1880’s Ozark Honey-Oatmeal Cookies

Ozark honey-oatmeal cookies

My library holds many old cook books, some copyrighted in the 1800’s; I also have a number of facsimiles, exact reproductions of the originals.  These aren’t considered costly with collectors, but are highly valuable to me, with their precise historical evidence required for my work.

A number of these republications help me with my need for early U.S.A. food history.  For instance one illuminates the 18th century: American Cookery, by Amelia Simmons; this was the first truly U.S. cook book, with such strictly American dishes as Indian pudding, Indian slapjack (pancakes), and johnnycake (flat corn cakes).  All early cook books, that were published on our soil, prior to this 1796 publication, were actually reprints of English cook books, none of which contained American ingredients such as: cranberries, clams, cornmeal, shad (fish of the genus Alosa), terrapin (turtles), etc.  Interestingly, recipe books were not in demand in our young country, where rivaling colonial plantations jealously guarded their family’s treasured receipts, and rich city dwellers adhered to their individual Old World cooking traditions.

In a recent cooking class, I taught Ozark Honey-Oatmeal Cookies from one of my facsimiles: the Silver Dollar City Edition of Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book, by Maria Parloa, which Washburn-Crosby Co. published in Boston originally, in 1880.  Its facsimile was issued at an unknown date during the 20th century, by General Mills, the successor to Washburn-Crosby Co.  Access the fascinating history of Maria Parloa, her cook books, these two flour mills, and this period cuisine at my following entries: 1800’s Escalloped Salmon (2017/04/17), 1880’s Minced Cabbage (2017/04/24), and 1880’s Clam Chowder (2017/01/30).

These cookies call for shortening; its definition is fat used in cooking, made from animal, vegetable, or compound manufactured substances.  Examples of the latter are margarine, discovered in France in 1869, and Crisco, which is a hydrogenated vegetable oil, created in America in 1911; Crisco usually comes to mind when shortening is mentioned today.

The term shortening, however, first surfaced in the early half of 18th century; it is considered to be American.  As far as cook books are concerned, it appeared in several of Amelia Simmons’ recipes in American Cookery, 1796, such as johnnycake and “another plain cake”, though she doesn’t define the word.

In the April 6, 1892 edition, the New York Times promoted Cottolene, as a “New Shortening…a vegetable product far superior to anything else for shortening and frying purposes”.  This, the first hydrogenated vegetable oil, was primarily used as a cooking medium, in some households.

In June of 1911, Procter and Gamble began selling hydrogenated cottonseed oil, as Crisco (short for “crystallized cottonseed oil”); they discovered this shortening in their quest to generate a raw material for soap, through a technique that had its origins in 1897 France.  Because of an intense promotional campaign, it became the first popular national shortening product of its kind (this ingredient is extremely prevalent in 20th century recipes).  To this day, Crisco remains the best known brand for this item in the U.S.; there are other well-known brands in a number of other countries.

These Ozark Honey-Oatmeal Cookies allow for a healthy means to satisfy our sweet tooth, for they are made with such powerful foods as: organic oats, semi-sweet chocolate chips, organic raisins, unsweetened coconut flakes, pumpkin seeds, nuts, raw honey…In place of refined sugar, I use the healthy alternative coconut sugar.  The recipe from this 1880’s cook book calls for shortening, which probably referred to either butter or lard initially, though those baking from its facsimile, in the 20th century, would have used then popular Crisco; I leave this choice up to you.

This recipe is easy to make and is extremely good!  Enjoy.

References:

  1. Facsimile of Amelia Simmons, American Cookery, 1796 (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1965), pp. 57, 58.
  2. Silver Dollar City Edition of Maria Parloa, Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book (Minneapolis: Washburn-Crosby Co., 1880); this facsimile was reproduced by General Mills at an unknown date  in the 20th century.
  3. Esther B. Aresty, The Delectable Past (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964), pp. 183-186.
  4. http://www.foodtimeline.org/shortening.html
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shortening

mixing oatmeal into dough in stages

1880’s Ozark Honey-Oatmeal Cookies  Adapted from a recipe in General Mills’ 20th century Special Silver Dollar City Edition of Maria Parloa, Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book (Boston: Estes and Lauriat, 1880).  Yields: 4 1/2 dozen.  Total prep time: 1 hr.

1 3/4 cup flour  (May grind 1 1/3 cups organic hard red spring wheat berries-I choose this berry for its high protein content-this makes 2 cups of flour; BE SURE to remove 1/4 cup of flour, after it is ground, for the required 1 3/4 cup.)

1/2 cup butter, or shortening

1 1/4 cup sugar  (I use coconut sugar for its health benefits.)

2 large eggs

1/3 cup honey

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt  (Real Salt is important for health; available in nutrition center at local supermarket.)

2 cups oats  (Organic is only slightly more expensive; so much healthier.)

1/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes  (Available inexpensively in bulk at our local Winco.)

1/3 cup pumpkin seeds

1/3 cup nuts, chopped

1/3 cup raisins  (Organic is important; available reasonably at Trader’s.)

1/2 cup chocolate chips  (High quality, semi-sweet chocolate chips are available at Trader Joe’s.)

Parchment paper, wax paper, and 2 cookie sheets

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. If grinding your own flour, begin to do so now.
  3. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with a fork; beat in eggs, one at a time; blend in honey.
  4. placing dough on parchment paper

    Stir salt and baking soda into flour in another large bowl.  (May place these ingredients in a sealed gallon-size storage bag and shake vigorously.)

  5. Mix this flour mixture into the shortening/sugar/eggs; do not over beat the dough, as this makes cookies tough.
  6. Stir coconut, pumpkin seeds, nuts, chocolate chips, and raisins into this mixture, distributing evenly.
  7. Mix half the oats into this dough gently (see photo at top of recipe); add other half; stir with a large rubber spatula or spoon, just until blended.
  8. Using a teaspoon, drop dough 2 inches apart on parchment-paper-covered cookie sheet, shaping rounds roughly with fingers, as you go (see above photo).
  9. Place pan in preheated oven for about 9-10 minutes, or until golden brown.
  10. Meanwhile start a second pan, by shaping dough on another piece of parchment paper.
  11. When first pan is done, immediately start baking this second pan.
  12. cookies baked to perfection

    Cool baked cookies on cookie sheet for 2 minutes.  Remove and place them on a large piece of wax paper (see photo).

  13. Using a new piece of parchment paper, prepare the third pan of cookies, to be ready for the oven as soon as second batch is done; repeat until all the dough is used.  (Pans should be cool before spooning dough on them.)
  14. These freeze well, to have on hand for healthy snacks.

Power-Packed Cream of Broccoli Soup

cream of broccoli soup

A beloved one from my church was just pronounced cancer-free; it has been my heart to minister to her during this trial; in doing so, I have made this broccoli soup several times, hoping to please her palate.

It is our joy to touch each others lives, with the bounty with which we are supplied.  For some this means material blessings, for others it is the labor of their hands.  My number one gift, which is always at my disposal, is feeding my friends with food; I also love to exercise my limbs, which are actually the Lord’s hands and feet, with cleaning.  These two offerings thrill me.  I have used both in helping this friend.

Sometime ago, Toni’s husband mentioned her preference for cream of broccoli soup.  Though the vicious enemy cancer tried to steal this chemo patient’s taste buds, I and many others at our church have encouraged resurrected life in her tongue, with the recalling of her soft memories for fond foods.

Soups have gone down the easiest for her, but they often don’t have enough required protein.  The inspiration for this particular broccoli soup resulted from Toni’s needs for this compound, as this recipe is fortified with added protein, utilizing bone broth and eggs; I also find it beneficial for my diet, with my preference for meatless dishes.

Personally, my approach to food is summed up with the word balance, for this best fits my individual health requirements.  Today there are many diets available to meet people’s varying needs.  With our diverse health challenges, we must seek that which is suitable to our unique bodies.

As an example of the often stark opposition in these approaches, two such recommendations for nutrition stand out.  Recently I ran across a low-carb diet that promotes using real food; among its standard suggestions are high quantities of meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, as well as high-fat dairy, calling for whole milk yogurt and heavy whipping cream.  I too utilize these high caloric dairy foods, accepting the proposal of some experts that low-fat foods and artificial sweeteners can actually cause weight gain, rather than loss; also such whole foods satisfy the body, with a need to eat less of them.

Directly opposed to this proclaimed low-carb diet is one limiting protein, due to the special requirements of those dealing with kidney disease and kidney stones; it holds that too much of high protein foods may interfere with the body’s ability to eliminate, through one’s urine, the resultant large quantities of the waste products urea and uric acid.  These two by-products are produced by the breakdown of proteins and nucleic acids respectively; when their levels are too high, urea and uric acid cause significant stress on one’s kidneys; thus, those facing kidney problems must eat meal plans exactly opposite to those of the low-carb dieters.

May I encourage us to patiently listen to our bodies, by seeking trusted expert medical help, in discerning our individual physical make-ups; in this way, we each may discover our ideal plan for nourishment.

With my proclivity toward vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, seeds, and nuts , like my recovering sister, who can only tolerate soups right now, I must watch my protein intake carefully, neither getting too little, nor too much of it.  Indeed, this broccoli soup fits the prescription for both of our needs.

Our church body and the McFaddens have stood unified as one in her fight against cancer; as a miraculous result, Toni has overcome it; this is what belonging to the Christ’s glorious Church is all about.  May we all humble ourselves, by accepting each others proffered blessings; thus, we receive our Father’s abundant grace.

References:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/low-carb-diet-meal-plan-and-menu

https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/02/15/foods-for-kidney-health.aspx

ingredients for soup

Power-Packed Cream of Broccoli Soup  Yields: 2 1/2 quarts.  Total prep time: 1 hr/  active prep time: 20 min/  cooking time: 40 min.  Note: it is best to thaw the frozen broccoli for at least 4 hr at room temperature, for quicker cooking.

2 tbsp oil  (Coconut or avocado oils are best; olive oil is carcinogenic when heated to high temperatures.)

1 large yellow onion, chopped

2 celery stalks, cut in small 1/4 inch dice

24 ounces frozen broccoli florettes  (Best thawed ahead of time for faster preparation; SAVE JUICES.)

5 tbsp parsley, minced  (Organic parsley is only slightly more expensive; so much healthier.)

2 cups chicken broth  (Bone broth is best; see recipe under Tortellini Soup-2016/10/10.)

1 quart whole milk

sweating onions and celery

5 large chicken eggs, beaten  (May substitute 3 duck eggs, which are bigger; for facts about eggs, go to Rosemary Eggs-2012/08/21.)

3 tbsp butter

3 tbsp flour

1 tbsp Chicken Flavored Better than Bouillon, or to taste

1 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste  (Real Salt is so important for health; available in nutrition center at local supermarket.)

1 tsp white pepper, or to taste

  1. Spray celery and parsley with a safe, effective, inexpensive produce spray: combine 97% distilled white vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle.  Let sit for 3 minutes, rinse well.
  2. Heat oil in a stock pot over medium heat; sweat chopped onions and celery, or cook until translucent, for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally (see above photo).
  3. cooking roux

    Mince parsley, set aside

  4. Add broth and milk to onions/celery; stir in thawed broccoli, its juices, and parsley.  Cover pot and bring to a soft boil, over medium heat, watching closely; then, uncover, reduce heat, and simmer softly for 20-25 minutes; check to be sure soup is simmering gently.
  5. Meantime make roux by melting butter in a small sauté pan; blend in flour; cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes, stirring constantly (see photo above).  Set aside.
  6. After soup has cooked for nearly 25 minutes, beat eggs in a large bowl; mix 1 cup of hot broth into bowl of eggs; stir in a second cup of broth; blend this egg mixture into soup, using a wooden spatula or spoon.
  7. Season with Better than Bouillon, salt, and pepper; continue to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. finished product

    Finally thicken soup, by beating in the prepared roux with a wooden spoon; cook until desired consistency.  Adjust seasonings.

  9. Serve immediately, or let sit for a day to meld flavors; if reheating soup, be careful not to boil vigorously, as this will cause it to separate.  This dynamite soup is packed with protein!

Wholesome Rosemary Bread

rosemary loaves

Of all the abundant gifts of produce that come my way, the most popular herb is rosemary; thus, I created my simple Rosemary Eggs on 2017/08/21.  Now, as bread-baking weather is upon us, I offer a wholesome loaf featuring this sweet, piney flavor.

In Culinary Artistry, Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page describe how certain food combinations best heighten pleasure in our palates.  In their pages, they list meat as the number one compliment to rosemary.  When I think of these two substances together, I immediately go to lamb, with childhood memories from my mother’s kitchen.  According to Dornenburg and Page, this herb also magnifies the savor found in suckling pigs, pork, game, steaks, veal, chicken, salmon, and oily fish (e.g., mackerel, sardines); I also find it strengthens egg dishes.

When considering uniting rosemary with a vegetable, potatoes are paramount, though our authors also couple it with onions, peas, mushrooms, spinach, and beans, among which dried and fava beans are best; those of us that prefer a vegetarian diet can benefit from this knowledge, using it liberally in our bean dishes.

I was a vegetarian for most of my twenties; moving to Tokyo changed this proclivity, for I didn’t want to offend my Japanese hosts by refusing proffered meat dishes; in part, this herbivorous preference in my youth still rests with me today, for my daily caloric intake includes mostly meatless dishes, though I am not afraid in the least to partake of animal flesh.

Rosemary, our evergreen shrub, a native to the Mediterranean, is a member of the mint family; it is a woody perennial herb that grows quickly and without much effort in temperate climates, such as that of the Pacific N.W.  Its Latin name means “dew of the sea”.

The Greeks and Romans cultivated it for both culinary and medicinal purposes; today it is still utilized in these two ways: among a number of medicinal intents, its antioxidant effects are known to reduce inflammation (rosemary was used as a remedy for gout in the 1500’s), and presently some also apply it as a homemade insect repellent (for this recipe, see homeguides.sfgate.com/homemade-rosemary-mosquito-repellent-recipe-73124.html).

The ancients made use of this herb in weddings, funerals, and ceremonies of all sorts.  In days past, brides often entwined it into head-wreaths, as it symbolized for them: fidelity, love, abiding friendship, and remembrance of the life each woman had led prior to her marriage.  Some sources claim that men of antiquity believed it improved memory, though this can only be partially substantiated.

With its sweet, lemony, slightly piney taste, rosemary is traditionally found in Mediterranean cooking-especially with the meats mentioned above-where its potent flavor is liberally applied.  Culinary Artistry states that grains also provide a powerful union with this herb; my present recipe employs this dynamic duo.

I made this rosemary bread for my church friend Charity, who was first in line this summer, supplying me with this garden treat; her strong response was that I should sell these loaves at farmer’s market.  Nevertheless, with my passion for writing, I don’t have time to regularly bake for the public, but oh how I love to cook for my friends!

References:

Andrew Dorenenburg & Karen Page, Culinary Artistry (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996), p. 205.

https://www.thespruce.com/history-of-rosemary-1807655

health.bastyr.edu/news/health-tips/2011/09/rosemary-herb-history

www.ourherbgarden.com/herb-history/rosemary.html

https://www.botonical.com/botanical/mgmh/r/rosema17.html

homeguides.sfgate.com/homemade-rosemary-mosquito-repellent-recipe-73124.html

easy chopping of  rosemary in food processor

Rosemary Bread  Yields: 1 loaf.  Total prep time: 3 hr/  active prep time: 30 min/  inactive prep time: 2 hours/  baking time: 30 min.  Note: this method produces quick, easy, mess-free bread, the greatest!

4 c flour  (Blend 3 c whole wheat flour with 1 c unbleached white flour, or better yet, for premium bread, grind 2 2/3 c organic hard red spring wheat berries to make a total 4 c of flour, see photo below.)

2/3 oz, 4 stems, or 3 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

1 1/2-1 3/4 c tepid water  (110-115 degrees in temperature.)

1 individual packet, or 3 tsp yeast  (Red Star Active Dry Yeast comes in a 2 lb package, available inexpensively at Costco; this freezes well in a sealed container for long-term use; if using yeast from freezer, may thaw ahead of time for quicker proofing.)

6 1/4 tsp sugar

1 1/2 tsp salt  (Real Salt is important for health; available in nutrition section at local supermarket.)

Spray oil  (Coconut spray oil is best; Pam is available in most grocery stores; our local Winco brand, however, is far less expensive.)

  1. grinding flour with attachment to kitchen aid mixer

    If grinding your own flour, begin to do so now (see photo).

  2. Place 1/4 c water, lukewarm to the touch (110-115 degrees), in a small bowl; stir in yeast and 1/4 tsp sugar.  Let sit in a warm place, until double in size, about 10 minutes-this timing depends on temperature of room.  (Note: frozen yeast will take longer to rise.)
  3. Remove rosemary from stems, chop, and set aside.  This may be done in food processor; see photo at top of recipe.
  4. Place ground flour, rosemary, 2 tbsp sugar, and salt in processor.  Blend well with machine; stop and stir once, using hard plastic spatula that comes with processor.
  5. When yeast is doubled, add it and 1 1/2 c tepid water to flour mixture (if grinding fresh flour, use 1 1/4 c of water only).  Turn machine on and knead for 35 seconds; turn off and let dough rest for 4 minutes (see photo

    dough-made with fresh-ground flour-after initial kneading

    of dough, as it appears after this first kneading-dough made with store-bought flour isn’t as wet, however, as that of fresh-ground, because it has a finer grind, which absorbs more water).  The resting period cools dough, which is essential as processing increases heat; too much heat will kill the yeast.

  6. After pausing for 4 minutes, turn on the processor; knead dough for 35 more seconds; let rest for 4 minutes.
  7. Take out and knead by hand for 5-7 minutes, or until satiny smooth, minus the rosemary lumps (see photo below for dough before and after kneading by hand).  As wet dough readily sticks to hands, rinse them as needed, to facilitate easy kneading.  (Note: dough may be somewhat wet and sticky at first, but much moisture is absorbed with kneading by hand; this is especially true with fresh-ground flour.  IF your dough needs adjusting for some reason, do the following: if it remains quite wet and sticky, after kneading by hand for several minutes, slowly add more flour to your board as you knead; if it is too stiff to knead by hand easily, place back in processor; knead in an 1-2 tbsp of water, depending on how stiff it is; watch and rest dough, as not to overheat it; repeat if needed.  Ideally you want soft, pliable dough, which is smooth to the touch, when finished.)
  8. Place prepared dough in a well-oiled 13 gallon plastic bag; let rise in a warm place for 50-60 minutes, or until double.  (To facilitate proofing in a cold kitchen, may warm oven for 20-30 seconds only; be careful to only warm slightly, just taking edge off cold, as too much heat will kill the yeast.)
  9. Spray a bread pan with oil, preferably coconut spray oil; punch down doubled dough, forming it into a loaf; place in pan; use a piece of plastic wrap, which has also been sprayed, to loosely cover dough-this keeps it moist.
  10. Let rise until double for 50-60 minutes, depending on room temperature.  About 30 minutes into rising process, preheat oven to 400 degrees, to insure oven is ready when it is time to bake.  (IMPORTANT: if proofing loaf in oven, be sure to remove it, before turning oven on.)
  11. When double, bake for around 30 minutes, or until bread sounds hollow when tapped on bottom.  (Ovens vary slightly in temperature; my oven takes 27 minutes to bake a perfect loaf.)  Enjoy this excellent staff of life!

Ropa Vieja (Omelette)

ropa vieja (omelette)

Our typical American cuisine was inspired by the familiar recipes brought over by English, French, Spanish, and Dutch settlers, as well as those of Scotch-Irish and German colonists, who followed these early immigrants; all of this European influence merged with the available Native American foods.

African slaves played a broad part in fashioning our distinctive Southern cookery; the mistresses of these slaves initially taught these, our people, receipts recalled from their individual heritages; then, with the Africans’ natural appreciation of and aptitude for cooking, prized dishes were developed, which were used in the strong social competition among the plantations.  These delicacies, which in large part formed this region’s cuisine, were not initially compiled in books for the public, but rather closely safeguarded within each family, due to the rivalry among these established settlements; thus, there were no Southern cook books until the first quarter of the 19th century.  A few recipes from this geographic area were preserved, however, in some American cook books, mostly those published in and around Philadelphia.

Mrs. Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife, printed in 1824, in Washington D.C., is an early example of a receipt book specializing in foods from the South.  It also includes some Northern recipes, as well as a few Spanish dishes, of which our Ropa Vieja omelette is one; this promising recipe boasts of only five ingredients-one of which is our garden tomato-and just a few succinct instructions; its simplicity makes it exceptional.

In On Food and Cooking, Harold McGee explains why this sweet-tart fruit tomato, which is used as a vegetable, has such great appeal.  (Note: any produce with seeds is considered a fruit!)  He attributes this attractiveness to the unique flavor brought about by its low sugar content (3%), as well as the large amount of savory glutamic acid (as much as 0.3% of its weight), and ample quantities of aromatic sulfur compounds.  These two latter ingredients, present in ripe tomatoes, predispose them to complement the flavor of meats; this is because these two substances exist more commonly in animal flesh than fruits; thus, their rich presence in tomatoes allows for added taste to meat dishes.  Savory glutamic acid and sulfur aromas likewise bring out great depth and complexity in sauces and other food combinations; therefore, this particular produce can even replace meat in flavoring vegan dishes.

The tomato originated as a weed in Central American fields of maize and beans; extensive varieties existed there, by the time Hernando Cortez and his 400 Spaniards discovered Mexico in 1519.  Tomatoes were incorporated in American (and later European) cookery in various ways.  At the time of Cortez’ arrival, Mexicans used thin shavings of this green, unripe fruit in many dishes; they also mixed ripe tomatoes with chillis in a sauce to top cooked beans.  Subsequently, the Spaniards in Europe readily adopted them in their cuisine.

When Francisco Pizarro began his bloody attacks in Peru in 1532, this South American land, with all its royal Incan wealth, was eating mostly a vegetarian diet of maize, potatoes (including sweet and manioc potatoes), squash, beans, peanuts, avocados, chillis, and our beloved tomato.

Some time later, the Italians were adding it to broths and soups, as noted by the Quaker merchant Peter Collinson, in 1742.  Tomato sauce for pasta followed several decades hence.

Britain lagged behind Italy, in accepting this item, due to their long-held mistaken viewpoint, which had originated on the Continent, connecting it with a deadly nightingshade, being it was of this same family.   Not until the 20th century did the English acquired a taste for tomatoes, particularly canned tomato soup.

North America was almost equally slow in receiving this fruit, probably due in part to these same European misconceptions; they considered it to be lacking in nourishment and substance, as well as a cause for gout.  During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the U.S began what was to become a wide acceptance of tomatoes, primarily due to the strong influence from the great Italian immigration then.  Nevertheless, their first appearance here was when Thomas Jefferson brought back seedlings from a diplomatic trip to Paris; there the Parisians had just accepted this “love apple”, believed to be an aphrodisiac; their acceptance directly resulted from the affect Italian cooking had on French troops during the French Revolution (see Spicy Sausages with Tomatoes & Turnips, 2017/09/25).

It is interesting to note that our third president had an extensive garden of 170 varieties of fruits and 330 varieties of vegetables and herbs; his grand kitchen utilized most of this produce, even producing tomato ketchup for our epicurean leader, who primarily chose a vegetarian diet.

Be sure to access my other tomato recipes: Parmesan Dover Sole (2017/03/27), Rosemary Eggs (2017/08/21), and Spicy Sausage with Tomatoes and Turnips (2017/09/25).

References:

  1. Esther B. Aresty, The Delectable Past (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964), pp. 181-193.
  2. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), pp. 329, 330.
  3. On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: The Three Rivers Press, 1988, 1973), pp. 30, 206, 207, 214.
  4. www.nellositaly.com/the-history-of-the-tomato-in-italy.html
  5. www.monticello.org/site/house-and-gardens/historic-gardens

ingredients for ropa vieja

Ropa Vieja (Omelette)  Adapted from an 1824 Southern recipe in Esther B. Aresty’s The Delectable Past (New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1964).  Yields 2 servings.  Total prep time: 25 min.

2 large firm ripe tomatoes  (Cut these in eighths, removing seeds and juice.)

2/3 cup shredded leftover chicken, ham, or beef

4 large eggs, beaten lightly  (May use 3 duck eggs, which are bigger than chicken eggs; for egg history, see 2017/08/21.)

2 tbsp butter

1 tbsp chopped parsley, optional

Salt, to taste  (Real Salt is important for health; available in nutrition center at local supermarket.)

Fresh ground pepper, to taste

  1. cooked tomatoes

    Spay the optional parsley with a safe, inexpensive, effective produce spray-mix 97% distilled white vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle; let sit while proceeding to the next step.

  2. Prep the above ingredients.  Cut the tomatoes in eighths, gently scoop out liquid and seeds with a spoon (it not necessary to peel the tomatoes), place in a bowl.  Shred and measure the leftover meat, set aside.  Beat the eggs, only until whites and yolks are lightly blended.  Rinse optional parsley well and chop fine.
  3. Over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a non-stick skillet.  Mix in meat, heating for 1 minute; add tomatoes; cook for 6 minutes, or until mixture is hot and tomatoes are somewhat softened, stirring occasionally (see above photo).
  4. Reduce heat to medium/low; sprinkle parsley over cooked tomatoes and meat; pour beaten eggs over this mixture, quickly distributing the meat and tomatoes evenly in eggs, using a spatula.
  5. finished product

    Salt and pepper generously before covering; cover and cook slowly, until eggs are set on top (see photo).

  6. When done, you may remove loose pieces of skin off tomato pieces, showing on top of omelette; fold it over; cut in half to serve two people.

Avocado, Bean, and Corn Salad

avocado, bean, and corn salad

My church celebrated its 22nd anniversary this past summer with our annual picnic, which we always associate with incredible food; there are two men in our congregation that smoke tri-tip for this gala (they stay up all night smoking our Thanksgiving turkeys as well, which is by far the best turkey I have ever experienced).  This year our outdoor celebration also boasted of fried chicken, not to be outdone by everyone’s glorious side-dish contributions.

Church gatherings are famous for their magnificent spreads; our congregation is no exception, for we have a host of great cooks, even though our body is small; indeed, we eat well!

I always make the following bean salad for our anniversary; it is not only quick, but keeps well in the sun.  May you find this a great dish for potlucks also.

Normally I don’t use many canned goods in my food preparations; they, however, facilitate the ease of this excellent recipe.  The history of canning is of great interest to me.  It began with a Nicolas Appert, a creative Frenchman with ordained skills, promised attributes we all get to exercise.

Our genius started out as a brewer; then, became a steward for the aristocracy; finally, he ended up as a confectioner during the Napoleonic era.  When France and Britain were at war in 1795, Napoleon, seeking a way to best preserve food for his army, offered 12,000 francs to the winner of a contest for such a discovery.  As a confectioner, Appert’s mind had already been developing such a solution, for he had been pursuing the foremost means in lengthening the shelf-life of fruits, by improving on the traditional candying and drying processes.  This formal opportunity brought his ideas to fullness; thus, he won the prize with his method in which he preserved fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, partridges, chestnuts, grape must, even the vegetable truffles: our originator partially cooked the foods, before placing them in wide-mouth bottles; then, by corking and boiling the bottles in a water bath, he expelled the damaging air; this technique of food preservation has remained in tact throughout the centuries. 1

Nevertheless, this hero unfortunately died a pauper, for by accepting the prize he lost the chance to patent his design.  (As an aside, I speak with the authority given me in Jesus Christ’s name: “Enemy of our souls, you can steal none of our rewards!”) 2

In 1810, Appert published a book detailing his canning procedure, which the award had prohibited him from patenting; just months later, a patent using his method for preserving foods surfaced in England.  There, however, his corked glass container became a more durable, tin-coated iron canister, which came with instructions for opening with a chisel and hammer. 3

By 1849, this technology for food preservation improved with machine-made, can tops and bottoms.  Prior to this, two skilled workers produced 120 cans a day; now two people could daily make 1500 cans, and these machine-operators were unskilled at that. 4

These tin cans inspired what was the slow advent of can openers, an invention that remained quite unsatisfactory from its first appearance in 1855, until our modern device appeared in the 1980’s; this latter, a side-opening implement, uses two wheels in tandem, one rotating, the other serrated, removing the lid, while leaving no sharp edges.  These days we take this relatively new, inexpensive tool for granted; as a result of the sped of modern technology, often even this is not required, for now many cans come with pop-tops. 5

Today can-making is a major economic force; in the United States alone, more than 130 billion cans are generated yearly, making this an eight billion dollar industry. 6  The majority-about four times more-of these canned goods are fizzy drinks, such as sodas and beer, rather than food. 7

Hardcore cooks can soak and boil dried beans for my salad; nevertheless most of us choose to thank Nicolas Appert, for his obedience to press in with his quick mind; as a result, we have canned beans and corn for this blessed recipe.

  1. Bee Wilson, Consider the Fork (New York: Basic Books, 2012), pp. 219-221.
  2. Ibid., p. 220.
  3. Ibid., p. 221.
  4. James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1995), p. 242
  5. Bee Wilson, Consider the Fork (New York: Basic Books, 2012), pp. 221, 221.
  6. www.cancentral.com/can-stats/history-of-the-can
  7. Bee Wilson, Consider the Fork (New York: Basic Books, 2012) , p. 223.

assembling salad using garlic peeler

Avocado, Bean, and Corn Salad  Yields: about 1 1/2 quarts.  Total prep time: 25 min.  Note: this salad is spicy; for a milder version,  use less garlic and Jalapeno peppers; spiciness always lessens in intensity after a day of refrigeration; it is best to make this ahead for flavors to meld.

2-15 ounce cans of beans, drained  (Simple Truth Organic Tri-Bean Blend is ideal; available inexpensively at our local Fred Meyer-Kroger-stores.)

1-15 ounce can of sweet corn  (Trader Joe’s brand is excellent.)

1/2 cup chopped red or sweet onion  (For easy chopping, see step 2.)

5 large cloves of fresh garlic, or to taste, minced coarsely  (This amount provides a fair amount of bite; adjust for desired garlic flavor.)

chopping onion the easy way

2 Jalapeno peppers, or to taste, minced

1/2 cup salsa  (Trader Joe’s Salsa Autentica is ideal.)

1 tsp salt, or to taste  (Real Salt is important for health; available in health section at local supermarket.)

1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper, or to taste

2 small avocados, chopped

  1. Drain beans and corn in a colander, while proceeding to next step.
  2. For easy chopping, with root in tact, score a large onion with slices across top, cutting 2/3’s of the way down into it; turn onion and cut slices in opposite direction; shave pieces off end (see above photo); place in a large bowl.
  3. coarse grind of garlic

    For exceptional efficiency, peel garlic with a green, rubber garlic peeler from Bed, Bath, and Beyond (see this in photo at beginning of recipe).  May chop cloves coarsely with a sharp knife, or for quick preparation, place in a food processor, pressing pulse button repeatedly; stop and scrape down sides once; do not over chop, as a coarse grind adds bite to salad (see photo); place in bowl with onions.

  4. Cut Jalapeno peppers in half length-wise, scoop out seeds with a spoon, mince fine, and add to bowl (see photo below).  When finished, be sure to wash hands thoroughly before touching eyes.
  5. Stir salsa, salt, and pepper into onions/Jalapeno peppers.
  6. Gently blend beans and corn into this mixture; do not over mix, as this will make the beans mushy.  If making ahead, refrigerate at this point.
  7. mincing Jalapeno peppers

    Before serving, chop avocados, and carefully fold into bean mixture.  Serve with pleasure.