1960’s Josephines (a great hors d’ouvres)

Join me on a journey to the mysterious wonder-world of childhood foods with these josephines. which boast of green chillies.  At the end of this entry, I will explore the historical Pakistani  and Indian applications of chillies in their respective cuisines.

We can all relate to the thrilling memories of our particular favorites from mom’s best; these captivated our young hearts with taste thrills in our mouths, as well as simultaneous, soft sensations in our stomachs.  When faced with like foods today, we instantly return to these initial impulses from the treasuries of our early experiences.  Such comes to me double-fold, for not only did my mother supply these rich impressions, but my father-also a great cook-left indelible culinary marks on my soul.  Mom applied her expertise to the hosting of dinner parties, while Dad skillfully prepared food in our family’s restaurant-it was here we ate all our daily meals, while I was growing up.

Both parents were self-taught.  My mother lacked the normal advantages of learning cooking from her mother, who died of cancer when Mom was 11 years old (her father passed on two years later).  Hence being raised by nuns at a boarding school, she didn’t receive the normal, gracious “passing-down” of womanly skills; rather these were hard-won for her.

josephines

Everything Mom put her hand to, however, she mastered, for she knew the importance of “pressing-in” ardently-a trait I learned first-hand.  This included cooking in which she particularly excelled.  I grew up amidst the flurry of her entertaining many guests with gourmet foods.  She was always baking Irish oatmeal bread to go with her many feasts, often with foreign themes; this at a time when America was eating Spam, jello, canned vegetables, and the perpetual, “miraculous” Crisco.  (The history of shortening is in 1880’s Ozark Honey-Oatmeal Cookies, 2017/10/30, while that of canning can be found at Bean, Corn, and Avocado Salad, 2017/10/02.)

On the other hand, my grandparents, on my father’s side, lived in a small house just behind our home, allowing for their constant, close presence.  Grandma was a fantastic cook, accomplishing all by a sense of feel, with no recipes needed-a handful of this, a pinch of that.  Nevertheless as with Mom’s maternal experience, Dad didn’t learn his methods from her, but rather his schooling was provided by a gigantic industrial cook book, brought to our restaurant by a traveling salesman in the early 1960’s (see Buzz’ Blue Cheese Dressing, 2016/08/25).

These heart-imprints, established as a result of my father’s disciplined efforts, literally soar when I presently encounter light buttermilk pancakes, exceptional potato salad, or a good doughnut, for these were institutions in his establishment; thus, such soul foods provide me with a quick transport back to the mid-twentieth century.

For me these Mexican-inspired Josephines carry this same weight, with recollections from Mom’s culinary domain.  Hors d’ouvres were always a part of her feasts; this being one of our favorites.

As mentioned, 1960’s cooking employed lots of canned foods, with this recipe being no exception, as it calls for canned green chillies; originally this vegetable made its way from America to Europe, and beyond, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Chilli peppers were first introduced in India by the Portuguese, where they added heat to curries.  Curry is actually an English name, derived from the Tamil word kari, meaning “sauce”; thus, our English word indicates the basic Indian method of preparing food, utilizing their ever-present sauces.

Red and green chilies have long been present in both Hindu Indian and Muslim Pakistani cuisines.  These social groups existed together in Kashmir for most of the 400 years prior to the 1947 formation of Muslim Pakistan; here both cultures relied on the basic dish of rice and either kohlrabi or a vegetable similar to our spring greens, which was flavored with red and green chilies.  The Muslims enhanced this with garlic, while the Hindus added hing (asafoetidfa), distinguishing the two styles of preparing this food.  A more marked difference in their diets, however, resided in the ratio of meat to vegetables, with Hindus eating far more vegetables than meat, while Muslims did the opposite.

This American receipt calls for chillies, long present in world cookery; not being fresh, these reflect the popularity of canned goods in the 20th century.  Enjoy the ease of this hors d’ouvres with its great taste.  Note: my niece Cammie retains our family’s fond memory, by creatively using goat cheese and gluten-free bread here, to meet her dietary needs.  One way or the other, you will never forget this taste-treat!

References:

Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1988, 1973), p, 271.

James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995), pp. 87, 88.

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

https://cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/65202/what-was-indian-food-like-before-the-arrival-of-the-chilli-from-south-america

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

finished product

Josephines  Yields: about 1 1/2 dozen.  Total prep time: 45 min/  active prep time: 20 min/  baking time: 25-30 min.  Note: may make cheese/mayo mixture ahead, to have on hand in refrigerator.

1 c aged, grated cheddar cheese  (It is preferable to not use packaged shredded cheese; Mom always grated Sharp Cracker Barrel; I use imported, aged cheddars.)

1 c mayonnaise  (Best Foods is of high quality.)

1-7 oz can diced green chillies

easy grating of cheese in food processor

Tabasco sauce, about 8 vigorous shakes, or to taste

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

1 loaf French bread  (Trader Joe’s sells an ideal, organic 11.5-oz baguette for $1.99; this spread is enough for 2 baguettes.)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grate cheese by hand, or with grating attachment for food processor (see photo above).
  3. Mix cheese and mayonnaise in a bowl; may store this in refrigerator in a sterile container for months.
  4. Add drained chillies, Tabasco, and salt to cheese mixture; set aside.
  5. bread spread with cheese/mayo mixture

    Split loaf of bread in half lengthwise, place halves on cookie sheet split-side up, and evenly spoon cheese spread on these surfaces (see photo).

  6. Bake in hot oven for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown (see photo at top of recipe).
  7. Cool slightly, cut,  and serve.  These are dynamite!

Spicy Cold Noodles

spicy cold noodles

This is one of my all-time favorite recipes, which I have been making every summer for 35 years.  It first blessed me, when I taught it to my students in Billings, Montana, at one of my plentiful cooking classes.  I don’t exactly remember where I got it, but believe it came in a newspaper clipping sent by my mother, for she was good at supplying me with quaint receipts from the media, during my early catering/teaching career.  Many choice dishes were thus provided, which still grace my table today.  This specific one highly pleases the palate, though it deviates slightly from its authentic roots.

There are both Korean and Chinese spicy cold noodles; both nationalities use sesame and chili oils, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, and sugar in their mixes.  The Korean variation includes gochujang, a spicy pepper paste.  The Chinese sauce divers in that it calls for sesame paste and peanut butter, giving it an emulsified effect; it is fiery, tart, and slightly sweet.

My particular 1980’s account is from China, though it is Americanized with red wine vinegar instead of rice vinegar, which wasn’t readily available here in the 80s; this version doesn’t have the ever-present peanut butter and chili oil, but is still spicy hot with an abundance of garlic.  It is a memorable burst of flavors.

China is a vast land of varying cuisines.  Just before I left Billings, one of my students, a travel agent, was engaging me to teach these regional culinary truths on her tour of a number of China’s leading provinces.  My sudden move to Portland, Oregon, in February of 1986, interrupted those plans to go abroad; nevertheless that early research still rests with me.  One of the provinces which I was studying was Szechuan, or Sichuan, which is the home of this post’s recipe.

Noodles are common throughout this vast country; among the many variations are Chongquing hot noodles, Wuhan hot and dry noodles, Henan stewed noodles, and Beijing style Zhajiang noodles.  The latter dish reaches far beyond the Hebei Province; it is made with pork gravy, which varies greatly from southern to northern China.

The cuisine of Szechuan, alternately known as Chuan or Sichuan, not only produces these spicy cold noodles, but also the famous dandanmian, or dandan noodles; they too have a spicy sauce, but contain preserved vegetables.  Both these dishes are street foods in Sichuan, for they are served ubiquitously, even in small food stands on the street.

I used poetic license, in that I chose pasta that is a complete protein and a natural, low glycemic food; thus, these delicious noodles are diabetic friendly.  This brand “Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Pasta” contains the six grains and legumes, which are mentioned in this Old Testament scripture.  As published on their box, these half-dozen organic foods are germinated in pure filtered water; therefore, beneficial enzymes are activated, causing sprouting and releasing powerful nutrients, which otherwise would lay dormant.  Diabetics who can’t tolerate carbohydrates are reporting good luck with this pasta in my rich repast.

Join me on a trip to China with this select, health-promoting receipt!

ingredients for spicy cold noodles

Spicy Cold Noodles  Yields: 4-5 servings.  Total prep time: 30 minutes, plus several hours for chilling.  Note: may omit the chicken for a vegan recipe.

1 1b chicken, or 5 tenderloins, thawed  (All natural is best; available reasonably at Trader Joe’s.)

10 oz dry pasta  (Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Fettuccine is a complete protein pasta, which is low glycemic, diabetic friendly, and high in fiber; may choose to use a spaghetti pasta.)

1 1/3 tbsp sesame oil

2 tbsp garlic, chopped

1/4 c sesame paste, or tahini  (Trader’s brand makes a good organic one.)

3 tbsp hot brewed tea

3 tbsp soy sauce  (Organic tamari is best for your body.)

3 tbsp red wine vinegar  (May also use rice vinegar.)

2 tsp sugar

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

  1. Thaw chicken in a bowl of warm water.  Fill a stock pot with 4 quarts of water; bring to a boil over med/high heat.
  2. Meanwhile peel garlic cloves; cut cloves in halves or thirds; measure 2 tablespoons worth of pieces.  (This amount gives a lot of

    emulsifying tahini and tea

    bite, may use more or less to taste.)  Place garlic in a food processor and press the pulse button repeatedly, to form a med/coarse grind; stop and scrape down sides once; set aside.  (May also chop with a sharp knife, if you don’t have a processor.)

  3. Place tenderloins in boiling water; turn down heat to medium; do not add salt.  Cook for about 4 minutes, or until just faintly pink in center; do not overcook.  Remove from water when done and place on a plate in refrigerator.  SAVE BROTH.
  4. Brew tea.  Place sesame butter in a large bowl, add hot tea, stir until emulsified, or smooth and creamy (see photo).  Blend in garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar; set aside.  (If chicken is finished cooking while you are preparing sauce, proceed to step 5, and then come back to sauce.)
  5. Bring broth-to which you have added 1 tsp of sesame oil-to a rapid boil over med/high heat in the stock pot.  Add pasta and turn down heat to medium (do not add salt, as this toughens the noodles).  Stirring occasionally, cook for approximately 6-7 minutes, or until al dente-slightly chewy.  Drain pasta and immediately submerge in cold water to stop cooking process, set aside.
  6. Cut chicken in bite-size pieces, add to sauce, and season with salt.  Toss together with pasta.
  7. Serve chilled.  Yum!