Sage Turkey Delight

sage turkey delight

Learn about the term essential oils, as applied popularly to medicine and traditionally to food; in the later it is used for the flavorful material in herbs and spices.  With the approach of Thanksgiving, consider this great recipe for leftover turkey or chicken, which employs the fresh herb sage, which we will look at more closely below.  1

Essential Oil as Found in Food

Flavor is a composite quality, a combination of sensations occurring in the odor receptors in the upper reaches of our nose and the taste buds in our mouths.  Both sensations are chemical in nature: we are smelling odors and tasting tastes, when our receptors are triggered by specific chemicals in foods (in medicinal essential oils, these concentrated chemicals are either inhaled through the nostrils or applied to the skin).  2

Most of what we experience as flavor is odor, or aroma (this can be seen in the  effect odor molecules have on us, when biting into a fresh apple, and from the sensations derived from indulging in a roast, hot from the oven).  3

Herbs and spices heighten flavor by adding their characteristic aroma molecules (an exception is pungent spices and herbs, such as pepper and chilies, which stimulate and irritate nerves in the mouth, rather than provide aroma).  These aroma molecules of herbs and spices are small, light, invisible, intangible, making them volatile, especially when heated-they evaporate from their source and fly through the air, which allows them to rise with our breath to the receptors in our nostrils.  4

In herbs and spices, these were actually defensive aroma chemicals in the plants themselves, which we have adopted as potent, intense sources of flavor.  God placed these chemicals in plants to make them resistant to attack by animals or microbes.  These defensive chemical weapons are stockpiled carefully in specialized oil-storage cells, in glands on the surface of leaves, or in channels that open up between cells, as they can have disruptive effects on the plants themselves-as well as on predators-and thus are kept from the internal workings of the plants.   5

When eaten as is, most herbs and spices are acrid, irritating, numbing, and actually toxic, such as a whole oregano leaf, a clove, peppercorn, or vanilla bean.  But through the art of cooking, man dilutes these, thus bringing much pleasure.  6

In food history, the traditional term essential oil reflects an important practical fact: the aroma chemicals that make up flavor are more similar to oils and fats than to water, making them more soluble in oil than water.  For this reason, cooks add the deep flavor  of herbs and spices to foods, by the infusing of them in oil, not water (two exceptions to this are: tea, a dried leaf, and coffee, a roasted seed).  We also sometimes infuse herbs in watery vinegar and in alcohols, but the acetic acid of both are small cousins of fat molecules; thus, vinegar and alcohol help to dissolve more aromatics than plain water could.  7

When cooking with an herb, it is important to add it to our food-cooked in fats-at the last minute to preserve the fullness of its flavor.

Essential Oil as Found in Medicine

Likewise, medicinal essential oils are aromatic chemicals extracted from plants and combined with the carrier oil.  There are eight removal methods (steam distillation, water distillation, water and steam distillation, cold-press extraction, CO2 extraction, maceration, enfleurage, and solvent extraction).  Some extractions methods are best suited for the particular plant types and parts.  8

These liquefied versions of a plant have obtained the active botanical constituents from that species, thus allowing its “life force” to reach the blood stream faster than eating the plant would.  9

These essential oils, compounds extracted from plants, are indeed the plant’s captured essence, or flavor and scent, as seen with food above.  Medicinal essential oils are concentrated plant extracts, and true ones must be obtained through non-chemical processes, such as distillation (via steam and/or water), or mechanical methods like cold-pressing, such as used for obtaining oils from citrus peels.  10

Flavor Components in Sage

Sage, as called for in this holiday receipt, has the following flavor notes, lending to its general sensory qualities as brought on by their contributing chemicals.  Some of the major chemicals found in sage are cineole, providing a fresh note, and pinene, lending a pine flavor quality.  Both of these chemicals are in the terpenes family, which as a family tends to be especially volatile and reactive, meaning these chemicals are often the first molecules to reach the nose.  They thus provide the initial impression of these lighter and more ethereal notes, and for this reason, they disappear quickly in cooking.  11

Cineole and camphor add a penetrating sensory quality, while the distinctive chemical thujone-found almost exclusively in sage-contributes much of its character.  All of these flavor notes pair ideally with poultry; thus, sage is the perfect herb for my recipe below.  12

Discovering our Optimum Health

It takes concentration and purposeful effort, to achieve our optimum health.  We must study all the options; then, make an educated decision how best to meet our individual needs with food, medicine, and life, all three.

God gave us doctors; it is wise to seek counsel from them, in both medicine and food.  Be led by the Spirit: go to one you trust and then ask lots of questions.  Follow through with personal research; then, prayerfully consider your choice for ideally meeting your specific health needs-and we all have health issues, with which we find victory!

Let us be as wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove-primarily with ourselves-as we press in for this ideal concerning our bodies, minds, and hearts.

References:

  1. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 389.
  2. Ibid., p. 387.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid., p. 389.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. https://www.newdirectionsaromatics.com/blog/articles/how-essential-oils-are-made.html
  9. Ibid.
  10. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-are-essential-oils
  11. Harold McGee, On Food and History (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 392.
  12. Ibid.

finished product

Sage Turkey Delight  Yields: 4 servings.  Total prep time: 45 min.

16 oz frozen broccoli  (Trader Joe’s has organic for $2.29/ lb.)

1 lg yellow onion, cut in 1/8slices

3 1/2 tsp oil  (Avocado or coconut oil is important, as olive oil is carcinogenic when heated to high temperatures.)

4 lg carrots, about 2/3 lb, chopped in thin diagonal slices  (Organic at Trader’s costs $.79/ lb.)

10 oz pkg of sliced crimini mushrooms  (Trader’s has this for $2.49; though, any kind of mushrooms will do.)

sage plant from Trader Joe’s

4 tbsp ghee or butter  (If making homemade ghee, plan on 12 min to prep; see  recipe at Ukrainian Spinach with Noodles.)

3 c of leftover turkey, or chicken, in bite-size pieces

1 small herb plant of fresh sage, about 3/4 c whole leaves  (This organic plant is available at Trader Joe’s for $2.49; see photo.)

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

  1. clean, easy method of scraping carrots into grocery bag

    Take broccoli out of freezer, open bag, and set aside, to begin thawing for quicker cooking.

  2. To caramelize onion, slice it in half at root and then in even 1/8” slices.  Heat 1/2 tsp oil in a skillet, over medium heat, and when a small piece of onion begins to sizzle, add the rest.  Cook, stirring every several minutes, until a light color starts to form.  Then stir every minute, until onions are a dark brown and caramelized. May add a small amount more of oil toward end, if they look like they might burn.  Watch carefully, while proceeding to next step.
  3. carrots after cooking for 2 min

    Spray carrots with a vegetable spray (an inexpensive, effective spray that works well is a combination of 97% white distilled vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide).  Rinse thoroughly and set aside.

  4. In a large sauté pan, heat butter or ghee (for  ghee recipe see Ukrainian Spinach with Noodles.)  Add mushrooms and cook for several minutes, or only until slightly limp; remove to a bowl, carefully leaving juices in pan.  Take pan off heat when done.
  5. chopped sage

    Be sure to watch onions.  (May set a timer and keep hitting repeat, as a reminder.)

  6. For easy, clean prep, scrape carrots with a knife in a plastic grocery bag hung over sink nozzle (see photo at direction #1).  Cut carrots in thin, diagonal slices.
  7. Add remaining tbsp of oil to mushroom juices in pan and heat, until a small piece of carrot sizzles in pan.  Add rest of carrots, distributing juices; cook for about 2 minutes (see photo above).
  8. With a paring knife, cut large broccoli florettes in half; add to pan, stirring well, so oils are mixed in evenly.  Cook until desired tenderness, stirring occasionally.
  9. Meanwhile remove stems from sage and chop leaves into small pieces, set aside.  See photo above.
  10. When vegetables are finished, stir in poultry pieces and chopped sage.  Season with salt and pepper to taste; cook until heated thoroughly; when hot, adjust seasonings.  (See photo at top of recipe.)
  11. Serve it forth!

Chicken BBQ, an adaptation of a 1758 English Receipt

finished product

This outstanding BBQ can be made with chicken, as I propose here, or mutton (lamb), as the original 1758 recipe instructs; I discovered it in Esther B. Aresty’s The Delectable Past, copyrighted 1964.

The same book provided me with cold Beef Vinaigrette (see 2018/09/01), which I served a lot in my catered events during the 1980’s and 90’s. Both the beef and today’s adaptation-with whole chicken breasts-of her Mutton (or Lamb) Kebob’d, have brought excellence to my special summer menus.  They are mouthwatering beyond words!

In the early 1980’s, an Irish woman in Billings, MT gave me Aresty’s book.  At that time, I delved into its rich heritage with all vigor; I was hungry for historical facts about food, as I was being formed into a food historian.  Even now, I continue to discover new ways to create outstanding delicacies in these proven pages, as can be seen with this provision for BBQ.

Aresty found these directions for roasting a loin of lamb on a spit, in Sarah Phillips’ The Ladies Handmaid, which appeared in 1758.  Inspired by Phillips, she calls for cutting all the way down to the bone between the chops, being careful not to sever them (allowing two chops per person).  Then, season them well with ground thyme, crushed rosemary, salt, and pepper.  Next, one ties the loose loin together-Mrs. Phillips wrote “clap together”.  Finally, it is fastened to the barbecue spit to be roasted over a hot fire; all the time one bastes it with the outstanding sauce, as given in the recipe at the end of this entry.

I lit upon this “delectable”, when searching for something unique to take to a church picnic on Vancouver Lake, in Washington.  It wasn’t possible to roast a loin of lamb over our small portable grill, so I quickly substituted chicken breasts for the kebob’d (or tied) mutton loin; the end result pleased the crowd immensely.

The day was memorable.  After the abundant meal, we floated on a raft on Vancouver Lake, with peace surrounding us, as thick as cutting soft butter with a knife.  There were small children in our raft; their quiet pleasure brought delight to all.

It is written that we must become like children to enter into our ordained place in life.  How do we do this?  The Holy Spirit will direct each necessary step, if we will ask for help, believing, as we cry out.

The journey is one of great joy and abundance.  Nevertheless we can expect challenges in the process, but oh the exuberance, as we overcome all obstacles!  The victory is ours, for the taking.  We rise and walk in all newness of life with the innocence of a child, accepting fun and freedom along the way.

Our gracious Father longs to bless our taste buds, both in the spiritual and the natural; our job is to quiet down enough for this sense of taste to be perceived, so we can follow its lead.  It is promised that we will be directed into all life, if we trust God’s inward guide.

Let this BBQ receipt be the beginning of an awakening of our gustatory and spiritual awareness.  Enjoy its many flavor dimensions.

plate of chicken

Chicken BBQ  Yields:4-5 servings.  Total cooking time: 45 min.  Note: this was inspired by an adaptation of a 1758 recipe, which I found in Esther B. Aresty’s The Delectable Past (New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1964), pp. 118, 119.

 

 

 

 

2 1/2 lb boneless chicken breasts  (Natural chicken breasts are best; Trader Joe’s has a good buy on these.)

Ground thyme

Crushed dried rosemary leaves

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

Pepper, freshly ground

Basting Sauce  (May be done ahead.)

2 tbsp melted butter

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

1/4 c vinegar  (Be creative here-I used an elderberry vinegar.)

2 tbsp catsup  (Trader’s has an organic catsup for $1.99.)

  1. seasoning chicken for grilling

    Place chicken in warm water to thaw, or better yet, thaw the 2 1/2 lb bag on a deep plate in the refrigerator, at least 24 hours before cooking.

  2. In a small saucepan, combine all basting sauce ingredients, heat to combine, and set aside.  (May be done ahead and stored at room temperature.)
  3. Before placing on barbecue, season one side of the breasts well with ground thyme, crushed rosemary, salt, and pepper.  Place seasoned side down on hot grill; then season the top side likewise.  Let cook for 10 minutes to seal seasoning on poultry, turn over to seal seasoning on other side.  See above photo.
  4. basting chicken

    Brush partially cooked upside of breast with basting sauce; cook about 10 minutes; then, turn over, brushing other side with basting sauce.  See photo.

  5. Continue to cook-turning and basting about every 10 minutes-until chicken is fully cooked (see top photo.)
  6. Serve with anticipation!

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: 1 1/4 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 and orange segments; 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, birthed in 1946, which 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 1970’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.

Early Irish Immigrants Weren’t Eating Corned Beef

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.

English Cattle Acts Left Ireland with Surplus Beef

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.

Term ‘Corned Beef’ Introduced

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.

Rise and Fall of Popularity of Corned Beef from Ireland

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.

Irish Americans Celebrated  St. Patrick’s Day with Jewish ‘Corned Beef’ 

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.

American Preparations Old and New

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!