Italian Braised Pork Chops w Tomato & Garlic Sauce

Costoletta di Maiale alla Pizzaiola

Here is detailed information on the origins, makeup, and health benefits of garlic, plus a great recipe for braising pork chops, using tomatoes and garlic, which is inspired by a receipt from the 1960’s Time-Life Books Foods of this World.  1

Among its multi-themed books, The Cooking of Italy, provides these great braised pork chops with tomato and garlic sauce. I have adapted this by braising the chops in the oven, rather than on the stove top, as the original instructions require.  The method of braising in the oven brings out the best of flavors in food; my recent entries on Cote de Porc Sauce Nenette and Braised Cabbage exemplify this.

Background of Garlic

Garlic (Allium sativum L. family Liliaceae) is a species in the genus Allium, a group of plants in the lily family, in which there are more than 500 species; these are native to the northern temperate regions.  About twenty of these 500 species are important human foods that have been prized for thousands of years.  2

Their antiquity can be seen in reference to the incident in Exodus in 1230 B.C., when the Israelites lamented in the wilderness: “We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely, the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick…”  3

Garlic (Allium sativum) is a member of the onion (Amaryllidaceae) family.  It is believed that garlic originated from Allium longiscuspis, as it does not appear in the wild as a species of its own; the mutation that resulted in garlic probably took place in central Asia.  4

How Garlic Grows

The name garlic is an Anglo-Saxon word that meant “spear-leek”, or rather a leek with a slim, pointed leaf blade instead of a broad, open one.  5

The bulbs of both onions and garlic are made up of a central stem bud and surrounding leaf bases.  Each leaf base swells with stored nutrients during one growing season, which then supplies them to the bud during the next season.  Onions, garlic, and most of their relatives are primarily grown for their underground bulbs-swollen leaf bases-that store energy for the beginning of the next growing season.  6

Note: an onion is a multi-layered bulb, or swollen leaf base; a garlic  bulb or “clove” consists, however, of a single, swollen storage leaf, of which there are a dozen or more of these cloves tightly fit together in a head of garlic. 7

Sweetness of Cooked Garlic Is Due to Fructose Sugars

Garlic and its relatives, in the onion family, accumulate energy stores in chains of fructose sugars, rather than in starches; thus, long, slow cooking breaks these sugars down to produce a marked sweetness, a delicious, savory quality.  This cooking process transforms the strong, pungent, sulfury flavor of garlic; this strong, offensive raw flavor of garlic was originally meant to be a chemical defense in the plant, to deter animals from eating it.  (See Sage Turkey and Braised Cabbage, for more on defensive chemicals in plants.)  8

The Unique Makeup of Garlic Produces Health

Garlic (A. sativum L. family Liliaceae) is used not only as a spice in foods, but also in traditional folk medicines.  There is much evidence of a wide spectrum of pharmacological effects of A. sativum and its active compounds with low toxicity; the sulfur compound Allicin-only occurring when garlic is crushed or injured-is the most important alkaloid being responsible for these beneficial effects.  Though allicin is thought to be primarily responsible for the antimicrobial effect of garlic, other sulfur compounds have some roles in the effects of the plant as well: diallyl disulphide (DDS) and siallyl trisulfide (DTS) are active against yeasts, while S-allylcysteine (SAC) is the most abundant organosulfur compound present in aged garlic extract .  9

Health benefits of garlic may include a lowering of high cholesterol and high blood pressure.  Eating raw garlic may also prevent heart disease and boost the immune system.  It is, however, most important to consult with one’s doctor, before starting any treatment regime.  10

Flavors and Sting of Raw Garlic

Members of the onion family, of which garlic is one, have distinctive flavors coming from their individual defensive use of the element sulfur.  When onions, leeks, garlic grow they take up sulfur from the soil and incorporate this into four different kinds of chemical ammunition.  These four ammunitions float in the cell fluids, while their “enzyme trigger” is held separately in a storage vacuole.  Damaging the cell, by chopping or chewing, releases this enzyme, which breaks the ammunition molecules in half, thus producing irritating, strong-smelling sulfurous molecules; some of these can be very reactive and unstable, therefore they continue to evolve into other compounds.  11

Various Preparation Methods Produce Unique Flavors

The raw flavor of various alliums is created by the mixture of these produced molecules.  The resultant flavor from this mixture depends on the initial ammunition, how thoroughly the food was chewed or chopped, the amount of oxygen that gets into the reactions, and finally how long the reactions last.  It follows that the preparation methods, such as chopping, pounding in a mortar, or pureeing in a food processor, will all result in distinctive flavors, even with the same allium.   Note that the end flavor from this mixture of molecules produced is especially potent in garlic, for it produces a hundred-fold higher concentration of  initial reaction products than do either onions or leeks.  12

Flavors Derived from Cooked Garlic

Heat causes the various sulfur compounds in garlic to react with each other and other substances; this produces the range of characteristic flavor molecules, which we experience in cooked garlic.   We find that the taste of garlic varies with different dishes; this is because the cooking method, temperature, and medium strongly influence flavor balance.  Trisulfides tend to result, when garlic is baked, dried, or microwaved, and these give off characteristic notes of overcooked cabbage.  If looking for a strong garlic flavor, high temperatures and the medium of fat are required; together these produce more volatiles and a stronger flavor than do other methods and mediums.  Interestingly, the type of fat used also changes flavor: relatively mild garlic compounds persist in butter, but rubbery, pungent notes come to the forefront in more reactive, unsaturated vegetable oils.  (I always recommend using avocado or coconut oil in cooking, as olive oil is carcinogenic at high temperatures; for more on healthy oils, see Nutty Coconut Pie.)  13

Unique Flavors Brought on by Blanching and Cooking Garlic Whole

My last entry, on Lentils for an Emergency, employed whole garlic cloves added to the lentils boiled in water; this method and medium produced unique garlic flavors in this dish.  Both the cooking of whole garlic and blanching inactivate the flavor-generating enzyme stored in the vacuole.  As noted, this enzyme starts the whole reaction process, when released by chopping or chewing raw garlic; thus, sulfurous molecules are produced that continue to evolve into other compounds, and various flavors result as seen above.  Boiling, or blanching, the whole garlic in with the lentils limited this enzymatic action, bringing to the dish only slightly pungent, sweet nutty notes.  These same relatively mild flavors are also found in garlic blanched whole in a vinegar-base, such as found in pickling.  14

Availability of Garlic Today

The University of Missouri’s Integrated Pest Control claims that China produces most of the world’s garlic and that 90% of all garlic grown in the U.S comes from California.  15

A recent conversation with Trader Joe’s provided the information that most of America’s garlic comes from the Gilroy area in California, which is known-at least in the U.S.-as the garlic capital of the world.

Recently I could not get garlic at our local Fred Meyer’s, when testing this last lentil receipt.  They informed me that presently China is not providing garlic on the world market; therefore, many nations are getting it from California, resulting in the shortage with Fred’s supplier.  Since this time, this chain store has had it off and on.

Trader Joe’s, however, has carried it throughout this pandemic; they said that theirs comes from various ranches and farms in the Gilroy area.  Traders also informed me that for years they haven’t sold any products produced in China, due to the heavy metals and arsenic present there; they guarantee that not a single ingredient, of their private label items, is sourced from China-this is 90% of their stock.  They added that they cannot be this definite with the other 10% of their products, which are under their own individual labels.

Lesson Applied

As referred to at the beginning of this entry, the Israelites were wanting to go back to Egypt, for their appetites were crying out for the luxury of melons, cucumbers, leeks, onions, and garlic.  In Egypt they had known these in abundance, but this amidst the cruelest of forced labor, which they forgot in their weakness experienced in the wilderness.

My spirit initially wanted to grieve what had been an appearance of the loss of garlic, a month ago.  I had a choice to make, as we all do: will we trust this process we find ourselves in with Covid-19, or hold onto what may have seemed better in the past?

The word of God instructs us:

“I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: That thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”  16

We can choose life and not repeat what the Israelites did, by complaining that this journey is too hard.  Instead of looking backwards, we can stand on the promise that the name and blood of Jesus redeem everything, which we place in our Father’s hands. Only God can bring blessing out of this Covid-19 chaos, produced by Satan, and this only, if we ask believing.

Below is my adaptation of Time-Life’s great recipe for Costoletta di Maiale alla Pizzaiola, with its healthy garlic.  Enjoy its simplicity.

References:

  1. Waverly Root and the Editors of Time-Life Books, Time-Life Books Foods of this World, The Cooking of Italy (New York: Time Inc., 1968), p. 178.
  2. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 310.
  3. The Holy Bible, KJV, Numbers 11:5.
  4. https://ipm.missouri.edu/MEG/2015/9/Garlic-A-Brief-History/
  5. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 311.
  6. , p. 310.
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3874089/
  8. https://ipm.missouri.edu/MEG/2015/9/Garlic-A-Brief-History/
  9. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), pp. 310, 311.
  10. , p. 311.
  11. https://ipm.missouri.edu/MEG/2015/9/Garlic-A-Brief-History/
  12. The Holy Bible, KJV, Deuteronomy 30: 19,20.

finished product

Costoletta di Maiale alla Pizzaiola (Braised Pork Chops w/ Tomato and Garlic Sauce)  Adapted from a recipe in Time-Life Books Foods of This World: The Cooking of Italy, 1968.  Yields: 5-6 servings.  Total prep time: 45 min/  active prep time: 25 min/  Braising time: 20 min.

2 tbsp oil  (Avocado is best here, as olive oil is carcinogenic when heated to high temperatures.)

5-6 center-cut loin pork chops, cut 1”-1 1/2” thick  (Trader Joe’s carries boneless, French cut, center cut pork loin chops for $6.49/lb.-the best price around for this high-quality pork.)

1 tsp finely chopped garlic  (For easy prep, may use 1 cube of frozen garlic, available at Trader’s.)

1/3 c chopped, fresh, oregano leaves, or a combination of 1/2 tsp dried oregano and 1/4 tsp dried thyme, crumbled  (Trader’s generally has a 4” pot of fresh oregano, just enough for this receipt-the original recipe in Time-Life calls for the 1/2 tsp dried oregano and 1/4 tsp dried thyme.)

1/2 bay leaf

1/4 tsp salt

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 1/8 c drained canned tomatoes, pureed (May puree these in a food processor, blender, or Vitamix.)

1 tbsp tomato paste

3 tbsp butter

1/2 lb. green pepper, seeded and cut in 2”-by-1/4” stripes  (Organic is important, as peppers readily absorb pesticides.)

10 oz fresh, sliced mushrooms  (Mushrooms are least expensive and of high quality at Traders.)

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Puree the drained tomatoes, using a food processor, blender, or Vitamix (set aside).
  3. In an ovenproof stockpot with lid, heat 2 tbsp of oil, over medium heat.
  4. browning chops

    Generously salt and pepper the chops, after drying them with a paper towel (drying is important for browning to take place); then, brown them in the hot oil for 2-3 minutes per side; transfer to a plate (see photo).

  5. With a long-handled spoon, degrease the juices, by tipping the pan to the side and skimming most of the fat off the top, leaving about 1 tbsp of fat. Add garlic, oregano, bay leaf, salt, and wine vinegar to meat juices; bring to a boil, stirring constantly; while cooking, be sure to deglaze the pan (scrape the bits of meat and herbs cooked off the bottom, using a plastic spatula).
  6. chops prepped for braising

    Stir in the pureed tomatoes and tomato paste. Return the chops to the casserole, bring to a boil, and baste the chops with the sauce (see photo).

  7. Cover and place in oven for 20-25 minutes, or until there is no color in center, when cut with a knife. Baste occasionally during braising period; rotate chops a time or two, only if all the chops don’t fit in a single layer in stock pot.
  8. Meanwhile spray bell pepper with a vegetable spray (for an inexpensive, effective spray, may combine 97% white distilled vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide). Let sit for 3 minutes and rinse well.
  9. Cut peppers in 2” x 1/4” stripes.
  10. vegies cooked

    Melt the butter in a large sauté pan, over medium heat. When hot, add the sliced peppers and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Mix in the mushrooms, evenly coating them with the fat.  Cook until desired texture is achieved, stirring occasionally (these will cook a little more later); set aside.  See photo.

  11. When chops are finished cooking, remove them to a platter and cover them with foil; start reheating the vegetables.
  12. IF the sauce is too thin, place stockpot with sauce on top of burner and boil liquid over med/high heat, stirring constantly (sauce should be thick enough to coat a spoon heavily).
  13. Blend hot vegetables into thickened sauce and spoon over pork chops, either on the platter itself, or on individual plates. (Note: it is possible to prepare this recipe ahead, and at this point put aside the casserole, with the chops sitting in the sauce and vegetables. Three-quarter-hour before serving, bring the casserole with the sauce and chops, to a boil over medium heat; then, place casserole in a preheated oven at 250 degrees, for warming.)  See photo.
  14. Serve and fully enjoy!

Lentils, for an Emergency

a dish of lentils

The staple of lentils is a blessing; here we look at the easiest way to prepare them, as well as details about their history, makeup, and health benefits.  This basic recipe, having only two ingredients, evolved due to recent inquiries for a simple means to cook lentils, for times such as now; this method of preparation brings out flavor and nutrition.

Historical Background of Lentils

Lentils, Lens culinaris, are probably the oldest cultivated legume; they are mentioned several times in the Old Testament, with the first time being in Genesis, when Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a “pottage of lentiles”.  Encyclopedia Britannica surmises that the lentils Jacob prepared were probably red Egyptian lentils. 1

Lentils are native to Southwest Asia; they are now a common food throughout Europe, Asia, and North Africa, with their greatest production being in India and Turkey (Canada is a distant third).  2

In North America, lentils are produced in the Pacific Northwest, eastern Washington, northern Idaho, and up into western Canada.  Since the 1930’s, they have been grown as a rotation crop with wheat, with most of the lentils being exported, though in recent times, Americans are consuming them more.  3

Their shape inspired the 17th century coinage of the word “lens”-the Latin word for lentil-which describes the lentil-shaped, double convex, piece of glass.  4

Two Groups of Lentils: Their Colors and Composition

There are two groups of lentils: the most common being the varieties with flat and large seeds-5 mm or more across. The second group consists of varieties with small, more rounded seeds that are finer-textured; included in this latter group are the prized green French lentille du Puy, the black beluga, and the green Spanish pardina.  The seed coats of these varieties may be brown, red, black, and green; most have yellow cotyledons, though some are green or red.  Both cooking and age can turn green seed coats brown.  The composition of dry lentils is 14% water, 25% protein, 60% carbohydrate, and 1% oil.  5

Health Benefits of Lentils

Some hold that lentils protect against heart disease, dementia, cancer, and other chronic illnesses.  6

They also prove to be a good source of protein, vitamin B, iron, phosphorus, and dietary fiber, but they can cause gas.  7

How Intestinal Gas is Created

What to do with the problem of flatulence, for which legumes are known?   Note: lentils seemingly cause little gas for some, while soy, navy, and lima beans are the worst offenders.  8

Our intestines produce about a quart of a mixture of gases a day, due to the growth and metabolism of our resident bacteria.  Many legumes cause a sudden increase in this bacterial activity-bringing about gas production-a few hours after they are consumed.  This is due to their containing large amounts of short-chained carbohydrates, which human digestive enzymes cannot convert into  sugars that can be absorbed; thus, these carbohydrates leave the upper small intestine unchanged.  When they reach the lower intestine, they are fermented; the resident bacteria population performs its job; gas results.  9

The ineffective metabolism of troublesome carbohydrates into digestible single sugars produces gas.  One type of carbohydrate causing this gas issue is the oligosaccharides, molecules consisting of only three, four, or five sugar molecules linked together in an unusual way (for more on oligosaccharides, see Great Keto Citrus Cookies).  Cell-wall cements, however, may be a more prominent cause for this problem of gas, as they produce just as much carbon dioxide and hydrogen as the oligosaccharides, and beans generally have about twice as much of these carbohydrates, as they do oligosaccharides.  10

Proposed Remedies for Preventing Gas

Of the two proposed remedies to help prevent gas, the long cooking of legumes is better than that of leaching off these carbohydrates with water (boiling the legumes briefly, letting them stand in this water for an hour, and then discarding the water); this latter method does get rid of most of the water-soluble oligosaccharides, but it also removes significant amounts of water-soluble vitamins, minerals, simple sugars, and seed-coat pigments (in other words, it strips the food of nutrients, flavor, color, and antioxidants).  On the other hand, simple, prolonged cooking helps to eventually break down the oligosaccharides and the cell-wall cements into digestible single sugars; this is the method used in the lentil recipe below.  11

Integrative medicine physician Irina Todorov, MD. states that if your increasing bean consumption, to obtain higher levels of dietary fiber, resultant gas levels typically return to normal once legumes are consumed regularly.  12

Garlic is used in this receipt.  It, however, is possible to replace this with onions, herbs, or other vegetables of your choice; feel free to experiment.  Finally, I like to add a splash of olive or sesame oil to my dish of hot lentils, for nutrition and flavor.

Lesson Applied

These unprecedented times are producing a shaking; those things-things made-that can be shaken will be removed, so only the unshakable and eternal will remain.  13

It appears in the natural that all is slowed down presently; underneath the surface, there, however, is a “quick cooking” of our lives going on, both publicly and personally.

This lentil legume is flat and thin, with a thin seed coat; thus, cooking water need only penetrate a millimeter or two from each side.  That makes for a quicker cooking process than with any other bean-30 to 45 minutes.

Covid-19 can produce two different results: it may be getting under our skin, frying us so to speak, or preferably it is producing a great softening of heart, which is slow and gentle.  For the latter to transpire, our “seed coat” requires a protective shield.  The word of God gives such provision, for it states:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”  14

We want the unprofitable within us to be shaken off, so only the pure and stable will remain.  With everything changing so rapidly, it is advantageous more than ever, to look to the eternal.

As boiling water softens lentils in less than an hour, we too have had deep change transpiring in short order, with this boiling of our beings.  May this be a time of victorious overcoming-a time of thinking and responding competently, with godly wisdom.  Thus, we make right decisions in all that challenges.

Relationship with Jesus provides this.  Bless you, my readers!  May the extremely simple recipe below help you.

References:

  1. The Holy Bible, KJV, Genesis 25: 30, 34 and https://www.britannica.com/plant/lentil-plant
  2. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 492.
  3. https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/lentils/how-to-grow-lentils.htm
  4. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 492.
  5. , pp. 489, 492.
  6. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/the-musical-fruit-what-you-should-know-about-beans-and-gas/
  7. https://www.britannica.com/plant/lentil-plant
  8. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 486
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ibid., pp. 486, 487.
  12. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/the-musical-fruit-what-you-should-know-about-beans-and-gas/
  13. See Hebrews 12: 26-29 in the Holy Bible, KJV.
  14. The Holy Bible, KJV, John 3:16, 17.

finished product

Lentils for an Emergency Food  Yields: 8 servings.  Active prep time: 10 min/  Cooking time: 30-45 min.

2 c lentils

8 c water, preferably distilled

1 whole bulb of fresh garlic, cloves peeled and left whole  (May substitute 4 cubes frozen garlic from Trader Joe’s, or 3-4 tbsp garlic from a jar; instead of the garlic, may substitute an onion, herbs, or vegetables of your choice.)

Salt to taste, be sure to add only after lentils are cooked  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt are important for optimum health; an inexpensive, fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco.)

Optional: a splash of olive or sesame oil

  1. large garlic cloves cut in half

    Place lentils and water in a stockpot; cover and bring to a boil over med/high heat. If possible, use distilled water, which is highly beneficial to our bodies (for more information, see Vichy Carrots.)

  2. pot of lentils and garlic prepped for cooking

    Meanwhile peel garlic, cutting large cloves in half. Add to lentils.  (See above photo.)  DO NOT ADD SALT WHILE COOKING, as this prohibits the softening of legumes.

  3. Lower heat to medium, cook uncovered for 30-45 minutes, or until lentils are soft and quite thick; stir occasionally. (I prefer the lentils thick, so they have the substance of an entry, rather than a soup, but you may choose more of a soup texture.)
  4. Salt to taste and optionally serve with a splash of olive or sesame oil, for taste and nutrition. This keeps well in refrigerator for a week, or at room temperature for several days, if there is a power outage.

Braised Cabbage

braised cabbage

Here we examine the various kinds of cabbage, the method of braising, and my history with the greatest of American chefs Julia Child; her writings inspired this exceptional recipe for braised cabbage-her recommendation as an accompaniment for pork.

Child’s Various Methods of Braising Cabbage

In her roti de porc aux choux, from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Child braises the cabbage in with the pork in a covered casserole, for about an hour, after first parboiling it.  In my last entry for cote de porc sauce nenette-adapted from Child’s recipeit is not possible to cook the cabbage in with the pork, as in this case the loin chops are only braised for 25 minutes.  Child also has a receipt for chou rouge a la limousine, in which the cabbage is braised in four cups of liquid in the oven, until all the moisture is incorporated (five hours).   Here I provide my own recipe, inspired by various instructions of Child’s, which takes one hour for braising.  1

Braising Defined

What exactly is involved in the process of braising?  Child defines it: “to brown foods in fat, then cook them in a covered casserole with a small amount of liquid”.  Such is seen in the braising of the pork chops in my last entry; there the meat was browned first; then, it is baked covered, or braised sitting in a small amount of butter, in the oven.  2

Child further explains that Americans use this same term for vegetables cooked in butter in a covered casserole, such as in today’s recipe.  This process is rather defined by the French verb etuver, for which we have no English equivalent.  Therefore, today’s braised cabbage is actually chou etuves au beurre-in other words: cabbage etuves in butter.  3

Varieties of Cabbage

The original wild cabbage is native to the salty, sunny Mediterranean seaboard; this habitat gives cabbage its thick, succulent, waxy leaves and stalks, which make it such a hardy plant.  Around two and a half millennium ago, this wild cabbage was domesticated, and because of its tolerance to cold climates, it became an important staple vegetable in Eastern Europe.  China probably was first to begin the practice of pickling it.  4

Brassica olerancea-a plant genus in the complicated cabbage family- is Mediterranean in origin.  It includes these species: cabbage (var. capitata), Portuguese cabbage (var. tronchuda), kale, collards (var. acephala), broccoli (var. italica), cauliflower (var. botrytis), Brussel sprouts (var. gemmifera), and kohlrabi (var. gonglylodes).  5

Brassica Rapa, another genus in the cabbage family, has Central Asian origins with the following species: turnip (var. rapifera), broccolirabe, broccoletti di rape (var. rapifera), Chinese cabbage, bok choy (var. pekinensis), tatsoi (var. narinosa), Mizuana, mibuna (var. nipposinica).  6

There are also accidental hybrids: rutabaga, canola (Brassica napus), brown mustard, mustard greens (Brassica juncea), and Ethiopian mustard (Brassica carinata).  Finally, broccolini (Brassica oleracea x alboglabra) is an intentional hybrid.  7

Chemical Weapons in Cabbage Generate Its Strong Flavors

The cabbage family is a group of formidable chemical warriors, producing strong flavors.  (For more on defensive chemicals, as seen in herbs, see Sage Turkey Delight.)  Cabbages stockpile two kinds of defensive chemicals in their tissues: flavor precursors-glucosinolates-and enzymes that act on the precursors to liberate the reactive flavors.  When the plant’s cells are damaged, such as in chopping, the two stockpiles are mixed, and the enzymes start a chain of reactions that bring about bitter, pungent, strong-smelling compounds.  8

Each cabbage-family-vegetable will contain a number of different precursor glucosinolates, and the combinations are characteristic; this is why cabbages, broccoli, mustard greens, and Brussels sprouts have similar but distinctively different flavors.  9

Flavors Strongest at Core

The chemical defensive system is most active in young, actively growing tissues; for instance, the portions near the cabbage core are twice as active as the outer leaves, and thus have the strongest flavor.  We see this same principal in Brussels sprouts, with their strongest flavor being at their center also.  10

Cabbage Flavors Change with Seasons

Growing conditions have a great influence on the amount of flavor precursors stockpiled in the plant.  It is important to know that hot weather and drought stress increase them.  Cold, rain, and dim sunlight, however, reduce the flavor precursors; thus, cabbage grown in the autumn and winter will be much milder.  11

As mentioned above in chou rouge a la limousine, Child braises the cabbage in four cups of broth and water, until all the liquid is cooked out (five hours).  This process of soaking cabbage in liquid leaches out the strong flavor compounds that are present in it; this is helpful if it is a summer crop. Keeping this in mind, my cabbage recipe, braised rather in a small amount of butter, is made ideally during the cooler fall, winter, early spring seasons, with its milder tasting cabbage.

Various Preparation Methods Effect Flavor Balances

Different cooking and preparation methods give different flavor balances in cabbage relatives. For instance, the process of cutting cabbage increases the liberation of these flavor compounds from precursors, but not only this, it also increases the production of the precursors!  Add an acidic sauce to chopped cabbage for coleslaw, and some pungent products increase six-fold.  (Soaking chopped cabbage in water will remove most of the flavor compounds formed by chopping, as can be seen in Child’s recipe above.)  On the other hand, fermenting cabbage and its relatives, such as in making kimchi, sauerkraut, and other pickles, transforms nearly all the flavor precursors and their products into less bitter, less pungent substances.  12

My Personal History with Julia Child

I received my first letter from Julia Child in December of 1985.  It was her response to my query, concerning whether she was interested in my food history research, in five obscure countries, in which I had intentions to travel.  Her reply was extremely gracious, showing her ever-present support of upcoming chefs in our nation: she gently let me know she couldn’t use my research presently, as she was busy writing another cook book.

My references for my business, as found in this blog, contain her letter’s opening statement: “Your method of combining food history and food preparation sounds interesting and entertaining.”

In 1994, I knew Child was going to be on the west coast for a convention of chefs.  At this same time, I was planning to do a fundraiser at a posh Portland restaurant for the Oregon History Center; thus, I sent her an invitation to dinner.

My favorite response of hers (there were five letters altogether) arrived in the mail shortly thereafter.  It was a postcard, with words ringing out in her typical Julia-Child-voice: “Would I could but be there, but it won’t be possible at this present time.”  She went on to praise my endeavor and signed it with yours truly.  What joy!

Lesson Applied

Don’t discard this recipe quickly, thinking why take one and a half hours, to prepare a vegetable that can be cooked normally in 20 minutes.  Rather be alerted: braising is a slow but simple process, with knock-your-socks-off-end-results.

The tortoise/hare analogy represents important principles for us to follow in these present days.  The hare is hurried, impetuous, thoughtless, and often foolish.  On the other hand, the tortoise is slow, steady, purposeful, calm, and therefore invincible.

This latter always wins the race, while the former often gets side-tracked along the way, which may mean missing the final goal entirely; thus, we heed this lesson, so we don’t miss out on any rewards for our endeavors.

Achieving this goal requires that we pay close attention to the immediate battle at hand, but not at the expense of losing sight of the whole war.  Always we are in tune with our inner guide, going only when and where directed, in these perilous days.

Most important, we allow the needed time for the simmering process to take place, as with the cabbage.  As a wise tortoise, we are slow and steady, strong and faithful, in everything we do.

These are glorious times; we miss nothing as we move forward, especially in our ministering to those around us.  Flavors beyond our imagination will arise, if we give room to the “braising process”, in both the cabbage and our ordained works.

The result of taking the time to braise cabbage is quite dramatic!  I encourage you to try this simple method, which transforms an ordinary food.  See recipe below.

References:

  1. Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1961, reprinted eighteen times, twentieth printing, May 1971), pp. 384, 385, 387, 496, 497.
  2. Ibid., p. 11.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 323.
  5. Ibid., p. 320, The American Heritage Dictionary, and Wikipedia
  6. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 320
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid., p. 321.
  9. Ibid., p. 322.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Ibid.

finished product

Braised Cabbage  Yields: 6-8 servings.  Active prep time: 20 min/  Inactive baking time: 1 hr.  May be made ahead and reheated.

1 1/4 lb green cabbage, cut into 1/2” slices  (Organic is best.)

4 tbsp butter

1 med onion, cut in even 1/8” slices

2 minced cloves of garlic  (For easy prep, may substitute 1 cube of frozen garlic; available at Trader Joe’s.)

1 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive, fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco for $4.95/5 lbs.)

  1. slicing attachment for food processor

    Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

  2. May cut cabbage in 1/2” slices, with a sharp knife, or better yet use a food processor and its slicing attachment (see photo).  Set sliced cabbage aside.
  3. Cut onions in even 1/8” slices and mince garlic; set aside
  4. onions when finished sweating

    Melt the butter over medium heat in a casserole, or a 3-quart pan with a lid that is stove top/oven proof.

  5. Add onions and garlic and sweat-cook until translucent-stirring occasionally.  See photo.
  6. first half of cabbage in pan, with butter incorporated

    Place half the cabbage in with onions, stirring until fat is well distributed throughout vegetable; then, incorporate other half of cabbage; see photo below.

  7. Blend in salt well.  Add 1/8 cup of water to casserole, cover, and place in oven.  Bake for 1 hour, being sure to stir several times during this period (see photo of finished product at top of recipe).
  8. Serve immediately, or this may be made ahead and reheated. These flavors are incredible!

Cotes de Porc Sauce Nenette

cotes de porc sauce nenette

Here is a fantastic dish inspired by Julia Child; below you will access its easy recipe and the varying qualities of different cuts of pork.  My next entry will be braised cabbage, which Child recommends as a good accompaniment to  pork; in this second entry, I will relate my experience of inviting this greatest of American chefs Julia Child to dinner.

 

 

Mastering the Art of French Cooking

This well-known recipe is from Mastering of the Art of French Cooking (Vol. 1), which Child published in 1961 in collaboration with Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck.  Child and Beck alone printed the second volume in 1970.

Pork, a Poorer Man’s Food in the Mid-Twentieth Century

In my 1964 edition of Joy of Cooking, Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker introduce their section on pork, with the following:

“Someone has observed that a pig resembles a saint in that he is more honored after death than during his lifetime.  Speaking further of his social standing, we have noticed that when smoked, he is allowed to appear at quite fashionable functions; but that only one’s best friends will confess to anything more than a bowing acquaintance with pork and sauerkraut or pigs’ feet.”  1

Popular Loin Cuts and their Corresponding French Names

Mastering the Art of French Cooking, however, has numerous very delectable recipes for pork, one of which is my version of cotes de porc sauce nenette given here.

A list is given in this cook book, of the different popular cuts of this meat, along with their corresponding French names.  First the loin is described.  (Child’s list is for roasting and braising the whole loin, though chops are taken from these cuts.) The loin’s center cut, or milieu de filet, is lean meat and corresponds to the porterhouse or t-bone steak section of beef, with both loin and tenderloin (Trader Joe’s sells boneless, French-cut, center-cut, loin chops for $6.49/lb-expensive, but worth it!).

Other loin cuts are as follows: the rib cut-carre-is also lean meat and corresponds to the rib section of beef, with loin, but no tenderloin.  The loin end-pointe de filet-is the same as the rump of beef, a combination of fat and lean, while the shoulder or blade end-echine-is also a combination of fat and lean.  This latter is a favorite roasting cut in France; it is the shoulder-chop end of the loin.  2

Three Other Popular Pork Cuts

Mastering the Art of French Cooking lists three other cuts: the first being shoulder butt or Boston butt-palette-another combination of fat and lean Child states that in the U.S., we also have a picnic shoulder or shoulder arm, of which there is no French equivalent; this is lean meat.  Finally, there is the fresh ham-jambon frais-which is lean meat that can be bought whole, or in part, and boned, or not.  3

Various Bacons Taken from Two Primal Cuts of Pork

Canadian style bacon also comes from the loin section of the pig, for it is thinly sliced, smoked pork loin.  Regular bacon, however, comes from its flank, which is below the loin; salt pork also comes from the flank.  4

Joy of Cooking shows a total of 34 different cuts used of pork, in its chart.  Among them are these bacons, while some others include the following specific, retail cuts: loin chop, rib chop, Frenched rib chop, butterfly chop, blade loin roast, and crown roast-all of these come from the loin.  5

Primal Cuts Defined, With Their Numerous Specific Cuts

Wikipedia states that there are at least 25 Iberian pork cuts, somewhat less than those identified by Joy of Cooking.   The information online expresses that the terminology and extent of each cut-in these more than 25 cuts-varies from country to country.  It goes on to say there are between four and six primal cuts-the large parts in which the pig is first divided, which are the principal commercial cuts, of which these 25 or more specific, retail cuts are taken.  Wikipedia says these four to six primal cuts are: the shoulder (blade and picnic), the loin, the belly (spareribs and side) and the leg (also known as the ham).  6

Joy of Cooking lists twelve commercial cuts, including the above six, as well as the fat back, hock, snout, jowl, fore foot, and hind foot.  These last six commercial cuts have popular use, varying from region to region, here and throughout the world.  7

Applied Lesson

Variety is the spice of life: cultures emphasize unique qualities of the whole person, or in this case the pig, in different ways.  What is required for the kitchen in France varies-at times greatly-from that needed here in America, or elsewhere.  Thus, we must carefully cover all bases, letting nothing slip through in our communication with foreigners, concerning our instructions on nutrition.

Popular foods here (such as the picnic ham) are not known at all in some European countries.  They have no reference point for such foods.  When talking about the ailments of our own region, we must slow down and be sure all is being understood clearly.  For as the saying goes, we may be speaking “Greek” to them.

Likewise, this rule applies to our instructions outside the kitchen, given to those whose hearts are seeking.  We move meekly as we share our wisdom, which can set the captives free.  The old adage, a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, must be administered mildly, quietly, in small amounts to those around us (especially those whose “dietary needs” limit what they can take in, at any given time).

In this way, we move wisely across nations and peoples, with not only our receipts, but also the heartbeat of our lives, the good news of the gospel.

Enjoy this superb dish, which is easy to make, with the recipe below.  How it wows!  (For another great pork chop receipt, see cotes de porc braisses a la moutarde, from Time-Life Foods of the World, at A 1960’s French Dinner.)

References:

  1. Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker (New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc.), p. 406.
  2. Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck, The Mastery of the Art of French Cooking, 2 volumes (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1961, reprinted eighteen times, twentieth printing, May 1971), Vol. 1, p. 378.
  3. Ibid., pp. 378, 379.
  4. Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker, Joy of Cooking (New York: Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1931, reprinted ten times, twelfth printing, 1964), pp. 396, 397.
  5. Ibid.
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cut_of_pork
  7. Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker, Joy of Cooking (New York: Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1931, reprinted ten times, twelfth printing, 1964), p. 397.

finished product

Cotes de Porc Sauce Nenette  Yields: 2 servings.  Active prep time: 1 hr/  inactive marinating time: 3-12 hr.  Note: the following is inspired by Julia Child’s recipe in The Mastery of the Art of French Cooking, pp. 376, 386, 387; it includes Child’s marinade seche, which greatly enhances the recipe.

 

 

 

Needed: a covered pan suitable for both stove top and oven; for a single recipe, a 3-quart, fireproof casserole works well (if making multiple recipes, use a 10”-12” Dutch oven).

Marinade Seche  (This is enough for up to 2 lbs of meat; if you are making more than 2 lbs, increase the recipe accordingly.)

2 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive, fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco for $4.95 for 5 lbs.)

1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

1/2 tsp ground sage or thyme

1/4 tsp ground bay leaf

Two pinches allspice

Optional: 1 clove mashed garlic

Chops

1-1 1/3 lb boneless, pork loin chops, or 2 chops, 1 1/4” thick (Note: boneless, French-cut, center-cut, pork loin chops are available at Trader Joe’s, which are rather expensive-$6.49/lb, but worth it!)

1 tbsp oil  (Avocado or coconut oil is important for health, as olive oil is carcinogenic, when heated to high temperatures.)

1 tbsp butter

Optional: 1 clove garlic, halved

Sauce Nenette

1 c heavy whipping cream  (Note: increase the sauce recipe by one and a half for four chops; for six chops, double the sauce recipe.)

1/8 tsp salt

Pinch of pepper

2 tsp dry mustard  (Available in bulk at most grocery stores.)

4 tsp tomato paste

4 tsp chopped fresh basil  (If you have fresh basil that you are not able to use right away, you may freeze the whole leaves in water, in a small container; be sure to thaw the night before cooking.  Large, fresh, basil plants are often available at Trader’s for $3.99; see photo below.)

  1. basil plant from Trader’s

    If using frozen basil, thaw a day ahead, in the refrigerator.

  2. In a small bowl, mix the first six ingredients; rub pork loins with this marinade seche. Place loins in a glass, or stainless steel, dish.  Cover and marinate for at least 3 hours-better overnight-turning at least 2-3 times during marinating period.  This brings out flavor and tenderizes the meat.  May not need to use all the marinade.  See photo below.
  3. marinade seche, for rubbing on chops

    Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

  4. Before cooking the chops, scrape off the salt and herbs; then, dry the meat thoroughly with paper towels (drying aids in the browning process); see photo below.
  5. scraping salt marinade off chops

    Heat pan over med-med/high heat; add 1 tbsp oil for 2 chops; place pork chops in hot oil (if doubling the recipe, be sure not to crowd chops, but cook two or three at a time, or they will steam rather than brown).

  6. Cook 3-4 minutes per side, or until nicely browned (see photo below).
  7. Prepare basil by chopping.  If using frozen basil, drain it well, chop small, and measure 2 tsp of the wet leaves, as opposed to 4 tsp of chopped, fresh leaves, for a single recipe.
  8. browned loin chops

    Remove chops to a plate, pour out fat in pan; then, add butter and optional garlic-listed above under Chops. Return the meat and all its juices to hot pan; let cook until you hear the loin chops sizzle.

  9. Cover the pan and place in the bottom third of oven, for 25-30 minutes, or until there is no color in chops, when center is cut with a knife.  Be sure to turn and baste the chops occasionally.
  10. Meanwhile in a small saucepan, bring cream, salt, and pepper, listed above under Sauce Nenette, to a simmer over med/low heat; then, cook for 8-10 minutes, or until it is reduced by a third, or a total of 2/3 cups. Do not cover pan.
  11. Blend the mustard and tomato paste together in a small bowl; beat hot cream into this mixture with a wire whisk; set aside.
  12. When chops are done, remove to a plate, and degrease the meat juices, by using a long-handled spoon (draw spoon over the surface, to dip up a thin layer of fat; it helps to tip pan, to more easily reach fat.)
  13. Pour cream mixture over juices in pan and simmer for 3-4 minutes, uncovered, on top of stove. Adjust seasoning (know meat will be salty from marinade), stir in chopped basil, return chops, basting them with sauce.  See photo at top of recipe.
  14. For low-carb, gluten-free needs, I like to serve this with quinoa (see recipe at Quinoa Dishes). Childs suggests braised cabbage for a vegetable; my version of this will be my next entry, or see my 1880’s Minced Cabbage, for another ideal accompaniment to this dish.

Legal Peanut Butter Pie

legal peanut butter pie

A recipe for the best of legal, peanut butter pies follows; it’s accompanied with information on the make-up of peanuts, their various uses throughout the world, and why they cause allergic reactions, in some people.

Peanuts Are Seeds

The peanut is not a nut, but rather the seed of Arachis hypogaea, a small bush that is a legume, which pushes its woody fruit capsules underground as they mature.  1

The Background of Peanuts

Around 2000 B.C., this seed was domesticated in South America; this took place probably in Brazil.  Then, the peanut became an important crop to the Peruvians, prior to the beginnings of the Inca empire, in the early 1400’s.  In the 16th century, the Portuguese took it to Africa, India, and Asia.  Quickly, it was being used as a major source of cooking oil in China, because of its high oil content (the composition of peanuts is 48% oil, 26% protein, 19% carbohydrates, and 6% water).  2

America lagged behind, however, in adopting the peanut as anything other than animal feed, until the 19th century; then, in the early 20th century it became a major crop in the South, when agricultural scientist George Washington Carver encouraged farmers to replace weevil-ravaged cotton with peanuts.  Today, the United States is the third largest peanut producer in the world-though we’re a distant third to India and China.  3

Various Ways Peanuts Are Employed in Cooking

Peanuts are consumed mostly as oil and meal in Asia, while in the U.S., they are eaten as food.  In their pureed form, they have found their way into several Asian and African traditions, lending richness, substance, and flavor to sauces and soups.  These pureed peanuts, as well as whole ones, are used in Thai and Chinese noodle dishes and sweet bun fillings.  Indonesian dipping sauces and sambal condiments employ these, and in West African nations, they are used in cakes, confections, stews and soups.  (For a great Indonesian condiment, see Serengdung Kacang-a delicious peanut/coconut-chip mixture, which can creatively be used as an hors d’ouvres or on top of salads.  4

Along with these other countries, peanut soups are popular in the American South.  Both the southern United States and Asia use peanuts boiled in saltwater, as a popular snack.  When boiled in its shell, this nut develops a potato-like aroma, with sweet vanilla highlights due to the liberation of vanillin from the shell.  5

Compounds Contributing to Peanut Flavor

Roasted peanuts have several hundred volatile compounds; the raw peanut has a green, bean-like flavor, which comes mainly from the compounds green-leaf hexanal and the pyrazine that characterizes peas.  A composite of several sulfur compounds make-up the roasted aroma; these consist of numerous “nutty” pyrazines and others (some of which have fruity, flowery, fried, and smoky characters).  When staling takes place during storage, these nutty pyrazines, however, disappear, and painty, cardboard notes increase.  (For related information on chemical compounds and their aromas, as found in herbs and spices, see Sage Turkey Delight.)

There are four varieties of peanuts grown in the United States for different purposes.  The large Virginia and small Valencia are used for nuts sold in the shell, while the Virginia and small Spanish are found in mixed nuts and candies.  Finally, the Runner is produced for use in baked goods and peanut butter.  7

Peanuts as a Food Allergy

Bbc.com wrote that the frequency of food allergies-especially in industrialized countries-has increased over the past 30 years; it reported a five-fold increase in peanut allergies between 1995 and 2016 in the UK.  It proposed that this increase in allergies is probably environmental and related to Western lifestyles.  8

A true food allergy is the body’s immune system mistaking a food component (in this case proteins in peanuts), as a sign of invasion by bacterium or virus; it then reacts by initiating a defense-the release of histamines-which causes the allergic reaction.  Such overreactions may cause mild damage, such as manifestations of discomfort, itching or rash, or severe reactions bringing life-threatening asthma or change in blood pressure or heart rhythm.  9

Peanuts are one of the most typical food allergens; these allergic reactions are the most common cause of fatal food-induced anaphylaxis, with adolescents with asthma being the highest-risk group.  Thus, it is important to check with your doctor, before eating the following recipe, or any other foods made with peanuts.  10

Applying This Peanut Lesson

When still, we are guided into that which is most beneficial for our beings.  When hurried we are prone to mistakes, such as eating, by accident, a food that causes adverse reactions in our body-makeup.

Slowing down is imperative to hearing our given needs, which are unique.  Each of us must hear for ourselves what to eat nutritionally.  Likewise, we must accept inner guidance concerning all other aspects of living, so we consume only that which is true and pure.

We need to be at peace in order to attain such promise.  The Spirit encourages us: when he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble?  11

Gently and mildly-Webster’s definition for meekness-we receive God’s provision of tranquility, so we can know what to put in our mouths and souls, from moment to moment.  As we apply this precept, it amplifies itself as increased health, in both the physical and spiritual realms, for they play off of each other.

Enjoy this powerful dessert, by following the recipe below!

References:

  1. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p.510.
  2. , pp. 502, 510.
  3. , p. 510.
  4. , p. 510.
  5. , p. 510.
  6. , p. 511.
  7. , p. 511.
  8. https://www.bbc.com/news/health-46302780
  9. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p.455.
  10. https://www.thermofisher.com/diagnostic-education/patient/us/en/allergy-types/food-allergies/peanut-allergy.html
  11. King James Bible, Job: 34: 29.

finished product

Legal Peanut Butter Pie  Yields: 1-10” gluten-free pie, or 10 servings.  Active prep time: 1hr/  inactive prep time for chilling: 3 hr.  Note: may freeze, to have on hand for company.

Crust

1 c almond flour

1/3 c peanut powder  (Trader Joe’s has an excellent price for this-$4.99/8 oz.)

1/2 c Monkfruit sweetener  (See Healthy Date/Apricot Bars, for information on the health benefits of Monkfruit.)

1/4 tsp salt

6 tbsp of butter, melted

Spray oil

Ganache

3/4 c heavy whipping cream  (An organic one can be found at Trader Joe’s for $3.49/pt.)

1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips  (Such are high quality and inexpensive at Trader’s.)

1/2 oz of unsweetened Baker’s chocolate, for optional decoration

Filling

1 c plus 2 tbsp heavy whipping cream

8 oz cream cheese, softened

2 tsp vanilla

1/2 c Monkfruit sweetener

1 c creamy peanut butter, at room temperature

  1. moist pie crust dough

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Chill a med/large bowl and beaters for an electric mixer in the freezer.

  2. Melt 6 tbsp of butter in a small saucepan over med/low heat.
  3. Mix all dry ingredients for the crust in a medium bowl with a fork.
  4. pie crust formed in pan

    Add melted butter; blend with a spatula, until all dry ingredients are incorporated (mixture will be moist-see photo).

  5. Spray a 10” pie plate, preferably with coconut oil spray. With the spatula, spread the dough evenly over bottom of pan; then with fingers, pat mixture firmly into place on bottom and up sides of pie plate.  See photo.
  6. baked pie crust

    Bake for 23-25 minutes, or until golden brown on bottom-edges will be darker. (See photo.)

  7. Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes; then, place in refrigerator or freezer to finish cooling.
  8. Make ganache-see list of ingredients above-by bringing cream to a very low simmer over med/low heat (should be hot/steaming, but not boiling); add chocolate pieces and continue to cook, beating with a wire whisk, until mixture is glossy/shiny.  Remove from heat; add vanilla and set aside.
  9. first beating of filling

    Go to the above list of filling ingredients: whip 1 c cream, using chilled bowl and beaters. Set aside in refrigerator.

  10. In another bowl, using the same beaters, blend the softened cream cheese, 2 tbsp heavy whipping cream, and vanilla. Mix in Monkfruit and peanut butter, beating for at least three minutes, until mixture is light and Monkfruit has had a chance to dissolve some-this will dissolve further, as pie sets. (See photo above.)
  11. Beat in one third of the whipped cream in this mixture.
  12. filling after final beating

    Finally fold in the remaining cream (see photo).

  13. Spread the ganache evenly on bottom of the cooled crust.
  14. Place filling on top of ganache. May use your fingertip to form decorative peaks in filling.
  15. Using a sharp knife, scrape optional, unsweetened chocolate over the top of the pie (see photo of finished product at top of recipe).
  16. Refrigerate for three hours before serving.
  17. Serve immediately, or may cut in tenths-this is rich-and freeze. When frozen, place pieces in a freezer bag, to have on hand as needed for company.
  18. This is legal and dynamite!

Dutch Baby

Dutch baby

Here are creative ways to experience Dutch babies-German pancakes-as well as information concerning their background.  (For more on the history of pancakes, see Norwegian Pancakes.) Indeed, this Dutch baby will tantalize your tongue!

The Famous Original Pancake House in Portland, OR

My first experience with this treat was at The Original Pancake House here in Portland, OR, which James Beard recognized, as number ten in his 1970’s list, of America’s top ten restaurants.  (For more on this eatery, see Tabbouleh.)  In the 1990’s, I attended The Original Pancake House several times a week, sitting at the community table with my friends-the regulars-I’d met there.  Here, I often indulged in this lemony, puffed-up pancake, which was only slightly sweet; there were always doggie bags of leftovers to take home.

My Family History with Dutch Babies

Unbeknown to me at the time, this creation played an important part in my family in the latter part of 1981: My aunt Sheila was caring for my bedridden sister Maureen-pregnant with her sixth child-by cooking for her family several times a week, as my brother-in-law was in Wyoming, with his work.

To the delight of all these children, Sheila most often made multiple Dutch babies in pie plates, cutting them in sixths, and serving them with four or more toppings.  The kids would take several pieces at a time, choosing from these various toppings, among which were numerous berries, home-canned apple sauce, and a creamed chipped beef (jars of thinly sliced dried beef in a homemade cream sauce).

The memory of Aunt Sheila’s making Dutch babies is indelibly set in my nieces’ and nephews’ hearts; when either the person or the food is mentioned, the above story spills forth.

Recipes for Both Small and Large Dutch Babies

I wasn’t aware of this ministry at the time, and I knew nothing about Dutch babies, until I moved to Portland in 1986; here I discovered them as huge, massive pancakes made in a cast iron skillet (served with fresh lemon, butter, and powdered sugar).  Thus, I have always made them in this same manner; though now I prefer to use Swerve Confectioners Sugar Replacement.  Below you will find this large pancake receipt, as well as directions for making Aunt Sheila’s smaller pie-pan version, in case you are baking numerous pancakes for a crowd.

Savory and Apple Dutch Babies

There are multiple variations of Dutch babies online; some of the best savory options can be found at https://www.allrecipes.com/article/savory-dutch-baby/  There are many recipes for a German apple pancake on internet as well.  I, however, feel my Apple Pancake is by far the best.  Unlike all these other receipts, mine has the fresh apples-mixed in cinnamon sugar-baked on top of the puffed-up Dutch Baby.  This provides perfect, moist caramelized apples, as opposed to the other versions’ drier, smothered apples, which are baked underneath the batter.  Note: as with the Dutch baby, I first experienced this German apple pancake at The Original Pancake House, beginning in the 1980’s.

German Pancake’s Past in American Cook Books

In my rather extensive cook book collection, there were no recipes for Dutch babies-German pancakes-present in cook books published in the early days of our nation.  In fact, I didn’t find any receipts for this German pancake until 1930, with The Settlement Cook Book, by Mrs. Simon Kander.  The Joy of Cooking, by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker, also boasts of directions for a German pancake, or pfannkuchen; this cook book was first published in 1931, with multiple printings following-my edition is copyrighted 1964.  A healthy version of a German pancake is present in Jean Hewitt’s The New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook, published in 1971.  1

I found a Dutch apple cake in two of my mid-twentieth-century cook books: Fannie Engle’s Cook Book, 1946, and The New Century Cook Book, 1949, by Demetria Taylor.  This cake is quite similar to the apple pancake, with sliced fresh apples arranged over the top of a pan of cake batter, which is then dusted well with cinnamon sugar and baked.  2

As a side note, Margret Visser points out in The Rituals of Dinner, 1991, that it is considered impolite to cut pancakes with a knife in Germany, as it could appear that one thinks they might be tough.  3

Lessons Learned

We should be aware how our acts of kindness may leave lifelong-in some cases eternal-influence on others, as seen above in my family.

Likewise, our words and deeds can also leave bad impressions on those around us; thus, we are careful to guard ourselves in both speech and actions.  This, however, can only be done effectively, if we bring our thoughts captive, not letting strife or bad memories rule and reign in our hearts.  (We cry out for help in doing this!)

In this way, we are set free from captivity and bondage, and we can be used subsequently, to help bring our loved ones and others into freedom.

References:

  1. Simon Kander, The Settlement Cook Book (Milwaukee, Wisconsin: The Settlement Cook Book Co., 1930), p. 83.; Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker, The Joy of Cooking (Indianapolis, Indiana: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1931, 1936, 1941, 1942, 1946, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1962, 1963, 1964), p. 214; Jean Hewitt, The New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook (New York: Avon Books, 1971), p. 304.
  2. Fannie Engles, Fannie Engles’ Cook Book (New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1946), pp. 126, 127; Demetria Taylor, The New Century Cook Book (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc., 1949), p. 727. A revised and enlarged edition of Phyllis Krafft Newill, Good Food and How to Cook It (New York; D. Appleton-Century Company, 1939).
  3. Margaret Visser, The Rituals of Dinner (New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991), p. 186.
  4. https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/german-apple-pancake/ and https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/23900/german-apple-pancake/

serve it forth-a Dutch Baby

Dutch Baby (German Pancake)  Yields: 2-3 servings, when made in a cast iron skillet.  For larger crowds, may make multiple, half-recipes in 9″-pie or cake pans. Total prep time: 35 min/  active prep time: 10 min/  baking time: 25 min.

 

 

 

Receipt for a cast iron skillet, or half this recipe for a 9”-pie pan:

4 lg eggs

1 c unbleached white flour  (Bob’s Red Mill organic is of high quality; available in bulk, or 5-lb bags, at our local New Seasons.)

1/4 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco for $4.95/5 lb.)

1 c milk  (May substitute alternative milks, such as almond or oat.)

6 tbsp butter, plus more for serving

2 small lemons, quartered  (Inexpensive organic lemons can be purchased at Trader Joe’s for $1.69/lb, or 6 small lemons.)

Powdered sugar  (May substitute Swerve confectioner’s sugar, which is sugar-free; for information on Swerve, see Great Keto Citrus Cookies).

  1. batter lightly beaten-somewhat lumpy

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

  2. Beat eggs in a large bowl; stir in flour and salt.  Mix in milk gently; do not over beat-batter will be somewhat lumpy.  (Optional: may refrigerate batter overnight.)  See photo above.
  3. Melt butter in a cast iron skillet over medium heat, or if using 9” pie plates, place in oven to melt butter-may cut butter in small pieces, so it melts quickly and evenly, without browning on edges.
  4. smaller Dutch baby in a 9″ pie pan

    Pour egg mixture into hot skillet, or pie pan, and place in preheated oven.  Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown.  (See photos of smaller Dutch baby here, and larger, cast-iron-skillet pancake at top of entry).

  5. Cut pancakes in desired number of pieces; I cut the larger pancake in halves, or thirds, and then serve it to my guests, with butter, lemon slices, and powdered sugar.  (For larger crowds, the multiple, smaller pancakes can be cut into sixths, so your guests can choose from numerous toppings, such as: various berries and fruits, applesauce, and creamed chipped beef.  This latter is a blend of cream sauce and dried beef.  Five-ounce jars of these thin slices are available for $4.39 at our local Fred Meyer’s.)
  6.  Serve immediately and be wowed!

Chin Chin of West Africa

plate of chin chin

This last receipt in my African repast is chin chin, or doughnut-like pastries.  Here are easy instructions for making them, as well as the colorful history of various fried pastries.  This chin chin recipe came to me in the early 1980’s, along with the declaration that no Nigerian wedding would be without them; I can see why, as they are so good!

Chin Chin as Found in West Africa

Originally this treat was prepared only for special occasions throughout West Africa and Nigeria, but now it is sold there in supermarkets and on street corners.  In Africa, the texture of chin chin varies greatly from fall-apart-softness to teeth-breaking-hardness; it comes in various shapes, though the most common are one-inch squares.  (My 1980’s receipt calls for wedges, made by rolling the dough in two eight-inch circles, then cutting each into twelve pieces-the quickest method.)  1

Chin chin are known as African croquettes; for example, in Cameroun these pastries are called ross, or croquettes du mboa.  In Guinea, however, they are referred to as gateaux secs.  They come with flavors specific to each country and region, with nutmeg being popular in Nigeria; though, those known as akara in this country are prepared with black-eyed peas-croquettes africaines in West Africa often include this legume.  2

Wikipedia compares chin chin to the Scandinavian snack klenat.  It states that eggs, baking powder, and nutmeg are optional in this fried wheat-flour dough, made up of flour, sugar, butter, and milk.  3

Early World Development of Cooking Techniques

In Consider the Fork, Bee Wilson puts the technique of frying in context, noting that in cooking the development of pots mark the leap of mere heating, to the new status of “cuisine”.  From early times, roasting and barbecuing have been present; this is the direct and unequivocal form of cooking, where raw food meets flame and is transformed.  Boiling or frying, however, are indirect forms of cooking, for in addition to fire they require a waterproof and fireproof vessel.  Here we see that the food only takes on the heat of fire, through the mediums of oil in frying and water in boiling-an advance on crude fire.  4

Doughnuts and Such in America

I am not sure how long Africans have been transforming dough into delectable chin chin croquettes, using vessels of hot oil.  James Beard, however, declares in American Cookery, 1972, that doughnuts, crullers, and other fried cakes have been standard fare in America for centuries.  The New Englanders, the Pennsylvania Dutch, and practically all other settlers adopted the habit of eating doughnuts for breakfast or lunch or as a between-meal snack, during the forming of this country.  (For more information on the history of doughnuts in early America, see 1950’s Butterscotch Cookies.  5

In describing various fried pastries, Beard stated in the 1970’s that cake doughnuts were the most popular of all; he also notes that the Dutch and Germans brought raised doughnuts here.  Out of these raised doughnuts, evolved the famous rectangular shaped ones, with maple icing.  Crullers are richer than cake doughnuts; Beard’s receipt has double the eggs and butter and a third of the milk.  He also gives his version of the great New Orleans dish called calas-fried rice cakes-for which the famous “calas tout chaud” is shouted in this city’s streets early in the morning.  6 (America’s famous The Joy of Cooking calls these calas rice crullers.   7)

Croquettes by Julia Child and Careme

Julia Child gives techniques for making croquettes, in her well-known Mastery of French Cooking, 1961, a decade before Beard provided his teaching on doughnuts.  Her croquettes differ vastly from our above croquettes africaines, for they are various fondues, chilled and cut in balls or squares, rolled in egg and breadcrumbs, then browned in deep fat.  Her fondues consisted of eggs, cream, cheese, ham, or shellfish, and seasonings, thickened with a roux made of several tablespoons of flour and butter.  These are the more standard croquettes, while the doughnut-like chin chin that Africans call croquettes are atypical.  8

Croquettes have been popular in Europe for a long time.  In his first book Le Patissier Royal, 1851, Careme includes such excellent croquette receipts, as Rice Croquettes a l’Ancienne and Chestnut Croquettes.  As related by Esther B. Aresty in The Delectable Past, the first is a concoction of eggs, cream, butter, cheese, rice, and chicken or ham, which has been chilled first, dipped in egg and breadcrumbs, then deep-fried.  The second employs boiling chestnuts and then making a chilled puree out of part of them; this puree consists of eggs, butter, cream, and the mashed boiled chestnuts.  Once this mixture is cold, it is used to encase the remaining boiled chestnuts, which are then dipped in egg wash, rolled in breadcrumbs, and fried in hot oil.  9

Carame also notes in Le Patissier Royal that rum-banana fritters were made by Napoleon’s cook on the desolate island of Saint Helena.  Aresty elaborates on Careme’s sketchy recipe, with detailed instructions of a banana dipped in batter, fried in oil, then drizzled with a rum sauce and finally baked in an oven.  10

Lesson Learned by Moderately Indulging in Sugar Treats

There is nothing health-redeeming about the above African chin chin croquettes, but oh how addictive they are!    This fried sweet is loaded with the wrong kind of fats (for more information on healthy and unhealthy fats, see Balsamic EggsNutty Coconut Pie, and 1880’s Ozark Honey Oatmeal Cookies .

Indulging in these fried pastries makes me think of the old saying: a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.  Indeed, there is a proper way to eat sugar: infrequently and gratefully!  We must apply moderation with the intake of this food, allowing for it only on special occasions (according to your medical requirements, of course), but when allowed, how we savor this treat!

Likewise in life, troubled feelings resulting from correction can be balanced with the sweetness of proper thoughts and words.  Always, we need to slow down carefully and be led by the Spirit, when either receiving or giving corrective direction.  (Webster’s definition of correct is to make things right.)

When correction comes to us, it may not feel like there was a spoonful of sugar in the mix.  We, however, have authority over our minds, wills, and emotions, which together make up our souls, with its voice our thoughts.

We need humble ourselves, in this restorative process.  Of most importance, we must forgive the deliverer of this needed direction, taking no offense, which is critical for our optimum mental health.  This also includes forgiving ourselves, if any mistakes are made in our delivering help to others.

Receiving healing directives readies us to grow exponentially, best equipping us for our ordained service here on earth.  Note: only when our obedience is fulfilled, are we wise enough to correct our fellows, applying all this sweetness to their given situations.

May we learn to live this way, receiving and giving correction with a spoonful of sugar, with all the freedom this brings.  In like manner, may we indulge with proper moderation in the spoonfuls of sugar in our physical diet, as we enjoy these incredible chin chin to the maximum!

References:

  1. https://www.africanbites.com/chin-chin/
  2. https://www.196flavors.com/nigeria-chin-chin/
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chin_chin
  4. Bee Wilson, Consider the Fork (New York: Basic Books, 2012), p. 3.
  5. James Beard, American Cookery (Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1972), p. 799.
  6. , p. 801.
  7. Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker, The Joy of Cooking (New York: The New American Library, Inc., 1931, 1936, 1941, 1942, 1946, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1973), p. 707.
  8. Julia Child, Louisette Berholle, and Simone Beck, The Mastery of French Cooking, vol. 1 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1961), pp. 201-204.
  9. Esther B. Aresty, The Delectable Past (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964), pp. 139-144.
  10. , p. 144.

finished product

Chin Chin (Nigerian Wedding Pastries)  Yields: 24 wedges.  Total prep time: 40 min/  active prep time: 20 min/  cooking time: 20 min.  Note: a fryer, electric frying pan, or thermometer will be helpful to regulate temperature, while frying.

2 2/3 c unbleached white flour

2/3 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco for $4.95 for 5 lbs.)

1/2 c sugar  (Organic sugar is available at both Costco and Trader Joe’s.)

1 tsp nutmeg, optional

1/4 c butter, at room temperature

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 c milk

48 oz oil, for frying  (May use any vegetable oil, such as canola, which is inexpensive.)

  1. kneaded dough

    Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl; cut in softened butter with a pie cutter or two forks.

  2. Heat oil to 350 degrees.
  3. Stir eggs and milk into dry ingredients, until all flour is incorporated.
  4. cutting dough in wedges

    Knead dough on a floured board for about five minutes, until elastic and relatively smooth, adding more flour as needed (see photo).

  5. Divide dough into two balls. Roll out one ball into an eight-inch circle; cut into twelve pieces, see photo.  (Note: the more traditional way to make chin chin is by cutting dough into small one-inch squares; this takes more time.)
  6. three chin chin turned over, the rest ready for turning

    Cut off a third of one pastry and place in oil, to test for proper heat; if dough floats immediately, oil is ready.  (If dough quickly turns dark, oil is too hot.) When temperature is right, fry other eleven pieces.  Edges of dough will be light golden and dough slightly wet in center, when it is time to turn pastry over; drain on paper towel.  (See photo.)

  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6, until all chin-chin is fried.
  8. Enjoy this delicious treat.

West African Bobotie (Lamb or Beef Baked in Curry-Custard)

bobotie

Discover the health benefits of turmeric, while delighting in this national West African dish bobotie-made with turmeric.

How Turmeric Grows

Turmeric comes from a herbaceous tropical plant in the ginger family, Curcuma longa.  Our herb is its dried underground stem, or rhizome-the horizontal, underground stem of this ginger “root”.  This special underground stem structure has been developed for nonsexual reproduction.  In other words, a rhizome can “clone” itself by forming a storage organ that can produce its own roots and stem and become an independent-but genetically identical-plant; this is seen in sunchokes and all ginger “roots” in the ginger family, of which turmeric is one.  In potatoes and yams, these swollen underground stem tips are called tubers.  1

Turmeric’s Preservation Process

Turmeric rhizomes are steamed or boiled in slightly alkaline water, in the making of this spice; this sets the color and precooks the abundant starch; then, these stems are sun-dried.  Though turmeric is usually sold pre-ground, some ethnic and whole foods markets may carry it fresh or as dried rhizomes.  2

Whole Turmeric Likely Provides Different Benefits

This whole turmeric, as found in certain health and ethnic grocers, may provide different health benefits.  Studies of its pre-ground form focus mostly on its constituent curcumin, which is just one of its curcuminoids (the other two being bisdemethoxycurcumin and demethyoxycurcumin).  Turmeric also contains volatile oils, or aromatic terpines, such as tumerone, athlantone, and zingiberene.  All these different substances are associated with unique health benefits.  3

The Flavor Components of Turmeric

Turmeric’s aromatic terpenes of turmerone and zingiberene give this herb a woody, dry earth aroma; it also has a slight bitterness and pungency.  (For detailed information on flavor components found in herbs, see Sage Turkey Delight.  4

The Origins of Turmeric

Turmeric appears to have been domesticated long ago in India, probably for its leading characteristic of deep yellow pigment; the word curcuma comes from the Sanskrit for “yellow”.  (For another reference of words for food, taken from Sanskrit, see Laban Bil Bayd.)  In the U.S., turmeric has been primarily used to color mustards and provide their nonpungent filler; in addition, it also has been used in prepared curry powders, where it makes up 25-50% by weight of these blends.  5

Its Present Popularity Is Based on Its Health Benefits

In whfoods.org, George Mateljan observes that despite the past wide use of turmeric in cooking over several thousand years, now researchers are continually surprised by its wide-ranging health benefits, as a supplement.  He lists some of these as: anti-inflammatory benefits, decreased cancer risk, support of detoxification, improved cognitive function, blood sugar balance, and improved kidney function.  He goes on to claim that it may also lessen the degree of severity in certain forms of arthritis, as well as certain digestive disorders.  6

Some of its strengths as a spice are: turmeric helps retain beta-carotene in certain foods such as carrots and pumpkin, in the cooking process.  Studies also show that turmeric may greatly help prevent the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which have been found to be so damaging, in the grilling of meat.  7

Curcumin Is Best Taken as a Supplement

Today, health experts focus mostly on curcumin, one of the curcuminoids found in turmeric.  It is best to take curcumin as a supplement, rather than to try to absorb its benefits through cooking with it in spice-form.  Consuming curcumin with black pepper enhances its absorption by 2000%, because of the piperine in pepper.  Be sure to check your supplements to insure they contain piperine.  Curcumin is also fat-soluble, so it is advised to take it with a fatty meal.  8

My Past with the Recipe Bobotie

When I was studying food in Peru in 1985, I met a couple from West Africa.  Upon learning about my work, they were anxious to share their personal receipt for their national dish bobotie, but I declined it, saying I already had this in my repertoire back home.  How often I have regretted my quick retort!

Applying Lessons in the Kitchen to Life

As we were exploring in my last entry on nkyemire, everything is about “keeping our kitchens clean”.  We tidy all up, as we go along in the cooking process, as well as in our lives; this way we don’t end up with an overwhelming mess at the end, in either our environments or our beings.

Humility is key to accomplishing the above, as is balance.  In the final analyses, we must admit that of ourselves we are without the power to effect lasting change.  Balance, however, is required, for without our fervent participation, God also is unable to effect permanent change within us.  We can-must-ask for humbleness of mind and stability in our beings, for he loves to help those who seek him.

References:

  1. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 263.
  2. Ibid., p. 430.
  3. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=78
  4. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 430.
  5. Ibid.
  6. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=78
  7. Ibid.
  8. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-turmeric#section1

finished product

Bobotie  (African Lamb or Beef Curry-Custard Dish)  Yields: 8-10 servings.  Total prep time: 2 hr/  active prep time: 40 min/  baking time: 80 min.

2 tbsp butter

2 med onions, chopped

2 lbs ground lamb or beef  (Organic ground beef is $5.95/lb at Trader Joe’s, and our local Grocery Outlet usually carries ground lamb for $6.49/lb.)

2 lg eggs

1/4 c milk

2 slices bread, broken in small pieces

1/4 c dried apricots, chopped small

1/4 c raisins

1/4 c blanched, slivered almonds, chopped

2 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp curry powder

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco for $4.95 for 5 lbs.)

5 lg bay leaves  (It’s preferable to get these in bulk at your favorite grocery store, so you can choose large bay leaves, if possible.)

Topping

1 egg

3/4 c milk

1/4 tsp turmeric

  1. sweating onions

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. In a large sauté pan, sweat (cook until translucent) onion slices, in hot butter; see photo.  Add lamb or beef, salt and pepper generously, as salting meat heavily while cooking adds greatly to flavor; cook until browned.  Remove from heat.
  3. In a large bowl, combine egg, 1/4 c milk, and bread crumbs; mash bread with a fork.
  4. bay leaves pressed into meat

    Add apricots, raisins, almonds, sugar, curry, lemon, and salt.  Blend well.

  5. Using a slotted spoon, remove cooked meat to the fruit/almond mixture. Mix well and place in a 2-quart casserole.  With hand, spread out evenly and press down firmly.
  6. Gently press in bay leaves, using a finger to make a hole in meat, prior to placing in the bay leaf (see photo above).
  7. custard topping poured over meat mixture

    Bake uncovered for 20 minutes.

  8. Meanwhile make topping in a small bowl, by beating egg, milk and turmeric lightly; set aside.
  9. After 20 minutes, pour topping over mixture in casserole (see photo).
  10. Bake 40 more minutes; at which point, take out bay leaves.
  11. Continue baking until custard is completely set, about 20 additional minutes; see photo at top of recipe.  Serve with rice and chutney and experience heaven!

African Nkyemire (Yams with Mushrooms)

nkyemire

Here we will unfold the mystery behind true yams, American “yams” and sweet potatoes, while partaking in the delightful African yam dish nkyemire.

Background of My Using This African Recipe

This recipe came to me in the early 1980’s, while catering and teaching cooking classes in Billings, MT.  I employed it in a African repast that included bobotie (a lamb dish baked in a curry-custard) and chin-chin (Nigerian wedding pastries), which will be my next two posts.  These outstanding dishes from Africa were among other native delicacies in this colorful dinner, which was one of my most popular classes.

What Are True Yams?

Today’s nkyemire receipt calls for African yams, which differ from what Americans call yams.  Yams, Dioscorea, are a tuber that originated in Africa and Asia, but now  also are commonly found in the Caribbean and Latin America, with 95% being grown in Africa.  Sweet potatoes, Ipomoea batatas, on the other hand, are a starchy root vegetable or tuber, which originated in Central or South America.   1

Columbus introduced the sweet potato to Europe; subsequently it was established in China and the Philippines by the end of the 15th century.  It has now become the second most important vegetable worldwide.  2

True yams differ from sweet potatoes primarily in size and color, for they can grow very large-up to 5 feet and 132 lbs.  These are cylindrical in shape with brown, rough, scaly-textured skin, and their flesh can be white, yellow, purple, or pink.  Their taste is less sweet and much more starchy and dry than sweet potatoes.  3

Sweet Potatoes and “Yams” in America

Sweet potatoes are related to the morning glory family, with an orange flesh, and a white, yellow, purple or orange skin.  This vegetable is sometimes shaped like a potato, though it may be longer and tapered at both ends.  Yams in America differ from true yams, like those found in Africa.  What we call yams here are actually orange-colored sweet potatoes-except those found in certain international food markets.  4

The orange-fleshed variety of sweet potato was introduced to the U.S. in 1930s marketing campaigns.  5  At that time, Americans were only used to the white variety of sweet potato; thus, to distinguish the orange-fleshed potato from this white variety, producers and shippers chose to use an English form of the African name nyami , meaning “to eat”; thus, our word “yam” was adopted.  These yams, however, are vastly different from the true yam, as originated in Africa and Asia.  Yams, as Americans call them, are sweet potatoes in actuality.  6

Importance of Tending to our Memories

One of my catered, African-themed events was a law firm’s employee-appreciation-gathering in Billings, during the summer of 1984; they had imbibed in South African wines and started throwing people in the swimming pool, at which point I gracefully exited the party-my check in hand.

Exposures to food become etched in our minds, as do certain life experiences, such as the one above.  We must be careful as to what we allow our minds to dwell on, as memories surface.  We can override poorer impressions left on our hearts, through purposeful practice, much like we can train ourselves to banish certain distastes, for ailments that were initially displeasing.  All must be properly tended to with diligence.

In this way, we can habituate our beings to let go of unpleasant, reoccurring thoughts, about either ailments or activities.  Indeed, we are responsible to hush these tendencies to recall negative, experiential occurrences created by either food or life.  Note: perhaps this can only done with the mighty help of God; thus, we ask for his gracious, omnipotent assistance.

Enjoy this simple receipt made with American “yams”-sweet potatoes.  If desired, go to an international market to get true yams and thus experience the accurate taste of this native dish.  For other sweet potato recipes, go to Sweet Potato Pie and Sprouted Quinoa and Yam Salad.

 

 

References:

  1. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/sweet-potatoes-vs-yams
  2. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 304.
  3. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/sweet-potatoes-vs-yams#section3
  4. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/ask-a-health-expert/yam-vs-sweet-potato-which-ones-healthier-and-whats-the-difference/article4102306/
  5. Harold McGee, On Food and History  (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 304
  6. https://ncsweetpotatoes.com/sweet-potatoes-101/difference-between-yam-and-sweet-potato/

yam slices cooked to a golden brown

African Nykemire (Yams with Mushrooms)  Yields: 6 servings.  Total prep time: 1 hr,  plus 1 1/4 hr ahead of time for baking yams.  Note: if refrigerating yams baked ahead, bring to room temperature several hours before preparing recipe.

3 med/lg yams, or sweet potatoes, about 2 1/2 lbs  (A 5-lb-bag of organic yams is available for $4.95 at Trader Joe’s, or 3 lbs/$3.95.)

2 tbsp lemon juice  (Organic lemons are only $1.69 for 4-6 lemons-1 lb-at Trader’s.)

1 bunch green onions, finely chopped, including green part  (Organic is only slightly more expensive.)

1 small green bell pepper, seeded and diced fine  (Organic is important, as peppers absorb pesticides readily.)

10 oz mushrooms  (A 10-oz-package of small, white mushrooms is available at Trader Joe’s for $1.79.)

6 tbsp ghee or butter  (Ghee will give the best health benefits and flavor; for easy recipe, see Ukrainian Spinach with Noodles.)

Salt and pepper to taste  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco for $4.95 for 5 lbs.

  1. wrapping yams so juices don’t spill out

    This step may be done ahead of time.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare yams as follows.

  2. Spray yams with a vegetable spray (for an inexpensive, effective spray, combine 97% white distilled vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide); let sit three minutes and rinse well.  Wrap in tin foil, carefully gathering the foil at the top, so all the ends point upward; this insures that the juices don’t spill on your oven (see photo above).
  3. Bake yams for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours; watch carefully so yams are rather soft, but not mushy!  Remove from oven and cool.
  4. Peel and cut cooled yams in 1″-thick slices.
  5. Squeeze lemon juice, set aside.
  6. Chop bell pepper and onions-including green part-into small pieces.  Set aside together in a bowl.
  7. cleaning mushrooms with mushroom brush

    Clean mushrooms, by brushing with a mushroom brush (see photo).

  8. Heat 4 tbsp butter, or better yet ghee, in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Quickly cook mushrooms, after distributing oils evenly throughout; stir frequently and cook just until they are becoming tender.  Remove to a bowl, with a slotted spoon.
  9. Add onions and green pepper to hot liquid, cook for 2-3 minutes, or until limp.  Remove pan from heat.
  10. In another skillet, heat 2 tbsp butter or ghee.  Place yam slices in hot fat, salt and pepper to taste, and cook on both sides, until golden brown (see photo at top of recipe).
  11. Meanwhile, return mushrooms to pan of onions and peppers and add 2 tbsp lemon juice.  Place over medium heat, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste, and heat thoroughly.
  12. Put browned yams on a plate and cover with hot mushroom mixture, see photo at top of entry. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Ridpath Salad, from the mid-20th century

Ridpath salad

Let’s examine what is the healthiest bacon on the market,  as we indulge in an outstanding 1950’s salad,  while reminiscing about the historical Davenport and Ridpath hotels, in Spokane, WA.

This Ridpath salad dates back to my early childhood days in the mid-twentieth century; then my family traveled to Spokane, from our little mountain village of East Glacier Park, MT, on such special occasions as school-clothes-shopping.  During these trips, we always stayed at the Davenport, and ate at least one of our meals at the Ridpath, where their signature salad was served, with its pickled beets, eggs, bacon, and more.

The Healthiest Bacon

Today, with our high health-consciousness, we may be reluctant to indulge in regular bacon, but fear not, for there are safer alternatives out there.  The three recommendations in choosing the best bacon are: the uncured, reduced-sodium, and center-cut options.  1

Uncured bacon has no nitrates or nitrites and generally tastes no different.  (For more on the history of curing and nitrates/nitrites, see respectively: The Best Corned Beef  and Disguised Ham .)

Reduced-sodium bacon may not appeal, for it may present a small taste adjustment, which is quickly overcome.  This change is important, as the salt used in producing bacon isn’t the high quality pink salt-Himalayan and Real Salt, which is actually critical for optimum health.  Rather, the sodium in bacon is harmful to our bodies; thus, reduced-sodium bacon may be the best choice, if you are planning on having more than one serving (2-3 pieces)-and this only on rare occasions.

The final instruction is to look for center-cut bacon.  This is bacon that has less fat; being mostly meat; thus, it is healthier and tastes even better.  It also is easier to cook, for it doesn’t curl so readily.

To get a brand that has all the above three qualities, you may have to go to a health food store, such as New Seasons or Whole Foods, but it’s really worth it.   You will also be able to find some of these three recommendations, in various brands at your local supermarket.

Davenport Hotel  2

The Davenport Hotel, which my family stayed at during the mid-twentieth century, was built in 1914.  Louis Davenport, however, neither provided the idea or the finances for it, but because of his already strong name in the city-as a restaurant owner widely established in hospitality-he was made its overseer and first proprietor.  Rather, it was it was commissioned by the Davenport Company, a group of Spokane’s leading businessmen, who desired a large public house for boarding and entertaining their guests.

Along with engaging Davenport, this group chose Kirkland Kelsey Cutter as the architect, for it had been Kelsey who had expanded Davenport’s highly acclaimed restaurant in 1904.

Davenport and Cutter employed lavish architectural elements from Italy, France, England, Spain, and Imperial Russia, with the lobby being inspired by the Spanish Renaissance style.  Among its lush details were Irish linens from Liddell, which came over on the Titanic; all this lent to the establishment’s promoting itself as “one of America’s exceptional hotels.”

It was on the roof of this hotel that the first commercially licensed radio station in Spokane was set up in 1922.  KHQ featured Harry “Bing” Crosby, a drop-out from Spokane’s Gonzaga University, who later became world famous for his singing.

Having sold the hotel in 1945, Davenport died in his suite in 1951.  It was shortly after this that my family first began staying here.  My brother Paul, two years my junior, can recall being taken in the arms of the bellhops around the lobby to gaze into the large fish tanks.  I remember the beauty of this majestic room, as well as the scurrying about of those attending to us.

The Davenport was closed in 1985; it was re-established, after a $38 million dollar renovation, by local entrepreneurs Walt and Karen Worthy, in 2002.

Ridpath Hotel  3

While we stayed at the Davenport in the 1950’s, we always ate at least one dinner at the Ridpath Hotel, which doesn’t exist anymore as a hotel, but rather is the Ridpath Club Apartments, a renovated, low-income, apartment complex, since 2017.

This grand hotel, the Ridpath, was known as Spokane’s longest, continuously run hotel, with its original building, built in 1900 and destroyed by fire in 1950.  Being promptly rebuilt, the doors of the second iteration of the Ridpath closed in 2008, a half a century later; thus, its continuous existence covered 108 years.

The original Ridpath Hotel, established by Colonel William Ridpath, suffered its first fire in 1902, but was subsequently restored.  The other fire, in 1950, totally destroyed this 5-story building.   It was 1952, the year of my birth, that San Francisco architect Ned Hyman Abrams completed the design of this second rendition, a twelve story building, with the architectural style of modernism.  It was during this decade that my memories of this establishment were formed.

History Translated into Personal Experience

The memory of their famous Ridpath salad is vivid to me, as is Caesar salad at this hotel (for history of the latter’s origin, see Creative Caesar Salads).  For Caesars, they would coddle the egg with a Bunsen burner table side; this fascinated my young mind, as did the strong garlic, tantalizing my tongue beyond imagination.

Food holds a power over our souls; we look for the good in this.  Tastes can invoke recollections of the past in our hearts; certain recipes call forth experiences from our childhood, as well as strengths and weaknesses found in our present existence.  We watch these, as they surface in our minds, tending to these impressions with care-allowing positives in and rejecting negatives.  This ordering of our life’s palate always produces good fruit in us.

References:

  1. https://www.self.com/story/weekend-approved-bacon and https://www.healthline.com/health/cured-vs-uncured-bacon
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Davenport_Hotel_(Spokane,_Washington)
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ridpath_Hotel

light olive oil good for dressings

Ridpath Salad  Yields 6-8 servings.  Total prep time: 20 min (only if preparing your own pickled beets and croutons, total time for these two items: 1 hr 10 min/  prep time: 10 min/  cooking time: 1 hr).

2-3 small fresh beets, or 1-15 oz can of pickled beets

1 c raw apple cider vinegar, if pickling your own beets

1/2 lb bacon

3 lg eggs

3 Roma tomatoes  (Organic is best.)

1-6 oz package of organic greens  (Available at Trader Joe’s for $2.29.)

croutons  (Use ready-made, or see recipe at Healthy Greens .)

1-2 garlic cloves, for optional rubbing of serving bowl

Dressing

1/4 c vinegar of your choice  (I used lavender.)

1/3 c olive oil  (See photo above, for a light olive oil from Trader’s, for $7.99/liter, that works well in dressings.)

2 med/lg cloves of garlic  (For easy prep, may substitute 1 cube frozen garlic from Trader’s.)

1/8 tsp oregano  (Organic is inexpensive at Trader’s-$1.99.)

1/8 tsp basil  (Also available at Trader’s.)

1/8 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco for $4.95 for 5 lbs.)

  1. rubbing skin off cooked beets

    If pickling your own beets, cut roots off beets, spray with vegetable spray (an effective, inexpensive spray is a combination of 97% white distilled vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide); let sit 3 minutes and rinse well.  Boil until tender.  Remove from hot water, cool, and rub off skin with your hand (see photo).

  2. Next, cut beets in 1/2”x1/2”x 2” slices.  Put beet slices in a small container and cover with apple cider vinegar.  Refrigerate for 24 hours.
  3. Boil eggs.  Cool, peel, and set aside.
  4. Place bacon in a large, cold frying pan.  Turn heat on to medium and brown well on one side before turning.  This method helps some with curling of bacon, as does using center-cut bacon, which is mostly meat (see photo below).
  5. center-cut bacon in cold pan

    Shake all dressing ingredients in a pint jar; set aside.

  6. Place greens in a large bowl, optionally rubbed with garlic.  Top with all other ingredients, toss with dressing, and serve.