1950’s Wild Rice with Almonds

wild rice laced with mushrooms, almonds, and onions

The history of wild rice is intriguing!  From the 1950s forward, my mother frequently blessed our family and her many guests with this buttered wild rice, laced with mushrooms and roasted almonds.  It usually accompanied her pheasant casserole, which was Mom’s favorite dish.  (I will post the pheasant recipe the next time I am offered this wild fowl; both of these recipes came from Maude Benson, an “older” woman-to my young mind-in my village of 250 people in Montana’s Glacier National Park.)

In 1673, Jacques Marquette, a French Jesuit missionary-explorer, described this grain as a fausse avoine, or false oat, when he discovered the Mississippi River and the rivers near its headwaters.  This annual plant which he encountered was Zizania palustris, or what we call northern wild rice today.  1

Wild rice-not a species of the true tropical rice genus Oryza-is the whole grain of a cool-climate North American water grass. Its unusually long grains are up to three-quarters of an inch, having a complex, distinctive flavor, with a greenish-black seedcoat.  What you find on the market today is primarily cultivated in artificially flooded paddies, and harvested mechanically after the fields are drained; relatively small amounts come from uncultivated, naturally occurring stands.  It is necessary to read labels carefully, if you want to taste truly wild rice from its native region and savor the differences among small producers.  2

Originally it was gathered in canoes by the Ojibway and other native peoples in shallow lakes and marshes of the Great Lakes region of North America; it is the only cereal to have become important as a human food in this northern continent of the Americas.  3

This wild crop was first cultivated in the early 1950s by James and Gerald Godward, who were meeting the rising demand for this delicacy in the U.S.  4

This grain is unusual among other cereals in that it contains double the amount of moisture at maturity, around 40% of the kernel weight.  The result is it requires more elaborate processing than true rice in order to be stored.  This process includes maturing it in moist piles for one to two weeks; next, parching dries it,  enhances flavor, and makes the husk brittle; and finally it is threshed to remove the husk.  5

The parching process contributes to its firm, chewy texture, but also makes its cooking time longer, because its starch has been precooked into a glassy, hard mass.  Another factor giving it a relatively lengthy cooking time is its intact bran layers are resistant to water absorption, as they are impregnated with cutins and waxes.  This later quality protects the grains that fall into the natural lakes, allowing them to lie dormant for months or even years before germinating.  6

To improve water absorption and lessen cooking time, some producers will slightly abrade the grains, while cooks may choose to soak them in warm water for several hours, which isn’t all that effective.  7

Raw wild rice has flowery, green, earthy, tea-like notes.  The technique of curing amplifies the tea notes, but may also bring an undesirable mustiness.  Parching generates browning reactions, lending toasted, nutty characteristics.  Producers use different methods of both parching and curing, which brings variations in the flavor of wild rice.  These methods of curing range from none to brief to extended, while parching may utilize low to high temperatures, be over open fires, or performed in indirectly heated metal drums.  8

It has been said that how the rice was cured, as well as how old it is, dictates the timing required to prepare it.  Regardless of this actual cause, to insure readiness, it is best to prepare this dish before dinnertime, and then reheat it in a well-buttered casserole in the oven for 30 minutes.

References:

  1. James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1995), p. 137.
  2. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004),  pp. 476, 477.
  3. Ibid., p. 476.
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_rice
  5. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004),  p. 476.
  6. Ibid., p. 476.
  7. Ibid., p. 476.
  8. Ibid., p. 476.

wild rice with cranberries, orange, and onion

1950’s Wild Rice with Almonds  Yields: 6 servings.  Total prep time: 1-1 3/4 hr/  active prep time: 30 min/  cooking time: 30-75 min.

Note: may make this ahead of serving to insure readiness, as cooking time will vary.  For poultry, substitute dried cranberries and orange with zest, in place of mushrooms and garlic.  For pork, substitute tart apple and celery.

1/2 c slivered almonds

1/2 c butter

1 c wild rice

3 c chicken broth  (Organic, free range broth can be purchased inexpensively at Trader Joe’s; better yet use bone broth for high nutrition, see Tortellini Sausage Soup and Bone Broth, 2016/10/10.)

1 bunch green onions, including green stems, chopped  (Organic is only slightly more expensive and so much healthier.)

1-1 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste  (I like this well-seasoned.  Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available inexpensively at Costco.)

3/4 tsp freshly ground pepper, or to taste

2 c sliced mushrooms  (For poultry, substitute: 1 c dried cranberries, plus 1 chopped orange with zest.  For pork, substitute: 2 c chopped tart apple, plus 1 c diced celery.)

2 lg cloves garlic, minced-only use this with the mushrooms  (For easy prep, may substitute 1 cube of frozen garlic; available at Trader’s.)

  1. rice about 15 minutes before being finished

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread almonds on a cookie sheet and roast in oven for 10 minutes; set aside on a plate to cool.

  2. In a 3-qt sauce pan, melt 1/4 c butter over medium heat; add rice and sauté for 10 minutes.
  3. Add broth, raise heat to med/high, and bring to a boil.
  4. Lower heat and simmer until chewy, or soft-test for desired tenderness.  Timing will vary from 30 to 60 minutes, or longer.  Stir occasionally and WATCH WATER LEVEL CAREFULLY WHILE COOKING.  (See photos.)
  5. Meanwhile in a sauté pan, melt remaining 1/4 c butter over medium heat.
  6. Lower heat to med/low, add onions, salt, pepper, and mushrooms (substituting cranberries and orange with zest-instead of mushrooms-to accompany poultry,  or apple and celery for pork).
  7. rice completed to a chewy texture

    Sauté produce until desired tenderness is reached, stirring frequently.  At this point, add garlic-only if using mushrooms-and cook until aroma arises; set aside.

  8. Blend sautéed onion mixture and almonds into finished rice, adjust seasonings.  To insure readiness, may set aside at this point to reheat just before serving.  If doing this, place rice medley in a well-buttered 2-qt casserole and bake, uncovered, in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes.
  9. Serve with confidence!

Coconut Orange Chicken

coconut orange chicken

My delightful creation boasts of the meat and cream of coconut, contrasted with fresh orange, and melded with the juices of sautéed chicken and onions-flavors which accent each other, as Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page suggest in Culinary Artistry.  1

Much can be said about the benefits of coconut, with its current widespread demand.  Coconut sugar-with its low glycemic index-is the best choice for baking (see Zucchini Bread, 2017/07/24), while coconut oil is ideal for health-learn more about this highly beneficial saturated fat in my entry Nutty Coconut Pie, 2017/11/13.  Here, however, we will explore the advantages of its milk, cream, and water.

Coconut is the largest and most important of all nuts, which is the stone of a drupe, the fruit of Coco nucifera, large tree-like palms, which are more closely related to grasses than other nut-trees.

These hardy fruits are borne and mature year-round; it takes eleven to twelve months for them to fully develop.  Around five to seven months, they develop coconut water (about 2% sugars) and a moist, delicate, gelatinous meat.  The mature coconut, however, has a less abundant, less sweet liquid, and meat that has become firm, fatty, and white.  2

Coconut milk-as opposed to coconut water-is made by pulverizing good, fresh coconut meat to form a thick paste, which consists of microscopic oil droplets and cell debris suspended in water; this water makes up about half of the paste’s volume.  Then more water is added, and it is strained to remove the solid particles.  Left to stand for an hour, a fat-rich cream layer separates from a thin-skim layer in the milk.  3

For a while, only the canned, skim coconut milk was available at Trader Joe’s.  When I inquired about their coconut cream, which I prefer for cooking, I was told the market was presently so glutted by the popularity of coconut products that the cream wasn’t being produced.  Lately, once again, cans of coconut cream are available there, much to my joy.

Recently friends came for dinner.  Cody was sharing his expertise with my computer, while I in turn was blessing with food; thus, the inspiration for this dish.  It was a win-win situation, for both of us were incapable of doing what the other was providing.

We are all critical members of the body.  With God’s help, we play out our individual parts, as we contribute to the whole.  Each of us is uniquely equipped; thus, the manifold splendor of the perfected body.  Likewise, this same divine genius can be seen in what mother-nature did, bestowing on us these many essential products from the coconut fruit.

References:

  1. Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, Culinary Artistry (Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996), p. 199.
  2. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 508.
  3. Ibid., p. 509.
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coconut_milk

finished product

Coconut Orange Chicken  Yields: 3-5 servings.  Total prep time: 1 1/4 hr.

12 oz frozen broccoli  (Organic is best, available at Trader Joe’s; our local Grocery Outlet sometimes has it at a better price.)

1 lb chicken tenderloins, 8 lg pieces

6 1/2 tsp oil   (Coconut oil offers ideal flavor and quality.)

1 med yellow onion, cut in even 1/8” slices

Small head of cauliflower  (Organic, orange cauliflower is often available at our local Fred Meyer-Kroger-stores; color is beneficial to health.)

Red or orange bell pepper  (Organic is so important with bell peppers, as they readily absorb pesticides.)

1 lg orange, peeled and divided into small sections  (Organic is best.)

1/3 c unsweetened shredded coconut flakes  (Available in bulk at many stores, very reasonable at our local Winco.)

1-15 oz can of coconut cream (Trader’s usually carries this; coconut skim milk will work as well.)

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

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper, or to taste

Steamed rice or quinoa  (See Quinoa Dishes, 2018/01/29.)

  1. produce

    Take broccoli out of freezer, open package, and set aside.  Place chicken in bowl of water to thaw.

  2. Spray all vegetables with an inexpensive, safe, effective produce spray (combine 97% distilled white vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide).  Let sit for 3 minutes; then, rinse well.
  3. Chop onions in even 1/8” slices.  Heat 1/2 tsp of oil in a sauté pan, over medium heat; oil is ready, when a small piece of onion sizzles.  Reduce heat to med/low.  Add rest of onion and cook, stirring every several minutes until light color begins to form; then, stir more frequently until onions are dark brown.

    cutting cauliflower

    Place in a bowl and set aside.  While these are cooking, go to next step, but watch onions carefully.

  4. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in an extra large frying pan; salt and pepper poultry well; when small piece of chicken sizzles in oil, add rest of tenderloins.  Cut in bite-size pieces with a spatula as cooking; cook until light pink in center-do not overcook, as they will cook more later on.  Set aside on plate, SAVING JUICES IN PAN.
  5. Cut all cauliflower into small florettes, by first cutting sections off whole cauliflower.  Next remove excess stalk off these sections.  Finally, gently break these smaller sections into bite-size pieces, by pulling the florettes apart with a paring knife, see photo above.
  6. separating orange segments

    Chop pepper into 2”-strips.  Peel orange, break in half, cut halves in half, and divide into small sections (see photo).

  7. Over medium heat, heat left-over juices in large pan, to which 1 tbsp of oil is added.  When a small piece of cauliflower sizzles in pan, add the rest of it, as well as the pepper strips and broccoli.  Stir oils into vegetables; mix in dried coconut and coconut cream (be sure to gently stir the cream in the can first, to avoid a mess when pouring).  Sauté until desired tenderness; may cover with a lid to speed up process. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Add chicken pieces and orange segments; adjust seasonings; cook until tenderloins are hot (see photo at top of recipe).
  9. Serve over rice or quinoa.  A powerfully good dish!

Spicy Sausage with Tomatoes and Turnips

spicy sausage with tomatoes and turnips

Nothing pleases the palate as much as tomatoes fresh from the garden; how I love this time of year, as it explodes with their bounty; nevertheless, at times the question is what to do with them all.  When faced with this dilemma recently, I mixed this fruit with turnips and my favorite Aidells Spicy Mango with Jalapeno Chicken Sausages, both of which I had on hand; thus, this relatively quick and easy recipe evolved; enjoy.  (For another delicious Aidells sausage recipe, see Sausage with Zucchini and Eggplant, 2017/08/04.)

We think Italian cuisine, when tomatoes are mentioned, as we readily do with references to sweet and hot peppers, eggplant, potatoes, turkeys, and corn (in particular polenta); none of these foods, however, were present as part of this country’s heritage, until after the discovery of America.

The tomato, Lycopersicon esculentum, along with its relatives the potato, chilli, and tobacco, are part of the nighingshade family; tomatoes were domesticated first in Mexico, long before Christopher Columbus’ arrival here.

In 1519, twenty-seven years after Columbus’ first voyage, this fruit was officially discovered in Mayan towns by Spanish adventurer Hernando Cortes.  In 1527, conquistadors brought it back to Spain, along with the avocado and papaya.  Nearly three decades hence, in 1554, an Italian chronicle listed the first identifiable description of this yellow cherry tomato as pomo d’oro (golden apple).  By the end of the 16th century, both red and yellow tomatoes were present in European gardens, but only as exotic ornamental plants; there was a long period in which great suspicion was attached to them throughout this continent, due to their close resemblance to a deadly nightingshade.  Circumstances of the French Revolution, at the end of the 18th century, however, established them as an acceptable food.

Outside of America, Italy was first to heartily incorporate this fruit in its food preparation; inadvertently it became a leader in this adaptation.  The story unfolds with the French region Provence, whose cuisine was closely related to its Italian neighbor; these men from Provence formed the Marseillaise legion during the French Revolution.  Being richly exposed to Italian cooking, these soldiers had adopted the Italian “love apple”, as it was called, for it was considered an aphrodisiac.  In turn, this Marseillaise legion introduced this treasure to the Parisian troops, who took it back to their great city; thus, skepticism concerning tomatoes ceased in Paris; acceptance followed throughout Europe; and subsequently the whole world.

The week after next, I will post a Spanish recipe Ropa Vieja, from a 19th century American cook book; this is an omelette using our prized tomatoes and leftover meat; it doesn’t get any simpler, but oh so taste-provoking!

References:

Ilaria Gozzini Giacosa, A Taste of Ancient Rome (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1994), p. 11.

Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p.329.

James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995), pp. 86, 88, 96, 97.

Esther B. Aresty, The Delectable Past (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964), pp. 129-130.

Spicy Sausage with Tomatoes and Turnips  Yields 4-6 servings.  Total prep time: 1 hr.  Note: leftovers taste even better, as flavors meld.

5 1/2 tsp oil  (Coconut or avocado oil is best; olive oil is carcinogenic when heated to high temperatures.)

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

12 ounces Aidells Spicy Mango with Jalapeno Chicken Sausages  (May use any hot sausage of your choice, though this particular Aidells sausage is ideal; available at many supermarkets, including our local Winco and Fred Meyer-Kroger-stores.)

preparing turnips

1 pound turnips, cut in small 1/2 inch dice

1 1/4 pound fresh tomatoes, chopped

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

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

1 tsp salt  (Real Salt is important for health; available in the nutrition center at local supermarket.)

1 tsp fresh ground pepper

cooking turnips

Avocado slices  (These are high in potassium and other powerful nutrients.)

  1. Spay vegetables with an effective, inexpensive spray (combine 97% distilled white vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide); let rest for 3 minutes; rinse really well.
  2. To caramelize onions, melt 1/2 teaspoon oil in a sauté pan over medium heat; when a piece of onion sizzles in pan, lower heat to medium/low; add rest of onions (do not crowd or they will sweat, taking much longer to caramelize). Stir every several minutes, until they began to change color; then, stir every minute, until dark brown; set aside.  Watch carefully while proceeding to next steps.
  3. In another frying pan, heat 2 teaspoon oil over medium heat; when small piece of sausage sizzles in pan, add the rest; cook quickly until browned, watching closely so as not to burn; place in a bowl, carefully saving juices in pan.
  4. Deglaze hot pan with 2 or more tablespoons of water (scrape fond, cooked-on juices, off bottom); set aside.
  5. Peel turnips, dice in small 1/2 inch cubes, place in a large bowl, see photo in list of ingredients.
  6. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in above pan, with juices, over medium heat. When a piece of turnip sizzles, stir in the rest, coating well with oils.  Cook covered until soft, about 10 minutes; stir every few minutes, deglazing pan each time you stir, by adding 2-4 tablespoon of water; this additional water will steam the turnips; see above photo.  (Be sure to cover while cooking.)
  7. cooking tomatoes

    Meanwhile chop tomatoes; set aside in a bowl.

  8. Mix tomatoes into soft turnips; sauté uncovered, over medium heat, until they are cooked down-about 15 minutes-at which time a chunky sauce will be formed (see photo). When tomatoes initially begin cooking, stir in oregano, basil, salt, and pepper.  (Be sure to cook uncovered.)
  9. Mix in sausage and onions after a somewhat-thick sauce has formed, having chunks of tomato in it; adjust seasonings (see photo).
  10. finished product

    Serve topped with avocado slices, for added health benefits.

Gingered Bok Choy with Ground Turkey

gingered bok choy with ground turkey

gingered bok choy with ground turkey

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; thus I chose apple cider instead of rice vinegar and, for heat, jalapeno instead of Szechuan peppers.  1

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-see Munazalla, 2018/03/12.  The glorious blending of these foods thrilled me!

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 of 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, for I am a food historian in love with my God.

This legacy of devotion and faith is more precious than gold.  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.

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 with sauce

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

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

1 med/lg yellow onion, halved at the root and cut in even 1/8″ slices

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

2 stalks of celery

l lg 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 lg jalapeno pepper, minced small  (May use more for a hotter dish.)

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

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

1/3 c 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 c 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 1/2 tsp of oil in an large saute pan over medium heat.  Add a small piece of onion; when it sizzles, oil is ready.  Add remaining onions and caramelize, by stirring every several minutes, until color starts to form; then, stir every minutes, until dark brown.
  2. Meanwhile cook turkey in a extra large frying pan.  Place in a bowl.
  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. 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 caramelized, add cooked meat to them, and turn off heat.  Note: you will reuse this extra-large pan for cooking the vegetables.
  7. 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 med/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″-wide diagonal pieces.  Place carrots and celery in a bowl, set aside.
  9. Chop pepper in 3/4″ x 2 1/2″-wide strips.  Place in another bowl with bok choy, which is chopped in strips the same size as the pepper, including greens.  Set all aside.
  10. Heat remaining 1 1/2 tbsp oil in the extra-large pan.  Place a small piece of carrot in oil, wait for it to sizzle.  Also turn heat on to med/low under pan of meat/onions.
  11. 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.
  12. 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
  13. Mix together: hot meat, finished vegetables, and sauce.  Serve immediately with steamed rice.  This pleases the palate!

Thai Coconut/Lime Flounder

Salad with leftover Thai flounder

salad with leftover chilled Thai flounder

This delicious white fish dish resulted from a long-awaited-for marriage, which took place in my church in October.  A feast at my bountiful table was part of my wedding present to our venerated couple.

Our bride Dina was particularly interested in learning how to cook, with ease, for her new groom.  My bright idea was to begin my dinner gift in the kitchen with teaching her how to make the meal.  I prepared all the steps, just like you might see on a cooking show: the ingredients were set out in small individual dishes, along with the corresponding pans and utensils. All was in place for the lesson to flow naturally.

My priceless inheritance from my parents was a gene that “knows” food. Therefore I intuitively conceived this delicious dish, which was specifically geared for her husband’s dietary needs.  An exquisite, ultra simple recipe resulted.

Surprise and hesitancy occurred upon my friends’ arrival, as I informed Dina that she was going to make dinner, under my close direction.  She, being true to form, rolled up her sleeves with courage.  Her nervousness soon dissipated, for the facility of my simple instructions comforted her.  Joy unspeakable resulted: a chef was born! I have observed, as an aside, that this woman approaches all of life’s challenges with this same spirit.

Are you timid about stepping into the unknown, either in or out of the kitchen? May you receive encouragement to advance in faith; start by trying my recipes. They look lengthy at times, but are effortless!  The cause for this seeming protractedness is my inclusion of practical details, which make food preparation easy and enjoyable.  You’ll sense that you are in  cooking school, when you use my receipts, as I teach at every point.  Rest assured-I will educate you for the joy of cooking.

My favorite way to serve this smooth flounder, with its slight bite, is over a good pasta (however I used rice for my newly weds); either will bless the taste buds. Also, cold leftovers of this fish top off a salad superbly.

This feast pleased Dina and Dale; and me as well!

Thai coconut lime flounder dinner

Thai coconut/lime flounder dinner

Thai Coconut/Lime Flounder  Yields: 4 servings.  Total prep time: 40 minutes.

Note: flounders closely relate to soles; thus, you may substitute any sole here (also see Parmesan Dover Sole, 2017/03/27).

1 tsp coconut oil  (Other oils will do, but coconut is best for flavor and quality here.)

1 med yellow onion, halved at the core, and cut in even 1/8 inch slices

1 lime, juiced

7 oz Extra Thick Coconut Cream, or half of a 14 oz can  (This is available at Trader Joe’s.)

3/4 tsp dried, crushed red pepper  (Save spice jars and refill yearly with fresh, inexpensive “bulk’ spices.)

1/4 tsp salt

4 fillets of flounder, approximately 1 pound  (Wild-caught is best; may substitute a pound of sole, which is a close relative to flounder.)

Steamed rice or pasta, regular or gluten-free

  1. beginning stages of caramelization

    Start cooking rice, according to directions on package.  If using pasta, begin boiling water in a big pot; to which you add 2 tsp salt and 2 tbsp oil-any kind of oil will do.

  2. Place 4 individual dinner plates in oven; set the temperature on warm.
  3. Heat oil in a large sauté pan over med/low heat; stir in onions well; caramelize, by stirring every several minutes until they start to turn color (see photo); then, stir every minute until dark brown (see photo below); watch carefully while going to next steps.  (Do not crowd pan with onions, or they will sweat, taking much longer to cook.)
  4. Meanwhile roll lime on counter; press down hard with your hand, until the meat of the fruit is broken down and softened; juice lime; set aside.
  5. Place whole can of coconut oil in a small storage container; be sure first to gently stir milk and cream together thoroughly in can (this prevents a mess when emptying the can).
  6. Add half of the coconut cream (7 oz), lime, red pepper, and salt to caramelized onions.  Stir well and slowly bring to a soft boil over medium heat.  If preparing for guests, you may choose at this point, to set aside coconut/onion mixture and heat it 15 minutes before serving.  If you are waiting, be sure to have the plates warm, rice cooked, or water boiling when you start to cook the flounder.  (Note: you can freeze leftover coconut cream, or use within a week.)
  7. caramelized onions approaching finish

    Start cooking pasta in boiling water about 10 minutes before dinner time. Boil until it is al dente, about 7 minutes, do not over cook. Drain and place on heated dinner plates when done.

  8. Meanwhile add two fillets of flounder (more if using smaller sole) to hot coconut cream/onion mixture, which has been heated over medium temperature.  Poach briefly on each side, only until color in center is opaque.  Do not overcook.  Remove to heated dinner plates, on which you have placed pasta or rice.  Repeat this step with the remaining fillets.  Cover with sauce.
  9. Serve it forth!

A Simple “Frittata”

dinner with Dave

dinner with Dave

My pastors provide our congregation with fruits of their labors during the harvest season; this year’s bumper crop of tomatoes and zucchini inspired Pastor Dawn to create this frittata-like dish, which I have expanded on here. It boasts of these rich autumn vegetables. The receipt is so easy that it cries out for many encores.

The traditional frittata, or Italian omelette, has a two-stage cooking process.  You normally begin making this egg dish on the stove top and finish it in the oven. One may even purchase special pans for preparing this.  However my simplified version is made in a frying pan, solely on top of a burner.

The original frittata is a cross between an omelette and quiche, which is comprised mostly of eggs with some vegetables.

"frittata"

“frittata”

On the contrary, my “frittata” is mostly vegetables with several eggs scrambled in.  There is no guessing with these easy steps of preparation. The result is intense flavor, good protein, and creative cooking with fall produce.

My beloved cousin and his wife, whom I hadn’t seen since 1995, were here for dinner several weeks ago.  We indulged in this European creation and my honeyed-lime kale with turkey. (See Cooking with Kale, 2016/09/07.) The presence of God and this delicious food nourished our souls during our lavish repast.

You will relish this “frittata”-it is so good!  Enjoy.

A Simple “Frittata”  Yields: 4-6 servings.

1 tbsp oil  (Coconut or avocado oil is best.)

1 med yellow onion, halved at the core and thinly sliced

3 med/large tomatoes cut in eighths

2 med/small zucchinis, thinly sliced

½ tsp dried oregano  (A great, inexpensive, organic variety is available at Trader Joe’s.)

3/4 tsp dried basil

4 lg cloves of garlic, minced  (May use 2 cubes of frozen garlic from Trader’s.)

Salt and pepper to taste  (Real Salt is best, available in health section of local supermarket.)

4 lg white mushrooms, brushed, with mushroom brush, and sliced

3 oz good quality cheese, grated

3 lg eggs, beaten  (I like to use duck eggs, which are creamier and higher in protein.)

  1. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Place a small piece of onion in hot oil. When it sizzles, add the rest of the onions.  Cook until golden brown; stir occasionally.
  2. Add chopped tomatoes, zucchini, herbs, garlic, salt, and pepper. Reduce heat to med/low. Cook vegetables about 40 minutes, or until liquid is gone and sauce is thick. Be sure to stir occasionally. Watch carefully toward the end of cooking, so vegetables don’t burn.  (May set aside at this point and reheat, to finish recipe, just before serving.  Watch carefully when reheating, so as not to burn the sauce.)
  3. Add mushrooms and cheese to hot sauce. Stir well.
  4. Add eggs to vegetables; stir gently several times, as they cook. Cook until eggs are done. Mixture will be soft.
  5. Adjust seasonings.
  6. This is delicious served hot, room temperature, or ice cold.  Leftovers are great!

Tomato/Feta Chicken

Tomato/feta chicken

tomato/feta chicken

An explosion of creativity occurred in my sister’s upscale kitchen this month: my siblings and I collaborated over one of my recipes during a trip home for my mother’s 93rd birthday.  Our three strong cooking minds worked together to perfect a dish I created years ago.

Nearly a decade has passed since I helped a friend every Monday, for she was bogged down in her professional responsibilities; aromatic ailments filled pots and pans, as I prepared her family’s nourishment for each upcoming week.

This particular friend had been to cooking school in Italy; her excellent input and feed-back sharpened my skills, while I was helping her family.  At her home, I created this recipe for tomato/feta chicken, which my siblings Maureen and Paul helped perfect recently.

One thing I learned from my friend was to add the garlic at the close of the sautéing process; she said this keeps it from burning.  I was adding it as I was cooking the meat before this.  My friend’s ingenious tongue could taste the burnt garlic; thus, she suggested that I add it at the very end, which is how I had cooked with this herb since.

However, my siblings suggested that adding it early on allows for more flavor.  My brother explained the proper process: when you add garlic, while sautéing, cook only until you can smell it; then, immediately add the liquid for the sauce, to keep it from burning.

My sister employs an even more advanced method: she roasts lots of whole peeled cloves on a cookie sheet, in a preheated 300 degree oven, for at least an hour (or until golden brown). She stores this in the refrigerator, adding about three tablespoons per four-serving dish, while the dish is cooking-only cook briefly, however, if dish is dry.

After tasting our finished work, I am sold on cooking this herb longer, employing these safe ways.  The following recipe reflects this new directive; here the fresh garlic is cooked for a lengthy time in the wet tomatoes.

There was another point I learned from my siblings’ expertise.  Both urged me not to bother with washing pieces of cut meat; it is only necessary to clean the inside of the carcasses of fowl, where blood has collected.  This has made cooking easier for me.

This tomato/feta chicken recipe is exceptionally good; enjoy it!

Tomato/Feta Chicken  Yields: 4-6 servings.  Total prep time: 1 1/4 hr.

1 med/lg yellow onion, halved and cut in even 1/8″ slices

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

8 chicken tenderloins, thawed in water  (The frozen ones at Trader Joe’s are all natural and a good price.)

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

4 ripe tomatoes, chopped  (These must be ripe; organic is best.)

3/4 tsp dried oregano  (Organic is available at Trader’s; it is of excellent quality and very inexpensive.)

1 tsp dried basil

3-5 lg cloves of garlic, chopped fine  (2 cubes of frozen garlic from Trader’s is a much easier prep.)

1-16 oz package frozen broccoli florettes  (An inexpensive, organic variety is available at Trader’s.)

4 oz feta cheese  (This is best, when purchased in an 8-oz block, rather than the pre-crumbled version, which has been treated.)

Shaved or grated Parmesan cheese

Steamed brown rice (I prefer basmati brown rice)

  1. Take frozen broccoli out of freezer; it cooks better when partially thawed.  (Better yet, leave it in the refrigerator over night.)
  2. If chicken tenderloins are frozen, you may thaw them in warm water.  Pat dry with paper towel.
  3. caramelized onions

    In a large heavy-bottom frying pan, heat 1 tsp oil over med/low heat. Add onion and caramelize, cook slowly until dark brown.  Note: do not crowd onions in pan, or they will sweat and it takes longer to caramelize them.  Stir every few minutes for about the first 30 minutes; then, stir every minute afterwards, as onions begin to stick to pan and browning process accelerates; see photo. (For more details on caramelizing, see Caramelized Onions and Carrots-2017/06/19.)  Meanwhile go to next step.

  4. Chop tomatoes and garlic; set each aside separately.
  5. Heat remaining 1 1/2 tbsp oil in another large skillet.  Salt and pepper tenderloins generously; place chicken in hot oil, sautéing over medium heat quickly.  Cut tenderloins with spatula, as cooking, to check for doneness (should be slightly pink in center as they will cook more later).   As pieces are done, place in a bowl, saving juices in pan.  May add onions to this bowl, when they are done.
  6. Add tomatoes to hot pan in which you cooked the chicken; simmer over med/low heat for 10 minutes. Add dried herbs and garlic; cook down to a chunky sauce, about 20 minutes more.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. When onions, chicken, and tomatoes are cooked, may set all aside and finish recipe just before serving, if desired.
  8. When you are ready to serve, add thawed broccoli to pan of tomatoes and simmer over medium heat; cook until vegetables are tender and hot.
  9. Distribute chicken and onions in tomato sauce/broccoli; heat mixture.  Stir in feta, crumbling it with your fingers; adjust seasonings.  Cook briefly, so feta doesn’t completely melt.
  10. Serve over rice; top with shaved Parmesan cheese.