Real vegetarian food, served in an imaginary world...

Thursday 10 January 2019

Fantasy Veggie Dinner Guests - TOM WAITS and EDWARD HOPPER

Tom Waits released ‘Nighthawks at the Diner' in 1975. 
The title was inspired by the 1942 Edward Hopper painting, Nighthawks, which depicted a late-night diner in Greenwich Village.
Instead of the male server in the Hopper painting, Waits gives us a tired and over made-up waitress who will deliver the food with a word or two of affection for her regular diners and the newcomers alike. All seem connected by their shared situation, just as the space between the four figures in the Hopper picture is insignificant.

How good it would be to unite them at Zelda's and use the menu items from the album track Eggs and Sausage. You won't need them all - it will make far too much to eat; just choose what you like best. 

Nighthawks at the diner
Of Emma's 49er, there's a rendezvous
Of strangers around the coffee urn tonight;
All the gypsy hacks, the insomniacs.
Now the paper's been read,
Now the waitress said:
‘Eggs and sausage and a side of toast,
Coffee and a roll, hash browns over easy,
Chilli in a bowl with burgers and fries.
What kind of pie?’

Recipes for some items on the menu can be found elsewhere...
For Chilli in a Bowl, see Zelda's version of Johnny Cash's Chilli.

And, if you want (Vegetarian) Burgers and Fries, try this, made for Jules Winnfield.
So Zelda has concentrated on making vegetarian versions of the other items on the menu. Multiply or divide amounts as needed.


1tbsp oil
2 vegetarian sausages, defrosted if frozen
2 free range eggs
1 slice bread

Heat 1tbsp oil in a large pan (or on a griddle).
Cook the sausages until brown on one side.
Add the eggs and fry to your preference. 
Serve with the toast (surely no instruction needed!)

I have been reliably informed that these are the type served in American diners. I adapted the recipe from one in this lovely book:

Start by making the dough:

250g strong white flour
1tsp dried yeast
pinch of salt
15g brown sugar
1tsp caster sugar
2 drops vanilla extract
100ml lukewarm milk
25g butter, melted
1 egg, whisked

Mix the flour, yeast, salt, sugars and vanilla in a bowl.
Add the butter, egg and milk. Stir all together and then knead on a floured surface. Place back in the bowl. 
Cover and leave for about 1½ hours until doubled in size.
When the dough has risen, prepare the filling:

50g butter, melted
30g sugar
2tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg

Mix the sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon.
On a floured surface, roll the dough into a rectangle.
Brush the surface with the melted butter.
Sprinkle over the sugar mixture.
Staring from the long side, roll up the dough.
Then cut slices, about 2½cm thick.
Place on their sides on a baking tray. Cover with cling film and leave for 30 minutes.
Brush with a little milk and then cook at Gas 5/ 375F°/ 190°C for about 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the topping:

70g icing sugar
70g cream cheese
15ml milk

Combine all ingredients to make a smooth, liquid frosting.
When the rolls are cooked, spoon the frosting over the top and allow to run.
Serve warm (with coffee).

(Over easy is a term more commonly used to determine how people like their eggs. It instructs the cook to them turn over, so I am guessing that Tom likes his hash browns cooked on both sides. But don't we all?)

Makes about 18

300g potatoes
salt and black pepper
1 pinch paprika
oil or butter for cooking (I used sunflower oil)

Peel the potatoes and then grate into a bowl. Cover with cold water and stir. 
When the water becomes cloudy, drain and replace with clean. Drain the potatoes and then remove as much excess liquid as you can. Place in a clean tea towel and squeeze. Place over an empty bowl for 20 minutes, then squeeze again. 
Season with salt, pepper and paprika.
Heat oil in a large pan (in the absence of a large stove or griddle as you would find in a diner).
Place lumps of potato in the pan and press down with a slice.
Cook for 3-4 minutes to allow the bottoms to brown, then flip. Continue to cook on other side and flip again if needed. 
(N.B. This was all new to me. When first I tried this meal, I made the mistake of making what are labelled as 'hash browns' on a British menu; adding onion, flour and egg to the potato. I was, therefore, glad that my American friend, Greg of Recipes for Rebels, put me right, but sceptical that the potato would work on its own without a binding agent. I now know that the secret is just to take time and not rush them. Eventually, the separate strands of potato sort of 'make friends' and join together.)

And finally, "What kind of pie?"
From searching 'Diner Pie' online, it seems that an American-style Apple Pie will fit the bill nicely.


500g dessert pastry
3 cooking apples.
2tbsp lemon juice
150g sugar + an additional tbsp
2tbsp plain flour + extra for rolling
2tbsp cornflour
1tsp nutmeg
1tsp cinnamon
60ml apple juice
1 egg

Divide the pastry. 
Retain 1/3 and roll out the other 2/3 on a lightly floured surface.
Lightly butter a pie dish and then line with the pastry. It doesn’t have to be neat, but make sure it overlaps the sides. 
Then chill while you prepare the filling.
Peel, core and slice the apples. Place in a bowl and add the lemon juice.
In another bowl, mix the sugar, flours and spices. 
Add to the apple and stir until all the pieces are coated. 
Boil the apple juice and pour this over, mixing all together.
Divide the rest of the pastry into sections. Roll each one out into rough rectangles so that you can cut strips. Make them of equal width rather than of equal size.
Take the pastry dish out of the fridge and fill with the apple mixture.
Place pastry strips over the top. 
Trim the ends and crimp the edges with a fork.
Whisk the egg with 1tbsp of water and brush over the top of all the pastry. Sprinkle over the remaining sugar.
Cook in oven at 190°C/ 375°F/ Gas 5 for about 50 minutes.
Allow to cool.
Then cut into slices.

So, if you find yourself alone, on a late night out, come to Zelda's Diner. 

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