and allow the cakes to cool completely.To glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar and orange juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Add a few more drops of juice if necessary to make it pour easily. Pour over the top of the cake and allow the glaze to dry. Wrap well and store in the refrigerator. Also thanks to Louise Beckman of Summerville.Who’s got the recipe?Colleagues request two recipes, for a flourless chocolate torte and for chocolate eclairs.Still looking: What can be done with muscadine grapes (besides making jam or jelly)?If there’s a recipe you’ve lost or a dish you are just wondering about, email food@post andcourier or call Food Editor Teresa Taylor at 937-4886.