Monday, June 11, 2018

Salads for a Summer Meal

Produce is coming faster and fuller into farmers' markets as the days heat up and get longer. Nature is telling us to put away the roasters and braisers and heavy pots. It's time to be raw. And light and watery. Plus with all that heat and light, who wants to stand around cooking when you can just get out the cutting board and have a meal in minutes? Please notice how Mother Nature is providing lots of water filled fruits and vegetables now that we're sweating and need hydration.

So here are a few composed salads to serve for summer lunch. A few of them I just found in an old collection of French recipes, as in these are in French written for French housewives.

Shrimp, Mango and Avocado Salad
This becomes a major meal when served with fried plantains and tortilla chips.
Serves 3-4

6-7 oz smoked or cooked small shrimp (they should be peeled in the package)
1 med avocado, peeled
1 yellow mango, ripe, peeled
4 scallions or 1 sm red onion
1 sm serrano pepper, seeded and minced
2 extra lg eggs, hard boiled and peeled
1/2 c sm green olives with pimento stuffing
16 sm grape or cherry tomatoes (bite sized)
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, leaves only, coarsely chopped
3-4 oz. arugula or watercress or frisee
1/4 c fresh lime juice (probably 1 1/2 limes)
1/2 c good quality olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to your taste

Cut the avocado and mango into bite-sized pieces.
Slice the scallion into thin disks, the red onion into very thin rings
Cut the eggs in half lengthwise, then cut each half into two or three wedges
To compose this salad: lay the arugula or watercress on the bottom of the serving plate or individual plates.
In a medium/lg bowl, combine the avocado, mango, scallions/onion, shrimp, pepper, olives, tomatoes and cilantro.  Mix them up.
Whisk the lime juice and olive oil together and pour as much as you prefer over the salad.
Arrange the contents of the bowl on top of the greens. Surround with the egg wedges. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Salade Henriette: chicken with apples, watercress and cheese
This is one of my old French housewife recipe finds. It's listed as "dietetic."

Serves 4
2 Granny Smith apples
1 bunch watercress, very green and crisp, washed and dried carefully
2 cooked chicken breasts
4 oz Gruyere cheese
1 lemon, juice only
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 doz fresh chives
2 tbsp chervil OR fresh tarragon and parsley, finely chopped
1 sm red onion
1 tsp French/Dijon mustard
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to your taste
1 sm lemon, in very thin slices for garnish

Wash the apples. Cut them in quarters and remove all seeds and fibrous core. Then cut the quarters into small pieces. Cut the cheese into small cubes. Shred the chicken and cut it into bite-sized pieces. Slice the onion into very thin rings. Chop the chives.
In your salad bowl, put the mustard, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Whisk in the oil to make a creamy dressing. Put in all the salad ingredients you've prepared and carefully blend with the dressing.  Garnish with lemon slices and serve.

Vietnamese Cabbage and Chicken Salad
One of my all time old favorites, included in How to Fix a Leek and Other Food From Your Farmers' Market. The flavor combo is always wins new fans. Photo is not of my salad; the photo is borrowed.

For the dressing which you make first

2 chilies, seeded and minced   
3 garlic cloves, minced              
1 tbsp sugar                                 
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar             
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
3 tbsp corn or vegetable oil
3 tbsp fermented fish sauce (nam pla)
1 med onion, sliced in very thin rings
Combine all ingredients into a dressing and let stand 30 minutes.

2 poached, shredded chicken breasts without skin or bones
4 cups shredded green or white cabbage  
1/2 c fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 c shredded carrots                              
1/2 c fresh cilantro leaves, chopped                                 

Combine all but cilantro in a serving bowl and blend in the dressing. Garnish with cilantro to serve.

Salade Claudine: ham and apple with cucumber and tomato
This is another of those French recipes listed as "dietetic."
Serves 4

1 cucumber
2 ripe tomatoes
1 Granny Smith apple
2 thick slices of ham
1 c fromage blanc or quark or any fresh white cheese soft enough to whip (thin cream cheese)
1 lemon
2 shallots
1 celery stalk, preferably from inside so it's not stringy
1 garlic clove
1 tbsp fresh tarragon leaves or 1 tsp dried
Fresh flat leaf parsley for garnish, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to your taste

Peel and slice the cucumber into very thin disks. Put them in a sieve with a pinch of salt for five minutes to get some of the water out.  Cut the tomatoes in quarters and lightly salt them.
Cut the apple in quarters, remove the seeds and pith, then slice the quarters lengthwise into thin half moon wedges. Squirt a bit of lemon juice on them so they don't brown. Dice the celery.  Remove any fat from the ham and slice it into thin strips. Mince the shallots and garlic.

Put the white cheese into a large salad bowl and whip it to aerate. Keep whisking while you add the lemon juice. Add freshly ground black pepper to your taste. Dry the cucumber slices. Add all the salad ingredients to the bowl, the tarragon and parsley last. Carefully blend everything. Refrigerate 10 minutes before serving.

Asparagus with Eggs and Smoked Salmon
This is a great way to use the less costly smoked salmon bits you often find at fish and farmers' markets. It's best when asparagus is fresh in season so you get tender stalks that cook quickly.
serves 4
2 eggs, hard boiled and peeled
2 bunches tender medium thick asparagus--try to get uniform stalks
2 tsp small capers, drained
4 oz smoked salmon bits or slices cut into bits
1 sm red onion, minced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp best quality olive oil
8 slices day old baguette
soft herbed white cheese like Boursin or any soft, herbed goat or sheep cheese

Put the bread slices on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with a tiny amount of olive oil. Toast them in a 325º oven until they are brown and crunchy. You can do this ahead and store them in an airtight tin.

Cut the tough ends off the asparagus spears and put them in a large pot of boiling salted water on medium heat for 3-5 minutes, until they are tender but NOT mushy.  Drain and dry. While they are still warm, cut them in half, put them on a serving plate and drizzle with the olive oil. Salt them lightly. Sprinkle the capers and salmon bits over the top. Season everything with freshly ground black pepper.  Grate the eggs over the top of everything.

Slather the soft white cheese on each crouton like bread slice and arrange them around the rim of the salad plate. Serve and enjoy!

Monday, June 4, 2018

A Quick Chic pea fix plus getting in a jam

More on the theme of warm weather instant gratification from my chickpea collection plus making apricot jam, faster and fresher than you think.

Portuguese salt cod and chickpea salad
 serves 4 as a light summer salad

2 cans chickpeas, drained, rinsed and drained
 (4 cups)1 quart water
1/2 pound dry salt cod, soaked in various changes of cold water for 16 to 24 hours in the refrigerator
1 small red onion, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
3 tbsp good quality olive oil
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
1 tsp coarse sea salt or to taste
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped or cut in wedges for garnish
1/2 tsp paprika
black olives for color garnish if you like
 *OPTIONAL: to make this more substantial, you can boil 3 med potatoes, cool and quarter them.

Remove the salt cod from its soaking water and rinse. In a medium pot, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Turn off the heat and add the cod. Cover for 15 - 20 minutes, then drain. Set aside until cool.
Shred the cod, discarding skin or bones. Put it in a serving bowl with the chickpeas, onion, and garlic—plus the potatoes if you are using them.
In a small bowl, whisk oil and vinegar. Add parsley and salt, if needed. Pour the dressing over the chickpeas and toss softly.
Garnish with cooked eggs, black olives and a sprinkling of paprika. This can be served hot, cold, or at room temperature.

Moroccan Rice, Lentil and Chickpea Salad with dried fruits

serves at least 4
1 c rice
1/4 c raisins
2 tbsp currants
3 tbsp brown lentils
1 tbsp yellow split peas
8 dried apricots, chopped
2/3 c cooked chickpeas, drained
4 scallions. chopped
1 cup chopped spinach
1/2 c whole roasted almonds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
freshly chopped cilantro leaves for garnish
For the dressing:
3 tbsp orange juice
1/4 c olive oil
pinch ground cinnamon
pinch ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp orange flower water
1/4 tsp orange rind

Cook the rice with the raisins, currants, brown lentils and split peas. When it's done, drain excess liquid. Stir in the apricots, chickpeas, scallions, spinach, almonds, salt and pepper to your taste.
Make the dressing by whisking together all ingredients. Pour over the salad. Garnish with cilantro leaves
NOTE: If you want to serve this cold, cool the lentil mix before adding the apricots et al.

Hot Buttered Turkish Hummus
A little something different, from central Turkey. I've published baked hummus with yogurt. This one is all butter from dairy country. What's missing is tahini.

2 15 oz cans chickpeas, drained with liquid reserved
2 garlic cloves, minced or mushed through a garlic press
8 tbsp butter (one stick), cut in small pieces
¼ c good quality olive oil
1 lemon, juice only
Two tsp. ground cumin (plus a sprinkle for garnish)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp pine nuts

In a small sauté pan, over med/low heat melt 1 tbsp butter. When it foams, add the garlic and gently cook until it’s soft. Remove from heat.
Preheat oven to 350º.
In a food processor, combine chickpeas, 6 tbsp butter, lemon juice and cumin. Pour in the olive oil as you begin to blend. If more liquid is needed to make a smooth, soft paste, use some of the water from the chickpea cans. Blend until everything is very smooth and creamy. You can’t really overdo it but do give it at least 3 minutes. Stop the processing and taste. Season with salt and pepper.
With rubber spatula, transfer the hummus to a small ovenproof pie dish. Smooth to a level layer. Dot the top with the last tbsp. of butter, cut into pieces and the pine nuts. Sprinkle with a bit more ground cumin.
Bake at 350º until the butter on top has melted and the hummus is hot all the way through—5-8 minutes..
Serve hot with pita or flat bread, raw vegetables, black olives, tomato cucumber salad, etc

Catalan Chickpea Salad
This is a summery version of the traditional chickpea chorizo stews the Catalans are noted for.
serves 2-4

1 tbsp vegetable oil
½ red onion, finely sliced into half moons
1 garlic clove, finely sliced
½ lb chorizo, cut into bite sized cubes
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp sherry
1 tbsp water
1 14 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tomato, finely diced

In a medium frying pan over a medium heat, heat the oil.  Add sliced onion and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring continuously. Add chorizo and bay leaf, reduce heat to low and sauté for 5 minutes. Pour in sherry and water and let bubble a minute to burn off the alcohol. Add chickpeas and pine nuts and heat through so the flavors combine.  Taste and add salt. Let the dish cool slightly, then add the chopped tomato and mix well.  Serve warm, sprinkled with plenty of freshly ground pepper.

because apricots are at high tide on the West Coast and flooding our markets in the East.
 I like to use turbinado or brown sugar in my jams to give a depth to the flavor and I can use less. I rigorously use much less sugar than commercial instructions advise; they call for huge quantities of white sugar because that's actually the long term preservative.  To compensate for much less sugar, I use small jars. Once open I keep them in the fridge where they will last up to 1 month.  I also use fresh lime juice because it brightens the fruit taste but also because, think ceviche, lime juice is a bacteria killer and thus preservative. Those two ingredients are in most of my jams. (I do not use commercial pectin.) What varies is the fruit and the spice for it. I give you a choice here to cater to your personal taste.

2 lbs apricots
1 1/2 c turbinado or light brown sugar  
1 lime, juice only
1/4 tsp spice: ground ginger, ground cardamom, ground nutmeg, ground cinnamon--have it your way.  These spices enhance apricots.

5-6  4 oz canning jars with lids and rings (the jars and rings can be recycled but not the lids)

Put the canning jars in a wide tall pot and cover them with at least 2" of water. Bring the water to a boil, then drop heat to simmer. This sterilizes the jars. You need to put the jam into hot jars. 

Wash and half the apricots. Remove the pits and cut the fruit into bite-sized pieces.  Put them (you can do this as you cut) in a very large saucepan or a med/lg cooking pot. Add 1/4 c water and bring to a boil. This is a secret way to cancel out the skins so you don't have to peel the fruit. Boil 2 minutes. Add the sugar, lime juice and spices, stirring to blend.
Over med/high heat bring the jam to a boil, stirring occasionally but don't leave the pot. Best with a long handled spoon and a pot holder mitt on the hand stirring  as the hot jam will eventually splash upwards.  Keep going until the pot contents start to bubble and swell upward. Stir that down immediately.  Reduce heat to medium and continue stirring--if foam forms on top skim it off as that's excess sugar-- until the mixture thickens into jam. You'll know it's there two ways: push the spoon across the bottom of the pot and if the jam parts so you see the actual pot bottom, it's done OR put some on the spoon, raise the spoon toward the top of the pot and turn it sideways so the jam slides off. If it sticks to the spoon and doesn't run off like liquid, it's done.  Start to jam should be under 30 minutes.

Remove the jars from the water to the counter top and have the lids and metal rings handy. Dip a ladle into the boiling water where the jars were to sterilize it. Ladle the jam into the hot jars, leaving 1/4" at the top. Shake the jars or press down on the jam to avoid air holes. Seal the jars with new lids and then the screw caps. Return the jars to the boiling water, turn up the heat to get active boiling and boil the jars 10 minutes to seal them. Using tongs remove the jars to a cool surface and wait for the popping sound that indicates they're sealed.  Clean up. When the jars are cool, remove the screw rings and test that the lids really are tightly sealed by poking gently. Put back the rings and label the jars and there you are: apricot jam!


Friday, May 25, 2018

Some Instant Gourmet Gratification

We're in very busy times of transition every which way and the news is not good anywhere you turn, so here are a few tasty quick fixes for those of us who still have to fit some eating into the hectic pace and scary time. Or as I think of it: gourmet gratification as instant and worldly as it gets.

Chicken Choyla
This is one of my favorite Newari dishes from Kathmandu. Over there it's traditionally made with grilled lamb. In the US the Nepalis have taken to bringing pre-roasted chickens home from the market and turning them into choyla. A cold chicken dish perfect for summer.

Get a pre roasted chicken and pull it apart into shreds. Put it in a serving bowl and mix in:
2-3 minced green chilies
1 lg red onion sliced
3 cloves garlic thinly sliced 
1" ginger, peeled, smashed and thinly sliced, 
1 tsp ground timur 
1 tbsp ground cumin  
1 tsp turmeric
Salt to your taste. 
Add 1 tbsp mustard oil (If you don't have this use good quality olive oil or walnut oil) and the juice of a large lemon. Blend everything. Adjust salt and chili to your taste.  Garnish with chopped cilantro.
Traditionally this  is served with puffed or beaten rice--think Rice Krispies--but you can make plain rice or use tortilla chips.

Cacio e Pepe
Comfort food doesn't get faster, simpler or tastier than this traditional Roman pasta dish you make in the time it takes the spaghetti to cook. So much flavor from hardly any ingredients: pasta, butter. fresh black pepper and cheese. In fact the name means cheese and pepper. You probably have all of the stuff all the time. Just add salad to the table and you've got a real meal deal. (Not my photo but I've been making this at least once a week of late.)

serves 4
about 1 lb bucatini or thick spaghetti or traditionally pici from Siena, a very fat short spaghetti
2/3 c unsalted good quality butter
Sea Salt
3-4 tbsp freshly ground black pepper (depending on your tolerance)
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 c Parmesan or (more traditionally) pecorino cheese, very finely grated or sieved

In a large pot, bring enough water to cover the pasta to a boil. Add 2 tbsp salt and the pasta. Cook until the pasta just passes al dente (becomes tender)--10-14 minutes. Remove from the water and save 1/4 c of that water.

As the pasta is near the end of its cooking time, in a med/lg saucepan or skillet over med/low heat, melt the butter with the black pepper. Add the lemon juice and 1 tbsp of the pasta water. Turn heat to low/simmer and cook whisking until the sauce emulsifies (holds together).

Add the cooked pasta to the sauce. Put the Parmesan on the pasta BUT do not stir. Let it sit and melt by itself from the heat below. This should take less than 3 minutes.  Once the cheese has melted, stir the pasta into the sauce below. Season with sea salt to your taste and serve immediately.

Mango Salsa
This is my favorite for fish, fried chicken, roast chicken, pulled pork and just about anything. It's so bright and light. And you can make it in an instant.
Makes about 1 cup

1 yellow mango, ripe, peeled and chopped
1/2 sm red onion, peeled and chopped
1 sm Serrano pepper, seeded and chopped
1/3 bunch cilantro leaves, chopped
1 lime, juice only
pinch of sea salt

Put everything in a food processor and whiz to a chunky salsa.

 Chilled Fresh Pea Soup
You can decide whether you want it to have a mint or a coriander flavor.
serves 4
2 tbsp sunflower, corn or peanut oil
8 scallions, sliced
2 sm boiling potatoes, diced
1 Serrano chili, seeded and diced
2 lg garlic cloves, crushed
1 qt veg broth
1 lb fresh peas out of the pod
1/4 c either chopped fresh cilantro or chopped fresh mint (your preference)
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 c yogurt
salt to your taste

In a med/lg saucepan, heat the oil. Add the potato, 7 scallions, chili and garlic. Sauté  5 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add the broth, bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Simmer until potato is very soft, 15 minutes. Add peas and continue cooking 5 minutes only. Put the pot contents in a blender or food processor or use an immersion blender. Add the herb, lime and yogurt. Blend until smooth. Season with salt to your taste.  Chill an hour. Chop the last scallion to use as garnish on top of each bowl. 

Espinacas Con Garbanzos (Spanish spinach and chickpeas)
From my chickpea collection, the dish I make every two weeks because it's so easy, tasty and healthy. No gluten, no dairy, no meat or fish, no eggs makes it an easy Yes!

1 lb spinach leaves, stems off, washed and coarsely chopped*
*I've sped the process by buying one pound containers of washed baby spinach leaves
1 can chickpeas, drained but reserve some of the liquid
1/2 c olive oil
18 raw almonds (Marconas are traditional)
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thin
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/3 c chopped tomatoes with juice (boxed is fine)
3 tbsp sherry vinegar or 2 tbsp sherry and 1 tbsp wine vinegar
1 tsp smoked sweet Spanish paprika
1/2 tso chili powder
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to your taste

Heat the olive oil in a medium/large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the almonds and garlic until they are golden, 2- 3 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon, leaving the pot untouched but turn off the heat for the moment.  Put the almonds and garlic into a food processor, chopper or mortar. Add the smoked paprika, chili, cumin seed, black pepper and salt. Whiz into a thick paste. Add the vinegar and 1-2 tbsp of the liquid from the chickpea can and whiz to make a paste the consistency of hummus.

Put the tomatoes and chickpeas in the oiled pot, turn the heat to medium. Stir in the paste you made, adding a tbsp of chickpea liquid if you need it to smooth everything. When the pot contents are hot, pack in the spinach, pressing down. You may have to do this in 30 second apart batches. When all spinach is in press down and stir it into the chickpea mix. Cook on simmer 6-8 minutes until the spinach is very soft. Be careful nothing burns below. Taste and add salt if necessary. Serve warm.

Apricot Clafouti
I'm a big fan of this easy, tasty Provencal dessert and have been posting my recipe for a blackberry version almost annually since it's in the How to Fix a In Provence it's typically made with fresh cherries. But here is a late spring/early summer version for apricots coming into warmer clime farmers' markets and thus supermarkets. Making this is kids' stuff!

3 extra large eggs, separated
1/3 c sugar
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1 1/4 c whole milk
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c white flour (self-rising, cake, or all purpose)--sieved or strained to remove lumps
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
6 apricots, pitted and quartered
1 tsp ground nutmeg

Butter a 9 or 10" pie plate or baking dish. Preheat oven to 350º.
Arrange the apricots around the bottom of the pie plate.
In a medium bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar until pale. Whisk in the milk and extracts.
With a spatula fold in the flour, cardamom and a pinch of salt.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg white until stiff peaks form. With the spatula fold them into the batter.
Pour the batter into the pie plate over and around the apricots. Top with a sprinkle of nutmeg.
Bake 25-30 minutes until a tester comes out clean. It should be golden on top and slightly puffy.
Let is rest 5 minutes before serving. You should be able to cut it in wedges like a pie or cake.
It should taste like the cross between a pudding and a cake.

Monday, May 21, 2018

More Farmacy because you asked

Stomach and Intestines: aka the gut
One of the oldest most effective food medications known to humankind is genuine yogurt. Not the adulterated sugary junk all over supermarket shelves. Plain active cultures yogurt. (The carton must say "contains active cultures" and show them in the ingredients.) The lactobacillus probiotics formed in the fermentation of milk are miracle workers in the good. They get right to work destroying the evil bacteria that cause "tourista" and diarrhea in all its forms. For this reason, it's wise upon arrival in a new territory to eat a little locally made yogurt: that gets the good bacteria colonizing your stomach crowding out room for any foreign bugs that may be in the food or water. And finally most importantly perhaps, whenever you must take antibiotics, you must eat active cultures yogurt to renew the good bacteria those antibiotics killed and restore your gut balance. It will make a significant improvement to your well being.
P.S. It doesn't always work 100% but sometimes smearing live cultures yogurt on your face and leaving it there 30 minutes lets it eat away the bacteria causing redness and other blemishes. Wash it off with warm water and apply aloe.

LABNI: YOGURT CHEESE WITH OLIVES (an appetizer or party snack)
You can strain yogurt to drier and drier forms from sour cream to farmers’ cheese to cream cheese. This is a Persian/Lebanese favorite “mezze.” You can also use it to stuff cherry tomatoes or small bell peppers.
16 oz plain yogurt
1/8 tsp salt
1/3c pitted black olives, chopped
1/3 c scallions, chopped
¼ tsp Aleppo or Cayenne ground pepper (this is the call for hot stuff)
1 tsp dried crushed mint

Mix yogurt and salt. Line a colander with cheesecloth, muslin or a handiwipe and fill with yogurt. Put colander over a larger bowl to get the drips.  Refrigerate uncovered 10 hours draining and stirring at least once. Put your new labni into a serving bowl with all the other ingredients. Blend everything. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. It will keep 3-4 days.

Estrogen Replacement
When several post menopausal friends complained about the side effects of their heavily prescribed estrogen replacement meds, I took them to see my friend the Chinese doctor who was trained in Western medicine gynecology as well as Chinese medicine. She clucked angrily at every one of their stories and told them to taper off the meds and get down to none of them. She explained that Chinese women do not need estrogen replacement therapy because they get plenty of natural estrogen in their daily diet. That's what was wrong in America. She told everyone of my friends--and me too-- to eat an estrogen loaded food three times a week and all would be well.  She was absolutely right. What are estrogen loaded? Tofu, edamame and all organic soybean products; broccoli in all forms including the leafy greens we call rabe and Chinese broccoli; flax and sesame seeds (tahini); chickpeas (so go for that hummus) and probably others I can't vouch for.
  Here's my double whammy recipe from Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking, pictured above:
Cornmeal Crusted Tofu with Broccoli and Red Pepper Sauce
Serves 8

For the broccoli rabe
2 bunches fresh broccoli rabe, coarsely chopped
¼ cup olive oil
2 tbsp best fruity olive oil
4 lg garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
½  ground black pepper
¼ tsp salt

Blanch the chopped broccoli rabe in a large pot of heavily salted boiling water for one minute. Remove from heat and drain very well. In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium high heat. Add ginger and pepper and stir-fry 45-60 seconds.  Toss in drained broccoli and garlic. Sauté for three-five minutes, stirring once at the start, then occasionally so nothing sticks to the pan.  Add salt and 1 tbsp best fruity olive oil, blending them in. Sauté 1 minute. Remove from heat.

For the tofu
12 oz extra firm tofu, drained
1 extra large egg
2/3 cup polenta or corn meal
¼ cup chickpea flour or white flour or even almond meal
pinch ground chipotle pepper
pinch salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
12 oz corn or peanut oil for frying

Heat the oil to sizzling in a small heavy gauge saucepan or wok.
Cut the tofu into ¼” thin slices and cut each slice in two, to make squares. You should have 16, two per person.
Combine the polenta, flour, chipotle, salt and black pepper in a bowl.
Break the egg into a small bowl.
Dip each square of tofu into the egg, turning to coat it well. Then coat with the flour mixture on both sides.  When the oil is sizzling put as many coated squares as will fit without touching and fry over medium high heat for two minutes, until the crust is nicely browned. Remove from oil with slotted spatula and drain on paper towels.

For the red pepper coulis
2 tbsp olive oil
3 lg red bell peppers, sliced in thin strips
½ tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp wine vinegar
4 lg garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 bay leaf
pinch of salt
1 mildly hot red pepper like jalapeno or Portuguese hotshot or ½ Serrano, peeled and seeded, diced
2 tbsp cilantro leaves, finely chopped

In medium skillet, heat olive oil over medium flame. Add peppers and oregano and sauté 15 minutes. Stir in vinegar, garlic, bay leaf, hot pepper and salt. Sauté another 10 minutes. Stir in cilantro leaves, lower heat and cook 5 minutes.

Iodine and the thyroid
Years ago, I began to experience fatigue, sweating and other symptoms of a thyroid problem. I knew iodine was key to keeping the thyroid functional: that's why our salt is "iodized." What I didn't realize was that I had gone on a trendy trip, rejecting that large blue canister of iodized salt for snazzy sea salts in grey, pink and coarse white.  My thyroid needed iodine! Of course I immediately dug out that frumpy old blue canister of iodized salt and used it liberally but better yet, I cooked up an instant iodine cure by boiling the sheets of seaweed I'd been saving to roll sushi. The ocean and all its elements--seaweed, fish, crustaceans--are the main source of iodine. The seaweed quickly dissolved into an ugly brown mush but I strained the pot to get just the broth. I threw a few Japanese themed veggies into that broth and drank the result. Within a day I felt fine again.  So...pass a year and I am diagnosed with a severe thyroid problem. I am sent to see an endocrinologist who tells me he wants me to do that series of radiation tests that harm the body. So I go home and brew up a batch of my iodine soup, drink it down and show up the next day suddenly ineligible for those radiation tests because I have so much iodine in my body!
"Now I'll have to diagnose you manually," the disappointed Doc said.
Sandy's Seaweed Soup
for 1 or 2 cups

1 package nori seaweed
pure water
1 sm carrot, peeled and thinly diced
1/4 c diced daikon radish
2 scallions, cleaned and thinly sliced into disks
1" fresh ginger grated or minced
1/2 c shiitake mushrooms, diced
2" burdock root, peeled and chopped if you can find some* otherwise no problem
1/2 Tamari/soy sauce
1 tbsp cilantro leaves chopped

Put the nori seaweed in a pot large enough to stuff it down in and cover it with water at least 1" above the top. Bring to a boil on medium high heat, reduce heat to med/low and cook 10-12 minutes until all the seaweed has dissolved into the water. Pour the contents of the pot through a sieve into another pot. Use the cooked seaweed in the sieve for fertilizer. Add the carrot, daikon, scallions, ginger and mushrooms to the broth. Bring to a boil, cover the pot, lower to simmer and cook until carrots are tender, maybe 10 minutes. Stir in tamari sauce and cilantro.

*In Asia, burdock root is used to clean the blood.

Garlic: a steel wool pad for the lungs
In Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking, I wrote a piece about the long history of garlic as very effective medicine. In earliest times it was known as the slayer of demons, internal demons. As anyone who has ever eaten garlic knows, it rides the breath: you can smell it being digested. This is because uniquely among the common foods the world enjoys, garlic does not go down into the stomach. It is not digested by stomach enzymes. It goes straight into the lungs. That's why it's on the breath. The offensive odor of garlic comes from its sulfur content, that's sulfur as in the antibiotics used in sulfa drugs. So in other words, garlic is an antibiotic for the lungs.
I'm sure you have recipes that require lots of garlic, especially braised greens like broccoli rabe, pea shoots and kale. There's always the famous chicken with 40 cloves of garlic, which you can Google to find your preferred version. Or you can do the full monte by making raita/tsatsiki which are traditional and very popular garlic yogurt dips/sauces.
Tsatsiki, Greek/Turkish raita

1 pint very thick plain yogurt

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 Persian or pickling cucumber, halve, seeded and sliced paper thin or grated and drained—they need to be as dry as possible

2 tbsp chopped fresh dill

½ tsp salt

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp red wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice

Mix everything in a non-metal bowl and chill so flavors mingle.
I use this instead of mayo on chicken salad; I put it on fritters and cooked salmon.

Honey, all purpose antibiotic
Slather it on cuts and bruises. Better yet, if you have a sore throat or hacking cough, spoon it down swirling it around in your mouth as you do. Drink hot tea filled with honey. Or stir a tablespoon into your yogurt!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Farm Pharmacy, or as some say: Farmacy.

The latest professional health rage is "culinary medicine." It's hilarious how serious science suddenly is about its exciting discovery since culinary medicine has been the oldest continuous knowledge on this planet. In ancient China, India, Arabia, South America and Greece food was medicine. It was that simple: herbs, roots, bark, leaves and seeds were prescribed for whatever ailed. And they worked so well for so long  Crusaders who discovered the dietary regime as one of the treasurers of the Holy Land they were sacking brought the idea back to a very ignorant Europe. They set up special places people could go to feel better by eating special foods, which is how our word hospital evolved from the word hospitality. In fact even today our symbol/icon for pharmacy is the basic kitchen mortar and pestle and the lettering is Rx. That X, like the X in Xmas, signals letters missing. In this case the letters e-c-i-p-e: Rx stands for recipe. Your grandmother was correct: eat chicken soup when you have a cold.

This morning's hot news fit to print is California experimenting by serving supernutritious food to see if it improves the health of the chronically ill, reducing the need for medical interventions and expensive medicines. You can trace this thinking straight back to the ancient Greeks who got it from the Asians: "Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food"  is actually part of the Hippocratic oath,  and damning to the hypocritical pharmaceutical industry that put us for a century in a dark age.

Truth told, because too much early exposure made me highly allergic to industrialized medical care, for  years I have been experimenting and employing food as a remedy for whatever ails me and those who ask me for help. I think I am alone among my senior citizen peers in not carrying around a loaded pill case. I take nothing and am proud of the emptiness. Creating meals for the challenged, which I had been doing for myself, became a prized part of my catering business.

So, here's a bit of what I've learned:
SINUSES: Try to be bitter
A year ago I read successful experimenting led a scientist to posit a connection between our bitterness taste receptors and sinuses: bitter foods seemed to help the body unblock sinuses. Since I live with the constant threat of totally blocked sinuses around my left eye and preferred not to have major septum smashing surgery to open them, I went on a bitter food orgy. Well, just a lot of arugula in my salads and plenty of broccoli rabe and broccolini--which I love anyway.  Also a handful of almonds a day either in my morning yogurt or in hand at the end of the day. I couldn't find bitter melon. But no matter: this regime appears to have been miraculous. Since I started in earnest, I have not had to dose myself with antibiotics to clear the bacteria blocked in the sinuses, not felt the intense pressure on my left eye, not had to use an inhaler or do much irrigating.
   So if you suffer from blocked sinuses, do give bitter foods a try. There isn't any downside unless you are personally allergic to one or some of them. In addition to my personal favorites, you can use grapefruits, lemons, cider vinegar, cranberries, dandelion greens, chicory, Brussels sprouts and more. Here are a few ways to go:

Portobello Mushroom Pizzas with Arugula and Goat Cheese
Make as many as you need

For each one:
1 lg Portobello mushroom, stem removed
2 tsp good quality olive oil
1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ tsp black olive paste or pitted black olives lightly mashed
1 oz herbed soft goat or feta cheese
5-6 capers
1 handful fresh arugula, chopped
freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven or toaster oven to 425º.

Coat the top and bottom of the mushroom each with 1 tsp olive oil and place on a baking tray, with the stem side up. Sprinkle pepper and lemon juice on the mushroom. Fill the stem hole and surround with olive paste.
 Spread goat cheese evenly on the stem side. Top with capers and arugula. Season with freshly ground pepper and optionally, a light splash of olive oil.
 Bake 10 minutes at 425.  Serve warm. 

American Fattoush, a Levant Salad

Serves 4

2 sm pita breads, split, with each piece cut into 6 triangles
 1 head Romaine lettuce, washed and shredded
1 handful fresh arugula, washed and stemmed
1 bunch cilantro, leaves only chopped
3-4 sprigs fresh mint, leaves only minced
6 sprigs flat leaf parsley, leaves only coarsely chopped
8-10 cherry tomatoes, washed and thinly sliced
6 pitted Kalamata or similar olives, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, peeled and cut into thin rings, then cut rings in half to make strings
3 oz fresh Feta, crumbled or cut into small pieces
2-3 Persian cucumbers or 1 sm English cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
Salt to taste (remember olives and feta can be salty)

Put pita on a baking sheet and bake at 350º until crisp and dry. Cool and break into smaller pieces.
 Toss all ingredients together in a large salad bowl.
1 clove garlic mashed
¼ tsp ground cumin
juice of ½ lg lemon
½ cup olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Arugula, Date and Plum Salad with Mint
For 4 
Combine 4 large handfuls of arugula, 4 fresh pitted dates chopped, a large and firm black plum pitted and sliced thin, 4 scallions diced, 1 tbsp chopped walnuts, 2 salad turnips quartered and sliced thin for crunch, 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan and 1 tsp minced fresh mint leaves--all tossed together. Dress with 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 3 tbsp good fruity olive oil, a small garlic clove smashed, salt and pepper. (Use only as much dressing as you like.)

How to cook Broccoli Rabe
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil.
Chop the bunch of rabe into large pieces. Put it in the boiling water 1-2 minutes. This leaches out the excess bitterness.  Drain well and let it air dry. 
   Cover the bottom of a medium skillet with 1/8" good quality olive oil. Turn on medium heat. Throw in a large pinch of red pepper flakes and some freshly ground black pepper. Mince 4 garlic cloves. When the oil is hot, add the rabe and garlic and stir to blend.  Sauté 5-7 minutes until broccoli is hot and soft but still very green. Season with sea salt to your taste and serve.  You'll be surprised how delicious and lovable this is.  (I put the leftovers over orrechiette and penne pasta.)

I have a weak reflex that can keep me coughing into pain so I'll do anything to stop it once it starts. In Nepal I was counseled by the Newari people of the Kathmandu valley to drink tea brewed from a specific combination of spices, roots and herbs. It not only helped but turned out to be tasty to boot.Here are the ingredients and their raison d'etre:

Ajwain Seeds: thins excretions to smooth digestion, break coughs
Jimbu (a sage like parsley plant)
Garlic: sulfur cleans lungs
Ginger: raises body temp, heat get things flowing
Turmeric root: known antibiotic and reliever of inflammation
Fenugreek: mucilage coats stomach/throat lining, soothes inflammation
Cumin seed: stimulates digestive enzymes, detoxes liver
Salt (Himalayan red salt if you have it)
Black peppercorns: antibiotic, increases hydrochloric acid that kills bacteria

Boil these ingredients in a large saucepan of water until water is reduced by half. Strain and drink.

In 2012 I suffered a thyroid collapse from extreme exhaustion and all Western doctors could do was monitor it and hope. But a Chinese American friend well versed in Chinese medicine and healing techniques told me that walnuts can help to restore the body's lost chi, or energy. In Chinese medicine, kidneys are chi storehouses, so to restore energy, you have to boost the kidneys and evidently walnuts can do that. I started eating a few raw walnuts every few days and all I can say is that the doctors are still trying to figure out why my hyperthyroidism was not followed by a bout of hypothyroidism as it was supposed to be.  Since then I've counseled several people on the curative power of walnuts and keep eating a handful every few days myself, most often in my morning yogurt and sometimes toasted in a greens or red beet salad.

Georgian Spinach Walnut Paté
I posted this recipe twice recently so scroll down to find it.

Fresh Fruit Crisp
You can make a delicious gluten free dessert with almost any fruit and a crunchy "crisp" topping made from unsalted butter, walnuts, oats, brown sugar and a pinch of cinnamon. Rhubarb, apples and peaches are especially good fruits to use individually. You need enough to fill a 9" pie dish, cut into bite sized pieces. Season with a pinch of nutmeg, cloves, ginger and a tsp of vanilla. Toss with perhaps 1/4 c light brown or raw sugar, although for rhubarb you will want to double that and perhaps add raisins which are natural sweeteners. For the topping, in a small bowl, combine a softened stick of unsalted butter with 1/2 c light brown or raw/turbinado sugar, 1 c chopped walnuts and 1/2-1 c oats plus a pinch of cinnamon. You mix this up with your hands into chunks and spread it over the fruit. Bake at 350º until the crust is crisp and fruit juices are oozing up around the edges, usually 40 minutes.
Serve with yogurt or ice cream or whipped cream or just plain.

For millennia ginger has been used to fight nausea and doesn't have the side effects of Dramamine and the like. You can chew on it or grate it up into a tea or bake it into cookies, muffins or gingerbread. Ginger also warms the body, which is why it's traditionally served in winter dishes. You can sometimes quickly defeat an onrushing cold by getting the body to sweat profusely: take a very hot shower, wrap up in thick clothes, drink ginger tea and get under the covers.

Cold Carrot Ginger Soup
serves 4

2 lg leeks, thinly sliced and cleaned by soaking, dried
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 sm onion, chopped
3 med carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated or minced
1 med all purpose potato, peeled and thinly sliced
½ tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ c vegetable or chicken broth
3 c half-and-half
1 tbsp minced chives

Melt butter in a medium saucepan and add the leeks and onion. Sauté on medium heat until soft and translucent, 3-5 minutes. Add carrots, ginger and potatoes. Continue to sauté, stirring, another 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the broth, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cover the pot. Cook until vegetables are tender enough to be mashed with a fork,10-15 minutes.
Pureé. Chill in the refrigerator at least 2 hours.  Add the half-and-half, stirring to blend. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with the chives.

Americans have a new superfood wonder that's been medicine in Asia for millennia.  I've watched Nepali women nonchalantly rub it all over raw chicken before cooking it because it's antibiotic and can remove some of the toxic bacteria.  It also reduces inflammation. I've had success by just stirring a tbsp of ground turmeric into boiled water and drinking the tea. Turmeric can warm the body and thus get its interior liquids flowing. For this reason in South Asia a pinch is always put into gas producing beans and lentils: it's thought to prevent bloat.