African Nkyemire (Yams with Mushrooms)

nkyemire

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

Background of My Using This African Recipe

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

What Are True Yams?

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

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

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

Sweet Potatoes and “Yams” in America

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

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

Importance of Tending to our Memories

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

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

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

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

 

 

References:

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

yam slices cooked to a golden brown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. wrapping yams so juices don’t spill out

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

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

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

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

Chicken BBQ, an adaptation of a 1758 English Receipt

finished product

This outstanding BBQ can be made with chicken, as I propose here, or mutton (lamb), as the original 1758 recipe instructs; I discovered it in Esther B. Aresty’s The Delectable Past, copyrighted 1964.

The same book provided me with cold Beef Vinaigrette (see 2018/09/01), which I served a lot in my catered events during the 1980’s and 90’s. Both the beef and today’s adaptation-with whole chicken breasts-of her Mutton (or Lamb) Kebob’d, have brought excellence to my special summer menus.  They are mouthwatering beyond words!

In the early 1980’s, an Irish woman in Billings, MT gave me Aresty’s book.  At that time, I delved into its rich heritage with all vigor; I was hungry for historical facts about food, as I was being formed into a food historian.  Even now, I continue to discover new ways to create outstanding delicacies in these proven pages, as can be seen with this provision for BBQ.

Aresty found these directions for roasting a loin of lamb on a spit, in Sarah Phillips’ The Ladies Handmaid, which appeared in 1758.  Inspired by Phillips, she calls for cutting all the way down to the bone between the chops, being careful not to sever them (allowing two chops per person).  Then, season them well with ground thyme, crushed rosemary, salt, and pepper.  Next, one ties the loose loin together-Mrs. Phillips wrote “clap together”.  Finally, it is fastened to the barbecue spit to be roasted over a hot fire; all the time one bastes it with the outstanding sauce, as given in the recipe at the end of this entry.

I lit upon this “delectable”, when searching for something unique to take to a church picnic on Vancouver Lake, in Washington.  It wasn’t possible to roast a loin of lamb over our small portable grill, so I quickly substituted chicken breasts for the kebob’d (or tied) mutton loin; the end result pleased the crowd immensely.

The day was memorable.  After the abundant meal, we floated on a raft on Vancouver Lake, with peace surrounding us, as thick as cutting soft butter with a knife.  There were small children in our raft; their quiet pleasure brought delight to all.

It is written that we must become like children to enter into our ordained place in life.  How do we do this?  The Holy Spirit will direct each necessary step, if we will ask for help, believing, as we cry out.

The journey is one of great joy and abundance.  Nevertheless we can expect challenges in the process, but oh the exuberance, as we overcome all obstacles!  The victory is ours, for the taking.  We rise and walk in all newness of life with the innocence of a child, accepting fun and freedom along the way.

Our gracious Father longs to bless our taste buds, both in the spiritual and the natural; our job is to quiet down enough for this sense of taste to be perceived, so we can follow its lead.  It is promised that we will be directed into all life, if we trust God’s inward guide.

Let this BBQ receipt be the beginning of an awakening of our gustatory and spiritual awareness.  Enjoy its many flavor dimensions.

plate of chicken

Chicken BBQ  Yields:4-5 servings.  Total cooking time: 45 min.  Note: this was inspired by an adaptation of a 1758 recipe, which I found in Esther B. Aresty’s The Delectable Past (New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1964), pp. 118, 119.

 

 

 

 

2 1/2 lb boneless chicken breasts  (Natural chicken breasts are best; Trader Joe’s has a good buy on these.)

Ground thyme

Crushed dried rosemary leaves

Salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco for $4.95/ 5 lbs.)

Pepper, freshly ground

Basting Sauce  (May be done ahead.)

2 tbsp melted butter

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

1/4 c vinegar  (Be creative here-I used an elderberry vinegar.)

2 tbsp catsup  (Trader’s has an organic catsup for $1.99.)

  1. seasoning chicken for grilling

    Place chicken in warm water to thaw, or better yet, thaw the 2 1/2 lb bag on a deep plate in the refrigerator, at least 24 hours before cooking.

  2. In a small saucepan, combine all basting sauce ingredients, heat to combine, and set aside.  (May be done ahead and stored at room temperature.)
  3. Before placing on barbecue, season one side of the breasts well with ground thyme, crushed rosemary, salt, and pepper.  Place seasoned side down on hot grill; then season the top side likewise.  Let cook for 10 minutes to seal seasoning on poultry, turn over to seal seasoning on other side.  See above photo.
  4. basting chicken

    Brush partially cooked upside of breast with basting sauce; cook about 10 minutes; then, turn over, brushing other side with basting sauce.  See photo.

  5. Continue to cook-turning and basting about every 10 minutes-until chicken is fully cooked (see top photo.)
  6. Serve with anticipation!

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!

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).

It all started with my need for a unique eye operation in San Francisco in 1968.  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.

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.  Nevertheless, San Francisco charmed me.

Celebrate, with me, God’s good and entire provision for 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 at 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.

Borscht (Beet Soup)

a bowl of borscht

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References:

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

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

www.dictionary.com/browse/borscht

easy mincing of onion

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

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

1 med/lg yellow onion

3 lg purple beets, a little less than 2 lbs trimmed

1 qt broth  (Beef broth is good; I, however, prefer bone broth; for recipe and powerful health benefits, see Tortellini Soup, 2016/10/10.)

1 c water

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

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

1 tsp Better than Bouillon, or to taste

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

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper, or to taste

sweating onions

Sour cream

3 eggs, hard-boiled and chopped  (I prefer duck eggs; see Rosemary Eggs, 2017/08/21, for their information.)

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

    Add half the lemon juice and honey.

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

Ensalada Iberica

ensalada Iberica

Ensalada Iberica is the perfect accompaniment to last week’s Portuguese pork, because of its sweet base of oranges and dates, along with an abundance of piquant onions and lemon-vinaigrette.  This quick salad pleases our palettes.  Its strong combination of complimentary foods is additionally enhanced with the spice coriander, which is also a “seasoning match made in heaven” for pork, as noted by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page in Culinary Artistry.  Thus these two dishes balance each other, resulting in excellent flavors and joy unspeakable.  1

During the 1980’s, my extensive cooking classes in Montana included a group of twelve professionals, all of whom were friends.  For years they came monthly for each new theme I presented.  We grew to love each other, as I taught them easy steps in making glorious food.  A grieving took place at our parting, brought on by my decision to move to Portland in February of 1986.

My strongest fan among them, Larry, organized a going-away party for me.  He chose an upscale Chinese restaurant, since a travel agent in the group had hoped to take me to China, to teach native foods on one of her tours.  At our celebration, they graciously presented me with a restaurant-caliber, 15 ½” x 10 ½” cake pan and a stock pot, as seen in my photos; how these have blessed my work.

At one of our classes, someone encouraged me to consider the then new concept of computers for my work.  I responded that I will never do that, for it was beyond me.  Technology, however, has enabled the expansion of my endeavors beyond my imagination.

Back then I wrote everything out by hand, as I constantly discovered new themes from various cultures and ages.  All my research came from hard copies of books and publications; I searched for the sources of my inspiration at the local library, in an array of cook books, and in such publications as Montana newspapers, the New York Times, and numerous fashionable magazines.  My existence was marked by creativity, as I developed my faculty for research.  This skill was further sharpened by my graduate work at Portland State University, 1988-91.

Discovering truths in food history is what I do; it is essential that I know their validity.  As a result, to this day, I prefer to obtain my information from actual books, which possess a soundness that I trust, over that of internet.

Both this and its subsequent post, on Portuguese foods, are from that early application of my studies in Montana.  These entries provide exceptional taste treats.  Enjoy!

  1. Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, Culinary Artistry (Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996), pp. 159, 160, 268.

chopping orange segments

Ensalada Iberica  Yields: 5-6 servings.  Total prep time: 25 min.

Note: best to make and chill several hours before serving.

2 lg oranges  (Organic is best for flavor and quality, as orange skins readily absorb pesticides; these are often available at a good price at Trader Joe’s.)

1 small/med red onion, thinly sliced  (May use 2 small, organic cipollini onions; they are expensive, but so good!)

1 small can sliced ripe olives, net dr. wt. 2.25 ounces

1/2 c pitted dates, packed down, cut in halves lengthwise  (About 1/3 lb is needed.)

1/4 c olive oil

1/4 c lemon juice  ( 2-3 small lemons are needed.)

3/4 tsp salt, or to taste

1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper, or to taste

1/4 tsp ground coriander

Bed of spinach leaves or lettuce

  1. easy juicing of lemons

    Peel oranges, divide them in half, cut each half cross-wise in half again, so it is easy to separate segments (see photo above).

  2. Peel and slice onions thinly.
  3. In medium bowl, combine oranges, onions, olives, and date halves.
  4. Juice lemons with a hand-held juicer, watch market for this marvelous tool (see photo).
  5. Combine olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and coriander in a small sealed jar; shake vigorously; adjust seasonings.
  6. Pour over fruit, mix well, and refrigerate until serving time-preferably for several hours-so flavors can meld.
  7. Serve on a bed of spinach leaves or lettuce.
  8. This is a favorite of mine, which I have made since the early 1980’s.

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.