Asparagus (with leftover milk solids from ghee)

sautéed asparagus with ghee

Not knowing any better, I loved canned asparagus in my youth, as canned vegetables dominated America in the mid-twentieth century.  At that time in my life, I was also enamored with Campbell’s tomato soup, when made with milk instead of water.  These foods spelled enchantment to my young, untutored palette.  Time provided exposure to more excellent options; I no longer like canned asparagus or Campbell’s soup.  Over the years, my taste buds have been disciplined to know the best; thus, I have acquired wisdom, which I humbly share with you.

With its 1795 beginnings, canning drastically reformed the world of nutrition, which started with a French confectioner’s inspiration.  This radical change in the culinary world came at a time that government saw upheaval as well, for the French revolutionaries were revolting against monarchies in Europe (for the history of canning refer to Bean, Corn, and Avocado Salad, 2017/10/02).

Originally, this manufacturing process provided armies with needed preservation of foods, but later its prevailing use distracted the American public, taking them away from healthier, tastier, fresh ailments; this occurred likewise in other cultures.  Canned goods monopolized the cooking of the common man; thus, the preparation of fresh fruits and vegetables was lost for a period.  Even canned meats were favored: Spam was popular in the U.S., while bully beef-minced corned beef in small amounts of gelatin-dominated the United Kingdom and mainland Europe.

Campbell’s is the best known name in the global soup-making industry.  In 1869, Philadelphia, fruit-wholesaler Joseph Campbell partnered with tinsmith-icebox-maker Abram Anderson to open Campbell Soup Company in Camden, N.J.; initially they packed fancy asparagus, small peas, tomatoes, minced meat, condiments, jellies, etc.

The year following its new 1896 partnership, the president of Joseph Campbell Preserve Company hired his 24-year old nephew John T. Dorrance, a brilliant research chemist.  This master of organic chemistry had received a doctorate from the University of Gootingen, having turned down faculty positions at this illustrious school, as well as at Columbia, Cornell, and Bryn Mawr.  Young Dorrance applied his ingenuity to his passionate vision for canned soups, for which he had learned the proper seasoning while working at famous Parisian restaurants.  With his vision of a double-strength “condensed” product, this youthful genius gave America its famous Campbell’s tomato soup.

My vivid, introduction to cooked, fresh spinach is sealed in my brain; it took place at my friend Dulcy’s home in Cut Bank, Montana in 1974.  This steamed dish, which her mother had adorned with hot butter and fresh-squeezed lemon, ignited a holy fire in me.  Exuberantly I tried to convince my mom to repeat this, but she refused, professing her hatred for spinach.  I now understand that her reaction came from an impression left by the nasty canned version, which so colored her sensory perception that she totally blocked out the heaven-sent fresh variety.

Both our palates and souls are thus influenced, absorbing either good or bad information, until we exercise our God-given authority over these perceptions.  Throughout our lifetime, events leave subtle marks on us in either adverse or positive ways, hence imbuing our imaginations with emotion, and consequently dictating our choices often.  We, however, can overcome our inhibitions by purposing to resist these impulses, repeatedly speaking words of life over our circumstances.  In this way, we mold new pathways in our brains.  This is true with all soulish imprints, both those brought by unpalatable foods as well as emotional wounds.  May we stand boldly, mastering all such patterns that limit us.

Here fresh asparagus is the piece de resistance, with which I employ the leftover remains of browned casein residue from simple ghee preparation (see Laban Bil Bayd, 2018/03/26, for easy instructions).  The flavor in butter is most highly concentrated in those milk proteins; therefore, when these are separated in the clarifying process, the very strength of its taste is isolated; browning intensifies this even further.  If you have never experienced a food enhanced with these nutty milk solids, be prepared for copious, mouth-watering sensations.

References:

James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995), pp. 283, 345, 354.

http://www.qdg.org.uk/pages/1793-to-1802-103.php

http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/history/Ca-Ch/Campbell-Soup-Company.html

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

https://www.taste.com.au/articles/bully-beef-part-of-australian-history/KYnke1FI

http://jamaicans.com/bullyb/

leftover milk solids from ghee preparation

Asparagus (with leftover milk solids from ghee)  Yields: 2-3 servings.  Total prep time: 15 min, when ghee is prepared ahead, which takes an additional 15 min.

1 lb fresh asparagus, or vegetable of your choice

1 1/2 tbsp of ghee  (See simple instructions at Laban Bil Bayd, 2018/03/26.)

Browned milk solids  (See these, leftover from ghee preparation, in saucepan in above photo.)

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

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

  1. cutting asparagus

    Spray asparagus with a safe, effective, inexpensive vegetable spray (combine 97% distilled white vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide); let sit for 3 minutes; rinse well.

  2. Dry spears with a towel.  Cut in bite-size pieces, first removing tough ends (see photo).
  3. preparing ghee for sauteing

    Melt ghee in frying pan, saving separated milk solids for finishing touch (see photo); test for readiness by placing a piece of asparagus in pan; when it sizzles, it is time to proceed.

  4. Add vegetable and sauté until desired doneness; do not overcook.
  5. Stir in browned milk solids; salt generously (see photo at top of recipe).  Be enraptured by this heavenly treat!

Braised Celery

braised celery

Celery, along with only a few other vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts, is a relative newcomer to the world’s diet, where most common vegetables have been eaten since before recorded history.  This Apium graveolens is the mild, enlarged version of a thin-stalked, bitter Eurasian herb called smallage.

Wild celery is believed to have originated in the Mediterranean area.  Its woven garlands have been found in Egyptian tombs.  An archeological finding in Kastanas, Greece provides evidence that Apium graveolens was present there in the 9th century before Christ.  There is also great literary evidence establishing this, for selinon, which is believed to be the same as celery, is mentioned by Homer in both the Illiad and Odyssey (circa 850 B.C.).

Moving forward five centuries after Christ, this wild edible herb appears in Chinese writings; then following this, it is cited again in a 9th century A.D. poem, from either France or Italy.

Italians first bred this small, primitive plant in their gardens apparently in the 1500’s, using it for medicinal purposes only; other northern European countries also began growing it.  By 1623, a record of celeri in France, established it as being utilized as a food.  For the next 100 years, it was generally employed only to flavor dishes, though in France and Italy, its leaves and stalks were sometimes eaten accompanied with oil dressing.  By the end of this century, this vegetable had arrived in England.

The first evidences of improvement of this wild Apium were seen in late 17th and early 18th centuries in these northern European countries, resulting in selections with solid stems; this stalk celery, as it has been known, originally had a tendency to produce hallow stalks that were bitter and strong.  Years of domestication corrected this hallow characteristic; likewise, breeding countered the disagreeable flavors.  This latter development was achieved by choosing the cooler growing periods of late summer and fall-the plants were then kept into winter-as well as by employing blanching, a practice that pushes dirt up around the stalks’ bases, keeping the sunlight from turning the celery green.

We have two types of stalk celery varieties: the green or Pascal is popular in North America, while the yellow, also known as self-blanching, is preferred in Europe and the rest of the world.  Celeriac, celery root or knob celery, is also widely used in European countries, with a growing audience for it among trendy U.S. gourmets.  Chinese or leaf celery, which is also called smallage-of all the Apiums, this is the closest in form and flavor to the original Eurasian herb-is grown in Asia and the Mediterranean regions for its leaves and seeds; these are used for cooking and sometimes medicine.

In America, the presence of this vegetable was minor during colonial days, leaving no evidence as to which European group brought it here.  Nonetheless by 1806, four cultivated varieties were growing in the U.S., as is listed in the American Gardeners’ Calendar, printed that year.  After the mid-19th century, with further domestication having refined its taste and texture, Americans were eating it raw with salt, serving it in celery vases at the dinner table.

Organic celery tends to be on sale at our local Fred Meyer-Kroger-stores during any holiday.  Thus, having it on hand from a Christmas special, I created this exceptionally easy, delightful braised celery dish, for my annual, day-after-Christmas celebration with my long-time friend Janet.  We loved it; hope you will to.

References:

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

https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/archives/parsons/publications/vegetabletravelers/celery.html

http://www.foodreference.com/html/celery-history.html

Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), pp. 249, 315, 406.

finished product

Braised Celery  Yields: 4 servings.  Total prep time: 20 min/  active prep time: 10 min/  cooking time: 10 min.

1 1/4 lb celery  (Organic celery is relatively inexpensive.)

2 tbsp chilled butter, cut in small pieces

Salt and freshly ground pepper  (Himalayan or pink salt, such as Real Salt, is so important for optimum health; a Himalayan salt is available very cheaply in bulk, at our local Winco.)

1 tsp Herbes de Provence  (Trader Joe’s has a great deal on this dried herb.)

1/2 c broth  (May use chicken, vegetable, or a good beef broth.)

  1. preparation of celery

    Peel strings off celery with a potato peeler; spray with a safe, inexpensive, effective vegetable spray (combine 97% distilled white vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide); let sit 3 minutes; rinse really well.  Save leaves for garnish.

  2. Cut celery in 4-inch pieces; place in a single layer-the indented side up-in the bottom of a large sauté pan; dot with pieces of butter; salt and pepper generously; sprinkle top with Herbes de Provence.  (See photo above.)
  3. Pour broth over celery; bring to a boil over med/high heat; reduce heat to med/low; cook covered for 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile chop the leaves, to be used as an optional garnish.
  5. Remove cover, stir well, raise heat to medium, and cook for 4 minutes more (see photo below).
  6. Raise heat to med/high and cook liquids down, stirring constantly, until juices form a glaze, about 1 minute (see photo at top of recipe).
  7. celery while cooking

    Arrange in a serving dish, garnish with chopped leaves, and serve with pride!

Kale, Leeks, and Chicken

kale, leeks, and chicken

A friend from my church has a very large garden; sharing its bounty is her joy.  Last summer’s series on simplified kale receipts was inspired by her gracious contributions (see 2016/09/07 & 2016/09/19).

My mind creates recipes according to what is in my larder, which usually boasts of provision supplied by church members.  Lately Goldie has been bringing her organic kale again, as well as leeks and celery; this mouth-watering chicken dish resulted.

For a wedding present last year, I gave a marriage supper, complete with a cooking class, to newlyweds in our congregation (see Thai Coconut Lime Flounder, 2016/12/05); my desire was to release the gift of excellent nutrition in them.  Several weeks ago, we celebrated their holy matrimony again, with a new set of instructions and dinner following, rejoicing over God’s goodness in our lives.

Dina exhibited such courage in overcoming her unfamiliarity with food preparation, the first time I coached her; hope, however, grew this recent session, for she has grown exponentially in her eager steadfastness in the kitchen.

This new teaching included my chicken dish using the kale, shallots, and leeks from our church; these steps are straightforward, though they are time-consuming, with the preparation of leeks and kale.  But oh the benefits of health and taste!

Leeks are one of the world’s oldest vegetables, which are more delicate in flavor than either onions or shallots; they are considered highly nutritious, with cancer fighting attributes, as well as antiseptic, laxative, and diuretic properties, among many other health-promoting values.  This vegetable is particularly strong in vitamins K and A (when eaten raw, one 3.5-ounce serving contains 52 % daily requirement of vitamin K and more than 29% that of vitamin A).  Though research on this particular Allium is hitherto limited, it can well be assumed that its health benefits are comparable to those proven in its closely related onion and garlic cousins.  Its notable amount of flavonol kaempferol, in its substantial polyphenol content, thereby combats many health problems related to oxidative stress and chronic low-level inflammation; among these are rheumatoid arthritis, obesity, and type 2 diabetes; thus, this recipe is beneficial to Dina, whose husband is presently overcoming diabetes.  For an additional recipe and more on its history, go to Zucchini Chicken with Leeks and Shallots (2017/09/28).

Enjoy making today’s clear, detailed chicken recipe for leeks, shallots, and kale; my next entry will expound on the colorful history of leeks, with a delectable soup (2017/09/18).  Note: I will be taking this coming week off due to our Women’s Advance-we always advance, we never retreat, at Abundant Life Family Church (alfc.net)!

References:

www.foodfacts.mercola.com/leeks.html

www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=26

www.historic-uk.com/HistoryofWales/TheLeek-National-emblem-of-the-Welsh/

finished product

Kale, Leeks, and Chicken  Yields: 5-6 servings.  Total prep time: 1 1/2 hr (lengthy, but well worth it with these simple, detailed directions).

1 1/2 pound chicken tenderloins, about 8-10 large pieces  (Natural is best; available reasonably in Trader Joe’s freezer.)

2 large carrots, optional

3 large stalks of celery

1-1 1/2 pounds of kale

chopping leeks

4 leeks, white and light green part, 3/4 pound trimmed  (The best leeks are fresh-not more than a week old-and 1 1/2 inches in diameter.)

5 large cloves of garlic, minced  (3 cubes of frozen garlic from Trader Joe’s is much easier.)

4 tbsp butter

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

1-2 tbsp fresh thyme, removed from stems, and coarsely chopped

Salt  (Real Salt is important for your health; available in the natural foods section at your local supermarket.)

Fresh ground pepper

  1. Place chicken in a large bowl of warm water to thaw, set aside.
  2. Spray all vegetables with an inexpensive effective spray, by combining 97% white distilled vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide; let sit 3 minutes; while waiting, if using fresh, mince garlic; rinse sprayed vegetables in a sink full of water several times.
  3. Cut celery diagonally in 1 inch pieces; scrape optional carrots with a sharp knife (this preserves vitamins just under the skin); slice thinly at a diagonal; set aside together in a bowl.
  4. Prepare leeks by first discarding outer leaves; cut off the dark green at the top and root hairs on bottom, leaving the white and light green part.  Cut each leek in half lengthwise; rinse well; then, cut each half in 2 inch pieces, by placing leek cut-side up on board; finally, slice these 2 inch lengths, cut-side up on board,

    cutting ribs out of kale

    into thin strips (see photo above); place pieces in a large container.  For final cleaning, rinse strips well with water, stirring with hand; then, drain in a colander.  This is known as the chiffonade-cut.

  5. Melt butter over medium heat in a sauté pan; as soon as a small piece sizzles in pan, add half the leeks, coating strips well with the hot butter. Reduce heat to low; cook down in pan, to make room for the rest of leeks, distributing oils well with each addition.  When all leeks are in pan, add garlic and slowly cook, covered, over low heat, stirring occasionally.
  6. straight-edge blade of food processor for chopping

    Cut ribs out of kale with a sharp knife (see above photo). May chop by hand, or quickly chop greens mechanically, by using the straight-edge blade of a food processor (see photo); turn processor on and place kale pieces in feeder tube (see photo below); set aside.

  7. Place thawed chicken on paper towel, salt and pepper GENEROUSLY.  Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat; when a small piece of chicken sizzles in oil, add the rest of the tenderloins; cook until light pink inside (do not overcook, as these will cook more later); cut tenderloins in bite-size pieces, removing them to a large bowl.  CAREFULLY SAVE JUICES IN PAN.
  8. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to these juices; mix in half the kale, distributing oils evenly.  Over medium heat, cook this vegetable down until there is room to add more; mix in oils with each addition, until all is in the pan; cook covered, until limp, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  As needed, deglaze pan (scrape fond, cooked-on juices, off bottom with a spatula, after adding 2 or more tablespoons of water).  Remove to bowl of meat when done.
  9. placing kale in feeder tube of processor

    Meanwhile gently peel thyme off stems, chop coarsely with a sharp knife, set aside.

  10. Put last 2 teaspoons of oil in hot pan after kale is removed; add carrots and celery; mix well; cook until tender, stirring every couple of minutes.  Meantime go to next step.
  11. Blend 1-2 tablespoons chopped thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper into leeks; stir in chicken/kale; continue cooking over low heat, until all is hot.  Add this mixture to pan of celery, when tender; adjust seasonings; one final time, scrape bottom to deglaze pan, using the juices from the added leek mixture.  Serve with confidence!

Borscht (Beet Soup)

a bowl of borscht

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References:

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

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

www.dictionary.com/browse/borscht

easy mincing of onion

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

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

1 med/lg yellow onion

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

1 qt broth  (I prefer bone broth-for recipe and powerful health benefits, see Tortellini Soup, 2016/10/10.)

1 c water

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

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

1 tsp Better than Bouillon, or to taste

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

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper, or to taste

sweating onions

Sour cream

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

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

    Add half the lemon juice and honey.

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

Sprouted Three Bean Dip

sprouted three bean dip with organic sprouted Que Pasa chips

This sprouted three bean dip is my sister Maureen’s creation.  It was inspired by the life-preserving works of her prayer partner Jeanette in the early 2000’s.  Her friend was a cancer victim with four months to live when she chose non-traditional treatment, a juice fast at a health center.  After healing was complete, Jeanette began to teach powerful juice fasting herself, elaborating on its restorative values with raw, sprouted foods.  Together these produce a perfect ph balance in our systems, in which cancer can’t survive.  This woman is now world renown for treating the terminally ill.

Sprouting magnifies the nutritional qualities of grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts.  For instance, almonds soaked for 24 hours increase in food value 11x.  Quinoa, a pseudo-cereal, which fits nicely between grains and legumes, is also dramatically changed; this complete protein, which grows quickly in 1-2 days, is high in manganese, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, fiber, folate, zinc, vitamin E, and antioxidants; my instructions for germinating quinoa can be found in Sprouted Quinoa and Yam Salad (2016/09/05).  Beans, however, take about 3 days for the enzymes to come alive; live beans are also a good source of protein, as well as B and C vitamins.

Maureen learned much about nutrition from her friend and subsequently passed it on to me.  My sister creatively applied her sprouting method to cooked three-bean dip; Jeanette, however, never cooks anything.  Note that boiling these beans diminishes their life; thus, they are no longer considered a live food, but germination still holds some benefits here even with the heating.

On the other hand, sprouting can encourage bacteria to grow, while high heat kills these microorganisms; boiling also deactivates irritating substances that may be found in raw sprouts; therefore, people with weak immune systems should be careful about eating sprouted foods.  Indulge as your body dictates, always employing sterile conditions while undertaking this technique.

Koreans have long employed stewing in making their common side dish known as kongnamul; in this popular nourishment, the sprouted soybeans have been cooked thoroughly and seasoned with fish sauce, garlic, green onions, sesame seeds, sesame oil, and hot pepper flakes.  This refreshing accompaniment is almost always present at every meal in this culture; for an authentic recipe, go to http://www.maangchi.com/recipe/kongnamul-muchim

My dip will keep for many weeks in the refrigerator (these instructions provide three quarts of product, two of which I freeze).  For me, the receipt’s importance is not only its enzymatic quality, which decreases some with boiling and freezing, but more so the ease it provides of always having a dynamite hors d’ouvres on hand.  It’s good!

ingredients for sprouted three bean dip

Sprouted Three Bean Dip  Yields: 3 quarts (ideal for freezing).  Total prep time: 3-4 days to soak beans for live enzymes, plus 3 1/2 hr to prepare/  active prep time: 1 hr/  cooking time: 2 1/2 hr.

3 cups pinto beans

1 cup red beans

1 cup black beans

1 tbsp salt  (Real Salt is best for optimum health; available in the health section of local supermarket.)

2/3 cup garlic cloves, cut in thirds, 2 medium/large bulbs of garlic needed  (This produces a pungent garlic flavor; may adjust amount for a weaker garlic taste.)

1 cup cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup salsa  (Trader Joe’s makes a good and reasonable Salsa Authentica.)

3-1 quart empty yogurt or cottage cheese containers, sterilized

  1. Began soaking beans 4 days ahead of time: place the pinto and red beans only in a large stock pot; check for stones; then, cover generously with water.  Next place black beans in a 3 quart saucepan, covering well with water, after checking for stones,  (Black beans cook faster; thus, they need to be prepared separately.)
  2. Let soak for 3-4 days, rinsing every 6-8 hours.  Enzymes will be alive even if sprouts are just beginning to show.  This process takes several days.
  3. When sprouts have grown, rinse beans well again, and cover amply with fresh water.  Cook black beans over medium heat until soft for about 45 minutes.  Bring pinto/red beans to a boil over medium heat (this takes around 45 minutes) and cook for about 1 1/4 hours more, or until soft.  Replenish water if needed.  DO NOT ADD SALT WHILE COOKING, THIS INHIBITS BEANS FROM SOFTENING.
  4. Peel garlic while beans are cooking; cut cloves in halves or thirds, filling a 2/3 cup measuring cup (or 1/2 cup if you want a weaker garlic flavor).  Place in a dry food processor; chop fine, stopping and scraping down sides.  Pack down chopped garlic in same measuring cup; split in half with a knife, using one half for each of the two batches you are processing.  Set aside, see photo.  (Note: of necessity, dip will taste very strongly of garlic at first; this flavor mellows greatly after several days!  If you don’t like a powerful garlic taste, you may decrease the amount of garlic cloves pieces to 1/ 2 cup total, 1/4 cup per batch, or to taste.)
  5. Remove the black beans from heat when they are soft, immediately add 1 tsp salt to hot bean broth.  Let soak for 15 minutes, drain well, set aside.  (This process salts the bean dip evenly.)
  6. Repeat step 4 with the pinto/red beans when finished cooking; add 2 tsp of salt, however, to this mixture.
  7. When beans are thus prepared, process the first of two batches by placing half the pinto/red beans, half the black beans, half the garlic, 1/2 cup oil, and 1/2 cup salsa in the food processor.  Turn on and puree.  Press the “dough” button on processor briefly, as it agitates the mass with different motions than those of regular processing; in this way, the bean dip is blended well.
  8. Place in sterilized containers and repeat step 7 with last of beans.
  9. This keeps in refrigerator for many weeks; freezes extra well; thus, is great for long-term use.

Carmelized Onions and Carrots

carmelized onions and carrots

Anything carmelized thrills our taste buds, for this cooking process brings out the sugars in foods, and our mouths savor sweetness.  Chef Gary Danko states it aptly: “Carmelization equals flavor.”1

Wikipedia defines this process as “the oxidation of sugar, a process used extensively in cooking for the resulting nutty flavor and brown color.”  It further defines it as a type of non-enzymatic browning reaction.

Foods which contain sugar lend themselves to this process; my recipe uses two such foods.  Carmelized onions are a blessed addition to my sautéed carrots, for the high sugar content of onions causes the above chemical reaction to easily occur.

Carrots also tend to carmelizes some, when cooked properly.  As far back as 1747, carrots were recognized as a sweet vegetable, for then the Prussian chemist Andreas Sigismund Marggraf discovered that they, as well as beets, contained small amounts of sugar.2

The presence of carrots in the Americas came directly or indirectly from Spain; their earliest appearance in these two continents dates back to 1543, when European vegetables were introduced into New Spain, to our south.  Our now common orange root subsequently found its way into North America; it was brought by English explorers, either coming up from these Spanish possessions mostly, or coming directly from England; there this vegetable had been established in the mid-sixteenth century by Flemish weavers, who were fleeing the persecution of Spain’s Phillip II.  Later in 1597, it was noted by English botanist John Gerard that carrots were also growing in Germany; their presence in the American hemispheres, however, came from the Spanish.3

multi-colored carrots

Joy of Cooking, copyrighted 1964, has a recipe for Carrots Vichy; this is a somewhat familiar recipe for thinly sliced carrots that are cooked, covered with a small amount of water (preferably water from Vichy, France), butter, and sugar.

Vichy is a spa and resort town in central France known since Roman times for its therapeutic springs.  During World War II, it was the home of the French State (Etat Francais), the seat of Nazi collaborationist government; it was chosen, because of its relative proximity to Paris (4.5 hours by train), it had the second largest hotel capacity at the time, and its modern telephone exchange, which made it possible to reach the world by phone.4

This town was also my home for four months during the fall of 1975!

Today we find carrots even in desserts.  We enjoy the familiar carrot cake in the West, while India knows halwa, or a fudge-like food made primarily with carrots, sugar, and milk.

My recipe is like a dessert, for it delights the child in us that loves that which is sweet.  Enjoy!

  1. Andrew Dorenburg and Karen Page, Culinary Artistry (Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996), p. 42.
  2. James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1995), p. 158.
  3. Ibid., pp. 94, 97, 107.
  4. https://en.wikipediea.org/wiki/Vichy

beginning stages of carmelization

Carmelized Onions and Carrots  Yields: 3-4 servings.  Total prep time: 55 min.

Note: if desired, make these carrots several hours in advance, reheat just before serving, or better yet, using two pans, make a double batch of carmelized onions well ahead, for they keep in refrigerator for three days (I have even frozen them).

4 1/2 tsp oil   (Avocado oil is best here for flavor and quality; coconut oil is also very good-these are the most healthy cooking oils, for olive oil is carcinogenic when heated to high temperatures.)

1/2 tsp butter

1 medium onion, halved at the root and stem, cut into 1/8 inch slices

6 extra-large carrots, or the equivalent  (Organic, multi-colored carrots are excellent and inexpensive at Trader Joe’s, see photo.)

4-5 medium/large cloves of garlic, minced  (May use 2 cubes of  frozen garlic; available at Trader Joe’s.)

1/2 tsp salt, or to taste  (Real Salt is important for optimum health; available in health section at most supermarkets.)

1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper, or to taste

  1. Be sure to cut onions in 1/8 inch slices, as thinner slices will burn easily.  Heat 1/2 tsp oil and 1/2 tsp butter in a large sauté pan over medium/low heat.  Do not crowd your pan with too many onions, or they will steam, producing water, and it will take longer to carmelize them. (Use two pans for a double batch.)  Keep heat at medium/low the approximate 45 minutes of cooking, or they will burn and/or dry out.  Be patient with cooking; don’t stop short of the perfect finished

    onions turning color during last 15 minutes

    product.

  2. Let cook for about 30 minutes, stirring every few minutes (see above photo for the beginning stage of carmelization).  While these are cooking, you may start carrots as directed in step 5; be sure, however, to stir onions regularly.
  3. Onions will start sticking to the pan at about 30 minutes; after this, stir every minute; the trick is to let them cook long enough to brown, but not burn.  May have to lower temperature and add a little more oil if they start to burn.  (See photo for color of onions starting to change during this last 15 minutes.)
  4. Onions will be deep brown in color when done (see bottom photo).  When cooking is complete, deglaze pan by adding water, stock, or wine; then, immediately scrape fond on bottom, using a wooden or plastic spatula made for high temperatures, incorporating these browned bits and carmelized juices into onions.
  5. Meanwhile scrape cleaned carrots with a sharp knife; this preserves the vitamins which are just under the skin, as opposed to peeling them.  Thinly and evenly slice them at a diagonal, set aside.
  6. If using fresh garlic, mince now, set aside.
  7. carmelized onions finished

    Heat 2 tsp oil in another large skillet over medium/high heat; when a piece of carrot added to pan sizzles strongly, or “jumps in the pan”, add half the carrots and distribute oil evenly.  Do not crowd pan, or carrots will steam rather than sauté; cook this vegetable in two batches.  Lower heat to medium immediately.

  8. Cook until carrots are soft, about 10 minutes, stirring somewhat frequently.  When carrots are cooked, deglaze pan by adding liquid (water, stock, wine, or balsamic vinegar); then, immediately loosen fond with a wooden or plastic cooking spatula; this adds incredible flavor.  Seat aside in a bowl and repeat steps 7-8 with remaining carrots.
  9. When carrots are cooked, stir into carmelized onions, which are finished.  Heat thoroughly.  Add garlic to hot mixture, cooking only until it smells pungent (or if using frozen garlic, cook only until it is dissolved and evenly distributed).  Do not burn garlic, for details on cooking garlic, see Tomato/Feta Chicken (2016/07/25).  Season with salt and pepper.
  10. May set aside and reheat just before serving.  Leftovers are great!

 

Ahi Tuna with Black Bean & Eggplant Dish

When I require a firm fish for creating recipes, I prefer ahi tuna over halibut, which tends to be drier.  I discovered in Culinary Artistry, by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, that the excellence of tuna steaks is enhanced by both eggplant and black beans; lemon and garlic also compliment ahi.1   It took courage for me to experiment with blending all the above together in a dish needed for a special occasion, during which I honored the Lomilos from Uganda.

Cooking takes risks, as life does; nothing comes automatically.  A patient pressing-in is required to foster creative mastery.

I learned an important lesson in my early thirties when I moved to Portland, for then I was struggling to overcome an addiction to alcohol.  In the process of sobering up, I was taught to trust in the history of old-timers in areas that I didn’t yet have enough victory of my own.  As a result, I listened carefully to my elders’ testimonies, holding fast to their professed truths.  The pay-off was great, for I haven’t had a drink since 2/06/86.

In like manner, I have reached out to experts in the culinary field over the years; thus, amplifying my own inherent strengths.  The outcome is an acquired proficiency in successfully combining foods, as exemplified here.

I see parallels between skills gained in cooking and those procured in living.  If we continue with these teachings in my blog, I promise that ability in both these areas will be attained.

I can’t stress enough that patience and trust are essential elements.  Let us walk in the light each of us has, taking baby steps of courage to rise to our next level.

True to form, I sought help from experts in writing this recipe and its history.  For instance, I needed to know more about not overcooking tuna.  Harold McGee teaches about the meat-red color of certain tunas in On Food and Cooking; it is caused by the oxygen-storing pigment myoglobin, which is needed for this fish’s nonstop, high-velocity life.  This deep red color is lost, if this fish is not frozen well below -22 degrees F, which helps explain the brownish color of some frozen tunas.  When cooked, it looses this blood red color at about the same temperature that beef does, between 140-160 degrees F; it is best to undercook this food, or dryness will result.  If you like your meat rare, you will probably also like rare tuna; thus, be careful to check for color during its preparation.2

This ahi may be made with onions that are quickly sautéed, but it is better to carmelize them, a somewhat painstaking process if done correctly.  Next week’s entry will be for nutty, carmelized onions and carrots.  I encourage you to make a double batch of these onions ahead of time; they store for up to 3 days.  The proven result: both the carrots and this tuna will be fast and easy to execute.

Let’s humbly learn from the masters, purposing to keep all seeds of knowledge in fertile soil.

Eat hearty, this is a delicious fish!

  1. Andrew Dorenburg and Karen Page, Culinary Artistry (Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996), pp. 187, 273.
  2. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 194.

black bean and eggplant dish

Ahi Tuna with Black Beans and Eggplant Dish  Yields: 4 servings.  Total active prep time: 50 min.

Note: if desired the onions may be carmelized several days ahead, using next week’s carmelized onion and carrots’ recipe; the eggplant & bean dish may be made several hours in advance and reheated 15 minutes before serving, as you cook the tuna.

6 1/2 tbsp oil  (Avocado oil is best, coconut oil will do; olive oil produces carcinogens when heated to high temperatures.)

1 medium/large yellow onion, halved at the root and stem and cut in 1/8 inch slices

1 pound eggplant

1/4 cup water

3 tbsp lemon juice, fresh squeezed  (2 small lemons needed.)

5 tsp salt, or to taste  (The coarser kosher salt is best here for rubbing in tuna steaks.)

3 tsp fresh ground pepper, or to taste

5 large cloves of garlic, minced  (3 frozen cubes of garlic from Trader Joe’s makes preparation easier.)

1-15 ounce can of black beans  (Organic is best; Simple Truth brand at our local Fred Meyer’s is very economical.)

2 tsp crushed dried red pepper

2 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp dried ginger

2 tsp dried oregano  (Organic is available for $1.99 at Trader’s!)

4 ahi tuna steaks, or about 1 1/3 pound

1 tsp sesame oil

  1. fond on bottom of pan of eggplant

    For quickly sautéing onions, heat 1 tbsp oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat; place a small piece of onion in oil; when it sizzles, add rest of onion and cook until well browned, stirring occasionally.  (Better yet, use carmelized onions by utilizing next week’s recipe to make a double batch of this time-consuming treat; they store up to 3 days.)  Meanwhile go to next step.

  2. Cut eggplant in small 1 inch cubes, set aside.
  3. Roll lemons on counter, pressing down hard with your hand to loosen juices.  Juice lemon and set aside 3 tbsp.
  4. If using fresh garlic, mince now.
  5. When onions are cooked, place in a bowl; next, heat 1 1/2 tbsp oil in pan; place piece of eggplant in oil; when it sizzles, add rest of eggplant.  Cook until soft, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  After 5 minutes, add 1/4 cup of water and deglaze pan (scrape bottom with a wooden or heat resistance plastic spatula to loosen cooked on fond, see photo).  Cook until water is evaporated; this vegetable will be somewhat mushy.
  6. Stir in onions, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and garlic; if garlic is fresh, cook only until you can smell it; see Tomato/Feta Chicken (2016/07/25) for tips on cooking with garlic.  If using the frozen cubes, cook just until melted and blended in well.
  7. Gently stir in the can of black beans, which has been drained; do not over-stir, as this breaks down beans.  Adjust seasonings.  May set aside to finish just before serving, or immediately proceed to step 9, in which case turn down heat to medium/low under eggplant/beans.  (See  above photo for finished product.)
  8. If finishing later, began the next step 15 minutes before serving time.
  9. Just prior to serving, blend together 4 tsp salt (preferably kosher salt), 2 tsp fresh ground pepper, dried red pepper, garlic powder, ginger, and oregano; rub seasoning into tuna steaks.  (If bean mixture is cold, begin reheating it for 8-10 minutes over medium heat before sautéing tuna, stirring occasionally.)
  10. Melt 4 tbsp oil and 1 tsp sesame oil in a large sauté pan over medium/high heat; just as it begins smoking, sear steaks in hot oil-2 minutes per side for medium rare, give or take 1/2 minute for rare or medium.  The time may need adjusting as thickness of steaks varies; you can check the color of tuna by piercing thickest part of fish with a sharp knife to check for doneness at the very end; it should be somewhat red for medium-rare.  Do not overcook tuna.
  11. Serve with carmelized onions and carrots (next week’s post).  Enjoy!