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

munazalla

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

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

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

This Syrian lamb, eggplant, and tomato recipe, calls for well-known cilantro, which is the leaf of the plant Coriandrum sativum, while the spice coriander is its seed.  Cilantro, sometimes botanically referred to as coriander, is said to be the most widely consumed fresh herb worldwide. As a native to the Middle East, its seed was found in the tomb of King Tut (I got to see the tour of these ancient Egyptian remains in Seattle in the mid 70’s).

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

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

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

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

References:

The Holy Bible, KJV, Genesis 2:14.

Harold McGee, pp. 390, 407, 408.

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

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

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

10 large minced garlic cloves, or the equivalent

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

1/4 tsp allspice

1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

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

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

1 lg onion, chopped

2 lb eggplant

4 med tomatoes

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

  1. forming meatballs

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

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

    cooked meatballs and onions

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Quick Pasta with Red Sauce and Ricotta

pasta with red sauce and ricotta

With our hurried society, we are always trying to conserve on time; thus, I try to respect this need for efficiency with my cooking instructions, where provision of optimum health is also a major focus.  My mind is made for details; henceforth, I spell out shortcuts that streamline cooking; this can make a particular recipe look long, but indeed it is concise, with an abundance of clock-conserving treasures.

This quick version of red sauce can be made in just 30 minutes, thus honoring our crowded schedules; it pleases with its added topping of ricotta cheese.

A dear friend always blesses me with gifts from her home, when she visits.  I never know what new gadget or food item she will introduce upon her arrival.  Several weeks ago, Wanda came bearing homemade ricotta, which she had made in a crock pot, with her suggestion to put it on top of spaghetti sauce.  As she cooks for a diabetic challenged husband, she serves just a little gluten-free pasta with lots of red sauce, topped with her ricotta; you may choose similar adjustments.  (A 5-star receipt for simple homemade ricotta cheese can be found at http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/homemade-ricotta-cheese-crock-pot-345985)

Discipline is called for in any recipe, whether it be in the kitchen or life, with the constant need for balance between demands and desires.  Always we long for the best taste to be left in our mouths, but oh the challenge in allowing the time required for such quality.  Here I sacrifice some of the depth of flavor, which can be found in my moderately-more-lengthy instructions for Red Sauce for Pasta or Spaghetti Squash (2017/04/10).

Italian comes to mind when we think of red sauce; tomatoes, however, are a relatively new food in Italy.  In the 16th century, conquistadors introduced these to Europe, where they took centuries to become a leading world vegetable.  America didn’t fully accept this fruit-it is actually a fruit, not a vegetable-until the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a time that simultaneously saw an inundation of Italian immigrants on our shores.  For more on this history, see Spicy Sausage and Tomatoes (2017/09/25) and Ropa Vieja (2017/10/09).

If you are wanting a fine-textured red sauce, know that canned tomatoes, unlike fresh tomatoes, usually don’t boil down to a smooth puree, as calcium salts are added by many canners-this calcium firms the cell walls of tomatoes and keeps the pieces in tact.  Since these salts interfere with the disintegration process during cooking, be sure to check the labels on all canned whole tomatoes, only buying brands that don’t list calcium, unless a chunky sauce is desired.  I use canned tomato sauce here.

Pressured agendas bring loss of strength, while slowing down to smell the roses allows for the discovery of innate gifts, which were positioned by divine ordinance long ago.  We get to open these daily, if we but exercise patience.

References:

Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1988, 1973), p. 206.

Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 2004, 1984), p. 331.

Quick Pasta with Red Sauce and Ricotta  Yields: 2-3 servings.  Total prep time: 30 minutes.  Note: may double the recipe.

15-oz can tomato sauce  (Organic is best, which is only slightly more expensive; available at most supermarkets.)

3/4 tsp dried oregano  (Trader Joe’s has an excellent organic bottle for $1.99.)

1 tsp dried basil  (Also found at Trader’s.)

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

4 med/lg cloves garlic  (For easy prep, use 2 cubes frozen garlic from Trader’s.)

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

1 med yellow onion, chopped small

2-3 servings of pasta

2 sausage links  (Natural sausage is best; I used Fence Line Hot Italian Style here.)

Spray oil  (Coconut is best for health; Pam coconut spray oil is available in most supermarkets; our local Winco brand, however, is much cheaper.)

2 tbsp tomato paste  (Freeze remaining paste in individual 1/4 c bags, to be thawed conveniently.)

Avocado slices

Ricotta cheese for topping

  1. tomato sauce simmering

    Take ricotta out of refrigerator, to bring to room temperature for serving.

  2. In a medium saucepan, place tomato sauce and 1/2 can of water, to which you have added seasonings and garlic.  Bring to a boil over medium heat; reduce heat to med/low and simmer, stirring occasionally.
  3. Heat oil in a sauté pan; sweat onion in hot oil (cook only until translucent); add to sauce.
  4. Fill a 3-quart saucepan 4/5th’s full of water, to which you have added a small amount of salt and oil (any kind will do).   Place over medium heat; when water boils, add pasta and cook for 7 minutes, or until al dente.
  5. Meanwhile cut sausage diagonally and sauté until light brown, in a frying pan sprayed with oil.  When done, add to tomato sauce.
  6. Slice avocados, set aside.
  7. When pasta is finished, drain in a colander, rinsing well.
  8. prepping pasta

    Finish the sauce, by adding tomato paste, stirring until thickened.

  9. Rinse pasta under hot tap water to warm it.  Place pasta on individual plates; pour sauce over top; garnish with large dollop of ricotta and a slice of avocado (see top photo).
  10. Quick, easy, delightful!

Ropa Vieja (Omelette)

ropa vieja (omelette)

Our typical American cuisine was inspired by the familiar recipes brought over by English, French, Spanish, and Dutch settlers, as well as those of Scotch-Irish and German colonists, who followed these early immigrants; all of this European influence merged with the available Native American foods.  1

African slaves played a broad part in fashioning our distinctive Southern cookery; the mistresses of these slaves initially taught these, our people, receipts recalled from their individual heritages; then, with the Africans’ natural appreciation of and aptitude for cooking, prized dishes were developed, which were used in the strong social competition among the plantations.  These delicacies, which in large part formed this region’s cuisine, were not initially compiled in books for the public, but rather closely safeguarded within each family, due to the rivalry among these established settlements; thus, there were no Southern cook books until the first quarter of the 19th century.  A few recipes from this geographic area were preserved, however, in some American cook books, mostly those published in and around Philadelphia.  2

Mrs. Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife, printed in 1824, in Washington D.C., is an early example of a receipt book specializing in foods from the South.  It also includes some Northern recipes, as well as a few Spanish dishes, of which our Ropa Vieja omelette is one; this promising recipe boasts of only five ingredients, one of which is the garden tomato, and just a few succinct instructions; its simplicity makes it exceptional.  3

In On Food and Cooking, Harold McGee explains why this sweet-tart, botanical fruit tomato, which is used as a vegetable, has such great appeal.  He attributes this attractiveness to the unique flavor brought about by its low sugar content (3%), as well as the large amount of savory glutamic acid (as much as 0.3% of its weight), and ample quantities of aromatic sulfur compounds.  These two latter ingredients, present in ripe tomatoes, predispose them to complement the flavor of meats; this is because these two substances exist more commonly in animal flesh than fruits; thus, their rich presence in tomatoes allows for added taste to meat dishes.  Savory glutamic acid and sulfur aromas likewise bring out great depth and complexity in sauces and other food combinations; therefore, this particular produce can even replace meat in flavoring vegan dishes.  4

Tomatoes originated in the west coast desserts of South America.  Extensive varieties existed in Mexico by the time Hernando Cortez and his 400 Spaniards discovered this land in 1519.  The tomato was incorporated in American (and later European) cookery in various ways.  At the time of Cortez’ arrival, Mexicans used thin shavings of this green, unripe fruit in many dishes; they also mixed ripe tomatoes with chillis in a sauce to top cooked beans.  Subsequently, the Spaniards in Europe readily adopted this fruit in their cuisine.  5

When Francisco Pizarro began his bloody attacks in Peru in 1532, this South American land, with all its royal Incan wealth, was eating mostly a vegetarian diet of maize, potatoes (including sweet and manioc potatoes), squash, beans, peanuts, avocados, chillis, and our beloved tomato.  6

Some time later, the Italians were adding it to broths and soups, as noted by the Quaker merchant Peter Collinson in 1742.  Tomato sauce for pasta followed several decades hence.  7

Britain lagged behind Italy, in accepting this item, due to their long-held mistaken viewpoint, which had originated on the Continent, connecting it with a deadly nightingshade, being it was of this same family.   Not until the 20th century did the English acquired a taste for tomatoes, particularly canned tomato soup.  8

North America was almost equally slow in receiving this fruit, probably due in part to these same European misconceptions; they considered it to be lacking in nourishment and substance, as well as a cause for gout.  9

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the U.S began what was to become a wide acceptance of tomatoes, primarily due to the strong influence from the great Italian immigration then.   Nevertheless, their first appearance here was when Thomas President Thomas Jefferson brought back seedlings from a diplomatic trip to Paris; there the Parisians had just accepted this “love apple”, believed to be an aphrodisiac; their acceptance directly resulted from the effect Italian cooking had on French troops during the French Revolution at the end of the 18th century (see Spicy Sausages with Tomatoes & Turnips, 2017/09/25).

It is interesting to note that our third president had an extensive garden of 170 varieties of fruits and 330 varieties of vegetables and herbs; his grand kitchen utilized most of this produce, even producing ketchup for our epicurean leader, who primarily chose a vegetarian diet.  Ketchup at this time, however, was a vinegar-based condiment made from such ingredients as walnuts and mushrooms, not tomatoes.  10

Be sure to access my other tomato recipes: Parmesan Dover Sole (2017/03/27), Rosemary Eggs (2017/08/21), and Spicy Sausage with Tomatoes and Turnips (2017/09/25).

References:

  1. Esther B. Aresty, The Delectable Past (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964), p. 181.
  2. Ibid., pp. 182, 183, 193.
  3. Ibid., p. 193.
  4. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), pp. 329, 330.
  5. On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: The Three Rivers Press, 1988, 1973), p. 206.
  6. Ibid., p. 214.
  7. Ibid., p. 207.
  8. Ibid., p. 207.
  9. Ibid., p. 207.
  10. www.monticello.org/site/house-and-gardens/historic-gardens

ingredients for ropa vieja

Ropa Vieja (Omelette)  Yields: 2 servings.  Total prep time: 25 min.  Adapted from an 1824 Southern recipe found in Esther B. Aresty’s The Delectable Past (New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1964).

2 large firm ripe tomatoes, cut in eighths, removing seeds and juice

2/3 cup shredded leftover chicken, ham, or beef

4 large eggs, beaten lightly  (May use 3 duck eggs, which are bigger than chicken eggs; for egg history, see 2017/08/21.)

2 tbsp butter

1 tbsp chopped parsley, optional

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

Fresh ground pepper, to taste

  1. cooked tomatoes

    Spray the optional parsley with a safe, inexpensive, effective produce spray (mix 97% distilled white vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide); let sit 3 minutes: then, rinse well.

  2. Prep the above ingredients.  Cut the tomatoes in eighths, gently scoop out liquid and seeds with a spoon (it not necessary to peel the tomatoes), place in a bowl.  Shred and measure the meat, set aside.  Beat the eggs, only until whites and yolks are lightly blended.  Rinse optional parsley well and chop fine.
  3. Over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a non-stick skillet.  Mix in meat, heating for 1 minute; add tomatoes; cook for 6 minutes, or until mixture is hot and tomatoes are somewhat softened, stirring occasionally (see above photo).
  4. Reduce heat to med/low; sprinkle parsley over cooked tomatoes and meat; pour beaten eggs over this mixture, quickly distributing the meat and tomatoes evenly in eggs.
  5. finished product

    Salt and pepper generously before covering; cover and cook slowly, until eggs are set on top (see photo).

  6. When done, you may remove any loose pieces of skin from tomatoes that appear on top of omelette; fold it over; cut in half to serve two people.

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, especially when someone else prepares them; 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.1   Enjoy my creative repast!

  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.  Total prep time: 1 day plus 4 hours/  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 cups water

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

5 medium/large cloves of garlic, minced

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

Salt and pepper  (Real Salt is important for optimum health; available in the health section of local supermarket.)

1 cup 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 7 1/2 x 9 1/2 x 3 pan (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; then, turn roast for the last time; once more, salt and pepper the top well.  Bake for another 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.  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. 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.)
  8. This pork is superb with the Portuguese salad Ensalada Iberica and dessert Figos Recheados, my next weeks’ posts.

Red Sauce for Pasta or Spaghetti Squash

simmering red sauce with splash shield

Gifts promote well-being in both the giver and receiver.  A beloved friend gave me a Valentine’s present of heart-shaped pasta; immediately I created this red sauce so I could enjoy my new treasure.  May we indulge in this excellent covering for either pasta or spaghetti squash; follow my easy instructions, if your dietary needs call for a vegetable rather than a starch with this piquant accompaniment.

My mother’s favorite language of love was that of gift giving.  She always blessed her children with bountiful offerings, from Easter to St. Patrick’s Day, and on every holiday in between; thus, I learned at an early age the power of contributions from the heart.  As a result I love to shower favor upon others, as well as graciously receive their inspired kindnesses.

This same act of generous sacrifice plays a lively part in my relationship with my Father in heaven, for I constantly seek to offer myself to him.  In doing so, I must slow down, move forward cautiously, relax, and especially trust the process; in this way, I proffer my life to my Maker moment by moment.  Results are a glorious existence; he has healed all my material matters!

I was specifically made to ardently search for the highest good in everything; this is especially true in my interacting with God.  However this process often brings tension, for resistance arises.

We see an explicit example of this opposition in our practice of eating: here polarity is experienced between a desire to quietly absorb pleasure, allowing gratitude in, and a friction arising out of our need to resolve storms present in our beings.  Taut emotions can result as we struggle to calm overactive minds, so we can enjoy our food.  This dichotomy in our bodies can be countered with prayer.  Great grace is needed, however, if heightened feelings cause us even to miss the opening blessing over our nutriments.

Grace, mercy, and thanksgiving are of the highest order.  When the above happens to me while eating, I immediately search my heart for honest moves of gratitude, which usually include my two favorite gifts from God: I have vibrant health (because I am able to eat sanely) and an immense supply of resources, including the highest quality of food.

These two endowments were not always present with me, for I knew excessive physical and financial poverty in the past.  At one point I had a 226 pound body, that couldn’t stop eating compulsively; now it is clothed better than Solomon in a size small.  All devouring of my economic supply has likewise ended.  An apt example of this is the recent demolition of my computer, at which juncture I stood, looked out my window at the river below, and spoke the word: all things come together for good for those that love God and are called according to his purpose.  Joyful faith rose in me, I was convinced that increase was on its way.

Indeed it was!  For after waiting patiently six weeks, I now publish my blog with the fastest of computers, an I-7 laptop equipped with a new wireless keyboard, mouse, printer, and monitor setup.  In addition to the outstanding quality of these, I have a fiber optic internet connection, instead of DSL, with 90 times more power and a monthly fee that is slightly less!

This unheard of upgrade, a sign of the Father’s immense love for us, was further outdone by the monetary provision for this loss.  First, great deals gave me $700 worth of equipment for $280; next, my Lord moved on the hearts of three separate parties to help with my needs.  He outdid himself, however, for the full amount was exceeded by half again as much, or $140 was left over in gift monies!  This is just one simple example of how my needs are always met today.  Our Father, who owns the cattle on a 1000 hills, indeed showers us with blessings, if we but believe.

He loves each and every one of us!  Right now, his heart is reaching out, to set us free from all wounds that hinder his glory from manifesting in our lives.  He is only about goodness, as my testimony proves.

Back to my friend who gave me the Valentine’s gift of heart-shaped pasta.  Let us learn the beauty of giving and receiving: what goes around comes around, for she is now anxiously awaiting my recipe for red sauce.  This beloved one initially obeyed God by giving me this gourmet food, which in turn equipped me to reach out with my cooking/writing ministry; hence, she is reaping the benefits of her offering with this post.

My prayer is that our gracious Father meet us today with all our particular needs, thus releasing his promised healing in us, who dare to receive it; then, we can go to his world proclaiming his outstanding goodness!

sweating onions

Simple Red Sauce for Pasta or Spaghetti Squash  Yields: about 2 quarts of sauce.  Total prep time: 1 hour/  active prep time: 30 minutes/  cooking time: 30 minutes.   (Spaghetti squash requires approximately 1 1/2 hr to bake.)

4 tbsp oil  (Coconut oil is best for flavor and quality here; avocado oil will also do; olive oil is carcinogenic, when heated to high temperatures.)

1 medium/large yellow onion, chopped

1 lb ground beef

1 lb romanesco or 3/4 lb mushrooms  (I like to use romanesco for variety’s sake; it is a green variant of cauliflower, which is available in the organic section at better supermarkets.)

3 tbsp butter, if using mushrooms

2-15 ounce cans of tomato sauce  (Hunt’s and Simple Truth, at our local Fred Meyer’s, make inexpensive organic tomato sauces.)

1-15 ounce can of water

2 tsp dried oregano  (Trader Joe’s carries a superb, organic dried oregano for $1.99!)

1 tbsp dried basil  (Also available inexpensively at Trader’s.)

1 tsp sugar  (I prefer organic; available at Trader’s and also in a more economical 10 lb bag at Costco.)

2 1/2 tsp salt, more to taste  (Real Salt is important for optimum health, available in nutrition section at local supermarket.)

1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper, more to taste

5 extra-large garlic cloves, minced  (3 cubes of Trader’s frozen garlic is better here.)

1/4 cup tomato paste  (Open a 6 ounce can and freeze individual 1/4 cup servings in small plastic bags, to be thawed as needed.)

Pasta or a 4-5 lb spaghetti squash  (This spaghetti squash yields 4-6 servings.)

Parmesan cheese, grated or shaved

  1. If using spaghetti squash, preheat oven to 375 degrees; pierce squash with a fork multiple times; place on side on foil-covered cookie sheet, and bake for approximately 1 1/2 hour, turning halfway through, at 3/4 hour.  Cool 10 minutes for handling, cut lengthwise, take out seeds, and scrape out “noodles” with a fork, when ready to serve.
  2. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a 3 quart saucepan over medium heat; add a small piece of onion; when it sizzles, add rest of onions and sweat (cook until translucent); see photo.
  3. Fry beef in sauté pan; salt and pepper generously before cooking; drain fat if there is a great deal of excess, when finished.  Proceed to next step, while meat is cooking.
  4. If using romanesco, clean and cut into very small pieces, add to translucent onions, and cook until somewhat soft, about 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. Add the cooked beef to onion mixture, along with tomato sauce, water, herbs, sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, pepper, and garlic.  Blend well.  (Set aside sauté pan.)
  6. Cover saucepan with a splash shield, which is available at Bed, Bath, and Beyond (see top photo); bring to a boil over medium heat; reduce heat to medium/low and simmer for 30 minutes.  Go to next step.
  7. If you are using mushrooms instead of romanesco, clean them by brushing off dirt with a mushroom brush, cut into small chunks.  Heat butter in the sauté pan, cook mushrooms in hot butter for several minutes, until slightly limp, stirring constantly.  Add mushrooms and juices to sauce.
  8. Meanwhile if serving with pasta, boil a large pot of water, to which 2 tbsp oil (any kind will do) and 2 tsp salt are added.
  9. When sauce has simmered for 30 minutes, blend in tomato paste; cook for several minutes, or until thickened, stirring constantly.
  10. Adjust seasonings to taste.
  11. Boil pasta 10 minutes before serving, or if using spaghetti squash, split baked squash in half lengthwise, take out seeds, and scoop out noodle-like membrane with a fork.
  12. Pour hot sauce over noodles and top with Parmesan cheese.  Serve immediately.
  13. Note: may freeze small individual containers of leftover sauce, to be conveniently thawed for future use.  This is dynamite!

Gingered Bok Choy with Ground Turkey

gingered bok choy with ground turkey

gingered bok choy with ground turkey

My whole family acquired the cooking gene, a rich inheritance received from our parents. However the grander bequest was that of their love: Mom and Dad cherished one another in a steadfast, unspeakable way.

This security has always belonged to our entire family. It has never weakened, no matter what, for even death has not separated my parents.

My father went to heaven on November 16, 2006, but I contend that my mother enjoys his presence even more now.  At 93, she sits in Buzzy-baby’s chair and eats ice cream with him.  She joyfully informs me, when I call, that he is letting her finish his share too, as he always did while he was alive.

My parents each possessed individual attributes that allowed for their earnest commitment: my father had a beautiful heart and my mother unshakable faith. Over the years, I have declared that my greatest heritage of all comprises these two qualities.  These endowments, along with the cooking gene, set the stage for all I get to do in this world.  They have formed me: in love with my God, I am a food historian.

This legacy of devotion and faith is more precious than gold, though my siblings and I received gold as well.

My inherited strong heart, powerful faith, and ability to cook, all three, propel me into this marvelous, God-given destiny.  Give me pots, pans, and ingredients and heaven-sent food results. My meals excite all your senses.

Today’s recipe, with its Chinese flair, is easy to follow, though it takes some patient chopping of vegetables. (The process of this preparation flows, especially after the first time you make it.)  My dish is low in carbohydrates, vitamin-proficient, and has an inexpensive, high-quality protein. Abundant health and pleasure result!

The inspiration for it grew in me.  Recently I was influenced by Chef Susanna Foo. She Americanized her Chinese cuisine by substituting our everyday ingredients, for their Oriental counterparts, which were challenging to get in the 1990’s.  Foo discovered that these simple adjustments actually enhanced her cooking.1  Thus I chose apple cider instead of rice vinegar and, for heat, jalapeno instead of Szechuan peppers.  My palette was also crying for orange juice in the mix.  I added to these surprises typical Chinese ingredients: ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, coriander, and bok choy, which is a Chinese cabbage from Brassica rapa, the same species that gave us the turnip.  (Note: the spice coriander is common to Chinese, Indian and Mexican cooking; its fresh leaves are known as cilantro.)  The glorious blending of these foods thrilled me!

Now I encourage you: look to your life, discover your unique inheritance (your intrinsic gifts), go forward with them.  Indeed your birthright was ordained before time began.  In the meantime try my recipe!

  1. Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, Culinary Artistry (Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996), p. 211.
assembly of gingered bok choy

assembly of gingered bok choy

Gingered Bok Choy with Ground Turkey  Yields: 5-6 servings.  Total active prep time: 1 1/4 hour.

3 tbsp oil  (Coconut or avocado oil is best for sauteing; olive oil produces carcinogens at high temperatures.)

1 medium/large yellow onion, halved at the root and sliced thin

2 carrots  (Organic carrots are very inexpensive; find them in 1 lb packages at Trader’s or Winco.)

2 stalks of celery

l large red bell pepper  (It is important to use organic bell peppers, as this vegetable really absorbs pesticides.)

1 lb bok choy  (Organic bok choy comes in smaller heads; weigh before purchasing.)

1 lb ground turkey  (Natural is important; Foster Farms is reasonably priced and good.)

4 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and chopped fine

1 large jalapeno pepper, minced small  (May use more for a hotter dish.)

3 cubes frozen garlic, or 5 large cloves fresh garlic  (Frozen garlic is available at Trader Joe’s, it provides ease in cooking, especially excellent for this recipe.)

1/3  cup organic tamari  (May substitute soy sauce, but not as healthy or flavorful; tamari is available in the health section at Fred Meyer’s, or at other national chains such as Whole Foods.)

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar  (Raw is the best; inexpensive at Trader’s.)

1/3 cup orange juice  (May squeeze your own, or use orange juice that is not from concentrate, such as Florida’s Natural or Tropicana’s.)

1/4 cup water

1 tbsp sesame oil  (This is found at a good price at Trader’s.)

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/4 cup corn starch, dissolved in 1/4 cup cold water

Steamed rice  (I personally prefer brown basmati.)

  1. Heat 1 ½ tbsp of oil in an extra-large frying pan over medium heat.  Add a small piece of onion; when it sizzles, oil is ready; add remaining onions and carmelize (cook until dark brown).
  2. Meanwhile cook turkey in a large sauté pan.  (Turn off heat when finished.) Go to next step in meantime.
  3. Clean all vegetables, except ginger, with an inexpensive effective spray (a mixture of  97% distilled white vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide); let sit for 3 minutes and rinse extra well.  Set aside.  While waiting for vegetables, start cooking rice.
  4. Next peel and mince ginger in very small pieces.  Set aside.
  5. Chop garlic fine, if using fresh.  Set aside.  (Frozen garlic from Trader’s works better with this recipe.)
  6. When onions are brown, add to cooked meat, set aside.  (Note: you will reuse this extra-large pan for cooking the vegetables.)
  7. Meantime dissolve corn starch in 1/4 cup cold water, set aside.  Next slowly heat garlic, tamari, vinegar, orange juice, water, sesame oil, and coriander in a small saucepan over medium/low heat.  It will take about 15 minutes for light bubbles to rise in liquid.  Meanwhile go to next step.
  8. Prepare carrots by scraping with a knife and thinly slicing at a diagonal. (Scraping, rather than peeling, preserves vitamins just under the skin.)  Cut celery in 3/4-inch wide diagonal pieces.  Place carrots and celery in a bowl, set aside.
  9. Chop pepper in 3/4-inch x 2 1/2-inch wide strips.  Place in another bowl with bok choy, which is chopped in strips the same size as the pepper-include greens.  Set all aside.
  10. Heat remaining oil in the extra-large pan.  Place a small piece of carrot in oil, wait for it to sizzle.  Also turn heat on to medium/low under pan of meat/onions.  Go to the next step.
  11. The liquid sauce should be forming light bubbles by now; add the cornstarch, which is thoroughly dissolved in water; beat constantly with a wire whisk.  It thickens quickly.  Remove from heat when thick and clear. (This takes only about 15 seconds.)  Set aside
  12. Add carrots, celery, and ginger to hot oil.  Stir well to coat vegetables with oil.  Cook 3 min, stirring occasionally.  Add bok choy and pepper strips, mix well with carrots.  Cook for about 7 minutes, or until vegetables are done, but still crisp.  Be sure to stir frequently.
  13. Mix together: hot meat, finished vegetables, and sauce.  Serve immediately with steamed rice.  This pleases the palate!