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.

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.

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 our garden tomato-and just a few succinct instructions; its simplicity makes it exceptional.

In On Food and Cooking, Harold McGee explains why this sweet-tart fruit tomato, which is used as a vegetable, has such great appeal.  (Note: any produce with seeds is considered a fruit!)  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.

The tomato originated as a weed in Central American fields of maize and beans; extensive varieties existed there, by the time Hernando Cortez and his 400 Spaniards discovered Mexico in 1519.  Tomatoes were 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 them in their cuisine.

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.

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.

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.

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.  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 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 affect Italian cooking had on French troops during the French Revolution (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 tomato ketchup for our epicurean leader, who primarily chose a vegetarian diet.

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), pp. 181-193.
  2. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), pp. 329, 330.
  3. On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: The Three Rivers Press, 1988, 1973), pp. 30, 206, 207, 214.
  4. www.nellositaly.com/the-history-of-the-tomato-in-italy.html
  5. www.monticello.org/site/house-and-gardens/historic-gardens

ingredients for ropa vieja

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

2 large firm ripe tomatoes  (Cut these 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  (Real Salt is important for health; available in nutrition center at local supermarket.)

Fresh ground pepper, to taste

  1. cooked tomatoes

    Spay the optional parsley with a safe, inexpensive, effective produce spray-mix 97% distilled white vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle; let sit while proceeding to the next step.

  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 leftover 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 medium/low; sprinkle parsley over cooked tomatoes and meat; pour beaten eggs over this mixture, quickly distributing the meat and tomatoes evenly in eggs, using a spatula.
  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 loose pieces of skin off tomato pieces, showing on top of omelette; fold it over; cut in half to serve two people.

Natural Sausage with Zucchini and Eggplant

natural sausage with zucchini and eggplant

At this time of year, we are wondering what to do with all the zucchini.  Using natural sausage and Chinese eggplant, I transformed this ordinary vegetable, which is actually a fruit, into a memorable dish.  Garlic and Aidells’ Spicy Mango with Jalapeno Chicken Sausages give this common garden plant a dramatic bite, with a sweet aftertaste.  Eggplant is a perfect accompaniment to zucchini, and carmelized onions compliment all.  This is a simple, mouth-watering treat indeed.

My pastors are bringing their prolific zucchini to our services now, and I am thrilled. Our church body experiences this benefit every growing season.

Throughout the year, we experience the results of what this couple’s hands accomplish in the realm of the Spirit, but during harvest time we reap what these same faithful hands produce in natural soil.  Their charitable action is steadfast, and it can be concretely seen in the vegetables and fruits, with which they fed our physical bodies.

This particular squash reproduces rapidly; it can quickly grow beyond what is satisfactory.  When it gets over-sized, it contains too much water; its seeds are large and tough; there aren’t enough recipes to utilize this inundation.  (Learn more about its biology and history at Zucchini Bread, 2017/07/31.)

Our pastors watch this fruit/vegetable prudently; thus, readily picking it before it grows beyond its prime, whenever possible.  Our church is like a prototype of their healthy garden.  Pastors Monte and Dawn care for us like prized plants: watering with the word, observing diligently, pruning with exceptional wisdom and love…We are indeed well-tended.

I can’t express gratitude enough that our Lord saw fit to place me under their protection; it is here that I became equipped to fulfill my purpose as a food historian.  I invite you to access the bread of life at our website alfc.net

Meanwhile eat heartily, by cooking this delicious recipe.

Aidells’ Spicy Mango with Jalapeno Chicken Sausages

Natural Sausage with Zucchini and Eggplant  Yields: 4-5 servings.  Total active prep time: 45 min.

2 1/3 tbsp oil  (Coconut or avocado oil is best; olive oil is carcinogenic when heated to high temperatures.)

1 medium yellow onion, cut evenly in 1/8 inch slices

12 ounces natural sausage, cut diagonally  (Aidells’ Spicy Mango with Jalapeno Chicken Sausages are the best here; available at most local supermarkets.)

1 lb Chinese eggplant, cut in 1/2 inch cubes  (See photo below.)

4 cloves of garlic, minced  (For convenience, use 2 frozen cubes of garlic from Trader Joe’s.)

1 tsp salt, or to taste  (Real Salt is important for health reasons; available in nutrition center at local grocery store.)

3/4 tsp freshly ground pepper, or to taste

chopping eggplant

2 carrots, thinly sliced at a diagonal

1 1/2 lbs of zucchini, cut in 1/2 inch cubes

  1. Clean vegetables, using an inexpensive, effective spray of 93% distilled white vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide; let sit 3 minutes.  Meanwhile go to next step.
  2. In a sauté pan, heat 1/2-1 tsp of oil; when a small piece of onion sizzles, add all onions and carmelize over medium/low heat, stirring every 2 minutes until color starts to form; then, stir every minute, until dark brown; when finished, deglaze pan with 2 tbsp or more of water (scrape the fond, or cooked-on juices, off the bottom of pan with a spatula); set aside when finished, adding to the bowl of meat described below.  Watch onions carefully, while performing the next steps.
  3. Rinse vegetables; cut them and meat, as described in the above list of ingredients; set all aside in separate bowls.  Mince garlic, if using fresh.
  4. finished product

    Heat 2 tsp of oil in another frying pan over medium heat.  When a piece of sausage sizzles in pan, add the other sausage slices and brown quickly, watching carefully as not to burn; place in a large bowl, carefully saving juices in the pan.

  5. When meat is removed, heat 2 tsp more of oil with the left-over juices, add eggplant, mix oil in well, and deglaze pan (scrape off fond left over by meat) with 2 tbsp or more of water.  Cook covered until soft, stirring every couple of minutes; deglaze pan again; transfer eggplant to the bowl of meat.
  6. Heat 2 tsp of oil in same pan; add carrots; cook for 3 minutes, or just until tender, stirring occasionally.  Mix zucchini into carrots; cook covered until limp, stirring several times.
  7. When vegetable is done, blend in garlic, salt and pepper; cook until you can smell the garlic.  (If using frozen, make sure it is melted and distributed well.)  Mix in meat, onions, and eggplant; adjust seasonings; heat thoroughly.  Serve with delight.

Roasted Beet and Balsamic Chicken Salad

roasted beet and balsamic chicken salad

The inspiration for this salad came when I needed one for a ladies tea at my church.  Since then I have used it to bless several large crowds; thus, it is written for ten servings which I in turn multiplied; in this way chefs write their recipes for restaurant use.  You, however, may choose to prepare half this receipt.  Don’t miss its simple pleasure.

The healer Jeanette, from my previous post, emphasizes the importance of color in her life-giving diet.  I kept her instructions in mind as I chose this produce; thus, I included purple beets as opposed to multi-colored ones, which are light in pigment when cooked; bright yellow peppers provided a health-promoting, visual contrast.

Both this salad’s chicken and the balsamic vinaigrette (2016/08/22) may be made with real balsamic, which originated in Modena, Italy about 900 years ago.  We, however, without knowing it often use a cheaper, imitation version of this.  I will teach you the difference here, so you may shop wisely, if you want to invest in the best.

Wikipedia defines the aceto balsamico (balsamic vinegar), guarded by European agencies, as a very dark, concentrated, intensely flavored vinegar made wholly or partially from grape must.  The word aceto balsamico is unregulated, but there are three of these protected balsamic vinegars; it is required that they come from the province of Modena and the wider Emilia region surrounding it.  The two best of these always have the word tradizionale, traditional, in their names: Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena and Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia; both are made from reduced grape must and aged for numerous years in a series of wooden barrels.  The third Aceto Balsamico di Modena is also made from grape must, but only partially, as it is blended with wine vinegar, making it less expensive.1

The HuffPost explains how to discern these authentic versions, by looking for their place of origin and the words: grape must, aged grape must, Mosto d’Uva, or DOC in the list of ingredients.  Without one of these words you will be getting imitation wine vinegar with coloring added to it.2

The first two mentioned above, known as balsamico tradizionale, are dark in color and very costly, because they are aged to syrupy perfection for 12-100 years, under rigid restrictions.  Expect to pay up to $400 a bottle.3   This traditional balsamic is not vinegar made from wine, but rather it is made from grape pressings that have never been permitted to ferment into wine.  It begins with boiling down sweet white Trebbiano grape pressings to dark syrup, which is aged in an oaken keg with a vinegar “mother”.  Over the years it graduates to smaller and smaller kegs of different kinds of wood, as moisture evaporates from it, further thickening the vinegar and concentrating the flavor; the varying woods, chestnut, cherry wood, ash, mulberry, and juniper, provide its great character.  The result is extravagant taste.  As with the world’s most expensive spice saffron, a little goes a long way.4

Aceto Balsamico di Modena, the other regulated balsamic, is partially made with grape must and blended with wine vinegar, making it less costly.  Its restrictions are that it has to be from the Modena or Emilia regions and carry a Protected Geographical Indication status, which comes from a different agency than that protecting the balsamico traditzionale.

Like with good wine, price often dictates quality.  Surprises, however, sometimes occur: this authentic blended vinegar, complete with the authorized seal, is available at Trader Joe’s at a very moderate cost, as their excellent buyers shop globally, negotiating low prices, for the large quantities they are obtaining.  This label is good, but even better may be experienced.

Explore the exciting world of vinegars; make this dressing with a high quality aceto balsamico, or get Trader Joe’s Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (aged 10 years at $3.99 for 8.5 ounces), which is also delicious.  As a result, this salad will tantalize your taste buds!

  1. ttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balsamic_vinegar
  2. www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/09/balsamic-vineger-fraud_n_5459425.html
  3.  Ibid.
  4. https://www.thespruce.com/about-balsamic-vinegar-1808088

cooking tenderloins in balsamic vinegar

Roasted Beet and Balsamic Chicken Salad  Yields: 10 servings (may make half this recipe).  Total prep time: 2 days (for sprouting quinoa) plus 1 3/4 hr/  active prep time: 3/4 hr/  baking time: 1 hr.

Note: using my recipes, you may prepare ahead: balsamic vinaigrette (2016/08/22), croutons (2016/08/15), and agave roasted nuts (2016/08/15), for keeping on hand at all times; may also substitute ready-made versions.

1/2 cup quinoa, sprouted 1-2 days in advance  (Directions are below.)

2 large purple beets, or the equivalent thereof

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

1 pound chicken tenderloins, about 5 pieces

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

3 large cloves of garlic, minced  (Better yet, use 1 cube of frozen garlic from Trader Joe’s.)

1 yellow bell pepper  (Organic is important here, as bell peppers readily absorb pesticides.)

10-12 ounces greens of your choice

8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled  (Do not use pre-crumbled feta, as it is treated with preservatives and not as tasty.)

Agave roasted nuts, made ahead, see Healthy Green Salads (2016/08/15)

Home-made croutons, made ahead, see Healthy Green Salads (2016/08/15)

Balsamic vinaigrette, made ahead (2016/08/22)

  1. Using either a sprouting jar or a bowl, sprout quinoa 2 days in advance, by first soaking it in water for 6-8 hours (may make extra quinoa); then, draining off water well, let it sit for 1-2 days until sprouted, rinsing about every 12 hours.  If finished before using, do the following: when 1/4 inch long legs have grown, without rinsing again, spread prepared quinoa on a tray or large plate, covered with parchment, to let dry for about 12 more hours.  Store in a sealed storage bag or jar and refrigerate, keeps for up to two weeks.  For more detail on sprouting, see Sprouted Three Bean Dip (2017/06/26) and Sprouted Quinoa and Yam Salad (2016/09/05).
  2. If chicken is frozen, thaw in water.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Wash and lightly oil beets; wrap in aluminum foil, leaving closure upright to keep juices from spilling; bake on cookie sheet for 3/4–1 1/4 hours, depending on size of beets.  Open foil and cool in wrap for 10 minutes; peel skin off by rubbing with hands; cut in 1/4 inch julienne slices; set aside.  Meanwhile go to next step.
  4. Heat tablespoon of oil in large skillet; place thawed tenderloins on paper towel, salting and peppering them extra well before cooking; when tiny piece of chicken sizzles in oil, add the rest.  Pour balsamic over meat and add garlic; turn tenderloins over in vinegar.  Let cook for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Starting with the smallest tenderloin, cut each piece in thirds with a spatula; as they are cooked remove pieces to a bowl-the meat will just be turning white inside when done.  Do not overcook.  Pour juice from pan into bowl, which will further marinate meat.
  6. Wash and cut bell pepper in small strips, set aside.
  7. Place greens in a serving bowl; add quinoa, beets, chicken, peppers, feta cheese, and nuts; toss with balsamic vinaigrette; serve with croutons. Delicious!

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!

Medieval White-Dish

White-dish

white-dish

Here is a bird’s eye view of a 14th century nobleman’s kitchen, as was common during the reign of King Richard II.  It consisted of a large, separate structure with many fireplaces built along the walls, each with its own cooking area.  At least one fireplace was large enough to roast a whole ox.  A raised open hearth was situated in the center of the kitchen.

Bake metes (baked foods) were concocted in an oven, prepared first with a blazing fire, getting its brick walls red hot.  Cooks placed the pies, custards, and pastries in the hot oven, after they swept out the ashes.  These items baked, behind a closed door, until the oven was cool.

Bakers, however, made breads in separate buildings in larger kitchens, such as that of King Richard II.  The stoves in these bake houses were often 14 feet wide.

Our king was extravagant; he daily entertained over a thousand guests.  There is record of a very large shopping list for a banquet he gave on September 23, 1387. His overseer included 14 salted oxen, 2 fresh oxen, 120 sheep, 140 pigs, 120 gallons of milk, and 11,000 eggs, among taxing quantities of other items.

These feasts were held in the castle’s great hall.  Here the king and special guests sat on a raised platform, or high borde.  The lesser guests assembled at tables that paralleled the side walls.  The backless benches, on which they sat, were called banquettes; thus we got the name banquet for such affairs.

Cooks in many of these kitchens prepared white-dish, or blank-mang.  It was a popular dish in England, as well as on the Continent, during the Middle Ages. Chaucer’s chef made this receipt.  Our poet wrote in his “Prologue” to the Canterbury Tales (c.1386):  “For blancmange, that made he with the best.”

I am indebted to Lorna Sass for her documentation of this information in To the King’s Taste (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975).  Below is my version for her delicious, historical recipe.  Its preparation is easy with my introduction of 21st century appliances  Can’t encourage you enough to try this.  It’s a palate pleaser!

Next week I will be making the connection between these medieval foods and our “renaissance” happening right here in Tualatin, Oregon.

White-Dish is adapted from a recipe in Lorna Sass’ To the King’s Taste (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975).  Yields: 4-6 servings.

2 large chicken breasts

2 1/2 cups water

1 1/4 tsp salt  (Real Salt is best, available in health section of local supermarket.)

1/2 cup raw whole almonds

1 cup brown rice  (I like basmati rice, available at Trader Joe’s.)

3 tbsp butter

4 tsp brown sugar, packed down  (Sucanat  evaporated cane juice, may be substituted; this is close to what they used in the Middle Ages.)

3 tbsp anise seed

1/4 cup sliced almonds

  1. In a tightly covered medium-size saucepan, over medium heat, boil chicken in water, to which 1/4 tsp salt is added.   Boil for about 10-15 minutes.  Be careful to not overcook.  Check meat by cutting with a sharp knife; center should be slightly pink.  (Meat will be cooked more later on.) Remove chicken from broth; set aside both broth and meat.
  2. To make the almond milk, grind 1/2 cup whole raw almonds in a 11-cup, or larger, food processor. Pulse repeatedly until almonds are a fine powder.  (A blender or Vitamix will also work; add 2 tbsp of ice water to nuts, before grinding, if using either of these.)
  3. With food processor running, slowly add two cups of broth through the feeder tube on top of the processor.  (You may have to add water to make 2 cups of liquid; if perhaps you have extra broth, be sure to save this.)  Let sit for 10 minutes.  This makes almond milk.
  4. Put almond milk in the saucepan.  Add remaining 1 tsp salt, 1 tbsp butter, and sugar.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Add rice, cover,  and reduce heat to medium low.  Simmer gently for about 40 minutes, or until rice is soft.  Watch carefully so rice doesn’t cook dry; gently check bottom of pan with a fork, being careful to not stir rice.  Add more broth, or water, as needed.
  5. Meanwhile dice chicken into 1-inch cubes.  Set aside.
  6. In a small sauté pan, cook almond slices in remaining 2 tbsp of hot butter.  Watch carefully, sautéing only until light brown.  Salt them lightly and set aside.
  7. Crush anise seed using a mortar and pestle.  May also grind in a DRY food processor by pulsing lightly.  Set aside.
  8. Add chicken when rice is soft; stir, and cook about 5 more minutes, or until meat is hot.  Watch moisture in bottom of pan, so rice doesn’t burn, add water or broth as needed.
  9. Serve garnished with buttered almond slices and crushed anise seed.  SO GOOD!