Myrtle Allen–Remembrance

June 15, 2018

The Ballymaloe Cookbook

Just as I finished this last post, I learned of the passing at age 94 of my friend and mentor, Myrtle Allen, matriarch of the famed Ballymaloe House in East Cork. This brave and energetic farmer’s wife who blazed the trail literally changing the food culture of Ireland inspired many. Her passionate commitment to the simple, the best of local and seasonal produce turned the tide away from fussy, chefted up food, to pure and authentic flavor. She worked hard and walked humbly with her destiny. We will miss her and are deeply thankful for her rich life, legacy and generous good will.

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Aioli

June 15, 2018

O frabjous day!  At long last an abundance of fresh eggs in our farmers’ market. I’ve been waiting since November and really since last June when the tiny pullet eggs were available. These small gems are my favorite eggs of the year. Their yolks are richer, the whites firmer, and they’re a pleasure to handle and to eat. The first eggs from young hens are known to be the best of a hen’s laying life. Once I have these precious eggs back in my larder, I’m ready to indulge—there’ll be all the raw egg preparations first—Mayonnaise, aioli, hollandaise, chocolate mousse, and more. Then the little poached eggs on toast or asparagus, barely set boiled eggs peeled and toping a paella, a runny yolk fried egg over hash browns and basically eggs everywhere. With these tiny eggs at hand, it’s only an extra 50 calories a pop

The other item both from the garden and the open market is green garlic, the first tender, young garlic of the season, often alongside their tasty, curly scapes.  With my hoard of pullet eggs, I pulled some garlic from my garden and couldn’t wait to stir up a batch of aioli. Popular now, most aioli is basically commercial mayonnaise flavored with grated garlic. On the other hand, real French or Spanish Aioli is simply egg yolk, mashed garlic, salt and olive oil.  It’s made quickly in a mortar and pestle since the heat from a blender or food processor causes olive oil to lose its best flavor.

Aioli’s fun to make, a five-minute meditation of sorts. It’s exciting chemistry before your eyes to watch the little egg yolk absorb the thread like stream of oil as it lifts into a pillowy emulsion.  Admittedly you can, however, drop the egg yolk into a blender jar or small food processor, grate the garlic in with a microplane, and pour in the oil as the motor whirrs. You’ll have it done in an instant, but then you’ll spend time getting the aioli out of the machine, cleaning the blades, washing up and in the long run you won’t save any time. A small mortar and pestle either ceramic or marble will be a kitchen treasure for years to come. If the flavors of fresh garlic and olive oil seem too strong, you may temper the mixture with a few drops of fresh lemon juice or white wine vinegar and a dab of Dijon mustard.

Once your golden elixir is ready, you’ll find it the perfect complement for lightly blanched fresh asparagus or other crisp spring vegetables, a swooning glaze for a grilled burger, a soft boiled egg, steamed new potatoes or poached white fish. Find your farmers’ market tomorrow; it may be the last week for asparagus.  Eggs are in; time to bring back the true garlic mayo. Dine in Provence on a yolk, a lily and the olive.

 

Aioli

 

3 cloves green garlic or 1 large clove regular garlic

pinch of coarse salt,

1 farm fresh large egg yolk or two pullet yolks

½ cup olive oil or (1/4 cup each olive oil and neutral vegetable oil)

few drops of water

(a little fresh lemon juice, optional)

In a ceramic or marble mortar, crush the peeled sliced garlic with the salt to form a smooth paste. Add egg yolk and mix well. If it seems very thick and pasty, add only ½ teaspoon water and combine.

Hold the oil in a measuring cup or small pitcher with a pouring lip. In the beginning just let a few drops of oil dribble in at a time and stir until it is well combined with the yolk before adding some more.

Lift the oil cup several inches above the yolk mixture and begin to pour in the oil in a tread-like stream, all the while turning the pestle with your other hand. Once the emulsion begins to “take” you can let the oil flow in a thread-like stream. Soon you may increase it to a string-like stream. All the while watch the emusion almost magically grow into a golden pillow.

Once all the oil has been added, taste for seasonings and add a few more drops of water if the mixture seems too thick. Lemon juice is optional if you must.  Makes a generous half cup

Opera Ball Punch

May 9, 2018

Don always ordered special refreshments for the university’s Opera Ball. Whether tea sandwiches and fancy small cakes or an assortment of tapas and mini tarts, it was a mad scramble to get the trays ready in time. When the request came in to include a fruit punch, desperate for time, I turned to frozen juice concentrate.

What evolved at the last minute became our standard Opera Ball Punch, and to this day it’s still a respectable alcohol-free party potion. It’s refreshing, not sticky sweet and enjoyable for both adults and children.

As May fills our calendars with end of the school year celebrations, graduations, picnics and parties, a quickly prepared, inexpensive punch is a handy formula to have in one’s recipe file. When I needed fruit punch for a group last week, I noticed that the original frozen grapefruit juice concentrate was no longer available in my large suburban supermarket. Instead I substituted low sugar, high fructose corn syrup free, lemonade. We also found that the punch flavor improved with a rest of a few hours in the fridge after mixing.

The punch may be fancied up with a fruit studded ice ring, a bouquet of fresh mint sprigs or plain with jingling ice in a frosty pitcher. Keep it tart adding just club soda for a last minute sparkle or sweeten it with ginger ale instead.

punch fixings

Opera Ball Punch

2 12 oz. cans frozen orange juice concentrate

1 12 oz. can frozen pineapple juice concentrate

1 12 oz. can frozen lemonade concentrate (low sugar)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 liter club soda or ginger ale, chilled

Stir together the juices plus 18 cups of

my grandson mixing punch

water in a 3-gallon soup pot or plastic

container. Add vanilla. Decant into jars and refrigerate a few hours. Just before serving pour into pitchers or a punch bowl; stir in a generous amount of ice and the chilled club soda or ginger ale. Serves 30 or more.

 

Scotch Broth

April 7, 2018

Scotch Broth

A major holiday means a roast; a roast leaves a bone, and a bone means broth. Bone broth offers a major source of immune system support minerals and healing compounds for a healthy gut. We are learning more and more about the importance of gut health and its relationship to both mental and physical well being. Please take notice of any meaty bones you may have left over from steaks, chops, chickens, fish. Turn them into broth before they go in the bin and nourish yourself with this low cal, simple goodness.

For my family Easter means a leg of lamb and stock from the lamb bone becomes Scotch Broth. The origins of this soup are obvious. Sheep and barley are vital in Scotland and the common vegetables would be easily at hand. It’s still cool enough for hearty soups and this one could be prepared from any broth as well as from the lamb bone. A broth you prepare yourself from the bones and bits of any roast will far exceed the flavor and food value of canned or boxed stocks. If you haven’t time to use your broth after it has been simmered and strained, it freezes well in plastic cartons or zip lock bags.

Gather up whatever vegetables you have: onions, carrots, celery, cabbage, garlic, parsley, a turnip or radishes and begin chopping. Do make sure you have on hand either hulled or pearled barley. Barley, an almost forgotten whole grain adds a silky texture to the soup and a welcome bite that almost makes it seem like pasta. You will notice a few untraditional soup making tips in the recipe: tomato paste added for color, turmeric for color and health, crushed chili for zip, a dash of fish sauce for umami. All of these add depth of flavor to a brothy soup but may be omitted.

Scotch Broth

Soup ingredients

4-6 cups good bone broth (lamb if possible)

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 branches celery, chopped

a small turnip or 2 radishes chopped

2 tablespoons bacon dripping or olive oil

3-4 cloves garlic

crushed red chili (optional)

2 teaspoons tomato paste

1/8 teaspoon turmeric

sweating veg

¼ cup barley, pearled or hulled

¼ medium cabbage shredded, 2 cups

left over chopped lamb or chicken

salt, dash of fish sauce

handful chopped parsley

First prepare the bone broth. If possible save the browned sliced onion, carrot that you may have roasted under the lamb and strained off from the dripping juices. Strip the cooled left over meat from the bone and the next day roast

veg base softened

the bone until it takes on a rich smell; however, this step isn’t mandatory. Cut through the tendon at the knuckle to bend the lamb bone to fit a large saucepan. Add carrot ends and peelings, onion skins, celery leaves, etc plus the browned veg from the roast. Cover with water, bring to a simmer and cook slowly for 3-4 hours. Strain, discard the bone and cooking veg debris. Pour the cool stock into jars. Chill and remove any solid fat that rises to the surface. A leg of lamb bone plus browned bits will give 4-6 cups broth.

chopped cabbage

When ready to prepare the soup, sweat the chopped onion, carrot and celery in 2 tablespoons good pork or bacon dripping or olive oil covered with butter wrappers until softened. Add chopped garlic, chili, turmeric and tomato paste. Stir to caramelize the tomato and toast the spices. Stir in 6 cups of stock. Bring to a boil; add barley, cabbage, (some chopped bits of lamb or chicken if desired), salt, and simmer for 30 minutes or until barley is tender. Taste for seasonings adding a sprinkle of fish sauce if needed to lift flavor. Stir in a handful of chopped parsley before serving. Serves 4

 

 

Colcannon

March 10, 2018

February daffodils Ballymaloe Cookery School

Daffodil blooming Ireland met a white out this year on February 28th. The Beast from the East swooped over the green island plunging the temperatures well below freezing. Gale force winds blew off the sea as snow blanketed cottages, villages and cities in deep, powder. Almost everything stopped for three days. Drifts covered lanes and highways making travel by car not only dangerous but a lawful offense. Pipes froze, power failed, heating went off in thousands of homes. Friends and strangers clustered together while the storm howled. Farm animals huddled in sheds and barns; milking was postponed, no eggs gathered, and farmers trudged out with buckets of water to keep the livestock alive. For the first time in almost 70 years, Ireland was paralyzed.

 

With no plows to clear roads and no snow shovels to clear paths, we bundled up in woolie layers, slipped on knee high Wellies and trudged across the yard from the house to the Cookery School. Swinging the door in, we found unheated kitchens colder than the walk-in fridge. We hauled cartons of soup from the freezer, cranked up the ovens to bake bread and roast a ham. Carrots, potatoes and onions lifted from bins became glistening trays of glazed vegetables. Tender salad leaves, rescued from the heavy snow ravaged green house filled a giant bowl at the end of the buffet. Hot plates, warm hearts, school lunch was served.

 

These are times when simple food is the best. Inviting, nourishing and traditional, a steaming bowl of hot mashed potatoes is always welcome. Whenever I pull the soil dusted potatoes from their paper bags in East Cork, I know I’m in for flavor unmatched by American supermarket spuds. We rub off the dirt under a cold tap, boil them in salted water, steam the tender tubers dry and then using a tea towel and a paring knife pull off the skins. Mashed with hot milk and melted butter, the nourishing potato becomes fit for a king. With the addition of tender steamed green cabbage mashed potatoes transform into the national dish-Colcannan.

 

Recent nutritional fads have unfairly attacked the potato as empty calorie white food. This is far from the truth especially when you seek out organic potatoes and better yet freshly dug potatoes from a farmers market. The potato has good fiber, lots of potassium and significant amounts of Vitamins C and B. Most of all potatoes are satisfying ‘real’ food.

 

With Paddy’s Day on the horizon, spin out a Colcannon for the luck of the Irish.

 

Colcannon ingredients

Colcannon

 

1 pound Russet potatoes* (3 medium)

8 oz. shredded green cabbage (2 packed cups)

4 fl. oz. (1/2 cup) whole milk

1-2 green onions (optional)

2-3 tablespoons butter

salt and pepper

sliced cabbage

fresh parsley (optional)

 

*A note on potatoes and cooking potatoes. For fluffy mashed potatoes, choose a floury type potato—our common variety is the Russet or Idaho. Yukon Golds for all their popularity are waxy and do not mash as well. Most red potatoes are too moist inside for a good mash.

A high percentage of the potato’s nutritional value lies close to the skin,so if at all possible, cook potatoes with the skins on and then peel. If your potatoes are too large, peel, chunk and boil.

Boiled, peeled potatoes

Cover the potatoes with cold water in a saucepan that holds them snugly; add a good pinch of salt. Pop on the lid and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and boil for 15 minutes. Pour off all but 1 inch of water and continue to boil until the potatoes are fully tender, 10-12 more minutes (test with a tooth pick). Pour

off all the water, return covered saucepan to low heat and steam dry for five minutes.

While potatoes are cooking, slice the cabbage and place in a small saucepan.

potato peelings

Add a pinch of salt and a quarter cup of water. Cover and cook briskly for five minutes or until cabbage is tender. Pour off excess water, return cover and keep warm until potatoes are ready.

 

In a smaller saucepan heat the milk, butter, chopped green onion plus a little salt and freshly ground pepper.

 

Once the potatoes have steamed dry, tip them out of the hot saucepan. Swirl hot

Hot, seasoned milk

water into the pan to clean and dry. Pick up the hot potatoes one at a time with a tea towel and pull off the skins with a paring knife. Drop the peeled potatoes into the clean, hot saucepan.

 

When all the potatoes are peeled, mash them with a hand held potato masher blending in the hot, buttery milk. Fold in the tender cooked cabbage and taste for seasoning. Add salt, pepper as needed and more hot milk if the mixture is too thick. Scoop into a warm

Colcannon ready to serve

serving bowl, place a pat of butter in the center to melt, dust with chopped parsley and enjoy an Irish classic.

Serves 4-6

 

 

 

 

 

Classic Chocolate Mousse

February 1, 2018

Chocolate Mousse

The approach of Valentine’s Day finds us winter weary. Looking for something decadent, magical, a treat for all seasons, most people will choose chocolate. Once only food for emperors and kings, over 400 years ago Spanish explorers wrested cacao from the Aztecs in Mexico where it had been an aphrodisiac and power building drink. Native to Mesoamerica the cacao tree and chocolate remnants have been found in settlements dating back almost 2000 years before the Common Era (AD). Once bitter and used medicinally, the accidental addition of sugar allowed chocolate to steal the hearts of western Europe. Industrialization spirialed cacao from Hershey’s to Valrhona. Chocolate’s now in everyone’s reach in almost every supermarket or drugstore from Cadbury’s Dairy Milk to Lindt Excellence. Chocolate always tops a dessert list, and everyone’s delighted with a glass of classic French Chocolate Mousse.

Sounds fancy but it’s really easy. To make a classic chocolate mousse, all you need are eggs, good chocolate, a little butter and a touch of sugar. I like a bit of whipped cream in the mix, but it’s not necessary.

Two years ago Judy gave me the most beautiful French pastry recipe book and tucked in these gilded pages, I found a foolproof method for chocolate mousse that removes the age-old problem—siezed chocolate. This happens with melted chocolate combines with liquid, egg yolk, cream or liqueur and suddenly stiffens. The chocolate meant to be creamy then clumps. Additions of whipped egg white or cream then deflate as one mixes even more to break up the lumps. The result will still be tasty but will lack the fluffy lightness that something mousseux is all about. When I discovered the La Sucre technique, I was free from any mousse angst and found I could easily pull this dessert together in 10 minutes—no sweat.

A few pointers: Use good chocolate. Mousse is no place for chocolate chips or a cheap candy bar. If possible find a European style chocolate that’s ultra smooth (Surprisingly Trader Joe’s has excellent Belgium chocolate at bargain prices.) Chocolate melts best over low heat. (Hold a square in a tight fist and see how quickly it softens.) For optimal melting, place chocolate and butter in a glass bowl (Pyrex) set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Keep an eye on the water to make sure it never really boils or the chocolate will get too hot for an even melt. Thirdly, the classic mousse is made with raw eggs, so choose free range, farm fresh or organic eggs and rinse the eggs carefully before cracking to separate. Raw eggs are safe; just be careful where they come from. You can go for pasteurized if you must; I never have. An infected egg will look bad and smell bad. Use your common sense and remember that cooks have made fresh mayonnaise and chocolate mousse with raw eggs for generations.

You’ll find this recipe so simple, you’ll want to keep it a secret. Here’s everyone’s fave for Valentine’s Day.

Classic Chocolate Mousse

Chocolate Mousse ingredients

3 oz. semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate

1 oz. unsalted butter (2 tablespoons)

¾ oz. sugar (2 tablespoons)

2 eggs, room temperature (organic or farm fresh)

tiny pinch salt

1/3 cup heavy cream, whipped (optional)

Place chocolate and butter in a medium glass bowl set over a saucepan of barely

melted chocolate

simmering water. Allow the chocolate to melt slowly. Remove from the heat and gently combine the melted chocolate and melted butter with the tines of a fork.

Meanwhile rinse and separate the eggs. (If the eggs are cold, immerse them in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes before separating.) Place the whites in a stainless steel bowl and keep the yolks nearby in a small cup. Add a tiny pinch of salt to the whites and whisk until soft peaks form. Add the sugar one tablespoon at a time, whisking to a

egg mixture

satiny meringue. Add the yolks to the meringue and stir gently together with the whisk. Use a rubber spatula to fold 1/3 of the egg mass into the melted chocolate which should now be slightly cooled. Then scrape the lightened chocolate mixture over the remainder of the egg mix and fold together. At this point fold in two rounded large spoonfuls of whipped cream if desired (checking first with your clean pinkie finger to make sure that the mousse does not feel warm which would melt the cream).

mousse ready for cups

Once the mousse is ready, spoon it into small serving glasses (juice glasses, wine glasses, demitasse coffee cups or custard cups) or scrape it into a glass bowl. Decorate the top with quenelle blobs of soft whipped cream and decorate with chocolate shavings (use a swivel blade potato peeler along the edge of a chocolate bar). Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least an hour or two to allow the mousse to firm up. Serves 4-6.

 

 

Comfort with Cauliflower Cheese

January 15, 2018

Cauliflower Cheese

Now that we’ve feasted through our holidays and before we come to winter’s mindful fast, it’s bitter cold outside and time for comfort food. Macaroni and cheese tops many American lists in the comfort category and children scramble for the tasteless Kraft Dinner.

We are all familiar with the macaroni version, but the English/Irish favorite, Cauliflower Cheese, might just be a new winter treat. Here cauliflower florets bake under a blanket of rich cheddar sauce until bubbling and browned. Piping hot, tender cauliflower lightly coated with well seasoned sauce will transport you to the wild and windswept green countryside with supper beside a glowing turf fire. Here’s a way to encourage more vegetables and substituting cauliflower for the pasta makes a lighter dish for sure.

Traditionally aged white cheddar is recommended, but any assortment of cheeses you prefer may be substituted. In fact this here’s a place to use up bits from holiday party cheeses as long as the flavors blend. I’ve sometimes included the creamy insides of Brie or Camembert, crumbles of Roquefort or Stilton, Gruyere or other Swiss. If possible keep some cheddar in the base, and add what you have. A blue cheese will leave a bit of a gray streak, but will still taste delicious. My standard cooking cheddar is Cabot Vermont Cheddar. A cheese sauce can be bland and welcomes dry mustard, cayenne, nutmeg and white or black pepper.

Now’s the season for Cauliflower and other Brassicas. Cauliflower, believe it or not, is high in Vitamin C and has moderate amounts of other beneficial minerals. A bubbling dish of Cauliflower Cheese will make a welcome meatless Monday supper. Served alongside a crisp green salad and a crunchy baguette or a sourdough loaf, this winter comfort food will warm you all.

Cauliflower Cheese

Cauliflower Cheese ingredients

1 medium cauliflower, broken into florets, a pound plus

12 fl. oz. whole milk (1 ½ cups)

1 ½ oz. butter (3 tablespoons)

1 oz. all purpose flour (4 tablespoons)

generous ¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon dry mustard (optional)

knifepoint cayenne (optional)

grating fresh nutmeg

freshly ground white (or black)pepper

4 oz. sharp cheddar grated (2 loose cups)

1 tablespoon dry bread crumbs (optional)

Cook the cauliflower in a large pot of boiling, salted water 3-5 minutes or until just fork tender. Drain in a colander and spread out to cool. Arrange cauliflower in buttered shallow baking dish, a pie plate works nicely.

Preheat the oven to 375º.

Sauce with seasonings

Warm the milk in a small saucepan or microwave. Melt butter in a medium saucepan, stir in flour and cook a few seconds to remove floury taste. Gradually whisk in the hot milk and continue to stir until the mixture boils into a thick, smooth, satiny white sauce. Season with salt, dry mustard powder, cayenne, nutmeg and white pepper. Taste for seasonings; it should be nicely zippy at this point.

Fold in 3/4ths of the grated cheese into the sauce. Stir to melt and spread the thick sauce evenly over the mound of cauliflower. Sprinkle on the remaining cheese and dust with bread crumbs. Bake the Cauliflower Cheese for 20 minutes on an uppermost oven rack. You may top brown the last few seconds if desired. Serves 3 as a generous main dish or 6 as a side.

 

 

 

World Peace Cookies

December 13, 2017

World Peace Cookies

A fresh dusting of snow covers the lawn, the furnace purrs and candles stand ready to be lit as early darkness falls. The winter solstice peeks around the corner; holiday preparations fill our kitchens and visions of chocolate dance in our dreams. Chocolate has taken over from those sugarplums (dried and candied Portuguese plums popularized in Clement Moore’s Christmas poem.)

Fancy chocolates claim high prices and elaborate packaging while simple cups of cocoa warm the common heart and little morsels dot everyone’s favorite chip cookie. From the high brow Godiva to the drugstore Hershey bar, chocolate followed the captive and immigrant story: birthed in Mezzo America, enslaved by Spanish conquistadors and settled for new life from West Africa to Malaysia. No longer a stranger in a strange land, the whole world clamors for chocolate and protects its heritage. Chocolate lore unites friend and foe. It’s brought prosperity to adopted locations and has the strength to show kindness in unexpected places. The gift of chocolate follows on the heels of our seasonal summons toward Peace on Earth. Let us share chocolate cookies and lay down differences.

Dorrie Greenspan first published this chocolate shortbread cookie under the name Korova Cookies, a recipe from a Parisian pastry chef, and she later named them World Peace Cookies. Just one bite will lift spirits toward harmony. ‘Tis the season to share chocolate and set our minds on good will.

World Peace Cookies

Chocolate cookie ingredients

6 oz. (1 cup plus 3 tablespoons) all purpose flour

1.125 oz. (1/3 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

5 ½ oz. (1 stick plus 3 tablespoons) unsalted butter softened

5 oz. (2/3 cup packed) brown sugar, light or dark

1 ¾ oz. (1/4 cup) white sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

5 oz. (scant cup) chopped good quality semisweet or

bittersweet chocolate

sugar for rolling

Sift together flour, cocoa, soda and salt.

Cream the softened butter with the sugars using a mixer or a deep bowl and a wooden spoon. Add vanilla and beat until the mixture is light. Slowly add the flour mixture, stopping the mixer and using a plastic spatula as the dough stiffens. Scrape the dough onto a clean counter top, add the chopped chocolate and mix with your hands.

Take care to add no more flour as you make sure the chocolate is evenly mixed through. If the dough seems too soft, cover it with a bowl and let it rest for half an hour. Divide the dough into quarters and roll into 1 ½-inch in diameter logs. Cut the logs in half, roll in granulated sugar (coarse, golden cane if possible) and place in a small baking pan. Cover with plastic and refrigerate a couple hours or up to 3 days. (The cookie logs may also be wrapped and frozen.)

Preheat the oven to 325º. Slice chilled dough into ½-inch coins. Place cookies on ungreased or parchment lined sheet pans. Bake for 12 minutes. Cookies may seem soft, but they will firm up as they cool. Do not over bake or cookies will be dry. Remove from sheets to cooling rack while still warm. Makes 75 irresistible cookies, perfect for Christmas!

 

Braised Red Cabbage with Apples

November 19, 2017

Red Cabbage ready to serve

He called it vino rotkohl and the house filled with tantalizing aroma. I was a college student paying my way with bits of house cleaning at the time. My growing interest in international foods took hold at Les and Nann’s where soon I was helping with preparations and washing up for dinner parties. For its time the house was modern with lots of windows and set in a grove of trees at the town’s edge. Polished wooden floors were carpet free and a grand piano centered the living room. Often as I worked away with kitchen chores, the house filled with Mozart concerti.

One Thanksgiving with the holiday too close to Christmas for the long trip home, I joined a group of campus stranded students around the Lindou table. The regal spread affirmed both our American traditions and their European travels. There was turkey with braised red cabbage and for the first time in my life wine with dinner.

This morning as I stood in front of a supermarket vegetable display, I picked up a red cabbage and remembered Les’s vino rotkohl. It’s best as a do ahead vegetable and will always taste better the next day. Any detail not needing last minute attention is a bonus. The red cabbage may be prepared a few days ahead. It brings tempting color and a sweet/tart that flavor that will enliven the sometimes bland turkey. It’s great with leftovers or spooned into a turkey sandwich; braised red cabbage is definitely a keeper.

cabbage, apples and onion

Red Cabbage with Apples

2 lbs. red cabbage, cored and shredded

1 medium or two small red onions, peeled and chopped

3 medium cooking apples, peeled and sliced

2 tablespoons butter, lard, olive or coconut oil

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger (optional)

l cinnamon stick

scant ½ cup red wine, apple cider or water

3 tablespoons organic apple cider vinegar

1 ½ tablespoons brown sugar

salt to taste

cover with butter wrappers

In a heavy casserole with a tight fitting lid, melt the butter or heat the oil and gently sweat the onion (cover with butter wrappers to retain moisture) until translucent, 6-8 minutes. Add cinnamon stick, grated ginger and stir in the shredded cabbage. Season with salt; add wine or cider, vinegar and sugar. Top the cabbage with sliced apples. Cover and simmer gently (return the butter wrappers before topping with lid) 30-40 minutes or until the apples have pulped and the cabbage is meltingly tender. Check during this slow cooking period to make sure the cabbage isn’t dry; add a few spoonfuls of cider or water if necessary. When the cooking is complete, stir the soft apples into the cabbage and remove cinnamon stick. Serve straight away or cool, chill and reheat when needed. Serves 8.

 

Pillay’s Dal

October 24, 2017

Book Cover

Twenty years ago, my mother sent me three manila envelopes, each containing about 70 faded aerograms. I had typed these letters on a handbag sized Olivetti manual and mailed them home from Tanganyika in the early 1960’s. Suddenly a part of my almost forgotten past came alive again. With encouragement and direction from my friend and later husband, creative writing professor James Reiss, I forged segments from these 200 letters into a manuscript. For years no one was interested in my story until I had the good fortune of meeting Ami Kaye from Glass Lyre Press. She accepted the work and brought out The Njombe Road last month.

I’m thrilled to have the book; it’s a piece of living history. Throughout the memoir that traces twenty months Robert Wendel and I spent teaching and traveling in East Africa, food and cooking experiences kept me grounded. I learned basics of Indian cooking from the wives of village shop keepers, retraced pioneer practices of preserving and knew that if we wanted ketchup or peanut butter, I’d need to make it from scratch. Basic produce was limited and seasonal, but the shops with no electricity stocked lentils and rice. I had only known the brown lentils common in our markets, so the world of Chana, Toor, Mung, Urad was all new to me.

Mr. Pillay, a Bengali teacher on our secondary boys boarding school staff, prepared one of our first Indian suppers. I still make Pillay’s Dal just as I watched him in his tiny kitchen. This was my first taste of the somewhat medicinal ajwain seeds and the tang of tamarind. Recalling this soup still sends shivers down my spine and I see us sitting there deep in the bush around a wooden table under light from a pressure lamp savoring soup with our new friend.

If you’d like to travel back fifty-four years and explore East Africa at that time, you may order The Njombe Road from any bookstore or Amazon.

 

Pillay’s Dal

7 oz. (1 cup) Toor or Chana Dal or other Indian yellow or pink lentils

1 whole green chili

2 whole peeled garlic cloves

1 teaspoon turmeric

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

½ teaspoon brown mustard seeds

¼ teaspoon cumin seeds

1/8 teaspoon ajwain seeds (optional)

6 oz. (1 medium) onion peeled, quartered and thinly sliced             (1½ cups)

1 oz. (large walnut-sized piece) dry tamarind (or rounded teaspoon concentrate)

1 cup diced fresh or canned tomato

salt, cayenne (chili powder), lime juice to taste

yogurt and coriander (cilantro) leaves for garnish

Rinse lentils and place in deep pot or pressure cooker with 1-quart cool water, green chili, garlic and turmeric. Pressure-cook or simmer covered until mushy tender. (Soak lentils in water for 1 hour to hasten cooking time.)

Heat oil in medium frying pan and sizzle mustard, cumin and optional ajwain seeds until they begin to make a popping sound. Add sliced onion and fry gently until onion is reduced and golden brown. (This will take at least 15 minutes.)

Crumble tamarind into a bowl and soften in ½ cup boiling water. When tamarind has cooled enough to handle, rub the fruit with your fingertips to form a puree. Strain the puree to remove seeds and skins. (Or use rounded teaspoon prepared tamarind concentrate.)

When the dal has softened. Add tamarind, chopped tomato, and salt to taste.

Dal Soup

Remove the chili and for added spiciness, chop the cooked chili and return it to the soup. Add 2 cups additional water if lentils seem too thick and whisk to break up the lentils. Simmer 5 minutes.

Add seed scented oil with fried onion. Taste for seasonings, adding a generous squeeze of limejuice for added tartness, and a pinch cayenne or powdered chili for zest.

Serve the soup in bowls with a spoonful of yogurt and sprinkle chopped cilantro over the top. Serves 4-6.