Musings about Food & the Politics of Food.

TartQueen's Kitchen



Pickled Okra 0

Posted on June 19, 2017 by Sahar

 

Pickled Okra. Big and little.

Here in Central Texas, okra season is in full swing. Because the growing season here is so long, okra is essentially available from June through roughly October or until the first frost.

Pickled okra is a great Texas, and throughout the southern US, food tradition.  Every southern grandma seems to have a recipe.

People either love or hate okra. The main complaint about okra is the “slime” factor.  The slime is called “mucilage” (sounds gross, I know).  It is the result of protein and carbohydrates in the okra pods and leaves.  If you’ve ever had a thick gumbo, thank the mucilage.  When the pods are cut and cooked with liquid, the okra tends to become slimy.  The way to avoid this is to cook the okra whole; the best way to do this is over direct heat and pan roast (this is delicious, by the way).

There is a subtle yet distinct difference between pickling and fermentation.  Pickling is the process of preserving food in a highly acidic medium (usually vinegar).  Fermentation generally starts with salt as a starter and allows what is being fermented to create its own acidic liquid (lactic acid).  Fermentation is generally considered the healthier of the two processes because the lactic acid helps with the digestive process.

In short, pickling is controlled preservation while fermentation is controlled rot (but in a good way).

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A few notes on the recipe:

  1.  The type of okra I use in the recipe is called Emerald King.  It is more tender and less stringy than other types of okra.  While you can use any type of okra you prefer or have access to, I’ve used this because it’s what Carol Ann grows at Boggy Creek Farm.
  2. The reason pickling salt is used is to help draw moisture from the item being pickled.  It is a very fine grain pure salt that contains no iodine or anti-caking additives.  If needed, you can use kosher salt (but be sure it is pure). Because table salt contains additives, you shouldn’t use it in pickling or fermenting.
  3. Another way to help keep your pickles from becoming mushy over time (and they will as the initial heating as well as the acidic environment chemically cooking your pickles), you can use either fig or grape leaves.  These leaves contain natural alum that help to draw moisture from the pickles. You can also use up to 1/4 teaspoon of alum per quart of liquid if fresh leaves are not available.
  4. You can also use half & half white/apple cider vinegar or all white vinegar if you prefer.  Just be sure you use 5% acidity vinegar.  There is 9% white vinegar available (mainly in Texas and parts of the South), but it is used mainly for cleaning, not food.  Be sure to look at the label carefully.
  5. While I have included a pickling spice recipe, you can adjust this one to your taste or use whatever pickling spice blend you prefer.

 

The Ingredients

 

6 1-pint regular-mouth jars with lids and rims, washed

Pickling Spice:

1 tbsp. Red Pepper Flakes

1 tbsp. Mustard Seed

1 tbsp. Coriander Seed

1 tbsp. Black Peppercorns

2 tsp. Allspice

1 tsp. Fennel Seed

Clockwise from top left: red pepper flakes, lemon slices, black pepper corns, coriander seed, fennel seed, bay leaves, whole allspice, brown mustard seeds, garlic cloves

 

3 lbs. Okra, washed and caps trimmed

Emerald King Okra with tops trimmed

3 c. Apple Cider Vinegar

3 c. Water

3 tbsp. Pickling Salt

8-12 peeled whole garlic cloves, optional

Lemon Slices, optional

Fresh Grape or Fig Leaves

Fresh grape leaves

 

In a small bowl, mix the pickling spices together.  Set aside.

Place a jar rack inside a large canning pot and fill it with water.  Set the jars in the rack and make sure the water is at least 1″ above the tops of the jars. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil.  Turn down the heat to medium-low and let the water continue to simmer. Place the lids in a small saucepan of simmering water and let sit. (Don’t bring the water with the lids to a boil; it will melt the seal.)

Meanwhile, make the brine.  Combine the vinegar, water, and pickling salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to low and allow the brine to stay hot while you fill the jars.

Carefully remove the jars from the canning pot, making sure to drain all the water out of them. (I like to put the jars on a baking sheet lined with a towel for easier transport across the kitchen.)

In a bottom of each jar, place 1-2 grape or fig leaves (depending on size), a lemon slice (if using), and 1 tablespoon of the pickling spice. Carefully pack the okra in the jars, alternating tips up or down so that the okra interlocks and you’re able to pack as much in as possible. If you’re using garlic cloves, be sure to pack those in as you can in amongst the okra.

Leaves, spice blend, and lemon in the jar.

A few top down.

A few top up. You want to get as many in the jar as you can. It will save on brine and help limit air bubbles.  Air, in this case, is the enemy. Plus, more goodness in the jar. I swear there are garlic cloves in there somewhere.

Slowly and carefully pour in the hot brine in each jar, leaving 1/2-inch head space.  Use a wooden or plastic chopstick or the end of your headspace tool to remove any air bubbles.  Once you have done that, measure the headspace again and add more brine if necessary.

Wipe the rims of the jars, place the lids on top, and screw on the rings so they’re hand-tight.  Carefully place the jars back into the canning pot, making sure the water is at least 1″ above the tops of the jars, cover the pot, and bring the water to a boil.  Process the jars for 10 minutes starting when the water comes to a boil.

After you have processed the jars, carefully remove them from the water and place on racks to cool.  If the jars seal (you will hear a “pop” as the lids seal), tighten the rings.  If the jar doesn’t seal, you can simply put the jar in the fridge and eat it within 2-3 weeks.

Either way, let the pickles sit for at least a week before eating.

Classic Southern Delicacy.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken Fried Steak with Cream Gravy 0

Posted on August 18, 2015 by Sahar

Few foods scream “TEXAS” louder than Chicken Fried Steak. Along with Chili (The Official State Dish of Texas), few things cause more arguments amongst friends and rivals over whose is the best.

By the way, Chicken Fried Steak is the Official State Dish of Oklahoma. Go figure.

The origins of Chicken Fried Steak are a little murky, but conventional wisdom generally believes German immigrants to Texas in the early- to mid- 19th Century invented Chicken Fried Steak as a way to not only enjoy something similar to the Viennese/German dish Wienerschnitzel (traditionally a breaded and fried veal cutlet), but also to make tough cuts of beef palatable. (As we know, bovine back then weren’t the chemically enhanced behemoths we know and eat today; they were just as hardscrabble as the land and the people living on it.)

Another story is that it was accidentally invented by a short order cook in Lamesa, Texas, in 1911. When a waitress turned in an order for “chicken, fried steak”, the cook, Jimmy Don Perkins, misread it. He dipped the steak in the fried chicken batter, and a legend was born.

One of my favorite food writers, Robb Walsh, describes 3 different types of Chicken Fried Steak in his book, Texas Eats:  1) The Southern/East Texas version is dipped in egg and then flour, similar to the way Southern fried chicken is prepared; 2) Central Texas’s version is made with bread crumbs rather than flour, much like Weinerschnitzel; 3) A West Texas version that is made without dipping the meat in egg; this is related to what cowboys called pan-fried steak.

Robb Walsh also talks about the three most common ways people mess up a Chicken Fried Steak: 1) Over- or Under-seasoning  – “If you use a salty seasoned flour for the batter, the steaks end up too salty. Underseasoning is just as bad. Even the batter on a perfectly cooked steak can taste pasty if it isn’t seasoned”; 2) Too much tenderizing – The ratio of batter to meat is crucial, and it’s determined by the thickness of the meat. If you pound the meat too flat, the steak is all batter and the steak is overcooked by the time the crust is done [this also leads to the meat shrinking in the crust].” ; and, 3) Overheating the oil – To cook a Chicken Fried Steak so the crust is golden and the meat is cooked trough, it is critical to keep the temperature of the oil at around 350F.

 

My recipe is much like the Southern/East Texas Version. It’s what I grew up eating and the one that most people know.

 

A few notes:

1.  The best cut of meat for a chicken fried steak is going to be round steak. It’s a flavorful, lean, and relatively cheap cut of beef. You can buy it in the grocery already tenderized (where it may also be called “cube steak”). If you buy it un-tenderized, you’ll need to do it yourself with a tenderizing mallet. It looks like a square hammer with spikes on each end of the mallet’s head. You very likely have one in the recesses of your knife drawer.

2.  It’s best to have everything at room temperature before you start. This way, everything cooks at the same speed and there will be less chance of the meat being cooked improperly.

3.  You don’t want to have too much breading on your steak. If you have too much breading, it’ll take too long for it to cook all the way through and the steak will overcook and shrink.

4.  Correct fat temperature is important when frying. If the oil is too cool, the breading will soak up the oil and you end up with a greasy steak. If it’s too hot, the coating will burn before the meat is cooked. The fat but come to a full sizzle when you put the steaks in.  Proper frying temperatures help seal the coating and keep as much of the oil out as possible while still cooking everything evenly.

5.  This goes for overcrowding the skillet, too. Don’t do it. The oil temperature will drop too much and the steaks won’t cook properly.

6.  Purists will be appalled, but if you like, you can substitute chicken (Chicken Fried Chicken) or pork (Chicken Fried Pork) in place of the beef.

7.  Speaking of appalled purists, I genreally do my frying in an electric skillet. It’s much easier for me to control the temperature of the oil. Purists, however, will insist on using a cast iron skillet. It’s up to you.

8.  You have to have gravy. Period. There are no exceptions to this rule.

 

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The Ingredients

Peanut Oil, Vegetable Oil, Shortening, or Lard for frying

2 c. all-purpose flour

1 tbsp. salt

1 tbsp. black pepper

1 tbsp. garlic powder

2 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste

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Clockwise from top left: salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder

1 1/2 c. buttermilk

2 large eggs

6 ea. 6 – 8 oz. tenderized round steaks

 

1.  Mix together the flour and spices in a large, shallow bowl or on a large plate.  Set aside.

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The spices waiting to be mixed into the flour.

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Done. Be sure to mix as thoroughly as possible; especially if your spices (esp. the cayenne) are a little lumpy.

Beat together the buttermilk and eggs in a large bowl.  Set aside.

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Eggs and buttermilk batter. Be sure that you beat the eggs thoroughly so the whites are completely broken down and incorporated.

2.  Take each steak and dip it first in the flour and lightly coat.  Be sure to shake off any excess.

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The first dip. This will help the batter adhere to the steak.

Next, dip the steak in the batter and coat completely. Take the steak out of the batter and allow the extra liquid to dip off.

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Make sure the steak is completely submerged in the batter.

Dip the steak back into the flour and evenly coat all over.  You want to be sure there aren’t any wet spots.

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Nicely coated.

Shake off any excess flour.  Lay the steaks out in a single layer on a rack. (This will help allow air circulation around the steaks and help keep them fairly dry.)

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The steaks on a rack. If there are any wet spots, be sure to sprinkle a little flour on them.

3.  Have a 1″ depth of fat in a large skillet. Heat the fat to 375F, or until flour sprinkled in the oil immediately sizzles (but doesn’t burn) or a drop of water will make the oil pop (be careful of oil spatter).

4.  Once the oil has heated to the correct temperature, take the steaks, no more than 2 at a time, for 5 – 7 minutes total, turning once.  The temperature will immediately drop once you put in the steaks, so be sure to adjust the temperature as necessary to keep the fat at 350F.  (This is the optimal temperature to cook the steaks without making the batter soggy or overcooking the batter before the meat is done.)

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Don’t overcrowd the pan. The temperature of the oil will drop too far and will result in a soggy, greasy steak.

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After flipping. You only want to flip once to maintain the crust.

Take the finished steaks out of the oil and either place back on the rack to drain (my preferred method) or place on paper towels to drain.

After each batch is done, raise the heat back up to 375F before adding the next batch. Again, after adding the steaks to the fat, be sure to keep the temperature at 350F.

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Well, hello.

After the steaks are done, carefully drain off all but 1/4 c. of the drippings and saving any cracklings that may be in the skillet and make the gravy.

 

A note on the gravy: A good gravy can enhance your Chicken Fried Steak and a bad gravy can ruin it. You want a thick, creamy texture (but not pasty), a deep flavor (there are few things worse than a lumpy, bland, pasty gravy), and just the right amount of seasoning (over-salting is a common mistake).

Making good gravy is something that takes patience and practice. If you make this recipe for the first time and are a little unsure, just serve it on the side. You’ll do better next time.

 

Cream Gravy

1/4 c. pan dripping (if you have some nice cracklings too, great)

1/4 c. flour

2 c. whole milk, room temperature or warm

1 tbsp. black pepper

1 tsp. salt, or to taste

 

IMG_5873

The drained skillet. I left some of the browned flour in with the fat. Just be sure that anything you leave in the skillet isn’t burnt.

1.  Heat the pan drippings over medium heat (about 350F if you’re using an electric skillet).  Add the flour and make a roux.  You’re looking for something between a blonde- and peanut butter- colored roux.

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Adding the flour.

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Making the roux. You don’t want the roux too dark because the darker the flour, the less thickening strength it will have.

2.  Whisk in the milk and cook the gravy until it smooths out and thickens. Whisk in the salt and pepper.  Taste for seasoning.  If you want a thinner gravy, add a bit more milk.

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Whisking in the milk. Be sure to whisk constantly at this point so the roux and milk are completely incorporated.

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A nice, smooth, not-too-thick not-too-thin cream gravy.

3.  Serve over (or next to) the Chicken Fried Steak and whatever else is on the plate.

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The classic serving suggestion: Chicken Fried Steak, Mashed Potatoes, Greens (in this case, Kale).

 

Now I’m hungry.

 

 

 

Pasta alla Puttanesca 0

Posted on March 25, 2015 by Sahar

 

I have to admit, sometimes, in this wanna-be low-carb world, I just want to enjoy a big bowl of pasta. It’s quick, easy, satisfying, and filling. But, of course, as always and most importantly, delicious.

So, I’m going to introduce you to one of my & Husband Steve’s favorite pasta dishes. Pasta alla Puttanesca.

 

Pasta alla Puttanesca literally translates into “Whores’ Pasta”.  Its origin myths are a bit murky, but by most accounts, it’s a dish that dates back only about 50 – 60 years and was most likely created in southern Italy.

Some say the dish was invented by an Italian restaurateur who had an influx of customers near closing time one evening and threw together what he had left over – some olives, tomatoes, and peppers. Another origin story is that is was named “puttanesca” because it was easy and everything went into it. A third story is “decent” Italian housewives made this sauce with whatever they had laying around and threw it at ladies of the night while screaming “puttana!”.

I’m not so sure about the third one. But, who knows?

 

This is an easy dish.  From prep to eating, it takes no more than 45 minutes.

A few notes:

1.  Since there are no true hard and fast rules for this dish – except that it must have the tomatoes, olives, and peppers – you can add or remove ingredients as you like.  That being said, I like to think I’ve at least stayed with the spirit of the original recipe.

2.  Some recipes have anchovies, some don’t. If you want to make this dish vegetarian/vegan, certainly omit the anchovies.

3.  It’s also very important to at least roughly chop the olives.  Even if you do buy olives that say “pitted”, pits will happen.  The chopping will help you find any before your guests or family do.

4.  Be sure to taste the finished sauce before adding any additional salt. The olives are in brine, the anchovies are salted, and the capers are either in brine or salt.  While you can rinse the excess saltiness off the olives and capers, some salt will still be there.

5.  Occasionally, I like to use some of the oil from the anchovy jar with the olive oil. I really like anchovies.

 

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

From top left: red pepper flakes, salt-cured capers, olive oil, garlic, anchovies

From top left: red pepper flakes, salt-cured capers, olive oil, garlic, anchovies

It's important to at least roughly chop the olives, even if they're pitted. Sometimes, pits will still happen. It's better you find them during prep than your family or guests to find them during dinner.

It’s important to at least roughly chop the olives, even if they’re pitted. Sometimes, pits will still happen. It’s better you find them during prep than your family or guests to find them during dinner.

 

 

1 lb. spaghetti

2 tbsp. olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

8 – 10 anchovy filets, minced

1 tsp. red pepper flakes, or to taste

1 28-oz. can chopped tomatoes (with their juice)

1 1/2 c. pitted black or mixed black and green olives, roughly chopped

2 tbsp. capers, rinsed

Salt to taste

 

Parmesan, fresh grated

 

 

1.  Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Drain and set aside.

2.  In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic, pepper flakes, and anchovies.  Saute for 1 – 2 minutes.

Sauteing the garlic, red pepper flakes, and anchovies. The anchovies will melt right down. Lovely.

Sauteing the garlic, red pepper flakes, and anchovies. The anchovies will melt right down. Lovely.

3.  Add the tomatoes, capers, and olives.  Lower the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  You want some of the liquid from the tomatoes to evaporate and the sauce to thicken slightly.

Adding the tomatoes, capers, and olives.

Adding the tomatoes, capers, and olives.

 

4.  Take the skillet off the heat and toss the spaghetti in the sauce.  Taste for salt (you’ll very likely not need it).

Tossing the pasta with the sauce. Take your time with this step. You want to be sure to coat the pasta and mix in everything as thoroughly as possible.

Tossing the pasta with the sauce. Take your time with this step. You want to be sure to coat the pasta and mix in everything as thoroughly as possible.

 

Serve with a generous helping of Parmesan.

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Buon Appetito!

 

Oyster Stew 0

Posted on March 09, 2015 by Sahar

 

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It’s been a seemingly unending winter here in Central Texas. At least our version of it. Damp & chilly with the occasional freeze and subsequent public freak-out.

So, seeking out “hearty” comfort foods to try to ignore Winter’s lingering visit is simply human nature. In that spirit, I decided on Oyster Stew for dinner last week.

I suppose one could call this a chowder.  It certainly has some milk (my preferred chowder base) in the broth. However, this recipe only uses 1 cup of milk, is thickened with a roux, and doesn’t have any bacon or salt pork in the recipe as traditional chowders do.

I do serve it with oyster crackers, though.

 

Note: In this example, I did use clam juice.  It has a fairly neutral flavor and is readily available.

If you do use a commercial seafood-based stock, be careful of how much salt you add.  Commercial stocks, especially seafood, can be salty.  Some of it is simply from the natural saltiness of the seafood and some is from the addition of salt during manufacturing.

 

The Ingredients. (Not pictured: Milk)

The Ingredients. (Not pictured: Milk)

From top left: salt, Old Bay, pepper, thyme

From top left: salt, Old Bay, pepper, thyme

2 tbsp. vegetable oil or butter

1 stalk celery, finely diced (about 1/4 cup)

1 small onion, finely diced (about 3/4 cup)

1 lb. Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes

2 tsp. dried thyme

1 tbsp. Old Bay Seasoning, or to taste

4 c. fish stock, shellfish stock, or clam juice (or, in a pinch, chicken broth or water)

4 tbsp. butter

4 tbsp. flour

1 1/2 pt. oysters (keep any oyster liquor [juice] – it will be added with the milk)

A beautiful oyster from Quality Seafood. I was assured by the fishmonger that the red was simply the color of the food they were filtering - not Red Tide.

A beautiful oyster from Quality Seafood Market. I was assured by the fishmonger that the red was simply the color of the food they were filtering – not Red Tide. It’s too cold for Red Tide in this hemisphere right now, anyway.

I generally remove the connective muscle from the oyster because I don't like the texture.  It's easy to remove; just pull it out. However, you can keep it in if you like.

The oyster with its connective muscle removed. I generally remove this from the oyster because I don’t like the texture. It’s easy to remove; just pull it out (try not to take too much of the oyster meat with it). However, you can keep it in if the texture doesn’t bother you. To see the muscle in the oyster, look at the above photo. It’s opaque and plastic-looking.

Juice of 1 lemon

1 c. milk or half-and-half

Salt & Pepper to taste

 

1.  In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter or heat the oil.  Add the celery and onion and saute until the vegetables are soft but not browned, about 3 – 5 minutes.

Sauteing the onion and celery.

Sauteing the onion and celery.

2.  Add the potatoes and continue sauteing just until the potatoes begin to warm up, about 3 – 5 minutes.

Adding the potatoes. While I generally don't like to use Russets in soups, they are the best potato to use for stews and chowders. It's their starchy quality.

Adding the potatoes. While I generally don’t like to use Russets in soups, they are the best potato to use for stews and chowders. It’s their starchy quality that just works for these dishes.

Add the thyme, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, and the Old Bay Seasoning.  Stir until the vegetables are coated with the seasonings.

The spices and thyme added.

The spices and thyme added.

3.  Add the stock or broth.  Cover the saucepan and bring the liquid to a boil.  Once the liquid comes to a boil, uncover the saucepan, turn the heat down to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are soft, about 30 minutes.

Adding the clam juice

Adding the clam juice

After about 20 minutes of boiling. The potaoes are just about done.

After about 20 minutes of boiling. The potatoes are just about done and the broth has thickened slightly.

4.  Meanwhile, make the roux.  In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the flour and stir until it is mixed thoroughly with the butter.  Stir over the heat for an additional 2 minutes.  Take the skillet off the heat and set aside.

Making the roux. You want to stop at a blonde roux.

Making the roux. You want to stop at a blonde roux.

5.  When the potatoes are done, add the roux, lemon juice, milk, and oysters (along with their liquor).  Continue cooking until the milk is heated through, the stew is thickened a bit more, and the oysters are cooked, about 5 – 7 minutes.

Adding the rest of the ingredients.

Adding the rest of the ingredients.

The stew has thickened up. Try not to let it come to a full rolling boil. A few bubbles on the surface is fine, but you run the risk of overcooking the oysters and curdling the milk if you let the stew boil.

The stew has thickened up. Try not to let it come to a full rolling boil. A few bubbles on the surface is fine, but you run the risk of overcooking the oysters and curdling the milk if you let the stew boil.

Taste for seasoning and serve with crackers.

Nothing like a nice stew on a cold night.

Nothing like a nice warm stew on a cold night.

 

Enjoy!

My Eating Locally Project 2015: February 0

Posted on February 28, 2015 by Sahar

Well, life kinda got in the way this month with illness and travel playing rather large parts.  So, my shopping month was a bit more truncated than I would’ve liked. But, one must roll with the (figurative) punches.

 

I really stayed with three places in February: Springdale FarmBoggy Creek Farm, and SFC Downtown Farmers Market.

There wasn’t a whole lot new this month. The winter produce is still coming in: root vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, dark greens, lettuces, and citrus. I’m certainly not complaining; I love my winter produce. But, I will say, I am looking forward to what the spring will be bringing.

I did expand a bit beyond just produce and bought some amazing meats and eggs. The meats were definitely splurge items. But, given the flavor and quality, the occasional outlay is worth it.

 

Wed., Feb 4.

For my first forays into the new month, I decided on two old familiars, Boggy Creek and Springdale Farms. I not only love both these places for the obvious reasons – fresh organic produce, fresh eggs & dairy, locally made products, homemade treats  – but also for the quiet they offer in a city growing way too fast.

My first stop was Boggy Creek Farm. Along with the produce, I stretched myself this time and splurged on some excellent lamb chops and eggs.

My haul from Boggy Creek: Eggs from Coyote Creek Farm, Lamb Chops from Loncitos, Maria's Brassica Salad, Baby Lettuce Mix, Romanesco

My haul from Boggy Creek: Eggs from Coyote Creek Farm, Lamb Chops from Loncito Cartwright, Maria’s Brassica Salad, Baby Lettuce Mix, Romanesco (Italian cauliflower)

Nothing like farm-fresh eggs.

Nothing like farm-fresh eggs. It said “large” on the carton. But, I swear some were jumbos.

Personally, I think Romanesco is one of the most beautiful vegetables .

Personally, I think Romanesco is one of the most beautiful vegetables .

More Romanesco. It grows thick and fast this time of year.

More Romanesco. It grows thick and fast this time of year.

The broccoli table.

The broccoli and cabbage table.

Jeweled carrots.

Jeweled carrots.

Boggy Creek's salad mixes.

Boggy Creek’s salad mixes.

Collards and Kale.

Collards and Kale.

FYI

FYI

Spring trying to sneak in.

Spring trying to sneak in.

Lettuces in the one of the fields at Boggy Creek.

Lettuces in the one of the fields at Boggy Creek.

 

My next destination was Springdale Farm. I didn’t buy quite as much there. They did have garlic chives again, though. Yea!

Even if I don’t buy much, I love to simply go to the farm and look around. It’s a great place to simply look at the farm, the chickens, and the yard art and meditate a little.

My haul from Springdale Farm: Beets, Savoy Cabbage, Garlic Chives

My haul from Springdale Farm: Beets, Savoy Cabbage, Garlic Chives

Radishes

Radishes, Savoy Cabbage, Frisee, Turnips, and flowers in jars.

Carrots galore.

Carrots galore.

Some of the fields and yard art at the farm.

Some of the fields and yard art at the farm.

Field of dill.

Rows of dill.

baby broccoli in the field.

baby broccoli in the field.

Looking to the back of the farmstand.

Looking to the back of the farm stand.

One of the other delights at Springdale is Eden East Restaurant. It’s a reservation-only, weekend-only restaurant. They use only locally sourced ingredients in their dishes.  As a result, no menu is the same week-to-week.

Admittedly, I haven’t eaten there yet. I’ve promised myself that I’ll make reservations for Husband & me soon. I know people who have eaten there and they all say the same thing – it’s an incredible experience.

By the way, it’s BYOB.

The kitchen and seating at Eden East.

The kitchen and seating at Eden East.

Love the stove.

Love the stove.

 

Sat., Feb. 14

In anticipation of Husband Steve coming home from a business trip, I headed out to the Downtown Farmers Market to stock up on a few groceries for the weekend.

It was still chilly, but certainly warmer than my last visit in January.  At least none of the vendors looked like they were going to freeze.

Starting to list my haul from SFC Market: Chicken from Smith & Smith Farms.

Chicken from Smith & Smith Farms. I hit a week where they didn’t have fresh chickens available. Still, this one was no more than a few days from the yard,

Phoenix Farms. I bought some gorgeous Brussels Sprouts here.

Phoenix Farms. I bought some gorgeous Brussels Sprouts here. Their produce was lovely.

Beautiful Brussels Sprouts.

Beautiful Brussels Sprouts. They comprised part of Saturday Night’s dinner.

The cruciferous vegetables at Phoenix Farms.

The broccoli, cauliflower, and Romanesco at Phoenix Farms.

Red Lettuce at Phoenix Farms.

Red Lettuce at Phoenix Farms.

Kitchen Pride Mushrooms. A brand many of us are familiar with.

Kitchen Pride Mushrooms. A brand many of us are familiar with.

Criminis. Always good.

Criminis. Always good.

One of my favorite stands - Johnson's Backyard Garden.

One of my favorite stands – Johnson’s Backyard Garden.

My haul from JBG: Collard Greens, Radishes, Sweet Potatoes, Rutabaga, Celery Root

My haul from JBG: Collard Greens, Radishes, Sweet Potatoes, Rutabaga, Celery Root. I was so happy; I rarely see celery root.

White and Gold Cauliflower. JBG.

White and Gold Cauliflower. JBG.

Rainbow of beets. JBG.

Rainbow of beets. JBG.

Wall of radishes. Try them roasted. JBG.

Wall of radishes. Try them roasted. JBG.

Rutabagas and Celery Root. Very underappreciated vegetables. JBG.

Rutabagas and Celery Root. Very underappreciated and underutilized vegetables. JBG.

Collards and sweet potatoes. A symbiotic relationship. JBG.

Collards and sweet potatoes. A symbiotic relationship. JBG.

This is quickly becoming another one of my favorite vendors - Countryside Farm.

This is quickly becoming another one of my favorite vendors – Countryside Farm. They specialize in pork and poultry and have some amazing artisan products.

Countryside Farm's stand. Beautiful artisan products.

Countryside Farm’s stand. Beautiful artisan products. They’re definitely a splurge.

Cheddar & Jalapeno Sausage. Countryside Farm.

Cheddar & Jalapeno Sausage. Countryside Farm. It was delicious.

Fresh Lard. Just because. Countryside Farm.

Fresh Lard. Just because. Countryside Farm.

Breakfast at Tamale Addiction.

Breakfast at Tamale Addiction.

Pork Pastor with Pineapple Tamales. They were delicious.

Pork Pastor with Pineapple Tamales. They were delicious. And big. Two was more than enough.

And, dinner that night…

Valentine's Dinner, if you will:

Valentine’s Dinner, if you will: Roast Chicken; Roasted Radishes, Rutabaga, Celery Root, and Brussels Sprouts; Simple White Rice

 

Wed., Feb, 25

For my final shopping trip, I went back to the old reliables, Boggy Creek and Springdale.  A lovely day, weather-wise, it was not. Every time I stepped out of the car it seemed to be colder.

My first stop this time was Springdale. They were bringing everything back into the farm stand from under a tent in the yard. I guess they just finished a cooking demo or a photo shoot.

Spring is trying to make an appearance.

Spring is trying to make an appearance. I promise, those flowers are purple.

Rose in the foreground, kale in the garden.

Rose in the foreground, kale in the garden.

Fennel,

Fennel, lettuce, oranges, carrots, beets

Green Garlic. I never used it before. I bought some anyway.

Green Garlic. I never used it before. I bought some anyway.

A big bin of green onions.

A big bin of green onions.

Some very pretty posies. Paula said what farm they were from, but I forgot the name.

Some very pretty posies. Paula said what farm they were from, but I forgot the name. I think she said the farm would be selling this vendor’s flowers come spring. So, there’s that.

One of Springdale Farm's chickens. The speckled hen is lovely in her own way.

One of Springdale Farm’s chickens. The speckled hen is lovely in her own way.

Some new additions to the henhouse. Paula told me these chicks are 2 weeks old. She had them in a warm room.

Some new additions to the hen house. Paula told me these chicks are 2 weeks old. She had them in a warm room next to the coop.

As Paula and I were talking about the chickens, I told her that I could watch them for hours. She replied, “We have them for three reasons: eggs, fertilizer, and as the entertainment committee.”

Excellent.

My Springdale haul: Green Garlic, Garlic Chives, Grapefruit, Chard, Mixed Baby Lettuce

My Springdale haul: Green Garlic, Garlic Chives, Grapefruit, Chard, Baby Lettuce Mix

After Springdale, I headed the roughly half mile over the Boggy Creek. While I didn’t take any photos in the farm stand that day, I did do some wandering around the grounds and took some there.

Red Lettuce growing next to the parking lot. I have to say, Carol Ann & Larry have a lot of faith in their customers not driving into the field.

Red Lettuce growing next to the parking lot. I have to say, Carol Ann & Larry have a lot of faith in their customers not driving into the field.

Frisee in a row.

Green puffs of frisee in a row.

Some lovely red lettuce.

Some lovely red lettuce. Ignore the hose.

One of my favorite spots at Boggy Creek. The bench looking at the fields. When the vines are flowering, it's gorgeous.

One of my favorite spots at Boggy Creek. The bench looking at the fields. When the vines are flowering, it’s gorgeous.

Fields of

Fields of broccoli (I think)

Some of Boggy Creek's chickens.

Some of Boggy Creek’s always busy chickens.

Boggy Creek haul, part one: Dine Kale, Brassica Salad, Sweet Poataoes

Boggy Creek haul, part one: Dino Kale, Brassica Salad, Sweet Potatoes

New York Strip from Deer Run Longhorns and ground lamb from Loncinto's Lamb

Boggy Creek haul, part two: New York Strip from Deer Run Longhorns and ground lamb from Loncinto’s Lamb

Cocao Hull Cocoa Powder from Organicare Farms.

Cocao Hull Cocoa Powder from Organicare Farms. I’ve never used this before, so I’m interested to see how it works and tastes. It smells divine, just like good chocolate should.

And, so… On to March.

******************************

As promised in January, here are two recipes using ingredients that I bought at the markets and stands this month.

 

Shrimp, cauliflower, ginger, garlic, and lime all have a natural flavor affinity with each other. So, I came up with this dish.  If you don’t have garlic chives, just substitute 2 – 3 cloves of minced garlic and add it to the skillet when you saute the ginger and shallot.

 

Apologies for the lack of pictures with this recipe. The taking of photos was pretty much an afterthought that night.  Not sure why.

 

Shrimp & Romanesco

4 tbsp. olive oil, divided

1 head Romanesco, cut into bite-sized pieces

1/4 c. water or broth

1 tbsp. ginger, minced

1 shallot, thinly sliced

2 lb. large shrimp, peeled & deveined

2 tbsp. garlic chives

Lime juice to taste

Salt & Pepper to taste

 

1.  In a large skillet over medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, saute the Romanesco for 5 minutes.  Add the water or broth, cover the skillet, lower the heat to medium, and steam the Romanesco until it is slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally.

2.  Take the cover off the skillet and continue cooking until the Romanesco has started to brown in spots.  Take it out of the skillet and set aside.

Cooking the Romanesco

Cooking the Romanesco

3.  Turn the heat back up to medium-high, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of the oil to the skillet and heat.  Saute the ginger and shallot until the shallot is soft, 2 – 3 minutes.

4.  Add the shrimp and cook, stirring frequently, until the shrimp are opaque and pink, about 7 – 10 minutes.

Cooking the shrimp.

Cooking the shrimp. Be sure not to let it overcook.

Add back in the Romanesco, chives, lime juice, and salt & pepper.  Cook another 2 – 3 minutes. taste for seasoning.

Everything back in the skillet.

Everything back in the skillet.

Serve with white or brown rice.

Dinner is served.

Dinner is served.

 

 

 

This is a recipe that is a nod to my German half.

Again, looking at flavor affinities, apples, carrots, and cabbage all work well together. The anise of the caraway and tang of the vinegar are what gives this dish its German pedigree.

Plus, this slaw is great with pork.  Very German.

 

Warm Cabbage & Apple Slaw

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

4 tbsp. butter or grapeseed oil

1/2 tsp. caraway seeds

1 small Savoy cabbage, about 1 lb., shredded (in this example, I have 2 heads. They were very small and added up to 1 lb. together)

The shredded cabbage. It's easy to do: just cut the cabbage in half, and, with the cut side down, thinly slice the cabbage. Instant shreds.

The shredded cabbage. It’s easy to do: just cut the cabbage in half, and, with the cut side down, thinly slice the cabbage. Instant shreds.

2 tsp. brown sugar

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/4’s, and sliced into 1/4″ thick slices

1 lg. carrot, grated

Apples and cabbage ready for the skillet.

Apples and cabbage ready for the skillet.

2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar, or to taste

salt & pepper to taste

 

 

1.  In a large skillet, either melt the butter or heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the caraway seeds and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Cooking the caraway seeds in the butter.

Cooking the caraway seeds in the butter.

2.  Add the cabbage, sugar, and 1 teaspoon of salt and cook until the cabbage is slightly wilted, about 7 – 10 minutes.

Cooking down the cabbage.  I like to use Savoy cabbage in this recipe because it cooks down fairly quickly and has a lighter flavor than regular green cabbage. I love green cabbage, but not for this dish.

Cooking down the cabbage. I like to use Savoy cabbage in this recipe because it cooks down fairly quickly and has a lighter flavor than regular green cabbage. I love green cabbage, but not for this dish.  I find it a little too bitter. I’ve not tried Napa Cabbage.

3.  Add the apples, carrot, apple cider vinegar, and a good pinch of pepper.  Cook until the cabbage and apples are soft but still has some bite.  Taste for seasoning.

Everything in the skillet. This is after about 10 minutes of cooking. The apples and cabbage are soft, but still with some bite.

Everything in the skillet. This is after about 10 minutes of cooking. The apples and cabbage are soft, but still with some bite.

 

I served this with the Cheddar & Jalapeno Sausage from

I served this with the Cheddar & Jalapeno Sausage from Countryside Farms. Husband Steve was a very happy man.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken Tortilla Soup 0

Posted on December 19, 2014 by Sahar

As I sit here on this rainy & chilly day, my mind and appetite turn to soup.

This recipe for Chicken Tortilla Soup is a hearty soup that is quick (especially if you use leftover or store-bought rotisserie chicken) and can be easily be made either ahead or after a day at work. Or, almost better yet, what to feed your family the day before a big holiday (hint, hint); this recipe can easily be doubled.

This soup is certainly a recipe that shouts TexMex at you. It  is certainly more Tex than Mex – mainly because Mexican cuisine doesn’t use blended chili powders. If any chile powders are used at all, they are of a single chile (i.e. ancho, guajillo).

This soup can also easily be made vegetarian by using vegetable broth and omitting the chicken. If you want the added protein, you can add beans, extra-firm tofu, seitan, tempeh, or even simply extra hominy in place of the chicken.

 

The ingredients (chicken broth not shown)

The ingredients (chicken broth not shown)

The hominy. I like to use both yellow and white. It's simply a personal preference. There's absolutely no difference in the flavor.

The hominy. I like to use both yellow and white. It’s simply a personal preference. There’s absolutely no difference in the flavor. For a brief explanation of what exactly hominy is, go here.

From top:

From top: grapeseed oil, cumin, Mexican oregano, black pepper, cayenne pepper, salt, San Antonio chili powder

 

2 tbsp. vegetable oil (you can also use grapeseed or canola oil)

1 small onion, minced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 small (4 oz.) can diced green chiles (hot or mild)

-or-

1 small  (7 oz.) can salsa verde

1 tbsp. chili powder (I like San Antonio blend)

1 tsp. Mexican oregano

1 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. cayenne

1 tsp. salt, more to taste

1 tsp. black pepper, more to taste

2 cans hominy, drained

1 15 oz. can chopped tomatoes (I like Muir Glen Fire Roasted)

4 c. chicken broth

4 c. cooked, shredded chicken

Lime juice, to taste

1/2 c. chopped cilantro

 

Vegetable oil for frying

 

The condiments

The condiments

 

Shredded Cabbage

Chopped Green Onion

Crispy Tortilla Strips

Lime Wedges

Sour Cream

 

 

1.  In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Saute the onion and garlic until the onion is soft, about 3-5 minutes.

Sauteing the onions and garlic.

Sauteing the onions and garlic.

Add the chiles or salsa verde and saute for another 2-3 minutes.

Adding the salsa verde. I used salsa in this recipe because it's what I had at home.

Adding the salsa verde. I used salsa in this recipe because it’s what I had at home. if you are using salsa, be sure to let it cook down by at least half.

2.  Add the chili powder, oregano, cumin, cayenne, salt, and pepper.  Saute for 1-2 minutes or until the fragrance comes up.

Adding the spices. be sure to stir pretty much constantly; you want the spices to have a scent (this means the oils are cooking). You want to take care not to burn them.

Adding the spices. Be sure to stir pretty much constantly; you want the spices to have a scent (this means the oils are cooking). You want to take care not to burn them.

Add the hominy and tomatoes and saute another 2-3 minutes.

Adding the tomatoes and hominy.

Adding the tomatoes and hominy.

3.  Add the chicken broth.

Adding the chicken broth. Once the soup is cooking, be sure to stir frequently to keep the hominy from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

Adding the chicken broth. Once the soup is cooking, be sure to stir frequently to keep the hominy from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

Cover the saucepan and bring the broth to a boil. Uncover, lower the heat to medium, and simmer for 30 minutes.  Taste for seasoning.

After 30 minutes. The soup should be somewhat thickened from the hominy.

After 30 minutes. The soup should be somewhat thickened from the hominy.

4.  While the soup is cooking, make the tortilla strips.  Take 6-8 tortillas and cut them into roughly 1/4-inch wide strips.

Tortilla strips. Be sure to use a very sharp knife so you can get even strips without tearing up the tortillas.

Tortilla strips. Be sure to use a very sharp knife so you can get even strips without tearing up the tortillas.

Be sure to separate them.  Heat a medium (9-inch) skillet with about 1/2-inch of vegetable oil over medium-high heat.  Test the oil by dropping a strip in the oil; it should immediately sizzle. Fry the strips in small batches until they are crispy.

Frying the strips. Be sure to keep them as separated as possible and fry in small batches. Frying the strips should take no more than 60 - 90 seconds per batch.

Frying the strips. Be sure to keep them as separated as possible and fry in small batches. Frying the strips should take no more than 60 – 90 seconds per batch.

Drain the strips on paper towels. (Alternately, you can simply serve the whole tortillas or tortilla chips on the side.)

The finished strips.

The finished strips.

5.  After the initial cooking time, add the chicken, lime juice, and cilantro.  Cook for a further 5 minutes.  Taste for seasoning.

Adding the chicken, cilantro, and lime juice. At this point you're simply heating the chicken through. Be sure to taste for seasoning.

Adding the chicken, cilantro, and lime juice. At this point you’re simply heating the chicken through. Be sure to taste for seasoning.

6.  Serve the soup with the tortilla strips, cabbage, green onion, extra lime wedges, and sour cream.

The finished soup. Pretty, huh?

The naked finished soup. it’s great just like this.

The fully dressed soup. Perfect for a chilly, rainy night.

The fully dressed soup. Perfect for a chilly, rainy night.

Enjoy!

Gingerbread 0

Posted on December 12, 2014 by Sahar

More than once when I’ve made gingerbread, my husband will come home and simply say, “It smells like Fall in here.” I take that as a compliment.

Gingerbread is a confectionary that has seemingly always been associated with Autumn and the Holidays.  In Medieval England, the term gingerbread simply meant ‘preserved ginger’. The name wasn’t for the desserts we’re familiar with until the 15th century.

According to Rhonda Massingham Hart’s Making Gingerbread Houses, the first known recipe for gingerbread came from Greece in 2400 BC. Chinese recipes were developed during the 10th century and by the late Middle Ages, Europeans had their own version of gingerbread. The hard cookies, sometimes gilded with gold leaf and shaped like animals, kings and queens, were a staple at Medieval fairs in England, France, Holland and Germany. Queen Elizabeth I is credited with the idea of decorating the cookies in this fashion, after she had some made to resemble the dignitaries visiting her court. Over time some of these festivals came to be known as Gingerbread Fairs, and the gingerbread cookies served there were known as ‘fairings.’ The shapes of the gingerbread changed with the season, including flowers in the spring and birds in the fall. Elaborately decorated gingerbread became synonymous with all things fancy and elegant in England. The gold leaf that was often used to decorate gingerbread cookies led to the popular expression ‘to take the gilt off of gingerbread.’ The carved, white architectural details found on many colonial American seaside homes is sometimes referred to as ‘gingerbread work’.

Gingerbread houses originated in Germany during the 16th century. The elaborate cookie-walled houses, decorated with foil in addition to gold leaf, became associated with Christmas tradition. Their popularity rose when the Brothers Grimm wrote the story of Hansel and Gretel, in which the main characters stumble upon a house made entirely of treats deep in the forest. It is unclear whether or not gingerbread houses were a result of the popular fairy tale, or vice versa.

Gingerbread arrived in the New World with English colonists. The cookies were sometimes used to sway Virginia voters to favor one candidate over another. The first American cookbook, American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, has recipes for three types of gingerbread including the soft variety baked in loaves:

Soft gingerbread to be baked in pans.

No. 2. Rub three pounds of sugar, two pounds of butter, into four pounds of flour, add 20 eggs, 4 ounces ginger, 4 spoons rosewater, bake as No. 1.

This softer version of gingerbread was more common in America. George Washington’s mother, Mary Ball Washington, served her recipe for gingerbread to the Marquis de Lafayette when he visited her Fredericksburg, Virginia home. Since then it was known as Gingerbread Lafayette. The confection was passed down through generations of Washingtons.

(Source: History of Gingerbread, The History Kitchen, Tori Avey)

**********

A main ingredient in gingerbread is molasses.  It is basically the leftovers of the sugar making process after the sugar crystals have been removed during boiling.

There are several different types of molasses comercially available: Light Molasses, Dark Molasses, Blackstrap Molasses, Sulphured Molasses, and Unsulphured Molasses.

Grandma's is a good, consistent brand of molasses that's readily available at just about every grocery. It's an unsulphured light molasses.

Grandma’s is a good, consistent brand of molasses that’s readily available at just about every grocery. It’s an unsulphured light molasses. Plus, the company sponsors an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee. I’m all about that.

You may be asking yourself, what’s the difference? Or, you may not be.  But, I’m going to tell you anyway.

Light Molasses:  This comes from the first boiling of the sugarcane is generally the sweetest of the molasses. it is also known as “Barbados”, “Sweet”, “Mild”, or “First” molasses.  This molasses is generally used in baking, marinades, rubs, and sauces

Dark Molasses: This comes from the second boiling and after more sugar is extracted. It is generally thicker and less sweet.  it can also be called “Full” or “Second” molasses.  It can be used interchangeably with light molasses for most uses.  It is most commonly used in baking.

Blackstrap Molasses: This comes from the third boiling and is very thick and dark in color.  It has the highest mineral content because of its concentration.  While it can be found in grocery stores, it is most commonly found in health food stores. Some people will use blackstrap molasses (especially vegans) as a health food and supplement to their diets because it contains iron, niacin, and B6, among other minerals that wouldn’t necessarily be in or in very low levels in a vegan diet.

Sulphured and Unsulphured Molasses:  Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) is sometimes added to molasses as a preservative because molasses can ferment and spoil. It does change the flavor of the molasses making it less sweet. Unsulphured is preferred because it is sweeter and is closer to the original molasses flavor. And, because, well, it doesn’t have sulphur.

(Source: Healthy Eating, SF Gate)

Also, molasses can be distilled to make rum. FYI.

*********************

My inspiration for this recipe came from an old recipe found in a 1965 edition of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book that I received from my mother-in-law not long after I married. As I was flipping through the book, it reminded me of the book my mother had as I was growing up.  I believe hers was the same edition. (She still has it. I think it’s now held together with rubber bands.) I always remember the notes and McCall’s Cooking School recipes she would save in her book.

The BHG Cookbook my mother-in-law gave me. It's a souvenier edition of the 1965 printing celebrating 10 Million copies sold.

The BHG Cookbook my mother-in-law gave me. It’s a souvenir edition of the 1965 printing celebrating 10 Million copies sold.

My 2nd. edition, 1935 printing of the BHG Cookbook. I don't think it's ever been used.

My 2nd. edition, 1935 printing of the BHG Cookbook. I don’t think it’s ever been used.

BHG 1950 printing. This is about the time the now familiar red-and-white cover was first used.

BHG 1950 printing. This is about the time the now familiar red-and-white cover was first used. I bought this off Ebay. It was obviously loved.

Mom said to me as recently as Thanksgiving that the gingerbread recipe in the BHG book is a great recipe.  In fact, she made it for my sisters and I often when we were kids.

 

Here is the ingredient list for the original recipe:

1/2 c. shortening

1/2 c. sugar

1 egg

1/2 c. light molasses

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

3/4 tsp. salt

3/4 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 c. boiling water

(from Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, 1965 printing)

 

I will say, though, while I love the original recipe, I have changed it up a little:

* I’ve omitted the cinnamon and added quadruple the ginger.  It’s a flavor preference.

*I’ve replaced the white sugar with either dark brown or maple sugar. Again, it’s a flavor preference. The new sugars aren’t as sweet as white sugar.

*I’m using butter flavored shortening. Because I can.

Now, of course,  you can do whatever you like.  Add or subtract as you see fit.  Other sweet spices (i.e. cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, anise) will work well in this recipe, too.  However, you may want to be somewhat conservative on the amount of extra spice you use.  You’re making gingerbread, not a spice cake. Some people will also add a small amount of finely chopped candied ginger to the recipe as well.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

The maple sugar. Like most real maple products, it is not inexpensive. But, if you do have some, use it.

The maple sugar. Like most real maple products, it is not inexpensive. But, if you do have some, use it.

Ground Ginger, Salt, Baking Soda

Ground Ginger, Salt, Baking Soda

 

1/2 c. shortening

1/2 c. dark brown or maple sugar

1 egg

1/2 c. molasses

 

1 1/2 c. flour

3/4 tsp. salt

3/4 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. ground ginger

 

1/2 c. boiling water

 

1.  Preheat your oven to 350F.  Spray or butter & flour a 9″ x 9″ x 2″ baking dish.  Set aside.

2.  Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, and ginger.  Set aside.

My mom's old sifter that she gifted to me.

My mom’s old sifter that she gifted to me.

Sifted

Sifted. You can, of course, use a small strainer to sift as well.

3.  With either a hand mixer and medium bowl, or a stand mixer, beat the shortening on medium speed until it is softened.

The softened shortening. It helps the process if you have the shortening at room temperature.

The softened shortening. It helps the process if you have the shortening at room temperature.

4.  Lower the speed to low (otherwise you’ll end up with a mess) and gradually add the sugar.  Once the sugar is incorporated with the shortening, turn the speed back up to medium and continue beating until the mixture is light and fluffy.

A fluffy shortening and sugar mix. This process helps to incorporate air into the shortening and make sure the sugar will mix into the rest of the batter thoroughly and not lump up.

A fluffy shortening and sugar mix. This process helps to incorporate air into the shortening and make sure the sugar will mix into the rest of the batter thoroughly and not lump up.

5.  Turn the heat back down to low and add the egg and molasses.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the ingredients are mixed thoroughly.

I've said it before, but it bears repeating: always break your eggs into a separate bowl before adding to the rest of your ingredients. Otherwise, you may be sorry.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: always break your eggs into a separate bowl or cup before adding to the rest of your ingredients. Otherwise, you may be full of regret.

Egg and molasses mixed in.

Egg and molasses mixed in.

6.  Keeping the speed on low, alternately add the dry ingredients and the boiling water.  (I generally begin with 1/4 c. of the boiling water, half of the dry ingredients, the other 1/4 c. water, the other half of the dry ingredients.) By adding the ingredient this way, along with scraping down the sides of the bowl, you are ensuring even mixing as well as jump-starting the baking soda.

After adding the first 1/4 cup water. I know it looks strange, but trust me, it's fine.

After adding the first 1/4 cup water. I know it looks strange, but, trust me, it’s fine.

After adding the first half of the dry ingredients.

After adding the first half of the dry ingredients.

7.  Pour the batter into your prepared baking dish and place in the center of the oven.

Ready for the oven.

Ready for the oven.

Bake for 35 – 40 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean when you insert it into the cake.

So, as soon as I tokk this photo, Husband took the piece off the top.

So, as soon as I took this photo, Husband took the piece off the top.

 

Enjoy!

Mujadarah مجدرة 0

Posted on October 17, 2014 by Sahar

In the ongoing informal series of foods from my childhood, today, I’m going to introduce you to Mujadarah.

Admittedly, this wasn’t my favorite dish growing up.  I usually picked at it or ate it with lots of salad so I could get it down.  But, as happens with most of us, my palate changed and discovered that I, even if I don’t love Mujadarah, I like it.  It must have been the lentils.

The first record of mujadara dates back to  1226, in the Iraqi cookbook Kitab al-Tabikh by al-Baghdadi. It was known as “peasant food”.  Mujaddara is the Arabic word for “pockmarked”; the lentils among the rice resemble pockmarks. Generally consisting of rice, lentils, sometimes burghul (#3 or #4 coarse grind), and, very occasionally, meat, it was served during celebrations. Without meat, it was a medieval Arab dish commonly consumed by the poor. Because of its importance in the diet, a saying in the Eastern Arab world is, “A hungry man would be willing to sell his soul for a dish of mujaddara.”

Arab Christians traditionally eat mujaddara during Lent.  The dish is also popular among Jewish communities of Middle Eastern origin, in particular those of Syrian and Egyptian backgrounds; it is sometimes nicknamed “Esau’s favourite”. Jews traditionally ate it twice a week: hot on Thursday evening, and cold on Sunday.

(Some information from wikipedia and Rose Water & Orange Blossoms)

If the recipe looks somewhat familiar to you, I’ve made a dish similar before, Koshari.  The biggest difference is that Koshari has chick peas and pasta and is generally served with a tomato-cumin sauce.

 

A few notes:

1.  You can make this dish with white rice, brown rice, or burghul wheat. If you use burghul, be sure to use a #3 (medium coarse) or #4 (coarse) grind. If you use burghul, it will be the standard 2:1 ratio you would use for white rice.

2.  You can use either brown or green lentils.  Don’t use red.  They cook too soft for this dish.

3.  My mom uses just cinnamon as the spice (other than salt & pepper).  Play with the spices and come up with a combination you like.

4.  While some do make this dish with meat, I’ve always eaten it as a vegetarian meal.  If you want to add meat, follow the meat cooking instructions for Kidra.

 

The ingredients

The ingredients

The lentils. Use brown or green.

The lentils. Use brown or green.

From top left:

From top left: cumin, allspice, olive oil, black pepper, salt

 

1 c. brown or green lentils

2 c. white or brown long-grain rice

2 lb. onions, cut in half and sliced thin

4 c. water or broth (5 c. if using brown rice)

2 tsp. allspice

1 tsp. cumin

2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. pepper

1/4 c. + 2 tbsp. olive oil

 

1.  Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the rice and saute for 1 – 2 minutes.

Sauteing the rice.  I used brown in this post.

Sauteing the rice. I used brown in this post.

Add the salt, pepper, allspice, and cumin.  Cook until the spices begin to give off a fragrance, about 1 minute.

Adding the spices. As you cook, the oils in the spices will come out and flavor the oil and rice.  Be sure to stir constantly so the spices don't burn.

Adding the spices. As you cook, the oils in the spices will come out and flavor the oil and rice. Be sure to stir constantly so the spices don’t burn.

Add the water or broth, bring to a boil, cover the saucepan, and turn down the heat to low.  Cook until the rice is done – 25 to 30 minutes for white, 45 to 50 minutes for brown.

2.  Meanwhile, heat the 1/4 cup olive oil over medium heat in a large, deep skillet.  Add the onions and a pinch of salt.  Stir occasionally, until the onions are soft and begin to take on color.

Cooking the onions. When you get to this point, make sure you watch them closely.  You want caramelization, not burning.

Cooking the onions. When you get to this point, make sure you watch them closely. You want caramelization, not burning.

Once the onions begin to brown, watch them more closely and stir more often; you want the onions to brown, not burn.  Cook them down as far as you like. (I prefer them to be fully caramelized.)  Depending on how dark you want the onions, it could take anywhere between 20 – 30 minutes to cook them.

I like my onions well caramelized. This took about 30 minutes.

I like my onions well caramelized. This took about 30 minutes.

When the onions are done, take them off the heat and set aside.

3.  About halfway through the rice cooking time, place the lentils in a medium saucepan, cover with water to at least 1″ above the lentils, and bring to a boil over high heat.  Cook the lentils, adding water as needed, until they are done, about 20 – 25 minutes.

Boiling the lentils.  Be sure to keep them covered with water so they don't dry out.

Boiling the lentils. Be sure to keep them covered with water so they don’t dry out.

4.  When the lentils and the rice are done, mix them together (I usually do this in the pot I cooked the rice in).  Mix in the onions.  Taste for seasoning.

5.  Mujadarah is usually served with either yogurt or a tomato-cucumber salad (basically tabouleh without the bulghur wheat).

Sahtein! صحتين!

Sahtein! صحتين!

 

 

Kidra قدرة 4

Posted on October 06, 2014 by Sahar

I’ve been feeling sentimental lately thinking about the foods from my childhood years.  I’d forgotten how good some of them were and still are.  It must also come with the realization that I’ve hit middle age and how I really need to eat healthier.

Kidra is another one of those dishes from our childhood that my sisters and I remember fondly.  It was an every-once-in-a-while dish; it was never one of Mom’s favorites, so we didn’t have it too often. But, when we did have it, my sisters and I would gorge.

Traditionally, it’s a recipe that is baked in a large narrow-necked clay pot called a tanour (التنور).  The pot was filled with the ingredients, sealed with a flour and water paste, and buried in an oven built into the sand where it was left to cook for hours and up to overnight.  Once cities started growing, people would send not only their bread to the bakeries, but their tanour pots as well.  In some very remote areas, the Bedouin still cook Kidra this way.

Now, many families have tanours made of lined copper that can be placed in the oven or on the stove (my parents have one) and it generally takes less than an hour for the Kidra to cook.

This is dish cooked all through the Palestinian regions and families in the Middle East, but it is most popular in Gaza, where, from what I can tell, the dish originated.

 

A few notes:

1.  If you don’t have a tanour, don’t worry.  I don’t either.  I used my Dutch oven.  It works well.

2.  Lamb is the most traditional meat to use in this dish.  You can use beef if you prefer.  Either way, be sure to use a stew meat (shoulder, round).

3.  Some people will use saffron or osfour (the stamen of the safflower) to give the dish a yellow color.  It is totally optional.  My parents never used either of these in this recipe, so I don’t either.

4.  Another traditional ingredient in this recipe is whole heads of garlic that are added just before the tanour goes into the oven.  My parents never used garlic in their Kidra.  After doing some research, I decided I wanted to add garlic in my own recipe.  However, instead of whole heads of garlic, I use peeled cloves. I like it.

Again, this is completely optional.

5.  If you don’t have whole cardamom pods for this dish, it will be fine without them.  However, you do miss out on some of the traditional flavor if you don’t use them.

6.  While white rice is most commonly used, you can use brown long-grain rice (brown basmati works well).  Just add an additional 1/2 cup of liquid and add 15 -20 minutes to the cooking time.

7.  You can make this vegetarian by using vegetable broth or water, omitting the meat, and adding more chick peas and/or fava beans.  If you’d like to add some green, use fresh green beans (not haricot vert) and saute them at the same time as you would the chick peas.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

Clockwise from top left:

Clockwise from top left: ground cardamom, cardamom pods, black pepper, salt, ground cumin, ground allspice. Center: olive oil

If your garlic cloves are large, cut them down to make the cloves more equal in size.

If your garlic cloves are large, cut them down to make the cloves more equal in size.  Also, be sure to cut off the stem end because it doesn’t cook down and has an unpleasant texture.

1 lb. lamb or beef stew meat, cut into 1″ cubes

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. allspice

1/2 tsp. cumin

1/4 tsp. ground cardamom

2 tbsp. olive oil, more if needed

1 med. onion, chopped fine

1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled, larger cloves cut in halves or quarters

1 1/2 c. long grain rice

1 15-oz. can chick peas (garbanzos), drained

6 – 8 cardamom pods

3 c. chicken broth or water, more if needed

 

 

1.  Preheat the oven to 325F.  In a medium bowl, toss the meat with the spices.

Spiced lamb.

Spiced lamb.

2.  In a Dutch oven, or, if you’re lucky, you have a tanour, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Brown the meat in batches; you want to get a good sear on the meat.  If you crowd the pan, they will simply steam.

Browning the meat.  Don't crowd the pan or instead of a nice brown crust, you'll end up with grayed steamed meat.

Browning the meat. Don’t crowd the pan or instead of a nice brown crust, you’ll end up with grayed steamed meat.

After each batch of meat is browned, take it out of the Dutch oven and set it aside.  Repeat until all of the meat is done.

The finished (so far) meat.  I just put it in the overturned Dutch oven lid. It's a Dad thing.

The finished (so far) meat. I just put it in the overturned Dutch oven lid. It’s a Dad thing.

3.  Saute the onions and garlic in the Dutch oven, about 5 minutes.  If you need to keep the brown bits on the bottom from burning, add about 1/4 cup of water or broth to help deglaze the pan. (It doesn’t have to be an exact measurement. Just eyeball it.)  Stir frequently.

Cooking the onion and garlic.  If you need to, like I did here, add a little water or broth to deglaze the pan to keep the lovely browned bits from burning.

Cooking the onion and garlic. If you need to, like I did here, add a little water or broth to deglaze the pan to keep the lovely browned bits from burning.

4.  Add the rice and cook for another 2 – 3 minutes.  Stir constantly.

Adding the rice.

Adding the rice.

Add the chick peas and cook another 2 – 3 minutes.  Again, stir often.

Adding in the chick peas.

Adding in the chick peas.

Then add back in the meat, cardamom pods, and the water or broth.

Adding the meat, cardamom pods, and broth.

Adding the meat, cardamom pods, and broth.

5.  Bring the water or broth to a boil on the stove.  Cover the Dutch oven and place it on the middle rack in the oven and bake for 30 – 45 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is cooked.

In the oven.

In the oven.

Alternately, you can cook this fully on the stove (especially of you don’t have an oven-safe pot) on low heat for about 45 minutes, or, again, until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is cooked.

6.  Serve with plain yogurt or cucumber-yogurt salad.

If you use cardamom pods, be sure to let your guests know.  The pods infuse a wonderful flavor but aren’t great to bite into.

Sahtein! صحتين !

Sahtein! صحتين !

 

 

Lentil Soup شوربة دس and Artichokes with Coriander اضيوكي مع الكزبرة 2

Posted on September 28, 2014 by Sahar

I am now going to introduce you to two more dishes from the Middle East – one from my childhood and one I discovered more recently.  Lentil Soup and Artichokes with Coriander.

Lentil Soup (Shorbat Adas) is a very popular dish during Ramadan. Soup is a traditional way to break the fast and the heartiness of this soup is perfect for that.  Some people will put cooked ground beef or lamb in the soup, others balls of Kefta (basically, ground meat with onion, parsley, and spices).  Some will also use dried bread and puree it into the soup to thicken it. Sliced radishes are also a popular addition.

The Artichokes with Coriander (Ard al-shokeh ma’kuzbara) is a more recent discovery for me. It’s a dish popular in Jericho in the early summer when artichokes are in season.  Here, I’ve used frozen artichokes.  This way, I can eat this dish at any time of year.  Mainly, though, because I really don’t like to clean artichokes.

 

A few notes:

1.  The soup is really best with the red lentils.  They have a lighter, slightly sweeter flavor that’s best for the soup.  They’re much more readily available than they used to be.

2.  Be sure to wash the lentils.  They’re generally dusty when they’re packed.  While processing methods have become better, sometimes, especially if they’re from a bulk bin, they may also have small rocks or dirt. So, be sure to check them carefully.

3.  As with most soups, this is even better the next day and freezes well.  When you reheat the soup, be sure to add a little broth or water because it thickens up as it sits.

4.  If you want a smoother soup, then you can puree it.  However, I prefer a little texture in the soup.

5.  You can easily make the soup vegan by using either vegetable broth or water.

6.  Don’t use marinated artichokes packed in olive oil.  Be sure, especially with canned or jarred ones, that they are packed in water.  Or, if you’re using frozen, they’re unseasoned.

7.  If you don’t like cilantro (coriander), you can use parsley.  It obviously won’t taste the same, but it will work.

 

The ingredients

The ingredients

The lentils. Red lentils work best in this soup. They're much more readily available than in the past.

The lentils. Red lentils work best in this soup. They’re much more readily available than in the past.

From the top:

From the top: salt, pepper, olive oil, flour, cumin

Lentil Soup

1 1/2 c. red lentils, washed and drained

4 c. broth (chicken, beef, lamb, vegetable) or water

1 med. onion, minced

3 cl. garlic, minced

1 tbsp. flour

1 tsp. salt, or to taste

1 tsp. black pepper, or to taste

1 tsp. cumin

2 tbsp. olive oil

Juice of one lemon, or to taste

 

1.  In a large saucepan, place the onion, garlic, lentils, and broth or water.

Lentils, onion, and garlic in the saucepan awaiting the broth.

Lentils, onion, and garlic in the saucepan awaiting the broth.

Cover and bring to a boil.  Keep the saucepan covered, turn the heat down to medium-low, and simmer for 45 minutes.  Stir occasionally.

The boiling pot.

The boiling pot.

2.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the flour, salt, pepper, cumin, and olive oil.

The oil, flour, and spices mixed together. It smells lovely.

The oil, flour, and spices mixed together. It smells lovely.

Add the mixture to the lentils after the first 45 minutes of cooking.

 

The soup after the first 45 minutes of cooking time.  Sorry, the lentils don't stay red.  They turn to a dull gold-yellow.

The soup after the first 45 minutes of cooking time. Sorry, the lentils don’t stay red. They turn to a dull gold-yellow.

After adding the oil-spice mixture.

After adding the oil-spice mixture.

After you add the oil & spices, cook for another 15 minutes, uncovered.  Stir occasionally.

3.  Add the lemon juice and cook another 5 minutes.

My old-style lemon reamer. One of my favorite things I received from my mother-in-law.

My old-style lemon reamer. One of my favorite things I received from my mother-in-law.

Taste for seasoning.  Serve with a drizzle of olive oil over the top and some extra lemon on the side.

The finished soup.

The finished soup.  Perfect.

 

 

 

The ingredients

The ingredients

Salt, pepper, olive oil

Salt, pepper, olive oil

The artichokes.  I used frozen ones in this recipe. If you do get jarred or canned, bue sure they aren't marinated ones.

The artichokes. I used frozen ones in this recipe. If you do get jarred or canned, be sure they aren’t marinated & flavored  ones.

Artichokes with Coriander

2 lb. artichoke hearts (2 bags frozen-thawed or 6 cans drained)

4 tbsp. olive oil

3 cl. garlic, minced

1/2 c. coriander (cilantro), chopped

1 tsp. salt, or to taste

1 tsp. black pepper, or to taste

1/4 c. lemon juice, or to taste

 

1.  In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 – 2 minutes.

Cooking the garlic.

Cooking the garlic.

Add the artichokes hearts and cook another 5 minutes.

Adding the artichokes. Be sure to continue stirring frequently to keep the garlic from burning.

Adding the artichokes. Be sure to continue stirring frequently to keep the garlic from burning.

Add the coriander (cilantro), salt, and pepper.  Cook another 5 minutes. Stir frequently.

Adding the coriander (cilantro).

Adding the coriander (cilantro).

2.  Add the lemon juice and cook another 2 minutes.  Remove the skillet from the heat and taste for seasoning.

The finished artichokes.

The finished artichokes.

3.  You can serve this either warm or room temperature.  This dish can also be made a day in advance.  Warm it slightly or let it come to room temperature before serving.

Sahtein! صحتين

Sahtein! صحتين

In this post, I served the soup with toasted split pita bread to make a sort of cracker.  You can also serve with warm pita or a cracker of your choice.  The plainer the better.

 

 



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