Curried Vegetables

Curries are tongue-tantalizers. Here is a simple recipe for a vegetable curry, along with information about the background of commercial curry powders. This is the third post in my Indian series; it accompanies Tandoori Chicken and the cooling condiment Dahi Raita. My next post for egg rice will complete this series.

In her book, Eight Flavors, The Untold Story of American Cuisine, Sarah Lohman lists curry powder as one of America’s eight leading flavors that distinguish American cuisine. Before looking at this, let us first define this spice blend.

The Make-up of Currry Powder

Curry has a yellow hue due to its main ingredient turmeric, which makes up 25-50% of these blends by weight (for properties of turmeric see African Bobotie). Coriander and cumin are its other primary ingredients.1

You will also typically find red or black pepper, mustard, ginger, clove, cardamom, bay leaf and fenugreek in its makeup of spices and herbs; there can be up to twenty ingredients. No two curry blends are ever the same; thus, when you find a label you really like, it is best to stay with it. 2

Curry Powder Not Found in Indian Cooking

Important to note: the word curry in Indian cooking refers to the dish itself: meat, vegetables, and a sauce, but not the spice blend-what we westerners know as “curry”. Rather in Indian cuisine, we find such popular spice blends as garam masala from north India and Sambar podi from south India. There the resultant dishes that incorporate these and other spice blends are are referred to as curry, rather than the spice blends themselves. 3

Garam Masala and Sambar Podi

Garam means “warming” and masala means “a blend of aromatic spices”, and this is the basis for our “mild” or “sweet” curry found in the West. It, however, differs from our western curry powder, with curry tending to be even milder in flavor than garam masala. This is due to curry’s abundance of turmeric, which adds color, but very little favor, and that which is there is flowery. Our curry powder is also rich in cumin, coriander, and fenugreek, all of which lend to the mildness of its flavor. 4

The Indian spice blend garam masala, which varies from region to region, is more pungent and sweeter due to its ingredients: cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, and mace. As with curry powder, garam masala also has some cumin and coriander in its blend, but these other “sweet” spices make it different from our curry blend. 5

Another spice mix from south India, Sambar podi, is the source of our hot or “madras” curry powders, and it differs from garam masala in that it has a good quantity of chili peppers amongst its other spices, such as turmeric. 6

The blended powder, curry, we find on the western market is not a staple in Indian cooking, as is believed in the West. Rather curry powder was created in the UK, as a shortcut for evoking the essence of Indian cuisine. True Indian cooking requires endless chopping and grinding. The brands of curry that we buy here in the U.S. are often marked “mild” or “hot” (madras). This varies with the type of pepper used-cayenne, or red pepper, rather than black, allows for the heat. 7

The Assumed Etymology of Curry Powder

In her book Classic Indian Cooking, Julie Sahni explains the term curry powder is not as old as the spice blends it describes; some of which are the southern Asian dishes below, which utilize the curry plant and curry leaf. Sahni projects that the word curry probably came from the Sanskrit word kari. Sahni states that kari refers to this curry leaf found in Indian cooking. She explains that in India the sauces made from kari leaves and other spices were called kari podi; Her hypothesis is that this term made a linguistic jump in English to “curry powder”. 8 (For more common foods using Sanskrit names, see Laban bil bayd and West African Bobotie.)

The Curry Plant and Curry Leaf

The curry plant and curry leaf are not found in western curry powders, but they are used in Indian curry dishes. The curry plant is a Mediterranean member of the lettuce family, Helichrysum italicum, which has a flavor reminiscent of curry. A number of its terpenes give it a vaguely spicy, pleasant aroma. It is used in Indian egg dishes, teas, and sweets. 9 (For more on the flavor family of terpenes, see Sage Turkey Delight.)

There is a curry leaf used in cooking in this part of the world as well; it is the leaf of a small tree Murraya koenigii, which is in the citrus family and is a native of southern Asia. Households in south India and Malaysia grow this tree and add its leaf to many dishes, but its flavor-in spite of its name-does not resemble what we consider as curry. Rather, it is mild and subtle, with woody fresh notes. The curry leaf is found in stews and simmered dishes, and it also is used to flavor cooking oil. 10

Curry Powder-How It Became a Leading Flavor in American Cuisine

In Eight Flavors, the Untold Story of American Cuisine, Sarah Lohman traced the advent of curry powder as a major part of American cuisine, as coming through our Anglo roots.

England had been trading with India since the 1600’s, and the British made India an official colony in 1858. Queen Victoria was crowned Empress of India, in 1877. England’s love for Indian food came through the British soldiers, merchants, and government officials, who wrote home about its grandeur. When these sojourners returned to England, in some cases they brought back their Indian cooks; in other cases they hired English cooks, who were trained in India. In England, Indian cuisine had become so popular that it was found in English coffeehouses by the mid-eighteenth century, making it available to everyone. The nation became very familiar with Indian cuisine, and simply loved all things Indian! 11

Loman states that because of the English, curry powder have been used in America for over two hundred years-long before the first Indian immigrants arrived. The love for curry first came to our American shores with the English colonists; they had brought with them the popular English cookbook: The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Simple, 1747, by Hannah Glasse. It contained a basic recipe for the simple, Anglo-Indian curry; its instructions simply stated to stew a chicken with finely ground turmeric, black pepper, and ginger, blended in a cream sauce. 12

Curry Recipes Became Common in 19th Century American Cook Books

In the century following this, numerous American cookbooks boasted of curry recipes, indicating its wide spread popularity here. I will mention but a few. Mary Randolph wrote The Virginia Housewife, 1824, which was the first American cook book with curry recipes. Her book boasted of six curry receipts (indicating the widespread use of curry here), and one of these was for curry powder itself. Her version of this spice blend was flavorful and hot, probably stemming from the south Indian Sambar podi, though Randolph was most likely not conscious of this. 13

Mrs. Child published the receipt “To Curry Fowl” in The American Frugal Housewife, which had 33 editions, beginning in 1829. My facsimile is of the twelfth edition dated 1833; here her unique curry calls for a spoonful of lemon juice and an optional spoonful of tomato catsup. 14

Published in 1885, in Portland, Oregon, The Webfoot Cook Book has two curry recipes. One calls for: a half a pound of butter, two onions, a gill of rich gravy, and a heaping tablespoon of curry powder, to which meat of any kind is added. Sounds pretty rich, but we must recall that 19th century Oregonians were far more physically active, than we are now. 15

Celebrity Chef Ranji Smile-the Reason America Fell in Love with Indian Food

Loman points out that the trend for an authentic Indian experience in the area of food was minimal in the U.S., until America’s first celebrity-chef Ranji Smile arrived in 1899. He had already made a name for himself in London, where “all things Indian” was extremely popular. At the turn of the century, America’s first Indian chef, Smile and his food from India immediately became the craze in New York. This “following after the English” came through Smile’s creative, exotic dishes, at America’s well-known Sherry’s. 16

Louis Sherry had opened the New York restaurant, named after himself, in 1890. Its elegance made it a rival of the popular Delmmonico’s. 17 Nine years later while eating at Cecil’s in London, Sherry encountered Smile’s exciting curries, and hired him on the spot. Smile’s beautiful Indian cuisine was transported to America, where it became the rage!

Perhaps it, however, is best to say that there was a mixed success in Smile’s attempt at having Indian food take over our nation, in the manner it had in England. Nevertheless, there was a growing number of Indian restaurants, as well as Indian recipes in American cook books, in the early 20th century. As the number of Indian restaurants in New York grew, Fannie Farmer’s 1921 cookbook came forth with twenty recipes, which used curry powder! 19

Curry, A Leading Flavor in America Today

Now in the 21st century, there are around two million Indian immigrants in the U.S.A., with nearly three hundred million Americans claiming Asian Indian ethnicity. According to Loman, this is the third largest immigrant group next to Mexico and China. As noted, the English colonists introduced curry in America-long before these immigrants started arriving. Then 100 years later, Smile made it trendy at the turn of the 20th century. 20 And now, as Loman declares, it is indeed one of eight flavors that make up American cuisine, though it is not well known as such.

My First Taste of Curry in Blackpool, England

My first experience with a curry dinner was in Blackpool, England in 1974, while I was a student in London. During this time, friends of friend of my family invited me to their home in Blackpool, where we celebrated with a fancy, British, curry dinner-a first for me.

I remember it being dense in flavors, which exploded in my mouth. After scooping out a heap of curried meat and vegetables on my plate, I was instructed to top this with a wide array of condiments-from shredded coconut to raisins, from grounded peanuts to chopped tomatoes…and oh so much more. Needless to say, I was thrilled by this experience of my first encounter with curry, which left a lasting impression!

Lesson Applied

When looking back, we see how our “firsts” in life leave indelible impressions. Therefore it is important that we respond appropriately to new foods and experiences in life.

It is said that we must keep our hearts with all diligence, for out of them come the issues of life. Doing so requires being alert, sober, and vigilant, protecting our hearts; this indeed dictates much about the quality of our lives.

Several years ago I had a most daring challenge, with regards to my walking this out with new foods. I had been asked to be a judge at the re-enactment of a Mountain Men’s Rendezvous, at the historic site of Fort Vancouver, in the state of Washington.

I and the other judges made our way through the “living-history” camp, tasting the delicacies these mountain men had made; we were to choose the dish that was the most authentically prepared., while being the most unique.

With vivid imagination, I recall eating rattlesnake and pemmican. After the initial shock, I found the rattle snack tasting rather pleasantly like chicken; the pemmican on the other hand was pure animal fat, with a little bit of meat and dried berries ground into it-aaugh!

There was laughter and joy amongst this stepping out in faith, to experience the unknown; we bonded together as brave souls.

May you enjoy the simplicity and wonderful flavor, of the recipe below for curried vegetables.

References

  1. https://www.thespruceeats.com/curry-powder-and-indian-food-1957468
  2. https://www.thespruceeats.com/curry-powder-1328534#curry-powders-ingredients
  3. Sarah Loman, Eight Flavors, the Untold Story of American Cuisine (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2016), pp.89, 90.
  4. https://www.the spruceeats.com/curry-powder-and-indian-food-1957468
  5. Ibid.
  6. Sarah Loman, Eight Flavors, the Untold Story of American Cuisine (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2016), p.90.
  7. https//www.thespruceeats.com/curry-powder-1328534#curry-powders-ingredients
  8. Sarah Loman, Eight Flavors, the Untold Story of American Cuisine (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2016), p.90.
  9. Harold McGee, On Food and History (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 409.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Sarah Lohman, Eight Flavors, the Untold Story of American Cuisine (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2016), p. 94.
  12. Ibid.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Facsimile of Mrs. Childs, The American Frugal Housewife (Boston: Carter, Hendee, and Co., 1832), pp. 84, 85.
  15. Facsimile of First Presbyterian Church, The Webfoot Cook Book (Portland, Oregon, 1885), p. 173.
  16. Sarah Loman, Eight Flavors, the Untold Story of American Cuisine (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2016), pp. 94-98.
  17. James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Owl Books, 1995), p. 335.
  18. Sarah Loman, Eight Flavors, the Untold Story of American Cuisine (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2016), pp. 94-111.
  19. Ibid., pp. 111, 112.
  20. Ibid., p. 88.

Curried Vegetables Recipe

Yields: 8 servings.  Active prep time: 35-45 min.  Note: this makes a medium-hot curry; may add more spices as desired. This may be done ahead of time and reheated.

6 1/2 tsp oil  (Either avocado or coconut oil is best here for health benefits; olive oil is carcinogenic when heated to high temperatures.)

1 med yellow onion

1 lb carrots  (The one-pound bag of organic, peeled, mini carrots, from Trader Joe’s are easiest, as they require no prep time.)

1 1/2 lb fresh green beans, cut in two-inch pieces  (May use a 24 oz bag of frozen French green beans, from Trader Joe’s.)

1 lb zucchini, cut in two-inch strips

1 bell pepper, cut in two-inch strips  (Organic is important, as bell peppers readily absorb pesticides.)

1/2 tsp coriander

1/2 tsp dried, ground ginger  (Trader Joe’s carries a great ground ginger, which is so reasonably priced at $1.99.)

1/2 tsp ground cumin  (Trader’s has the best price on this-$1.99 a jar, the same as with most of their other spices.)

1/2 tsp turmeric  (This too is available at Trader’s for their great price.)

Scant 1/4 tsp red, cayenne pepper  (Trader’s carries this inexpensively as well.)

1 tsp crushed, dried red pepper

1 tsp salt

6-7 lg cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine  (May substitute 3 cubes of frozen garlic from Trader Joe’s, for easy prep.)

  1. If using frozen beans, take out of freezer and open bag (or better yet, thaw in refrigerator overnight, for quicker cooking).
  2. Spray vegetables with an inexpensive, effective vegetable spray (mix 97% and 3% hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle) and let stand for three minutes; rinse well.
  3. Cut onion in even 1/8” slices; heat 1/2 tsp oil in a large frying pan, over medium heat-when a small piece of onion sizzles in oil, add the rest of the onions.  Stir onions well, to distribute the oil.  Turn heat down to med/low and caramelize onions, by stirring every several minutes, until color starts to form; then, stir every minute or so, until dark brown.  Meanwhile proceed with the next steps, watching onions carefully.
  4. Heat last 2 tbsp oil in a large sauté pan; when a piece of carrot sizzles in it, add the rest of the carrots, and cook uncovered over medium heat.
  5. If using fresh beans, cut them in 2” pieces (see photo below).  Add to carrots-which have been cooking, for at least 3-4 minutes while you are preparing beans.  If using frozen beans, be sure to wait the 3-4 minutes, before adding the beans to the carrots.
  6. Cover the pan, if using fresh beans, but if using frozen beans keep the pan uncovered.  Stir occasionally.
  7. Chop the zucchini in 2” pieces, set aside.
  8. Cut bell pepper in 2” strips, being sure to de-seed the pepper first.  For easy chopping, cut the halved pepper-with skin side flat on counter-in narrow strips, by cutting at a diagonal, alternating sides (see photo).
  9. Add these to the pan of carrots and beans..  Cook until vegetables reach desired tenderness.
  10. Meanwhile chop the garlic, set aside.
  11. Mix well the spices and salt in a small bowl; set aside.
  12. When vegetables are done, add spices, distributing evenly throughout vegies; then, mix in the garlic.  Cook until the aroma of the garlic rises from pan, or until frozen garlic cubes are thawed and mixed in.  (See more about cooking with garlic at Tomato/Feta Chicken .)
  13. Adjust seasonings and serve with Tandoori Chicken and Dahi Raita, as a cooling condiment.

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.

Lentils, for an Emergency

a dish of lentils

The staple of lentils is a blessing; here we look at the easiest way to prepare them, as well as details about their history, makeup, and health benefits.  This basic recipe, having only two ingredients, evolved due to recent inquiries for a simple means to cook lentils, for times such as now; this method of preparation brings out flavor and nutrition.

Historical Background of Lentils

Lentils, Lens culinaris, are probably the oldest cultivated legume; they are mentioned several times in the Old Testament, with the first time being in Genesis, when Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a “pottage of lentiles”.  Encyclopedia Britannica surmises that the lentils Jacob prepared were probably red Egyptian lentils. 1

Lentils are native to Southwest Asia; they are now a common food throughout Europe, Asia, and North Africa, with their greatest production being in India and Turkey (Canada is a distant third).  2

In North America, lentils are produced in the Pacific Northwest, eastern Washington, northern Idaho, and up into western Canada.  Since the 1930’s, they have been grown as a rotation crop with wheat, with most of the lentils being exported, though in recent times, Americans are consuming them more.  3

Their shape inspired the 17th century coinage of the word “lens”-the Latin word for lentil-which describes the lentil-shaped, double convex, piece of glass.  4

Two Groups of Lentils: Their Colors and Composition

There are two groups of lentils: the most common being the varieties with flat and large seeds-5 mm or more across. The second group consists of varieties with small, more rounded seeds that are finer-textured; included in this latter group are the prized green French lentille du Puy, the black beluga, and the green Spanish pardina.  The seed coats of these varieties may be brown, red, black, and green; most have yellow cotyledons, though some are green or red.  Both cooking and age can turn green seed coats brown.  The composition of dry lentils is 14% water, 25% protein, 60% carbohydrate, and 1% oil.  5

Health Benefits of Lentils

Some hold that lentils protect against heart disease, dementia, cancer, and other chronic illnesses.  6

They also prove to be a good source of protein, vitamin B, iron, phosphorus, and dietary fiber, but they can cause gas.  7

How Intestinal Gas is Created

What to do with the problem of flatulence, for which legumes are known?   Note: lentils seemingly cause little gas for some, while soy, navy, and lima beans are the worst offenders.  8

Our intestines produce about a quart of a mixture of gases a day, due to the growth and metabolism of our resident bacteria.  Many legumes cause a sudden increase in this bacterial activity-bringing about gas production-a few hours after they are consumed.  This is due to their containing large amounts of short-chained carbohydrates, which human digestive enzymes cannot convert into  sugars that can be absorbed; thus, these carbohydrates leave the upper small intestine unchanged.  When they reach the lower intestine, they are fermented; the resident bacteria population performs its job; gas results.  9

The ineffective metabolism of troublesome carbohydrates into digestible single sugars produces gas.  One type of carbohydrate causing this gas issue is the oligosaccharides, molecules consisting of only three, four, or five sugar molecules linked together in an unusual way (for more on oligosaccharides, see Great Keto Citrus Cookies).  Cell-wall cements, however, may be a more prominent cause for this problem of gas, as they produce just as much carbon dioxide and hydrogen as the oligosaccharides, and beans generally have about twice as much of these carbohydrates, as they do oligosaccharides.  10

Proposed Remedies for Preventing Gas

Of the two proposed remedies to help prevent gas, the long cooking of legumes is better than that of leaching off these carbohydrates with water (boiling the legumes briefly, letting them stand in this water for an hour, and then discarding the water); this latter method does get rid of most of the water-soluble oligosaccharides, but it also removes significant amounts of water-soluble vitamins, minerals, simple sugars, and seed-coat pigments (in other words, it strips the food of nutrients, flavor, color, and antioxidants).  On the other hand, simple, prolonged cooking helps to eventually break down the oligosaccharides and the cell-wall cements into digestible single sugars; this is the method used in the lentil recipe below.  11

Integrative medicine physician Irina Todorov, MD. states that if your increasing bean consumption, to obtain higher levels of dietary fiber, resultant gas levels typically return to normal once legumes are consumed regularly.  12

Garlic is used in this receipt.  It, however, is possible to replace this with onions, herbs, or other vegetables of your choice; feel free to experiment.  Finally, I like to add a splash of olive or sesame oil to my dish of hot lentils, for nutrition and flavor.

Lesson Applied

These unprecedented times are producing a shaking; those things-things made-that can be shaken will be removed, so only the unshakable and eternal will remain.  13

It appears in the natural that all is slowed down presently; underneath the surface, there, however, is a “quick cooking” of our lives going on, both publicly and personally.

This lentil legume is flat and thin, with a thin seed coat; thus, cooking water need only penetrate a millimeter or two from each side.  That makes for a quicker cooking process than with any other bean-30 to 45 minutes.

Covid-19 can produce two different results: it may be getting under our skin, frying us so to speak, or preferably it is producing a great softening of heart, which is slow and gentle.  For the latter to transpire, our “seed coat” requires a protective shield.  The word of God gives such provision, for it states:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”  14

We want the unprofitable within us to be shaken off, so only the pure and stable will remain.  With everything changing so rapidly, it is advantageous more than ever, to look to the eternal.

As boiling water softens lentils in less than an hour, we too have had deep change transpiring in short order, with this boiling of our beings.  May this be a time of victorious overcoming-a time of thinking and responding competently, with godly wisdom.  Thus, we make right decisions in all that challenges.

Relationship with Jesus provides this.  Bless you, my readers!  May the extremely simple recipe below help you.

References:

  1. The Holy Bible, KJV, Genesis 25: 30, 34 and https://www.britannica.com/plant/lentil-plant
  2. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 492.
  3. https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/lentils/how-to-grow-lentils.htm
  4. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 492.
  5. , pp. 489, 492.
  6. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/the-musical-fruit-what-you-should-know-about-beans-and-gas/
  7. https://www.britannica.com/plant/lentil-plant
  8. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 486
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ibid., pp. 486, 487.
  12. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/the-musical-fruit-what-you-should-know-about-beans-and-gas/
  13. See Hebrews 12: 26-29 in the Holy Bible, KJV.
  14. The Holy Bible, KJV, John 3:16, 17.

finished product

Lentils for an Emergency Food  Yields: 8 servings.  Active prep time: 10 min/  Cooking time: 30-45 min.

2 c lentils

8 c water, preferably distilled

1 whole bulb of fresh garlic, cloves peeled and left whole  (May substitute 4 cubes frozen garlic from Trader Joe’s, or 3-4 tbsp garlic from a jar; instead of the garlic, may substitute an onion, herbs, or vegetables of your choice.)

Salt to taste, be sure to add only after lentils are cooked  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt are important for optimum health; an inexpensive, fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco.)

Optional: a splash of olive or sesame oil

  1. large garlic cloves cut in half

    Place lentils and water in a stockpot; cover and bring to a boil over med/high heat. If possible, use distilled water, which is highly beneficial to our bodies (for more information, see Vichy Carrots.)

  2. pot of lentils and garlic prepped for cooking

    Meanwhile peel garlic, cutting large cloves in half. Add to lentils.  (See above photo.)  DO NOT ADD SALT WHILE COOKING, as this prohibits the softening of legumes.

  3. Lower heat to medium, cook uncovered for 30-45 minutes, or until lentils are soft and quite thick; stir occasionally. (I prefer the lentils thick, so they have the substance of an entry, rather than a soup, but you may choose more of a soup texture.)
  4. Salt to taste and optionally serve with a splash of olive or sesame oil, for taste and nutrition. This keeps well in refrigerator for a week, or at room temperature for several days, if there is a power outage.

Legal Peanut Butter Pie

legal peanut butter pie

A recipe for the best of legal, peanut butter pies follows; it’s accompanied with information on the make-up of peanuts, their various uses throughout the world, and why they cause allergic reactions, in some people.

Peanuts Are Seeds

The peanut is not a nut, but rather the seed of Arachis hypogaea, a small bush that is a legume, which pushes its woody fruit capsules underground as they mature.  1

The Background of Peanuts

Around 2000 B.C., this seed was domesticated in South America; this took place probably in Brazil.  Then, the peanut became an important crop to the Peruvians, prior to the beginnings of the Inca empire, in the early 1400’s.  In the 16th century, the Portuguese took it to Africa, India, and Asia.  Quickly, it was being used as a major source of cooking oil in China, because of its high oil content (the composition of peanuts is 48% oil, 26% protein, 19% carbohydrates, and 6% water).  2

America lagged behind, however, in adopting the peanut as anything other than animal feed, until the 19th century; then, in the early 20th century it became a major crop in the South, when agricultural scientist George Washington Carver encouraged farmers to replace weevil-ravaged cotton with peanuts.  Today, the United States is the third largest peanut producer in the world-though we’re a distant third to India and China.  3

Various Ways Peanuts Are Employed in Cooking

Peanuts are consumed mostly as oil and meal in Asia, while in the U.S., they are eaten as food.  In their pureed form, they have found their way into several Asian and African traditions, lending richness, substance, and flavor to sauces and soups.  These pureed peanuts, as well as whole ones, are used in Thai and Chinese noodle dishes and sweet bun fillings.  Indonesian dipping sauces and sambal condiments employ these, and in West African nations, they are used in cakes, confections, stews and soups.  (For a great Indonesian condiment, see Serengdung Kacang-a delicious peanut/coconut-chip mixture, which can creatively be used as an hors d’ouvres or on top of salads.  4

Along with these other countries, peanut soups are popular in the American South.  Both the southern United States and Asia use peanuts boiled in saltwater, as a popular snack.  When boiled in its shell, this nut develops a potato-like aroma, with sweet vanilla highlights due to the liberation of vanillin from the shell.  5

Compounds Contributing to Peanut Flavor

Roasted peanuts have several hundred volatile compounds; the raw peanut has a green, bean-like flavor, which comes mainly from the compounds green-leaf hexanal and the pyrazine that characterizes peas.  A composite of several sulfur compounds make-up the roasted aroma; these consist of numerous “nutty” pyrazines and others (some of which have fruity, flowery, fried, and smoky characters).  When staling takes place during storage, these nutty pyrazines, however, disappear, and painty, cardboard notes increase.  (For related information on chemical compounds and their aromas, as found in herbs and spices, see Sage Turkey Delight.)

There are four varieties of peanuts grown in the United States for different purposes.  The large Virginia and small Valencia are used for nuts sold in the shell, while the Virginia and small Spanish are found in mixed nuts and candies.  Finally, the Runner is produced for use in baked goods and peanut butter.  7

Peanuts as a Food Allergy

Bbc.com wrote that the frequency of food allergies-especially in industrialized countries-has increased over the past 30 years; it reported a five-fold increase in peanut allergies between 1995 and 2016 in the UK.  It proposed that this increase in allergies is probably environmental and related to Western lifestyles.  8

A true food allergy is the body’s immune system mistaking a food component (in this case proteins in peanuts), as a sign of invasion by bacterium or virus; it then reacts by initiating a defense-the release of histamines-which causes the allergic reaction.  Such overreactions may cause mild damage, such as manifestations of discomfort, itching or rash, or severe reactions bringing life-threatening asthma or change in blood pressure or heart rhythm.  9

Peanuts are one of the most typical food allergens; these allergic reactions are the most common cause of fatal food-induced anaphylaxis, with adolescents with asthma being the highest-risk group.  Thus, it is important to check with your doctor, before eating the following recipe, or any other foods made with peanuts.  10

Applying This Peanut Lesson

When still, we are guided into that which is most beneficial for our beings.  When hurried we are prone to mistakes, such as eating, by accident, a food that causes adverse reactions in our body-makeup.

Slowing down is imperative to hearing our given needs, which are unique.  Each of us must hear for ourselves what to eat nutritionally.  Likewise, we must accept inner guidance concerning all other aspects of living, so we consume only that which is true and pure.

We need to be at peace in order to attain such promise.  The Spirit encourages us: when he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble?  11

Gently and mildly-Webster’s definition for meekness-we receive God’s provision of tranquility, so we can know what to put in our mouths and souls, from moment to moment.  As we apply this precept, it amplifies itself as increased health, in both the physical and spiritual realms, for they play off of each other.

Enjoy this powerful dessert, by following the recipe below!

References:

  1. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p.510.
  2. , pp. 502, 510.
  3. , p. 510.
  4. , p. 510.
  5. , p. 510.
  6. , p. 511.
  7. , p. 511.
  8. https://www.bbc.com/news/health-46302780
  9. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p.455.
  10. https://www.thermofisher.com/diagnostic-education/patient/us/en/allergy-types/food-allergies/peanut-allergy.html
  11. King James Bible, Job: 34: 29.

finished product

Legal Peanut Butter Pie  Yields: 1-10” gluten-free pie, or 10 servings.  Active prep time: 1hr/  inactive prep time for chilling: 3 hr.  Note: may freeze, to have on hand for company.

Crust

1 c almond flour

1/3 c peanut powder  (Trader Joe’s has an excellent price for this-$4.99/8 oz.)

1/2 c Monkfruit sweetener  (See Healthy Date/Apricot Bars, for information on the health benefits of Monkfruit.)

1/4 tsp salt

6 tbsp of butter, melted

Spray oil

Ganache

3/4 c heavy whipping cream  (An organic one can be found at Trader Joe’s for $3.49/pt.)

1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips  (Such are high quality and inexpensive at Trader’s.)

1/2 oz of unsweetened Baker’s chocolate, for optional decoration

Filling

1 c plus 2 tbsp heavy whipping cream

8 oz cream cheese, softened

2 tsp vanilla

1/2 c Monkfruit sweetener

1 c creamy peanut butter, at room temperature

  1. moist pie crust dough

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Chill a med/large bowl and beaters for an electric mixer in the freezer.

  2. Melt 6 tbsp of butter in a small saucepan over med/low heat.
  3. Mix all dry ingredients for the crust in a medium bowl with a fork.
  4. pie crust formed in pan

    Add melted butter; blend with a spatula, until all dry ingredients are incorporated (mixture will be moist-see photo).

  5. Spray a 10” pie plate, preferably with coconut oil spray. With the spatula, spread the dough evenly over bottom of pan; then with fingers, pat mixture firmly into place on bottom and up sides of pie plate.  See photo.
  6. baked pie crust

    Bake for 23-25 minutes, or until golden brown on bottom-edges will be darker. (See photo.)

  7. Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes; then, place in refrigerator or freezer to finish cooling.
  8. Make ganache-see list of ingredients above-by bringing cream to a very low simmer over med/low heat (should be hot/steaming, but not boiling); add chocolate pieces and continue to cook, beating with a wire whisk, until mixture is glossy/shiny.  Remove from heat; add vanilla and set aside.
  9. first beating of filling

    Go to the above list of filling ingredients: whip 1 c cream, using chilled bowl and beaters. Set aside in refrigerator.

  10. In another bowl, using the same beaters, blend the softened cream cheese, 2 tbsp heavy whipping cream, and vanilla. Mix in Monkfruit and peanut butter, beating for at least three minutes, until mixture is light and Monkfruit has had a chance to dissolve some-this will dissolve further, as pie sets. (See photo above.)
  11. Beat in one third of the whipped cream in this mixture.
  12. filling after final beating

    Finally fold in the remaining cream (see photo).

  13. Spread the ganache evenly on bottom of the cooled crust.
  14. Place filling on top of ganache. May use your fingertip to form decorative peaks in filling.
  15. Using a sharp knife, scrape optional, unsweetened chocolate over the top of the pie (see photo of finished product at top of recipe).
  16. Refrigerate for three hours before serving.
  17. Serve immediately, or may cut in tenths-this is rich-and freeze. When frozen, place pieces in a freezer bag, to have on hand as needed for company.
  18. This is legal and dynamite!

African Nkyemire (Yams with Mushrooms)

nkyemire

Here we will unfold the mystery behind true yams, American “yams” and sweet potatoes, while partaking in the delightful African yam dish nkyemire.

Background of My Using This African Recipe

This recipe came to me in the early 1980’s, while catering and teaching cooking classes in Billings, MT.  I employed it in a African repast that included bobotie (a lamb dish baked in a curry-custard) and chin-chin (Nigerian wedding pastries), which will be my next two posts.  These outstanding dishes from Africa were among other native delicacies in this colorful dinner, which was one of my most popular classes.

What Are True Yams?

Today’s nkyemire receipt calls for African yams, which differ from what Americans call yams.  Yams, Dioscorea, are a tuber that originated in Africa and Asia, but now  also are commonly found in the Caribbean and Latin America, with 95% being grown in Africa.  Sweet potatoes, Ipomoea batatas, on the other hand, are a starchy root vegetable or tuber, which originated in Central or South America.   1

Columbus introduced the sweet potato to Europe; subsequently it was established in China and the Philippines by the end of the 15th century.  It has now become the second most important vegetable worldwide.  2

True yams differ from sweet potatoes primarily in size and color, for they can grow very large-up to 5 feet and 132 lbs.  These are cylindrical in shape with brown, rough, scaly-textured skin, and their flesh can be white, yellow, purple, or pink.  Their taste is less sweet and much more starchy and dry than sweet potatoes.  3

Sweet Potatoes and “Yams” in America

Sweet potatoes are related to the morning glory family, with an orange flesh, and a white, yellow, purple or orange skin.  This vegetable is sometimes shaped like a potato, though it may be longer and tapered at both ends.  Yams in America differ from true yams, like those found in Africa.  What we call yams here are actually orange-colored sweet potatoes-except those found in certain international food markets.  4

The orange-fleshed variety of sweet potato was introduced to the U.S. in 1930s marketing campaigns.  5  At that time, Americans were only used to the white variety of sweet potato; thus, to distinguish the orange-fleshed potato from this white variety, producers and shippers chose to use an English form of the African name nyami , meaning “to eat”; thus, our word “yam” was adopted.  These yams, however, are vastly different from the true yam, as originated in Africa and Asia.  Yams, as Americans call them, are sweet potatoes in actuality.  6

Importance of Tending to our Memories

One of my catered, African-themed events was a law firm’s employee-appreciation-gathering in Billings, during the summer of 1984; they had imbibed in South African wines and started throwing people in the swimming pool, at which point I gracefully exited the party-my check in hand.

Exposures to food become etched in our minds, as do certain life experiences, such as the one above.  We must be careful as to what we allow our minds to dwell on, as memories surface.  We can override poorer impressions left on our hearts, through purposeful practice, much like we can train ourselves to banish certain distastes, for ailments that were initially displeasing.  All must be properly tended to with diligence.

In this way, we can habituate our beings to let go of unpleasant, reoccurring thoughts, about either ailments or activities.  Indeed, we are responsible to hush these tendencies to recall negative, experiential occurrences created by either food or life.  Note: perhaps this can only done with the mighty help of God; thus, we ask for his gracious, omnipotent assistance.

Enjoy this simple receipt made with American “yams”-sweet potatoes.  If desired, go to an international market to get true yams and thus experience the accurate taste of this native dish.  For other sweet potato recipes, go to Sweet Potato Pie and Sprouted Quinoa and Yam Salad.

 

 

References:

  1. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/sweet-potatoes-vs-yams
  2. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 304.
  3. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/sweet-potatoes-vs-yams#section3
  4. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/ask-a-health-expert/yam-vs-sweet-potato-which-ones-healthier-and-whats-the-difference/article4102306/
  5. Harold McGee, On Food and History  (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 304
  6. https://ncsweetpotatoes.com/sweet-potatoes-101/difference-between-yam-and-sweet-potato/

yam slices cooked to a golden brown

African Nykemire (Yams with Mushrooms)  Yields: 6 servings.  Total prep time: 1 hr,  plus 1 1/4 hr ahead of time for baking yams.  Note: if refrigerating yams baked ahead, bring to room temperature several hours before preparing recipe.

3 med/lg yams, or sweet potatoes, about 2 1/2 lbs  (A 5-lb-bag of organic yams is available for $4.95 at Trader Joe’s, or 3 lbs/$3.95.)

2 tbsp lemon juice  (Organic lemons are only $1.69 for 4-6 lemons-1 lb-at Trader’s.)

1 bunch green onions, finely chopped, including green part  (Organic is only slightly more expensive.)

1 small green bell pepper, seeded and diced fine  (Organic is important, as peppers absorb pesticides readily.)

10 oz mushrooms  (A 10-oz-package of small, white mushrooms is available at Trader Joe’s for $1.79.)

6 tbsp ghee or butter  (Ghee will give the best health benefits and flavor; for easy recipe, see Ukrainian Spinach with Noodles.)

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. wrapping yams so juices don’t spill out

    This step may be done ahead of time.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare yams as follows.

  2. Spray yams with a vegetable spray (for an inexpensive, effective spray, combine 97% white distilled vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide); let sit three minutes and rinse well.  Wrap in tin foil, carefully gathering the foil at the top, so all the ends point upward; this insures that the juices don’t spill on your oven (see photo above).
  3. Bake yams for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours; watch carefully so yams are rather soft, but not mushy!  Remove from oven and cool.
  4. Peel and cut cooled yams in 1″-thick slices.
  5. Squeeze lemon juice, set aside.
  6. Chop bell pepper and onions-including green part-into small pieces.  Set aside together in a bowl.
  7. cleaning mushrooms with mushroom brush

    Clean mushrooms, by brushing with a mushroom brush (see photo).

  8. Heat 4 tbsp butter, or better yet ghee, in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Quickly cook mushrooms, after distributing oils evenly throughout; stir frequently and cook just until they are becoming tender.  Remove to a bowl, with a slotted spoon.
  9. Add onions and green pepper to hot liquid, cook for 2-3 minutes, or until limp.  Remove pan from heat.
  10. In another skillet, heat 2 tbsp butter or ghee.  Place yam slices in hot fat, salt and pepper to taste, and cook on both sides, until golden brown (see photo at top of recipe).
  11. Meanwhile, return mushrooms to pan of onions and peppers and add 2 tbsp lemon juice.  Place over medium heat, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste, and heat thoroughly.
  12. Put browned yams on a plate and cover with hot mushroom mixture, see photo at top of entry. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Sage Turkey Delight

sage turkey delight

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

Essential Oil as Found in Food

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

Flavor Is Mostly Derived from Aroma

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

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

Defensive Aroma Chemicals in Plants

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

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

Term Essential Oil as Applied to Food

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

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

How Medicinal Essential Oils Are Made

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

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

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

Flavor Components in Sage

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

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

Lesson Applied

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

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

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

References:

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

finished product

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

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

1 lg yellow onion, cut in 1/8slices

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

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

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

sage plant from Trader Joe’s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asparagus (with leftover milk solids from ghee)

sautéed asparagus with ghee

Not knowing any better, I loved canned asparagus in my youth, as canned vegetables dominated America in the mid-twentieth century.  At that time in my life, I was also enamored with Campbell’s tomato soup, when made with milk instead of water.  These foods spelled enchantment to my young, untutored palette.  Time provided exposure to more excellent options; I no longer like canned asparagus or Campbell’s soup.  Over the years, my taste buds have been disciplined to know the best; thus, I have acquired wisdom, which I humbly share with you.

With its 1795 beginnings, canning drastically reformed the world of nutrition, which started with a French confectioner’s inspiration.  This radical change in the culinary world came at a time that government saw upheaval as well, for the French revolutionaries were revolting against monarchies in Europe (for the history of canning refer to Bean, Corn, and Avocado Salad.

Originally, this manufacturing process provided armies with needed preservation of foods, but later its prevailing use distracted the American public, taking them away from healthier, tastier, fresh ailments; this occurred likewise in other cultures.  Canned goods monopolized the cooking of the common man; thus, the preparation of fresh fruits and vegetables was lost for a period.  Even canned meats were favored: Spam was popular in the U.S., while bully beef-minced corned beef in small amounts of gelatin-dominated the United Kingdom and mainland Europe.

Campbell’s is the best known name in the global soup-making industry.  In 1869, Philadelphia, fruit-wholesaler Joseph Campbell partnered with tinsmith-icebox-maker Abram Anderson to open Campbell Soup Company in Camden, N.J.; initially they packed fancy asparagus, small peas, tomatoes, minced meat, condiments, jellies, etc.

The year following its new 1896 partnership, the president of Joseph Campbell Preserve Company hired his 24-year old nephew John T. Dorrance, a brilliant research chemist.  This master of organic chemistry had received a doctorate from the University of Gootingen, having turned down faculty positions at this illustrious school, as well as at Columbia, Cornell, and Bryn Mawr.  Young Dorrance applied his ingenuity to his passionate vision for canned soups, for which he had learned the proper seasoning while working at famous Parisian restaurants.  With his vision of a double-strength “condensed” product, this youthful genius gave America its famous Campbell’s tomato soup.

My vivid, introduction to cooked, fresh spinach is sealed in my brain; it took place at my friend Dulcy’s home in Cut Bank, Montana in 1974.  This steamed dish, which her mother had adorned with hot butter and fresh-squeezed lemon, ignited a holy fire in me.  Exuberantly I tried to convince my mom to repeat this, but she refused, professing her hatred for spinach.  I now understand that her reaction came from an impression left by the nasty canned version, which so colored her sensory perception that she totally blocked out the heaven-sent fresh variety.

Both our palates and souls are thus influenced, absorbing either good or bad information, until we exercise our God-given authority over these perceptions.  Throughout our lifetime, events leave subtle marks on us in either adverse or positive ways, hence imbuing our imaginations with emotion, and consequently dictating our choices often.  We, however, can overcome our inhibitions by purposing to resist these impulses, repeatedly speaking words of life over our circumstances.  In this way, we mold new pathways in our brains.  This is true with all soulish imprints, both those brought by unpalatable foods as well as emotional wounds.  May we stand boldly, mastering all such patterns that limit us.

Here fresh asparagus is the piece de resistance, with which I employ the leftover remains of browned casein residue from simple ghee preparation (see Laban Bil Bayd, 2018/03/26, for easy instructions).  The flavor in butter is most highly concentrated in those milk proteins; therefore, when these are separated in the clarifying process, the very strength of its taste is isolated; browning intensifies this even further.  If you have never experienced a food enhanced with these nutty milk solids, be prepared for copious, mouth-watering sensations.

References:

James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995), pp. 283, 345, 354.

http://www.qdg.org.uk/pages/1793-to-1802-103.php

http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/history/Ca-Ch/Campbell-Soup-Company.html

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

https://www.taste.com.au/articles/bully-beef-part-of-australian-history/KYnke1FI

http://jamaicans.com/bullyb/

leftover milk solids from ghee preparation

Asparagus (with leftover milk solids from ghee)  Yields: 2-3 servings.  Total prep time: 15 min, when ghee is prepared ahead, which takes an additional 15 min.

1 lb fresh asparagus, or vegetable of your choice

1 1/2 tbsp of ghee  (See simple instructions at Laban Bil Bayd, 2018/03/26.)

Browned milk solids  (See these, leftover from ghee preparation, in saucepan in above photo.)

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

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

  1. cutting asparagus

    Spray asparagus with a safe, effective, inexpensive vegetable spray (combine 97% distilled white vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide); let sit for 3 minutes; rinse well.

  2. Dry spears with a towel.  Cut in bite-size pieces, first removing tough ends (see photo).
  3. preparing ghee for sauteing

    Melt ghee in frying pan, saving separated milk solids for finishing touch (see photo); test for readiness by placing a piece of asparagus in pan; when it sizzles, it is time to proceed.

  4. Add vegetable and sauté until desired doneness; do not overcook.
  5. Stir in browned milk solids; salt generously (see photo at top of recipe).  Be enraptured by this heavenly 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!

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

Here is the heritage of the Syrian dish munazalla and its great recipe, along with the background and health benefits of cilantro.

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

Syria and its Background

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

Ancient Assyria

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

Cilantro/the Leaf and Coriander/the Seed

This Syrian lamb, eggplant, and tomato recipe, calls for well-known cilantro, which is the leaf of the plant Coriandrum sativum, while the spice coriander is its seed.  Cilantro, sometimes botanically referred to as coriander, is said to be the most widely consumed fresh herb worldwide. As a native to the Middle East, its seed, which we refer to as coriander, was found in the tomb of King Tut.  (I got to see the tour of these ancient Egyptian remains in Seattle in the mid 1970’s.)

Cilantro Spreads throughout the World

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

Cilantro Displeasing to Some Palates

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

Health Benefits of Cilantro

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

Option of Coriander in this Recipe Below

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

References:

The Holy Bible, KJV, Genesis 2:14.

Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984,2004), pp. 390, 407, 408.

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

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

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

10 large minced garlic cloves, or the equivalent

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

1/4 tsp allspice

1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

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

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

1 lg onion, chopped

2 lb eggplant

4 med tomatoes

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

  1. forming meatballs

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

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

    cooked meatballs and onions

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

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

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

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

Braised Celery

braised celery

Celery, along with only a few other vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts, is a relative newcomer to the world’s diet, where most common vegetables have been eaten since before recorded history.  This Apium graveolens is the mild, enlarged version of a thin-stalked, bitter Eurasian herb called smallage.

Wild celery is believed to have originated in the Mediterranean area.  Its woven garlands have been found in Egyptian tombs.  An archeological finding in Kastanas, Greece provides evidence that Apium graveolens was present there in the 9th century before Christ.  There is also great literary evidence establishing this, for selinon, which is believed to be the same as celery, is mentioned by Homer in both the Illiad and Odyssey (circa 850 B.C.).

Moving forward five centuries after Christ, this wild edible herb appears in Chinese writings; then following this, it is cited again in a 9th century A.D. poem, from either France or Italy.

Italians first bred this small, primitive plant in their gardens apparently in the 1500’s, using it for medicinal purposes only; other northern European countries also began growing it.  By 1623, a record of celeri in France, established it as being utilized as a food.  For the next 100 years, it was generally employed only to flavor dishes, though in France and Italy, its leaves and stalks were sometimes eaten accompanied with oil dressing.  By the end of this century, this vegetable had arrived in England.

The first evidences of improvement of this wild Apium were seen in late 17th and early 18th centuries in these northern European countries, resulting in selections with solid stems; this stalk celery, as it has been known, originally had a tendency to produce hallow stalks that were bitter and strong.  Years of domestication corrected this hallow characteristic; likewise, breeding countered the disagreeable flavors.  This latter development was achieved by choosing the cooler growing periods of late summer and fall-the plants were then kept into winter-as well as by employing blanching, a practice that pushes dirt up around the stalks’ bases, keeping the sunlight from turning the celery green.

We have two types of stalk celery varieties: the green or Pascal is popular in North America, while the yellow, also known as self-blanching, is preferred in Europe and the rest of the world.  Celeriac, celery root or knob celery, is also widely used in European countries, with a growing audience for it among trendy U.S. gourmets.  Chinese or leaf celery, which is also called smallage-of all the Apiums, this is the closest in form and flavor to the original Eurasian herb-is grown in Asia and the Mediterranean regions for its leaves and seeds; these are used for cooking and sometimes medicine.

In America, the presence of this vegetable was minor during colonial days, leaving no evidence as to which European group brought it here.  Nonetheless by 1806, four cultivated varieties were growing in the U.S., as is listed in the American Gardeners’ Calendar, printed that year.  After the mid-19th century, with further domestication having refined its taste and texture, Americans were eating it raw with salt, serving it in celery vases at the dinner table.

Organic celery tends to be on sale at our local Fred Meyer-Kroger-stores during any holiday.  Thus, having it on hand from a Christmas special, I created this exceptionally easy, delightful braised celery dish, for my annual, day-after-Christmas celebration with my long-time friend Janet.  We loved it; hope you will to.

References:

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

https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/archives/parsons/publications/vegetabletravelers/celery.html

http://www.foodreference.com/html/celery-history.html

Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), pp. 249, 315, 406.

finished product

Braised Celery  Yields: 4 servings.  Total prep time: 20 min/  active prep time: 10 min/  cooking time: 10 min.

1 1/4 lb celery  (Organic celery is relatively inexpensive.)

2 tbsp chilled butter, cut in small pieces

Salt and freshly ground pepper  (Himalayan or pink salt, such as Real Salt, is so important for optimum health; a Himalayan salt is available very cheaply in bulk, at our local Winco.)

1 tsp Herbes de Provence  (Trader Joe’s has a great deal on this dried herb.)

1/2 c broth  (May use chicken, vegetable, or a good beef broth.)

  1. preparation of celery

    Peel strings off celery with a potato peeler; spray with a safe, inexpensive, effective vegetable spray (combine 97% distilled white vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide); let sit 3 minutes; rinse really well.  Save leaves for garnish.

  2. Cut celery in 4-inch pieces; place in a single layer-the indented side up-in the bottom of a large sauté pan; dot with pieces of butter; salt and pepper generously; sprinkle top with Herbes de Provence.  (See photo above.)
  3. Pour broth over celery; bring to a boil over med/high heat; reduce heat to med/low; cook covered for 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile chop the leaves, to be used as an optional garnish.
  5. Remove cover, stir well, raise heat to medium, and cook for 4 minutes more (see photo below).
  6. Raise heat to med/high and cook liquids down, stirring constantly, until juices form a glaze, about 1 minute (see photo at top of recipe).
  7. celery while cooking

    Arrange in a serving dish, garnish with chopped leaves, and serve with pride!