Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Welcome to December 2020

In Roman mythology, a pair of twin boys were placed into a basket, set upon the Tiber River, found by a she-wolf and eventually raised by a shepherd and his wife.  The two adult brothers could not agree upon which hill to build their city, held a bird watching contest to decide, and yet still remained at a standstill.  Romulus began building his city on Palatine Hill, and Remus, who was quite the brat, would mock Romulus’ efforts.  One day, Remus decided to jump over a wall his brother had built, and fell to his death.  Now was this punishment from the Gods, or did Romulus, having run out of patience, simply murder his own brother?  In reading the variations of the tale of Romulus and Remus, one will find very many similarities to stories within the Old Testament.

 

Rome was the city that Romulus built, and named after himself; he was king of course.  Around 750 BCE, the Romulus calendar was created, having only ten months, running from March to December.  December has its root beginning from the Latin “decem” which means ten; all the days of winter resided in this month as well.   Now hold on a moment, take into consideration that the Covid-19 pandemic did not officially escalate until March 2020.  Here we are in December 2020, and it is as if the virus is following the Romulus calendar itself. 

 

Anyway, in 45 BCE, Julius Caesar ordered a calendar consisting of twelve months and based upon a solar year. This calendar utilized a cycle of three years of 365 days; followed by a fourth of 366 days, aka Leap Year.  Naming it the “Julian Calendar”, Caesar moved the beginning from March 1st to January 1st.

 

Now I know there has been many a debate of when Jesus Christ was actually born.  However, Roman Christian historian Sextus Julius Africanus, using the Romulus calendar, dated Jesus' conception to March 25th (the same date he believed God created the world), which, after nine months in his mother's womb, would result in a December 25th birth.  Using the Julian calendar though, presuming the conception was January 25th, that would push Jesus’ birthday up to September 25th.

 

That’s it, I have had enough of 2020 and its nonsense…Jumanji, Jumanji, Jumanji!!!

 

December is a month full of holidays (Yule, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Boxing Day and Omisoka; just to name a few) which have a main focus upon peace and love.  Two facets that this entire world needs a whole lot of, especially after the debacle of the previous eleven months.  Let’s make a deal, instead of focusing on which holiday is the “correct” one for the month of December; let’s just focus on peace and love.  Anyone have an issue with that?  Please be quiet, no one really wants to know what a meanie you truly are.

 

Now, since I started off talking about Roman mythology, how about I continue with some Italian cuisine.  In November, the United States celebrates Thanksgiving with the traditional feast consisting of a cooked turkey.  Now leftovers are also a tradition of this holiday feast, so what to do with them?

 

New story.  Tetrazzini is strictly Italian, that is if you are the opera singer Luisa Tetrazzini who had a recipe created for her back in the early 1900's.  While Tetrazzini enjoyed a lavish career from 1890 to 1920; her life ended in poor health and poverty.  Now two sources claim to be the creators of this recipe named after the famous opera star, the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, CA and the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York, NY.  Just another version of the West coast versus the East coast; but whoever invented it, I bet, did not foresee the casserole becoming such a hit with the home cook.

 

Basically, Tetrazzini is a casserole made with some type of cooked poultry, canned tuna or raw shrimp which is mixed with diced vegetables, cooked spaghetti and baked together in a luscious, buttery cream sauce.  It is one of those recipes that can incorporate all the food groups in one sitting; if you add diced tomatoes, well there is your fruit group right there.  One thing I know for certain, there will be no leftovers for this casserole.

 


Tetrazzini

Ingredients:

5 Tbsp. unsalted butter

3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 Tbsp. dry sherry

¾ cup grated parmesan cheese

¼ tsp. ground black pepper

1 cup thinly sliced mushrooms

1 medium onion, diced

1 lb. spaghetti, cooked and drained

½ cup roasted red bell pepper, diced

3 cups turkey breast, cooked and cut into ½ inch cubes

3/4 cup dry, unseasoned bread crumbs

3 Tbsp. melted butter

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9” x 13” baking dish with nonstick spray.

Make a roux by melting 3 Tbsp. butter, on high heat in a large saucepan; whisk in flour until smooth. It is important to keep whisking, or roux will burn; and the process will have to be started over. Continue whisking while adding chicken broth; sauce will thicken. Whisk in cream, sherry, cheese and black pepper; remove from heat when mixture is smooth.

In a small nonstick skillet, on high heat, melt 2 Tbsp. butter; sauté mushrooms and onions until softened; about three minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the spaghetti, roasted peppers, turkey, sautéed vegetables and sauce; spread evenly into the baking dish. In a small bowl, mix together the bread crumbs and melted butter; sprinkle evenly over the mixture in the baking dish. Bake, uncovered for 20-30 minutes, or until bubbling and the topping is golden brown.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Redo a “Holiday” Classic

Holiday time is coming upon us and soon we will be seeing the television commercials that try and define the season for us. Unfortunately the holiday season has become very commercialized, so the original true messages of the season may not get through to many.   No lecturing this time from me, as I believe the dramatics of 2020 are bringing back much of the true meanings.


What I would like to address though is a holiday classic recipe, the Green Bean Casserole.   With my family, or most people I knew, this was not ever served for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year's Day.   Why is it considered a “holiday classic”?  We never really see any commercials for it from Campbell's or French's until the holiday season, so it is, to me, a classic recipe because these companies say so.


The origin of the recipe came from the Campbell’s Soup Company, located in Camden, New Jersey, in 1955.  Home economist, Dorcas Reilly worked in the test kitchen, and Campbell’s needed a new idea to promote their Cream of Mushroom Soup.  Now this product had been around since 1934, but was mainly used as a filler.  It was so popular with Minnesota potluck casseroles, it was nicknamed “Lutheran Binder”.


During an interview, Ms. Reilly stated that she did not truly know how she came up with the recipe; it was mostly trial and error.  However, adding green beans to the soup mixture created an unappetizing color.   Reilly determined that fried onions on top were an easy way to add texture and color to the grey-green dish.  The fried onions also added a touch of “festive flair”, and festive meant the holiday season.


My hubby and his family, along with the Watkins family, like this dish, so I make it for them whenever I feel like it, not just because a holiday dictates it.  I was a good girl and prepared the dish using the Campbell's recipe verbatim.  Nope, did not play with it at all, the first time I made it.


Here is the original recipe from the Campbell's Kitchen website: 

Classic Green Bean Casserole

Ingredients:

1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Campbell's® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup (Regular, 98% Fat Free or Healthy Request®)
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Dash ground black pepper
4 cups cooked cut green beans
1 1/3 cups French's® French Fried Onions

Directions:


Stir the soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper, beans and 2/3 cup onions in a 1 1/2-quart casserole.

Bake at 350°F. for 25 minutes or until the bean mixture is hot and bubbling. Stir the bean mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining onions.

Bake for 5 minutes or until the onions are golden brown.

Ser
ves 6

 By now, my readers know I often do not stick to recipes; I need to play!

Here is my version of the recipe and my hubby says it is better than the original by far.  It has a headier flavor from the Worcestershire, is creamier and just has an overall better flavor.  The French fried onions are crispier, since they are entirely on top of the casserole, not mixed inside and getting soggy.  Seconds are always gone after, and leftovers are slim to none.  Try my version and judge for yourself, but it is perfectly fine if you still prefer the original.

 

Green Bean Casserole
(An old classic redone)

Ingredients: 

2 Tbsp. butter
1 small onion diced
1 (4 oz.) can sliced mushrooms
3 (14.5 oz) cans French style green beans, drained
2 (10.75 oz) cans cream of mushroom soup
1 cup milk
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp. each ground black pepper and paprika
2 cups French fried onions

Preparation: 

On medium heat, melt butter in small skillet; sauté onion and mushrooms till the onions just begin to soften; do not brown. Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 350F; spray a 2 quart casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sautéed onions and mushrooms with all other ingredients, except the fried onions. Spoon into the casserole dish and spread the fried onions evenly over the top.

Bake for 30 minutes; remove from oven and let settle for 5 minutes before serving.


Makes 6-8 servings.

Halloween/Samhain has passed, and I hope you enjoyed making those apple cider donuts I wrote about last time.  Here comes Thanksgiving; hey, those donuts would go well with this holiday as well!  Be grateful for what you have, love those closest to you, be kind to acquaintances and strangers alike; and this too shall pass.

Mary Cokenour

 

 

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Time to Make the Donuts.

Dear Diary, This is month ten of Jumanji.  Just as the Covid monster seemed to be going into hiding, it suddenly reared its massive head.  It tricked us, just as we were beginning to have fun, and life was going back to normal, once again.  What the worst of it is, having the children home, and they are missing out on all the fun.  What will November bring?  Signed, Feeling Doomed.

Dear Feeling Doomed, stop complaining!  You and your family have each other.  That’s more than many others, in this overpopulated world, have.  Would you rather the outbreak of much deadlier diseases, so you can lose each other?  Your children are home, and not having fun; well why is that?  This is the time that family should come together, not just to “make time”, but now having the time to do fun things…together!  Signed, Diary.

Wow, even someone’s diary is getting tired of all the “whoa-is-me” going round.  Yes, it has been ten months of Covid-19 turning our lives upside down.  It has also been ten months of political, civil, and social unrest as well.  However, this is where choice comes into play; the choice of “Will I allow it to deflate and destroy me?”, or “Will I stand tall, grab that negativity bull by its fiery horns, and ride it down into the ground?”

One of my favorite televised series is Good Witch, a Hallmark original that is about to air its seventh season.  Previously, there were yearly movies about main character, Cassie Nightingale, a descendant of the Merriwick clan.  This is what many would call, a “clean, goody two shoes” show, as there is no blood, gore, foul language, or really nasty stuff that would make one cover the eyes and ears at the same time.  This is, however, one of those shows that tugs at heart strings, makes one feel all lovey and comforting inside, and teaches many, many lessons.

Cassie Nightingale has traveled the world, and believes in, and practices, holistic “medicine”.  Natural remedies using plants, essential oils, crystals; what is usually referred to as “New Age”.   While these practices stem from ancient cultures such as Greece, Egypt, India, Japan and China; well it goes to show, “everything old is new again”.

The main focus, in my opinion, is that this show teaches good life lessons, and that any adversity can be overcome.  Just what we all need to keep focusing on, not just for 2020, but for life in general.  So, as we go into month eleven of Jumanji, focus more on overcoming the negative, reach for the fun, whether alone or with others, and cherish the moments.

Oh, Thanksgiving, a time to be thankful for what we had, have or will have in the future; like fun.   Think about this, how can anyone, for 10 months, be complaining, arguing, harassing, just be plain old nasty to others, and then suddenly be thankful?  If we have, then now is the time for a total turnaround in thinking and behavior.

Enough preaching, let’s practice.


My new toy for 2020 is donut pans; available in silicone (not a personal favorite), or non-stick metal (a best buy, in my opinion).
  Donuts are often fried, giving a light, airy texture to them.  Baked donuts are denser which means longer time to eat, longer time to savor the flavor.  I became fascinated with apple cider donuts, and the uses of cardamom (also spelled cardamon) while watching, what else,
Good Witch.  Oh yes, I have used cardamom in recipes from India, but have not really tried it in baking.

Cardamom is from the ginger family, and can be used whole or ground.  That chai tea or latte you enjoy so much, it contains cardamom.  The flavor is savory, smoky, lemony and minty; the aroma earthy; a complex herb.  Yes, herb, but once it is ground up, it becomes referred to as a spice.  One aspect you might appreciate, for health reasons, is cardamom is an antioxidant.

With the Thanksgiving holiday coming up, and apple cider often served to drink, why not eat it too!   This recipe is as close, considering the many I have found, to the donuts seen on Good Witch – Curse from a Rose.  It takes place during the last week of October, ending with a Halloween festival.  The lesson learned is, “Take ownership for the choices you make, even if you do not voice them out to others.  If the choice goes wrong, do not blame someone, who could not know your heart’s true intention.”

Now go, bake up some donuts, and HAVE FUN!!!

 

Apple Cider Donuts

(https://www.livinginsugar.com/2018/10/apple-cider-donuts-for-your-basic-witch/)

Ingredients:

1 and 1/2 cups apple cider

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon Cardamom

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter melted

1 large egg at room temperature

1/2 cup packed light or dark brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon Vanilla extract

Topping:

1 cup granulated sugar

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground Cardamom

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

Reduce the apple cider: Stirring occasionally, simmer the apple cider in a small saucepan over low heat until you're left with about 1/2 cup. Start checking at 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, etc. until you have 1/2 cup. Mine takes about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray donut pan with non-stick spray. Set aside.

Make the donuts: Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.

Whisk the melted butter, egg, brown sugar, granulated sugar, milk, and vanilla extract together. Pour into the dry ingredients, add the reduced apple cider, and whisk everything together until smooth and combined. Batter will be slightly thick.

Spoon the batter into the donut cavities—for ease, I highly recommend using a large pastry bag with a round tip -- a zipped-top bag with a corner cut works as well. Pipe the batter into each donut cup, filling about halfway.

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the edges and tops are lightly browned. To test, poke your finger into the top of the donut. If the donut bounces back, they're done. Cool donuts for 2 minutes then transfer to a wire rack. Re-grease the pan and bake the remaining donut batter.

Coat the donuts: Combine the granulated sugar and spices together in a medium bowl. Once cool enough to handle, dunk both sides of each donut in the melted butter, then generously in the apple spice topping.

Donuts are best served immediately. Leftovers keep well covered tightly at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Makes 12 donuts.

Mary Cokenour 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Flipping Over Apple Cake.

"For I have had too much

Of apple-picking: I am overtired

Of the great harvest I myself desired.

There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,

Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall."

After Apple-Picking by Robert Frost

 

Fall season and it is apple picking time, or is it?  Within the four states of Utah, Colorado, Idaho and Montana, there are twenty-four varieties of apples grown.  During the months of late July through October, a variety may be upon its boughs, waiting to be plucked, eaten, or simply fall to the ground below.  Utah State University offers online guides to Intermountain Tree Fruit Production, and apples can be found at: https://intermountainfruit.org/fruit-varieties-tables/Apple

“An apple a day” might keep the doctor away, but eat too many, and you might have to see that same doctor.  An average sized apple has about twenty five grams of carbs.  For diabetics, an average serving of carbs is 15 grams, so blood sugar may spike.  It also contains about 90 calories, and can contribute to weight gain; eat 10 apples, that is 900 calories!  Yes, apples are very nutritious, but with any food, moderation should be maintained.  Apples are acidic in nature, so can cause gastric distress, and eat away at tooth enamel.  So an apple a day, maybe two, but don’t be a little piggy with one stuffed in your mouth.

What to do with so many harvested apples?  Eat, bake, cook, give away, and store.  If storing, sort the apples by size and make sure to look for bruising or any damage.  That one bad apple will destroy the lot.  Apples emit ethylene gas which accelerates ripening.  Store other fruits and vegetables away from the apple bins, as the gas will accelerate their ripening as well.  If apples are stored in plastic bags, be sure to poke a few holes in them, so the gas can filter out.  Apples will stay fresh in the refrigerator, and longer if stored at 30-32F.  Like with other fruits, they can be thinly sliced, dehydrated, placed in airtight bags or containers.  On a pantry shelf, six months is the life span; up to a year in the freezer.  Hey, pretty much like the dehydrated tomatoes I wrote about in my last article, and they are a fruit.

Samhain, All Hallows Eve or Halloween is on a Saturday this year, there will be a full moon, and the clocks need to fall back one hour.  One tradition, apple bobbing, dates back to the Roman invasion of Britain (beginning in ADE 43, under Emperor Claudius, and essentially completed by ADE 87).  In Roman culture, the apple tree was scared to Pomona, the Goddess of Plenty.  This was shared with the Celts, and became part of their traditional celebration.

The object of the “game” was young, unmarried people try to bite into an apple floating in water, or hanging from a string on a line.  The first person to bite into the apple would be the next one allowed to marry.  In Ireland, a maiden would place the apple, she bobbed, under her pillow and dream of her future sweetheart.

Of course, cooking and baking with apples gives us all sorts of wonderful treats to enjoy.  Apple dumplings, fritters, strudel, donuts, pies and all sorts of cakes; apples are a wonderland!  Which leads me into an autumn recipe for Apple Walnut Coffee Cake.  This is not a traditional coffee cake, with a streusel topping.  It is actually an upside down style of cake, with the streusel on the bottom.

Now I have found that most baking recipes, involving apples, typically will list the use of the Granny Smith.  They are very tart, yet crisp and hold their shape when cooked or baked.  An average Granny has 24 grams of carbs and about 100 calories; eating them will make your face pucker, just like green tomatoes will.

The key for baking is to use a diverse variety of apples for a mix of textures and flavors: sweet, tart, crisp, and soft.  Try mixing Honeycrisp or Braeburn with Granny Smith if you prefer your baked goods more tart, or for a sweeter experience, go with Gala or Fuji.  Not sure which combo is the best?  Experiment!  Make an adventure of it, sort of like a treasure hunt.

…and now the recipe for Apple Walnut Coffee Cake, or what my aka for it is, Upside Down Apple Walnut Coffee Cake.  I used Braeburn and Granny Smith apples to balance with the brown sugar.

 

Apple Walnut Coffee Cake

(Autumn Earthsong at: https://autumnearthsong.com/2011/08/31/mabon-recipes/)

Ingredients:

2 ½ cup all-purpose flour

1 ½ cup brown sugar, packed

¾ cup butter, softened

1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp salt

1 egg

¾ cup sour cream

1 tsp vanilla

2 apples, cored, peeled and chopped

Preparation:

Combine flour, brown sugar, and butter with a fork until crumbly; stir in nuts.   Divide mixture in half.  Press one half into the bottom of a buttered 9 ½” springform baking pan to form crust; set aside.  Add baking soda, cinnamon and salt to remaining crumb mixture; mix well.  Make a well in the center; set aside.  Beat egg with sour cream and vanilla in a small bowl until smooth; add to flour mixture, stirring until just combined.  Fold in apples; spread batter evenly over crust.







 Bake at 375* for one hour and 20 minutes or until cake tests done; cool in pan on a wire rack. 

 



Makes 12 servings.

Note: Refrigerate leftovers, or store in airtight container in a cool place.  This is a very moist cake, and constant exposure to air will cause mold.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Red Tomato Harvest.

September 22, 2020; the first day of autumn, the beginning of Mabon and celebration of the fall season.  Mabon is the Second Harvest; a reflection of the past, gratitude for the present, blessings for the future.  A week-long celebration in which the bounties of fruits, vegetables and grains are harvested for the final time.  Pickling, jamming, jellies, bread making, dehydrating, roasting, and food preservation are the major goals.  Winter, depending upon where one lives, can be knocking at the door at any moment.

In my previous article, we visited the taste treat of Fried Green Tomatoes.  I bet many of the home cooks tried it, but I bet many others pickled those green tomatoes for future use.  Since this is time for Second Harvest, consider this a second article to figure out what to do with all those extra red tomatoes.  While they can be canned or frozen whole, homemade pasta sauce and salsa are very much delicious options.   However, two other options are dehydrating and roasting. 

Dehydration is extracting all moisture from a thinly sliced food item, then sealing it in air tight packaging.  It can be seasoned before processing, but be careful as anything added will be greatly intensified in flavor.  Jerky?  Yes, this is made through the dehydration process, as is “fruit leather”.  Owning a dehydrator makes the process easier, less messy, more hygienic, but still time consuming.  Cutting the ripe, red tomatoes into one quarter inch slices, space them out on the dehydrator disks.  Cover, turn on the device and my three trays still took eight hours to completion.  If all five trays had been used, the time would have been ten to twelve hours.  Once completely dried, carefully lift the slices which have shrunk to 1/8th of an inch thin.  I placed mine in a resealable plastic bag, making sure to, carefully, squeeze out the air, before sealing.  Yes, a container can be used, but it is air that will destroy all your hard work by creating mold on the tomato slices.  Keep them in a cool, dry, dark environment; heat and light are not friends to dried foods.  In a cabinet, they will keep for six months; stored in a freezer is a one year bounty!

Freshly sliced tomatoes in dehydrator.

Dried tomato slices.

Dehydrated Tomatoes

The other method for drying out tomatoes is to Sun Dry.  The tomatoes are sliced, placed on parchment lined trays and exposed to the sun until completely dried out.  This method takes days, leaves the tomatoes open to the air, and anything air borne.  While, in Utah, the red dust of our magnificent sandstone formations is nicknamed “seasoning”, do we really want it on our drying tomatoes?  Then there are insects, falling leaves, pet hair, and who knows what other non-tasty and unhealthy yuck that might get added in.  So, as you can guess, I am partial to a dehydrator.

What can dehydrated tomatoes be used for?  First, they can easily be rehydrated by soaking in hot water for thirty minutes.  Chop them up to add to salads, slices onto sandwiches, or anything else tomatoes are called for.  They can, also, simply be crushed or ground up to be added to soups, stews, dressings, and basically any dish calling for seasoning.  Dried tomatoes have intensified tomato flavor, so add a sweet/tart/tangy balance to a recipe.

Roasted tomatoes will not keep as long as dried.  Up to five days in the refrigerator, only six months if frozen.  Reason being is the cooked olive oil which can eventually turn rancid, even if frozen.  However, these little tidbits are so exquisitely delicious, they will not last long anyway!

Preheating the oven to 450F, slice the tomatoes, again, to one quarter inch thickness.  If using cherry tomatoes, simply cut in half.  In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes with a half cup of olive oil  (this is for 6-8 large Roma tomatoes), one quarter cup of Italian herbal mix, one tablespoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, one half teaspoon of fine sea salt. 

 

Place the tomato slices, or halves, in rows, onto jelly roll pans (the sides will keep the oil from leaking onto the oven floor).  Roast for 20-25 minutes in the oven; any longer and they will begin to turn too mushy.  Let cool for 15 minutes before placing in air tight containers or bags.


Roasted Tomatoes

You will be tasting them, I know you cannot resist!  Have any frozen pizza in the freezer?  Unwrap, place a few slices of the roasted tomatoes on it, and then rewrap.  Wait until you finally bake that pizza, the taste will make your eyes pop out!


How about some Bruschetta?  While the tomatoes are roasting, brush thick slices of Italian or French bread (even sub rolls will work) lightly with olive oil.  Once the tomatoes are done, space them out on the bread, top with shredded mozzarella and pop back into that 450F oven for 15-18 minutes.  One bite, and you will be totally in love!





Bruschetta and Roasted Tomatoes

Joyous Mabon, Welcome Autumn, Second Harvest is here, Celebrate and eat some tomatoes!

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The Journey of Fried Green Tomatoes.

Like a lot of women, I happen to enjoy the occasional “chick flick”, and one such movie is Fried Green Tomatoes.    It came out in 1991, based on a novel by Fannie Flagg, about the women at the Whistle Stop Café.   Starring Mary Louise Parker, Mary Stuart Masterson, Kathy Bates and Jessica Tandy, this is feel-good story of female friendship and empowerment in Alabama.  This is also the first time many Americans heard of “fried green tomatoes”, and it was assumed the recipe originated in the Southern United States.

Actually, fried green tomatoes was not a dish served, in the South, before 1991, but were well known in the Northeast and Midwest.  According to Robert F. Moss, a food historian and writer in South Carolina, "they entered the American culinary scene in the Northeast and Midwest, perhaps with a link to Jewish immigrants, and from there moved onto the menu of the home-economics school of cooking teachers who flourished in the United States in the early-to-mid 20th century."  (https://alforno.blogspot.com/2007/08/fried-green-tomato-swindle.html)

While Moss found recipes in several Jewish and Midwestern cookbooks of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there were none in Southern cookbooks or newspapers.  Due to the movie, the origin of fried green tomatoes became lost, and re-designated to a whole new region of the United States.  See, a good example why history should not be messed with!

A recipe for "Fried Green Tomatoes" appears in the International Jewish Cookbook (1919), recommended as "an excellent breakfast dish," (Of course I have a copy, did you really have to ask?)   The recipe also appears in Aunt Babette's Cookbook (1889), another kosher Jewish recipe book. Recipes for "fried tomatoes" (though not necessarily green ones) appear in several Midwestern cookbooks from the late 19th Century, including the Buckeye Cookbook (1877) and The Presbyterian Cookbook (1873) from the First Presbyterian Church of Dayton, OH.  (Ok, no, I do not have any of these others named.)

Basically, we have fried green tomatoes beginning the journey in the Northeast, primarily New York.  It then begins traveling towards the Midwest, but only ends up in the Southern states due to a movie.   Which now ties into Good Things to Eat – From Old Nauvoo -, and a copy of this little cookbook can be obtained at the Restoration Bookstore (https://restorationbookstore.org/collections/cookbooks/products/90209000).   What does this recipe journey tie into, you wonder?  For those not entirely familiar with the Mormon religion, Mormonism originated in the 1820s, in western New York, during a reform period known as the Second Great Awakening.

Most of the population were none too happy with this new religion (so much for reform), so the members moved towards the Midwest. Settling in Kirtland, Ohio, there was hope to establish a permanent New Jerusalem, or City of Zion, in Jackson County, Missouri. However, they were pushed out of Jackson County in 1833 and forced to settle in other parts of Missouri in 1838.

What has this all to do with the Temple at Nauvoo, and a cookbook?  The Church's first temple was in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1836, and the only one completed in the lifetime of Joseph Smith. Another Temple was built in Nauvoo, Illinois, but in the winter of 1846, the Mormons were forced out once again.  This Temple received a double insult, in 1848, by being damaged by fire, and a tornado, before finally being demolished.

Now what I really want you all to see, is the correlation of the traveling of Jewish immigrants, from New York, to the Midwest; and the Mormon journey.  Was there perhaps interaction going on, a sharing between two separately distinct religions?  Maybe not in religious doctrines, but when it comes to cooking and recipes, you know all the ladies were sharing and comparing!  So, there is no wonder that a Jewish culinary recipe would find its way into a cookbook, related to Nauvoo.

On page 62, appears "Fried Tomatoes", and the batter for this recipe is versatile.  It is thin enough to make crepes (take out the black pepper if not desired), or add more flour for deliciously, fluffy pancakes.  Oh, and there is also a recipe for "Summer Squash Pancakes" on the same page; and here is a great lead in to harvesting. 

So many tomatoes, so little time to get them red enough to create sauce or salsa.  There they sit, all those green tomatoes, on the window sill.  Hoping daily that the sun will ripen them up quickly.  I have the patience, I can wait, but...but...what do those green tomatoes taste like.  They are firm (almost hard), moist, but not juicy, and sour (pucker up!).  No one wants to eat that, well, except those who love sour.  Now is the time to make yourself, your family, even friends, a real taste treat, Fried Green Tomatoes.  In the Nauvoo recipe, sugar is added to combat the sour of the green tomato.  However, we enjoy dipping our slices into a mildly spiced Ranch dressing which enhances, not only the tomato, but the fried batter around it.   For added crunch, after putting the batter on the tomato slices, press Panko (Japanese bread crumbs) on, before frying up.

Now this recipe seems to be for firm red tomatoes, but I have personally found them to still be too juicy for a good fry-up.  …and the way I am constantly making sauce, there are hardly ever enough around to be fried up anyway.


 Fried Tomatoes

(Good Things to Eat – From Old Nauvoo – page 62)

 

Ingredients:

6-8 tomatoes  

1 cup milk

1 cup flour

½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. sugar

¼ tsp. pepper

2 eggs, beaten

1 Tbsp. butter

 

Preparation:

Wash tomatoes and cut them into ½ inch slices.  Melt butter slowly in a skillet. 



Mix other ingredients together.
  Dip the tomatoes in the batter, covering both sides.  Sauté’ 2 or 3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. 




You may also use green tomatoes (Yes, do this!!!).  Add extra sugar (No, you don’t have to!)

Even food has its own historical background, and I do hope you enjoyed this culinary journey.

Mary Cokenour

 

 

 

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Honey Bees and Water

With Fall being just around the corner, animals and insects are attempting to get their homes, nests and hives ready for Winter’s cold, and darker, days. Back on June 21st, our home was blessed with the arrival of a swarm of honey bees. Cindy Smith, and her husband, came to their rescue; taking them home and providing a new hive. Seems an old tree had fallen within our Monticello neighborhood, and these bees were looking for sanctuary. 

Within the past week, about three dozen honey bees have been visiting our backyard once again. With the recent rains, our bird bath was full to capacity; its rim providing just the correct distance for bees to drink. That is correct, drink water; bees will travel up to five miles, from the hive, to find water. Like we humans, bees are mainly live sacks of water that need to keep hydrated. “…it has been estimated that the bees may be bringing back nearly a gallon of water a day." (Bug Squad: https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=14566)

Of course there are a variety of uses for water, including hive maintenance, honey production and the nurse bees must insure the health and well-being of the queen. Bees cannot swim, so they can drown if they fall into a water source. While the bird bath has a rim, we added flat rocks for them to perch on as well. They lower their proboscis into the water and suck it up. The proboscis is a straw-like tongue used for slurping up liquids and also for tasting. When not being used for either chore, the proboscis is folded up and stored in a groove-like structure in the bee's head. 

We checked on the bees daily, making sure the water was reachable for them, and that none had fallen into the water. One night I found two floating in the water, not moving, and I feared they had passed on. Placing them into the palm of my hand, I spoke to them, telling them how sorry I was for getting there too late. I was going to recite a blessing over them, when suddenly, there was movement. Little legs began to twitch; they were alive, but needed warmth.


Bringing them into my home, I continued to cup them inside my palm, and talked to them the entire time. Slowing rising up, they both began to clean themselves thoroughly. Drooping antennae lifted upward; legs swept against bodies and wings; they began to walk and it tickled. As they became more active, their little butts began to wiggle, and I knew it was time.
 


Walking outdoors, one took off immediately; the second was hesitant. Simply sitting in a chair, watching the sun set, my honey bee companion and I; and then it left. 

This is, for me, one of those moments that confirms why life is worth living.

Mary Cokenour