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 CafĂ©.   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.  SautĂ©’ 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

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Spiff Up Those Harvested Garden Crops.


August, a time to begin harvesting the bounty of the gardens, and having in mind to store and/or share.  For some gardeners, this may be a second coming for crops such as tomatoes, squashes, peppers, and other hardy vegetables.  Potatoes, onions and garlic are dug up and placed in root cellars; or heavy duty containers layered with straw.  Herbs have been clipped, tied, labeled and hung upside down for drying; their aromatic scents soothing the mind, body and soul.

However, that does not mean that the enticement to eat is thinking about hibernation.  The colors of vegetables tickle the mind with recipe ideas.  The tomato fruit ripened sweet, begging to be sliced and eaten.  Perhaps layered upon toasted rustic bread, smeared with garlic and paired with Buffalo mozzarella and savory leaves of basil.

So comes an introduction to another Italian dish, Pizzaiola.  “Pizza” is within the name, but the inclusion of tomatoes, garlic and onions is as far as it goes.  Hailing from Campania, Naples, Pizzaiola features a Neapolitan style of cooking, focusing on cheaper cuts of meat.  The meat is sliced, or cut into pieces or strips, and cooked slowly in a sauce of tomatoes, olive oil and oregano; some versions include garlic, capers, peppers and basil. It is a way of making a hardy meal with what little you have to work with. So on to my story...



I have made this dish during my first marriage, but my ex-husband always hated it.  Funny thing about him was, his ancestry was Italian and he disliked Italian foods.  Should have known right then there was something not quite right about him; never trust an Italian that does not enjoy food of his own heritage.  However, that is water under the bridge, and my second husband, Roy has enjoyed all I have made.  Well, except for Eggplant Parmigiana which we both dislike.  Oh, I will make it for those who ask for it, I do not discriminate when it comes to culinary cultures.   

Anyway, back to the Pizzaiola which I typically make with thinly sliced chuck steak which is cheaper, but also fattier in texture.  To tenderize, lightly sprinkle salt, ground black pepper and red wine vinegar (two tablespoons) over the sliced meat (two pounds).  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate overnight.







Defrosted was a one quart container of vegetarian pasta sauce containing a pureed mixture of tomatoes, eggplant (see, it has its uses), zucchini, red bell peppers, garlic, onions and Italian herbs.  However, the garden has been harvested; hitting the vegetable bin: tomatoes, onions, zucchini, mushrooms (store bought) and green bell peppers. The colors would be amazing in the skillet, simmering in my rich sauce with slices of steak!


Now let’s put this masterpiece together, shall we?

Carefully unwrap the meat on a large plate, or juices will be running all over your counter.  Using a large, deep skillet, add two tablespoons of olive oil, high heat, and sear the meat on both sides.   If you happen to use a leaner cut of beef, it is not very fatty, so leave it in just long enough to get the sear, but not cook it completely. Fattier meats will take a bit longer and you want to discard the melted fat, or you'll end up with an oil slick on your sauce. Yuck!






Give the skillet a wipe down with a paper towel; now spread two cups of sauce in the pan and lay the beef on top of the sauce.  










Typically I would just use sliced onions, but this time I was going for the whole color palette. Two tomatoes cut into wedges, 1/4 lb. of sliced white mushrooms, two sliced zucchini, one julienned green bell pepper, and one sliced large onion. There was no need for extra minced garlic or Italian herbs as it was already in my sauce. Yes, yes, some of these vegetables were already in the vegetarian pasta sauce, but they had been cooked down and pureed. We were going for texture here. Spread the vegetables over the steak.  





Spread remaining sauce over all and work it between the vegetables with a spoon.  










Cover the skillet with a lid, set the heat on medium-low and let it cook for two hours. Occasionally stir the sauce throughout the vegetables and meat; if the sauce is bubbling hard and splattering, reduce the heat to low. Since it will be cooking for two hours, you do not have to rush to make your pasta, but have it ready once the Pizzaiola is done. 



Usually the Pizzaiola is served over Rigatoni; this tubular pasta with ridges catches onto, and holds the sauce so well.  Use a slotted spoon to remove the meat and as much of the veggies as you can to a serving platter. Take your cooked pasta and immerse it into the sauce remaining in the skillet and let it cook together for about five minutes. This will allow the pasta to pick up the flavors from the sauce.



There should be eight servings to this meal, however, Roy overindulged and doubled up on his plate.  I just love that man, and he so loves my cooking.  Watching him eat, and the pleasure on his face, it just fills my heart with love and joy. 

Anyway, if you want to impress your family and/or guests, consider making this Italian dish.   
Thinking to yourself, how do I make this a more romantic meal for two?  Embark on a new adventure into Pizzaiola, making it a luxurious cruise using London broil. The evening before,   cut the London broil into one inch pieces, seasoned with salt, ground black pepper and a sprinkling (two tablespoons) of red wine, instead of red wine vinegar.  Encased in plastic wrap, the meat marinates overnight, the red wine infusing a heady flavor, and tenderizing as well.   Spoon the Pizzaiola over long, flat strands of Tagliatelle, and perhaps have a Lady and the Tramp moment. Do not forget the candlelight!

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The Hmmm of Fried Dough.

Fried foods, in general, give the kind of mouth-feel that says, "All is right with the world."  Why, is the question, but we all know the answer, it is the fat.  It does something to our taste buds, and our brains, which make us feel happy all over.  Fats are able to dissolve quickly, concentrate flavor, and release odor chemicals into the air.  The molecules from these chemicals enter the nose and mouth, so you are experiencing the “taste” even before the food is eaten.  For example, sizzling bacon in the pan, the smell wafting throughout the kitchen, the salivary glands begin working and you can “taste” that bacon before it is fully cooked. 

But, is eating fat good for the human body?  Good question, and the answers are surely confusing when considering Unsaturated Fat vs. Saturated Fat vs. Trans Fat.  Unsaturated Fat has two categories, and these are the best fats, nutrition wise: Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated.  Contrary to the name, the “saturation” deals primarily with not how the food, being fried, absorbs the fats, but the human body.  The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has a short, but informative, and easily understandable, article on the different fats available, and their benefits, or lack thereof.  (https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/types-of-fat/)

Using “bad fats” for cooking is often justified by thinking the basic nutrition of a food will outweigh the “bad”.  For instance, deep fried vegetables, even the light Tempura style, are packed with veggie nutrition, right?   Sure, whatever you say; but we all know it is the crunch of the deep fried batter that we crave, and no one is thinking about nutritional value.

Now when it comes to deep frying, dough is a favorite in many cultures.   Native Americans have Fry Bread, which is nicknamed the “scone” of Utah.  Zeppole; singular term is Zeppola, and in the Southern dialects it is Zeppoli, are light, deep-fried dough balls about 2 inches in diameter.  They originated in Italy to celebrate the Feast of Saint Joseph.  Since it is typically in the season of Lent, these can be compared to the German, Fastnachts; a type of deep fried donut made with flour, sugar and a fat.  If in New Orleans, the Beignet is the equivalent; all can be covered in powdered sugar, cinnamon, and, sometimes, filled with fruit or jam.

The all American favorite is the donut, supposedly invented by Hanson Gregory, an American. He created the ring-shaped dough-nut in 1847, aboard a lime-trading ship, when he was 16 years old; then taught the technique to his mother.  He punched a hole in the center of dough, with the ship's tin pepper box.  This enabled the dough to cook thoroughly throughout, and easy to flip over.  Now this story has been deemed an old sea tale, considering fried dough has been around for centuries, within many global cultures.  The hole in the dough-nut is attributed to a Jewish refugee, from czarist Russia, named Adolph Levitt; responsible for inventing the first automated doughnut machine in 1920. His machine-produced doughnuts were labeled the “Hit Food of the Century of Progress” at the 1934 Chicago World’s Fair.

Whether it is fry bread, beignets, Zeppole, or any other type of fried dough, deep down inside, we all have a little Homer Simpson in us.  "Hmmm...Donuts".  Nuff' said, and here are two recipes to try when you have got that fried, sweet food craving.


Apple Fritters

Ingredients:

Oil for frying
2 cups flour
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
3 tsp. baking powder
2 and ½ tsp. cinnamon
2/3 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
1 and ½ cups diced apple (peeled)

Glaze:

3 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 and ½ tsp. vanilla
½ cup warm water

Preparation:

Fill deep fryer to fill line, or deep skillet halfway up, with oil; bring temperature up to 375F.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and cinnamon.  Add in milk and eggs; beat, on medium speed, till smooth; fold in diced apple.

Use 1/3 measuring cup to spoon up batter, and a rubber spatula to ease the batter into the oil.  Depending on size of deep fryer, or deep skillet, 2-3 fritters can be made at a time.

While first batch is frying, in a small bowl, combine the sugar, vanilla and water to make the glaze; whisk until smooth and creamy.

When fritters are golden brown, drain on paper towels and let cool slightly; dip fritters into glaze and place on jelly roll pan lined with waxed or parchment paper.

Makes 6-8 fritters.

...but not to be outdone...

Zeppoli

Ingredients:

Vegetable oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 eggs
3 Tbsp. sugar
¼ tsp. baking powder
Powdered (confectioner’s) sugar

Preparation:

Pour oil to fill line in a deep fryer, or deep skillet; bring temperature to 400F.

In medium bowl, mix together flour, eggs, sugar and baking powder until smooth.  Using a teaspoon, drop batter into the hot oil; depending on size of fryer, about 3-4 at a time.

To turn the Zeppoli in the hot oil, use a wooden chopstick or kebob skewer.  When the Zeppoli floats to the top, and is golden brown all around, remove to paper towels to drain. While hot, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Makes about 2 dozen.

Mary Cokenour


Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Sharing the Wealth of Hunted Meat.


 Since moving to Monticello, in 2009, I have to say that some of the kindest folks we have encountered, were local hunters.  Each year, after deer and elk seasons were done; after meat was butchered and processed, the sharing came.  Whether it was to a place of employment, or a packed plastic grocery bag left at the front door; processed packages of deer and elk meat were given freely to our family.  No compensation asked for, just a simple “thank you” made the giver happy.  Of course, my baked goods always made a showing, at the hunter’s home, eventually.

Unfortunately, the hunters we knew have moved, or passed, on; we have not seen any of this sharing of the hunted wealth for two years now.  While we miss the kindness of the giving act, and the meat, we also understand that the last two years have been challenging to so many.  Especially 2020, when each month is a new scenario of ill health, financial woes, and violence under the guise of “social reform”.  Yes, there are many examples of sharing and caring, but privately, the wagons have been circling for the “just in case” scenario.

Personally, each year I purchase a desk calendar to record appointments, attach greeting cards, mementoes, ticket stubs to enjoyable events, etc.  At the end of each year, I pack it away in a box where the other years reside.  I want my memories.  However, I have not purchased one for 2020; I just did not get around to it, and then Covid-19 hit.  No events to attend, appointments cancelled, heck, not even the occasional greeting card in the mail.  Last week we went to the Walmart in Cortez, CO as I needed printer ink and paper, and could not wait for a delivery.  Then I saw it, a 2020 desk calendar; a bluish-purple color, just my style, and I kept walking.  No way, no how, was I purchasing that item; there was no intention, of tempting fate, happening that day!

How strange that the idea, of purchasing a desk calendar, could bring on an unnatural feeling of dread.  Let me tell you that going to Sonic, to gorge on burgers and (the most awesome) onion rings, made it all feel so much better.

Anyway, to all the hunters out there that are successfully making a kill, to feed their families, we salute you.  We salute the dedication of your sitting in camouflage, in an uncomfortable blind, for hours; possibly covered in the pee of your prey. 

…and here is a recipe to make that deer or elk meat taste that much deserved.  Hint, sprinkle some red wine vinegar on the venison, cover in plastic and leave overnight.  Kills that gamey smell and taste, unless you like it though, then ignore this hint.

Opening up the paper wrapped package, removing the meat from a plastic bag, I am still amazed at how beautiful elk meat is; so lean, red and looking like something only a rich person could afford to indulge in.  Slicing into thin strips, the meat (use two pounds for this recipe) is mixed with two tablespoons of light soy sauce (to bring out more of the rich elk flavor), plus a half teaspoon each of fine sea salt and ground black pepper; also one teaspoon of garlic powder.   Place the bowl, covered in plastic wrap, into the refrigerator for a half hour to settle.  During that half hour, prep a large green bell pepper by seeding, and slicing, it into 1/4 inch strips; also two large onions cut into 1/4 inch strips.  Green bell peppers are very flavorful, so use only one large; otherwise use two red, yellow or orange which are milder, for more peppers in this dish.

Over medium-high heat, large skillet, heat up two tablespoons of canola oil, add in the peppers and onions. Give them an occasional toss, but do not add the elk, into the skillet, until they just began to soften.  Spread the meat on top to allow the peppers and onions to start browning on their edges. Then begin mixing all three together, making sure to turn the strips of meat as they too browned. This all takes about 20 minutes to accomplish, then comes the cheese - 16 slices of American cheese plus 8 slices of Provolone. That’s correct, 12 slices of cheese for each pound of meat.

Once the cheeses are completely melted and mixed in with the other ingredients, remove the skillet from the heat source and let it rest for 5 minutes.  The cheese will thicken around the meat and vegetables, and be ready to serve up in sub rolls. 

You have just created, Elk, or Venison, Philly Cheesesteaks!  Spectacular! The meat is so tender; all the ingredients marry together well, so that no one item is overwhelmed in taste.  Whether you already have meat in the freezer, or anticipating the next season of hunting, this is a dish worth waiting to try out.


Bonus with any leftovers; get out the pasta pot, fill it half way with water, set on high heat to bring to a rolling boil.   Take out the leftovers, place in a large skillet and set that onto low heat. Once the water is ready, add 3 cups of dry penne pasta to cook, plus a sprinkling of salt; the leftovers are heating up nicely and the cheese is melting.   Add to the skillet a 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes (drained); this will help the cheese to become a thinner sauce. Drain the cooked pasta, add to the skillet and toss to coat it all.   Let it remain on the low heat for an additional five minutes.

All in all, it will take about 30 minutes to complete this extremely easy and delicious meal from simple leftovers and the addition of two ingredients; diced tomatoes and cooked pasta. Sorry Hamburger Helper, but you have got nothing on my elk.  Wow, could I go so far as to say I have invented "Elk Helper"?

Mary Cokenour