Tabbouleh (Lebanese parsley and burghul salad)

tabbouleh

Tabbouleh is the second in this series of three recipes, coming from my 1980’s cooking class on Middle Eastern cuisine.  Our 21st century food processor affords an easy preparation of this healthy, traditional taste-treat, a recurrent dish in my kitchen.

For all 32 years I have lived in Oregon, I have been indulging in this treasured salad at the Mediterranean establishment Nicholas’, one of my favorite Portland restaurants.  Presently it has three locations in our metropolitan area, with my current choice being the upscale version on N.E. Broadway, with its comfortable decor.

Nicholas’ original place on Grand Ave-Portland’s first Middle Eastern restaurant-was, however, a mere hole in the wall, until the late-nineties when it was first remodeled.  The owners opened its two other locations in 2003 and 2010, with the exact same menus and prices, but with much more modern, “posh” environments.

When I started going to the original eatery on Grand, before its remodel, I would be instantly transplanted back to the romance of the small cafes I knew in impoverished Peru-there I had the opportunity to study Peruvian food for three weeks in 1985 to augment my food history business (see Bolitos de Chocolat y Coco, 2016/11/28).  Even though I like more comfort now, it was actually this original Nicholas’ restaurant on Grand that thrilled my heart the most, with its quaint poverty contrasted by incredible food-oh the glorious, abundant food!

Back then, with pride in my city, I always took my out-of-town visitors to my three favorite restaurants: Bread and Ink, The Original Pancake House (listed as one of James Beard’s top ten in the nation in the 70’s), and finally Nicolas’-all of these have been serving great food since my 1986 arrival.  Hands down, my guests always proclaimed the exquisite, poorer Nicholas’ as by far the best.

In those early days, our order always remained the same: humus, tabbouleh, and falafels, all of which came with their ever-present, gigantic, hot-from-the-oven pita bread, crowding the entire center of the table.  Though only consisting of three individual servings, this elegant, vegetarian repast was so abundant that if there were less than four of us, we took leftovers home-all for a pittance.  My guests marveled at the quality of both the food and experience, for it was definitely like being transported to a Third World country.

Age has mellowed me some, for today I love to frequent the more dignified Nicolas’ on N.E. Broadway.  Still wowing my guests with its exceptional food, I now order their incredible chicken kabobs, humus, and tabbouleth, of course, while ending with their exceptional baklava.  This amply pleases my friend’s great expectations, which I have encouraged, for there is great romance here-though perhaps not as pronounced as that of their captivating 1980’s café.

Tabbouleh is mostly widely known as a Lebanese recipe, though it is popular throughout the Levant, the large area east of the Mediterranean Sea, including such countries as Lebanon, Syria, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, present-day Israel, etc.  The Levantine Arabic word tabbule is derived from tabil, which means “seasoning”; its literal translation is “dip”.  This salad is traditionally a part of the mezze, or first course of appetizers; it originated in the mountains of Lebanon and Syria, where they have favored qadb, or edible herbs, in their diet since the Middle Ages.

One of tabbouleh’s main ingredients is burghul, or bulgur, an ancient preparation of wheat-usually durum; it is made by partially cooking wheat berries, then drying them, producing a glassy hard interior.  Next, they are moistened again to toughen the outer bran area; then, ground into large chunks, removing the bran and germ in the process, while leaving the endosperm.   These pieces are then sifted and classified according to grade.  Coarse bulgur (to 3.5 mm across) is commonly used in pilafs and salads, while a fine bulgur (o.5 mm) is utilized in making sweets, such as puddings.  This particular wheat product is most prevalent in the Middle East and North Africa.  It has both long-shelf life and a quick-cooking features, thus making it is an ideal, basic ingredient for this time-tested salad.

References:

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

http://cobornsdeliversblog.com/2015/02/03/demystifying-ancient-grains-bulgur/

Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 468.

finished product

Tabbouleh (Lebanese burghul and parsley salad)  Yields: 6 servings.  Total prep time: 35 min plus 1 hr for chilling.

3/4 c burghul, bulgur wheat  (Available in bulk at our local Winco, or organic bulgur may be found at the national upscale New Season’s.)

2 c chopped curly parsley, 1 lg bunch  (Organic is best, which is only slightly more expensive.)

1 bunch green onions, chopped

2 firm, ripe med tomatoes  (May use organic Roma tomatoes, which are relatively inexpensive.)

Scant 1/4 c fresh lemon juice  (2 small lemons needed.)

1/4 c olive oil  (Avocado oil will also work; good olive oil, however is really healthy, when not heated to high temperatures, which makes it carcinogenic.)

1/4 c fresh mint, chopped  (May substitute 2 tsp dried mint, or to taste.)

1 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is important for optimum health; an inexpensive Himalayan salt is available in bulk at our local Winco.)

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper, or to taste

  1. juicing lemons the easy way

    Boil 1 1/2 c water, stir in burghul, set aside to cool.

  2. Clean parsley, onions, and tomatoes with an inexpensive, safe, effective vegetable spray (combine 97% distilled white vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide).  Let sit for 3 minutes; then, rinse well in a sink full of water three times.
  3. Juice lemons, by first rolling them on counter, pressing down hard with hand, to loosen meat; extract juices; set aside.  (See above photo of easy hand-held juicer, available at our local Bob’s Red Mill.)
  4. Break stems off parsley and place in a food processor.  Chop small, by repeatedly pressing the pulse button-this may also be done with a knife, which is more laborious.  Place in a large bowl.
  5. Chop green onions (may include the green part, in addition); add to bowl.
  6. For ease in slicing, cut tomatoes with the skin side down (see photo below).  Mix in with parsley and onions.
  7. chopping tomatoes so to conserve juices

    Place lemon juice in a glass measuring cup (should be a scant 1/4 c); fill the rest with olive oil to measure 1/2 c.  Add mint, salt, and pepper; beat well with a fork.

  8. Drain burghul when cool, add to vegetables, pour beaten dressing over top, and blend well.  Chill for 1 hour before serving (see photo of finished product at top of recipe).  This is so healthy and good!

Ropa Vieja (Omelette)

ropa vieja (omelette)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References:

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

ingredients for ropa vieja

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

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

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

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

2 tbsp butter

1 tbsp chopped parsley, optional

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

Fresh ground pepper, to taste

  1. cooked tomatoes

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

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

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

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

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, 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.

Rosemary Eggs

rosemary eggs

I am creating recipes for an abundance of fresh rosemary which I am receiving right now; this delicious, simple egg receipt is among them; it reminds me that I eat like a queen.

Six years ago my young friend Noah began raising ducks, which he cherishes as if they were his children; each possesses its own personality and carefully chosen name.

Depending on the breed, ducks produce between 150-200 eggs a year, which come in all sorts of colors, varying mostly by genetic strain.  Different colored eggs, however, sometimes occur within the same breed.

Noah has seventeen of these domesticated aquatic birds, with only five of them producing presently; they only lay from early spring until the winter cold sets in; we are always sad when their production stops.

For the past half decade, I have been a beneficiary of this treasured delicacy; consequently my baking has excelled.  Pastry chefs prize these ovum of the family Anatidae over chicken eggs, for they contain less water, have firmer whites, and a higher fat content; this makes for moister cakes, breads, and cookies, all of which rise better, due to the additional leavening power found here.

The right balance in the interaction between eggs, flour, sugar, and fat in baked goods is important; your product will be dry if there is either too much or too little of the crucial egg.  In most recipes, “eggs” is a reference to large-sized chicken eggs, of which the equivalent of three is 2/3’s cup of duck eggs; therefore, I always measure these for an accurate agreement in any given recipe.  Note: whipping duck whites takes longer because of their firmness; thus, the recommendation is to beat them at room temperature, adding a little lemon juice; older eggs are preferable to fresh, as they aren’t as firm.

Duck eggs are up to 50% larger than those of their chicken cousins, with more yolk than white.  They are higher in protein and creamier, making great omelettes and quiches; crème brulee is unforgettable when made with these!  Nevertheless, my favorite way to eat them is over-easy, with the rich, smooth, orange yolk dripping all over the plate, which I sop up with my homemade toast; be sure to not overcook them, as this makes them rubbery.

Exponents of eggs propound that-among many benefits-they help prevent breast cancer, because of their high choline content; their abundance of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxathin fights mascular degeneration and cataracts; their beneficial blend of omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, B vitamins, and iodine feeds your brain, thus enhancing your mood.  They are an ideal, low-caloric, muscle-producing protein.

USDA has the same regulations for chicken, duck, quail, and ostrich eggs.  Their farmers and fans proclaim that duck eggs are less susceptible to diseases and parasites, making them safer, as well as healthier with a higher concentration of nutrients.  It is believed that their thick shells give them a longer shelf life than chicken eggs.

Eggs in general have gotten a bad rap in recent years; many feel they contribute to heart disease.  This is far from the truth, as they contain mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which actually lower heart disease risk.  Harvard health experts say healthy people can eat an egg a day; others believe you can eat even more.

These special duck eggs are popular in Asian cuisines, especially Chinese and Vietnamese, where they are frequently cured in brine; this draws out moisture and preserves them, altering their texture.  I fell in love with these pickled eggs while living in Tokyo!

My facile receipt blesses, for it enhances eggs with rosemary.  If possible, use these superior duck eggs, available at local farms and upscale grocers, where they range from $6 to $12 a dozen.  My young friend, however, sells his for the lesser price of $6.  (Noah resides near the Tualatin high school here in Oregon; go to Cynthia Powell link on my Facebook page.)

References:

www.rodalesorganiclife.com/food/chicken-eggs-vs-duck-eggs-which-is-healthier

www.hgtv.com/outdoors/gardens/animals-and-wildlife/duck-eggs-411

https://www.tyrantfarms.com/5-things-you-didn’t-know-about-duck-eggs

https://pastrychefonline.com/2015/03/14/how-do-eggs-function-in-baking/

www.modernfarmer.com/2015/06/everything-you-need-to-know-about-duck-eggs/

chopping rosemary with a sharp knife

Rosemary Eggs  Yields: 1 serving.  (May multiply this, using a large non-stick pan.)  Total prep time: 15 min.

1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced  (1 1/3 tsp will be needed, if using duck eggs, which are considerably bigger than chicken eggs.)

1 small tomato, chopped

2 large chicken eggs  (May substitute duck eggs.)

1 tsp butter

Salt, to taste  (Real Salt is important for health reasons; available in nutrition center at local supermarket.)

Fresh ground pepper, to taste

  1. cooking liquid out of tomatoes

    Chop rosemary fine with a sharp knife; set aside (see above photo).

  2. Chop tomato and place in a dish.
  3. Beat eggs in a bowl, set aside.
  4. In a small non-stick omelette pan, heat butter over moderate/med heat; add rosemary; and cook for about 20 seconds.  Stir in tomato and cook for 2-3 minutes.  There will be juice from the tomatoes at first (see photo); cook until most of this liquid is evaporated.
  5. Pour in eggs, salt and pepper the top.  Gently fold in the firm egg on the bottom of pan (see photo); cook until egg is not runny any longer, but still quite moist.  Do not overcook, as this makes duck eggs, in particular, rubbery and dry.
  6. folding in cooked egg

    Serve hot, with homemade zucchini bread (2017/07/24), or better yet my rosemary bread toasted, which I will publish in several weeks.

Parmesan Dover Sole

pan of baked Dover sole

Over a month ago I was celebrating a belated Christmas get-together with Carol, a friend of 31 years.  Our time in each other’s company is always rich; my desire for our merrymaking was that my food would do the honors, blessing our long-term bond.  This delicious dish answered this ambition beyond my expectations.  I share it here for your use with those close to you.

Friendship and food are both treasured gifts.  When we mix the two together, life explodes.  I always endeavor to meet my guests’ particular needs, thus making each dinner engagement unique and exceptional.

For instance Carol doesn’t like hors d’ouvres, as they were never served in her family of origin; for her they take away from an acute appetite for the main meal.  Consequently, we just partake in tea and conversation for the first half hour of our gathering.

This sensible person has a heightened awareness of taste.  She knows good food and eats with purpose, maximally enjoying each bite.  This takes concentration; my friend allows herself this luxury; thus, we spend much of our repast in silence, focusing on gastronomic pleasures.

This discipline was first displayed to me when I was 20 years old, while waiting on table in my father’s restaurant.  (Joy unspeakable happened to me then, as I served the public with our exceptional ailments.)  My About Page on this website notes that which is true for each of us, for it details the unfolding of my destiny, which has been happening throughout my entire life; I was born a food historian.  An excellent example of this is what I learned about the gift of hospitality, while serving the public in my youth; during that instructive time, a young couple showed me what a treasure stillness brings to eating.

Tourists peopled my family’s eatery in Glacier National Park and this unique pair was probably there on their honeymoon.  I initially approached their table with rousing emotion, my usual display of a genuine heartfelt welcome; my spirit, however, was quickly corrected.  This excitable enthusiasm, which was normally highly pleasing to those on holiday, was not appropriate in their presence, for there was a holy reverence about them.  My sensitive response was an immediate change of demeanor.  Throughout their lengthy feast, I watched them with awe, as they indulged in each other’s company and our kitchen’s delights, in their unparalleled way.

I intuitively knew how to respect them with a quiet spirit.  However, this was so foreign to me that I felt like I was walking on egg shells, but oh the glory of it all!

Since then, God has given me a friend with whom I can practice what these two taught me, forty odd years ago.  Carol and I uphold veracity in all of life’s dealings; thus, even our eating is veracious.  Because of the honesty in our souls, we engage in veneration to God as we consume food; therefore, you can see my need for a dish that would rise to our integrity, which I knew would be present at this gathering.

My heart’s desire was met in this Parmesan Dover Sole recipe; how facile and pleasing it is beyond words.

sauce cooking

Parmesan Dover Sole   Total prep time: 1 1/3 hr/  active prep time: 50 min/  baking time: 30 min.  Yields: 3-4 servings.  Note: you may double this recipe, leftovers are great, however fish only keeps for 3 days.

1/2 tsp oil  (Coconut oil is best here for flavor and quality; you may also use avocado oil; olive oil is carcinogenic, when heated to high temperatures.)

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

5 medium cloves garlic, or to taste, minced  (May substitute 2 cubes frozen garlic from Trader Joe’s for easy prep.)

1 lb Roma tomatoes, chopped small  (Organic is best; the organic Roma variety is not that much more expensive than regular tomatoes.)

1/2 tsp sugar, optional  (This brings out the flavor in the tomatoes.)

1/2 tsp salt  (Real Salt is so important for your body’s optimum health; this product is available in the health section at most leading grocery stores.)

1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

1/2 tsp Better Than Bouillon  (Either this chicken or vegetable flavored base will do; this product is available at most grocery stores.)

3/4 cup boiling water

Spray oil  (Pam coconut spray oil is ideal, available more reasonably in our local Winco brand.)

1 lb Dover sole fillets, or other type of whitefish, such as flounder  (Dover sole is a type of sole that has very thin fillets, which is ideal for absorbing sauces; see Thai Coconut/Lime Flounder, 2016/12/05.)

1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated or shaved

Rice, steamed according to directions on package

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  (If you prepare dish ahead of time, do steps 2 through 9 before hand; then, begin preheating oven 1 hour before serving.)
  2. beginning stages of caramelization

    Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium/low heat; add onions and caramelize, by stirring every several minutes until color starts to form (see photo); then, stir every minute until dark brown (see photo below).  Do not crowd onions in pan, or they will sweat, taking much longer to cook.

  3. If using fresh garlic, chop and set aside.  Spray tomatoes with an inexpensive, effective vegetable spray, a mixture of 97% distilled white vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide; let sit for 3 minutes; rinse well.  Go to next step.
  4. Meantime dissolve Better Than Bouillon in the hot water, set aside.
  5. Chop tomatoes in small pieces and place in another frying pan; add garlic, bouillon mixture, sugar, salt, and pepper, stirring well.  Bring to a boil over medium heat; then, turn heat down to medium/low; simmer gently for about 20 minutes, or until a sauce is formed, with the tomatoes somewhat chunky (see above photo).  Adjust seasoning when sauce is complete. (I encourage you to read tips about cooking properly with garlic in Tomato/Feta Chicken, 2016/07/25.)
  6. finished product

    Begin steaming the  rice while tomatoes are cooking.  (If you are preparing this ahead of time, start this starch when you put cold fish dish in preheated oven, 50 minutes before serving.)

  7. For a single recipe, spray with oil a 9 1/2 x 7 1/2 x 3 inch pan, or 2 ½ quart baking dish; for a double recipe, use a 9 ½ x 13 x 2 inch pan.  Place fish fillets in bottom of pan.  Note: it is not necessary to wash pieces of fish or meat; only poultry carcasses, where blood is captured inside, need washing.
  8. Pour prepared sauce over raw fish and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, see top photo.  (Refrigerate fish dish, if making it ahead.)
  9. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 30 to 50 minutes-time varies if fish is cold from the refrigerator.  Fish is done when its center is opaque and it flakes with a fork.
  10. Enjoy this incredibly good dish!  Leftovers are also delicious.

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 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 another 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-or to taste-per four-serving dish while it 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 is an exceptionally good recipe.  Enjoy it!

Tomato/Feta Chicken  Yields: 6-8 servings.  Total prep time: 1 hr.

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

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

2 lbs chicken tenderloins, thawed  (The frozen ones at Trader Joe’s are all natural.)

Salt and pepper to taste  (Real Salt is best; available in the health section in your local supermarket.)

6 med/lg tomatoes, chopped  (Organic is best.)

¾ tsp dried oregano  (Organic is available at Trader’s; it is of excellent quality and very inexpensive.)

1 tsp dried basil

5 lg cloves of garlic, chopped fine  (3 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 a block-rather than pre-crumbled.)

Shaved Parmesan cheese

Steamed brown rice (I prefer basmati brown rice)

  1. Take frozen broccoli out of freezer.  It cooks better when partially thawed.
  2. If chicken tenderloins are frozen, you may thaw them in cold water in about 15 minutes.  Pat dry with paper towel.
  3. In a large heavy-bottom frying pan, heat 1 tsp oil over medium/low heat. Add onion and caramelize, cook slowly until dark brown.  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. For more details on caramelizing, see Caramelized Onions and Carrots (2017/06/19).  Set aside when done.   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 large bowl.
  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.
  7. If desired, when onions and tomatoes are cooked, may set aside and finish recipe just before serving.
  8. Just before serving, add thawed broccoli to tomato sauce and simmer over medium heat; cook until vegetables are hot.
  9. Add chicken and onions to pan with tomatoes; 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.