Natural Sausage with Zucchini and Eggplant

natural sausage with zucchini and eggplant

At this time of year, we are wondering what to do with all the zucchini.  Using natural sausage and Chinese eggplant, I transformed this ordinary vegetable, which is actually a fruit, into a memorable dish.  Garlic and Aidells’ Spicy Mango with Jalapeno Chicken Sausages give this common garden plant a dramatic bite, with a sweet aftertaste.  Eggplant is a perfect accompaniment to zucchini, and carmelized onions compliment all.  This is a simple, mouth-watering treat indeed.

My pastors are bringing their prolific zucchini to our services now, and I am thrilled. Our church body experiences this benefit every growing season.

Throughout the year, we experience the results of what this couple’s hands accomplish in the realm of the Spirit, but during harvest time we reap what these same faithful hands produce in natural soil.  Their charitable action is steadfast, and it can be concretely seen in the vegetables and fruits, with which they fed our physical bodies.

This particular squash reproduces rapidly; it can quickly grow beyond what is satisfactory.  When it gets over-sized, it contains too much water; its seeds are large and tough; there aren’t enough recipes to utilize this inundation.  (Learn more about its biology and history at Zucchini Bread, 2017/07/31.)

Our pastors watch this fruit/vegetable prudently; thus, readily picking it before it grows beyond its prime, whenever possible.  Our church is like a prototype of their healthy garden.  Pastors Monte and Dawn care for us like prized plants: watering with the word, observing diligently, pruning with exceptional wisdom and love…We are indeed well-tended.

I can’t express gratitude enough that our Lord saw fit to place me under their protection; it is here that I became equipped to fulfill my purpose as a food historian.  I invite you to access the bread of life at our website alfc.net

Meanwhile eat heartily, by cooking this delicious recipe.

Aidells’ Spicy Mango with Jalapeno Chicken Sausages

Natural Sausage with Zucchini and Eggplant  Yields: 4-5 servings.  Total active prep time: 45 min.

2 1/3 tbsp oil  (Coconut or avocado oil is best; olive oil is carcinogenic when heated to high temperatures.)

1 medium yellow onion, cut evenly in 1/8 inch slices

12 ounces natural sausage, cut diagonally  (Aidells’ Spicy Mango with Jalapeno Chicken Sausages are the best here; available at most local supermarkets.)

1 lb Chinese eggplant, cut in 1/2 inch cubes  (See photo below.)

4 cloves of garlic, minced  (For convenience, use 2 frozen cubes of garlic from Trader Joe’s.)

1 tsp salt, or to taste  (Real Salt is important for health reasons; available in nutrition center at local grocery store.)

3/4 tsp freshly ground pepper, or to taste

chopping eggplant

2 carrots, thinly sliced at a diagonal

1 1/2 lbs of zucchini, cut in 1/2 inch cubes

  1. Clean vegetables, using an inexpensive, effective spray of 93% distilled white vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide; let sit 3 minutes.  Meanwhile go to next step.
  2. In a sauté pan, heat 1/2-1 tsp of oil; when a small piece of onion sizzles, add all onions and carmelize over medium/low heat, stirring every 2 minutes until color starts to form; then, stir every minute, until dark brown; when finished, deglaze pan with 2 tbsp or more of water (scrape the fond, or cooked-on juices, off the bottom of pan with a spatula); set aside when finished, adding to the bowl of meat described below.  Watch onions carefully, while performing the next steps.
  3. Rinse vegetables; cut them and meat, as described in the above list of ingredients; set all aside in separate bowls.  Mince garlic, if using fresh.
  4. finished product

    Heat 2 tsp of oil in another frying pan over medium heat.  When a piece of sausage sizzles in pan, add the other sausage slices and brown quickly, watching carefully as not to burn; place in a large bowl, carefully saving juices in the pan.

  5. When meat is removed, heat 2 tsp more of oil with the left-over juices, add eggplant, mix oil in well, and deglaze pan (scrape off fond left over by meat) with 2 tbsp or more of water.  Cook covered until soft, stirring every couple of minutes; deglaze pan again; transfer eggplant to the bowl of meat.
  6. Heat 2 tsp of oil in same pan; add carrots; cook for 3 minutes, or just until tender, stirring occasionally.  Mix zucchini into carrots; cook covered until limp, stirring several times.
  7. When vegetable is done, blend in garlic, salt and pepper; cook until you can smell the garlic.  (If using frozen, make sure it is melted and distributed well.)  Mix in meat, onions, and eggplant; adjust seasonings; heat thoroughly.  Serve with delight.

The Best Zucchini Bread

zucchini loaves

It’s that time of year again for our proliferate zucchini.  Cucurbita pepo, a member of the cucumber/melon family, which originated in Mexico, was not only grown by Central and South Americans, but also by our own  Native Americans, long before the Europeans arrived.  Nonetheless, the version we know in the U.S. today is a variety of summer squash developed in Italy.

In actuality this is a fruit, not a vegetable, as it contains seeds.  This fruit’s male and female counterparts exist in separate plants; usually these are present together in one plant.  In the biological world, the female produces ovules, the equivalent of eggs, while the male produces pollen, which is like sperm in the animal kingdom.  Birds and especially bees transfer this pollen from the individual male to the female zucchini plants, producing abundant fruit, providing both these individual organisms reside together in any given garden.

I have a proven recipe to make use of this fertile squash, in which I suggest utilizing the health-promoting ingredients grapeseed oil and coconut sugar.

Grapeseed along with coconut and avocado oils can be heated to high temperatures without producing carcinogens.  It is mild in flavor; thus, it is ideal for baking.

Comparing refined with coconut sugar, we see very little difference in their nutritional profiles on the surface; their caloric and carbohydrate content is very similar.  Such figures, however, don’t tell the hidden benefits of this healthier coconut sweetener which is barely processed; it is obtained by heating the sap of the coconut flower until most of the liquid is evaporated.  This alternative has a little more nutrition, as it contains small amounts of zinc, iron, calcium, and potassium, where the refined version holds empty calories.  More importantly, coconut sugar possesses a much lower glycemic index; this greatly reduces any tendency to spike the blood sugar, making it a possible substitute for those dealing with milder forms of blood sugar problems.  Always be sure to check with your healthcare specialist concerning your own personal diet.

I use this “healthy” substitute in both my zucchini and banana breads; see Banana Bread (2017/05/29).

My larder perpetually boast of one or the other of these, both of which I make with freshly ground, organic, hard red spring wheat berries.  These specific berries contain a variety of nutrients including vitamin E, calcium, B vitamins, folate, and potassium; one serving also provides 20% of the daily value of dietary fiber, 8% of needed iron, and the same amount of protein as found in an egg, or 6 grams. Breads last for lengthy periods of time, when made with this freshly ground flour.

To easily bake these perfect loaves in the off-season months, I encourage you to freeze plenty of this grated fruit/vegetable, in 1-cup packages, while the abundance lasts.

References:

https://www.thespruce.com/history-of-zucchini-1807689

http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/all-about-zucchini-zbcz1405

biologicalthinking.blogspot.com/2011/07/birds-do-it-bees-do-iteven-zucchinis-do-it.html

grinding flour with kitchen aid

Zucchini Bread  Yields: 2 loaves.  Total prep time: 1 1/2 hr/  active prep time: 30 min/  baking time: 1 hr.

3 cups flour  (Freshly ground provides the highest quality; use 2 cups organic, hard red spring wheat berries to make 3 cups fresh ground flour; see photo.)

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

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

4 tsp cinnamon  (Our local Fred Meyer’s has an excellent, organic, Korintje cinnamon in bulk inexpensively.)

3 eggs

1 cup oil  (Grapeseed oil is important here; it may be heated to high temperatures without damage; available reasonably at Trader Joe’s.)

2 1/4 cups sugar  (Coconut sugar is best; always available at Traders and at times Costco.)

3 tsp vanilla extract  (Ask vacationers to bring a liter bottle back from Mexico; this is of the highest quality and dirt cheap.)

mixing ingredients

2 cups of zucchini  (If using frozen zucchini, remove 1 tbsp of liquid from each thawed 1-cup package, which need to be thawed in a dish; it is best to freeze these ahead, while it is available; see photo.)

1 cup nuts, optional

Spray oil  (Our local Winco-brand coconut spray oil is best.)

Flour for dusting pans

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Spray and lightly flour two 8 x 4 inch loaf pans (coconut spray oil is important for flavor).
  2. If grinding fresh flour, do so now; see above photo.
  3. Beat eggs in a large bowl, add sugar, blend until creamy.  Beat in oil and vanilla well.
  4. Place flour in a large bowl; stir in salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon vigorously with a fork, or shake all in a sealed gallon-size storage bag.
  5. Mix flour mixture into butter/egg mixture; while adding flour, do not over-beat, as this toughens the bread.
  6. Fold in zucchini.  Add optional nuts.
  7. cooling zucchini loaves in pan

    Pour in prepared pans; bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the loaf responds when pressed with finger; may also test with a toothpick, which will come out clean when done.  Do not over-bake, as this will continue to cook some, while cooling for 10 minutes, in the pan, set on a rack; see photo.

  8. This is magnificent, health-giving bread!

Borscht (Beet Soup)

a bowl of borscht

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References:

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

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

www.dictionary.com/browse/borscht

easy mincing of onion

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

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

1 medium/large yellow onion

3 large purple beets, a little less than 2 pounds without the tops

1 quart broth  (I prefer bone broth, 2016/10/10, for powerful health benefits including high protein.)

1 cup water

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

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

1 tsp Better than Bouillon, or to taste

1/2 tsp salt, or to taste  (Real Salt is important for optimum health; available at your local supermarket.)

1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper, or to taste

sweating onions

Sour cream

3 extra-large eggs, hard-boiled and chopped

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

    Add half the lemon juice and honey.

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

Roasted Beet and Balsamic Chicken Salad

roasted beet and balsamic chicken salad

The inspiration for this salad came when I needed one for a ladies tea at my church.  Since then I have used it to bless several large crowds; thus, it is written for ten servings which I in turn multiplied; in this way chefs write their recipes for restaurant use.  You, however, may choose to prepare half this receipt.  Don’t miss its simple pleasure.

The healer Jeanette, from my previous post, emphasizes the importance of color in her life-giving diet.  I kept her instructions in mind as I chose this produce; thus, I included purple beets as opposed to multi-colored ones, which are light in pigment when cooked; bright yellow peppers provided a health-promoting, visual contrast.

Both this salad’s chicken and the balsamic vinaigrette (2016/08/22) may be made with real balsamic, which originated in Modena, Italy about 900 years ago.  We, however, without knowing it often use a cheaper, imitation version of this.  I will teach you the difference here, so you may shop wisely, if you want to invest in the best.

Wikipedia defines the aceto balsamico (balsamic vinegar), guarded by European agencies, as a very dark, concentrated, intensely flavored vinegar made wholly or partially from grape must.  The word aceto balsamico is unregulated, but there are three of these protected balsamic vinegars; it is required that they come from the province of Modena and the wider Emilia region surrounding it.  The two best of these always have the word tradizionale, traditional, in their names: Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena and Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia; both are made from reduced grape must and aged for numerous years in a series of wooden barrels.  The third Aceto Balsamico di Modena is also made from grape must, but only partially, as it is blended with wine vinegar, making it less expensive.1

The HuffPost explains how to discern these authentic versions, by looking for their place of origin and the words: grape must, aged grape must, Mosto d’Uva, or DOC in the list of ingredients.  Without one of these words you will be getting imitation wine vinegar with coloring added to it.2

The first two mentioned above, known as balsamico tradizionale, are dark in color and very costly, because they are aged to syrupy perfection for 12-100 years, under rigid restrictions.  Expect to pay up to $400 a bottle.3   This traditional balsamic is not vinegar made from wine, but rather it is made from grape pressings that have never been permitted to ferment into wine.  It begins with boiling down sweet white Trebbiano grape pressings to dark syrup, which is aged in an oaken keg with a vinegar “mother”.  Over the years it graduates to smaller and smaller kegs of different kinds of wood, as moisture evaporates from it, further thickening the vinegar and concentrating the flavor; the varying woods, chestnut, cherry wood, ash, mulberry, and juniper, provide its great character.  The result is extravagant taste.  As with the world’s most expensive spice saffron, a little goes a long way.4

Aceto Balsamico di Modena, the other regulated balsamic, is partially made with grape must and blended with wine vinegar, making it less costly.  Its restrictions are that it has to be from the Modena or Emilia regions and carry a Protected Geographical Indication status, which comes from a different agency than that protecting the balsamico traditzionale.

Like with good wine, price often dictates quality.  Surprises, however, sometimes occur: this authentic blended vinegar, complete with the authorized seal, is available at Trader Joe’s at a very moderate cost, as their excellent buyers shop globally, negotiating low prices, for the large quantities they are obtaining.  This label is good, but even better may be experienced.

Explore the exciting world of vinegars; make this dressing with a high quality aceto balsamico, or get Trader Joe’s Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (aged 10 years at $3.99 for 8.5 ounces), which is also delicious.  As a result, this salad will tantalize your taste buds!

  1. ttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balsamic_vinegar
  2. www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/09/balsamic-vineger-fraud_n_5459425.html
  3.  Ibid.
  4. https://www.thespruce.com/about-balsamic-vinegar-1808088

cooking tenderloins in balsamic vinegar

Roasted Beet and Balsamic Chicken Salad  Yields: 10 servings (may make half this recipe).  Total prep time: 2 days (for sprouting quinoa) plus 1 3/4 hr/  active prep time: 3/4 hr/  baking time: 1 hr.

Note: using my recipes, you may prepare ahead: balsamic vinaigrette (2016/08/22), croutons (2016/08/15), and agave roasted nuts (2016/08/15), for keeping on hand at all times; may also substitute ready-made versions.

1/2 cup quinoa, sprouted 1-2 days in advance  (Directions are below.)

2 large purple beets, or the equivalent thereof

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

1 pound chicken tenderloins, about 5 pieces

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

3 large cloves of garlic, minced  (Better yet, use 1 cube of frozen garlic from Trader Joe’s.)

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

10-12 ounces greens of your choice

8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled  (Do not use pre-crumbled feta, as it is treated with preservatives and not as tasty.)

Agave roasted nuts, made ahead, see Healthy Green Salads (2016/08/15)

Home-made croutons, made ahead, see Healthy Green Salads (2016/08/15)

Balsamic vinaigrette, made ahead (2016/08/22)

  1. Using either a sprouting jar or a bowl, sprout quinoa 2 days in advance, by first soaking it in water for 6-8 hours (may make extra quinoa); then, draining off water well, let it sit for 1-2 days until sprouted, rinsing about every 12 hours.  If finished before using, do the following: when 1/4 inch long legs have grown, without rinsing again, spread prepared quinoa on a tray or large plate, covered with parchment, to let dry for about 12 more hours.  Store in a sealed storage bag or jar and refrigerate, keeps for up to two weeks.  For more detail on sprouting, see Sprouted Three Bean Dip (2017/06/26) and Sprouted Quinoa and Yam Salad (2016/09/05).
  2. If chicken is frozen, thaw in water.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Wash and lightly oil beets; wrap in aluminum foil, leaving closure upright to keep juices from spilling; bake on cookie sheet for 3/4–1 1/4 hours, depending on size of beets.  Open foil and cool in wrap for 10 minutes; peel skin off by rubbing with hands; cut in 1/4 inch julienne slices; set aside.  Meanwhile go to next step.
  4. Heat tablespoon of oil in large skillet; place thawed tenderloins on paper towel, salting and peppering them extra well before cooking; when tiny piece of chicken sizzles in oil, add the rest.  Pour balsamic over meat and add garlic; turn tenderloins over in vinegar.  Let cook for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Starting with the smallest tenderloin, cut each piece in thirds with a spatula; as they are cooked remove pieces to a bowl-the meat will just be turning white inside when done.  Do not overcook.  Pour juice from pan into bowl, which will further marinate meat.
  6. Wash and cut bell pepper in small strips, set aside.
  7. Place greens in a serving bowl; add quinoa, beets, chicken, peppers, feta cheese, and nuts; toss with balsamic vinaigrette; serve with croutons. Delicious!

Sprouted Three Bean Dip

sprouted three bean dip with organic sprouted Que Pasa chips

This sprouted three bean dip is my sister Maureen’s creation.  It was inspired by the life-preserving works of her prayer partner Jeanette in the early 2000’s.  Her friend was a cancer victim with four months to live when she chose non-traditional treatment, a juice fast at a health center.  After healing was complete, Jeanette began to teach powerful juice fasting herself, elaborating on its restorative values with sprouted foods.  Together these produce a perfect ph balance in our systems, in which cancer can’t survive.  This woman is now world renown for treating the terminally ill.

Sprouting magnifies the nutritional qualities of grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts.  For instance, almonds soaked for 24 hours increase in food value 11x.  Quinoa, a pseudo-cereal, which fits nicely between grains and legumes, is also dramatically changed; this complete protein, which grows quickly in 1-2 days, is high in manganese, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, fiber, folate, zinc, vitamin E, and antioxidants; my instructions for germinating quinoa can be found in Sprouted Quinoa and Yam Salad (2016/09/05).  Beans, however, take about 3 days for the enzymes to come alive; live beans are also a good source of protein, as well as B and C vitamins.

Maureen learned much about nutrition from her friend and subsequently passed it on to me.  My sister creatively applied her sprouting method to cooked three-bean dip; Jeanette, however, never cooks anything.  Note that boiling these beans diminishes their life; thus, they are no longer considered a live food, but germination still holds some benefits here even with the heating.

On the other hand, sprouting can encourage bacteria to grow, while high heat kills these microorganisms; boiling also deactivates irritating substances that may be found in raw sprouts; therefore, people with weak immune systems should be careful about eating sprouted foods.  Indulge as your body dictates, always employing sterile conditions while undertaking this technique.

Koreans have long employed stewing in making their common side dish known as kongnamul; in this popular nourishment, the sprouted soybeans have been cooked thoroughly and seasoned with fish sauce, garlic, green onions, sesame seeds, sesame oil, and hot pepper flakes.  This refreshing accompaniment is almost always present at every meal in this culture; for an authentic recipe, go to http://www.maangchi.com/recipe/kongnamul-muchim

My dip will keep for many weeks in the refrigerator (these instructions provide three quarts of product, two of which I freeze).  For me, the receipt’s importance is not only its enzymatic quality, which decreases some with boiling and freezing, but more so the ease it provides of always having a dynamite hors d’ouvres on hand.  It’s good!

ingredients for sprouted three bean dip

Sprouted Three Bean Dip  Yields: 3 quarts (ideal for freezing).  Total prep time: “3” days to soak beans for live enzymes, plus 3 1/2 hr to prepare/  active prep time: 1 hr/  cooking time: 2 1/2 hr.

3 cups pinto beans

1 cup red beans

1 cup black beans

1 tbsp salt  (Real Salt is best for optimum health; available in the health section of local supermarket.)

2/3 cup garlic cloves, cut in thirds, 2 medium/large bulbs of garlic needed  (This produces a pungent garlic flavor; may adjust amount for a weaker garlic taste.)

1 cup cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup salsa  (Trader Joe’s makes a good and reasonable Salsa Authentica.)

3-1 quart empty yogurt or cottage cheese containers, sterilized

  1. Began soaking beans 3 days ahead of time: place the pinto and red beans only in a large stock pot; check for stones; then, cover generously with water.  Next place black beans in a 3 quart saucepan, covering well with water, after checking for stones,  (Black beans cook faster; thus, they need to be prepared separately.)
  2. Let soak for 12 hours.  Drain and rinse every 6-8 hours thereafter to keep beans wet until sprouted.  Do not let beans dry out.  Enzymes will be alive even if sprouts are just beginning to show.  This process takes several days.
  3. When sprouts have grown, rinse beans well again, and cover amply with fresh water.  Cook black beans over medium heat until soft for about 45 minutes.  Bring pinto/red beans to a boil over medium heat (this takes around 45 minutes) and cook for about 1 1/4 hours more, or until soft.  Replenish water if needed.  DO NOT ADD SALT WHILE COOKING, THIS INHIBITS BEANS FROM SOFTENING.
  4. Peel garlic while beans are cooking; cut cloves in halves or thirds, filling a 2/3 cup measuring cup (or 1/2 cup if you want a weaker garlic flavor).  Place in a dry food processor; chop fine, stopping and scraping down sides.  Pack down chopped garlic in same measuring cup; split in half with a knife, using one half for each of the two batches you are processing.  Set aside, see photo.  (Note: of necessity, dip will taste very strongly of garlic at first; this flavor mellows greatly after several days!  If you don’t like a powerful garlic taste, you may decrease the amount of garlic cloves to 1/ 2 cup total, 1/4 cup per batch, or to taste.)
  5. Remove the black beans from heat when they are soft, immediately add 1 tsp salt to hot bean broth.  Let soak for 15 minutes, drain well, set aside.  (This process salts the bean dip evenly.)
  6. Repeat step 4 with the pinto/red beans when finished cooking; add 2 tsp of salt, however, to this mixture.
  7. When beans are cooked, salted, and drained, process the first of two batches by placing half the pinto/red beans, half the black beans, half the garlic, 1/2 cup oil, and 1/2 cup salsa in the food processor.  Turn on and puree.  Press the “dough” button on processor briefly, as it agitates the mass with different motions than those of regular processing; in this way, blend the bean dip well.
  8. Place in sterilized containers and repeat step 7 with last of beans.
  9. This keeps in refrigerator for many weeks, freezes extra well, is great for long-term use.

Carmelized Onions and Carrots

carmelized onions and carrots

Anything carmelized thrills our taste buds, for this cooking process brings out the sugars in foods, and our mouths savor sweetness.  Chef Gary Danko states it aptly: “Carmelization equals flavor.”1

Wikipedia defines this process as “the oxidation of sugar, a process used extensively in cooking for the resulting nutty flavor and brown color.”  It further defines it as a type of non-enzymatic browning reaction.

Foods which contain sugar lend themselves to this process; my recipe uses two such foods.  Carmelized onions are a blessed addition to my sautéed carrots, for the high sugar content of onions causes the above chemical reaction to easily occur.

Carrots also tend to carmelizes some, when cooked properly.  As far back as 1747, carrots were recognized as a sweet vegetable, for then the Prussian chemist Andreas Sigismund Marggraf discovered that they, as well as beets, contained small amounts of sugar.2

The presence of carrots in the Americas came directly or indirectly from Spain; their earliest appearance in these two continents dates back to 1543, when European vegetables were introduced into New Spain, to our south.  Our now common orange root subsequently found its way into North America; it was brought by English explorers, either coming up from these Spanish possessions mostly, or coming directly from England; there this vegetable had been established in the mid-sixteenth century by Flemish weavers, who were fleeing the persecution of Spain’s Phillip II.  Later in 1597, it was noted by English botanist John Gerard that carrots were also growing in Germany; their presence in the American hemispheres, however, came from the Spanish.3

multi-colored carrots

Joy of Cooking, copyrighted 1964, has a recipe for Carrots Vichy; this is a somewhat familiar recipe for thinly sliced carrots that are cooked, covered with a small amount of water (preferably water from Vichy, France), butter, and sugar.

Vichy is a spa and resort town in central France known since Roman times for its therapeutic springs.  During World War II, it was the home of the French State (Etat Francais), the seat of Nazi collaborationist government; it was chosen, because of its relative proximity to Paris (4.5 hours by train), it had the second largest hotel capacity at the time, and its modern telephone exchange, which made it possible to reach the world by phone.4

This town was also my home for four months during the fall of 1975!

Today we find carrots even in desserts.  We enjoy the familiar carrot cake in the West, while India knows halwa, or a fudge-like food made primarily with carrots, sugar, and milk.

My recipe is like a dessert, for it delights the child in us that loves that which is sweet.  Enjoy!

  1. Andrew Dorenburg and Karen Page, Culinary Artistry (Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996), p. 42.
  2. James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1995), p. 158.
  3. Ibid., pp. 94, 97, 107.
  4. https://en.wikipediea.org/wiki/Vichy

beginning stages of carmelization

Carmelized Onions and Carrots  Yields: 3-4 servings.  Total prep time: 55 min.

Note: if desired, make these carrots several hours in advance, reheat just before serving, or better yet, using two pans, make a double batch of carmelized onions well ahead, for they keep in refrigerator for three days (I have even frozen them).

4 1/2 tsp oil   (Avocado oil is best here for flavor and quality; coconut oil is also very good-these are the most healthy cooking oils, for olive oil is carcinogenic when heated to high temperatures.)

1/2 tsp butter

1 medium onion, halved at the root and stem, cut into 1/8 inch slices

6 extra-large carrots, or the equivalent  (Organic, multi-colored carrots are excellent and inexpensive at Trader Joe’s, see photo.)

4-5 medium/large cloves of garlic, minced  (May use 2 cubes of  frozen garlic; available at Trader Joe’s.)

1/2 tsp salt, or to taste  (Real Salt is important for optimum health; available in health section at most supermarkets.)

1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper, or to taste

  1. Be sure to cut onions in 1/8 inch slices, as thinner slices will burn easily.  Heat 1/2 tsp oil and 1/2 tsp butter in a large sauté pan over medium/low heat.  Do not crowd your pan with too many onions, or they will steam, producing water, and it will take longer to carmelize them. (Use two pans for a double batch.)  Keep heat at medium/low the approximate 45 minutes of cooking, or they will burn and/or dry out.  Be patient with cooking; don’t stop short of the perfect finished

    onions turning color during last 15 minutes

    product.

  2. Let cook for about 30 minutes, stirring every few minutes (see above photo for the beginning stage of carmelization).  While these are cooking, you may start carrots as directed in step 5; be sure, however, to stir onions regularly.
  3. Onions will start sticking to the pan at about 30 minutes; after this, stir every minute; the trick is to let them cook long enough to brown, but not burn.  May have to lower temperature and add a little more oil if they start to burn.  (See photo for color of onions starting to change during this last 15 minutes.)
  4. Onions will be deep brown in color when done (see bottom photo).  When cooking is complete, deglaze pan by adding water, stock, or wine; then, immediately scrape fond on bottom, using a wooden or plastic spatula made for high temperatures, incorporating these browned bits and carmelized juices into onions.
  5. Meanwhile scrape cleaned carrots with a sharp knife; this preserves the vitamins which are just under the skin, as opposed to peeling them.  Thinly and evenly slice them at a diagonal, set aside.
  6. If using fresh garlic, mince now, set aside.
  7. carmelized onions finished

    Heat 2 tsp oil in another large skillet over medium/high heat; when a piece of carrot added to pan sizzles strongly, or “jumps in the pan”, add half the carrots and distribute oil evenly.  Do not crowd pan, or carrots will steam rather than sauté; cook this vegetable in two batches.  Lower heat to medium immediately.

  8. Cook until carrots are soft, about 10 minutes, stirring somewhat frequently.  When carrots are cooked, deglaze pan by adding liquid (water, stock, wine, or balsamic vinegar); then, immediately loosen fond with a wooden or plastic cooking spatula; this adds incredible flavor.  Seat aside in a bowl and repeat steps 7-8 with remaining carrots.
  9. When carrots are cooked, stir into carmelized onions, which are finished.  Heat thoroughly.  Add garlic to hot mixture, cooking only until it smells pungent (or if using frozen garlic, cook only until it is dissolved and evenly distributed).  Do not burn garlic, for details on cooking garlic, see Tomato/Feta Chicken (2016/07/25).  Season with salt and pepper.
  10. May set aside and reheat just before serving.  Leftovers are great!

 

Ahi Tuna with Black Bean & Eggplant Dish

When I require a firm fish for creating recipes, I prefer ahi tuna over halibut, which tends to be drier.  I discovered in Culinary Artistry, by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, that the excellence of tuna steaks is enhanced by both eggplant and black beans; lemon and garlic also compliment ahi.1   It took courage for me to experiment with blending all the above together in a dish needed for a special occasion, during which I honored the Lomilos from Uganda.

Cooking takes risks, as life does; nothing comes automatically.  A patient pressing-in is required to foster creative mastery.

I learned an important lesson in my early thirties when I moved to Portland, for then I was struggling to overcome an addiction to alcohol.  In the process of sobering up, I was taught to trust in the history of old-timers in areas that I didn’t yet have enough victory of my own.  As a result, I listened carefully to my elders’ testimonies, holding fast to their professed truths.  The pay-off was great, for I haven’t had a drink since 2/06/86.

In like manner, I have reached out to experts in the culinary field over the years; thus, amplifying my own inherent strengths.  The outcome is an acquired proficiency in successfully combining foods, as exemplified here.

I see parallels between skills gained in cooking and those procured in living.  If we continue with these teachings in my blog, I promise that ability in both these areas will be attained.

I can’t stress enough that patience and trust are essential elements.  Let us walk in the light each of us has, taking baby steps of courage to rise to our next level.

True to form, I sought help from experts in writing this recipe and its history.  For instance, I needed to know more about not overcooking tuna.  Harold McGee teaches about the meat-red color of certain tunas in On Food and Cooking; it is caused by the oxygen-storing pigment myoglobin, which is needed for this fish’s nonstop, high-velocity life.  This deep red color is lost, if this fish is not frozen well below -22 degrees F, which helps explain the brownish color of some frozen tunas.  When cooked, it looses this blood red color at about the same temperature that beef does, between 140-160 degrees F; it is best to undercook this food, or dryness will result.  If you like your meat rare, you will probably also like rare tuna; thus, be careful to check for color during its preparation.2

This ahi may be made with onions that are quickly sautéed, but it is better to carmelize them, a somewhat painstaking process if done correctly.  Next week’s entry will be for nutty, carmelized onions and carrots.  I encourage you to make a double batch of these onions ahead of time; they store for up to 3 days.  The proven result: both the carrots and this tuna will be fast and easy to execute.

Let’s humbly learn from the masters, purposing to keep all seeds of knowledge in fertile soil.

Eat hearty, this is a delicious fish!

  1. Andrew Dorenburg and Karen Page, Culinary Artistry (Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996), pp. 187, 273.
  2. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 194.

black bean and eggplant dish

Ahi Tuna with Black Beans and Eggplant Dish  Yields: 4 servings.  Total active prep time: 50 min.

Note: if desired the onions may be carmelized several days ahead, using next week’s carmelized onion and carrots’ recipe; the eggplant & bean dish may be made several hours in advance and reheated 15 minutes before serving, as you cook the tuna.

6 1/2 tbsp oil  (Avocado oil is best, coconut oil will do; olive oil produces carcinogens when heated to high temperatures.)

1 medium/large yellow onion, halved at the root and stem and cut in 1/8 inch slices

1 pound eggplant

1/4 cup water

3 tbsp lemon juice, fresh squeezed  (2 small lemons needed.)

5 tsp salt, or to taste  (The coarser kosher salt is best here for rubbing in tuna steaks.)

3 tsp fresh ground pepper, or to taste

5 large cloves of garlic, minced  (3 frozen cubes of garlic from Trader Joe’s makes preparation easier.)

1-15 ounce can of black beans  (Organic is best; Simple Truth brand at our local Fred Meyer’s is very economical.)

2 tsp crushed dried red pepper

2 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp dried ginger

2 tsp dried oregano  (Organic is available for $1.99 at Trader’s!)

4 ahi tuna steaks, or about 1 1/3 pound

1 tsp sesame oil

  1. fond on bottom of pan of eggplant

    For quickly sautéing onions, heat 1 tbsp oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat; place a small piece of onion in oil; when it sizzles, add rest of onion and cook until well browned, stirring occasionally.  (Better yet, use carmelized onions by utilizing next week’s recipe to make a double batch of this time-consuming treat; they store up to 3 days.)  Meanwhile go to next step.

  2. Cut eggplant in small 1 inch cubes, set aside.
  3. Roll lemons on counter, pressing down hard with your hand to loosen juices.  Juice lemon and set aside 3 tbsp.
  4. If using fresh garlic, mince now.
  5. When onions are cooked, place in a bowl; next, heat 1 1/2 tbsp oil in pan; place piece of eggplant in oil; when it sizzles, add rest of eggplant.  Cook until soft, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  After 5 minutes, add 1/4 cup of water and deglaze pan (scrape bottom with a wooden or heat resistance plastic spatula to loosen cooked on fond, see photo).  Cook until water is evaporated; this vegetable will be somewhat mushy.
  6. Stir in onions, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and garlic; if garlic is fresh, cook only until you can smell it; see Tomato/Feta Chicken (2016/07/25) for tips on cooking with garlic.  If using the frozen cubes, cook just until melted and blended in well.
  7. Gently stir in the can of black beans, which has been drained; do not over-stir, as this breaks down beans.  Adjust seasonings.  May set aside to finish just before serving, or immediately proceed to step 9, in which case turn down heat to medium/low under eggplant/beans.  (See  above photo for finished product.)
  8. If finishing later, began the next step 15 minutes before serving time.
  9. Just prior to serving, blend together 4 tsp salt (preferably kosher salt), 2 tsp fresh ground pepper, dried red pepper, garlic powder, ginger, and oregano; rub seasoning into tuna steaks.  (If bean mixture is cold, begin reheating it for 8-10 minutes over medium heat before sautéing tuna, stirring occasionally.)
  10. Melt 4 tbsp oil and 1 tsp sesame oil in a large sauté pan over medium/high heat; just as it begins smoking, sear steaks in hot oil-2 minutes per side for medium rare, give or take 1/2 minute for rare or medium.  The time may need adjusting as thickness of steaks varies; you can check the color of tuna by piercing thickest part of fish with a sharp knife to check for doneness at the very end; it should be somewhat red for medium-rare.  Do not overcook tuna.
  11. Serve with carmelized onions and carrots (next week’s post).  Enjoy!