The Mystical, Delicious Peach

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The peach has wonderful mythic associations. It is a Chinese symbol of immortality, and it is often prominently displayed in depictions of the sage Lao Tzu. There is also a legend that a famous Chinese heroine Ho Hsien-Ku who lived in 7th century BC was transformed into a fairy by eating a supernatural peach. They said ever after that she lived on a diet of moonbeams and powdered mother-of-pearl.

According to Paul Beyerl in A Compendium of Herbal Magick, in Shinto legend, Iznagi, a primary male deity, visits the Underworld where he defeats demons pursuing him by throwing peaches from the land of Light and the Land of Darkness at them. Beyerl adds that the peach is considered by the Taoists to be a sacred food.

I have a lovely amethyst carved pendant from China termed a “peach stone.” According to The Magic in Food, by Scott Cunningham carved peach pits are given to Chinese children as amulets against death. Sprays of peach-blossoms are placed over the front door during the Chinese New Year to guard Chinese homes against negativity. Symbolically they bring the blessings of longevity or perhaps confer immortality. He also suggests that as they have been in China for centuries, with appropriate visualization, peaches may be eaten to induce health, happiness and wisdom.

Every Summer I buy my peaches from a nearby farm stand. The owner always has local ones, ripened on the tree in the sun. They taste like heaven to me, and I understand why they might be considered the fruit of immortality. When I feel ambitious, I buy more than I can eat right away, peel and cut them, add a few drops of lemon juice or a sprinkle or two of sugar, and put them in bags in the freezer so we can enjoy them during the winter.

Versatile peaches can be eaten raw or cooked, as a condiment with meat or chicken or as a sauce over muffins or plain cake. Peaches in cobblers or pies, jams, muffins or even peach shortcake are all wonderful ways to enjoy this delicious fruit. Personally I like them best ripe and unadorned with anything more than the sunlight that warms their lovely plumpness.

I can remember my mother putting them up in canning jars. She would pour sugar syrup over them, then lower them into a big kettle of boiling water. Stored in the basement pantry closet, how good those peaches tasted during the long winters of my childhood. They were such a treat, especially when they were served for Sunday dinner over vanilla ice cream

Try this simple peach sorbet. Fill a plastic baggie or pint container with peeled chunked peaches sprinkled with lemon juice or a bit of sugar. Freeze them until solidly frozen. Have ready a simple syrup using two cups of sugar to one cup of water, stirred until melted, cooled and refrigerated. To serve two combine 2 cups frozen peaches with ¼ cup simple syrup, and 1 Tbs lemon juice. Process until you have soft serve ice cream and serve right away.

A Spring Recipe to Try

dandilionforwishingThe Joy of Cooking is a popular cookbook. I have a well-thumbed copy, which along with my ancient Fanny Farmer’s form the lynchpin of my collection. Cooking has been my joy since I can remember being allowed to do it. My mother was born in Germany at the onset of WWI and the resultant lack of food she endured as a child made a lasting impression. She was reluctant to let me make main dishes–I was assigned to salads and desserts, so I had to learn how to make meals for myself. My cookbooks were and still are a great help.

I enjoy reading cookbooks as well as checking the recipes in newspapers, magazines and on line. It’s fun to see what’s trendy. Some fashions I don’t care for—roasted broccoli, for instance. I also favor eating with the seasons; now that we are coming into spring it’s time for spring vegetables like asparagus and dandelion greens. Some think of dandelions as weeds, however they are beneficial in a variety of ways and good in salads as well as steamed or stir fried with other greens and/or vegetables. Their slightly bitter taste is diminished when they are combined with other vegetables.

Try this recipe for yourself, either digging the dandelion greens from your garden or purchasing them from a market. The purchased ones are milder and easier to use, yet the harvest of garden and lawn weeds can be seen as a bonus. Ingredients: ½ cup chopped onion

4 cloves of garlic minced or chopped fine

1 small to medium summer squash chopped small or 1 pound of aspargus

4 cups dandelion greens

olive oil as needed.

Method: Gardeners, remove dandelion roots and tough bottom stems. Wash them in several waters. Purchasers can skip this step. Rough chop or cut up with scissors. Steam greens briefly in a small amount of water until they have wilted down. Strain water into a cup and set aside. While you are preparing the dandelion greens, sauté chopped onion, garlic and summer squash in a olive oil, stirring occasionally, or steam asparagus. Add chopped steamed greens to sautéed vegetables. Cook until stems are relatively tender. You can stop here and serve squash as is or put into your food processor and pulse a few times to create more of a mash. Pulse steamed asparagus with dandelion greens and olive oil to taste. Delicious! Use salt and pepper as desired.

Many children and even adults are fussy about what they will and will not eat. I was brought up to finish what was on my plate or else, however I made my children consume only three bites of any food they thought they might not enjoy. They did grow up to be able to eat a good variety of foods. However, in the process I learned to be detached about any response to my cooking. Today this has made it easy for me to be a happy cook in a peaceful kitchen.

 

Everything’s better with Parsley on it

Parsley“Remember the parsley,” Stephen said as I got out the eggs to make scrambled eggs for supper.

I nodded and smiled. “I have some in the ‘Fridge, already cut up.”

He smiled back. “Everything’s better with parsley on it. I love the way it tastes.”

“You’re right,” I said. “And that sounds like a good title for my next column. I put a little coconut oil for the sausages in a small frying pan, broke the eggs into a bowl, and beat them up. I’m always happy to use it in any recipe because in addition to tasting good, parsley is very good for you.

I’ve read and researched many recipes for scrambled eggs; they all suggest adding a small amount of liquid before cooking. I no longer do. A friend of ours once made us scrambled eggs and they were excellent. I asked him his recipe. “Lots of butter in the pan and nothing in the eggs,” he told me. I had for years made them using water, a couple of tablespoons or so depending on how many eggs–advice from a French friend. Before that I used milk, and even tomato juice. Now I prefer the eggs by themselves, especially the cage free ones with a chunk of butter.

I got out the container of chopped parsley from the ‘Fridge and added some to the eggs. When I lecture on herbs I often speak about how healthy parsley is for you. It has lots of vitamin A and C, iron and many other minerals. It is a mild diuretic, and also is good for the liver. I make a parsley tonic by soaking fresh parsley in cold water in the ‘Fridge for twenty-four hours, overnight. Then I pour it off and drink it during the next 24, while making a new batch. It is both refreshing and energizing, without a caffeine high. Helps with joint pain too. I reuse the parsley a couple of times, then snip it into soup.

I put a chunk of butter—about a tablespoon per egg into the warming frying pan and waited for it to melt over moderate heat. Then I poured in the parsleyed eggs and turned them a couple of times. The sausages were ready as were the salad and the toasted gluten free English muffins. What a tasty supper!

Many chew parsley for sweeter breath after a meal, especially one with garlic, giving themselves a health boost as well. The list of benefits to be gained from consuming parsley are numerous. It is a mild diuretic, however any potassium lost is replaced by it. Calcium and iron are two more beneficial ingredients. When you brew it cold as I do, none of the vitamins are lost to heat, and you get all the benefits of both vitamins and minerals. It is used by herbalists to help remove gall stones and kidney stones. Hippocrates said, “Let your food be your medicine and your medicine your food. Parsley is both. In ancient Greece, athletes wore wreaths made from it to signify their strength and endurance. Parsley is a real winner.

 

 

Are you a parsley lover? Write me and tell me how you like it. I love hearing from my readers. Suggestions and comments are welcome.

Lemons Delight in Winter Doldrums

Lemon Circle

Lemons are one of nature’s finest healing foods. For starters half a lemon in a glass of warmish water is one of the best things you can do for your liver. It can help cure a cold whether you use it for a gargle—with some water, or drink it freely with honey for the Vitamin C it provides. Then too, lemon makes a great hair rinse for blondes, combined with water, of course. It can be used in the kitchen to clean counters—again, with some water or in combination with the sun, to bleach fine materials. In medieval times it was used to bleach the hair: Strands of hair being pulled through a straw brim pierced with holes and anointed with the juice.

However my favorite use for lemon is as an ingredient in a favorite dessert. Long ago I discovered that the filling for a lemon meringue pie need not be confined to the pie plate. I’ll tell you a secret—shh, I dislike making piecrust. I will do most anything to avoid making one, however I do love lemon meringue. So instead of making a pie, I make a pudding. This pudding can also be used as a sauce, as well as a filling for a scooped out angel cake or meringue shells. It might also make a nice filing for some kind of trifle—maybe with raspberries or strawberries, though I have not tried that as yet myself.

Ingredients:

1 ¼ cups sugar, divided

1 ½ cups water

3 eggs, separated

¼ cup cornstarch

2 large or 3 smaller lemons

2 pinches salt

Method: separate eggs while cold and set aside for a half hour or so. Meanwhile, grate the lemon rind. You need a fine grater for this, the wand one that works well for grating Parmesan cheese works great. Squeeze out the juice and combine with rind. Set aside. Measure and mix 1 cup sugar, pinch of salt and cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Stir well. Mix water and egg yolks and slowly add to dry mixture. Stir well and cook over medium heat stirring often to be sure it does not clump up or stick to the bottom of the pan.

Once mixture comes to a hard boil, boil it for one minute stirring vigorously. Take pan from stove, add lemon mixture and stir well. Set aside while you whip the egg whites. If you feel vigorous, use a wire whip, if not, use a mixer. Add the pinch of salt and beat until they are starting to fluff up. Then add the ¼ cup sugar a scant teaspoon or a shake or two at a time so it dissolves quickly. Once they mound nicely, spoon a little o the lemon mixture into them. Mix well and then fold the whole egg white mixture into the lemon mixture until thoroughly incorporated. Chill and serve as is or use for a filling or sauce.

This is one of our favorite desserts just as is. However I have used it as a filing for meringue “nests,” large meringues made from any good recipe mounded on a baking sheet around four inches across then hollowed in the center. I have also made a special dessert using a purchased angel food cake sliced across the top and hollowed out. The pudding is combined with the pulled out pieces in the center, used to fill he hollowed cake, and then the whole cake is covered with whipped cream.

 

Giving Love at Christmas

Love for Christmas Giving

My mother wasn’t much for cooking, though she considered it her duty to serve us good, nourishing food. I don’t remember her ever baking anything sweet. She didn’t care for desserts; she considered them unnecessary and fattening. When I was old enough for her to trust me in the kitchen, she encouraged me to bake simple items like brownies or other easy recipes. Unlike her I truly enjoyed cooking and was happy to make what she permitted me to.

Once I had a family to bake for I broadened my repertoire and learned to make pies and cakes as well as cookies. However cookies were my favorite to make because they went farther. I used to count and divide up the cookies and each child knew what they could have. Because I was home with the children anyway, it was fun to try different recipes. Eventually I created a small Cookie Cookbook with my favorites that I still use today.

Although my family is grown and I no longer bake cookies regularly, every Christmas I make up several batches and create plates to give people who have been helpful or kind to Stephen and me in the past year. The newspaper delivery people who bring the newspaper to our floor, the ladies of the library where we take advantage of their services all year long, the fine gentlemen of the garage where we take our car for repairs and upkeep, and a few others I want to acknowledge for their kindness.

Favorite cookie recipes I usually make include my Disappearing Caramel Brownies, Jiffy Jam Delights, and Unexpected Company Bars, all reliable and relatively easy to make recipes. This time of year there are cookie recipes everywhere to be found, and while these are my personal favorites for giving, those with more time and energy than yours truly might make cut out cookies to decorate or even more fancy treats. If you want one of my recipes, please let me know which, and I will email it. To my way of thinking however one wishes to express love is valid. Spending time on a gift is one of my favorite ways.

While feeding people is one of the ways I use to express my love, I also appreciate recipes that take less rather than more time, yet still provide delicious tasting healthy food. I also collect recipes from others when they have something unique and special to share. Sometimes they even write them out for me. I have loose leaf notebook where I keep these, along with others. Within its plastic sheeted pages are pressed their treasured, handwritten pieces of paper.

The following recipe wasn’t written out by my late friend because it was so simple. Avocado and Grapefruit salad requires one grapefruit and one avocado per two people, so if you are serving a family you need to double or triple, depending. Think kind thoughts as you peel and section grapefruit, removing membrane and preserving juice. Cut in half, remove seed and section one avocado into slices. Combine all, add a tablespoon or two of a good tasting olive oil, stir well, chill slightly, and serve with love for the holidays or at any time at all.

 

Home Cooked Food Feeds Body and Spirit

Fall Reflections 15As we drove down the highway to an appointment I noticed how the trees by the side of the road were beginning to look somewhat different. The ones with leaves that had not yet begun to change looked tired. Their color was no longer the vibrant green of summer. The ones that had begun to turn were just starting to color up, making a tentative venture into the opening notes of fall. The recent spate of warm days may have confused the trees or delayed their color, however, cool air will soon prevail and bring out the glorious brilliance we in New England are so fortunate to see each year.

While I still serve salads in the fall and winter, as the weather grows cooler I focus on warming foods. Cabbage is a great favorite in my household, both for its nutritional value and for the way it keeps so well in the ‘fridge, always ready to eat raw as in my cabbage salad, or cooked. Red cabbage, in particular with its vibrant color and hearty flavor is a very useful fall and winter vegetable. The following recipe is adapted from one I first saw on a video called Two Fat Ladies. The two women traveled the length and breadth of England collecting recipes for local foods. While many of their recipes were not anything I would care to reproduce—being too elaborate, too rich, or using ingredients I might not easily find, this recipe for red cabbage is easy and tasty, as well as economical. According to the Internet, one cup of chopped red cabbage has 33 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A. The same portion of green cabbage only has 3 percent.

I have made it in a crock-pot, which reduces the need for stirring. However I also often cook it in my black iron frying pan. It doesn’t smell like overcooked cabbage, either, even though it needs to cook for at least 3 hours on the stove or much longer in a crock pot. It is delicious the day it is made and even better the day after. I always make a quantity because it keeps well and is handy for a quick supper. Serve it with hot dogs, sausages, or even hamburgers.

Ingredients: 1 medium red cabbage, 2 raw onions, 2 apples, 1\4 cup brown sugar Or 4 tablespoons apple cider, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons butter, salt and pepper to taste. Method: Using a sharp or serrated knife, slice cabbage as thin as you can, being sure to discard the core and any very thick rib slices. Peel and slice onions and apples, being sure apple slices are not too thick. Sauté onion in butter and olive oil until soft. Add these to the crock-pot, or combine in the frying pan with the cabbage, apples, vinegar and cider. Cook in the crock pot for around 6 to 8 hours or in the frying pan for 3 or 4, stirring at least once an hour or more if you like. Serve or refrigerate to reheat, and enjoy!

 

 

Simple, Quick Summer Recipes

A Salad 1

 

I do love to cook, however my enthusiasm tends to dwindle somewhat in warm weather. I confess I am always glad to see the cooler weather of fall roll around. In hot weather I work to make healthy meals that will tempt summer appetites as well as help me stay out of the kitchen for any length of time. Salads are always a good choice, however variety is the key to tempting lackadaisical summer appetites.

Condiments that can be used as appetizers or mixed into other ingredients to make dips are high on my list. I am happy too that the following parsley pesto has so much healthy food value. However, be sure to wash the parsley well, otherwise your pesto could be gritty. I didn’t once and was embarrassed once when I tasted it at a neighborhood potluck party. Parsley is a breath freshener, so ignore the quantity of raw garlic, said to help preserve youth.

Some years ago I invented a parsley pesto. I called it Garlic Whammo. It is an excellent condiment, can be used to enhance the flavor of any recipe you wish to perk up. All of the ingredients: garlic, parsley , olive oil and green peppers are full of vitamins, minerals, and anti cancer nutrients. Simple to make in the food processor, it keeps well in the refrigerator. You can vary the amount of garlic and also rest assured that the large amount of parsley will prevent a strong garlic presence on the breath.

Ingredients: 2 cups Parsley, large stems removed, packed into a one pint measuring cup, 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 cup roughly chopped green pepper, 5 to 10 medium sized cloves garlic, pinch of salt. Place ingredients in food processor and whirl until they resemble a green paste with flecks of white. For best results, stop the food processor once or twice and push the mixture together. Chill and serve any number of ways: on crackers or cut up vegetables, mixed into cottage cheese or any vegetable dip, in scrambled eggs, or to enhance any stir fry.

Parsley Pea Salad: This recipe was invented when I accidentally left the frozen peas out on the counter and needed to use them quickly. It has proved to be very popular and is especially good with salmon salad. Ingredients: 3 cups thawed frozen (petite or regular) peas. (Do not cook) 1/3 to ½ cup snipped parsley, 2 Tbs finely chopped sweet onion, 1/3 to ½ cup good mayonnaise (Don’t use low fat or light style) 3 Tablespoons Dijon or other good mustard, 1½ tablespoons or more horseradish sauce, salt and pepper to taste. Mix ingredients and chill until needed.

Salmon Salad: This is a summer staple in our house. Usually I cook twice as much salmon as I need and reserve half for later. Amounts really depend on how much you have to work with. For a half pound of salmon, I suggest ¼ to ½ cup good mayonnaise, (to taste) ¼ to ½ cup chopped sweet onion, ¼ to ½ cup chopped green celery, 2 Tbs or so snipped parsley, 2 Tbs capers, salt and pepper to taste. Mix all ingredients well with a fork until salmon is well integrated with ingredients and chill until ready to serve.