Fran’s Favorites: Recipes from Ohio first ladies

By Fran DeWine

I spent a little time this week going through the cookbooks at the governor’s residence. Of course there was Betty Crocker, Joy of Cooking, some cookbooks for cooking for a crowd, and lots of little cookbooks from counties and clubs throughout Ohio. I looked for special recipes we might serve at the governor’s residence, hoping to uncover recipes that other first ladies had served. I did a little research and found some fun favorites of all of our Ohio first ladies.

Governor C. William O’Neill’s family was the first to live in the residence. The house was built in 1925 by the Jeffrey family, and was offered to the state for use as an executive residence in 1955. O’Neill was the first governor to occupy the executive residence. He and his wife Betty had two young children and lots of pets, so the house was a lively place. Ruth Lyons even broadcast a live episode of the Fifty-Fifty Club from the residence.

I found lots of fun recipes that Mrs. O’Neill made like homemade gum drops and her husband’s favorite Scalloped Oysters, but the one that I am going to make and share with you today is her recipe for Extra Chewy Dreamy Chocolate Bars.

Extra Chewy Dreamy Chocolate Bars

Step 1: Bottom layer

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Sift together:

1 cup flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

Work in 1/2 cup butter until the mixture has a pie crust consistency.

2. Pat mixture in bottom of buttered 9” x 13” baking pan and bake at 350° until slightly brown. While “crust” is baking, prepare top layer.

Step 2: Top layer

1. Mix together:

1 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon blaking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 eggs beaten

2. Pour and spread this mixture evenly over bottom layer in pan, and bake at 350° until brown, about 20 to 25 minutes.

3. When cool, cut into bars and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Makes approximately 24 bars.

* * *

In 1958, Michael V. DiSalle was elected governor. First Lady Myrtle DiSalle was not sure she wanted to move into the residence. She described it as “hardly a cozy nest.” The DiSalles had five adult children and lots of grandkids so it was a great gathering place for them all. Two of their daughters held their beautiful wedding receptions in the backyard.

The staff at the time the DiSalles lived in the house were inmates of the Ohio Penitentiary, most of whom were serving life sentences for murder! The DiSalles were at first very uncomfortable with this arrangement. But in time they formed strong friendships with the men. Mrs. DiSalle taught these men, who had no kitchen experience, how to cook!

Mrs. DiSalle loved to cook Italian dishes but she said, “I am a cook who never measures, but I’ve had so many requests for this recipe that I had to figure out my ingredients exactly so as to mimeograph it for my friends.” She describes this recipe for Pasta Fagioli as her favorite “omnium-gatherum” dish. She said, “This is an excellent fast day dish and needs only a tossed salad and hot rolls to complete the menu.”

So I’m going to try both of these recipes, and if you just happen to be by the residence next week, these two dishes might be on the menu!

Pasta Fagioli

1 garlic clove minced

1/2 cup olive oil

2 1/2 cups canned Italian tomatoes, pear type

1 teaspoon oregano

black pepper to taste

a sprig of crumbled fresh parsley

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 pound marrowfat beans (Cannellini beans are better if available)

1 pound straight macaroni broken, or sea shells

Mince garlic and brown in olive oil. Mash tomatoes and add seasonings. Simmer 2 1/2 hours. Boil one pound marrowfat beans until soupy and tender. (This could take all day; but Cannellini beans will cook in three hours.) Cook macaroni, drain and mix with beans and tomato sauce in one big bowl.

By Fran DeWine