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.  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”, 2017/01/09, “Bolitos de Chocolat y Coco”, 2016/11/28, “Scottish Oat Scones”, 2016/06/20, and “Cocoa Bread”, 2016/06/20.)

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 10 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!

Blum’s Coffee Toffee Pie

Blum’s Coffee Toffee Pie

The following is the colorful story of the arrival of Blum’s Coffee Toffee Pie in my family’s history; more over it marks the beginning of the hand of Providence saving me for my work as a food historian.  This recipe served as the basis for numerous delightful variations, which we served in our family restaurant in Montana’s glorious Glacier National Park (see Nutty Coconut Pie, 2017/11/13, and Chocolate Mint Pie, 2019/01/10).

Without any doubt, our lives have purpose, for we are created to fulfill specific works that only we are equipped to do.  My calling, as a writer of food history, has taken shape over my entire life.  Many times death has tried to steal this precious gift from me; my mother’s prayers, however, have covered me with the required protection, for without prayer God’s hands are tied.

My first monumental memory of our Father’s intervention was in 1967, when I incurred a near fatal concussion from a car accident.  Mom’s simple faith brought me back from what spelled destruction: I was neither dead nor a vegetable, as doctors were declaring.  Though I didn’t yet know Jesus personally in 1967, Mom’s steadfast heart acted as my shield and miracles occurred.

The preservation of my life was the first wonder, but another ensued.  Due to the concussion, the part of my brain that controlled my oblique eye muscle was severely damaged, resulting in intense double vision.  At that time, there were only three doctors in the U.S. that could perform the needed operation, then with only a 50% chance of any correction.  Thus in the spring of 1968, we were off to San Francisco, where Dr. Paul at University Hospital perfected my sight completely!  As always, Mom’s prayer life brought rich dividends.

This surgeon took my eye out of my head to shorten the errant muscle, so I saw this lively city with only half my vision, as a patch covered the deep blood-red of that where his skillful hands had been.

As we walked these lively streets, we witnessed our nation’s struggle to discover love through the hippie movement.  Every day we nurtured our hungry souls at the beloved Blum’s; this confectionery, bakery, and restaurant began charming San Francisco in the 1950’s; it closed in the 70’s.  There we devotedly indulged in its famous Coffee Toffee Pie; my strong mother bravely asked for the recipe, which they gave her.  (They must have given it to many others as well, for numerous recipes of this are now available on-line.)

Over the decades through my family’s development of it, this receipt has emerged in ways that are outstanding, making its preparation simply foolproof.  Among many improvements, we freeze this pie for long-term use, preferring it only partially thawed, which gives it an ice cream-like texture.  Numerous other tips make this dessert a pure joy, to be made with ease.

Celebrate, with me, God’s good and entire provision in our lives; receive this outstanding historical receipt!

Blum’s coffee toffee pie

Blum’s Coffee Toffee Pie  Yields: 1-10″ pie.  Total prep time: 1 1/2 hr, plus 1/2 hr for cooling/  active prep time: 1 1/4 hr/  baking time: 15 min.

1 c flour  (Optional: may grind 1/3 c organic hard red spring wheat berries and 1/3 c organic soft winter white wheat berries to make a total of 1 c of fresh ground flour.)

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

3/4 c butter, softened

1/4 c brown sugar, packed down  (Organic is best; available sometimes at Costco and always at Trader Joe’s.)

3/4 c walnuts, chopped fine

2 oz Baker’s unsweetened chocolate, plus extra for garnish

1 tbsp water

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 c cane sugar  (Organic is ideal, best buy is at Costco, also available in a smaller quantity at Trader’s.)

2 lg eggs, at room temperature  (If sensitive to raw eggs, may use pasteurized eggs for extra safety, which are available at some grocery stores.)

8 tsp instant coffee

2 c heavy whipping cream

1/2 c powdered sugar  (High quality organic is available at Trader’s.)

  1. grating of chocolate

    IF grinding fresh flour, do so now.

  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place a bowl in freezer for whipping cream (the whipping of cream is greatly facilitated when utensils are ice cold).
  3. Combine flour and salt; blend in a scant 1/4 c butter with a fork until mealy in texture.
  4. Mix in brown sugar, walnuts, and 1 oz chocolate, grated with a sharp knife (see photo); add water and vanilla; blend well.
  5. Butter a pie plate generously; press pie dough in pan firmly with fingers. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until light brown; begin cooling on a rack, for about 10 minutes, finish cooling in freezer.
  6. While crust is cooling, melt 1 oz chocolate over med/low heat, watching carefully as not to burn. Set aside and cool.
  7. Beat 1/2 c butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until creamy.  Gradually add 3/4 c cane sugar, beating well with each small addition.
  8. Add 1 egg; mix on medium speed for 5 minutes.  (The following makes this preparation foolproof.  It is so important to have ingredients at room temperature; if your kitchen is either really hot or cold, this mixture may curdle.  You can easily correct this: if it curdles or breaks because it is too hot, make the addition of the second egg a cold one, directly out of the refrigerator, to bring the filling back to its full volume.  If the butter/sugar/egg combination is too cold and curdles, warm the chocolate a little and mix this in before adding the second egg; then, follow the directions for beating.  Ideally when done, this mixture should be like fluffy whipped butter or soft whipped cream, providing ingredients are room temperature, in a moderate kitchen.  In this way, you will never fail with this recipe!)
  9. assembling of pie

    Blend in cooled chocolate and 2 tsp of coffee into whipped filling.

  10. Add second egg and beat for 5 minutes more.
  11. Wash beaters and put in freezer, for whipping cream.
  12. Place filling in cold pie crust; put in freezer for 30 minutes, for filling to set up.
  13. With ice cold bowl and beaters, beat cream until it starts to thicken.  Add powdered sugar and 2 tbsp coffee; continue beating until stiff.  Cover pie with whipped cream and garnish with chocolate curls.  See photo at top of recipe.
  14. May eat now, or for long-term use return to freezer; when frozen, cover well with plastic wrap, to cut pieces as needed.  Serve partially thawed for optimum pleasure.

1960’s Portuguese Pork

Portuguese pork roast

My gift of hospitality was birthed during my youth in the mid-twentieth century, for then I watched my mother host elaborate dinner parties.  As an excellent cook, she prepared glorious feasts, often with international themes; this 1960’s recipe for Portuguese pork blessed guests repeatedly.  While in college, I meticulously copied her treasured receipts and began my own journey, fostering nourishment of body and soul.

In 1982, God converted this inherent gift into my lifetime work.  Then I began catering meals and teaching a profusion of cooking classes, utilizing researched historical recipes.  One of these classes was on my mother’s Portuguese foods, on which I expanded, incorporating the salad Ensalada Iberica and dessert Figos Recheados, my next weeks’ posts.

Slowing down, smelling the roses, feeding ourselves and others are important traits. In doing such, let us choose pleasure in even the simplest of foods.  These pleasures seem amplified. when someone else prepares the meal; thus, their charity reaches our hearts regardless of what is served.  Macaroni and cheese can thrill us, when made with love by a friend.

There is an element of courage, which results in unexpected joy, when we graciously receive ailments we aren’t sure of.  While living in Billings, Montana, a friend invited me to celebrate Easter with her.  Upon arrival I discovered we were partaking of rabbit; I was challenged in eating this, especially on this holiday!  Expressing gratitude, I bravely proceeded and found it palatable, as long as I didn’t concentrate on it being Easter.  Though I have never again experienced this meat, fond memories flood my mind whenever it is mentioned.

Let us be strong in both giving and receiving benevolent fellowship; use my series of proven receipts to host this cultural affair for your loved ones, or better yet invite someone newly acquainted.

In Culinary Artistry, Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page note strong compliments to pork; among the most vibrant are vinegar, garlic, black pepper, oranges and onions-all of which are present in this detailed dinner.   Enjoy my creative repast!  1

  1. Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, Culinary Artistry (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996), p. 159.

chopping jalapeno peppers

Portuguese Pork  Yields: 8-10 servings.  Inactive prep time for marinating: 1 day/  active prep time: 30 min/  cooking time: 3 1/2 hr.

4 lb pork loin roast

1 1/3 c water

1 c cider vinegar  (Trader Joe’s carries an inexpensive raw version, which has great health benefits.)

5 med/lg cloves of garlic, minced

3 tepino peppers  (If desired, use jalapeno peppers, which are milder.)

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

1 c sliced green olives  (May serve additional in a bowl at table.)

Baked yams  (Yams and sweet potatoes are different varieties of the same vegetable, they are interchangeable.)

  1. Place water and vinegar in a 9 1/2″ x 7 1/2″ x 3″ pan, or 3-quart baking dish).
  2. Mince garlic, add to vinegar mixture.
  3. Cut peppers in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds with a spoon, chop fine, and add to vinegar mixture (see photo).  Note: be sure to wash hands thoroughly, as burning will result from touching eyes, if you don’t.
  4. Place pork in marinade and marinate in refrigerator for at least 24 hours, turning roast halfway through, at about 12 hours.
  5. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Before placing in oven, turn roast again, salting and peppering the top well.  Bake for 1 3/4 hours.  Proceed immediately to next step.
  6. Wash yams and pierce several times with a fork.  Cover with foil; place top of foil on potato, where sealed, face-up in the oven while baking; this keeps juices from leaking out.  Start baking these at the same time you begin roasting the meat; bake for about 3 hours, as the oven is only set at 300 degrees.
  7. After baking for first 1 3/4 hours, turn roast for the last time.   Once more, salt and pepper the top well.  Bake for another 1 3/4 hours.
  8. When cooking is complete, remove roast from oven, cool for 15 minutes.  Toward the end of this time, take yams out of oven and place on plates; next, cut pork in thick slices and arrange on dishes; top with sliced olives.  (It is good to serve additional olives in a small bowl at table.)
  9. This pork is superb with the Portuguese salad Ensalada Iberica and dessert Figos Recheados, my next weeks’ posts.

Serungdeng Kacang

serungdeng kacang

serungdeng kacang

The condiment serungdeng kacang first completed my varied dishes in the early 1980’s, when I was catering historical events in Billings, Montana.  In those days, I sought recipes that allowed me to offer thematic meals from diverse cultures and times. To my joy, I discovered a host of receipts from Indonesia; thus, I presented an Indonesian rijsttafel to my eager audiences.

A rijsttafel is a banquet of delicacies from this southeast Asian republic, formerly known at the Dutch East Indies.

Serungdeng kacang is a condiment for rice dishes in these ethnic feasts. My particular recipe comes from Java, one of the many islands in Indonesia. These coconut crumbs, spiced with onion and garlic, are spread liberally over the rice portions, in addition to a variety of other garnishes.

For me, serungdeng kacang has multiple, inventive benefits: it is compatible with Indian curries, acts as a delicious hors d’oeuvre, and-my favorite-provides the crowning touch to salads!

I always keep this enhancement to tossed greens on hand, by making a double batch and storing it in a sealed storage bag.  The beauty of this topping is it lasts a long time, if you are disciplined.

Prior to my doing this rijsttafel, I presented a gala event, a Moroccan affair, which was to  become one of my favorite memories in the history of my business; it best defines what my work entailed back then.

I loved to act in my youth and knew the Billings’ theatrical community well.  As an aside, actors often make a living in the restaurant business; they are adept at waiting tables.  Then my creative dinners needed both excellent service and improvisation.  An incredible fit was made with my Billings’ thespian friends; thus, I frequently employed them in my catered dramas.

My most treasured memory using this partnership was a fundraiser for the Billings’ Children’s Theatre, in which I presented an authentic Moroccan dinner, for a staged “Night at Rick’s Place”.  The five winning tickets, from those auctioned off-each with their three guests-were transported back to World War II in the theatre’s upstairs.

This large room had been converted into Rick’s Place, from the movie Casablanca.  It was furnished with a bar off to one side of the restaurant, while the dining room consisted of five tables of four, clothed with white linen.  The city’s leading actors peopled the bar scene. More of these, dressed in tuxedos, served the sumptuous meal to the unsuspecting partakers in this suspense.

Broadway arts resulted!  Numerous brawls took place in the bar; the Gestapo arrived; guests were pick-pocketed, and on and on.  Talk about fun.

My part was the researched African meal.  That afternoon, after weeks of cooking, I showed up for the final preparations in the theatre’s limited kitchen. Behold, the limits escalated upon my arrival, for the stove wasn’t working!

The true test of my creativity came.  Nevertheless, God’s grace broke through: makeshift occurred as a call went out and citizens brought in hot plates.  The event came off triumphantly, as I, in  Moroccan dress, told the innocent company the colorful history as each dish was served.

I repeated this dinner numerous times in my career, but this show never again reached the thrill of its original occurrence.  That night in “Casablanca” best exemplified what I did with my work then.

Now my food history presentations entertain larger audiences, but still guests participate in dinner theatre type events. They engage by eating authentic foods; I, dressed in period costume, narrate their careful stories.

Today my grand affairs mostly involve Northwest history, for which I was trained in graduate school.  However back in the 80’s and 90’s, I presented other cultures and times in my gala occasions.  Among these many thematic experiences was this Indonesian rijsttafel, from which today’s entry originated.

simple mincing of onion

simple mincing of onion

Serungdeng Kacang  Yields: 3 c.  Total prep time: 1 hr, plus 1 hr for cooling/ active prep time: 30 min/ cooking time: 30 min.

6 tbsp yellow onion, minced  (You will need a med/large onion; follow directions below for simple mincing-see photo.)

6 med/large garlic cloves, chopped fine

2 tbsp sugar  (Organic cane sugar is best; available at Trader Joe’s and Costco.)

1 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available inexpensively at Costco.)

1 tbsp oil  (Coconut oil is the best for flavor and quality here.)

2 c unsweetened coconut chips  (Available in bulk at our local Winco, or in a 12-ounce Bob’s Red Mill package at local supermarkets.)

1 c roasted, unsalted peanuts  (Also available at low cost in bulk at our local Winco.)

  1. An easy way to mince onion is to peel it, leaving the root on; next, score it by cutting slices close together across the top one way, going 3/4 of way down into the onion; then, turn it and cut slices the other direction.  After onion is prepared thus, shave the minced pieces off the end of it with a sharp knife (see photo).
  2. Heat oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat.
  3. Measure 6 tbsp of minced onion and place in a mortar; save rest of onion for other cooking.  With a pestle mash onions, garlic, sugar, and salt.  When this is a thick puree, set aside.  (See mortar and pestle in photo.)
  4. Place a piece of the coconut in oil; when it begins to turn brown, immediately lower temperature to med/low; oil is ready for cooking.  Meantime mix together coconut and onion mixture in a large bowl. Make sure coconut is completely coated.
  5. When oil is hot, add coconut mixture; mix well with spoon to evenly coat fruit with oil.
  6. Cook about 20 minutes (over med/low heat), or until golden brown in color and slightly wet, stirring every 5 minutes, so as not to burn.  Let it, however, cook for full 5-minute increments, without stirring; this allows for the coconut to brown.  As you stir it, carefully scrape bottom of pan with a spatula.
  7. When coconut is light golden brown, add the peanuts and cook for another 5 minutes; stir twice in this last 5-minute period.  Note: it will get a darker brown and drier, as it cooks more with the peanuts and then cools in the heat-retentive cast iron pan.
  8. Remove from heat and be sure to leave in skillet to cool; this completes the drying process.  (See top photo for finished product.)
  9. This lasts for months, kept in a sealed storage bag.

Curried Chicken/Cheese Ball

curry/chicken/cheese ball

curried chicken/cheese ball

This incredible hors d’ouvres dates back to the early 1980’s.  My mother’s best friend, in our small Rocky Mountain village, became my treasured ally. She and her husband moved to East Glacier Park, when he retired as a screenplay writer. Talbot Jennings was so famous that a prominent New York City television station featured his movies, such as The King and I, for a whole week, before he died.

This illustrious couple traveled the world during the production of these films; thus, Betsy schooled me in her prodigious cosmopolitan ways.  I thoroughly enjoyed sitting under her tutelage, as she prepared me for the lions at Trafalgar Square and exceeding more, prior to my moving to London.  I believe she was even more excited than I, about my valiant relocation to Tokyo half a decade later.

The voluminous New York Times brought the vast outside world to Betsy every weekend.  She was forever clipping articles to prepare me for my numerous sojourns.

With this same spirit, starting in 1982, she helped me to grow as a historical caterer. My creative mentor was always sending me gifts, which she ordered from the New York Times.  Ingenious gadgets were among a wide array of superlative food items. Many of these imaginative tools still grace my kitchen today.

While I was doing my early work in Billings, Montana, I journeyed to my hometown each year, where I catered multiple theme dinners per visit. The eight-hour drive across the wide expanse of the Big Sky Country thrilled my tender soul. How I delighted in approaching the backdrop of my beloved mountains, as I gazed across those colossal open prairies.

Once there, I spent many hours drinking in wisdom at Betsy’s feet.  During one of these relished trips, she offered this  delectable cheese ball to me.  I was enamored with it then and still am today.  Then it was a frequent hors d’oeuvre at my gala catered events;  today it is still my constant contribution to every holiday meal, at which I am a guest.

May you make this blessed appetizer a family tradition as well!

Curried Chicken/Cheese Ball  Yields: 2 1/2 c.  Total prep time: 3/4 hr/ active prep time: 30 min/ inactive prep time: 15 min.  Note: you may make this a day ahead.

8 oz cream cheese, softened

1 c slivered almonds

1/2 c unsweetened coconut, finely grated  (Available in bulk, at our local Winco and other stores.)

2 tbsp mayonnaise  (Best Foods excels all other mayonnaise.)

2-3 tbsp Major Grey’s Mango Chutney  (3 spoonfuls gives full-bodied sweetness.)

1 tbsp curry powder, or to taste

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

3-4 frozen tenderloins  (Natural chicken is best; Trader Joe’s works well for quality and cost.)

1-9 oz box Original Wheat Thins

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Roast almond slivers for 10 minutes.  Remove and cool on a plate.
  2. If you are using frozen tenderloins, thaw in warm water.  Cook chicken in salted boiling water.  When center is white, after inserting a knife, remove chicken from water and cool in refrigerator on a plate.  Do not overcook to avoid toughness.
  3. Mix all the above ingredients except the chicken and almonds.  Note: it works best to insert a regular teaspoon in the narrow jar of Major Grey’s Mango Chutney, when measuring it.  Be sure to use well-rounded teaspoons, as each approximates a tablespoon, for which the recipe calls.
  4. Chop roasted almonds with a sharp knife; add to cream cheese.
  5. Leave this cream cheese mixture out at room temperature, while waiting for the chicken to cool.  When meat is cool, cut it into small pieces; finally, mix chicken into cream cheese very gently, as not to shred it.
  6. Criss-cross two large pieces of plastic wrap; place chicken ball in the center of wrap.  Surround ball with this plastic covering and refrigerate on a small plate.
  7. Soften ball at room temperature before serving, to facilitate the spreading.
  8. Surround with crackers on a decorative serving plate.  This is a winner!

Bolitos de Chocolat y Coco

Bolitos de chocolat y coco

bolitos de chocolat y coco

1985 was a big year for me, for I traveled to Peru-from whence this recipe is derived-that summer to study food, while later in September I went to Paris, with the intent of moving my business there. (Read more about my time in France in Balsamic Vinaigrette, 2016/08/22.)

My jocund days in Peru were filled with the warm blazing sun, but nights were very cold, as July brings winter to this nation in the southern hemisphere.

Machu Picchu met my love for mountains in a grand way.  The ancient trail leading to these ruins made for an arduous climb; we got off the train and labored, with copious sweat, for hours to complete its last leg.  What a memorable day!

My far-reaching, historical catering business was three years old during my time in South America, in the 1980’s, and my mind was a sponge for details about food. While there, every morsel that went into my mouth came out as a comment in my journal.  Most of this keen eating took place in inexpensive cafes, where chickens were always roasting on open hearths.  The better of these humble restaurants had guinea pig and Cebiche, raw white fish “cooked” in lemon juice.  Street vendors’ food also provided me with rich information, but my greatest joy was the private dinner invitations I received, to both rich and poor homes.  Note: there are only these two classes there.

Karen, my then neighbor in Billings, Montana, and her Peruvian boyfriend inspired me to make this colorful sojourn.  Indeed Chino’s family blessed my trip: I may not be alive today, but for them, as great trauma occurred for me in this country. Fortunately for me, his family was extremely influential; for instance, his second cousin was president during my visit.  (This man was ousted a number of days after I left; Chino’s brother-in-law was murdered by terrorists several months later.)

My trouble came when I and my traveling companion, a longtime friend from Paris, let down our guards.  We always covered each other’s backs in the marketplace, as robbery is ever-present in this poor nation; we, however, went our separate ways one day in Cusco.  On my own, I was mesmerized by the wide array of vendor’s goods: blankets on the ground displayed raw meats, brightly dressed women loudly announced their vibrant vegetables, modest pots and pans were set up elsewhere.  Stopping I indulged in a delicious, doughnut-like pastry; next, I reached for my funds to buy freshly squeezed orange juice.  My wallet was gone!

Absolutely everything of importance was in it: my passport, money, travelers’ checks, credit cards, and return ticket home.  This unseasoned traveler was without identity and provision in a volatile place.

God’s grace got me to my homeland safely through a multitude of miracles. The last of these happened just hours before my plane’s departure, for the president of Aero Peru, a friend of Chino’s family, reinstated my plane ticket at this critical moment.

Even before I experienced this culture, my repertoire of catered meals included a Peruvian dinner. The background for this authentic repast came from a cook book, from that country, shared by Chino’s girlfriend; nevertheless, this account was strictly for the upper class.  For hors d’ouvres at these events, I used the youth’s favored dish Ocopa-chunks of boiled, bland purple potatoes, topped with cheese, walnuts, mild chiles, and eggs. The main course boasted of Aji de Gallina, an incredible walnut chicken. Dessert was Suspiro Limeno, a light, airy custard; the feast ended with Bolitos de Chocolat y Coco.  To this day, these chocolate/coconut balls are the finishing touch at ever meal I host.

Chocolate has an interesting history.  Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez introduced cocao beans to Europe in 1528, when he returned from “New Spain”.  There the Aztecs mixed cocao paste with spices to make a thick drink.  In their convent at Oaxaca, creative Spanish nuns added sugar, which made this chocolate beverage even more palatable.  1

Chocolate was highly prized then and still is today; these superb, truffle-like candies-a rich man’s food in Peru-will please any chocolate lover.  This recipe is simple and foolproof; don’t miss this delectable treat.

  1. James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995), p. 89.
Making bolitos de chocolat y coco

chocolate after stirring in coconut

Bolitos de Chocolat y Coco (Peruvian chocolate/coconut balls)  Yields: about 6 dozen balls. Total prep time: 45 min.

12 oz unsweetened chocolate  (Baker’s works well.)

1-14 oz can sweetened condensed milk  (It’s important to use Borden’s Eagle Brand.)

2 tsp butter

2 c unsweetened fine-flake coconut  (Available in bulk at our local Winco and other supermarkets.)

  1. Break chocolate into pieces in a medium-size, heavy-bottom saucepan.
  2. Add butter, melt slowly over low heat.  Watch carefully, so as not to burn.
  3. Meanwhile open the can of milk and place 1/2 c of coconut in a measuring cup.  Set aside.
  4. When chocolate is completely melted, quickly add condensed milk.
  5. Stir over low heat for about 30 seconds; it will start forming a soft ball. Toward the end of the 30 seconds, stir in the coconut.  Do not overcook, or chocolate will be dry.  Immediately remove from heat after these 30 seconds; continue to stir vigorously until soft ball is formed all the way.  See photo.
  6. Cool just enough for handling.
  7. Place 1/2 c of coconut in a small bowl.  (You will add more coconut to the dish as needed.)  Form small balls of chocolate and roll in coconut, placing them in an 8×8 inch pan.
  8. Chill chocolate for several hours; then, transfer balls to a freezer-storage bag.  These will keep for a very long time, if you double the bag for long-term freezing.
  9. Excellent chocolate, so easy, absolutely foolproof.

 

Balsamic Vinaigrette

Teaching my balsamic vinaigrette recipe

teaching my balsamic vinaigrette recipe

I acquired my beloved vinaigrette recipe in enchanting Paris.  There I learned the secrets to this simple receipt in the fall of 1985.

At that time I cooked many historical meals at a French friend’s apartment, close to the Louvre. Mornings found me seeking needed ingredients at a profusion of quaint Parisian shops.  There was much mercy for my broken French among the shop owners, who grew to know me.

A flurry of grand entertainment resulted from the hosting of these elaborate meals.  Our varied guests returned warm hospitality in their abodes on alternate nights.  My passion for art galleries quickened during the days when they reciprocated our harmonious feasting.

Indeed, Paris charmed me during that September in the mid-1980s!

My balsamic vinaigrette is extremely simple.  (We used raspberry vinegar for this same recipe in Paris.)  I always dress my famous salads with this balsamic and my father’s blue cheese dressings, which is next week’s tantalizing post.

Peggy’s Balsamic Vinaigrette  Yields: about 22 ounces.  Total prep time: 20 min. Note: may repeat these easy steps to make a double batch; keeps well when refrigerated; any kind of vinegar may be substituted for the balsamic.

5 lg cloves of garlic, more to taste if smaller

3/4 c balsamic vinegar  (Use protected Aceto Balsamico from Modena, Italy, which can be expensive, available reasonably at Trader Joe’s.)

3/4 tsp dried oregano leaves  (A great, organic dried oregano is available at Trader’s for $1.99.)

1 tsp dried basil leaves  (Also a bargain at Trader’s.)

1/4 tsp sugar, or to taste

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

1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper, or to taste

1 tsp high quality mustard  (Aiola mustard from Trader’s is ideal.)

1 c Bel’Olio Extra Light Olive Oil  (I prefer this light olive oil, available at Costco; other olive oils are strong in taste.)

  1. Peel and cut garlic cloves in half; place in a dry 11-cup, or larger, food processor; chop garlic, stopping machine to scrape down sides.  IF you are making two recipes, chop the garlic for both at once; set half aside. (If you don’t have a food processor, may chop cloves fine with a sharp knife; may also use a Vita Mix or blender to make dressing.)
  2. Add vinegar, herbs, sugar, salt, pepper, and mustard to the garlic.
  3. Turn on processor; leave running.
  4. pouring oil in feeder

    Fill the feeder with oil. (The feeder is the plunger that fits in the top of the food processor; it has a small hole in the bottom of it; this allows the oil to drip into vinegar mixture slowly, thus emulsifying the dressing; see photo.) Use all the oil in this manner.  If you are using a blender, be sure to add oil very slowly, blending as you go to emulsify dressing.

  5. Adjust seasonings to taste.  Note: the garlic should taste really strong, as it mellows dramatically after a couple of days.
  6. Pour into bottles, using a funnel.  Save used glass jars for this purpose; be sure to sterilize.
  7. Keeps in the refrigerator for months, or at room temperature for several weeks.  It’s often necessary to leave dressing out at room temperature, for at least an hour before using, when stored in the refrigerator, as the cold oil sometimes solidifies.  Hot tap water will melt the solid oil, also.