Vichy Carrots

Vichy carrots

Learn the intriguing facts surrounding the benefits of distilled water, over all other waters, with this famous recipe for Vichy carrots; its history takes us back to Vichy, France (for more on Vichy, see last week’s entry Vichysoisse).

This town, which was in collaboration with the Nazis during WWII, is highly regarded for its healing waters, rich in minerals and bi-carbonate, which are employed in this famous receipt.  Here, however, I make these carrots with health-promoting distilled water; to learn more about its powerful properties, read on.

Some say that up to four centuries ago, patrons of this spa town, were partaking in the then popular vegetable carrots, for they were considered part of the over-all cure.  Therefore this recipe evolved, incorporating the slightly carbonated Vichy waters, for it was held that the carbonation, as well as the carrots, helped with digestion; much like today, we remedy an upset stomach with soda crackers-saltines made with baking soda (bi-carbonate).  1

I discovered Vichy carrots in my copy of Joy of Cooking, printed in 1964; this cook book played a part in the beginning of my journey with food, which started in my junior year of college in the early 1970’s.  2

This recipe’s vitality is enhanced, by the optional incorporating of Monkfruit sweetener in place of sugar (for details see Date/Apricot Bars, 2019/06/12) and powerful ghee instead of butter (see Balsamic Eggs, 2019/05/07).  A pinch of baking soda is added to my choice of distilled water, to replace the Vichy mineral water.

Recently I got a H20 Lab water distiller, for I am convinced that distilled water is the answer to many health problems.  Dr. Allen E. Bank, in The Choice is Clear, illuminates how this one vital element can bring us vibrant health or rob us of it.  There are nine types of water: hard water, soft water, raw water, boiled water, rain water, snow water, filtered water, de-ionized water, and distilled water.  I am convinced that only distilled water is good for our bodies.  3

Bank describes how the possible cause of nearly all our aging diseases lies in inorganic minerals, which are in the air and ground; all water, except for distilled, contains these inorganic minerals (including Vichy water).  There are 106 different chemicals and minerals found in water; the process of purifying does not remove these, just distilling does.  4

Our bodies can only utilize organic minerals, which must come from plants, for plants convert the inorganic minerals carried to them by water, into their organic counterparts.  But through our water, we take in these inorganic minerals (such as calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, silicon), and we are not able to assimilate these nutrients efficiently-only through food can we receive these.  Thus, nature stores them in our joints as arthritis, our intestinal walls as constipation, our kidneys and livers as stones, and they harden the arteries of our hearts.  5

Distilled water not only prevents disease from coming to us, but it reverses the damage we have accumulated from the past; it literally heals us!  Water naturally attracts inorganic minerals: rain collects them from the air, well water is heavy in minerals found in the ground, and so on.  Water, however, does not attract the organic minerals we take in with our food.

The miracle of distilling is that it eliminates all minerals and chemicals, leaving pure water; in turn, when this enters our bodies, it now draws-picks up-mineral deposits accumulated in the arteries, joints, etc. and begins to carry them out.  Distilled water literally reverses the previous damage done to us; therefore, I am much convinced about the importance of distilled water for our over-all health.  6

Enjoy this extremely easy recipe, in which you may use distilled water, with a pinch of baking soda, to mimic Vichy water.

References:

  1. https://www.cooksinfo.com/vichy-carrots and https://urbnspice.com/my-recipes/urbnspice-series/inspiration-of-urbnspice-series/vichy-carrots/
  2. Irma S Rombauer & Marion Rombauer Becker, The Joy of Cooking (New York: A Signet Special, New American Library, 1931, 1936, 1941, 1942, 1946, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1962, 1963, 1964), p, 270.
  3. Dr. Allen E. Banks, The Choice is Clear (Austin, Texas: Acres USA, 1971, 1975, 1989), p. 12.
  4. Ibid., pp. 13, 31.
  5. Ibid., pp. 13, 14.
  6. Ibid., pp. 14, 15.

finished product

Vichy Carrots  Yields: 8 servings.  Prep time: 30 min (or 45 min if making optional ghee).  This is adapted from a recipe in my copy of Joy of Cooking, by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker, which was printed in 1964.

2 lb carrots, scraped, and thinly sliced diagonally  (Trader Joe’s has a 2 lb bag of organic, multi-colored carrots for $1.99.)

4 tbsp ghee, or butter  (For the simple ghee recipe see steps 1-5.)

2 tsp Monkfruit, cane sugar, or coconut sugar  (Lakanto  Monkfruit Sweetener is available at Costco.)

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

1/2 c water, with 2 pinches of baking soda (bicarbonate)

Chopped curly parsley for optional garnish

  1. first foam

    Proceed to step 6, if using butter instead of ghee.  To prepare health-giving ghee, which takes about 15 minutes, use only a heavy-bottomed saucepan.  In it, melt 8 oz unsalted butter-preferably Irish, grass-fed, Kerry butter from Costco-over medium heat, shaking pan to speed up melting.  Note: there is less wastage using only half a pound of butter, compared to doubling recipe with a pound.

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

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

  4. second foam risen, ghee finished

    To proceed with ghee, however, cook butterfat until a second foam rises, and it is golden in color.  This will take 2-3 more minutes, and temperature will reach 250 degrees.  Watch carefully as dry casein particles, settled on bottom of pan, will brown quickly.  See photo.

  5. Immediately, gently strain butterfat through a coffee filter, into a heat-proof dish.  Cool and transfer into an airtight container to keep out moisture.  This lasts for many weeks, at room temperature, and for up to six months, when stored in the refrigerator.
  6. scraping carrots in bag hung over nozzle of sink

    Wash and scrape carrots with a sharp knife; this preserves the vitamins just below the skin.  For cleanliness, scrape into a plastic garbage bag, which is hung over nozzle in kitchen sink; change bag as needed.  Place scraped carrots in another plastic bag.  See photo.

  7. Cut carrots in thin slices, at a diagonal; set aside.
  8. In a large, heavy-bottomed sauté pan, place 4 tbsp of ghee, or butter, Monkfruit, or sugar, salt, and water, to which you’ve added two pinches of baking soda (bicarbonate).  Melt over medium heat; add carrots, coating them well; then, cover closely and cook until barely tender, stirring occasionally.  Check for water periodically, adding a small amount more, if your pan isn’t heavy-bottom, and it starts to become dry.
  9. When carrots are desired tenderness, uncover pan and glaze carrots in remaining butter sauce, until all the water is evaporated, stirring frequently (see photo at top of recipe).
  10. Garnish with optional chopped curly parsley; serve hot.

1950s’ Lemon Bars

1950s’ lemon bars

Here I give details concerning the known history of tantalizing lemons-dating back to before Christ-as well as a time-tested receipt for lemon bars.

In the 1950s, my mother often made these great bars, using a then popular recipe probably derived from a magazine, to which I have added my touches to make them simpler, tastier, better!

There are many variations of fruit that grow on trees in the genus Citrus, and these are prone to form hybrids with each other, making it hard for scientists to work out family relationships.  Today it is believed that the common domesticated citrus fruits all derive from just three parents: the citron Citrus medica, the mandarin orange Citrus reticulate, and the pummelo Citrus maxima.  1

Lemons, so valued for their acidity-often 5% of the juice-are widely used in cooking and are highly revered in the making of beverages, pectin, medicines, and beauty products.  This fruit may have originated as a two-step hybrid, in which both steps were citron-crossed with lime.  It is proposed that the first step of this hybrid arose in the area of northwest India and Pakistan, while the second took place in the Middle East, where the citron, crossed with lime, was crossed additionally with pummelo.  2

In Food in History, Reay Tannahill postulates that people may have been eating lemons and limes as early as 2300 BC, when the cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-Dato, of the great Indus civilizations, were at their peak.  3

Around 100 AD lemons arrived in the Mediterranean via Arab traders; by 400 they were planted in orchards in Moorish Spain.  Presently they are mainly cultivated in subtropical regions, with many varieties of true lemon, as well as a couple of further hybrids, such as the Ponderosa and Meyer lemons; the Ponderosa is large and coarse, probably a lemon-citron cross.  The Meyer, probably a cross between the lemon and either orange or mandarin, however, is thin-skinned, with less acid, and a distinctive flavor due in part to a thyme note (from thymol); this later came to California in the early 20th century.  4

“Curing” promotes longer shelf life of lemons.  Being picked green, they are held in controlled conditions for several weeks, allowing their green skins to yellow, thin, and develop a waxy surface; curing also promotes enlargement of the juice vesicles.  5

Epicures appreciate the preserved lemons of northern Africa as a condiment; they are made by cutting and salting lemons and letting them ferment for several weeks.  (Up to a month may be required, as suggested in the great recipe at https://nourishedkitchen.com/morrocan-preserved-lemons/.)  This process allows for the growth of bacteria and yeasts, which softens the rind and changes the aroma from bright and sharp to rich and rounded.  6

Often attempts are made to shorten the steps with many in-depth cooking procedures today.  Such has occurred with these preserved lemons-for example they are frozen and thawed to speed salt penetration, then salted for a few hours or days.  This will bring some of the needed chemical changes as the oil glands are disrupted and their contents are mixed with other substances, but without fermentation, full flavor development will not occur.  7

In On Food and Cooking, Harold McGee writes that lemon comes via Arabic from a Persian word, reflecting the route these Asian fruits took as they made their way to the West.  8

Enjoy the explosion of great flavor in this proven lemon bar recipe!

References:

  1. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 373.
  2. Ibid., p. 377.
  3. Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: Three River Press, 1973, 1988), pp. 38, 39.
  4. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 377.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid. and https://nourishedkitchen.com/morrocan-preserved-lemons/
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.

finished product

1950s’ Lemon Bars  Yields: 16 small bars.  Total prep time: 55 min/  active prep time: 20 min/  inactive prep time: 10 min/ baking time: 25 min.  (There was a note on Mom’s recipe to add more lemon to this original 20th century recipe; thus, I increased both the lemon juice and flour to 3 tbsp each.)

1 c plus 3 tbsp unbleached white flour  (Bob’s Red Mill organic is high quality.)

1/2 c butter, softened

1/4 c powdered sugar  (Organic is best; available at Trader Joe’s.)

2 lg eggs

1 c sugar  (Coconut sugar is ideal, in place of the white; may also use turbinado, raw cane sugar.)

Zest of 2 small lemons  (Organic is very important, in order to avoid the taste of pesticides; available inexpensively at Trader’s.)

3 tbsp lemon juice, fresh squeezed

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

1/2 tsp baking powder

  1. golden crust

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Spray lemons with a safe, effective, inexpensive produce spray (combine 97% white distilled vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide).  Let sit for 3 minutes and rinse well.
  3. With a fork in a medium bowl, blend 1 c flour, butter, and 1/4 c powdered sugar, until mealy like a pie crust.  Pat mixture firmly into an ungreased 8” x 8” pan and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown (see above photo).  Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes.
  4. frothy filling mixture

    Meanwhile zest lemons, then juice them.

  5. Slightly beat the eggs in a bowl with an electric mixer; blend in your choice of 1 c white, coconut, or turbindo sugar.  (For info on coconut and cane sugars, see Zucchini Bread-2017/07/24-and Pear Pie-2016/10/31-respectively.)
  6. Mix in remaining 3 tbsp flour, salt, and baking powder; add lemon zest and juice, beating until frothy (see photo above).  Set aside.
  7. bars at end of baking

    Spread lemon mixture evenly on top of slightly cooled crust.  Return to oven and bake for 25 minutes more, or until golden brown.  Note: this will firm up more with cooling.  See photo.

  8. Dust with powdered sugar and cut into 16 pieces, while bars are warm.  Refrigerate leftovers.

Struan Bread, a Powerful Loaf

struan loaf

This incredible bread recipe came to me through Baking with the American Harvest, a beautifully laid-out baking journal, published bi-monthly by Cindy Mushet, during the early to mid-nineties.  This was before the popularity of blogs and what internet now offers with its vast information on food.  1

Back then, she originally mailed out a one-year subscription (six issues) from her base in Santa Monica, California, for $24/year; later it became four issues for $18 a year.  Each of these editions came printed on stiff, rich Manila paper with snippets of historical images scattered throughout; the recipes were tried and true, written in their timely context.  (While this creative lady was publishing this unique newsletter, I was placing food in the midst of its social/cultural history for popular magazines and educational journals.)

When examining my files recently, I discovered two letters from Ms. Mushet, dated the winter of 1994-95, in which she was responding to my request for her back issues, featuring a two-part review of chocolate (for my inspired version of one of these recipes, see chocolate scones).

This correspondence delighted me, for she was congratulating me on finding a fun and unique niche in the food industry, with my catering of events featuring historical foods.  This is my version of dinner theatre, in which the audience partakes, by eating the documented ailments, while I dressed in period costume use third-person to relay the full impact, of what Ms. Mushet refers to as “anthropological adaptations”.  (For more on my early business, see About, Serungdeng Kacang, Bolitos de Chocolat y Coco, Scottish Oat Scones, and Cocoa Bread,)

Blogging changed the world!  On-line publishing replaced hard-copy journals and newsletters, such as the above.  After a slow start, blogging spread rapidly during 1999 and the years following.  Wikipedia states that the early part of the second millennium marked the role of blogs becoming increasingly more main stream; it was then that politicians, political consultants, and news services began using them as tools for outreach and opinion forming.  (Many believe that Watergate played the initial role in this development.)  Today, blogs are used effectively in many diverse fields, with food not being least among these.  2

In my blog entry today, I share Ms. Mushet’s struan bread, which she declares is legendary Scottish harvest bread, originally published by Peter Reinhart.  In my version of this, I like to use freshly ground flour which greatly enhances this staff of life, but is totally optional.  I also give detailed, foolproof instructions for the mess-free mixing of the dough in a food processor, followed by the kneading of it by hand, with little or no flour on a counter top.  Clean, clean, clean!

This bread is a winner, with everything but the kitchen sink in it; for among its grains, it calls for cooked brown rice, uncooked polenta, oats, and wheat bran, along with much more.  It often graces my larder, which is always stocked with fresh, homemade bread.  Enjoy!

References:

  1. Cindy Mushet, Baking with the American Harvest, 5 volumes (Santa Monica, CA: Cindy Mushet, 1992-1997).
  2. https://en.wikipedidia.org/wiki/Blog#Origins
  3. https://www.amazon.com/Cindy-Mushet/e/B001JSDHFW

optional grinding of flour with a Kitchen Aid attachment

Struan Bread  Yields: 1 loaf or 20 small rolls.  Total prep time: 3 hr/  active prep time: 30 min/  baking time: 30 min/  inactive prep time: 2 hr.

3 1/2 tsp active dry yeast  (Costco carries 2 lb packages of Red Star Active Dry Yeast; this keeps a long time in a sealed container in the freezer; it’s best when warmed to room temperature.)

1/4 tsp sugar

1 3/8-1 1/2 c tepid water, 110-115 degrees

2 1/2 c whole wheat flour  (Bob’s Red Mill is high quality.)

1 c unbleached white flour  (Optional: may grind 2 1/3 c organic hard red spring wheat berries to make the total 3 1/2 c fresh flour.)

1/4 c uncooked polenta

1/4 c rolled oats (Organic is only slightly more expensive in bulk; best price is at our local Winco.)

1/4 c brown sugar, packed

1/6 c wheat bran

1 tbsp poppy seed

2 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is sold cheaply at Costco.)

1/4 c cooked brown rice  (May freeze individual 1/4-c baggies of leftover rice ahead of time, to thaw as needed.

Spay oil and oil, of your choice, for oiling a 13-gal plastic bag, used in raising bread

  1. proofed yeast

    If grinding your own flour, begin to do so now (see above photo).

  2. Place 1/4 c lukewarm water (110-115 degrees) in a small bowl; stir in yeast and 1/4 tsp sugar.  Let sit in a warm place, until creamy, foaming, and nearly double in size, for about 10 minutes (see photo).
  3. When yeast is proofed, place flour and all dry ingredients, as well as rice, in an 11-cup-or-larger-food processor; blend well.
  4. Add proofed yeast and 1 1/4 c tepid water to flour mixture. (Fresh-ground flour, however, only calls for 1 1/8 cups of water, as this is a coarser grind, not absorbing as much moisture.)  Turn machine on and

    dough after initial kneading by food processor

    knead for 35 seconds; turn off and let dough rest for 4 minutes (see photo).  This resting period cools dough, which is essential as processing increases heat, and too much heat will kill the yeast.

  5. After resting for 4 minutes, turn on the processor again; knead dough for 35 seconds more (see photo below). Take out and knead by hand for about 8 minutes, or until satiny smooth, minus the lumps from the grains; see

    dough after second kneading by food processor

    bottom photo for dough before and after kneading by hand.  (As wet dough readily sticks to hands, rinse and dry them as needed to facilitate easy kneading.  Store-bought flours are a finer grind; therefore they absorb the moisture more readily and won’t be so sticky.  Much moisture is absorbed while kneading by hand-this is especially true with freshly ground flour.  Ideally it should be firm, but supple when finished.  These instructions should be foolproof, but IF needed, do the following: if dough remains quite wet and sticky, after kneading by hand for several minutes, slowly add more flour to your board as you knead.  If, however, it is very stiff-too stiff to knead easily-place it back in processor, and knead in 1 tbsp water.

    dough before and after final kneading by hand

    If called for, which is unlikely, repeat this step until severe stiffness is gone, it is flexible, and kneading by hand is facile; CAREFULLY rest dough, so as not to overheat.  When hand-kneading is finished, it should be firm, smooth, not sticky.

  6. Place prepared dough in a 13-gal plastic bag, in which several tbsp of oil have been evenly distributed; let rise in a warm place for 60 minutes. (Only if using freshly ground flour, punch dough down and let rise it for an additional 30 minutes, to make lighter bread with this coarser flour).
  7. Punch dough down and form loaf-or rolls-and place in a bread pan sprayed with oil.  Loosely cover with a piece of plastic wrap, which has also been sprayed with oil.
  8. Let rise until doubled, for about 50-60 minutes.  Important: 30 minutes into the rising process, preheat oven to 400 degrees, to insure oven is ready when it is time to bake.
  9. When doubled, bake loaf for 27-30 minutes, or until bread sounds hollow when tapped on bottom (rolls will take 20 minutes).  Cool on rack.  Enjoy this power-packed bread!

Beef Vinaigrette

beef vinaigrette on aspic

This is one of my all-time favorite recipes; I look forward to summers when I can indulge in it, for it is a cold dish.  I discovered this treat during my early catering days in Esther B. Aresty’s The Delectable Past, in which she shares the lost joys of the table gathered from her extensive collection of rare old cook books.  1

Aresty updates this delightful, historical receipt for her 1970’s kitchen, to which I have added my inspired touches.  She found this profound dish in Sarah Phillips’ The Ladies Handmaid, 1758, noting that it had limited circulation, and is unknown today to most bibliographers,

Phillips, this early English author, displays her magnetic personality in her recipe book.  In it she encourages her readers that it needs very few arguments to persuade people to prefer a good dinner to a bad one.  Her energetic approach to cooking is best revealed in her remarks on fish preparation: “Rip open the belly. Gut it. Strip it and hack it with a knife.”  2

This inspired, eighteenth century beef recipe is unparalleled, for it graces the best of our tables still today, pleasing without exception during the hot months!

We can learn much about the history of cook books from this receipt, by placing the book of its origin in proper historical perspective, demonstrating how the era it was from brought fine foods to the common man.

Prior to its time, cook books were prevailingly penned only by men in Europe.  Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)-known as Dr. Johnson-was an English lexicographer, critic, author, and conversationalist; he declared mid-century that women could spin very well, but they could not write a good book of cookery.  He, however, did not stop the tidal wave of female authors that were to overtake the writing of books on cooking in England.  This phenomenon actually began as early as 1714, with the advent of Mary Kettlby’s instructions for housewives-as well as cook maids at country inns-in A Collection of Above Three Hundred Receipts in Cookery, Physick and Surgery.  The momentum for feminine authorship merely grew over the years.  3

Cook books and Bibles share the distinction of being the earliest books printed.  Platina, a noted humanist and Vatican librarian, published the first cook book, De Honesta Voluptate, in 1475, just twenty years after the onset of printing with the Gutenberg Bible.  Germany, France, Spain, and England published cookery books shortly thereafter (prior to this, recipe collections were only handwritten).  These printed works could best be labeled “for a prince’s household”, though none were comparable to Platina’s De Honesta Volupate in magnitude, exemplifying the revival of the art of cooking during the Renaissance.  4

A long silence followed the first printing of an English cook book, The Boke of Cookery, 1500.  Change came when this silence was broken at the end of that century: detailed directions for elaborate food preparations were now addressed to the wives supervising better-class homes, rather than to chefs for noblemen, as was the previous precedent; all these books, however, were written by males during this Elizabethan period.  5

But a still greater change came later in the eighteenth century, when English women totally invaded what had previously been a man’s realm: British cook books were now being written by women, as well as being intended for feminine readership.  Prior to this, particularities concerning culinary preparation predominantly belonged to men in Europe: recipes were recorded by male chefs, who prepared these delicacies for nobility.

Writing for the chefs of noblemen in his book Le Cuisinier Francois, 1651, the Frenchman Francois Pierre de La Varenne was the first to publish what was to become a worldwide movement away from heavy medieval cuisine, with its influx of dense spices and almond pastes.  Here he emphasized the subtle accents of mushrooms and truffles, simple sauces made with pan drippings, and the use of butter instead of oil in pastries.  6

Shortly thereafter, there was a further shift found in the culinary sphere in seventeenth century France, with the beginning hints in cook books of fine foods not being just for kings, queens, and noblemen.  Then in the eighteenth century, Manin first and then Menon (the relatively unknown Manet and Monet of French cuisine) promoted what was to become a culinary outreach to the bourgeoisie in their writings.  7

Nevertheless, it was the British female authors who played the predominant part in introducing the greater populace to fine cuisine.  Our delightful beef recipe was created at the height of this male-to-female transformation that took place in culinary England in the 1700s.

Enjoy its many dimensions of flavor, which are produced simply.

References:

  1. Esther B. Aresty, The Delectable Past (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964).
  2. Ibid., pp. 118, 119.
  3. Ibid., pp. 109, 110.
  4. Ibid., pp. 27, 28, 32
  5. Ibid., pp. 32, 43, 44.
  6. Ibid., pp. 60, 61.
  7. Ibid., pp. 94-98.
  8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_cuisine
  9. https://www.ecpi.edu/blog/a-brief-history-of-french-cuisine

beef vinaigrette

Beef Vinaigrette  Yields: 10 servings.  Total prep time: 7 hr, which includes 3 1/2 hr for chilling/  active prep time: 30 min/  cooking time: 3 hr.  Note: may make a day or two ahead.

4 lb beef brisket

1/2 c dry white wine

1 bay leaf

1 small yellow onion, diced

1/4 tsp whole allspice

1/2 tsp dried tarragon (or 1 tbsp fresh)

3 sprigs of parsley

capers for garnish

Aspic

1 3/4 c hot broth from meat

1/4 c cold water

1 individual envelope of unflavored gelatin

  1. prepped meat

    Trim excess fat off brisket; place in a heavy stewing pot, with a tight lid.  Add enough water to come up 1/2” in the pot; then, stir in all other ingredients, except capers and those for aspic (see photo).

  2. Bring to a boil over med/high heat.  Reduce heat to med/low, cover, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.
  3. At the end of this time, turn meat over, and cook for another 1 1/2 hours; check liquid periodically, adding more water only if needed.  (See photo below of finished product.)
  4. finished brisket

    Remove brisket and place on a plate in refrigerator.  Strain remaining broth.  Measure 1 3/4 c, adding water to make full amount as needed, or if liquid is more than 1 3/4 c, boil it to reduce to given quantity.  Bring the 1 3/4 c broth to a light boil in a small pot; then, remove from heat.

  5. Meanwhile, place 1/4 c cold water in a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin on top, and stir with a spoon.  Dissolve this in hot broth, pour into an 8” x 8” pan, and refrigerate.
  6. After chilling meat for at least 3 hours, cut in slices, keeping them in order to retain the shape of the brisket; set aside.
  7. scraping fat off aspic

    Take pan of solidified aspic out of refrigerator, and scrape fat off top with a table knife (see photo).  Cut in 1″ cubes.

  8. Place aspic cubes on a platter covered with greens; arrange sliced beef brisket on top of aspic; garnish with capers (see initial photo).

Herbes de Provence Bread

Herbes de Provence bread

In my last entry on the history of garlic, I sited Provence, France as the place where America’s farm-to-table movement originated.  (Hopefully you were able to partake of my quick chicken soup.)

Here Herbes de Provence is creatively used in an easy, mess-free bread recipe, employing a food processor, which provides outstanding aroma and flavor.

This region’s commercial herb mixture-so prevalent on the market-only dates back to the 1970’s, about the time that Alice Waters started Chez Panisse.  In doing so, she initiated this American culinary (farm-to-table) trend based on fresh, simple foods combined with Provencal cooking methods (for more on this, see Quick Chicken Soup, 2018/05/11).

In their famous Mastering of the Art of French Cooking, 1961, Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck state that classical French cuisine utilizes far less herbs than most Americans would suspect; these Europeans traditionally use them as an accent and a complement, never dominating the essential flavors of the main ingredients.  Likewise, their emphasis in this bread is fine. 1

Various regions in France, as with all of southern Europe, have their own unique herbs mixes, according to available plants.  Our Herbes de Provence is considered the youngest member of this family of French mixes, usually referring to the mix of typical herbs from this southeastern Provencal region, though it is also produced in other countries presently.

Whether fresh or dried, these blends, which are not standard, often contain savory, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, and oregano, among other herbs; mixes sold under that name outside France can also include lavender.  The generic name Herbes de Provence doesn’t have Protected Geographical Status, such as I have defined for the balsamic vinegar in my Roasted Beet and Balsamic Chicken Salad.  Therefore, there is no guarantee that the herbs which make up these Franco composites were actually grown in Provence.

Originally their varying herbs were foraged in the wild in this region, and the name was used descriptively for those unspecified combinations; now, however, their vital ingredients often come from abroad.  In the 1970’s, Herbes de Provence mixes began to be formulated by spice wholesalers, such as Ducros in France, which is now a part of McCormick and Company.  Since then, these herbs have been cultivated there by both large producers and small family farms; nevertheless, the largest quantities of these herbal elements are actually imported, e.g., rosemary from Spain, thyme from Morocco, and marjoram from Egypt.

Different producers, including those in America, provide mixtures with unique tastes, which are subtly discerned, though their overall impact is common.  This bread boasts of the outstanding flavor of that herb blend, as found at our handy Trader Joe’s (which contains lavender).  This savory loaf pleases any palate!

References:

Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, vol. 1, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1971), p. 18.

https://happybellyfish.com/herbs-de-provence-recipes-history/

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

grinding wheat berries

Herbes de Provence Bread  Yields: 1 loaf.  Total prep time: 3 hours/  active prep time: 30 min/  inactive prep time: 2 hr/  baking time: 30 min.

1 3/8-1 5/8 c tepid water (105-115 degrees)

1 individual package of dry yeast  (May use 2 tsp of Red Star Active Dry Yeast, which is available inexpensively in 2 lb packages at Costco; this keeps well sealed in the freezer; best if brought to room temperature.)

2 1/4 tsp sugar

3 c whole wheat flour

1 c unbleached white flour  (Optional: may grind 2 2/3 c hard red spring wheat berries to make the total 4 c flour.)

1 tbsp Herbes de Provence  (Available at a good price at Trader Joe’s.)

1 1/4 tsp salt

13-gallon plastic bag plus 3-4 tbsp oil  (Any kind of oil will do for oiling bag.)

Coconut spray oil  (Pam coconut spray oil can be found in most grocery stores; our local Winco brand, however, is much less expensive.)

  1. proofing yeast

    If grinding your own flour, begin to do so now (see photo at top of recipe).

  2. Place 1/4 c lukewarm water-110 to 115 degrees-in a small bowl; stir in yeast and 1/4 tsp sugar.  Let sit in a warm place, until creamy, foamy, and nearly double in size, about 10 minutes (see photo above).
  3. Place flour, Herbes de Provence, 2 tbsp sugar, and salt in an 11-c-or larger-food processor; blend well.
  4. When yeast is proofed, add it and 1 3/8 c tepid water to flour mixture; for ease, may measure 1 1/4 c water, then remove 2 tbsp to make a total 1 3/8 c.  (With fresh-ground flour, however, only 1 1/8 c of water is needed.)  Turn

    dough after first 35-second kneading

    machine on and knead for 35 seconds (see photo); turn off and let dough rest for 4 minutes.  (This resting period cools dough, which is essential as processing increases heat, and too much heat will kill the yeast.)

  5. After pausing for 4 minutes, turn on the processor; knead dough for 35 seconds more (see photo below).  Take out and knead by hand for 5 minutes, or until satiny smooth; see bottom photo for dough after kneading by hand.  (As wet dough readily sticks to hands, rinse them

    dough after second 35-second kneading

    as needed to facilitate easy kneading.  Many store-bought flours are a finer grind; therefore, they absorb the moisture more readily and won’t be so sticky.  Much moisture is absorbed while kneading by hand-this is especially true with fresh-ground flour.  Ideally it should be firm, but supple when finished. These instructions should be foolproof, but IF needed, do the following: if dough remains quite wet and sticky, after kneading by hand for several minutes, slowly add more flour to your board as you knead.  If, however, it is too stiff to knead by hand easily, place it

    dough after kneading by hand

    back in processor, and knead in 1 tbsp water.  If called for, repeat this step until severe stiffness is gone, it is flexible, and kneading by hand is facile; carefully rest dough, so as not to overheat.  Note: dough should be firm and not sticky after final kneading.)

  6. Place prepared dough in a well-oiled 13-gallon plastic bag; let rise in a warm place for 50-60 minutes, or until double.
  7. Form loaf and place in a bread pan sprayed with oil.  Loosely cover with a piece of plastic wrap, which has also been sprayed with oil.
  8. Let rise until doubled, for about 50-60 minutes.  Important: 30 minutes into the rising process, preheat oven to 400 degrees, to insure oven is ready when it is time to bake risen bread.
  9. When doubled, bake loaf for 27-30 minutes, or until bread sounds hollow when tapped on bottom.  Cool on rack.  Enjoy this delightful bread!

Quick Chicken Soup

quick chicken soup

Soup-cooking weather is drawing to a close here in Northwest America, but it is still prevalent in other parts of the world that are reached by my writings.  Here is a quick, delicious receipt, which includes broccoli or asparagus (see my last entry to access this spring vegetable, sautéed with leftover, browned milk solids from ghee).

Much romance surrounds chicken soup; this is often one of our favorites from “mom’s best”-which gently nudged us out of our sick beds.  My earliest recollection of this soup, however, was that of the Campbell’s variety during the 1950’s.

My recipe boasts of lots of garlic, which comes with an interesting history all its own.  According to Sarah Lohman in Eight Flavors, it wasn’t the heavy Italian immigration at the turn of the 20th century that gave our country its love for this plant; rather, its colorful history dates further back to the international influence of the French chef Marie Antoine Careme.  He started his impressive career as a kitchen boy, at the age of eight, shortly after being abandoned by his parents, during the early political upheavals of the French Revolution, in 1792. 1

This man changed Western cuisine.  He replaced the then heavy use of imported spices, employed in the food preparation of the upper class since medieval times, with an introduction of fresh herbs and flavorful plants-such as onions and garlic-which had hitherto solely been found in the poor man’s diet; only local herbs and garlic, however, were used by the lower class, where Carame went afar to gather various ingredients for his extravagant repasts.  Strong emphasis on onions, thyme, bay, basil, and garlic can be seen in Careme’s recipes.  His feasts-elaborate by our means-held a novel focus on freshness, flavor, and simplicity (compared to that of his predecessors).  He is remembered, along with La Varenne, as the founder of haute cuisine. 2

Careme has greatly influenced Western cooking; nevertheless, his impact on our country, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, was only brief.  Here our newly acquired taste for garlic can be seen in Mary Randolph’s Beef-a-la-Mode, found in The Virginia Housewife (1824), which called for two heads of it for a single pot roast. 3  Prior to that, garlic was eschewed on this continent, as represented in Amelia Simmon’s American Cookery, 1796, for she wrote: “Garliks, tho’ ufed by the French, are better adapted to the ufes of medicine than cookery”. 4  Just a generation after Randolph’s garlicky 1824 receipt, the use of this allium became minimal once again, as seen in numerous American cook books of that period. 5

At the turn of the 20th century, massive Italian immigration came to our soil, with Italian Americans representing 10 percent of the US population by 1920.  Neither their culture or food ways were easily assimilated back then; thus, their heavy use of garlic was disdained by main line America, due in part to our earlier aversion to it. 6

Lohman attributes the beginning of the reversal, of our revulsion to this plant, to the heavy influx of American artists living around Paris, following the World War I; nearly thirty million of these sojourners were there during the 1920’s and 30’s, including M.F.K. Fisher and Earnest Hemingway; this artistic population initiated the idolization of garlic in print, because of their exposure to the popular garlic-laden cooking of Provence, where fresh and simple techniques were the direct result of Careme’ influence a hundred years prior. 7

In 1945, the future American legend James Beard-renown cook, television personality, and author-was stationed in Provence; here his culinary techniques were formed and, with them, his passion for garlic.  Thus by his works, this flavorful plant was pushed even further forward in its comeback in the USA.  Note: when Beard was serving in France, we were consuming 4.5 million pounds of it a year; this brought on by the artists.  By 1956, 36 million pounds were being consumed annually, due in large part to Beard picking up the torch lit by Careme.  (Presently the average American consumes about 2 pounds of garlic in a twelve month period.) 8

Several decades hence in 1971, Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse in Berkley, where she brought even more life to what Careme and Beard had started, with her founding of the farm-to-table movement; here she emphasizes locally produced ingredients in her famous French/Italian cuisine, prepared with the simple, fresh, garlic-laden Provencal cooking techniques. 9

Today, unlike the turn of the 20th century, there is a mainstream acceptance of Italian American food with all its original heavy use of this plant; this phenomenon can be clearly seen in some of America’s highest-grossing food chains: the Olive Garden and Domino’s Pizza.  There is even a rise in garlic-themed festivals throughout our country, which tend to promote Italian American inspired classics, such as fettuccine Alfredo (a purely American dish unknown in Italy.)  Nevertheless, our country’s love for garlic doesn’t come from Italy, but rather from the revival of French cuisine and the origins of the farm-to-table movement, established on the innovations of Careme. 10

This pungent allium strongly impacts my soup; enjoy its many dimensions.

References:

  1. Sarah Lohman, Eight Flavors (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2016), p. 155.
  2. Ibid., pp. 149-179;  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haute_cuisine   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie-Antoine_Car%C3%AAme  
  3. Sarah Lohman, Eight Flavors (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2016), pp.159.
  4. Amelia Simmons, American Cookery, 1796, (reprinted, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1965), p. 22.
  5. Sarah Lohman, Eight Flavors (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2016), pp. 159-160.
  6. Ibid., pp. 160-163.
  7. Ibid., pp.163-164.
  8. Ibid., pp. 153, 166.
  9. Ibid., pp. 166-169.
  10. Ibid., pp. 150,170, 171.

finished product

Quick Chicken Soup  Yields: 2 1/2 quarts.  Total prep time: 1 1/3 hr/  active prep time: 40 min/  cooking time: 40 min.

1 lb chicken tenderloins  (May substitute breasts or thighs.)

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

1 lg onion, chopped

3 lg carrots, cut in small cubes

1 head of cauliflower, divided into florettes

1 1b asparagus, cut in bite-size pieces  (May use frozen broccoli instead.)

1-liter plus 15-oz can of chicken broth  (Bone broth is ideal; see Tortellini Soup, 2016/10/10, for easy instructions.)

6 extra lg cloves garlic, minced  (May use 3 cubes of frozen garlic from Trader Joe’s for easy prep.)

1 tbsp Herbes de Provence  (Trader’s has a great buy on these.)

1 c rice  (May substitute quinoa, which is diabetic friendly.)

1 tsp freshly ground pepper, or to taste

2 tsp salt, or to taste  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive Himalayan salt is available in bulk at our local Winco.)

2 tsp Better Than Bouillon (chicken flavor), or to taste

  1. sweating onions

    Place chicken in a medium saucepan, cover barely with warm water to begin thawing process; if using frozen broccoli, set out to thaw.

  2. Heat oil in a saute pan, add chopped onions, and sweat-cook until translucent-as shown in photo.  Stir occasionally.  Set aside.
  3. Spray vegetables with a safe, effective, inexpensive vegetable spray (combine 97 % distilled white vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide); let sit for 3 minutes; rinse thoroughly.
  4. Bring chicken to a boil over medium heat, cook for 10 minutes, or until pink is nearly gone.  Remove tenderloins from cooking water, set both chicken and liquid aside to cool.
  5. Place 1 1/2-liters broth and 1 1/2 cups of water in a stock pot; cover and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  6. dividing cauliflower into florettes

    Chop carrots in small cubes; cut asparagus in bite-size pieces, by first removing tough ends.  Divide cauliflower into small florettes, by cutting small sections away from head; pare excess stem off these portions; then divide each of these sections into small florettes with the tip of a knife (see photo).

  7. Place vegetables and cooked onions in broth.
  8. Add to stock pot: garlic, Herbes de Provence, rice, pepper, and salt (only 2 tsp presently, as the Better Than Bouillon in step 8 will also add saltiness).  Cover and bring to a second boil over med/high heat; then, uncover, lower heat, and simmer for 35 minutes, or until rice is soft.
  9. When rice is finished cooking, cut chicken into bite-size pieces; add both poultry and its cooking liquid to soup.  Mix in Better Then Bouillon, and adjust seasonings to taste.
  10. Serve this light, healthy soup with pride; may freeze leftovers for unexpected company, or for a sick day.

The Best Corned Beef

corned beef and cabbage

In Ireland, they do not celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with corned beef and cabbage, but rather lamb or bacon, on what has long been a religious holiday there. Why therefore does the rest of the world, in particular the U.S., count this dish synonymous with this day that has become so filled with frolic?  It was through numerous developments that the Irish immigrants in America adopted this tradition, with its roots which are actually Gaelic.

Early Irish Immigrants Weren’t Eating Corned Beef

These immigrants first arrived here when fleeing the Great Famine, which was brought about by the European potato blight that desperately hit their homeland, starting in 1845.  They disembarked knowing only “about” the corn beef of their forefathers, and that differing greatly from what they began to eat in the U.S.

This dish has a complicated history.  Beef was originally not regarded as an option in the old country, but rather pork and bacon provided the rare meat at a meal (pig is still their favored animal to be bred only for food).  From ancient times on, the common Irishman regarded the cow as a work animal, consuming only its milk products, not its flesh; this latter was primarily reserved only for the wealthy few, and even for them, merely at celebrations and festivals.  Salting was their typical means of preserving meat.

English Cattle Acts Left Ireland with Surplus Beef

When the English conquered this country in the 16th century, the cow turned into a food commodity.  Since the time of Roman invasion, the English have had a voracious appetite for beef, hence their need to outsource for this.  After their conquest of the Gaelic land, tens of thousands of live cattle were exported yearly across the Irish Sea, until the mid-17th century, when a series of Cattle Acts enacted by the English Parliament put a stop to this export; thus, providing the fuel that ignited the Irish corned beef industry.  These Cattle Acts left Ireland with an inundation of cows, bringing meat prices down, and making it affordable and abundant for their salted beef production, their means of preservation; thus, now even the peasant could consume this food.

Term ‘Corned Beef’ Introduced

It was around this time that the term corned beef became popular, because of the large size of salt crystals used to cure it, for they looked like a kernel of corn.  The word kernel is derived from the Old English crynel, meaning seed or kernel, a diminutive of corn.

Rise and Fall of Popularity of Corned Beef from Ireland

Subsequently Ireland became known for its abundant, high quality salted beef, now called corned beef, which tasted more like salt than beef.  In addition to the overflow of cows due to the Cattle Acts, they also had access to the highest quality of imported salt, as their salt tax was one tenth that of England.  (In good corned beef, the quality of salt is almost as important as the cut of beef.)  The demand for this best-on-the-market, Irish corned beef soared in Europe and the Americas, spiking the price so high that the common Irishman could no longer afford to eat it; thus, the potato, which the English had introduced in the 1580’s, became their major food source in the Gaelic land.

This high, European and American demand for Irish salted beef continued until the end of the 18th century, when the North American colonies began producing their own; the glory days of Irish corned beef came to a close over the next 50 years; hence, the economy in Ireland was affected greatly.  This coupled with the Great Famine-brought by the European potato blight starting in 1845-resulted in great destruction in this land, as this plant disease completely destroyed the Irish food source.  As a result, about a million people sought refuge in America.  Being the land of plenty, they could now afford meat, a first in their lifetimes; that which they chose happened to be the affordable “corn beef”.  Here, however, it greatly differed from that of the corned or salted beef of their ancestors 200 years prior.

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

These immigrants settled in the urban centers of New York and Philadelphia, next to their Jewish neighbors, who had kosher butcher shops, where the Irish bought this product; the Jewish butchers used brisket, a kosher cut, for what they called corned beef.  Being a tougher cut, it called for the salting and cooking processes that rendered the extremely tender corn beef, with its exceptional flavors, such as we know today.  The Irish paired this with their beloved potato and the inexpensive vegetable cabbage.  This “Jewish” corned beef then became the celebratory meal for the American Irish on their religious holiday St. Patrick’s Day.  Time transformed this hallowed feast day into its present, grand celebration of Irish heritage.

American Preparations Old and New

Today this beef brisket-cut is generally cured or pickled by injecting seasoned brine (the brisket-cut comes from the area just above the front legs; it rests on top of the shank cut, which is immediately above these legs in the forefront).  Hence today most of our savory corned briskets never actually touch any salt grains, the size of corn kernels or otherwise, like that of the famous salted beef of old.

Though not the typical corned brisket of the former era, in The Hamilton Cookbook, 2017, Laura Kumin cites Richard Briggs’ 1792 recipe “To Stew a Brisket of Beef”, from The English Art of Cookery: “a pint of red wine, or strong beer, a half of pound of butter, a bunch of sweet herbs, three or four shallots, some pepper and half a nutmeg grated.”  Browned, boiled turnips were added at the end, after the liquor-or gravy-had been thickened with “burnt butter”.

The following is my sister’s modern recipe, which calls for braising, resulting in super tender morsels of meat.  Enjoy this effortless receipt, while wearing the green this year.

References:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/is-corned-beef-really-irish-2839144/

http://www.foodandwine.com/fwx/food/complicated-irish-history-corned-beef

http://www.kitchenproject.com/history/CornedBeef.htm

Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1988, 1973), pp. 289-291.

Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 2004, 1984), p. 175.

Laura Kumin, The Hamilton Cookbook (New York, Nashville: Post Hill Press, 2017), pp. 90, 91.

glazed meat

Corned Beef Brisket  Yields: 6-8 servings.  Total prep time: 7 1/4 hr for 3 1/2-lb brisket/  active prep time: 30 min/  cooking time: 7 hr (or 2 hr for each lb of meat).

3 1/2 lb corned beef brisket

1 lg yellow onion  (Organic vegetables are best.)

8 extra lg cloves garlic, or the equivalent

6-8 red or Yukon gold potatoes, cut in halves

1 1/2 lb green cabbage, cut in sixths or eighths, leaving root on

1-1 1/4 lb carrots, cut in large pieces

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

Yellow mustard

Brown sugar  (Organic is best; available at Trader Joe’s or Costco.)

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees; take veggies out of refrigerator to warm.
  2. preparation for initial braising

    Rub seasonings from spice packet on brisket.  Place in oven-proof stock pot with onions and garlic.  Barely submerge in water (see photo); cover with lid and braise for 1 hour in oven at 375 degrees; then, lower temperature to 325 degrees, if brisket is normal size of 3 1/2 to 4 lbs-if brisket is larger, only lower heat to 350.  Cook meat for 6 hours for 3 1/2 lbs.  The TOTAL cooking time should be determined by figuring 2 hrs per lb (this time includes that needed for the replacement of vegetables for the meat the last hour of cooking); thus, a total of 7 hours for a 3 1/2 lb brisket).

  3. 1 1/3 hour before serving, spray vegetables with an inexpensive, safe, effective vegetable spray (a mixture of 97% distilled white vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide); let sit 3 minutes; rinse really well.  Scrape carrots with a sharp knife (this preserves vitamins, as opposed to peeling); cut in halves or large pieces; peel the potatoes; if large, cut in halves.  Cut cabbage in sixths or eighths, leaving the root on, and set this aside separately.
  4. 1 hour before serving, remove brisket from braising water, place in a baking dish, covered with tin foil, and set aside.  This should be extremely tender; if not, put a little liquid in bottom of dish, cover well with foil, and place back in oven while veggies are cooking (see photo below).
  5. preparing brisket for further cooking if needed

    Turn the heat up to 375 degrees.  Add potatoes, carrots, and salt to hot broth, cover with additional water, and return to oven to cook until tender, checking periodically.  As vegetables are done, remove to a baking dish, with small amount of broth in bottom, cover with foil, and place in oven to keep warm.

  6. Add cabbage to pot 30 minutes before serving if you like it soft; for a crisper version, add 20 minutes before dinner.  (Be sure to check vegetables to see if cooked, remove to baking dish as needed, and return to oven to keep hot.)
  7. About 30 minutes before serving, prep the glaze, by generously spreading yellow mustard over brisket, sprinkle with brown sugar, and place in oven at 375 degrees.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until it bubbles and glaze is formed (see photo at top of recipe).
  8. Cut meat, cover with foil, and place back in oven, if not ready to serve yet.  When all cooking is done, turn oven down to 200 degrees for keeping meal hot.
  9. To serve, place on platter or plates and surround with vegetables (see initial photo).  This dish is best accompanied with Irish Soda Bread, last week’s post.