Balsamic Eggs w/ Ghee Recipe

finished ghee

Discover here the health-giving attributes of the right kind of fats, such as grass-fed ghee in this delicious balsamic egg recipe, which is complete with the easy steps for making inexpensive ghee.

Increasingly, our mainstream culture is recognizing that dietary cholesterol is not a cause of heart disease or weight gain.  Mitochondria, the power plants in our bodies, either burn sugar or fat for energy.  A high carbohydrate diet makes the body go into a mode of burning glucose (sugar), while switching to a high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb diet, allows the body to use fat for fuel.  This is why many people are achieving great success with the keto diet, which is high in fats.  Of key importance, however, is that one eats the right kind of fats!  1

Many vegetable oils, such as canola and soy oils (those most frequently used in restaurants and found on grocery shelves) are very unstable, oxidize quickly, and are almost always rancid; thus, they can be extremely detrimental to the nervous system and immune health.  They can be indigestible and lead to inflammation and free radical damage; inflammation is among the root causes of major diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, obesity, and arthritis, according to Dr. Don Colbert.  2

In approaching a high fat diet, to either maintain health or loose weight, it is critical that one know the kind of fats that are healthy.  There are seven recommended healthy fats-avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds, grass-fed ghee, MCT oil, and krill oil. Among these are three that I frequently use in my recipes: ghee, avocados (and their oil), and the king of oils olive oil, though this latter should not be heated, as it becomes carcinogenic at high temperatures.  3

Ghee made from grass-fed butter is highly health-promoting.  Dr. Axe states that the saturated fat found in butter (and coconut oil) provides the body with much needed fuel, as well as helping with blood sugar stability, when eaten in reasonable amounts.  It has 400 different fatty acids and a good dose of fat-soluble vitamins as well.  It is important that the cream the butter is made from is obtained from grass-fed cows, with their diet rich in beta-carotene (the form of vitamin A found in plants.)  When eaten in moderation, butter is very beneficial.  4

Butter made into ghee takes these health attributes a step higher.  Ghee is produced by gently heating butter to evaporate the water and milk solids from the fat.  Fat makes up about 80% of the content of butter.  The milk solids contain inflammatory proteins and sugar, which are detrimental to health, but when these are removed, pure butter fat (loaded with fat-soluble nutrients) results, providing a food good for healing and detoxification.  5

Following is a simple recipe for the preparation of inexpensive ghee at home, which I have perfected over time.  Note: my saucepan for making ghee was originally not quite heavy enough; thus, I could only produce clarified butter, when I used the high quality, European, grass-fed Kerrygold butter.  My not-so-heavy saucepan, however, was quite adequate for making ghee, with the lesser-quality, Trader Joe’s, hormone-free, regular butter; this ghee, however, is much lighter in color and isn’t as health-promoting.

The premium, grass-fed, European butter is higher in fat, making it impossible, without burning, to go beyond this first stage of clarifying the butter, while using my not-so-heavy pan.  Clarifying requires cooking only until the first foam arises and subsides; then, there is the removal of the skin of dry, milk solids.  Ghee is easily produced, when cooking continues after this initial stage and, following the subsiding of the first foam, a second foam arises.  Then the milk solids that have sunk to the bottom of the pan brown, leaving a nutty-flavored medicinal substance.

After several failures with Kerrygold butter, I bought a great, heavy, All-Clad saucepan at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  (Go to Laban Bil Bayd-2018/03/26-for more information on the differences between clarified butter and ghee.)  These great balsamic eggs, with ghee, are a steadfast part of my diet now!  Enjoy.

References:

  1. https://drcolbert.com/7-healthy-fats-to-help-you-burn-belly-flab/
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. https://draxe.com/grass-fed-butter-nutrition/
  5. https://drcolbert.com/7-healthy-fats-to-help-you-burn-belly-flab/

balsamic eggs beginning to fry

Balsamic Eggs  Yields: one serving.  Total prep time: 5 min.  (or 25 minutes total, if making your own ghee.)  Note: though a thermometer may be helpful, it is not required.

1 tsp ghee  (May purchase ready-made at Trader Joe’s, or make your own inexpensively, following directions below.)

2 eggs, preferably duck eggs

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

  1. first foam

    For homemade ghee, prepare a strainer, lined with a coffee filter, and place it in a heat-proof dish; set aside.

  2. Over medium heat, shaking pan, melt 8-16 oz of high quality, unsalted butter (Kerrygold is ideal).
  3. breaking of first foam

    When melted, cook until an even layer of white whey proteins forms on top (see photo).

  4. Continue cooking until milk solids break apart, and foam subsides, temperature will be about 190 degrees (see above photo).  At this stage you have clarified butter.  Note: if foam is starting to brown deeply and quickly, your pan is not heavy enough to make ghee; remove from heat and immediately strain this clarified butter in a coffee-filter-lined strainer.
  5. second foam rising

    To proceed with ghee, cook butterfat until a second foam rises.  This will take 2-3 more minutes, and temperature will reach 250 degrees; see photo.  Watch carefully as dry casein particles, settled on bottom of pan, will brown quickly.

  6. Immediately gently strain golden-colored butterfat through a coffee filter, into a heat-proof dish (see photo below).  Transfer into an airtight container to keep out moisture.  This lasts for months, when stored in the refrigerator.
  7. straining ghee

    In an egg pan, melt 1 tsp of ghee, over medium heat.

  8. When pan is hot, add eggs and lower heat to med/low.  Pour vinegar over yolks, just as the white is starting to form on the bottom of pan; see photo at top of recipe.  Cover with a splash shield (available at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, see photo below).
  9. splash shield

    When whites are nearly cooked, flip eggs over, cooking briefly, then transfer to a bowl, for easy spooning of these delicious juices.

Laban Bil Bayd (Lebanese eggs baked in yogurt/garlic/mint sauce)

laban bil bayd and tabbouleh

This last of my Middle Eastern receipts laban bil bayd calls for eggs, baked in a thickened yogurt, which is seasoned with mint and garlic cooked in ghee.  This delightful dish is commonly used as part of the mezze, or the first course of appetizers.  The origin of ghee and the simple recipes for it and laban bil bayd will follow.

Vegetable oils are almost 100% fat, while butter is an emulsion of 80% fat, 15% water, and 5% milk solids; vegetable fats are most commonly used for sautéing, due to their high smoke points, or temperatures at which they burn.  It is misinformation that adding oil to butter raises butter’s smoke point.

The flavor of butter is important in this recipe; thus, it calls for ghee, with the smoke point of about 400 degrees F (200 C), as compared to 250 degrees F (150 C) for regular butter.

Ghee is a form of clarified butter; these two differ in that the first is heated just a little longer, browning the milk solids, thus producing a subtle nutty flavor and aroma, with great resistance to rancidity.

The most common form of clarifying butter, the one used by most restaurants, varies from the more efficient method suggested here for home use, which is actually the preparation of ghee, rather than clarified butter.

Because such large quantities of butter are clarified in commercial kitchens, it is easiest to gently heat the butter to the boiling point of water; the water then bubbles to the surface, where the foaming milk proteins form also.  The water eventually evaporates, the bubbling stops, and the froth dehydrates, leaving a skin of dry whey protein; this skin of dry milk solids is next skimmed off the top.  Finally, the pure butterfat is ladled out, to remove it from the dry casein particles, which have sunk to the bottom of the pan.

This technique, however, brings much wasted product when preparing small quantities, because this means of  separating the fat from the top and bottom milk proteins also scoops up the butterfat.  Therefore it is best to follow this quick, traditional method for making ghee, when clarifying little amounts of a pound or less of butter at home.

This takes the above process a step further, by raising the final heat and browning these sunken whey proteins, then separating them from the pure butterfat by straining.  In this way, the resultant clear fat is completely isolated by easily pouring it through a coffee filter, or layers of cheesecloth.

The word ghee in Sanskrit means “bright”.  In India, it was traditionally made from butter churned from soured, whole cow or buffalo milk, known as yogurt-like dahi; this preliminary souring improved both the quantity and flavor-quality found in this clarifying process.  Today, Indian industrial manufacturers usually start this procedure with cream; nevertheless, it is said that sweet cream produces flat-tasting butter, which affects the character of the ghee.

Ghee is prevalent both in South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines.  My first encounters with it were in my early catering and teaching days during the 1980’s, when I was preparing East Indian foods, such as curries and dal (lentils).

Presently I like to make large batches of it, for storing in my refrigerator where it keeps for months; thus, it is readily available for frying eggs, searing meats and vegetables, making sauces-such as hollandaise-and popcorn, as well as using it as dips for lobster, crab, and artichokes.  It greatly enhances the taste of all these foods.

Note: it is especially helpful to utilize high grade butter-such as Kerry butter from Ireland-in making ghee for a hollandaise sauce or dip for shell fish, as the flavor will be better.  This is due to the higher butterfat content in European butters (82-86%), contrasted with 80-82% in that of its American counterpart.  (For more on the health qualities of grass-fed ghee, see Balsamic Eggs-2019/05/27.)

Join me in the great discovery of cooking with ghee, by first making this simple, seemingly innocuous egg dish that surprises with it powerful pleasure!

References:

Harold McGee, On Food History (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), pp. 36, 37.

https://www.seriouseats.com/2015/08/how-to-clarify-butter.html

https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2015/08/clarified-butter-recipe.html

https://altonbrown.com/clarified-butter-and-ghee-recipes/

finished product

Laban Bil Bayd (Lebanese eggs baked in yogurt/garlic/mint sauce)  Yields 6 servings.  Total prep time: 45-60 min (the length of time depends on if you prepare ghee with recipe)/  active prep time: 25-40 min/  baking time: 20 min.

Note: may make third of the recipe to serve two, using a 5-oz carton of plain Greek yogurt.

 

1/4 c ghee, or clarified butter  (A prepared version, which is not grass-fed, is available at Trader’s; may follow step 2, to quickly make your own in 15 minutes.)

2 lg cloves garlic, minced

initial foaming of butter

1/4 c fresh mint, chopped  (May substitute 2 tsp dried mint.)

2 c plain Greek yogurt  (Greek yogurt makes this recipe great; it is important that milk products are whole and organic for optimum health.)

1 lg egg white, beaten to froth

2 tsp corn starch

1 1/2 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco.)

White pepper, to taste

6 eggs

  1. foam subsides, just before raising heat

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

  2. May use a prepared version of clarified butter (an 8-oz jar is available for $3.99 at Trader Joe’s, but this is NOT grass-fed).  Better yet, for a homemade ghee: prepare a strainer, with a coffee filter in it, and place in a heat-proof dish.  Set aside.
  3. Over medium heat, shaking pan, melt 8-16 oz of high quality, unsalted butter ( grass-fed Kerrygold is ideal).
  4. When melted, cook until an even layer of white whey proteins forms on top (see photo in list of ingredients).
  5. Continue cooking until milk solids break apart, and foam subsides, temperature will be about 190 degrees (see above photo).  At this stage you have clarified butter.  Note: if foam is starting to brown deeply and quickly, your pan is not heavy enough to make ghee; remove from heat and immediately strain this clarified butter in a coffee-filter-lined strainer.
  6. To proceed with ghee, cook butterfat until a second foam rises, and it is golden in color.  This will take 2-3 more minutes, and temperature will reach 250 degrees; see photo below.  Watch carefully as dry casein particles, settled on bottom of pan, will brown quickly.
  7. Immediately gently strain butterfat into a heat-proof dish, through a coffee filter placed in a strainer (see bottom photo).  Transfer into an airtight container to keep out moisture.  This lasts for months, when stored in the refrigerator.
  8. ghee finished, as it foams a second time

    Chop mint-if using fresh-and garlic.

  9. Measure ghee (samneh) into a small saucepan, heat on med/low, add mint and garlic, and cook until garlic is golden brown.  Stir this frequently, watching carefully so as not to burn.  Meanwhile proceed to next step.
  10. Beat egg white until frothy (see photo below); an electric mixer hastens this process.
  11. Place yogurt in a heavy saucepan, adding salt, cornstarch, and foamy egg white, to which a final beat is given (if making a smaller recipe of only two servings, be sure to use just one third of whites).  CAREFULLY STIR IN THE SAME DIRECTION, until thoroughly combined.
  12. egg whites beaten to froth

    Continuing to stir in the same direction, cook over medium heat until it starts to boil.  Lower heat and simmer gently until thick, about 3 minutes.  Greek yogurt thickens more quickly than regular yogurt; if making a smaller portion, this will thicken very fast!

  13. Pour hot yogurt in an oven-proof dish (or evenly divide into

    separated browned milk solids with golden butterfat

    individual oven-proof bowls).  Spread out to completely cover the bottom of dish.  Break eggs on top of this mixture, spacing them evenly if using a larger dish.  Pour flavored ghee over eggs.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until eggs are hard (see photo of finished product at top of recipe).  Serve immediately for an incredible palate-pleasing experience!

Norwegian Oven Pancakes

Norwegian oven pancake

The exceptional baking of Norway has been on my mind lately, with recipes I have been making since the 1970’s: I published the Yuletide bars Mor Monsen’s Kaker on 2017/11/27; and now I offer Norwegian Oven Pancakes.  This effortless baked pancake blesses at anytime, but truly it triumphs at a holiday breakfast-may it grace your Christmas morning, either before or after gifts.

Not always has the making of a pancake been so simple; in Consider the Fork, Bee Wilson details the time-consuming directions, published in the advice book Le Menagier de Paris, in 1393: take eggs, the fairest wheaten flour, and warm white wine-in place of milk-beating all together “long enough to weary one person or two” (this was done in a household of servants).

Almost every nation boosts of their own particular version of pancakes, some sweet and others savory; there isn’t room to define these multiple, provincial modifications; I will review, however, those of several countries that capture my interest in particular.

The Nordic pancake is typically like a French crepe, but their oven variation ugnspannkaka resembles a German pancake-also known as a Dutch Baby-which is baked, thick, and unleavened; today’s entry is the ugnspannkaka.

On the other hand, American hotcakes and griddlecakes are always made with a raising agent, such as baking powder, along with flour, eggs, and milk; thus, they swell and bubble in the hot frying pan.  In the 19th century, prospectors and pioneers employed sourdough starter for the rising of this light, airy flapjack; such is still the popular Alaskan mode.

Johnnycake and bannock are pancake types of old.  In world history, bannock dates back as early as 1000 A.D.; hence both the Native Americans and settlers were making this in early North America.  The Natives used corn, nut meal, and plant bulb meal in this creation; the immigrant’s technique was Scottish in origin, in which oatmeal was the key component.

Johnnycake was first recorded here by Amelia Simmons in American Cookery, 1796, with the ingredients of Indian meal, flour, milk, molasses, and shortening (for the history of shortening, see my Ozark Honey-Oatmeal Cookies, 2017/10/30).  These flat corn cakes were a staple in young U.S.A.

In England, pancakes are without a rising agent, using primarily flour, eggs, and milk, which results in their being close to French crepes.  Served for a sweet dessert or as a savory main course, these British cakes date back centuries, for Gervase Markam wrote their instructions in The English Hus-wife (1615); she, however, substituted water for milk and added sweet spices.  That nation’s Yorkshire pudding, a similar receipt to their pancakes, rises only slightly, by the well-beaten air in this batter without leaven.

These English unleavened varieties of flannel cake differ from their risen form found in Scotland, which includes baking soda and cream of tartar;  there are also numerous variables in Wales-among which some incorporate yeast, others oatmeal.

African pancakes, such as those in Kenya and South Africa, most often resemble the English crepe.  In Afrikaans, these unleavened English crepes are known as pannekoeke, while plaatkoekies refer to American-style “silver dollar” risen pancakes.  In Uganda, the pancake is united with their staple banana, usually being served at breakfast or as a snack.

Of all the vast productions, present-yet differing-in almost every nationality, the Ethiopian one enchants me the most; there they have injera, a very large spongy affair, which acts as a huge platter for their stews and salads to be served on at their feasts.  With the right hand, one tears the edges off this yeast-risen flatbread, to scoop up the meal, finally eating the underlying “tablecloth”, in which all the foods’ juices have been absorbed.  In 1984, I had the great pleasure of spending a whole day with an Ethiopian family in Billings, Montana, while they taught me how to cook and eat this authentic repast-I was fascinated with its injera, which simultaneously acted as a plate, an eating utensil, and finally the food itself.

Of all these above mentioned recipes, our Norwegian oven pancake is the most simple.  Enjoy this festive delight, which only takes minutes to assemble.  It is indeed glorious!

References:

Bee Wilson, Consider the Fork (New York: Basic Books, 2012, 2013), p. 147.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pancake

James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1995), p. 52.

Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 548.

Amelia Simmons, American Cookery, 1796 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1965, reprinted), p. 57.

pancake right out of oven

Norwegian Oven Pancake  Yields: 6 servings.  Total prep time: about 45 min/  active prep time: 15 min/  baking time: 30-40 min.  Note: leftovers are delicious either cold or at room temperature.

6 lg eggs

1/2 c sugar  (Coconut sugar is ideal; for its health benefits, see Zucchini Bread, 2017/07/24.)

3/4 c flour  (Bob’s Red Mill organic, unbleached white flour is high quality, or substitute whole wheat pastry flour.)

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

1 tsp vanilla

2 1/2 c milk  (May use an alternative milk, such as hazelnut or almond.)

piece of butter the size of an egg, about 5 tbsp

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. With an electric mixer, beat eggs in a large bowl; blend in sugar, salt and vanilla; gently, quickly mix in flour.
  3. Meanwhile, melt butter in a 9” x 13” pan in hot oven; watch carefully.
  4. batter before baking

    Very slowly add milk to above egg mixture, beating continuously.

  5. When butter is melted, roll it around baking dish, coating entire pan.
  6. Pour batter in greased baking dish.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until batter is set.
  7. Serve hot.  (Cold leftovers are also great!)

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!

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.  1

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.  2

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 the garden tomato, and just a few succinct instructions; its simplicity makes it exceptional.  3

In On Food and Cooking, Harold McGee explains why this sweet-tart, botanical fruit tomato, which is used as a vegetable, has such great appeal.  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.  4

Tomatoes originated in the west coast desserts of South America.  Extensive varieties existed in Mexico by the time Hernando Cortez and his 400 Spaniards discovered this land in 1519.  The tomato was 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 this fruit in their cuisine.  5

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.  6

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.  7

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.  8

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.  9

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 President 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 effect Italian cooking had on French troops during the French Revolution at the end of the 18th century (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 ketchup for our epicurean leader, who primarily chose a vegetarian diet.  Ketchup at this time, however, was a vinegar-based condiment made from such ingredients as walnuts and mushrooms, not tomatoes.  10

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), p. 181.
  2. Ibid., pp. 182, 183, 193.
  3. Ibid., p. 193.
  4. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), pp. 329, 330.
  5. On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: The Three Rivers Press, 1988, 1973), p. 206.
  6. Ibid., p. 214.
  7. Ibid., p. 207.
  8. Ibid., p. 207.
  9. Ibid., p. 207.
  10. www.monticello.org/site/house-and-gardens/historic-gardens

ingredients for ropa vieja

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

2 large firm ripe tomatoes, cut 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  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco.)

Fresh ground pepper, to taste

  1. cooked tomatoes

    Spray the optional parsley with a safe, inexpensive, effective produce spray (mix 97% distilled white vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide); let sit 3 minutes: then, rinse well.

  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 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 med/low; sprinkle parsley over cooked tomatoes and meat; pour beaten eggs over this mixture, quickly distributing the meat and tomatoes evenly in eggs.
  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 any loose pieces of skin from tomatoes that appear on top of omelette; fold it over; cut in half to serve two people.

Rosemary Eggs

rosemary eggs

I am creating recipes for an abundance of fresh rosemary, which I recently received; this simple duck egg receipt is among them.  It reminds me that I eat like a queen.  Read on to discover the benefits of duck eggs over those of chickens.

Six years ago my young friend Noah began raising ducks, which he cherishes as if they were his children; each possesses its own personality and carefully chosen name.

Depending on the breed, ducks produce between 150-200 eggs a year, which come in all sorts of colors, varying mostly by genetic strain.  Different colored eggs, however, sometimes occur within the same breed.

Noah has seventeen of these domesticated aquatic birds, with only five of them producing presently.  Later on there won’t be any eggs, for they only lay from early spring, until the winter cold sets in.  We are always sad when their production stops.

For the past half decade, I have been a beneficiary of this treasured delicacy; consequently my baking has excelled.  Pastry chefs prize these ovum of the family Anatidae over chicken eggs, for they contain less water, have firmer whites, and a higher fat content; this makes for moister cakes, breads, and cookies, all of which rise better, due to the additional leavening power found here.

The right balance in the interaction between eggs, flour, sugar, and fat in baked goods is important; your product will be dry if there is either too much or too little of the crucial egg.  In most recipes, “eggs” is a reference to large-sized chicken eggs, of which the equivalent of three is 2/3’s cup of duck eggs; therefore, I always measure these for an accurate agreement in any given recipe.  Note: whipping duck whites takes longer because of their firmness; thus, the recommendation is to beat them at room temperature, adding a little lemon juice; older eggs are preferable to fresh, as they aren’t as firm.

Duck eggs are up to 50% larger than those of their chicken cousins, with more yolk than white.  They are higher in protein and creamier, making great omelettes and quiches; crème brulee is unforgettable when made with these!  Nevertheless, my favorite way to eat them is over-easy, with the rich, smooth, orange yolk dripping all over the plate, which I sop up with my homemade toast.  Be sure to not overcook them, as they become rubbery.

Exponents of eggs propound that-among many benefits-they help prevent breast cancer, because of their high choline content; their abundance of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxathin fights mascular degeneration and cataracts.  Their beneficial blend of omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, B vitamins, and iodine feeds your brain, thus enhancing your mood.  They are an ideal, low-caloric, muscle-producing protein.

USDA has the same regulations for chicken, duck, quail, and ostrich eggs.  Their farmers and fans proclaim that duck eggs are less susceptible to diseases and parasites, making them safer, as well as healthier with a higher concentration of nutrients.  It is believed that their thick shells give them a longer shelf life than chicken eggs.

Eggs in general have gotten a bad rap in recent years; many feel they contribute to heart disease.  This is far from the truth, as they contain mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which actually lower heart disease risk.  Harvard health experts say healthy people can eat an egg a day; others believe you can eat even more.

These special duck eggs are popular in Asian cuisines, especially Chinese and Vietnamese, where they are frequently cured in brine; this draws out moisture and preserves them, altering their texture.  I fell in love with these pickled eggs while living in Tokyo!

My facile receipt blesses, for it enhances eggs with rosemary.  If possible, use these superior duck eggs, available at local farms and upscale grocers, where they range from $6 to $12 a dozen.  My young friend, however, sells his for the low price of $6/doz.  (Noah resides near the Tualatin high school here in Oregon; go to Cynthia Powell link on my Facebook page.)

References:

www.rodalesorganiclife.com/food/chicken-eggs-vs-duck-eggs-which-is-healthier

www.hgtv.com/outdoors/gardens/animals-and-wildlife/duck-eggs-411

https://www.tyrantfarms.com/5-things-you-didn’t-know-about-duck-eggs

https://pastrychefonline.com/2015/03/14/how-do-eggs-function-in-baking/

www.modernfarmer.com/2015/06/everything-you-need-to-know-about-duck-eggs/

chopping rosemary with a sharp knife

Rosemary Eggs  Yields: 1 serving.  (May multiply this, using a large non-stick pan.)  Total prep time: 15 min.

1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced  (1 1/3 tsp will be needed, if using duck eggs, which are considerably bigger than chicken eggs.)

1 small tomato, chopped

2 large chicken eggs  (May substitute duck eggs.)

1 tsp butter

Salt, to taste  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is important for health reasons; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco for $4.95 for 5 lbs.)

Fresh ground pepper, to taste

  1. cooking liquid out of tomatoes

    Chop rosemary fine with a sharp knife; set aside (see above photo).

  2. Chop tomato and place in a dish.
  3. Beat eggs in a bowl, set aside.
  4. In a small non-stick omelette pan, heat butter over moderate/med heat; add rosemary; and cook for about 20 seconds.  Stir in tomato and cook for 2-3 minutes.  There will be juice from the tomatoes at first (see photo); cook until most of this liquid is evaporated.
  5. Pour in eggs; salt and pepper the top.  Gently fold in the firm egg on the bottom of pan (see photo); cook until egg is not runny any longer, but still quite moist.  Do not overcook, as this makes duck eggs, in particular, rubbery and dry.
  6. folding in cooked egg

    Serve hot, with homemade zucchini bread (2017/07/24), or better yet my rosemary bread toasted, which I will publish in several weeks.

Borscht (Beet Soup)

a bowl of borscht

This borscht recipe and its history have been with me since my catering days, during the early 1980’s in Billings, Montana.  Then I was preparing soups for a café in an art gallery; now it graces my table every summer.  A particular prayer partner claims my version is far better than that which she had in Russia.  Indeed, this chilled soup is a beautiful offering on a hot summer day!

This delicacy has been long popular in Eastern European countries under the following names: borscht, borsch, borshch, and bosht.  Over time it has spread from these nations to other continents, as their people emigrated.  In North America, it is commonly linked with the Jews and Mennonites that came from these European areas.  The common name borscht is derived from the Russian borsch meaning cow parsnip, which was an original recipe ingredient of the Slavs.

The most familiar American adaptation of this soup, which is made with beetroot, is of Ukrainian origin.  With its first record being in the 12th century, this dish subsequently emerged from a wide variety of sour-tasting soups present in the Eastern European section, such as rye-based white borscht, sorrel-based green borscht, and cabbage borscht.  Our well-known Ukrainian recipe was originally inspired by the addition of leftover beetroot pickling; thus, its brilliant color and tart flavor.

There are as many different preparations for this beet soup as there are homes in which it is consumed; they may include the additions of meat, fish, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, and potatoes.

Spanish conquistadors brought potatoes and tomatoes from America to Europe in the 16th century; these vegetables, however, weren’t a common part of the Eastern European peasants’ diet until the 19th century, at which time they found their way into the Ukrainian and Russian borscht-food of both poor men and princes.  As a result of emigration, tomatoes and potatoes are a part of borscht recipes around the world, but my version has neither of these.

Still other variations occur with this renowned soup involving its garnishes and side dishes.  Smetana, or sour cream, is its most common topping; chopped herbs, hard-boiled eggs, bacon, and sausage may also be utilized.  There are plentiful side dishes; among them are pampushky (Ukrainian garlic rolls) and treasured pirozhki (individually sized pastries or dumplings filled with meat and onions).

You can see that despite its centuries-long-history there is no consistent receipt for this sustaining chilled delight, for even this latter characteristic may vary, and it may be served hot.  My borscht is a cold, meatless, summer soup adorned with sour cream and eggs; for the benefit of added protein make this recipe with bone broth (see its benefits and easy recipe at my post on Tortellini Soup, 2016/10/10).  This is a treat!

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borscht

https://www.britannica.com/topic/borsch

www.dictionary.com/browse/borscht

easy mincing of onion

Borscht (Beet Soup)  Yields: 4-5 servings.  Total prep time: 1 hr/  active prep time:30 min/  cooking time: 30 min

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

1 med/lg yellow onion

3 lg purple beets, a little less than 2 lbs trimmed

1 qt broth  (Beef broth is good; I, however, prefer bone broth; for recipe and powerful health benefits, see Tortellini Soup, 2016/10/10.)

1 c water

2 small lemons, juiced  (Use half of this to start; then, adjust with more to taste.)

1 tbsp honey, or to taste  (Local raw honey is always best, for its localized bee pollen is known to relieve allergies naturally, through the concept of immunotherapy.)

1 tsp Better than Bouillon, or to taste

1/2 tsp salt, or to taste  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco.)

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper, or to taste

sweating onions

Sour cream

3 eggs, hard-boiled and chopped  (I prefer duck eggs; see Rosemary Eggs, 2017/08/21, for their information.)

  1. Chop the onion in small pieces the easy way.  Peel it leaving the root on; next, score this by cutting slices close together across the top one way, going 3/4 of the way down into the onion; then, turn it and cut slices the opposite direction.  When onion is thus prepared, shave the small pieces off the end with a sharp knife (see photo in list of ingredients).  May discard root end; set aside chopped vegetable.
  2. Heat oil in a stock pot over medium heat; add piece of onion; when it sizzles, add remaining onion; sweat, cook only until translucent (see photo above).  Set aside, go to next step.
  3. Spray beets with an inexpensive, effective vegetable spray; mix 97% distilled white vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle.  Let sit for 3 minutes and rinse well.
  4. Peel and cut beets in 1/4″ dice; add to cooked onions.
  5. Cover with broth and water; bring to a boil over med/high heat; reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until beets are soft.
  6. borscht cooking in pot

    Add half the lemon juice and honey.

  7. Stir in Better than Bouillon; then, add salt and pepper.
  8. Adjust lemon juice, honey, Bouillon, salt, and pepper to taste.
  9. Chill for 4 hours or overnight.  Serve topped with sour cream and chopped hard-boiled eggs.
  10. This freezes well.  I love this summer soup!