More Creative Cooking


Experimentation and creativity while cooking become really important when you are home and going out and about does not seem a very safe option.  Here are some photos of two recent dishes I created for dinner.

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Many people do not like certain vegetables, two of which are my favorites, beets and Brussels spouts.  I remain convinced that people do not like them because no one has ever cooked them in a way they find palatable. These two vegetables keep well in the refrigerator so they are good for buying in this time when many do not want to go to the grocery often.

To create the above dish, I sautéed several chopped garlic cloves in olive oil with the chopped beets.  Cook these until nearly done, then add the sliced Brussels sprouts.  It takes longer to cook the beets and garlic than the Brussels sprouts.  You want the Brussels spouts to be tender but do not over cook.  This particular day I added basil essential oil to taste and served the dish over pasta from Italy.  When I want something more spicy, I sprinkle berbere (Ethiopian spice) over the vegetables instead of using basil or other Italian spices.  Sometimes I serve this over rice instead of pasta, e.g. when I use berbere.  This provides a delicious vegan meal and is easy to prepare.

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One of my favorite dishes includes cod loins.  I create many different versions by changing the vegetables used and the spices. For this one, I first sautéed garlic in olive oil until golden, added chopped beets and sautéed until they were tender.  Then I added the cod loin and chopped red bell pepper and chopped poblano pepper.  At the last minute I added a handful of frozen green peas and sautéed only until they were hot.  Once again I used basil and added lemon essential oil.  The pasta is bucatini from Italy.  If you like cheese, grate fresh parmesan or asiago over the dish.

Covid19–Creative Cooking


This is post number six as I continue to quarantine.  I’ve lost tract of exactly when I last went to the grocery–not for at least three weeks.  In an effort to avoid going unnecessarily, I’ve come up with all sorts of creative cooking by looking to see what I can find in the pantry and refrigerator and inventing recipes, using what I already have.  Here are three of my inventions.

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When I was in Italy last November, I ate pasta with lemon creme sauce in two different restaurants in two different cities.  I have managed to duplicate it using bucatini from Italy, lemons, and heavy cream.  For two servings, cook about 1/2 pound of pasta.  While pasta is cooking, use a potato peeler to peel of strips of rind from one lemon.  Chop these strips into smaller pieces.  Cut the lemon into quarters.  When pasta is al dente, drain.  Turn down the heat and melt 1/4 stick butter in the pan, add drained pasta and lemon rind.  Take the lemon quarters and squeeze the juice into the pasta, add cream to taste–do not add too much. If you do not have cream–this time I had none in the refrigerator, do not worry.  It is yummy without it.

I was out of most salad ingredients so the above salad is chopped cilantro topped with feta cheese, various kinds of olives, and olive oil.

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While scrounging around in the freezer compartment, I found half pound of hamburger. I defrosted that and found a can of kidney beans in the pantry. I sautéed the lean hamburger in olive oil, then added the kidney beans.  I did not have any tomatoes or tomato sauce so I dumped in a little organic ketchup.  After stirring this together, I added berbere, a complex and a little hot spice from Ethiopia.  I served this on top of basmati rice from Pakistan–I buy this in ten pound bags at an international grocery.

The salad ingredients were a gift from a friend who had to harvest all his arugula and lettuce because of freezing weather. While both of us were outside, he handed me a bagful of these goodies.  I added some red cabbage I already had.  Finally, I grated asiago cheese all over the top of everything.  Cheese is a favorite food so I always have lots on hand.

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The other food I always keep in the freezer is fish, usually salmon and cod loins.  For this recipe, I defrosted the salmon and marinated it in teriyaki sauce and chopped up some onions and crystallized ginger.  I sautéed the onions in olive oil, then added the salmon and crystallized ginger.  When the salmon was almost done, I added some chopped, frozen,  poblano peppers (when I knew this stay-at-home order was likely, I bought a lot of poblano peppers and froze them) and arugula.  I served the finished dish over basmati rice.

Sometime in the next month or so–no definite date yet–my memoir/cookbook will come out, “You’re Gonna Eat That!? Adventures with Food, Family, and Friends.” It is filled with recipes using ingredients and methods I have learned in travels and growing up with my mom. Many of the recipes are vegetarian and could be vegan with minor adjustments.

Stuffed Acorn Squash


Winter squash, butternut and acorn, are two vegetables I like and think are under used.  Because I became tired of peeling butternut, I decided to invent something for acorn squash.  Much to my surprise, it is now one of Martina’s favorite foods.  She has even sent photos to her mother in Italy to see if the squash is sold there so her family can try it.  The following recipe is for two. Obviously, just buy more squash and fill if you want to make it for more people.  This is a perfect recipe for vegetarians because no meat or fish is used.

 

1 acorn squash, cut in half, seeds removed

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

Olive oil

1/2 to 1 teaspoon honey for each half

Pepitas or any chopped nut of your choice

Saute the finely chopped onion in olive oil until translucent.  Stir in approximately one handful of seeds or nuts.  Rub olive oil in the bottom of a small baking dish or pan and cover the flesh of the squash with a thin layer of olive oil.  Place squash in the pan, fill deseeded center with the onion mixture.  Place honey on top of this mixture.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for 30-45 minutes, depending on the size of the squash halves.

For a totally vegetarian meal, serve with salad.

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If you want to add more protein to the meal, add black or garbanzo beans to the salad.  Sometimes we also add chopped hard boiled eggs and feta cheese.

 

 

 

An “Italian” Evening–Two


My daughter and grandson arrived shortly after six.  First course included nuts, cheeses, crackers, blue corn chips and salsa–I know, not Italian.  For the adults, Stella Rosa Black from Italy.  For the non-adults organic apple juice.

While we snacked on the first course, we created two versions of Pasta alla Carbonara, one for my vegetarian grandson and one without much parmesan cheese for everyone else.  Traditionally, this dish requires parmesan cheese; however, my daughter is lactose intolerant so we created the other one for her.  The rest of us just topped off our dish with grated parmesan at the dinner table.

We used conchiglie from Monastero di Montebello in Italy for the pasta and for version two, pancetta cut into cubes.  For the vegetarian version we used Morning Star bacon.  Here is the basic recipe for pasta alla carbonara:

cooked pasta

bacon or ham, cut in cubes or small pieces

whipped eggs, approximately one egg for every two people

finely chopped onions sautéed in olive oil–we used one large onion for four

grated parmesan cheese–1/8 to 1/4 cup per person (you can use half parmesan and half pecorino)

Saute onions until translucent.  If you are using any bacon except pancetta, cook it first but not until too crispy.  Add the bacon and heat through.  Add the cooked pasta and the whipped egg/cheese to the onion/bacon mixture.  Continually stir until thoroughly combined and the eggs are cooked.

When to start cooking the pasta so it is cooked and ready to combine with the other ingredients depends on the type of pasta you use.

We served this with a large salad:  leaf lettuce, shredded purple cabbage, chopped red bell peppers, onions, chopped carrots,  balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  We concluded the evening with three different ice cream choices for dessert.

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In case you are wondering why the Christmas tree is still there, well, Martina and I like the lights so we keep procrastinating taking it down.  I keep telling myself today it will be dismantled and then it is not.  Tonight it will come down–maybe.

 

 

 

 

Mom’s Pumpkin Pie


Mom made fantastic pies of all sorts so much so that when she took a pie to a potluck, people would rush to get a piece even before they acquired any other food.  The only pumpkin pie my grandson likes is Mom’s.  He seems to like the idea that he is eating something his great grandmother created.  Today, I taught him to make homemade pie crust and Mom’s pumpkin pie.  Here he is crimping the edges after rolling out the dough and placing it in the pie pan.

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We made two pumpkin and one pecan today.  Here is the recipe for Mom’s pumpkin pie.  He ground the cinnamon–pieces of bark from a friend’s mom’s tree in Ethiopia–using an old fashioned, wooden grinder.

1 1/2 cups cooked or canned pumpkin

1 1/2 cups milk and cream or evaporated milk  ( I use 1 can evaporated milk)

3 eggs

3/4 cup brown or white sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg ( I grated this fresh)

1/2 teaspoon ginger

Dump everything in a blender.  Place your hand on the lid before starting the motor.  Blend a few seconds, until smooth, and pour into pastry-lined pie shell.  Bake at 450 for ten minutes, then bake at 350 for 30 minutes longer or until firm in the center.

Placed with Mom’s original typed recipe is this note:  “Juliana, if you use half evaporated milk it gives a wonderful flavor and I like white sugar best.” I use white sugar.

The finished product looks like this.

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This recipe makes a lot of filling so if you do not have a large pie pan, you will need to bake some of the filling in another pan.  Since we made two today, we baked the left over without a crust in another oven proof dish–pumpkin pudding.

Colorful Cabbage Salad


This bright salad not only looks lovely, it also packs a lot of nutrition, is easy, and can be made in advance.

1 medium head purple cabbage, finely chopped

1 cup thinly sliced baby carrots

1 cup chopped broccoli

handful of rings from leek stalk (optional)

equal amounts of olive oil, sweet chili sauce, and mirin (Japanese sweet cooking rice wine) to fill 1/2 cup measure

Mix all the above ingredients.  Chill.

This is an easy salad to make in smaller or large quantities.  It also keeps well in the refrigerator.

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Today I will serve this with the following:  black beans with caramelized onions, Persian rice, and salmon topped with garlic, olive oil, and bebere.  There will be plenty for vegan and vegetarian guests without the salmon.

 

A Week of Gratitude (cont.)


Each day I made a list of things for which I feel grateful, sometimes more, sometimes less.  Tuesday’s list includes:

-Endless sunsets streaked with orange, vermillion, purple, lavender and colors with no name.

-An ability to sing the world’s greatest chorale music with a group of experienced singers who even occasionally sings with the symphony.

Wednesday’s list includes:

-Books I love.  My favorite is “Storyteller” by Leslie Marmon Silko.  I must have read her story “Yellow Woman” at least 50 times.

-The ability to write myself.  I entered a flash memoir contest on Wednesday.

Today’s list includes:

-A short but fun experience with my grandson whom I picked up at school.  He told me all about what he is learning in science class–he is in seventh grade.  We discussed genetics and Punnett Squares.  I recently explained them to some high school biology students.

-Driving my tractor, grading the steep drive down to my cliffside house.  I grew up on a farm and love driving the tractor.

-Cooking dinner.  Here’s the recipe:

Fillet of salmon–keta

4-5 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1 poblano pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped

1/2 medium beetroot, thinly sliced and then diced

Bebere to taste or other spice if you do not have this

Several bunches kale, spine removed, and coarsely chopped.  I used two kinds–one green and one purple.

Saute the garlic and beetroot in olive oil until nearly cooked.  Add the poblano pepper and salmon.  Sprinkle a coating of bebere to cover the salmon.  Saute until salmon is nearly done and pepper is cooked but still bright green.  Add kale, occasionally stir, and saute until kale is slightly wilted. Serve over rice.  I used basmati from Pakistan.

Note:  bebere is a spice from Ethiopia.  I use homemade from my Ethiopian friends who have it special made.  Her blend is complex but not very hot.  Some commercial blends are mostly hot.

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The Fly, Wine, and Fennel


I look .

The fly floats in my glass of Seven Deadly Zins,

full to two golden flowers half way up the rim.

What kind of flowers?

I look.

Unsure, I watch the fly struggle, floundering around

in the deep red, the color that turns tongues

purple drunk.

I look.

Dead.  It floats.

Not poor, frugal.  I debate.

Should I throw the wine out?  Drink it?

I take the silver teaspoon–from the six piece

set Father gave Mother in 1946 on their

first anniversary–dip it in the dark, remove

fly, throw it down the antique copper sink drain.

I pick up the glass.

I look,

swirl the wine around in the bowl, take a sip.

Surely 15 percent alcohol kills germs.

 

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It was past seven, time to fix dinner.  Since I live a lone, I often fix dinner for two, save half, and have dinner ready for a hectic evening after work.  Just warm in the microwave.

Cod with Fennel, Mint, and Lemon

Two cod loins–one if extra large

1 heaping tablespoon chopped garlic

Olive oil

1/2 to 1 cup finely sliced small carrots

1/2 large poblano pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped

several cauliflower florets thinly sliced

crushed dried mint

essential oil of lemon and fennel (if you do not use essential oils,

you can use 1 tsp. ground fennel and lemon juice to taste)

 

Pour enough olive oil in a ten inch skillet to totally cover the bottom.  Saute garlic and carrots in the olive oil until carrots are almost tender.  Sprinkle a small handful of mint over the garlic and carrot mixture.  Add cauliflower and poblano pepper.  When poblano peppers are about to change color, add the cod.  Sprinkle drops of lemon and fennel essential oil over the cod–or the ground fennel and lemon juice.  Cook until the cod flakes.    Serve over rice.  I use basmati.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rye Bread with Cardamon and Golden Raisins


Every year for so many years I fail to recall, I have made this bread during the holiday season.  Why then, I have no idea because the bread is not just for winter or anything in particular.  It makes three loaves and a good present; maybe that was the original reason.  It also takes more time than ordinary bread; I usually have time off during this season.

2 packages yeast

1/2 cup warm water

1 1/2 cups light cream or evaporated milk

2 cups unsifted, unbleached flour

3 eggs

2/3 cup sugar

1 cup butter, melted and cooled

2 tsp. fresh ground cardamon

1 cup golden raisins

1 cup milk

2 cups rye flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

3 – 3 1/2 cups unbleached flour

In a large bowl dissolve yeast in water. Stir in the cream or evaporated milk.  Add the 2 cups flour; beat until smooth.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled.  Stir in the eggs, sugar, butter, golden raisins, and cardamon.  Beat until smooth.  Add the milk and rye flour and stir until combined.  At this point using a dough hook makes it easier.  Add the whole wheat flour and enough of the unbleached flour to make a stiff dough.  Sprinkle remaining flour onto a board or granite counter top.  Knead until smooth.  Oil a large bowl, place dough in bowl and turn to grease both sides.  Let rise until doubled.  Punch down and work into a smooth ball.  Divide into three equal portions.  Place in three pans of your choosing (I use one regular loaf pan and two cake pans).  After dough has risen to double in size, bake in a 350 degree oven.  While loaves are still hot, brush with butter.  Allow loaves to cool before removing from the pans.

This bread is especially good with Swiss cheese or other similar cheeses and makes a tasty left over turkey sandwich.

 

 

My Mom’s Pumpkin Bread


A couple of days ago, after writing what I think will be my next to last Ethiopian Adventure blog post, I decided to get in the holiday spirit and bake.  For years, each year about this time, I make the pumpkin bread recipe written in my mom’s (Barbara Lewis Duke Lightle) hand writing, a recipe she gave me decades ago.  The recipe card looks a bit worn, but the results are as yummy as ever. Sift together 3 cups flour, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. nutmeg, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. cloves, and 1/2 tsp allspice.  In  a large electric mixer bowl combine 1 cup cooking oil, 3 cups sugar (this is the original she used; however, I only use 2 1/3 cups sugar), and 3 eggs.  Beat well.  Add one small can pumpkin, 1 tsp. baking soda,  and 1 tsp. vanilla.  Mix well.  Finally, slowly add the flour mixture.  Pour into three well greased and floured coffee cans–each 1/2 full.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 min. to one hour.  Her original recipe calls for adding 2/3 cup walnuts or pecans.  I want to have three kinds of bread so I pour 1/3 into the first can with nothing added, then I add nuts to the rest and pour 1/2 of that into the second can.  Finally, I add 1/2 cup golden raisins and pour the remainder into the last can.  Cool thoroughly before removing from the cans.  It helps to loosen the sides with a knife. Enjoy, share.