Curried Vegetables

Curries are tongue-tantalizers. Here is a simple recipe for a vegetable curry, along with information about the background of commercial curry powders. This is the third post in my Indian series; it accompanies Tandoori Chicken and the cooling condiment Dahi Raita. My next post for egg rice will complete this series.

In her book, Eight Flavors, The Untold Story of American Cuisine, Sarah Lohman lists curry powder as one of America’s eight leading flavors that distinguish American cuisine. Before looking at this, let us first define this spice blend.

The Make-up of Currry Powder

Curry has a yellow hue due to its main ingredient turmeric, which makes up 25-50% of these blends by weight (for properties of turmeric see African Bobotie). Coriander and cumin are its other primary ingredients.1

You will also typically find red or black pepper, mustard, ginger, clove, cardamom, bay leaf and fenugreek in its makeup of spices and herbs; there can be up to twenty ingredients. No two curry blends are ever the same; thus, when you find a label you really like, it is best to stay with it. 2

Curry Powder Not Found in Indian Cooking

Important to note: the word curry in Indian cooking refers to the dish itself: meat, vegetables, and a sauce, but not the spice blend-what we westerners know as “curry”. Rather in Indian cuisine, we find such popular spice blends as garam masala from north India and Sambar podi from south India. There the resultant dishes that incorporate these and other spice blends are are referred to as curry, rather than the spice blends themselves. 3

Garam Masala and Sambar Podi

Garam means “warming” and masala means “a blend of aromatic spices”, and this is the basis for our “mild” or “sweet” curry found in the West. It, however, differs from our western curry powder, with curry tending to be even milder in flavor than garam masala. This is due to curry’s abundance of turmeric, which adds color, but very little favor, and that which is there is flowery. Our curry powder is also rich in cumin, coriander, and fenugreek, all of which lend to the mildness of its flavor. 4

The Indian spice blend garam masala, which varies from region to region, is more pungent and sweeter due to its ingredients: cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, and mace. As with curry powder, garam masala also has some cumin and coriander in its blend, but these other “sweet” spices make it different from our curry blend. 5

Another spice mix from south India, Sambar podi, is the source of our hot or “madras” curry powders, and it differs from garam masala in that it has a good quantity of chili peppers amongst its other spices, such as turmeric. 6

The blended powder, curry, we find on the western market is not a staple in Indian cooking, as is believed in the West. Rather curry powder was created in the UK, as a shortcut for evoking the essence of Indian cuisine. True Indian cooking requires endless chopping and grinding. The brands of curry that we buy here in the U.S. are often marked “mild” or “hot” (madras). This varies with the type of pepper used-cayenne, or red pepper, rather than black, allows for the heat. 7

The Assumed Etymology of Curry Powder

In her book Classic Indian Cooking, Julie Sahni explains the term curry powder is not as old as the spice blends it describes; some of which are the southern Asian dishes below, which utilize the curry plant and curry leaf. Sahni projects that the word curry probably came from the Sanskrit word kari. Sahni states that kari refers to this curry leaf found in Indian cooking. She explains that in India the sauces made from kari leaves and other spices were called kari podi; Her hypothesis is that this term made a linguistic jump in English to “curry powder”. 8 (For more common foods using Sanskrit names, see Laban bil bayd and West African Bobotie.)

The Curry Plant and Curry Leaf

The curry plant and curry leaf are not found in western curry powders, but they are used in Indian curry dishes. The curry plant is a Mediterranean member of the lettuce family, Helichrysum italicum, which has a flavor reminiscent of curry. A number of its terpenes give it a vaguely spicy, pleasant aroma. It is used in Indian egg dishes, teas, and sweets. 9 (For more on the flavor family of terpenes, see Sage Turkey Delight.)

There is a curry leaf used in cooking in this part of the world as well; it is the leaf of a small tree Murraya koenigii, which is in the citrus family and is a native of southern Asia. Households in south India and Malaysia grow this tree and add its leaf to many dishes, but its flavor-in spite of its name-does not resemble what we consider as curry. Rather, it is mild and subtle, with woody fresh notes. The curry leaf is found in stews and simmered dishes, and it also is used to flavor cooking oil. 10

Curry Powder-How It Became a Leading Flavor in American Cuisine

In Eight Flavors, the Untold Story of American Cuisine, Sarah Lohman traced the advent of curry powder as a major part of American cuisine, as coming through our Anglo roots.

England had been trading with India since the 1600’s, and the British made India an official colony in 1858. Queen Victoria was crowned Empress of India, in 1877. England’s love for Indian food came through the British soldiers, merchants, and government officials, who wrote home about its grandeur. When these sojourners returned to England, in some cases they brought back their Indian cooks; in other cases they hired English cooks, who were trained in India. In England, Indian cuisine had become so popular that it was found in English coffeehouses by the mid-eighteenth century, making it available to everyone. The nation became very familiar with Indian cuisine, and simply loved all things Indian! 11

Loman states that because of the English, curry powder have been used in America for over two hundred years-long before the first Indian immigrants arrived. The love for curry first came to our American shores with the English colonists; they had brought with them the popular English cookbook: The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Simple, 1747, by Hannah Glasse. It contained a basic recipe for the simple, Anglo-Indian curry; its instructions simply stated to stew a chicken with finely ground turmeric, black pepper, and ginger, blended in a cream sauce. 12

Curry Recipes Became Common in 19th Century American Cook Books

In the century following this, numerous American cookbooks boasted of curry recipes, indicating its wide spread popularity here. I will mention but a few. Mary Randolph wrote The Virginia Housewife, 1824, which was the first American cook book with curry recipes. Her book boasted of six curry receipts (indicating the widespread use of curry here), and one of these was for curry powder itself. Her version of this spice blend was flavorful and hot, probably stemming from the south Indian Sambar podi, though Randolph was most likely not conscious of this. 13

Mrs. Child published the receipt “To Curry Fowl” in The American Frugal Housewife, which had 33 editions, beginning in 1829. My facsimile is of the twelfth edition dated 1833; here her unique curry calls for a spoonful of lemon juice and an optional spoonful of tomato catsup. 14

Published in 1885, in Portland, Oregon, The Webfoot Cook Book has two curry recipes. One calls for: a half a pound of butter, two onions, a gill of rich gravy, and a heaping tablespoon of curry powder, to which meat of any kind is added. Sounds pretty rich, but we must recall that 19th century Oregonians were far more physically active, than we are now. 15

Celebrity Chef Ranji Smile-the Reason America Fell in Love with Indian Food

Loman points out that the trend for an authentic Indian experience in the area of food was minimal in the U.S., until America’s first celebrity-chef Ranji Smile arrived in 1899. He had already made a name for himself in London, where “all things Indian” was extremely popular. At the turn of the century, America’s first Indian chef, Smile and his food from India immediately became the craze in New York. This “following after the English” came through Smile’s creative, exotic dishes, at America’s well-known Sherry’s. 16

Louis Sherry had opened the New York restaurant, named after himself, in 1890. Its elegance made it a rival of the popular Delmmonico’s. 17 Nine years later while eating at Cecil’s in London, Sherry encountered Smile’s exciting curries, and hired him on the spot. Smile’s beautiful Indian cuisine was transported to America, where it became the rage!

Perhaps it, however, is best to say that there was a mixed success in Smile’s attempt at having Indian food take over our nation, in the manner it had in England. Nevertheless, there was a growing number of Indian restaurants, as well as Indian recipes in American cook books, in the early 20th century. As the number of Indian restaurants in New York grew, Fannie Farmer’s 1921 cookbook came forth with twenty recipes, which used curry powder! 19

Curry, A Leading Flavor in America Today

Now in the 21st century, there are around two million Indian immigrants in the U.S.A., with nearly three hundred million Americans claiming Asian Indian ethnicity. According to Loman, this is the third largest immigrant group next to Mexico and China. As noted, the English colonists introduced curry in America-long before these immigrants started arriving. Then 100 years later, Smile made it trendy at the turn of the 20th century. 20 And now, as Loman declares, it is indeed one of eight flavors that make up American cuisine, though it is not well known as such.

My First Taste of Curry in Blackpool, England

My first experience with a curry dinner was in Blackpool, England in 1974, while I was a student in London. During this time, friends of friend of my family invited me to their home in Blackpool, where we celebrated with a fancy, British, curry dinner-a first for me.

I remember it being dense in flavors, which exploded in my mouth. After scooping out a heap of curried meat and vegetables on my plate, I was instructed to top this with a wide array of condiments-from shredded coconut to raisins, from grounded peanuts to chopped tomatoes…and oh so much more. Needless to say, I was thrilled by this experience of my first encounter with curry, which left a lasting impression!

Lesson Applied

When looking back, we see how our “firsts” in life leave indelible impressions. Therefore it is important that we respond appropriately to new foods and experiences in life.

It is said that we must guard our hearts with all diligence, for out of them come the issues of life. 21 Doing so requires being alert, sober, and vigilant, protecting our hearts; this indeed dictates much about the quality of our lives.

Several years ago I had a most daring challenge, with regards to my walking this out with new foods. I had been asked to be a judge at the re-enactment of a Mountain Men’s Rendezvous, at the historic site of Fort Vancouver, in the state of Washington.

I and the other judges made our way through the “living-history” camp, tasting the delicacies these mountain men had made; we were to choose the dish that was the most authentically prepared., while being the most unique.

With vivid imagination, I recall eating rattlesnake and pemmican. After the initial shock, I found the rattle snack tasting rather pleasantly like chicken; the pemmican on the other hand was pure animal fat, with a little bit of meat and dried berries ground into it-aaugh!

There was laughter and joy amongst this stepping out in faith, to experience the unknown; we bonded together as brave souls.

May you enjoy the simplicity and wonderful flavor, of the recipe below for curried vegetables.

References

  1. https://www.thespruceeats.com/curry-powder-and-indian-food-1957468
  2. https://www.thespruceeats.com/curry-powder-1328534#curry-powders-ingredients
  3. Sarah Loman, Eight Flavors, the Untold Story of American Cuisine (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2016), pp.89, 90.
  4. https://www.the spruceeats.com/curry-powder-and-indian-food-1957468
  5. Ibid.
  6. Sarah Loman, Eight Flavors, the Untold Story of American Cuisine (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2016), p.90.
  7. https//www.thespruceeats.com/curry-powder-1328534#curry-powders-ingredients
  8. Sarah Loman, Eight Flavors, the Untold Story of American Cuisine (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2016), p.90.
  9. Harold McGee, On Food and History (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 409.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Sarah Lohman, Eight Flavors, the Untold Story of American Cuisine (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2016), p. 94.
  12. Ibid.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Facsimile of Mrs. Childs, The American Frugal Housewife (Boston: Carter, Hendee, and Co., 1832), pp. 84, 85.
  15. Facsimile of First Presbyterian Church, The Webfoot Cook Book (Portland, Oregon, 1885), p. 173.
  16. Sarah Loman, Eight Flavors, the Untold Story of American Cuisine (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2016), pp. 94-98.
  17. James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Owl Books, 1995), p. 335.
  18. Sarah Loman, Eight Flavors, the Untold Story of American Cuisine (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2016), pp. 94-111.
  19. Ibid., pp. 111, 112.
  20. Ibid., p. 88.
  21. The Holy Bible, KJV, Proverbs 4:23.

Curried Vegetables Recipe

Yields: 8 servings.  Active prep time: 35-45 min.  Note: this makes a medium-hot curry; may add more spices as desired. This may be done ahead of time and reheated.

6 1/2 tsp oil  (Either avocado or coconut oil is best here for health benefits; olive oil is carcinogenic when heated to high temperatures.)

1 med yellow onion

1 lb carrots  (The one-pound bag of organic, peeled, mini carrots, from Trader Joe’s are easiest, as they require no prep time.)

1 1/2 lb fresh green beans, cut in two-inch pieces  (May use a 24 oz bag of frozen French green beans, from Trader Joe’s.)

1 lb zucchini, cut in two-inch strips

1 bell pepper, cut in two-inch strips  (Organic is important, as bell peppers readily absorb pesticides.)

1/2 tsp coriander

1/2 tsp dried, ground ginger  (Trader Joe’s carries a great ground ginger, which is so reasonably priced at $1.99.)

1/2 tsp ground cumin  (Trader’s has the best price on this-$1.99 a jar, the same as with most of their other spices.)

1/2 tsp turmeric  (This too is available at Trader’s for their great price.)

Scant 1/4 tsp red, cayenne pepper  (Trader’s carries this inexpensively as well.)

1 tsp crushed, dried red pepper

1 tsp salt

6-7 lg cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine  (May substitute 3 cubes of frozen garlic from Trader Joe’s, for easy prep.)

  1. If using frozen beans, take out of freezer and open bag (or better yet, thaw in refrigerator overnight, for quicker cooking).
  2. Spray vegetables with an inexpensive, effective vegetable spray (mix 97% and 3% hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle) and let stand for three minutes; rinse well.
  3. Cut onion in even 1/8” slices; heat 1/2 tsp oil in a large frying pan, over medium heat-when a small piece of onion sizzles in oil, add the rest of the onions.  Stir onions well, to distribute the oil.  Turn heat down to med/low and caramelize onions, by stirring every several minutes, until color starts to form; then, stir every minute or so, until dark brown.  Meanwhile proceed with the next steps, watching onions carefully.
  4. Heat last 2 tbsp oil in a large sauté pan; when a piece of carrot sizzles in it, add the rest of the carrots, and cook uncovered over medium heat.
  5. If using fresh beans, cut them in 2” pieces (see photo below).  Add to carrots-which have been cooking, for at least 3-4 minutes while you are preparing beans.  If using frozen beans, be sure to wait the 3-4 minutes, before adding the beans to the carrots.
  6. Cover the pan, if using fresh beans, but if using frozen beans keep the pan uncovered.  Stir occasionally.
  7. Chop the zucchini in 2” pieces, set aside.
  8. Cut bell pepper in 2” strips, being sure to de-seed the pepper first.  For easy chopping, cut the halved pepper-with skin side flat on counter-in narrow strips, by cutting at a diagonal, alternating sides (see photo).
  9. Add these to the pan of carrots and beans..  Cook until vegetables reach desired tenderness.
  10. Meanwhile chop the garlic, set aside.
  11. Mix well the spices and salt in a small bowl; set aside.
  12. When vegetables are done, add spices, distributing evenly throughout vegies; then, mix in the garlic.  Cook until the aroma of the garlic rises from pan, or until frozen garlic cubes are thawed and mixed in.  (See more about cooking with garlic at Tomato/Feta Chicken .)
  13. Adjust seasonings and serve with Tandoori Chicken and Dahi Raita, as a cooling condiment.

1950s’ Lemon Bars

1950s’ lemon bars

Here I give details concerning the known history of tantalizing lemons-dating back to before Christ-as well as a time-tested receipt for lemon bars.

In the 1950s, my mother often made these great bars, using a then popular recipe probably derived from a magazine, to which I have added my touches to make them simpler, tastier, better!

There are many variations of fruit that grow on trees in the genus Citrus, and these are prone to form hybrids with each other, making it hard for scientists to work out family relationships.  Today it is believed that the common domesticated citrus fruits all derive from just three parents: the citron Citrus medica, the mandarin orange Citrus reticulate, and the pummelo Citrus maxima.  1

Lemons, so valued for their acidity-often 5% of the juice-are widely used in cooking and are highly revered in the making of beverages, pectin, medicines, and beauty products.  This fruit may have originated as a two-step hybrid, in which both steps were citron-crossed with lime.  It is proposed that the first step of this hybrid arose in the area of northwest India and Pakistan, while the second took place in the Middle East, where the citron, crossed with lime, was crossed additionally with pummelo.  2

In Food in History, Reay Tannahill postulates that people may have been eating lemons and limes as early as 2300 BC, when the cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-Dato, of the great Indus civilizations, were at their peak.  3

Around 100 AD lemons arrived in the Mediterranean via Arab traders; by 400 they were planted in orchards in Moorish Spain.  Presently they are mainly cultivated in subtropical regions, with many varieties of true lemon, as well as a couple of further hybrids, such as the Ponderosa and Meyer lemons; the Ponderosa is large and coarse, probably a lemon-citron cross.  The Meyer, probably a cross between the lemon and either orange or mandarin, however, is thin-skinned, with less acid, and a distinctive flavor due in part to a thyme note (from thymol); this later came to California in the early 20th century.  4

“Curing” promotes longer shelf life of lemons.  Being picked green, they are held in controlled conditions for several weeks, allowing their green skins to yellow, thin, and develop a waxy surface; curing also promotes enlargement of the juice vesicles.  5

Epicures appreciate the preserved lemons of northern Africa as a condiment; they are made by cutting and salting lemons and letting them ferment for several weeks.  (Up to a month may be required, as suggested in the great recipe at https://nourishedkitchen.com/morrocan-preserved-lemons/.)  This process allows for the growth of bacteria and yeasts, which softens the rind and changes the aroma from bright and sharp to rich and rounded.  6

Often attempts are made to shorten the steps with many in-depth cooking procedures today.  Such has occurred with these preserved lemons-for example they are frozen and thawed to speed salt penetration, then salted for a few hours or days.  This will bring some of the needed chemical changes as the oil glands are disrupted and their contents are mixed with other substances, but without fermentation, full flavor development will not occur.  7

In On Food and Cooking, Harold McGee writes that lemon comes via Arabic from a Persian word, reflecting the route these Asian fruits took as they made their way to the West.  8

Enjoy the explosion of great flavor in this proven lemon bar recipe!

References:

  1. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 373.
  2. Ibid., p. 377.
  3. Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: Three River Press, 1973, 1988), pp. 38, 39.
  4. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 377.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid. and https://nourishedkitchen.com/morrocan-preserved-lemons/
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.

finished product

1950s’ Lemon Bars  Yields: 16 small bars.  Total prep time: 55 min/  active prep time: 20 min/  inactive prep time: 10 min/ baking time: 25 min.  (There was a note on Mom’s recipe to add more lemon to this original 20th century recipe; thus, I increased both the lemon juice and flour to 3 tbsp each.)

1 c plus 3 tbsp unbleached white flour  (Bob’s Red Mill organic is high quality.)

1/2 c butter, softened

1/4 c powdered sugar  (Organic is best; available at Trader Joe’s.)

2 lg eggs

1 c sugar  (Coconut sugar is ideal, in place of the white; may also use turbinado, raw cane sugar.)

Zest of 2 small lemons  (Organic is very important, in order to avoid the taste of pesticides; available inexpensively at Trader’s.)

3 tbsp lemon juice, fresh squeezed

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

1/2 tsp baking powder

  1. golden crust

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Spray lemons with a safe, effective, inexpensive produce spray (combine 97% white distilled vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide).  Let sit for 3 minutes and rinse well.
  3. With a fork in a medium bowl, blend 1 c flour, butter, and 1/4 c powdered sugar, until mealy like a pie crust.  Pat mixture firmly into an ungreased 8” x 8” pan and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown (see above photo).  Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes.
  4. frothy filling mixture

    Meanwhile zest lemons, then juice them.

  5. Slightly beat the eggs in a bowl with an electric mixer; blend in your choice of 1 c white, coconut, or turbindo sugar.  (For info on coconut and cane sugars, see Zucchini Bread-2017/07/24-and Pear Pie-2016/10/31-respectively.)
  6. Mix in remaining 3 tbsp flour, salt, and baking powder; add lemon zest and juice, beating until frothy (see photo above).  Set aside.
  7. bars at end of baking

    Spread lemon mixture evenly on top of slightly cooled crust.  Return to oven and bake for 25 minutes more, or until golden brown.  Note: this will firm up more with cooling.  See photo.

  8. Dust with powdered sugar and cut into 16 pieces, while bars are warm.  Refrigerate leftovers.

1960’s Josephines (a great hors d’ouvres)

Join me on a journey to the mysterious wonder-world of childhood foods with these josephines. which boast of green chillies.  At the end of this entry, I will explore the historical Pakistani  and Indian applications of chillies in their respective cuisines.

We can all relate to the thrilling memories of our particular favorites from mom’s best; these captivated our young hearts with taste thrills in our mouths, as well as simultaneous, soft sensations in our stomachs.  When faced with like foods today, we instantly return to these initial impulses from the treasuries of our early experiences.  Such comes to me double-fold, for not only did my mother supply these rich impressions, but my father-also a great cook-left indelible culinary marks on my soul.  Mom applied her expertise to the hosting of dinner parties, while Dad skillfully prepared food in our family’s restaurant-it was here we ate all our daily meals, while I was growing up.

Both parents were self-taught.  My mother lacked the normal advantages of learning cooking from her mother, who died of cancer when Mom was 11 years old (her father passed on two years later).  Hence being raised by nuns at a boarding school, she didn’t receive the normal, gracious “passing-down” of womanly skills; rather these were hard-won for her.

josephines

Everything Mom put her hand to, however, she mastered, for she knew the importance of “pressing-in” ardently-a trait I learned first-hand.  This included cooking in which she particularly excelled.  I grew up amidst the flurry of her entertaining many guests with gourmet foods.  She was always baking Irish oatmeal bread to go with her many feasts, often with foreign themes; this at a time when America was eating Spam, jello, canned vegetables, and the perpetual, “miraculous” Crisco.  (The history of shortening is in 1880’s Ozark Honey-Oatmeal Cookies, while that of canning can be found at Bean, Corn, and Avocado Salad.)

On the other hand, my grandparents, on my father’s side, lived in a small house just behind our home, allowing for their constant, close presence.  Grandma was a fantastic cook, accomplishing all by a sense of feel, with no recipes needed-a handful of this, a pinch of that.  Nevertheless as with Mom’s maternal experience, Dad didn’t learn his methods from her, but rather his schooling was provided by a gigantic industrial cook book, brought to our restaurant by a traveling salesman in the early 1960’s (see Buzz’ Blue Cheese Dressing).

These heart-imprints, established as a result of my father’s disciplined efforts, literally soar when I presently encounter light buttermilk pancakes, exceptional potato salad, or a good doughnut, for these were institutions in his establishment; thus, such soul foods provide me with a quick transport back to the mid-twentieth century.

For me these Mexican-inspired Josephines carry this same weight, with recollections from Mom’s culinary domain.  Hors d’ouvres were always a part of her feasts; this being one of our favorites.

As mentioned, 1960’s cooking employed lots of canned foods, with this recipe being no exception, as it calls for canned green chillies; originally this vegetable made its way from America to Europe, and beyond, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Chilli peppers were first introduced in India by the Portuguese, where they added heat to curries.  Curry is actually an English name, derived from the Tamil word kari, meaning “sauce”; thus, our English word indicates the basic Indian method of preparing food, utilizing their ever-present sauces.

Red and green chilies have long been present in both Hindu Indian and Muslim Pakistani cuisines.  These social groups existed together in Kashmir for most of the 400 years prior to the 1947 formation of Muslim Pakistan; here both cultures relied on the basic dish of rice and either kohlrabi or a vegetable similar to our spring greens, which was flavored with red and green chilies.  The Muslims enhanced this with garlic, while the Hindus added hing (asafoetidfa), distinguishing the two styles of preparing this food.  A more marked difference in their diets, however, resided in the ratio of meat to vegetables, with Hindus eating far more vegetables than meat, while Muslims did the opposite.

This American receipt calls for chillies, long present in world cookery; not being fresh, these reflect the popularity of canned goods in the 20th century.  Enjoy the ease of this hors d’ouvres with its great taste.  Note: my niece Cammie retains our family’s fond memory, by creatively using goat cheese and gluten-free bread here, to meet her dietary needs.  One way or the other, you will never forget this taste-treat!

References:

Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1988, 1973), p, 271.

James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995), pp. 87, 88.

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

https://cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/65202/what-was-indian-food-like-before-the-arrival-of-the-chilli-from-south-america

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

finished product

Josephines  Yields: about 1 1/2 dozen.  Total prep time: 45 min/  active prep time: 20 min/  baking time: 25-30 min.  Note: may make cheese/mayo mixture ahead, to have on hand in refrigerator.

1 c aged, grated cheddar cheese  (It is preferable to not use packaged shredded cheese; Mom always grated Sharp Cracker Barrel; I use imported, aged cheddars.)

1 c mayonnaise  (Best Foods is of high quality.)

1-7 oz can diced green chillies

easy grating of cheese in food processor

Tabasco sauce, about 8 vigorous shakes, or to taste

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

1 loaf French bread  (Trader Joe’s sells an ideal, organic 11.5-oz baguette for $1.99; this spread is enough for 2 baguettes.)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grate cheese by hand, or with grating attachment for food processor (see photo above).
  3. Mix cheese and mayonnaise in a bowl; may store this in refrigerator in a sterile container for months.
  4. Add drained chillies, Tabasco, and salt to cheese mixture; set aside.
  5. bread spread with cheese/mayo mixture

    Split loaf of bread in half lengthwise, place halves on cookie sheet split-side up, and evenly spoon cheese spread on these surfaces (see photo).

  6. Bake in hot oven for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown (see photo at top of recipe).
  7. Cool slightly, cut,  and serve.  These are dynamite!

1950’s Pear Pie

Fresh pear pie

fresh pear pie

The history of sugar is intriguing, spanning the continents.  Here we will examine the major turning points in the background of this substance.

My mother gave her children the choice of birthday cakes.  I was hard put to choose between banana cake-see 2016/08/08-and fresh pear pie.  My soul still thrills with the beautiful taste of baked pears, rich crumb topping, and the best of pie crusts.

I am so health conscious; thus I have experimented with using sugar alternatives here.  Coconut sugar or sucanat (evaporated cane juice) can not compete with cane sugar in this receipt. Only sugar insures the right texture and flavor in pear pie.

Sugar has been around for the longest time.  Saccharum officinarum, sugar cane, originated in the South Pacific’s New Guinea and was subsequently carried by human migration into Asia.  Sometime before 500 B.C., people in India were producing raw, unrefined sugar.  1

Its first known reference was in 325 B.C., when  Alexander the Great’s admiral Nearchus wrote of reeds in India that produce “honey” without any bees.  The word sugar began to appear frequently in Indian literature around 300 B.C.  This Sanskrit word sarkara, meaning gravel or pebble, became the Arabic sukhar, which finally came to be sugar.  2

The use of Indian sugar cane spread.  Around the 6th century after Christ, it was planted in the moist terrains of the Middle East, where the Persians made sugar a prized ingredient in their cooking.  After Islamic Arabs conquered Persia in the 7th century, they took the cane to northern Africa and Syria; it eventually made its way to Spain and Sicily.  3

Sugar in Europe was barely known until around 1100, and it remained a mere luxury until the 1700’s.  The western Europeans’ first encounter with sugar was during their Crusades to the Holy Lands in the 11th century.  Shortly thereafter Venice became the hub of Arabic sugar trade for western Europe, while the first known large shipment went to England in 1319.  4

At first the western Europeans treated it like other exotic imports-e.g., pepper and ginger-strictly as medicine and flavoring: it was produced in small medicinal morsels, as well as preserved fruits and flowers.  These sweets or candy first began being made by apothecaries, or druggists, which were making “confections” to balance the body’s principles.  The word confection is taken from Latin conficere. meaning “to put together” or “to prepare”.  5

The medieval years brought sugary nonconfections to Europe, such as candied almonds, as well as the use of this substance in recipes for French and English courts.  The chefs of royalty employed sugar in sauces for fish and fowl, for candying hams, and in desserts of various fruit and cream/egg combinations.  Around 1475, the Vatican librarian Platina wrote that sugar was now being produced in Crete and Sicily, as well as India and Arabia.  Columbus carried the cane to what is now Haiti and the Dominican Republic in 1493, on his second voyage.  6

By the 18th century, whole cook books were devoted to confectionery, which had become an art no longer associated with medicine.  During this century, sugar consumption exploded in Europe, with the rise of colonial rule in the West Indies and the enslavement of millions of Africans, resulting in the sugar industry becoming the major force behind slavery in the Americas (one estimate holds that fully two-thirds of the twenty million African slaves worked on sugar plantations).  This industry saw rapid decline later in the 1700’s, with the abolition movements, especially in Britain; the other European countries followed, one by one through the mid-19th century, in outlawing slavery in the colonies.  7

Sugar, however, had now become a world staple.  Presently 80% of its production comes from sugar cane, while most of the rest is derived from sugar beets.  8

Wisdom and moderation are needed with this substance.  Today our nation consumes sugar in unhealthy amounts.  Personally I hold fast to the adage of Mary Poppin’s:  “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”  My standard is to substitute more beneficial sweeteners wherever possible.  However, there are times when only cane sugar will do.   My precious pear pie is one of them!

Enjoy this carefree, mess-free recipe.

References:

  1. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking  (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 648.
  2. James Trager, The Food Chronology  (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995), p. 19.
  3. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking  (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 648, 649.
  4.  Ibid., pp. 648, 649.
  5. Ibid., p. 649.
  6. Ibid., pp. 649, 650.
  7. Ibid., pp. 650, 651.
  8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sugarcane

Pear pie, whipped cream, and freshly ground nutmeg

pear pie, whipped cream, and freshly ground nutmeg

Pear Pie with Hot Water Pastry Crust  Yields: 1-10″pie.  Total prep time: 1 1/4 hr/  active prep time: 30 min/  baking time: 45 min.

1 1/4 c unbleached white flour  (Bob’s Red Mill is high quality.)

1 1/3  c whole wheat pastry flour  (May grind 1 c soft white winter wheat berries for 1 1/2 c total fresh ground whole wheat pastry flour, carefully measuring needed amounts.)

1 tsp salt (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available very reasonably at Costco.)

2/3 c oil  (Grapeseed or avocado oil is best, available inexpensively at Trader Joe’s and Costco.)

1/3 c boiling water.

1 c sugar  (Organic cane sugar id preferable; available in 2 lb packages at Trader’s, but more economical  in 10 lb bags at Costco)

1/3 c butter, softened

5 lg Bartlett pears, ripened  (May use Anjou pears as well, but Bartletts are best, must be ripened.)

1 c heavy whipping cream  (Lightly sweeten this with powdered sugar.)

Nutmeg  (Freshly ground is superb!)

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Blend unbleached white flour, 1 c of whole wheat pastry flour, and salt in a large bowl.
  3. Add oil and boiling water; mix lightly with a fork.
  4. Divide into two balls, one much larger than the other; cover balls with plastic wrap and place on hot stove to keep warm.  (You will need to use 3/5’s of dough for this single crust for a 10″-pie plate; may bake leftover 2/5’s of dough in strips with butter and cinnamon sugar.)
  5. Roll out the large ball of dough between 2-18″ long pieces of wax paper. Form a very large, oblong circle which reaches to the sides of the paper.
  6. Gently peel off the top sheet of wax paper; turn over and place piece of rolled dough, wax paper side up, over a 10″-pie plate. Very carefully peel off the second piece of wax paper.
  7. Patch any holes in crust by pressing warm dough together with fingers. Form rim of crust on edge of pie plate by pressing dough together gently, using excess dough from heavier areas to make up for areas where dough is sparse.
  8. Mix 1/3 c of whole wheat pastry flour and sugar in same bowl in which you made the pie crust.  Blend in butter with a fork, until mealy in texture.
  9. Sprinkle 1/3 of this mixture in bottom of unbaked pie shell.
  10. Fill crust with peeled pear halves.  Fill in spaces with smaller pieces.
  11. Evenly spread remaining flour mixture on top of pears.
  12. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 30 minutes more, or until crust is golden brown.
  13. Cool, serve with whipped cream and freshly grated nutmeg.  Mouthwatering!