Coconut Orange Chicken

coconut orange chicken

My delightful creation boasts of the meat and cream of coconut, contrasted with fresh orange, and melded with the juices of sautéed chicken and onions-flavors which accent each other, as Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page suggest in Culinary Artistry.  1

Much can be said about the benefits of coconut, with its current widespread demand.  Coconut sugar-with its low glycemic index-is the best choice for baking (see Zucchini Bread, 2017/07/24), while coconut oil is ideal for health-learn more about this highly beneficial saturated fat in my entry Nutty Coconut Pie, 2017/11/13.  Here, however, we will explore the advantages of its milk, cream, and water.

Coconut is the largest and most important of all nuts, which is the stone of a drupe, the fruit of Coco nucifera, large tree-like palms, which are more closely related to grasses than other nut-trees.

These hardy fruits are borne and mature year-round; it takes eleven to twelve months for them to fully develop.  Around five to seven months, they develop coconut water (about 2% sugars) and a moist, delicate, gelatinous meat.  The mature coconut, however, has a less abundant, less sweet liquid, and meat that has become firm, fatty, and white.  2

Coconut milk-as opposed to coconut water-is made by pulverizing good, fresh coconut meat to form a thick paste, which consists of microscopic oil droplets and cell debris suspended in water; this water makes up about half of the paste’s volume.  Then more water is added, and it is strained to remove the solid particles.  Left to stand for an hour, a fat-rich cream layer separates from a thin-skim layer in the milk.  3

For a while, only the canned, skim coconut milk was available at Trader Joe’s.  When I inquired about their coconut cream, which I prefer for cooking, I was told the market was presently so glutted by the popularity of coconut products that the cream wasn’t being produced.  Lately, once again, cans of coconut cream are available there, much to my joy.

Recently friends came for dinner.  Cody was sharing his expertise with my computer, while I in turn was blessing with food; thus, the inspiration for this dish.  It was a win-win situation, for both of us were incapable of doing what the other was providing.

We are all critical members of the body.  With God’s help, we play out our individual parts, as we contribute to the whole.  Each of us is uniquely equipped; thus, the manifold splendor of the perfected body.  Likewise, this same divine genius can be seen in what mother-nature did, bestowing on us these many essential products from the coconut fruit.

References:

  1. Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, Culinary Artistry (Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996), p. 199.
  2. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 508.
  3. Ibid., p. 509.
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coconut_milk

finished product

Coconut Orange Chicken  Yields: 3-5 servings.  Total prep time: 3/4 hr.

12 oz frozen broccoli  (Organic is best, available at Trader Joe’s; our local Grocery Outlet sometimes has it at a better price.)

1 lb chicken tenderloins, 8 lg pieces

6 1/2 tsp oil   (Coconut oil offers ideal flavor and quality.)

1 med yellow onion, cut in even 1/8” slices

Small head of cauliflower  (Organic, orange cauliflower is often available at our local Fred Meyer-Kroger-stores; color is beneficial to health.)

Red or orange bell pepper  (Organic is so important with bell peppers, as they readily absorb pesticides.)

1 lg orange, peeled and divided into small sections  (Organic is best.)

1/3 c unsweetened shredded coconut flakes  (Available in bulk at many stores, very reasonable at our local Winco.)

1-15 oz can of coconut cream (Trader’s usually carries this; coconut skim milk will work as well.)

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

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper, or to taste

Steamed rice or quinoa  (See Quinoa Dishes, 2018/01/29.)

  1. produce

    Take broccoli out of freezer, open package, and set aside.  Place chicken in bowl of water to thaw.

  2. Spray all vegetables with an inexpensive, safe, effective produce spray (combine 97% distilled white vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide).  Let sit for 3 minutes; then, rinse well.
  3. Chop onions in even 1/8” slices.  Heat 1/2 tsp of oil in a sauté pan, over medium heat; oil is ready, when a small piece of onion sizzles.  Reduce heat to med/low.  Add rest of onion and cook, stirring every several minutes until light color begins to form; then, stir more frequently until onions are dark brown.

    cutting cauliflower

    Place in a bowl and set aside.  While these are cooking, go to next step, but watch onions carefully.

  4. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in an extra large frying pan; salt and pepper poultry well; when small piece of chicken sizzles in oil, add rest of tenderloins.  Cut in bite-size pieces with a spatula as cooking; cook until light pink in center-do not overcook, as they will cook more later on.  Set aside on plate, SAVING JUICES IN PAN.
  5. Cut all cauliflower into small florettes, by first cutting sections off whole cauliflower.  Next remove excess stalk off these sections.  Finally, gently break these smaller sections into bite-size pieces, by pulling the florettes apart with a paring knife, see photo above.
  6. separating orange segments

    Chop pepper into 2”-strips.  Peel orange, break in half, cut halves in half, and divide into small sections (see photo).

  7. Over medium heat, heat left-over juices in large pan, to which 1 tbsp of oil is added.  When a small piece of cauliflower sizzles in pan, add the rest of it, as well as the pepper strips and broccoli.  Stir oils into vegetables; mix in dried coconut and coconut cream (be sure to gently stir the cream in the can first, to avoid a mess when pouring).  Sauté until desired tenderness; may cover with a lid to speed up process. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Add chicken pieces; adjust seasonings; cook until tenderloins are hot (see photo at top of recipe).
  9. Serve over rice or quinoa.  A powerfully good dish!

Beef Vinaigrette

beef vinaigrette on aspic

This is one of my all-time favorite recipes; I look forward to summers when I can indulge in it, for it is a cold dish.  I discovered this treat during my early catering days in Esther B. Aresty’s The Delectable Past, in which she shares the lost joys of the table gathered from her extensive collection of rare old cook books.  1

Aresty updates this delightful, historical receipt for her 1970’s kitchen, to which I have added my inspired touches.  She found this profound dish in Sarah Phillips’ The Ladies Handmaid, 1758, noting that it had limited circulation, and is unknown today to most bibliographers,

Phillips, this early English author, displays her magnetic personality in her recipe book.  In it she encourages her readers that it needs very few arguments to persuade people to prefer a good dinner to a bad one.  Her energetic approach to cooking is best revealed in her remarks on fish preparation: “Rip open the belly. Gut it. Strip it and hack it with a knife.”  2

This inspired, eighteenth century beef recipe is unparalleled, for it graces the best of our tables still today, pleasing without exception during the hot months!

We can learn much about the history of cook books from this receipt, by placing the book of its origin in proper historical perspective, demonstrating how the era it was from brought fine foods to the common man.

Prior to its time, cook books were prevailingly penned only by men in Europe.  Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)-known as Dr. Johnson-was an English lexicographer, critic, author, and conversationalist; he declared mid-century that women could spin very well, but they could not write a good book of cookery.  He, however, did not stop the tidal wave of female authors that were to overtake the writing of books on cooking in England.  This phenomenon actually began as early as 1714, with the advent of Mary Kettlby’s instructions for housewives-as well as cook maids at country inns-in A Collection of Above Three Hundred Receipts in Cookery, Physick and Surgery.  The momentum for feminine authorship merely grew over the years.  3

Cook books and Bibles share the distinction of being the earliest books printed.  Platina, a noted humanist and Vatican librarian, published the first cook book, De Honesta Voluptate, in 1475, just twenty years after the onset of printing with the Gutenberg Bible.  Germany, France, Spain, and England published cookery books shortly thereafter (prior to this, recipe collections were only handwritten).  These printed works could best be labeled “for a prince’s household”, though none were comparable to Platina’s De Honesta Volupate in magnitude, exemplifying the revival of the art of cooking during the Renaissance.  4

A long silence followed the first printing of an English cook book, The Boke of Cookery, 1500.  Change came when this silence was broken at the end of that century: detailed directions for elaborate food preparations were now addressed to the wives supervising better-class homes, rather than to chefs for noblemen, as was the previous precedent; all these books, however, were written by males during this Elizabethan period.  5

But a still greater change came later in the eighteenth century, when English women totally invaded what had previously been a man’s realm: British cook books were now being written by women, as well as being intended for feminine readership.  Prior to this, particularities concerning culinary preparation predominantly belonged to men in Europe: recipes were recorded by male chefs, who prepared these delicacies for nobility.

Writing for the chefs of noblemen in his book Le Cuisinier Francois, 1651, the Frenchman Francois Pierre de La Varenne was the first to publish what was to become a worldwide movement away from heavy medieval cuisine, with its influx of dense spices and almond pastes.  Here he emphasized the subtle accents of mushrooms and truffles, simple sauces made with pan drippings, and the use of butter instead of oil in pastries.  6

Shortly thereafter, there was a further shift found in the culinary sphere in seventeenth century France, with the beginning hints in cook books of fine foods not being just for kings, queens, and noblemen.  Then in the eighteenth century, Manin first and then Menon (the relatively unknown Manet and Monet of French cuisine) promoted what was to become a culinary outreach to the bourgeoisie in their writings.  7

Nevertheless, it was the British female authors who played the predominant part in introducing the greater populace to fine cuisine.  Our delightful beef recipe was created at the height of this male-to-female transformation that took place in culinary England in the 1700s.

Enjoy its many dimensions of flavor, which are produced simply.

References:

  1. Esther B. Aresty, The Delectable Past (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964).
  2. Ibid., pp. 118, 119.
  3. Ibid., pp. 109, 110.
  4. Ibid., pp. 27, 28, 32
  5. Ibid., pp. 32, 43, 44.
  6. Ibid., pp. 60, 61.
  7. Ibid., pp. 94-98.
  8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_cuisine
  9. https://www.ecpi.edu/blog/a-brief-history-of-french-cuisine

beef vinaigrette

Beef Vinaigrette  Yields: 10 servings.  Total prep time: 7 hr, which includes 3 1/2 hr for chilling/  active prep time: 30 min/  cooking time: 3 hr.  Note: may make a day or two ahead.

4 lb beef brisket

1/2 c dry white wine

1 bay leaf

1 small yellow onion, diced

1/4 tsp whole allspice

1/2 tsp dried tarragon (or 1 tbsp fresh)

3 sprigs of parsley

capers for garnish

Aspic

1 3/4 c hot broth from meat

1/4 c cold water

1 individual envelope of unflavored gelatin

  1. prepped meat

    Trim excess fat off brisket; place in a heavy stewing pot, with a tight lid.  Add enough water to come up 1/2” in the pot; then, stir in all other ingredients, except capers and those for aspic (see photo).

  2. Bring to a boil over med/high heat.  Reduce heat to med/low, cover, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.
  3. At the end of this time, turn meat over, and cook for another 1 1/2 hours; check liquid periodically, adding more water only if needed.  (See photo below of finished product.)
  4. finished brisket

    Remove brisket and place on a plate in refrigerator.  Strain remaining broth.  Measure 1 3/4 c, adding water to make full amount as needed, or if liquid is more than 1 3/4 c, boil it to reduce to given quantity.  Bring the 1 3/4 c broth to a light boil in a small pot; then, remove from heat.

  5. Meanwhile, place 1/4 c cold water in a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin on top, and stir with a spoon.  Dissolve this in hot broth, pour into an 8” x 8” pan, and refrigerate.
  6. After chilling meat for at least 3 hours, cut in slices, keeping them in order to retain the shape of the brisket; set aside.
  7. scraping fat off aspic

    Take pan of solidified aspic out of refrigerator, and scrape fat off top with a table knife (see photo).  Cut in 1″ cubes.

  8. Place aspic cubes on a platter covered with greens; arrange sliced beef brisket on top of aspic; garnish with capers (see initial photo).

Munazalla (a Syrian lamb, eggplant, and tomato dish)

munazalla

This prized dish came to me in the early 1980’s, during my initial catering days in Billings, Montana; there I taught this recipe, the first in this series, in one of my cooking classes, as part of a complete Middle Eastern dinner.  It still graces my table today, especially when I am trying to impress guests, as it is par excellence.

Its origin is Syrian; thus, recently I was excited about serving it to company, with an Assyrian heritage, not understanding that these are two very different cultures. Research proved their distinct differences: Syria, officially known as the Syrian Arab Republic, is a nation in southwestern Asia, on the eastern Mediterranean coast, with the capital of Damascus.  This delicious dish is from that republic, which was birthed in 1946; it was originally part of an ancient country by that name, of western Asia, that also included Lebanon and the Palestinian region.

On the other hand, Semitic Assyria was an ancient empire, which was by far larger than the early country of Syria.  This was considered to be the greatest of the Mesopotamian empires, which had its start at the beginning of creation, as accounted for in the second chapter of Genesis.

This Syrian lamb, eggplant, and tomato recipe, calls for well-known cilantro, which is the leaf of the plant Coriandrum sativum, while the spice coriander is its seed.  Cilantro, sometimes botanically referred to as coriander, is said to be the most widely consumed fresh herb worldwide. As a native to the Middle East, its seed was found in the tomb of King Tut (I got to see the tour of these ancient Egyptian remains in Seattle in the mid 70’s).

Early on, this plant was taken to China, India, and Southeast Asia, and later to Latin America, being highly favored in all these regions.  In the New World, cilantro replaced culantro, Eryngium, its relative with a similar taste which is indigenous to Central and South America.  The latter has larger, thicker, tougher leaves, than those of the cilantro plant, with its rounded, notched, tender greenery; nevertheless, the flavor in both is almost the same.  Culantro, or saw-leaf herb, is still used in the Caribbean, but is most commonly found in Asian cuisine, especially that of Vietnam.

Coriander leaf, cilantro, is sometimes described as having a soapy aroma; for this reason, it is not very popular in traditional European cooking.  The main component of the aroma is a fatty alehyde, decenal, which is very reactive; thus, this herb quickly looses this sense-element when heated.  As a result, it is used most predominantly in uncooked preparations, or as a garnish.

This low-cholesterol herb, which is a good source of dietary fiber, has a practically non-existent caloric value, and it is high in minerals (including potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium) and vitamins (such as A, C, K, E, and B vitamins).  Its health benefits are highly acclaimed by experts.  Among many health-promoting characteristics, it is said to: rid the body of heavy metals, lower bad-while increasing good-cholesterol, help reduce swelling caused by arthritis and rheumatic diseases, lower blood sugar levels, and provide antioxidant, antiseptic, disinfectant, and antibacterial properties.

As with traditional Europeans, this leaf’s pungency is offensive to me; thus, for flavoring in our munazalla, I give the option of substituting ground coriander seed, with its simultaneous flowery and lemony tastes.  Who knows?  This superb receipt may even excel more with fresh cilantro, for those who love it.

References:

The Holy Bible, KJV, Genesis 2:14.

Harold McGee, pp. 390, 407, 408.

https://draxe.com/cilantro-benefits/

https://articles.mercola.com/herbs-spices/cilantro.aspx

Munazzala (a Syrian lamb, eggplant, and tomato dish)  Yields: 5-6 servings.  Total prep time: 2 1/3 hr/  active prep time: 1 hour/  inactive cooking time: 1 1/3 hr.

10 large minced garlic cloves, or the equivalent

1 lb ground lamb  (Our local Grocer Outlet generally has a great deal on lamb.)

1/4 tsp allspice

1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

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

2 tbsp oil  (Coconut or avocado oil is best, as olive oil is carcinogenic when heated to high temperatures.)

1 lg onion, chopped

2 lb eggplant

4 med tomatoes

1/3 c cilantro, chopped  (May substitute 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander, or to taste.)

  1. forming meatballs

    Spray vegetables with an inexpensive, safe, effective vegetable spray (combine 97% distilled white vinegar with 3 % hydrogen peroxide).  Leave spray on for 3 minutes; then, rinse well.

  2. Mince garlic cloves by hand, or in a food processor; set aside.
  3. Using your hand, combine: lamb, 1/4 of minced garlic, allspice, pepper, and 3/4 tsp salt in a bowl; form meatballs the size of cherry tomatoes (see above photo).
  4. Over medium heat, fry meatballs in 1 tbsp hot oil, stirring with spatula until they stiffen.  Add chopped onion and cook until golden brown; drain fat and set aside (see photo).  Deglaze pan with small amount of water, scraping fond, or

    cooked meatballs and onions

    cooked-on juices, off bottom of hot pan with a spatula.  Set aside.

  5. Chop eggplant in small cubes (see photo below).  Heat remaining tbsp of oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  When a small piece of eggplant sizzles in oil, mix in remaining eggplant; add 1/4 c water, cover, and cook until pieces begin to soften, stirring occasionally.  Be sure to cover pan.
  6. Cut tomatoes in small chunks, chop cilantro-dried coriander may be substituted.
  7. chopping eggplant

    Mix meat, remaining garlic, tomatoes, cilantro, and 1/2 tsp salt into partially cooked eggplant.  Cover, reduce heat to med/low, and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  (After cooking for 1 hour, if preparing for company, you may wish to set this mixture aside, before the final 15-20 minutes of cooking).

  8. Raise heat to medium, adjust seasonings, and cook uncovered for 15-20 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently.  (See photo of finished product at top of recipe.)
  9. Serve with pleasure!

The Best Corned Beef

corned beef and cabbage

In Ireland, they do not celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with corned beef and cabbage, but rather lamb or bacon, on what has long been a religious holiday there. Why therefore does the rest of the world, in particular the U.S., count this dish synonymous with this day that has become so filled with frolic?  It was through numerous developments that the Irish immigrants in America adopted this tradition, with its roots which are actually Gaelic.

These immigrants first arrived here when fleeing the Great Famine, which was brought about by the European potato blight that desperately hit their homeland, starting in 1845.  They disembarked knowing only “about” the corn beef of their forefathers, and that differing greatly from what they began to eat in the U.S.

This dish has a complicated history.  Beef was originally not regarded as an option in the old country, but rather pork and bacon provided the rare meat at a meal (pig is still their favored animal to be bred only for food).  From ancient times on, the common Irishman regarded the cow as a work animal, consuming only its milk products, not its flesh; this latter was primarily reserved only for the wealthy few, and even for them, merely at celebrations and festivals.  Salting was their typical means of preserving meat.

When the English conquered this country in the 16th century, the cow turned into a food commodity.  Since the time of Roman invasion, the English have had a voracious appetite for beef, hence their need to outsource for this.  After their conquest of the Gaelic land, tens of thousands of live cattle were exported yearly across the Irish Sea, until the mid-17th century, when a series of Cattle Acts enacted by the English Parliament put a stop to this export; thus, providing the fuel that ignited the Irish corned beef industry.  These Cattle Acts left Ireland with an inundation of cows, bringing meat prices down, and making it affordable and abundant for their salted beef production, their means of preservation; thus, now even the peasant could consume this food.

It was around this time that the term corned beef became popular, because of the large size of salt crystals used to cure it, for they looked like a kernel of corn.  The word kernel is derived from the Old English crynel, meaning seed or kernel, a diminutive of corn.

Subsequently Ireland became known for its abundant, high quality salted beef, now called corned beef, which tasted more like salt than beef.  In addition to the overflow of cows due to the Cattle Acts, they also had access to the highest quality of imported salt, as their salt tax was one tenth that of England.  (In good corned beef, the quality of salt is almost as important as the cut of beef.)  The demand for this best-on-the-market, Irish corned beef soared in Europe and the Americas, spiking the price so high that the common Irishman could no longer afford to eat it; thus, the potato, which the English had introduced in the 1580’s, became their major food source in the Gaelic land.

This high, European and American demand for Irish salted beef continued until the end of the 18th century, when the North American colonies began producing their own; the glory days of Irish corned beef came to a close over the next 50 years; hence, the economy in Ireland was affected greatly.  This coupled with the Great Famine-brought by the European potato blight starting in 1845-resulted in great destruction in this land, as this plant disease completely destroyed the Irish food source.  As a result, about a million people sought refuge in America.  Being the land of plenty, they could now afford meat, a first in their lifetimes; that which they chose happened to be the affordable “corn beef”.  Here, however, it greatly differed from that of the corned or salted beef of their ancestors 200 years prior.

These immigrants settled in the urban centers of New York and Philadelphia, next to their Jewish neighbors, who had kosher butcher shops, where the Irish bought this product; the Jewish butchers used brisket, a kosher cut, for what they called corned beef.  Being a tougher cut, it called for the salting and cooking processes that rendered the extremely tender corn beef, with its exceptional flavors, such as we know today.  The Irish paired this with their beloved potato and the inexpensive vegetable cabbage.  This “Jewish” corned beef then became the celebratory meal for the American Irish on their religious holiday St. Patrick’s Day.  Time transformed this hallowed feast day into its present, grand celebration of Irish heritage.

Today this beef brisket-cut is generally cured or pickled by injecting seasoned brine (the brisket-cut comes from the area just above the front legs; it rests on top of the shank cut, which is immediately above these legs in the forefront).  Hence today most of our savory corned briskets never actually touch any salt grains, the size of corn kernels or otherwise, like that of the famous salted beef of old.

Though not the typical corned brisket of the former era, in The Hamilton Cookbook, 2017, Laura Kumin cites Richard Briggs’ 1792 recipe “To Stew a Brisket of Beef”, from The English Art of Cookery: “a pint of red wine, or strong beer, a half of pound of butter, a bunch of sweet herbs, three or four shallots, some pepper and half a nutmeg grated.”  Browned, boiled turnips were added at the end, after the liquor-or gravy-had been thickened with “burnt butter”.

The following is my sister’s modern recipe, which calls for braising, resulting in super tender morsels of meat.  Enjoy this effortless receipt, while wearing the green this year.

References:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/is-corned-beef-really-irish-2839144/

http://www.foodandwine.com/fwx/food/complicated-irish-history-corned-beef

http://www.kitchenproject.com/history/CornedBeef.htm

Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1988, 1973), pp. 289-291.

Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 2004, 1984), p. 175.

Laura Kumin, The Hamilton Cookbook (New York, Nashville: Post Hill Press, 2017), pp. 90, 91.

glazed meat

Corned Beef Brisket  Yields: 6-8 servings.  Total prep time: 7 1/4 hr for 3 1/2-lb brisket/  active prep time: 30 min/  cooking time: 7 hr (or 2 hr for each lb of meat).

3 1/2 lb corned beef brisket

1 lg yellow onion  (Organic vegetables are best.)

8 extra lg cloves garlic, or the equivalent

6-8 red or Yukon gold potatoes, cut in halves

1 1/2 lb green cabbage, cut in sixths or eighths, leaving root on

1-1 1/4 lb carrots, cut in large pieces

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

Yellow mustard

Brown sugar  (Organic is best; available at Trader Joe’s or Costco.)

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees; take veggies out of refrigerator to warm.
  2. preparation for initial braising

    Rub seasonings from spice packet on brisket.  Place in oven-proof stock pot with onions and garlic.  Barely submerge in water (see photo); cover with lid and braise for 1 hour in oven at 375 degrees; then, lower temperature to 325 degrees, if brisket is normal size of 3 1/2 to 4 lbs-if brisket is larger, only lower heat to 350.  Cook meat for 6 hours for 3 1/2 lbs.  The TOTAL cooking time should be determined by figuring 2 hrs per lb (this time includes that needed for the replacement of vegetables for the meat the last hour of cooking); thus, a total of 7 hours for a 3 1/2 lb brisket).

  3. 1 1/3 hour before serving, spray vegetables with an inexpensive, safe, effective vegetable spray (a mixture of 97% distilled white vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide); let sit 3 minutes; rinse really well.  Scrape carrots with a sharp knife (this preserves vitamins, as opposed to peeling); cut in halves or large pieces; peel the potatoes; if large, cut in halves.  Cut cabbage in sixths or eighths, leaving the root on, and set this aside separately.
  4. 1 hour before serving, remove brisket from braising water, place in a baking dish, covered with tin foil, and set aside.  This should be extremely tender; if not, put a little liquid in bottom of dish, cover well with foil, and place back in oven while veggies are cooking (see photo below).
  5. preparing brisket for further cooking if needed

    Turn the heat up to 375 degrees.  Add potatoes, carrots, and salt to hot broth, cover with additional water, and return to oven to cook until tender, checking periodically.  As vegetables are done, remove to a baking dish, with small amount of broth in bottom, cover with foil, and place in oven to keep warm.

  6. Add cabbage to pot 30 minutes before serving if you like it soft; for a crisper version, add 20 minutes before dinner.  (Be sure to check vegetables to see if cooked, remove to baking dish as needed, and return to oven to keep hot.)
  7. About 30 minutes before serving, prep the glaze, by generously spreading yellow mustard over brisket, sprinkle with brown sugar, and place in oven at 375 degrees.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until it bubbles and glaze is formed (see photo at top of recipe).
  8. Cut meat, cover with foil, and place back in oven, if not ready to serve yet.  When all cooking is done, turn oven down to 200 degrees for keeping meal hot.
  9. To serve, place on platter or plates and surround with vegetables (see initial photo).  This dish is best accompanied with Irish Soda Bread, last week’s post.

Quick Pasta with Red Sauce and Ricotta

pasta with red sauce and ricotta

With our hurried society, we are always trying to conserve on time; thus, I try to respect this need for efficiency with my cooking instructions, where provision of optimum health is also a major focus.  My mind is made for details; henceforth, I spell out shortcuts that streamline cooking; this can make a particular recipe look long, but indeed it is concise, with an abundance of clock-conserving treasures.

This quick version of red sauce can be made in just 30 minutes, thus honoring our crowded schedules; it pleases with its added topping of ricotta cheese.

A dear friend always blesses me with gifts from her home, when she visits.  I never know what new gadget or food item she will introduce upon her arrival.  Several weeks ago, Wanda came bearing homemade ricotta, which she had made in a crock pot, with her suggestion to put it on top of spaghetti sauce.  As she cooks for a diabetic challenged husband, she serves just a little gluten-free pasta with lots of red sauce, topped with her ricotta; you may choose similar adjustments.  (A 5-star receipt for simple homemade ricotta cheese can be found at http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/homemade-ricotta-cheese-crock-pot-345985)

Discipline is called for in any recipe, whether it be in the kitchen or life, with the constant need for balance between demands and desires.  Always we long for the best taste to be left in our mouths, but oh the challenge in allowing the time required for such quality.  Here I sacrifice some of the depth of flavor, which can be found in my moderately-more-lengthy instructions for Red Sauce for Pasta or Spaghetti Squash (2017/04/10).

Italian comes to mind when we think of red sauce; tomatoes, however, are a relatively new food in Italy.  In the 16th century, conquistadors introduced these to Europe, where they took centuries to become a leading world vegetable.  America didn’t fully accept this fruit-it is actually a fruit, not a vegetable-until the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a time that simultaneously saw an inundation of Italian immigrants on our shores.  For more on this history, see Spicy Sausage and Tomatoes (2017/09/25) and Ropa Vieja (2017/10/09).

If you are wanting a fine-textured red sauce, know that canned tomatoes, unlike fresh tomatoes, usually don’t boil down to a smooth puree, as calcium salts are added by many canners-this calcium firms the cell walls of tomatoes and keeps the pieces in tact.  Since these salts interfere with the disintegration process during cooking, be sure to check the labels on all canned whole tomatoes, only buying brands that don’t list calcium, unless a chunky sauce is desired.  I use canned tomato sauce here.

Pressured agendas bring loss of strength, while slowing down to smell the roses allows for the discovery of innate gifts, which were positioned by divine ordinance long ago.  We get to open these daily, if we but exercise patience.

References:

Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1988, 1973), p. 206.

Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 2004, 1984), p. 331.

Quick Pasta with Red Sauce and Ricotta  Yields: 2-3 servings.  Total prep time: 30 minutes.  Note: may double the recipe.

15-oz can tomato sauce  (Organic is best, which is only slightly more expensive; available at most supermarkets.)

3/4 tsp dried oregano  (Trader Joe’s has an excellent organic bottle for $1.99.)

1 tsp dried basil  (Also found at Trader’s.)

3/4 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is important for optimum health; an inexpensive fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco.)

4 med/lg cloves garlic  (For easy prep, use 2 cubes frozen garlic from Trader’s.)

1 tsp oil  (Coconut or avocado oil is best, as olive oil is carcinogenic when heated to high temperatures.)

1 med yellow onion, chopped small

2-3 servings of pasta

2 sausage links  (Natural sausage is best; I used Fence Line Hot Italian Style here.)

Spray oil  (Coconut is best for health; Pam coconut spray oil is available in most supermarkets; our local Winco brand, however, is much cheaper.)

2 tbsp tomato paste  (Freeze remaining paste in individual 1/4 c bags, to be thawed conveniently.)

Avocado slices

Ricotta cheese for topping

  1. tomato sauce simmering

    Take ricotta out of refrigerator, to bring to room temperature for serving.

  2. In a medium saucepan, place tomato sauce and 1/2 can of water, to which you have added seasonings and garlic.  Bring to a boil over medium heat; reduce heat to med/low and simmer, stirring occasionally.
  3. Heat oil in a sauté pan; sweat onion in hot oil (cook only until translucent); add to sauce.
  4. Fill a 3-quart saucepan 4/5th’s full of water, to which you have added a small amount of salt and oil (any kind will do).   Place over medium heat; when water boils, add pasta and cook for 7 minutes, or until al dente.
  5. Meanwhile cut sausage diagonally and sauté until light brown, in a frying pan sprayed with oil.  When done, add to tomato sauce.
  6. Slice avocados, set aside.
  7. When pasta is finished, drain in a colander, rinsing well.
  8. prepping pasta

    Finish the sauce, by adding tomato paste, stirring until thickened.

  9. Rinse pasta under hot tap water to warm it.  Place pasta on individual plates; pour sauce over top; garnish with large dollop of ricotta and a slice of avocado (see top photo).
  10. Quick, easy, delightful!

Quinoa Dishes

salad topped with cooked quinoa

Our bodies are the temples of God; only through his grace, do we have the capacity to care for these holy houses with good diet and healthy exercise.  For years, such attendance was beyond my natural ability, but now I highly esteem the enabling gift from God, which provides me with the means to execute both these disciplines effectively.

Clearly I recall the days, when weighing 226 pounds, walking caused painful rubbing together of my fleshy thighs.  Brokenhearted, after repeated failures and fresh firm resolve, I would yet again reach toward the “easy” goal of a 20-minute walk, 3 times a week.  I could never achieve this, try as I might.

Lo and behold, my challenge has been reversed: now I have to be careful not to obsess about exercise, as I so love walking aerobically, for this invigorates me, stimulating a marvelous sense of well-being in my soul.

My trustworthy instruction book, the Bible, warns that there are advantages in physical exercise, but these are limited, as they pale in sight next to the gains acquired by putting spiritual development first.  Thus, we must approach workouts with great wisdom, so they neither own us, nor escape us.

My days are jam-packed, for I am gratefully fulfilling my ordained achievements with my food history writings and other ministry.  The result is a thrilling existence, in which I can run out of time at the end of a day, leaving me with critical choices, with which I have to prioritize.

Our gracious Father has granted me a tool to do such: there is a winter wonderland scene at the Tualatin Commons, the man-made lake near my home.  All the trees surrounding this body of water are dressed in bright, white lights (the floating Christmas tree was taken down after the New Year).  This has become my piece de resistance, which early in my day I start anticipating: will this pleasure be mine at twilight?  Only supernatural help allows me to accomplish the needed organization to allow this longed-for walk.

Discipline in ordering my day is critical; by necessity, exercise has become secondary to my fulfilling the higher purpose of my calling.  Often I recall how this valued ambulation used to be such a burden, causing sores on my overweight thighs, but now I crave walking.  I didn’t bring this miracle about; my great Healer affected it in me over time.  I am literally his walking miracle!

Not only has my exercise been refined, but healthy eating has come to me supernaturally, as well.  Slowly I have attained excellent eating disciplines; incorporating quinoa (KEEN-wah) in my diet is one such development.  This is a cereal grain, sometimes referred to as a seed; all grains, legumes, and nuts are seeds.

Quinoa is a power-food that is native to northern South America; it was domesticated originally as food for livestock around 5000 B.C., near the Lake Titicaca basin of Peru and Bolivia-I spent a night on this pitch black, remote lake, the largest inland body of water in the southern hemisphere, which doesn’t have electricity.

Quinoa was a staple with the Incas, second only to the potato in importance, and is still in the forefront among their indigenous descendants the Quechua and Aymara people.  It is a grain from a plant called Chenopodium quinoa, which is a member of the same family as beets and spinach.

Like many ancient grains, this seed was almost lost: in 1532, the Spanish explorer Francisco Pizarro destroyed quinoa fields, in his attempt to annihilate the Incan culture; this crop, however, survived in the high Andean mountains.  Quinoa was reintroduced to the modern world in the 1970’s and 80’s.

This high-fiber, complete-protein food, rich in numerous vitamins and minerals, produces a starch gel, similar to that of risotto, giving it a kind of silky texture, according to Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page in Culinary Artistry; they further state that its earth tones highly compliment the mineral and earthy components of lobster-try experimenting with this combination.

Here, however, I quickly prepare it in two savory dishes.  This pseudo cereal-not a member of the grass family, therefore not a true cereal-can also be cooked as a breakfast food; serve it with dried fruit, honey, and an alternative milk, such as almond or hazelnut.

My discovery of quinoa has blessed me immensely; may it benefit you  likewise.

References:

Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), pp. 451-483.

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

http://www.ancientgrains.com/quinoa-history-and-origin/

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/quinoa-the-mother-of-grains-1-57670322/

Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, Culinary Artistry (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.), pp. 142, 143.

toasted yellow quinoa

Simple Cooked Quinoa  Yields: 3-5 servings, as a main course or side dish respectively.  Total prep time: 30 min/  active prep time: 15 min/  cooking time: 15 min.  Note: double this for healthy leftovers; this is especially good added to green salads (see photo above).

1 c quinoa  (Tri-color or red organic quinoa is preferable-color is important in diet.)

1-15 oz can of chicken, vegetable, or beef broth

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

  1. Toast the grain in a hot, dry frying pan over medium heat, for about 6-10 minutes, stirring constantly as color starts to change; yellow quinoa will turn light brown in color (see above photo), while red quinoa  turns deep red.  This enhances the flavor of the dish remarkably!  Meanwhile go to next step.
  2. While quinoa is beginning to toast, pour broth in a 1 1/2-quart saucepan (or 3-quart pan, if doubling recipe).  Stir in salt and bring to a boil over medium heat; when liquid boils, add toasted seed and bring to a second boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes; red quinoa may take longer to cook.  When done, water will be absorbed and quinoa will be soft and somewhat translucent.
  3. Serve immediately.  Refrigerate any leftovers to reheat for an entrée, or to add to a green salad (see first photo).

carrots and quinoa

Carrots and Quinoa  Yields: 4-6 servings, as a main course or side dish respectively.  Total prep time: 45 minutes.

1 med yellow onion, cut in even 1/8 inch slices

4 1/2 tsp oil  (Coconut or avocado oil is best, as olive oil is carcinogenic, when heated to high temperatures.)

8 med carrots, or other vegetable  (Organic multi-colored carrots are available at Trader Joe’s; color is important in diet.)

1 c quinoa  (Red or tri-color is good.)

1-15-oz can chicken, vegetable, or beef broth

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

  1. red quinoa as it is beginning to change color

    To caramelize onions, cook slowly over medium heat in 1/2 tsp of oil, stirring every several minutes, until a light color starts to form; then, stir every minute, until dark brown.  Be sure to use a small amount of oil; too much oil will require a much longer cooking time, as will crowding the pan.

  2. Spray carrots with a safe inexpensive, effective vegetable spray (combine 97% distilled white vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide); let sit 3 minutes; rinse well.
  3. Bring broth to a boil in a covered 1 1/2–quart saucepan, over med/high heat; add salt.  (Use a 3-quart pan is doubling recipe.)
  4. Toast quinoa in a hot dry frying pan, over medium heat, stirring constantly as color starts to change.  This takes about 6-10 minutes-yellow quinoa will turn light brown, while red quinoa will become deep red (see photo above).
  5. To preserve vitamins just under skin, scrape carrots with a sharp knife, instead of peeling; slice thinly.  (Meanwhile keep checking the onions.)
  6. finished product

    Add toasted quinoa to boiling broth, cover, and reduce heat to med/low.  Allow to simmer until all the liquid is absorbed and quinoa is soft and somewhat translucent (this takes about 15 minutes for yellow quinoa, while red quinoa may take longer).

  7. Heat remaining 4 tsp oil in an empty frying pan.  Add sliced carrots, cover, and steam until soft, stirring occasionally.
  8. Blend onions into carrots; mix cooked quinoa into vegetables.  Serve hot (see above photo).

Pasta and Spinach, with Lemon Sauce

pasta and spinach, with lemon sauce

Sauces have been used to modify and accentuate food throughout history, transcending all cultures.  Here we will examine ancient Rome, for it offers-in the strictest sense of recipes-the earliest cook book De Re Coquinaria, which is perhaps erroneously believed to have been written by the gourmet Apicius in the first century A.D.  This discrepancy is made evident by Athenaeus, who compiled the anthology The Deipnosophists, circa 230 A.D.  This latter book is regarded as one of the leading sources of information about ancient times, and its author knew all about Apicius as a gourmet, but didn’t attribute a cook book to him.  Regardless of the exact authorship of De Coquinaria, it supplies the rich basis of a worthy record of early cooking techniques.

With it come glimpses into the eating habits of the well-to-do, including sumptuous recipes, such as those for feasts.  Note that contrary to established beliefs, the everyday Roman dining was simple: breakfast (jentaculum) was bread with a few olives or raisins; lunch (prandium) mostly consisted of leftovers, cold meat, or eggs; the daily main meal (cena) also reflected less extravagance-this latter was more elaborate only in households with an excess of slaves.

Even more than the fussy dishes concocted for guests, plain foods, like grain pastes, beans, and bread, required spices and strong sauces to transform them, with their disproportionate quantities of starch.  This same rule is illustrated by the most intense of the world’s repertoire of sauces, such as the soy mixtures of China, the chili pastes of Mexico, and the curries of India-derived from the South Indian name kari meaning sauce.  Here the common man basically developed sauces as seasonings for bulky carbohydrates, which both absorb and dilute them; on the other hand, the solid masses of fish and meat scarcely incorporate liquid at all.

In Food in History, Reay Tannahill states that all the qualities that give a cuisine its identity change in a society that can afford to eat meat and fish daily, with their staying sauces.  (Such peoples utilize extensive creativity in sauce-making, the primary element of good cooking.)  Thus, Tannahill suggests that the whole essence of cuisine may have thus changed in the rural society that was transfigured into Imperial Rome.

Showy receipts were prepared for company by that ancient culture. The full dinner party in Roman times was considered to be nine people, reclining on three couches, around a U shape table.  These guests leaned on their left elbow, while eating with the fingers of their right hand.  This was a messy activity; they washed themselves from top to toe before a meal, probably needing to do so after as well.  By necessity, the dipping sauces for their flesh foods required a sturdy substance for easy eating; such thickening was achieved by adding wheat starch or crumbled pastry.

The use of liquamen (or garum) was predominant in Roman cookery.  This clear, golden, fermented fish sauce was made commercially, by leaving out a mixture of fish and salt in the sun for two to three months (eighteen months for larger fish).  Its presence in most recipes not only added strong flavor, which the Romans loved, but in turn, masked milder rancidity, so prevalent in their foodstuffs.

Imperial Rome grew to be a quarter of the size of modern Paris, unlike the other great, small urban centers of Sumer, Egypt, and Greece, which were small by comparison; this made transport of perishable foods, which were stockpiled in warehouses, very slow.  With no refrigeration, food spoilage presented a large problem; thus, the powerful, fishy/salty flavored liquamen found its way into almost everything.

The recipes of antiquity were sketchy, with little more than a list of ingredients.  Their sauces, as mentioned above, often called for wheat starch and crumbled pastry as thickeners, for there was no roux.  Interestingly enough, roux was NOT the invention of 17th-century classical French cuisine, as is generally accepted; indeed, two printed German recipes remain employing this, which date back to late medieval times, 150 years before roux began revolutionizing cooking.

This paste roux-a combination of flour and butter cooked to varying degrees for different recipes-is the binder in four out of five of the leading mother sauces: brown sauce (espagnole), white sauce (veloute), milk-based béchamel, and traditional sauce tomat (the fifth is hollandaise).  These five mother sauces were formalized in a code by Auguste Escoffier in Le Guide Culinaire (1903); they act as the basis of most sauce creations, chocolate being an exception.

Our lemon recipe, a béchamel, is time-efficient, for I feel a need to respect the modern sense of rush, which makes many afraid of a brown sauce that in a careful kitchen can simmer for up to ten hours.  Enjoy this delightful dish prepared in less than 30 minutes!

References:

Esther B. Aresty, The Delectable Past (New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1964) pp. 14, 15, 18, 20.

Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1988, 1973), pp. 82, 83, 89, 90.

Bee Wilson, Consider the Fork (New York: Basic Books, 2012), p. 202.

Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), pp. 616-618.

https://www.thekitchn.com/do-you-know-your-french-mother-sauces-211794

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Auguste-Escoffier

weighing pasta

Swift Pasta and Spinach, with Lemon Sauce  Yields: 2 servings (as a main course),  or 4 servings (as a side dish).  Total prep time: 25 minutes.  Note: may use gluten-free pasta.

2/3 cup  shallots, chopped small

1/3 cup or 1/3 medium onion, chopped small  (If desired, may use more onions and less shallots; a total of 1 cup, of both together, is needed.)

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

3 tbsp fresh lemon juice-2 small lemons  (May add optional zest of half a lemon.)

5-6 oz of pasta

5 tsp butter

2 tsp flour  (May substitute potato or rice flour for gluten-free version.)

2 tsp oil  (Coconut or avocado oil is important for health, as olive oil is carcinogenic when heated to high temperatures.)

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream  (Must be heavy cream, or it will curdle.)

Salt and white pepper, to taste  (Real Salt, Himalayan, or pink salt, is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available very cheaply at Costco.)

Fresh spinach

  1. hand-held wooden lemon squeezer

    Boil 2 1/2 quarts of water over med/high heat in a covered saucepan-add about a teaspoon each of salt and any kind of oil.

  2. Chop small the shallots and onions; measure and set aside.  Mince garlic, if using fresh.
  3. Roll lemons on counter, pressing down hard with hand to loosen juices in meat; squeeze and measure lemon juice; set aside.  (See above photo of hand-held juicer, ideal for easy juicing.)
  4. When water is boiling, turn heat down to medium, add pasta and cook for 7 minutes, or until al dente.  Drain in a colander when done.
  5. Meanwhile, melt 2 tsp of butter in a small saucepan over med/low heat; stir in flour with a wire whisk; cook briefly for about 1 minute-traditionally, roux for a béchamel shouldn’t change in color at all.
  6. finished lemon sauce

    Heat 1 tbsp butter and oil, in a medium-size sauté pan, over medium heat.  Add shallots and onion; cook until translucent, stirring frequently.  Mix in garlic; if garlic is fresh, cook for about 30 seconds more, just until aroma arises, or saute shallot/onions just until cube is dissolved, if using frozen.

  7. Add heavy cream, lemon juice, and roux to onions/shallots/garlic; stir constantly until sauce is thickened; see photo.
  8. Toss with prepared pasta, serve on a bed of spinach, enjoy!