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.

Italy–Spaghetti with Lemon Cream Sauce


My favorite pasta dish in Italy was like none other I have eaten anywhere.  The first time–and the best dish–was in a little restaurant along the side of a narrow street in Amalfi.  The Amalfi Coast is famous for its lemons and where they create the best limoncello.  Therefore, it is not surprising that they created a pasta dish featuring lemons.  When I returned home, I experimented to recreate it.  First, the spaghetti–yes, they called it spaghetti–was considerably thicker than spaghetti in the US.  I guess it was homemade.  I did find a reasonable substitute here, bucatini from Italy.

Here is my recipe for two people:

1/2 lb. bucatini made from durum wheat semolina

1 lemon

heavy cream or half and half

lemon essential oil

butter

Cook the pasta as directed on the package.  While the pasta is cooking, using a potato peeler, peel strips from the rind of the lemon and cut into small pieces. If not using lemon essential oil, juice the lemon.  After the pasta is cooked and drained, place back in the pot with a couple tablespoons of butter and stir until butter is melted.  Add the lemon rind and lemon juice or essential oil to taste.  Add the cream carefully–just enough to make a little sauce.  Serve and grate parmesan or asiago cheese on the top.

Serve with a nice green salad.

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Farther up this street just below the school, we found the restaurant where I ate the spaghetti with this sauce.

 

 

Dinner Tonight


After several days away from home, I made a quick, tasty, vegetarian dinner this evening.

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Since I am leaving for California early Wednesday morning and did not want to buy more food, I used what I could find in the refrigerator:  Brussel sprouts, red bell pepper, poblano pepper, broccoli, onion.  I found a container of pepitas in the pantry and added some of those as well.

1/4 yellow onion, finely chopped

1 small poblano pepper, deseeded and coarsely chopped

1 red bell pepper, deseeded and coarsely chopped

6 Brussel sprouts, sliced

Several broccoli florets

Olive oil

Basil essential oil or dried basil

Pepitas

Pour enough olive oil in skillet to cover bottom and heat on medium low.  Add onions and saute until carmelized.  Add Brussels sprouts.  When sprouts are about half done, add remaining ingredients and six drops of basil essential oil.  Saute until tender but still bright colored.  Toss in a handful of pepitas.  Serve over pasta or rice.

I served this with pasta and grated asiago cheese on top.  Although I frequently use parmesan for grating, I actually prefer asiago.  Without the cheese, this is vegan.

 

A Litany of Thanks


I heard this poem by Max Coots recited on Sunday and saved it to share today.

 

Let us give thanks:

 

For generous friends…with hearts…and smiles as bright as their blossoms;

For feisty friends as tart as apples;

For continuous friends, who, like scallions and cucumbers, keep reminding us we’ve had them;

For crotchety friends, as sour as rhubarb and as indestructible;

For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants and as elegant as a row of corn, and the others, plain as potatoes and as good for you;

For funny friends, who are a silly as Brussel spouts and as amusing as Jerusalem artichokes, and serious friends, as complex as cauliflowers and as intricate as onions;

For friends as unpretentious as cabbages, as subtle as summer squash, as persistent as parsley, as delightful as dill, as endless as zucchini, and who, like parsnips, can be counted on to see you throughout the winter;

For old friends, who wind around us like tendrils and hold us, despite our blights, wilts, and witherings;

And, finally, for those friends now gone, like gardens past that have been harvested, and who fed us in their times that we might have life hereafter.

For all these we give thanks.

 

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September 1, on the Rim of Wonder


Sunrise

Dappled clouds

Owl hooting

Wren climbing

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Later, I graded papers and watched part of John McCain’s funeral, some of which almost brought me to tears.  I often disagreed with him but never did I question his passionate love of country, his courage, his willingness to buck the norm, to defy convention when he thought it was the right thing to do.  I think he and I shared certain values on which this country is based even if the country as a whole rarely lives up to them.  These include the conviction that all people are equal, that everyone deserves justice, and each person carries the right to find his or her own share of happiness without judgment and condemnation from others who may think differently.

Later, while working on the latest book I am writing, I found handwritten recipes written by my grandmother, my mother’s mother, Nellie Narcissus Duke (Kaiser),whose father came here from Switzerland as a child.  One, for dumplings, remains readable.  The other written in pencil on the front and back of thin paper is fragile.  It is for Strawberry Shortcake.  If Grandmother Duke ever made dumplings, I do not remember it.  Mother did–chicken and dumplings.  I wonder if she used this recipe.  I do remember conversations about the shortcake because Dad did not like strawberry shortcake even though he liked strawberries.  I took photos of these two recipes written decades ago in my grandmother’s handwriting.

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Pasta with Sardines, Walnuts, and Figs


pasta of your choice–I use conchiglie

5 dried mission figs, coarsely chopped

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

olive oil

1/2 cup broken walnuts–I used black walnuts tonight

1 can sardines in olive oil

1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar

Saute garlic and walnuts in just enough olive oil to cover bottom of pan until garlic is lightly browned.  Add figs and sardines.  Do not drain olive oil from the sardines. Add balsamic vinegar.  Stir and heat through.  Add to drained pasta.  Stir to combine.  Serve with grated pecorino cheese and a simple salad.  This recipe serves 2-3.

 

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Note:  Why sardines?  There are good reasons to add sardines to your food choices.  First, they are near the bottom of the food chain and have little to no chemical residue as a consequence, e.g. no mercury. Second, small amounts have lots of protein and omega oils.  One little can has 22 grams of protein.  1/2 cup walnuts has 12 grams of protein.  I use pasta from an ancient Italian monastery.

Overweight and Poorer


Today I planned to post a lovely poem.  However, I was so engrossed by an article on the Internet that I decided to discuss that topic instead.  Why are so many people in this country overweight?  Why do people complain about being poorer?

The article in question, which I could not download and post here, claims that the biggest item on which people in the United States overspend is eating out at restaurants.  It is also a major cause of obesity.  On average when a person eats in a restaurant they eat 200 calories more than if he or she ate at home.  If that person eats out three times a week, that adds up to more than 30,000 extra calories a year.  Even if he or she eats fast food, which probably adds even more calories, the extra expenditure at even a low 8.00 per meal, would  add to nearly 1300 dollars per year.  If it is a family, multiply that by the  number of people in the family.  For 8 dollars, they could go to the grocery here in Texas and buy a delicious already roasted chicken that would feed at least four.

Personally, I find few restaurants that can actually create a meal better than one I can cook myself.  Others say who wants to cook for oneself.  I live alone and I cook for myself all but a couple of times a month.  Being a bit of a health nut and not much of a meat eater (I eat quite a lot of fish, usually cod or salmon), that 8 dollars would turn into much bigger amounts.  Plus I do not want to waste the time eating out.  I can create a much healthier meal, cheaper, quicker at home.  Restaurant food tends to be much saltier with fewer herbs and spices than I prefer as well.

I am curious to find out why others eat out all the time.  It mystifies me.

 

PS.  Curious as to what sorts of foods I create, what spices I use?  I have posted lots of recipes here on my blog.  Take a look.

 

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Chocolate and Personality


Did you know you can be defined by the type and shape of chocolate you eat?  New Mexico State University researchers study how ethnicity, fashion, economic status, and religious practices relate to food. Basically, what you eat symbolizes who you are.

A New Zealand therapist carries this further in his book, “Chocolate Therapy:  Dare to Discover Your Inner Center”. Langham, the therapist, provided a variety of chocolate choices to his patients, began noticing patterns in the shapes and types of chocolates different patients chose.  The book goes so far as to suggest a game you can play with friends when they visit your house.  Provide a wide selection of chocolates, watch them pick one, and then use the book to read what it says about them.  His claim is that they will say, “This is so me.”

To give a couple of examples:

-A lover of milk chocolate likes to live in the past emotionally, loves the sweet smooth feeling this type of chocolate provides, remembering his or her childhood.

-A lover of dark chocolate looks forward, thinks toward the future.

-A lover of bitter chocolate prefers the fine things in life, knows what he or she talks about, specializes.

The book also contains an analysis of shape choices and how the shape you choose relates to your inner self.

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.