The book Someone’s In the Kitchen with Dinah was probably the first cookbook I ever read. It was published in 1971. My mom watched her talk show, as did I.
She had several talk shows during the 1970s and 1980s. I remember the shows as full of laughter and cooking. Dinah always cooked on the show with her guests. She sang in her wonderful voice, and talked with just about everyone.
Most people who are over a certain age only know her as a singer, most notably the song “See the USA in Your Chevrolet.” If you’ve never heard her, watch this clip and listen. Her voice was fabulous.
Now, I am usually contemptuous of celebrities who write cookbooks. To me, it seems like they are just taking an easy way to make more money. They aren’t trained in food in any way, and most of the books don’t have any special recipes, unique ideas, or something to contribute. And some of the advice in those books can make you sick!
Anyway. Enough ranting.
I think that Dinah was the first celebrity chef. It made sense that she wrote a cookbook: she entertained hundreds of famous people. She cooked on her show. And she obviously knew her way around the kitchen. She includes recipes from Pauline, the woman she cooks with (I can’t call her her “cook” because Pauline was more than that), her mother, and her sister. Plus, I think she did it for the love of food, not to make more money or “expand her career.”
I have memorized many of these recipes and the stories that go with them. I first saw a recipe for Spaghetti Carbonara in her book, and was so intrigued. Who knew you could make spaghetti with just a sauce made of eggs, cream, and cheese? Her recipe for Mother’s Pecan Rum Cakes (which I make minus the rum) is simply spectacular. It is the best white cake recipe I have ever made. One bite of the velvety, soft cake will make you swoon. I love the recipe for Tennessee Lasagna, which is most likely the very first interesting variation on that classic recipe, and for Cream Cheese Cookies, which are smooth and rich, and on and on and on …
More of her recipes I love:
- Sour Cream Cheese Fruit Salad Mold
This fabulous molded salad has the most bright and fresh flavor. And isn’t it pretty? If you think gelatin molds are déclassé, you need to eat a bite of this recipe. You’ll change your mind. I don’t make the dressing the recipes calls for but I certainly make the Cream Cheese Nut Balls to serve with it.
- French Toast
I have never seen a recipe like this. The bread actually cooks in 1 INCH of melted butter! I don’t even know how many cups that would be! I’m a little afraid to try this recipe but I will someday.
This is a fabulous little deep fried meat pie. I serve this on my husband’s birthday; it’s the only way he has ever, or will ever, eat liver. Don’t wrinkle your nose; this recipe is delicious and unique.
- Turkey Mornay
I make this fabulous recipe every day after Thanksgiving. It’s an open face sandwich served on toasted English muffins that is easy and satisfying.
This is an incredibly good quick bread made like a cream puff. It’s hot and melting and tender and flavorful and could almost be a meal in itself. It’s a fabulous accompaniment to soups or salads.
- Fresh Peach Pie
This is the recipe to make when peaches are in season. The coconut crust is sublime and for some reason, this recipe tastes more like peaches to me than any other.
The only recipe I will not recommend is for Steak Tartare. That is made of raw ground beef mixed with seasonings and served as-is.
The world was a lot different in 1971; the Jack-in-the-Box E. coli outbreak didn’t happen until 1993. I don’t recommend eating ground beef cooked to rare, medium rare, or medium, let alone raw. You can, of course, make that recipe and cook it – using a food thermometer to make sure the meat gets to 160°F.
Dinah wrote two other cookbooks before she died in 1994. I’ll review those later; suffice it to say they are also fabulous and interesting with new and unusual recipes.
So if you don’t know about Dinah, try this book. I promise you won’t regret it.