Tandoori Chicken

Indian meal

Here you will find information on tandoor clay ovens and a delightful tandoori chicken recipe, which I first made in one of my cooking classes in the early 1980’s.

Tandoor Oven Described

If made authentically in India, this chicken dish (which originated in the Punjabi region of the Indian subcontinent) is cooked in the bell-shaped tandoor clay oven; this oven is also used to make the Indian flatbread naan.  This is a cylindrical clay oven, which sets in the earth and is fired with wood or charcoal; it may also rest above the ground.  1

Where the Tandoor Oven Is Used and Its Origins

The tandoor oven is used for cooking in the following Asian regions: Southern Asia (including India), Central Asia (including some former Soviet republics), and Western Asia (thirteen of the twenty countries-fully or partly located here-are of the Arab world) and the South Caucasus.  2

In India and Pakistan, tandoori cooking became popular, when the Punjabis (from the northern part of the Indian subcontinent) embraced their traditional tandoori cooking on a regional level;  this can be seen, after the 1947 partition, when Punjabi Sikhs and Hindus resettled in such places as Delhi.   Therefore, Indians and Pakistanis traditionally associate the tandoor with the Punjabis.  3

In Azerbaijan, the tandoor oven is called a tandir, while in Armenia, it is known as a tonir, which is underground here.  4

How a Tandoor Oven Works

Burning grasses, charcoal, or wood produces the heat in the traditional tandoor oven.   Smaller electric tandoors, however, are found in some homes, especially in America; larger electrical tandoors are used commercially (see https://www.puritandoors.com/ for purchasing).

These fires within the traditional, cylindrical ovens produce a combination of live fire cooking, radiant heat cooking and hot-air, convection cooking, as well as smoking-caused by the fat dripping on the charcoal or wood.  The temperatures soar to 900 degrees F (480 degrees C); these temperatures are maintained, by the fires left burning for long periods of time.  5

The tandoor design makes the transition between a makeshift earth oven and the horizontal-plan masonry oven.  Earth ovens were communal long ago, being pits dug in the ground with smoldering wood, cooking all the family’s meals within the community.  These earth ovens were eventually lifted out of the ground, and with time, they became masonry-brick or stone-ovens.  Initially in Asia, they, however, transitioned into the tandoor ovens, which being made smaller were used by individual families.  In this way, the tandoor was created, using grasses and wood to generate the heat to cook meat and vegetables within, while flatbreads were slapped directly on the hot clay walls.  6

The heat within a tandoor is generated, by a convection current created inside, as cold air is taken in through a hole at the bottom of the tandoor. As the cold air hits the fire, it warms up, and becomes less dense, circulating up inside the cylinder.  The air previously at the top has cooled down some, and it falls back to the fire.  This convection heat is energy transferred through currents, or in this case air currents.  In turn, a process known as radiation takes place, with the clay of the oven slowly beginning to absorb and emit some of this ambient, circulating, insulated heat.  7

Etymology of the Word Tandoor

According to Wikipedia, the English tandoor comes from Hindi/Urdu tandur, which in turn comes from Persian tanur; all these names mean (clay) oven.  The Dehkhoda Persian Dictionary states that this Persian word was derived from the Akkadian word tinuru, and that this word tinuru consists of the parts tin, or mud, and nuro/nura, meaning fire.  8

Making Your Own Tandoori Oven

There are numerous versions for making your own tandoor oven found on YouTube.  Primitive Life Reborn has a great video on how to make a primitive, mud tandoor-see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSCNQ0bGolY  A less traditional, but easier design, is given at https://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Tandoor-(Clay)-Oven

Background of My Recipe

My original 1980’s receipt included red food coloring, as the spicy hot tandoori chicken in Southern, Central, and Western Asia was reddish in color, due to the abundant spices in it (cayenne pepper, red chili powder, etc.).  Along with the optional food coloring, my milder recipe from the early eighties, included instructions for the barbecuing, broiling, or baking of the poultry, as tandoors were not in abundance in the U.S. back then, as they are today.

In America, “Indian summer” meals are highlighted with barbecues; you may, however, have this prized electric appliance in your home, or even a home-made tandoori oven, thus providing the option of making this receipt the traditional way.  If not, try barbequing, broiling, or in a pinch, baking it-all these instructions are below.

Applied Lesson

A few of the restrictions brought on by Covid-19 may seem to have settled some.  Back in the spring, life appeared to be drastically changed, but now things may no longer appear to be ‘hot as an oven’-and tandoori ovens get up to 900 degrees F (480 degrees C).

A semblance of order seems to have been restored, since the early March outbreak of this virus and all its complications.  Nevertheless, we take nothing for granted, but remain alert.  The word of God instructs us:

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.”    1 Peter 5: 8, 9.  (King James Bible)

To be sober is to be clear-headed, or alert, while vigilance requires circumspection, or being cautious about what we say or do.

We know that our thoughts form the basis of our spoken words and actions; thus, it is imperative that we tend to our thought life carefully.  If we do not, we can unknowingly give Satan access to come into our lives with his destructive ways; this can take place as we let our thoughts play out in words and actions that inadvertently lead to damage.

Through his mercy and grace, our Redeemer Jesus aids us in this, when we ask him to; therefore, we do not mistakenly commit sins of ignorance, or worse yet those of commission, which have consequences of destruction in the natural.

In this way, hell’s heat cannot touch us!

Enjoy my hot-from-the-oven tandoori chicken recipe below.

References:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tandoor and https://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/tandoori_chicken/
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tandoor
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. http://www.renegadekitchen.com/blog/diy-tandoor-oven
  7. Ibid.
  8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tandoor

­

tandoori chicken

Tandoori Chicken  Yields: 6 servings.  Active prep time: 1 hr/  Cooking time: 30 min/  Inactive prep time for marinating: 9 1/2 hr.

6 thigh/leg parts  (Our local Fred Meyer sells seasoned thigh/leg pieces at the meat counter, but you will want to ask for unseasoned ones, for $1.29/lb.  They also carry a pre-packaged Heritage Brand, with 4-5 pieces in a package for $1.09/lb.)

2 tbsp lemon juice, divided

1 1/2 tsp salt, divided

8 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine

2 tbsp grated fresh ginger

1 tsp ground cardamom, or 1 1/2 tsp seeds

1/2 tsp garam masala

1/3 tsp ground cumin, or 1/2 tsp seeds

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp red food coloring, optional

2 c plain, whole milk yogurt  (I prefer Sierra Nevada Grass-fed, Whole Milk Yogurt, as it is thick, rich, and most healthy; another option is plain Greek yogurt.)

  1. cutting five to six gashes in chicken

    If frozen, thaw chicken two days ahead in the refrigerator.

  2. Nine and a half hours before serving, or better yet a day ahead, remove skin from chicken and cut five to six deep gashes in each piece, cutting all the way through the meat (see photo above).
  3. In a small bowl, mix 1 1/2 tbsp of lemon juice and 1 tsp salt.  Rub each piece with this mixture and place in a pan, covering loosely with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for one and a half hours.
  4. cover thigh/legs with sauce

    With a mortar and pestle, food processor or blender, pulverize: garlic, ginger, cardamom, garam masala, cumin, cayenne pepper, and remaining 1/2 tbsp lemon juice and 1/2 tsp salt.

  5. Mix yogurt, spices, and optional food coloring.  Spoon sauce over the front and back sides of each piece of chicken, covering well; lay in a pan and spoon more sauce on top of these thigh/legs.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and marinate in refrigerator for eight hours-or overnight.  See above photo.
  6. finished product

    Cook over charcoal, in tandoori oven or BBQ.  May also cook under a broiler for 25-35 minutes, or until done.  A final option is to bake this in 400-degree oven for 30-45 minutes, or until there are no red juices present, when a knife is inserted in center.  See photo.

  7. Enjoy!

Riso Pilaff (Italian Braised Rice)

Below are many rich details concerning the history of rice, along with the final recipe in my Italian dinner Riso Pilaff.

Rice Domestication Dated as Early as 5000 BC

Though the date of rice domestication remains doubtful, it is thought that wet-field cultivation began in the river valleys of south China-an independent country at the time-about 5000 BC, but most dates concerning this, in China, as in India and southeast Asia, are closer to 3000 BC.  1

Rice Not a Basic Grain in Early North China

In 3000 BC, the basic grain in north China was not rice, but millet, a dry land crop.  It, however, is common today to think that rice was a main food in all of China, almost to the exclusion of anything else.  This is partly due to a Victorian misapprehension.  2

China kept itself at arms-length from the rest of the world, until the mid-nineteenth century; one result of its exclusivity was that foreigner traders, confined to the southern port of Canton (now Guangzhou), falsely believed that Cantonese food, which was based on the wet-farmed rice of the early south China, was representative of China as a whole.  This Victorian misconception was later reinforced by Cantonese emigrants taking their rice dishes to Britain and America; this resulted in Chinese and Cantonese cooking to be thought of as virtually synonymous, during the early days of our understanding of Chinese food in the West.  3

In The Rituals of Dinner, Margret Visser states that the staple grain in China was originally millet, which was eaten with a spoon.  Chopsticks seemed to evolve in the East specifically for the use of rice, with Chinese rice being moist, not loose and dry like that of Indians, Arabs, and Africans, who prefer eating it with their hands.  4

The Origins of Rice

Likewise, there is also uncertainty about its exact origins. The wild plant is found over a huge area of land, from the Gangetic plain of India across Upper Burma, then stretching to north Thailand and Laos, and to North Vietnam and into southern China.  5

It is believed that it could have been domesticated almost anywhere, especially since it lends itself to different methods of cultivation.  Records show that early users were ingeniously growing it in superficially unlikely conditions.  We can assume that rice was a late-starter, due to the known dates, in relation to the domestication of other grains; this indicates that it could have been domesticated independently in several places.  6

Song Times in China (960-1279 AD)

By Song times, most of the Chinese population were relying on bowls of rice and bean curd soup, which had replaced soy beans and water.  These rice bowls and bean curd soup were simple foundations, on which the common extras were added, as availability decreed.  These extras were spring onions, bamboo shoots and beans, with soy sauce, sweet-sour plums or fermented black beans, which added savor; pork, chicken, and fish were occasional luxuries.  7

Marco Pollo saw China before the glory of the Song had time to fade; its capital Hangzhou appeared to him to be like a Chinese Venice.  Ships brought spices from the Indies and took away silks for the Levant, while Arabs, Persians, and Christians haggled over the deals being made with paper money, which was unknown to Marco.  Admits all this, specially selected varieties of rice were being imported daily and sold to the rich.  Pink rice, white rice, yellow rice, mature rice and winter rice were among these varieties-each with unique characteristics and some with an almost flower-like fragrance.  8

The Presence of Rice in India

From about 2000 BC forward, rice was being cultivated in India, beginning in the Ganges Delta, in the northeastern Bengal region of the Indian subcontinent.  On plains with natural or artificial irrigation, it was a staple, in place of millet in other locations without irrigation.  9

During the first millennium AD, rice, vegetables and fish came to form the bases of south Indian cooking; these were cooked with an abundance of spices.  On the Malabar and Coromandel-southwestern and southeastern-coasts, Indian food was subjected to many outside influences, through trading with both the Arab world and China-there was much trade in spices, both through exports and imports.  10.

Nevertheless, the effects of foreign contact were more profound in the north-west of the country.  Over a period of 2000 years, there had been a succession of infiltrations and invasions, through  the passes of the Hindu Kush, bringing Aryian, Persian, Greek, and Central Asian ideas, attitudes and techniques.  All this became woven into the culture of the area of the former Indus Valley civilization.  Along with these foreign influences-either nomadic or highly civilized-there also was fertile land; these two features caused meat to be consumed here more than anywhere else in India.  11

What took place in north-west India varied greatly from its heartland. where the very poor probably ate stale, boiled rice with half-cooked gourds or other vegetables.  There may have been a grain porridge mixed with mustard stalk, and perhaps they drank rice-boiling water left to ferment-this unidentified alkaline liquid reputedly tasted like water from a salt mine.  12

In the heartland, the less-poor began meals with one or two pieces of ginger and salt; then, there would be boiled rice and bean soup, this with a hot butter sauce.  Small cakes with fruit and more butter followed; next they chewed on a piece of sugarcane, finishing everything off by chewing spices, for digestive purposes and to sweeten the breath.  Their drinks varied from water to whey or buttermilk or gruel.  13

The rich here followed this same basic pattern in their meals, but with additions and finer quality, such as shining white rice and rich, golden broths.  In the southern heartland, curds and spicy meat sauces were used instead of ghi, and drinking water was perfumed with camphor from Borneo; they had mango syrup and lime juice for drinks as well.  In their highly varied diet, these Indians made use of dairy, which the Chinese generally ignored, and of fruit, which the Europeans were intractably suspicious.  14

As a rule, it, however, isn’t really possible to talk of ‘Indian food’ as a whole, for there is so great a diversity in its regional foods.

As an aside: Roman traders brought back rice from India to ancient Rome, at the time of Christ, before the fall of the Western Roman Empire-which happened at the hand of Germanic leader Odoacer, in 476 AD.  Romans, however, used rice in their cooking only as a starch, for thickening sauces and such.  15

The Arabs Introduced Rice to Europe

Under the banner of Islam, the Arabs rose up out of the desert and conquered the Persian Empire, during the Tang period in China (618-907 AD) and while the Rashtrakuta dynasty was ruling in India (between the 6th and 10th centuries).  16

During the medieval period, rice became fairly common in Europe, as the Arabs had brought it from Asia to Europe via Persia, where they had learned to grow and cook it.  Rice was first grown in large quantities, by the Moors, in 8th century Spain; somewhat later they brought it to Sicily.  Still later in the 15th century, northern Italians first produced rice in the Po River valley and the Lombardy plain-the home of risotto.  17

Europeans Brought Rice to the Americas

In the 1500’s and 1600’s, the Spanish and Portuguese introduced rice throughout the Americas, with South Carolina being the home of the first commercial American planting, in 1685.  Here the rice-growing expertise of the native African-Americans was most valuable.  (Presently, most of America’s rice comes from the lower Mississippi region, Arkansas, Texas, and California.)  18

Indeed, Europeans introduced numerous things to the Americas, though that which was imported by them was less than what was exported.  As mentioned, rice was among the treasures they brought.  Some other important commodities were vegetable seeds, wheat, chickpeas, sugarcane, bananas, citrus fruits, yams, cowpeas, coconuts, breadfruit, and coffee.  In addition, dairy products and beef  arrived, when Columbia’s second governor introduced the first cows there.  19

Starting in the 15th century, the Americas, however, provided Europe with far more, adding up to a formidable list with such things as: the potato, tomato, maize, avocados, pineapples, haricot, kidney, and butter beans, Lima beans, scarlet runners, ‘French’ beans, chocolate, peanuts, vanilla, red peppers and green peppers, tapioca, chewing gum, and quinine-not to mention gold, silver, tobacco and rubber.  20

Lesson Applied

For a long time, rice has been a world-wide commodity.  It is a principal food for about half of the world; while in countries such as Bangladesh and Cambodia, it provides nearly three-quarters of the daily energy intake.  21

As we can see, rice is an essential world staple.  Likewise, the Word of God is our necessary food; the Bible proclaims that it is more necessary than food itself!  (See Job 23:12.)  It often refers to the Word as the bread of life, for it feeds our bodies, minds, and souls, in ways beyond our knowledge.

The word is Jesus himself; the apostle John writes:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth.”  John 1:1, 14, King James Version.

The Word, which is Jesus, provides us with solutions; it is a most practical tool.  As it is written, when trouble comes, the Holy Spirit will recall to our remembrance what Jesus has said; in this way, we can resolve situations in our lives and nations.

The living Word nourishes us, just like rice does, only better.  A steady diet of the Word brings abundant life and more abundant life, when we apply his blood to our sins as needed (see John 10:10 and Romans 5:9).

Please enjoy this memorable, Italian rice pilaf recipe, given below.

References:

  1. Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1968, 1973), p. 40.
  2. Ibid., pp. 39, 40.
  3. Ibid., p. 40.
  4. Margret Visser, The Rituals of Dinner (New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991), p. 179.
  5. Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York, Three Rivers Press, 1968, 1973), p. 40.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid., p. 135.
  8. Ibid., p. 137.
  9. Ibid., p. 113.
  10. Ibid., p. 114.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Ibid.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Ibid., p. 141.
  15. Ilaria Gozzini Giacosa, A Taste of Ancient Rome (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), p. 12.
  16. Reay Tannahil, Food in History (New York, Three Rivers Press, 1968, 1973), p. 141.
  17. Harold McGee, On Food in History (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 472.
  18. Ibid.
  19. Reay Tannahill, (New York: Three River Press, 1973, 1988), 114, 115.
  20. Ibid., p.220.
  21. Harold McGee, On Food in History (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 472.

Riso Pilaf  Yields: 6-8 servings.  Active prep time: 20 min/ Braising time: 25-40 min.  (Inspired by a recipe in a cook book put out by the Denver Art Museum in the 1980’s.)

1 qt chicken broth  (Organic, free range broth is available reasonably at Trader Joe’s.)

1 small bay leaf

1 clove garlic, peeled

Scant 1/8 tsp loose saffron threads, crumbled  (Trader’s carries an inexpensive Spanish saffron.)

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

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

1 med yellow onion, chopped small

6 tbsp butter

1 1/3 c rice

1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese

  1. sweating onions

    Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

  2. In a medium saucepan, heat the broth with the bay leave, whole garlic clove, crumbled saffron, salt, and pepper.
  3. Over medium heat, sweat-cook until translucent-the chopped onion in 3 tbsp of butter, in a casserole (a 3-quart, stove top/ovenproof pan with a lid). See photo.
  4. cooking rice grains until opaque

    Stir in rice, coating grains well with the fat; continue to cook until rice turns opaque, stirring constantly; see photo.

  5. Stir hot broth into opaque rice. Bring to a boil and cook this mixture for 5 minutes, uncovered, over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Fit heavy foil over pan; then, cover tightly with lid.  See photo below.
  6. pan covered with heavy foil

    Bake in a preheated oven for 45-50 minutes, or until moisture is absorbed.

  7. When finished, fluff rice with a fork, stirring in Parmesan cheese and remaining 3 tbsp of butter; see photo of finished product at top of entry.
  8. Note: this may be made ahead of time, by braising it for about 35-40 minutes, or until there is about an inch of liquid left in the bottom of the pan.  Remove from oven and set aside; then, 45 minutes before serving, preheat oven to 250 degrees and place the casserole in oven, until rice is warmed.  It is even possible that the rice may be completely cooked-except the final addition of butter and cheese-the day before and stored in another saucepan, if casserole is needed for another recipe.  Be sure to remove rice from refrigerator in the morning; then, heat this room temperature rice over medium heat on stove top, adding about an inch of water to the bottom of saucepan.  When hot, stir in last 3 tbsp of butter and cheese and serve.

Verdure al Forno (Baked Vegetables)

Verdure al Forno

Here is detailed information on onions, including their health benefits; this is accompanied by an Italian baked vegetable dish, to go along with my last entry-Italian Braised Pork Chops w/ Tomato and Garlic Sauce-in which we explored much about garlic.

Etymology of Onion

Onions, garlic, and leeks make up what is known as the onion family, which is in the genus Allium, a group of plants in the lily family, with its near 500 species-only about 20 of these are important human foods; onions are the species Allium cepa.  The name onion is derived from the Latin for “one”, “oneness”, “unity”.  Roman farmers gave this name to a variety of onion (cepa), which  grew singly, rather than forming multiple bulbs, as seen in garlic and shallots.  1

On the other hand, the word for green onions, scallion, is derived from Latin Ascalonia (caepa), or English “Ascalonian (onion)”, which is taken from Ascalo-Ascalon; this is the Hebrew name for a city in classical times in southwest Palestine, which is a port to this day in the Southern District of Israel.  Scallion refers to a young onion before the enlargement, or in some instances, to any of several similar onion plants, such as shallots or leeks.  2

Two Major Categories of Market Onions in U.S.

Having originated in central Asia, the biennial plant onion has spread across the globe in hundreds of different varieties.  In the United States, there are two major categories of market onions, for here they are defined by season and harvesting practices, rather than by varieties.  Spring or short-day onions are planted as seedlings in the late fall, being harvested before full maturity in the spring and early summer.  These onions are relatively mild, moist, and perishable; thus, it is best to keep them in the refrigerator.  (This explains why it can be hard to buy onions right now that are firm, for often at this time of year they have soft, moist, and wrinkled skins; this requires throwing away several layers of the onion, when peeling them.)  3

The “sweet” onion is a special category of spring onion.  This is usually a standard yellow spring onion, which is grown in sulfur-poor soils, and therefore it has picked up half or less of the usual sulfur-containing defensive chemicals; the lack of these chemicals is what allows for a sweet or mild-rather than a strong-flavor.  For more on defensive chemicals in Alliums, see Italian Braised Pork Chops w/ Tomato and Garlic Sauce.  4

The storage onion is the second major category of onions on the market in America, which is grown in the summer and harvested when mature in the fall.  It is rich in sulfur compounds and drier; it can be easily stored in cool conditions for several months.  During fall and early winter seasons, onions on the market have a firm flesh, under tight skins.  5

Common Varieties Found in U.S. Grocery Stores

White, yellow, red, and green onions are available in any store.  White onion varieties are somewhat moister; thus, they do not keep quite as well as yellow onions-phenolic flavonoid compounds give the color to yellow onions.  On the other hand, red onions receive their color from water-soluble anthocyanins, but these only on the surface layers of each leaf scale; cooking dilutes and dulls this color.  6  It is believed that these anthocyanins in red onions may protect against heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes.  7

Finally, scallions-green onions-can be either bulb-forming varieties that are harvested quite young, or special varieties that never form bulbs.  8  Boiler and Hawaiian onions (a sweet onion grown in Hawaii) are among other common varieties on the market.

Cipollini onions are a variety of flat, mild, sweet, pale onions, which are the size of a golf ball.  9  These are sometimes available, at high prices, in the organic section at our local Fred Meyers.

Onions Present from Ancient Times

Here are a few highlights of the presence of onions throughout world history: scribes in the early Sumerian civilization-the first people in history to have a coherent system of writing-recorded that they were growing onions in 2400 B.C.  Peasants in ancient Egypt had onions as part of their standard fare, which probably also included ale and a common flatbread, ta, which was purchased from a stall in the village streets.  10

Onions were a common root crop, during the dark ages of the first millennium A.D., while a typical pre-medieval curry in India might have consisted of brinjal (aubergine) and a couple of onions or a handful of dal (lentils).  11

More glimpses of the use of onions in global history are the following: by Song times in early China, spring onions were a common extra to their bean curd soup and bowls of rice, throughout this country.  While during Classical times, the Scythians of Central Asia supplemented the products of their herds with onions, garlic, beans, and fish (tuna and sturgeon).  Also, Scandinavians were drying onions for use during their extreme winters, from the early medieval period throughout most of the second millennium.  12

Finally, an 18th century English governess commented on the ailments of Russian serfs: “…they need not lay by much to provide for Food; for they can make an hearty Meal on a Piece of black sour Bread, some Salt, an Onion, or Garlick.”  13

Health Benefits of Onions

Onions have long been a fundamental staple throughout the world; all this time they have been contributing to the health of the consumer.  healthline.com/nutrition/onion-benefits states that onions have been used to treat headaches, heart disease, and mouth sores since ancient times.  This low-calorie vegetable is rich in nutrients, such as vitamin C, which among other things acts as an antioxidant.  These antioxidants and compounds found in onions may reduce cholesterol levels, decrease triglycerides and fight inflammation; all of which may benefit our hearts.  (Their rich supply of antioxidants may also benefit those with diabetes and cancer.)  14

Onions are also rich in B vitamins, including folate (B9) and pyridoxine (B6)-important for regulating metabolism, producing red blood cells, and helping nerve function.  Also, among other things, onions boast of being a good source of much needed potassium; thus, they may aid in cellular function, fluid balance, nerve transmission, kidney function, and muscle-contraction.  15

The sulfur compounds and flavonoid antioxidants in onions are thought to provide cancer-fighting properties.  Multiple animal studies show that specific compounds found in onions, such as quercetin and sulfur compounds, may help to control diabetes.  There is some evidence that consumption of onions may boost bone density and digestive health, and they may have many antibacterial properties as well.  16

Applied Lesson

When facing a problem, we may feel a need to peel away its layers, like that of an onion-as the old proverb goes.  At initial contact, such situations can appear overwhelming, beyond our ability to resolve-too many layers!

Of ourselves, it is hard to make our wills and actions be of one accord, in dealing with troubles, while under pressure.  Thus, we may react rather than respond, and this only makes matters worse.

Jesus promises, however, to succor us from falling prey to temptations-to do things in our own strength-thus creating havoc.  His word tells us that he was 100% God, who became 100% man as well, and this was in order, to save men:

“Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.  For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor (help, aid) them that are tempted.”  17

It is beneficial to approach this process of resolving problems and overcoming temptations, with a sense of confidence in Jesus, by not allowing our disrupting ‘feelings’ to settle in our minds.  When we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of hope, Christ sees us through every time.

Enjoy below this simple recipe for Italian baked vegetables, replete with onions!

References:

  1. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 310, 311.
  2. The American Heritage Dictionary
  3. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 312.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/onion-benefits
  8. Harold McGee, Food in History (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1988, 1973), p. 312.
  9. https://www.drgourmet.com/ingredients/cipolini.shtml
  10. Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1988, 1973), pp. 46, 54.
  11. Ibid., pp. 93, 117.
  12. Ibid., pp. 118, 119, 135, 247.
  13. Ibid., p. 251.
  14. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/onion-benefits
  15. Ibid.
  16. Ibid.
  17. The Holy Bible, KJV, Hebrews 2: 17,18.

Verdure al Forno

Verdure al Forno  (Baked Assorted Vegetables)  Yields: 8-10 servings.  Active prep time: 30 min/ baking time: 30 min.  This receipt-adapted from the Denver Art Museum Cook Book-originally came to me in the early 1980’s.  Note: this may be made ahead and reheated, or it may be served cool.

1 lg yellow pepper  (Organic is important with bell peppers, as they readily absorb pesticides.)

1 lg red pepper

3 med zucchini (about 1 lb)

1 med eggplant

3 med yellow onions

2/3 c plus 2 tbsp oil  (Avocado oil is preferable, as olive oil is carcinogenic when heated to high temperatures, though the latter is more authentic.)

Salt and pepper, to taste  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt are important for optimum health; an inexpensive fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco for $4.95 for five lbs.)

  1. washing vegies

    Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

  2. Spray the vegetables with vegetable spray (for an inexpensive, effective spray, may mix 97% distilled white vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide). Let sit for 3 minutes and rinse well; see photo above.
  3. slicing bell peppers

    Distribute 2 tbsp of oil in the bottom of a 9 1/2” x 13” baking dish.

  4. Cut the peppers in half lengthwise and then cut into thin slices crosswise, after first deseeding them; see above photo. Separate them by color and place them in pan; see photo below at #7.
  5. slicing eggplant thinly

    Cut the zucchini into thin circles; place them in a row next to the peppers in the pan.

  6. Chop the onion in even 1/8” slices. Arrange these next to the zucchini.
  7. prepping vegetables for baking

    Thinly slice the eggplant and cut these thin circles into quarters; see photo above.

  8. Place in baking dish.  Carefully pour rest of oil evenly over all the vegetables, salting and peppering them well; see photo above.
  9. Bake in oven for 30 minutes, or until desired tenderness; see photo of finished product below.
  10. finished product

    Transfer the vegetables to an ovenproof serving platter, arranging them in the same order they were baked; see photo at top of recipe. (If preparing ahead of time, may complete this step and set aside, until dinnertime; then, 3/4 hour before serving, place ovenproof platter of vegetables in preheated oven at 250 degrees.) Note: may serve cool also, for a summer meal.

Italian Braised Pork Chops w Tomato & Garlic Sauce

Costoletta di Maiale alla Pizzaiola

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

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

Background of Garlic

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

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

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

How Garlic Grows

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

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

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

Sweetness of Cooked Garlic Is Due to Fructose Sugars

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

The Unique Makeup of Garlic Produces Health

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

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

Flavors and Sting of Raw Garlic

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

Various Preparation Methods Produce Unique Flavors

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

Flavors Derived from Cooked Garlic

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

Unique Flavors Brought on by Blanching and Cooking Garlic Whole

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

Availability of Garlic Today

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

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

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

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

Lesson Applied

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

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

The word of God instructs us:

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

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

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

References:

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

finished product

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

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

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

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

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

1/2 bay leaf

1/4 tsp salt

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

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

1 tbsp tomato paste

3 tbsp butter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cotes de Porc Sauce Nenette

cotes de porc sauce nenette

Here is a fantastic dish inspired by Julia Child; below you will access its easy recipe and the varying qualities of different cuts of pork.  My next entry will be braised cabbage, which Child recommends as a good accompaniment to  pork.

 

 

Mastering the Art of French Cooking

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

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

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

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

Popular Loin Cuts and their Corresponding French Names

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

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

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

Three Other Popular Pork Cuts

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

Various Bacons Taken from Two Primal Cuts of Pork

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

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

Primal Cuts Defined, With Their Numerous Specific Cuts

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

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

Applied Lesson

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

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

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

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

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

References:

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

finished product

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

1/2 tsp ground sage or thyme

1/4 tsp ground bay leaf

Two pinches allspice

Optional: 1 clove mashed garlic

Chops

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

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

1 tbsp butter

Optional: 1 clove garlic, halved

Sauce Nenette

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

1/8 tsp salt

Pinch of pepper

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

4 tsp tomato paste

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

  1. basil plant from Trader’s

    If using frozen basil, thaw 24 hours ahead, in the refrigerator.

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

    Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

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

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

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

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

  9. Cover the pan and place in the bottom third of oven, for 20-30 minutes, or until there is no color in chops, when center is cut with a knife (time varies with thickness of cut).  Be sure to turn and baste the chops occasionally.
  10. Meanwhile in a small saucepan, bring cream, salt, and pepper, listed above under Sauce Nenette, to a simmer over med/low heat; then, cook for 8-10 minutes, or until it is reduced by a third, or a total of 2/3 cups. Do not cover pan.
  11. Blend the mustard and tomato paste together in a small bowl; beat hot cream into this mixture with a wire whisk; set aside.
  12. When chops are done, remove to a plate, and degrease the meat juices, by using a long-handled spoon (draw spoon over the surface, to dip up a thin layer of fat; it helps to tip pan, to more easily reach fat.)
  13. Pour cream mixture over juices in pan and simmer for 3-4 minutes, uncovered, on top of stove. Adjust seasoning (know meat will be salty from marinade), stir in chopped basil, return chops, basting them with sauce.  See photo at top of recipe.
  14. For low-carb, gluten-free needs, I like to serve this with quinoa (see recipe at Quinoa Dishes). Childs suggests braised cabbage for a vegetable; my version of this will be my next entry, or see my 1880’s Minced Cabbage, for another ideal accompaniment to this dish.

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

bobotie

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

How Turmeric Grows

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

Turmeric’s Preservation Process

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

Whole Turmeric Likely Provides Different Benefits

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

The Flavor Components of Turmeric

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

The Origins of Turmeric

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

Its Present Popularity Is Based on Its Health Benefits

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

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

Curcumin Is Best Taken as a Supplement

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

My Past with the Recipe Bobotie

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

Applying Lessons in the Kitchen to Life

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

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

References:

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

finished product

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

2 tbsp butter

2 med onions, chopped

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

2 lg eggs

1/4 c milk

2 slices bread, broken in small pieces

1/4 c dried apricots, chopped small

1/4 c raisins

1/4 c blanched, slivered almonds, chopped

2 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp curry powder

2 tbsp lemon juice

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

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

Topping

1 egg

3/4 c milk

1/4 tsp turmeric

  1. sweating onions

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

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

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

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

    Bake uncovered for 20 minutes.

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

Ukrainian Spinach with Noodles

Ukrainian spinach with noodles

Let’s explore the benefits of alternative pastas, as well as the history of semolina.  This dynamite recipe for Ukrainian Spinach and Noodles often graced my buffet tables in the 1980’s and 90’s, when I was catering historical meals.  Being so health conscious now, I have altered it to included important ghee and gluten-free pasta, both of which are optional.

Benefits of Red Lentil Sedanini

Here I employ organic red lentil sedanini from Trader Joe’s, in place of wheat semolina pasta.   Based on a serving of 3/4-cup-dry, this alternative pasta is high in both protein-13grams-and fiber-12% of the RDI.  These two factors allow the sedanini’s carbohydrates-11% of the RDI -to be absorbed more slowly than that of semolina pasta; thus, it has a different impact on blood sugar.  In addition, it is believed that fiber and protein may aid in weight loss, and high fiber also improves digestion.  1

Sedanini is a superb source of iron, with its 15% of the daily requirement.  This helps with anemia, especially when eaten with foods rich in vitamin C, to increase the absorption of the non-heme iron found here-this is a plant iron, rather than iron derived from meats.  3

My Ukrainian noodles provide all these health benefits found in red lentil sendanini, plus those of powerful ghee (for information on ghee see balsamic eggs).

Origins of Pasta

There is always the big question: did pasta originate in China or Italy?  The popular story is that Marco Polo found it in China, but Reay Tannahill points out in Food in History that what Polo ‘discovered’ has been taken to be something new, when actually he discovered that the Chinese had pasta ‘which are like ours’.  4

Macaroni was its common name in Italy.  It is claimed that its use goes back to Etruscan times-the time of this pre-Roman country Estruria in west-central Italy.  Therefore, it would pre-date the Chinese noodle by about 500 years.  This, however, is speculative, as it is not known if the knitting-needle-shaped objects found in tombs were indeed meant for rolling dough around.  It is verified, however, that Apicius (the first century Roman gourmet, who provided the exceptional treatise on cookery of antiquity), had recipes using lasagna in it, which allows us to see that boiled flatbread, as opposed to baked flatbread, was being used at this time.  5

From at least around 1200 A.D. , Indians and Arabs were consuming pasta.  Both had names for it meaning ‘thread’: Indians called it sevika, while Arabs used Persian rishta.  Italians made a larger noodle and named it spaghetti, derived from spago, or string.  It is attested that Italians had stuffed shapes such as ravioli and tortellini by the middle of this century, with parallels elsewhere.  Russia had pel’meni, China-won ton, Tibet-momo, and the Jewish kitchen-kreplachs.  These stuffed pasta shapes may well have originated in the Near East and then been transmitted in an arc from there.  6

‘Macrows’-Macaroni and Cheese-in the 14th Century

Despite all these varieties, the most common Italian name for pasta seems to have been macaroni, which was flat, rather than the round shape found today.  In the English Forme of Cury, circa 1390, there is a receipt for ‘macrows’ (an anglicized plural), with butter and cheese, which is believed to not  have been accepted as a very high-class food.  7

As an aside, in its 1859 American receipt for macaroni, The Young Housekeeper’s Friend directs cooks to watch for ever-present insects in the pasta and to hold a shovel full of red-hot coals over the finished product for browning.  8

Lesson Applied

I tend to make old favorites into new recipes that meet my present needs for health, substituting high quality ingredients for those that were marginal, or even damaging, as found in the original.

It’s quite easy to stock our refrigerators with delicious, power-packed food, when we discover what our particular needs actually are.  It takes some concentrated effort at first to discover our body’s unique requirements, then we need strength to put into practice these new steps.  When we approach this endeavor with courage and perseverance, we rise above hindrances brought on by old detrimental habits, which is true in both eating and life at large.

In this way we can live more freely in every respect, promoting vibrant bodies, minds, and spirits-all of which we purpose to guard with diligence.  Enjoy this delicious dish, which increases vitality and brings immense pleasure.

References:

  1. https://www.today.com/food/best-healthy-pasta-alternative-might-be-made-lentils-t149072 and  https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323529.php
  2. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/semolina
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/pasta
  4. Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1988, 1973), p. 234.
  5. Ibid., p. 234.
  6. Ibid.., pp. 235, 236.
  7. Ibid., p. 236, 237.
  8. Facsimile of Mrs. Cornelius, The Young Housekeeper’s Friend  (Boston: Brown, Taggard and Chase, 1859), p.. 176..

Ukranian Spinach with Noodles  Yields: 8 entee servings.  Total prep time: 30 min (42 min, if making homemade ghee).

2 c (8 oz) dried pasta  (I used  the alternative, organic, red lentil sedanini from Trader Joe’s)

8 tbsp ghee or butter  (I prefer ghee-recipe below-made from grass-fed Kerry butter, which is available most reasonably at our local Winco; Costco also carries this inexpensively-often with great sales.)

1 lg onion, chopped small

24 oz fresh spinach leaves  (Packages of organic are available at Trader Joe’s for $2.29/ 6oz.)

1 1/2 c (6 oz) Gruyere cheese, grated  (Also available reasonably at Trader’s.)

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. first rise of whey solids

    If substituting butter for ghee, go directly to step 6.  To prepare health-giving ghee, which takes about 12 minutes, first prep a coffee-filter-lined strainer, over a heat-proof dish, and set aside.  Using only a heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt 8 oz unsalted butter-preferably Irish, grass-fed, Kerry butter from Costco-over medium heat, shaking pan to speed up melting.  Note: there is less wastage using only half a pound of butter, compared to doubling recipe with a pound.

  2. first breaking of milk solids

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

  3. second rising of whey proteins

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

  4. ghee finished with golden color showing at edge

    To proceed with ghee, cook butterfat until second foam rises and it begins to build in pan; the bubbles will be very dense.  This will take 2-3 more minutes, and temperature will reach 250 degrees.  The foam will rise quite high in pan and there will be a hint of golden color forming at the edge of foam (see photo).  Watch carefully as dry casein particles, settled on bottom of pan, will brown quickly.

  5. Immediately, gently strain butterfat through a coffee filter, into a heat-proof dish.  Cool and transfer into an airtight container to keep out moisture.  This lasts for many weeks, at room temperature, and up to six months, when stored in the refrigerator.
  6. In a covered stock pot, over medium heat, bring to a boil: 4 qt water, 1 tbsp oil, and 2 tsp salt.
  7. Grate cheese and set aside.
  8. Melt 8 tbsp (4 oz) of ghee, or butter, in a large sauté pan over medium heat; add chopped onion and sweat-cook until translucent.
  9. the cooking down of fresh spinach

    When onion is cooked, add part of the spinach to pan and cook, adding more spinach as the first becomes limp (see photo).  Meanwhile, go to next step.

  10. When water is boiling, add pasta to pot and cook for 5-6 minutes, until desired tenderness; stir occasionally.  Remove from heat and drain.
  11. Add cooked pasta to pan of onions/spinach; stir gently until heated through.
  12. Toss with grated cheese; season with salt and pepper to taste.  See photo at top of recipe.
  13. This is an incredible taste treat!

Tabbouleh (Lebanese parsley and burghul salad)

tabbouleh

Let’s examine the background of tabbouleh and the process of making burghul, or bulgur, in the second of this series, coming from my 1980’s cooking class on Middle Eastern cuisine.  My recipe uses our 21st century food processor, which affords an easy preparation of this healthy, traditional taste-treat-a recurrent dish in my kitchen.

Background of Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh is mostly widely known as a Lebanese recipe, though it is popular throughout the Levant, the large area east of the Mediterranean Sea, including such countries as Lebanon, Syria, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, present-day Israel, etc.  The Levantine Arabic word tabbule is derived from tabil, which means “seasoning”; its literal translation is “dip”.  This salad is traditionally a part of the mezze, or first course of appetizers; it originated in the mountains of Lebanon and Syria, where they have favored qadb, or edible herbs, in their diet since the Middle Ages.

How is Burghul Made?

One of tabbouleh’s main ingredients is burghulbulgur-an ancient preparation of wheat-usually durum; it is made by partially cooking wheat berries, then drying them, producing a glassy hard interior.  Next, they are moistened again to toughen the outer bran area; then, ground into large chunks, removing the bran and germ in the process, while leaving the endosperm.   These pieces are then sifted and classified according to grade.  Coarse burghul (to 3.5 mm across) is commonly used in pilafs and salads, while a fine burghul (o.5 mm) is utilized in making sweets, such as puddings.  This particular wheat product is most prevalent in the Middle East and North Africa.  It has both long-shelf life and a quick-cooking features, thus making it is an ideal, basic ingredient for this time-tested salad.

Tabbouleh at Nicholas’ for the 32 Years

For all 32 years I have lived in Oregon, I have been indulging in this treasured salad at the Mediterranean establishment Nicholas’, one of my favorite Portland restaurants.  Presently it has three locations in our metropolitan area, with my current choice being the upscale version on N.E. Broadway, with its comfortable decor.

Nicholas’ original place on Grand Ave-Portland’s first Middle Eastern restaurant-however, was a mere hole in the wall until the late-nineties, when it was first remodeled.  The owners opened its two other locations in 2003 and 2010, with the exact same menus and prices, but with much more modern, “posh” environments.

When I started going to the original eatery on Grand, before its remodel, I would be instantly transplanted back to the romance of the small cafes I knew in impoverished Peru.  There I had the opportunity to study Peruvian food for three weeks in 1985, to augment my food history business (see Bolitos de Chocolat y Coco).  Even though I like more comfort now, it was actually this original Nicholas’ restaurant on Grand that thrilled my heart the most, with its quaint poverty contrasted by incredible food-oh the glorious, abundant food!

My Three Favorite Portland Restaurants

Back then, with pride in my city, I always took my out-of-town visitors to my three favorite restaurants: Nicholas’, Bread and Ink, and The Original Pancake House (listed as one of James Beard’s top ten in the nation in the 70’s-see Dutch Babies).  All of these have been serving great food since my 1986 arrival.  Hands down, my guests always proclaimed the exquisite, poorer Nicholas’ as by far the best.

Our Bountiful Vegetarian Repast

In those early days, our order always remained the same: humus, tabbouleh, and falafels, all of which came with their ever-present, gigantic, hot-from-the-oven pita bread, crowding the entire center of the table.  Though only consisting of three individual servings, this elegant, vegetarian repast was so abundant that if there were less than four of us, we took leftovers home-all for a pittance.  My guests marveled at the quality of both the food and experience, for it was definitely like being transported to a Third World country.

Age has mellowed me some, for today I love to frequent the more dignified Nicolas’ on N.E. Broadway.  Still wowing my guests with its exceptional food, I now order their incredible chicken kabobs, humus, and tabbouleth, of course, while ending with their exceptional baklava.  This amply pleases my friend’s great expectations, which I have encouraged, for there is great romance here, though perhaps not as pronounced as that of their captivating 1980’s café.

References:

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

http://cobornsdeliversblog.com/2015/02/03/demystifying-ancient-grains-bulgur/

Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 468.

finished product

Tabbouleh (Lebanese burghul and parsley salad)  Yields: 6 servings.  Total prep time: 35 min plus 1 hr for chilling.

3/4 c burghul, bulgur wheat  (Available in bulk at our local Winco, or organic burghul may be found at the national upscale New Season’s.)

2 c chopped curly parsley, 1 lg bunch  (Organic is best, which is only slightly more expensive.)

1 bunch green onions, chopped

2 firm, ripe med tomatoes  (May use organic Roma tomatoes, which are relatively inexpensive.)

Scant 1/4 c fresh lemon juice  (2 small lemons needed.)

1/4 c olive oil  (Avocado oil will also work; good olive oil, however, is more flavorful and really healthy when not heated to high temperatures, which makes it carcinogenic.)

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

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

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper, or to taste

  1. juicing lemons the easy way

    Boil 1 1/2 c water, stir in burghul, set aside to cool.

  2. Clean parsley, onions, and tomatoes with an inexpensive, safe, effective vegetable spray (combine 97% distilled white vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide).  Let sit for 3 minutes; then, rinse well in a sink full of water three times.
  3. Juice lemons, by first rolling them on counter, pressing down hard with hand, to loosen meat; extract juices; set aside. (See above photo of easy hand-held juicer, available at our local Bob’s Red Mill.)
  4. Break stems off parsley and place in a food processor.  Chop small, by repeatedly pressing the pulse button-this may also be done with a knife, which is more laborious.  Place in a large bowl.
  5. Chop green onions (may include the green part, in addition); add to bowl.
  6. For ease in slicing, cut tomatoes with the skin side down (see photo below).  Mix in with parsley and onions.
  7. chopping tomatoes so to conserve juices

    Place lemon juice in a glass 1-c measuring cup (should be a scant 1/4 c); fill the rest with olive oil to measure 1/2 c.  Add mint, salt, and pepper; beat well with a fork.

  8. Drain burghul when cool, add to vegetables, pour beaten dressing over top, and blend well.  Chill for 1 hour before serving (see photo of finished product at top of recipe).  This is so healthy and good!

Portuguese Figos Recheados

figos recheados

This is the third and last of my Portuguese recipes for this great ethnic meal; I, however, serve this candy/fruit figos recheados with many other meals as well.

When I entertain, I always serve homemade candies along with the dessert.  Usually these are my Peruvian bolitos de chocolat y coco (see 2016/11/28) and the treasured national candy of India barfi; this recipe will follow in the future.  Lately, however, Portuguese figos recheados (figs stuffed with chocolate and almonds) are the final inspiration at my dinners.  Such was the recent case with my beloved missionary friends Val and Waffle Lomilo.  I take a tangent today into their world, so we can learn better to eat with reverence.

My relationship with Val goes back 22 years.  Our mutual friend Kelly, who now resides in heaven, introduced us to each other in 1995, over slides in her basement of Val’s mission work in Uganda.   My heart had just been softened, by my asking Jesus to live in it; thus, my supple emotions were mesmerized by this people and especially their food.

I learned that the meager diet of these poorest of poor, which are in my friends’ arid, mission region, consists primarily of foraged herbs and a bitter fruit with its nut, which is boiled three times to make it palatable; garden vegetables are available only as the frequent droughts allow; maize (cooked corn mush) and beans are also a luxury, which they can’t always afford.

The diet of the wealthier, in Uganda’s more lush areas, has a greater amount of organic garden vegetables, along with such fruits as mangoes and papayas, and ample beans and maize.  Also to my delight, it includes the ceremonial slaughter of a chicken for honored guests.

This nourishment of these better-off is simple and pure, making it healthier than ours with all our fast foods and altered ingredients, such as added hormones in meat/dairy products, foods with GMO’s, etc.  (Note: in this poor country genetically moderated organisms being added to their crops is just now becoming a controversy; they have already lifted the ban for GMO’s in the banana crop, due to its recent huge failure.)

In America food is so available that obesity is a major problem.  Our countrymen are often thrilled with weight loss when they visit Africa.  On the other hand, Africans are overjoyed with the compliment ‘you look so fat’, and gratitude is expressed after a meal with ‘thank you for increasing my volume’.

At present there is a famine in Uganda’s arid region, which hurts the children and elderly the most.  We in this country can’t comprehend such food shortage and its effect on the human spirit.  According to my friends, it produces a sense of deep community, in those that withstand it, as they share each other’s pain.   These humble people know the true meaning of God’s grace that keeps them alive in stark adversity.

Waffle and Val, who experience a heart for the broken, feed these hungry souls the word of God, which is also known as the bread of life.  This proven substance, in turn, can provide them with answers to their natural needs, for this is what our gracious Father does best.

We are grateful for our vast provision here in America, as we strive to honor our bodies with healthy eating.  At the same time, our faithful prayers move mountains as we intercede for those less-fortunate.

Now, may we take courage to experience moderate, joy-filled pleasure in this incredible dessert: be blessed by these simple figos recheados, the last recipe in my Portuguese series.

shaving chocolate

figs ready for baking

Figos Recheados (dried figs stuffed with almonds and chocolate)  Yields: 12 large stuffed figs.  Total prep time: 35 min.

Note: these are best served hot, but they are also great at either room temperature or cold.

 

 

1/4 cup almonds, plus 12 extra almonds (18 extra almonds will be needed for topping smaller figs, such as mission figs.)

12 large figs   (Turkish figs are best for size and quality; 18 figs will be needed, if using the smaller mission fig.)

1/2 ounce (1/2 square) semi-sweet chocolate, finely grated

  1. For hot figs at the end of a meal, do steps 2-9 ahead; then, set aside.  Twenty minutes before serving, preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake as directed in step 10-11.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Place almonds on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes in middle of oven; go to next step.
  4. With a sharp knife, finely grate the chocolate, place in a small bowl, set aside (see photo above).
  5. Cut off stems of figs; make a careful, but deep, indentation in the opening of each with the tip of your finger; set aside.
  6. After nuts are toasted, remove from oven, and take off pan to cool quickly.  Set aside 12 almonds (18 for smaller figs) and pulverize the other 1/4 cup in a food processor, by repeatedly touching the pulse button.  (May use a blender or Vita Mix.)
  7. Add almond meal to grated chocolate; mix well.
  8. Using a spoon and your finger, press this mixture in the hollow of each of the figs; pinch openings together firmly (see above photo).  Place stuffed figs, stem side up, on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  9. Bake in middle of an oven, preheated to 350 degrees, for 5 minutes; then, turn figs upside down and bake for an additional 5 minutes.
  10. Gently, but firmly, press a whole toasted almond in top of each hot fig.
  11. May keep leftovers in refrigerator for future use  (cold figs are also excellent).

Ensalada Iberica

ensalada Iberica

Ensalada Iberica is the perfect accompaniment to last week’s Portuguese pork, because of its sweet base of oranges and dates, along with an abundance of piquant onions and lemon-vinaigrette.  This quick salad pleases our palettes.  Its strong combination of complimentary foods is additionally enhanced with the spice coriander, which is also a “seasoning match made in heaven” for pork, as noted by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page in Culinary Artistry.  Thus these two dishes balance each other, resulting in excellent flavors and joy unspeakable.  1

During the 1980’s, my extensive cooking classes in Montana included a group of twelve professionals, all of whom were friends.  For years they came monthly for each new theme I presented.  We grew to love each other, as I taught them easy steps in making glorious food.  A grieving took place at our parting, brought on by my decision to move to Portland in February of 1986.

My strongest fan among them, Larry, organized a going-away party for me.  He chose an upscale Chinese restaurant, since a travel agent in the group had hoped to take me to China, to teach native foods on one of her tours.  At our celebration, they graciously presented me with a restaurant-caliber, 15 ½” x 10 ½” cake pan and a stock pot, as seen in my photos; how these have blessed my work.

At one of our classes, someone encouraged me to consider the then new concept of computers for my work.  I responded that I will never do that, for it was beyond me.  Technology, however, has enabled the expansion of my endeavors beyond my imagination.

Back then I wrote everything out by hand, as I constantly discovered new themes from various cultures and ages.  All my research came from hard copies of books and publications; I searched for the sources of my inspiration at the local library, in an array of cook books, and in such publications as Montana newspapers, the New York Times, and numerous fashionable magazines.  My existence was marked by creativity, as I developed my faculty for research.  This skill was further sharpened by my graduate work at Portland State University, 1988-91.

Discovering truths in food history is what I do; it is essential that I know their validity.  As a result, to this day, I prefer to obtain my information from actual books, which possess a soundness that I trust, over that of internet.

Both this and its subsequent post, on Portuguese foods, are from that early application of my studies in Montana.  These entries provide exceptional taste treats.  Enjoy!

  1. Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, Culinary Artistry (Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996), pp. 159, 160, 268.

chopping orange segments

Ensalada Iberica  Yields: 5-6 servings.  Total prep time: 25 min.

Note: best to make and chill several hours before serving.

2 lg oranges  (Organic is best for flavor and quality, as orange skins readily absorb pesticides; these are often available at a good price at Trader Joe’s.)

1 small/med red onion, thinly sliced  (May use 2 small, organic cipollini onions; they are expensive, but so good!)

1 small can sliced ripe olives, net dr. wt. 2.25 ounces

1/2 c pitted dates, packed down, cut in halves lengthwise  (About 1/3 lb is needed.)

1/4 c olive oil

1/4 c lemon juice  ( 2-3 small lemons are needed.)

3/4 tsp salt, or to taste

1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper, or to taste

1/4 tsp ground coriander

Bed of spinach leaves or lettuce

  1. easy juicing of lemons

    Peel oranges, divide them in half, cut each half cross-wise in half again, so it is easy to separate segments (see photo above).

  2. Peel and slice onions thinly.
  3. In medium bowl, combine oranges, onions, olives, and date halves.
  4. Juice lemons with a hand-held juicer, watch market for this marvelous tool (see photo).
  5. Combine olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and coriander in a small sealed jar; shake vigorously; adjust seasonings.
  6. Pour over fruit, mix well, and refrigerate until serving time-preferably for several hours-so flavors can meld.
  7. Serve on a bed of spinach leaves or lettuce.
  8. This is a favorite of mine, which I have made since the early 1980’s.