It’s Hearty Soup Weather

2014-09-16 15.36.53 During most of history, people ate what they had put away for the winter in their cellars and barns. In Colonial New England, unless someone had a greenhouse a midwinter salad was unheard of. In the Middle Ages in Europe and Russia, fasting during Lent was a necessity because what little food was available to most by late winter had to be hoarded and used carefully. People ate with the seasons. Forty years ago on a late spring trip to Russia with my mother I recall cabbage being served to us daily. It keeps well if properly stored.

Root vegetables can stay fresh for months. Turnips, Carrots, Rutabagas and winter squashes keep when in a cold place. I recall the root cellar in my Great Aunt Alice’s large garden—a deep hole with a wooden cover where vegetables could be safely stored for the winter months. I prefer to eat with the seasons. I feel healthier eating root vegetables often in fall and winter.

One thing special thing about fall is that my appetite returns and I can eat more without gaining weight. Those extra calories burn to keep me warm. However I do not eat more empty calories: i.e. desserts, snacks, sweets. Instead I eat more vegetables and healthy carbohydrates. Soup calories are always good fuel for the body. Hearty fall and winter soups are made with root vegetables, winter squash, beans, and other appropriate ingredients.

Sturdy herbs like thyme, oregano, rosemary and tarragon add flavor and food value to these soups as well. I begin most of my soup recipes by sautéing chopped onion, finely chopped celery, and ground garlic (not garlic powder, that has less flavor) in butter and olive oil. The mung beans in this recipe can be found at any health food store if your market does not carry them, and are a nice change from the more commonly used lentils or other kinds of beans.

My mung bean soup is a little different from the average bean soup. For this hearty recipe sauté ½ cup onion and 1 cup celery chopped small in 2 Tbs olive oil and 2 Tbs butter until transparent. Add 1 tsp each of thyme, rosemary, curry powder, and ground garlic . Stir in 2 cups peeled, chopped firm potatoes and 1 cup or more sliced carrots. Add 2 cups beef broth, and 4 cups water. Bring to a boil and simmer for an hour or so, until vegetables are tender and soup is tasty.

Cauliflower has become popular lately. I have seen versions of it prepared in many ways. This is my cauliflower soup: Thinly slice ½ to ¾ of a large cauliflower and 1 or 2 large carrots. Simmer in 2 cups water until soft. Meanwhile, Sauté 1 medium onion and 6 cloves garlic chopped, black pepper and your choice of seasonings in olive oil. Mash simmered vegetables and add sautéed ones. Add 2 cups chicken broth. If desired, thicken with leftover mashed potato or a roux made from 2 Tbs butter and 2 Tbs flour stirred over medium heat, with 1 cup added liquid of your choice stirred until smooth and thick.

Cool Food for Hot Days

A Salad 1

One image I have in my memory of the summer days of my childhood is that of my mother leaning over a hot stove, lifting glass canning jars in and later out of a large pot steaming with boiling water. Regardless of the heat, she never wanted anything to go to waste. When her beans were ready to pick, she would be sure to can whatever we didn’t eat at the time she picked them. She canned corn scraped from the cob, and peaches too.

There were probably lots of other things she prepared that I can no longer remember. We did not have a big freezer. We had a food storage closet in the basement that every summer filled with rows of jars as well as paraffin sealed jellies. There were potatoes stored there too and it was my job to go down there periodically to pick off the sprouts so the potatoes would stay edible.

I am glad I don’t have to do what she did. When the temperature soars, I lose my enthusiasm for cooking. My appetite suffers too, which is one of the reasons I am so fond of fall. As I get older, this condition gets worse, and these hot days I have to work hard to keep Stephen and myself adequately nourished. I’ve never been one for pre-prepared meals. Heat and serve is not normally my friend. Outdoor cooking is not an option where we live, nor a preference for either of us. That leaves salads.

A salad that provides sufficient protein is vital for us both. Again as I get older I need to beware of consuming too many carbohydrates. My small but useful electric indoor grill can provide easily cooked hot dogs and hamburgers, however, I like variety and wouldn’t wish to serve those more than once a week at the most. That’s two out of the fourteen lunches and dinners in a week. The cooked chickens from the supermarket can provide several more meals.

Our favorite protein salads are chicken, egg, and seafood, with occasional tuna. Aside from the  protein source, the basic ingredients for my salads consists of finely chopped scallions or sweet onion, celery, herbs as appropriate, mayonnaise, horseradish sauce and sweet mustard or honey mustard dressing. The herbs nearly always include parsley, sniped with scissors, and either dried or  fresh tarragon, thyme, ground garlic, and lemon pepper. Sometimes I use curry powder instead of herbs. One or the other is good, not both.

For egg salad for the two of us, I hard cook (never boil) four eggs and use parsley, thyme, ground garlic and lemon pepper, mayonnaise and horseradish sauce. Dill is good too. For a chicken salad I cut up around two cups or so of the cooked white meat that Stephen prefers. I use tarragon, parsley, ground garlic, and lemon pepper, mayonnaise, horseradish sauce and sometimes some mustard. A smidgen of salt is good. Thyme instead of tarragon is also good with chicken. My recipe for canned tuna or seafood salad is the same. I use the packaged imitation Crab and find it economical and tasty, as well as nourishing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simple Recipes for Good Health and Good Taste

          Many of us probably ate too much over the holidays. It’s easy to do when party potluck invitations bring out people’s desire to celebrate with good food.  There is a temptation to try “just a little” of every dish and that includes the usual array of desserts and tasty treats special to this time of the year. Salads don’t tempt most appetites and hearty soups do, however, what really makes the tongue sit up and take notice are sauces and condiments that can enliven jaded appetites.

          This simple recipe using cilantro is a staple in our ‘fridge. Ingredients are few: Cilantro, garlic, mayonnaise, yoghurt and a squeeze of lemon or lime. Put a bunch of cilantro into the food processor. (You probably could use a blender but I don’t advise it.) Add a clove of chopped garlic, ½ cup mayonnaise, ¼ cup plain yoghurt, and a a squeeze of lemon or lime. Process until well blended and smooth. I keep a plastic lemon in the ‘fridge to help with this. Serve on any vegetable, chicken, fish, eggs, or whatever you can think of. It is tasty and healthy. I have heard that to some, cilantro tastes like soap. Apparently this is genetic. Check with your family before serving.

          Here is another sauce or pesto I think of as “medicine on the hoof”. It’s extremely good for you. This is especially true during this season of colds and viruses. The raw garlic, the onion and the uncooked parsley all have vitamins, minerals, anti-viral, antibacterial  and anti cancer components. I named it Garlic Whammo. It could also be called Garlic Pesto. A pesto is a thick sauce you can spread on pizza, bread or crackers, or mix with pasta to enliven what you are serving. It is usually uncooked and contains herbs and some kind of oil, preferably olive. It keeps well precisely because of the oil, and may include optional nuts or seeds as well.

          My Garlic Whammo has four main ingredients: Garlic, Parsley, a small onion or half a medium one, and olive oil. You can add other things—grated cheese and/or nuts or seeds, however you don’t have to. You do not need to remove any but the largest stems, and those only if you wish. However to make it you do need a food processor as a blender would not do a good job without your adding too much oil. It is wonderful on anything you want to serve it on: pasta and it is excellent on scrambled eggs, fish, chicken or any vegetable.

          Take a good sized bunch of fresh parsley and place it in the bowl of the food processor. Add anywhere from four to eight  roughly chopped cloves of garlic, to taste. Add 1 small or ½ medium onion, cut into chunks. Add ½ cup olive oil. You may wish to start with half of this amount and then more as it processes. Process until smooth and creamy without any mouth feel of the individual parsley flakes. This keeps well though I would eat it within a few days or so to get the greatest benefit from the fresh ingredients. The parsley keeps the garlic from overwhelming taste buds or anyone with whom you speak.

A Simple Meal for a Hot Day

Daisies (shasta) Hi resI remember my mother on a hot summer day wiping the sweat from her brow as she prepared the vegetables and fruit she canned for us to eat in the Winter. We lived on the property of my great aunt Alice whose gardener grew planted, harvested and shared lots of good food from her extensive garden. My mother was frugal and to her mind saving money in the winter was worth her efforts in the summer. In her mind nothing was ever to be wasted. While I feel the same way, I don’t have a garden to draw upon, however I do have a wonderful local farm stand that supplies me with fine food.

I tend to lose my appetite in the heat, thus I don’t much like cooking in the summer. Autumn is my favorite season because when the weather cools I feel much more like cooking as well as like eating. However it’s not then now, so I need to be in the present moment in the kitchen. Simple recipes are my go to solution for eating healthy food in this hot weather. I find it’s easier to motivate myself to cook when I don’t have to spend a lot of time doing it.

Salads are all very well in hot weather, however I do get tired of them and I actually prefer a hot meal even when it is warm outside. One of my favorite easy summer recipes combines freshly available local greens and pasta. It really doesn’t matter what greens you use. Personally I like the combination of spinach and Swiss chard, however, kale with spinach or chard is good too, and so are collard greens, broccoli rabe, or other potential ingredients you can use singly or in combination.

I prefer using my food processor to mix the greens together, adding good olive oil and some fresh garlic as well. Using a blender, while doable would be tedious however lacking a food processor you could use a food mill to grind and blend the cooked greens. My food processor is a very useful tool and one that even though I like to cut my vegetables by hand, I have come to rely on for certain kinds of food preparation. I treasure my kitchen tools. Some of them date back more years than I prefer to count. I have a wooden cutting board I received at a shower for my first child; she is now a grandmother too.

The recipe itself is very simple. Ingredients are: a pound or so of spinach, the same of Swiss chard, or use other greens as suggested above. Cook them separately in as little water as possible. Drain well and turn together into the food processor bowl. Add 3 or 4 tablespoons good olive oil, 2 medium cloves chopped or sliced garlic or 1 large one, and a pinch or two of salt. Process until everything is nicely blended. Meanwhile, cook pasta of your choice to serve your diners. When done, drain, put in a serving bowl and pour the mingled greens over it. Stir well and serve with freshly grated Parmesan. Simple, tasty, and good for you as well! Finish the meal with some fresh watermelon and enjoy.

Simple Salads for More Fun in the Sun

Salad and casserole 2In chilly weather, especially when snow or rain is falling, we welcome soups simmering fragrantly on the stove. However when summer is warming us up we don’t need more warmth to overheat us and salads get center stage. Heartier ones like pasta or potato salad are nice when the desire is for more carbohydrates, however protein is vital and is needed to balance them. One of my favorite go-to warm weather salads is made with chicken breasts, shredded.

First try this easy way to cook them. It requires almost no heat from the stove. For two to three servings, use two medium boneless breasts. Pour some olive oil in a frying pan and warm it on medium high. Sear breasts for a minute each side. Quickly slap on a tight cover, turn the heat to medium low, and cook for 12 minutes. Then turn off the stove and leave for another 12 minutes. DO NOT LIFT THE COVER DURING THIS TIME. Once the chicken is cooked, let it cool, then shred the breasts with your fingers. Save the bit of rich broth for another use.

Refrigerate chicken or use at once. For the salad use these ingredients: mayonnaise to taste, 1 tsp dried tarragon or thyme or 2 tsp fresh, 1 Tbs or more parsley, ¼ tsp pepper to taste, ½ tsp salt, to taste, 1 Tbs horseradish sauce to taste, ½ cup celery chopped small, ½ cup sweet onion chopped small or to taste, 1 medium apple peeled and chopped small, if desired, ½ cup walnuts chopped small, if desired, ½ cup dried cranberries or other fresh berries, if desired, plus chicken breasts. Mix all together and refrigerate for at least 6 hours for flavors to blend. The ingredients can be varied; you can also add mustard.

Canned tuna might replace chicken. Dill might substitute for tarragon or thyme. A simple side salad to go with burgers could include lettuce, dried cranberries or other fresh fruit, scallions and a simple lemon juice and olive oil dressing. Egg salad is satisfying and easy: Bring eggs just to a boil, cover and leave on the back of the stove for 20 minutes. Plunge them into cold water, peel and chop. Add mayonnaise to taste, add horseradish sauce the same, ½ cup finely chopped celery, ½ cup finely chopped sweet onion, chopped fresh parsley, fresh or dried tarragon or dill, salt and pepper to taste. Mix and chill. Serve with crackers or on a bed of lettuce with a light dressing.

Curry powder is good with eggs, chicken or tuna, then omit herbs except for parsley. I prefer the mayonnaise made with olive oil. Low fat mayonnaise is less tasty. Fat is also a good appetite suppressant, keeps us from getting hungry as quickly and the right kind has a lot of other virtues as well. There are many other good combinations of fruits and vegetables for salads, and avocado is always a fine addition to any salad. No tomatoes for me though, I’m allergic.

 

If you have any good salad recipes to share please email them to me at tashahal@gmail.com. I love to hear from readers.

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.

 

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.