Processing…

Tomato time has arrived and it’s time to process these beautiful tomatoes from Christine’s Garden and make some Pasta Sauce and some Salsa again this year.

The basic processing is the same whether the end game is Salsa or Pasta Sauce:

First, wash and cut off the stem end and any spots and place on a broiler pan.
Then toast them under the broiler until the skins blacken. Somehow, this deepens the flavor. I don’t remove the skins or seeds. That’s where the most
Lycopene is.
After making purée in the food processor and making either Salsa or Pasta Sauce, I freeze the result in these Souper Cubes, which really are super.
Here are some of the frozen cubes popped out of their Souper Cube cells, pooped in to a Food Saver bag, vacuum sealed and ready to stack in the freezer. It’s a lengthy process for sure, but come December, that Pasta Sauce and Salsa made from Christine’s lovely organic San Marzano Tomatoes comes in mighty handy and tastes summer-fresh.

So Long Kitchenaid

Hello Ankarsrum! 

I still remember standing in line at Gemco when it was going out of business so that I could get my first Kitchenaid stand mixer at the best possible price over 30 years ago.  This was just after I’d sheared off the dough hooks on my Sunbeam Mixmaster that had been a wedding gift because I was trying to make 100% whole wheat bread.  Luckily, the glass bowl didn’t break and it didn’t destroy the mixer, but I knew if I was going to have a chance to make true whole wheat bread I’d need the Kitchenaid.  And back then, the Kitchenaid did not disappoint.   Early on I purchased the grain mill attachment and managed to seize up the motor when a rock slipped in with the grain and locked down the grinder.  Off it went to an appliance repair shop, where they actually fixed it (those were the days!) and that machine lasted over 20 years until it started really sounding tired.  So I bought another one.  What a sad difference.  The new one just couldn’t power through the bread dough.  Then I tried a Breville.  Same thing.  Then I tried a bigger, more expensive Kitchenaid with a “more powerful” motor.  Same thing.  A little online research turned up this new kid on the block, an Ankarsrum Assistant sold by Pleasant Hill Grains, and King Arthur Flour.  I bought mine from Pleasant Hill because at the time they were having a sale.  It seemed an extreme amount to spend on a mixer at the time, even on sale, and possibly a mistake because this mixer uses a completely foreign concept in mixing techniques.  But I was desperate to find a mixer that could power through the stiffest possible bread dough and bring it to supple perfection without grinding to a halt and/or smelling like smoking motor grease.  Done.  This beast laughs at 100% whole grain bread dough.  It also does a fine job with cookies and cakes and everything I do with a mixer.  Unfortunately, although it has lots of accessories it doesn’t have a spiralizer, so I had to keep my Kitchenaid just to make Zoodles with the Spiralizer Attachment and that’s okay because I was able to make space for it and so far it can manage to run that attachment without complaint.  But if you think you want to make 100% whole wheat bread, do not hesitate, the Ankarsrum can manage whatever dough you throw at it, our current favorite being Featherpuff Bread from the Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book.

A word on whole wheat.  You really do want to grind it yourself unless you have a miller in town who grinds fresh flour daily.  Yeah, I thought not.  You will be amazed at the difference in your bread if you grind your own grain and bake it the same day.  The flavor is incomparable.

Bon appétit!

Cabbage Dolma Redux

The how, the why and the joys of creating this most satisfying family soul food, updated with more photos and instructions on how to prepare the cabbage.

  • Ingredients:
  • 1-2 heads of green cabbage

    1-2 pounds of lean ground beef
    1/3-2/3 cup rice
    1-2 tablespoons dried basil
    1-2 teaspoons salt
    1-2 tablespoons dried minced onion, or grated fresh yelllow or red onion
    2-3 cans tomato sauce

  •  

The Method:

Begin by preparing the cabbage. Set out a colander on a large plate next to the stove. Fill a large stock pot half way with water and bring to a boil. While the water is coming to a boil, cut out the core(s) of the cabbage(s) as shown above.

Drop the cabbage in o the boiling water. Adjust the heat to keep the water simmering.

The first outer leaves will fall away easily. Pluck ten out of the water with tongs and place them in the colander to drain.

As you remove leaves, some may begin to cling to the core. You can prevent some of this by enlarging the center of the core you have removed with the knife before boiling, but there will always be some hangers on. Use a carving fork to pry them away.

Like so. As you do this, use the tongs in your other hand to manage the bobbing cabbage head. You can see above that eventually the inner core of the cabbage gets too small to separate the leaves. At this point, let it stay in the water for another few minutes to soften all the leaves left inside. Then pull it out and place it in the colander with all the separated parboiled leaves and allow these to cool as you prepare the filling.

Prepare the filling:

Mix the meat, salt, onion, basil, rice and up a few tablespoons of water thoroughly until all is amalgamated and a smooth mixture is obtained. The basic ratio is 1 teaspoon salt, 1/3 cup uncooked rice, one tablespoon onion and 1 tablespoon basil per one pound meat. Adjust to your taste. I probably use more basil than that. I just keep tossing it in until I like the distribution and scent. The basil is key.

Make the rolls:

Place about 2 tablespoons of the meat mixture at the end of a cabbage leaf. See how nicely it fits in to the natural curve of the leaf.

Begin rolling the leaf, tucking the sides as you go and rolling tightly.

As you approach the end, trim off the thickest part of the rib:

Finish rolling and place in bottom of pot that you have lined with leaves that are either too small or holey or otherwise unsuitable for rolling.

Continue rolling and stack in layers until all the filling is consumed. You should have plenty of leaves left to cover the rolls with extra leaves.

Place an inverted plate atop all.

This prevents the rolls from floating around and unrolling themselves as they cook.

Add tomato sauce and water, one can sauce and 1/2 cup water per pound of meat. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Simmer for 2 hours.

Serve with rice or bulgur pilaf and either pida or wet lavash. What? You’ve never had wet lavash? Huh, well break it in to serving size pieces, run each piece under warm water thoroughly wetting both sides, shake as much of the water off as you can, stack the pieces on a plate, cover with a damp kitchen towel and allow to soften 20 minutes. Now it’s like a tortilla, only better, way better, especially if you roll it with a little butter inside. Take care when removing that plate with tongs before serving the dolmas. We serve it right from the pot so as not to disturb the rolls, but you can remove to a casserole if you’re so inclined.

Cabbage Dolma

Cabbage Dolma is the ultimate winter food, slow, savory, warming. Here’s how:

Ingredients:

  • 2 large heads of green cabbage
  • 2 lbs. lean ground beef
  • 2/3 cup rice
  • 2-4 Tbsp dried minced onion, or equivalent amount of fresh red onion, shredded.
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. dried basil
  • 2 small cans tomato sauce

Method:

Bring a large stock pot 2/3 full of water to the boil.

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Cut the core out of the cabbage with a sharp knife.  Make sure that you have cut out enough of the core that all the leaves are no longer attached at the center.  Then submerge the cabbage in the water and keep at a simmer while you separate all the leaves from the core and transfer them to a colander to drain.  You are par-boiling the leaves, just softening them enough to pull them away from the head using tongs and a large fork and allow later rolling around the meat filling.  They will cook thoroughly later.  Use any torn leaves and the innermost leaves that are too small to form rolls to line the bottom of a 12 quart stockpot.  If you only have one, you’ll have to re-use it after par-boiling the leaves.  Dump the water out of the pot, but preserve it for later.

Mix the meat, salt, rice, onion and basil thoroughly to create the filling.  Add a little water to make it easier to mix everything together.  When everything is thoroughly mixed together, begin rolling the leaves around the filling, placing about 2 Tablespoons of filling on a leaf with the thick end of the leaf facing away as shown:
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Roll the cabbage leaf around the filling, tucking the sides over as you roll.  When you reach the thick end of the leaf, cut away any part that is too thick to roll.  Some leaves are so large you have to cut them down the middle.  Some are too small.  This one is just perfect and will probably not require any trimming but will form a nice, neat roll.  Place rolls closely packed together in the stockpot as you work.  When the bottom of the pot is covered with rolls, make another layer, and another until you run out of meat.  You shouldn’t run out of leaves.  If you do, you’ve not put enough filling in each leaf.

Pour the tomato sauce over the rolls.  Cover the rolls with any leftover leaves.   Add enough of the cabbage water or fresh water to just barely cover the rolls. Place a sturdy stoneware salad plate upside down over the rolls and gently press down.  This serves as a weight to prevent the rolls from floating around and coming undone.  Cover with the lid of the stockpot.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 1.5-2 hours.  When done, you will have to carefully remove that plate before serving directly from the pot or transferring the rolls and plenty of the cooking juice to a serving bowl or deep platter.  That plate is covered with tomato sauce and looks like it will never be the same again, but a trip through the dishwasher will put things right unless the plate is cracked or chipped in which case it’s time to toss it anyway.

Serve with Bulgur Pilaf, wet Lavash (run your pieces of dry lavash under warm water on both sides, stack on a plate and cover with a damp kitchen towel for 20 minutes) and Greek Style Yogurt (made into Tsatsiki-style sauce if you like) for a real traditional Armenian meal.

Okay, Bulgur Pilaf:

Bring 1.5 cups of water, 3/4 tsp. salt, 1 Tbsp. dried minced onion and 1 Tbsp olive oil or butter to a boil.  Add 1 cup of coarse Bulgur (#4).  Allow to return to a boil.  Stir, cover and reduce heat to a simmer.  Simmer for 25 minutes.

 

 

 

Where’s the Honey?

HoneycakeSo we have this recipe we now call Honeycake but it hasn’t a drop of honey in it and it’s not really even a cake anymore.  Funny you should ask.  Skip down to the recipe if you don’t care a fig for provenance and just want to bake a tasty treat, read on if you have nothing better to do.

In 1979, the year I was married, I cut this recipe for Applesauce Spice Cake from the Modesto Bee and for a few years I made it often in my tube pan.  As time went by, I found other recipes, started making them more and forgot about this one that got shifted to the back of the cake section in my recipe box.

Speed forward about 20 years and a lot of cakes later and trans fats are getting a really bad rap and they are everywhere in baked goods so I’m looking for a recipe for a cake that doesn’t have butter (which hasn’t been rehabilitated yet) or shortening (none available yet without trans fats) and I come across this recipe that uses oil rather than butter or shortening.  I bake it up and offer it.  DH refuses it, saying he doesn’t like that cake.  Huh? I distinctly remember him appreciating this cake enthusiastically every time I baked it…in 1979.  I’m confused.  He just smiles.  Oh, okay.  So now I call it Honeymoon Cake and make it in 3 little loaf pans rather than the teflon-coated tube pan so it will make convenient slices and take I it to a tennis match to see what the tennis ladies think of it.  It’s love-love.  And the story makes it even better.  Sweet story, sweet cake.  Along comes DGS and he loves this cake, but what does a 2-year-old know from honeymoon, although he knows all about how yummy HUNNY is from Winnie-the-Pooh, and he knows what cake is and that it is also yummy.  So he shortens the name of this snack to Honeycake and some days he just can’t live without it.  Which is why I baked it today.  And FINALLY, here is the recipe:

Honeycake

  • 2 cups (9 0z.) All-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger

 

  • 1/2 cup (3.5 oz) oil
  • 1/2 cup (3.5 oz) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (3.75 oz) packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 oz) applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

 

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease 3 small 3×5 loaf pans or one bundt or tube pan. Sift together dry ingredients.  Combine wet ingredients in mixer bowl and beat until combined.  Add dry ingredients.  Mix on low until well incorporated and then beat on medium until smooth.  Bake in 3 loaf pans for 40 minutes.  If in tube or Bundt pan, 50 minutes.

If you’ve made this as a cake, the original recipe had a glaze:

  • 1 cup (4 oz) sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon soft butter
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine and drizzle over cake.  To avoid that metallic taste you can get in frostings and glazes, heat the milk before adding it.  I really think the glaze is overkill on the sweetness front and prefer this served plain as a quick bread rather than a cake.  It’s really good served with a nice very lightly sweetened whipped cream cheese spread.

 

 

Mom’s stuffed mushrooms

The original title on this recipe is “Happy Hour Mushrooms” and the handwriting on the recipe is one I can’t identify so I can’t give attribution to the cook who shared this recipe with my mom, I can only say that we loved these mushrooms and I suspect she at least doubled the recipe when she made them.  If there had only been the 10 the recipe makes, riots would have ensued.

We used to make pilgrimages to a local mushroom farm to get the freshest and most consistently sized mushrooms available when she was going to entertain and we certainly bought more than 10.  In the absence of a reliable local mushroom grower, I would recommend buying from the bulk bin at the grocery store and finding out when they get their shipments because this recipe really shines when made with fresh mushrooms.  Here it is:

  • 10-12 (about 1/2 pound) medium-size mushrooms ( each about 1 1/2″ diameter)
  • 6 Tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 3 Tablespoons shredded jack cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons dry white or red wine (I suspect Mom used white)
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup fine cracker crumbs or as much as required to make stuffing mix dry

Remove stems from mushrooms and chop finely.  You may also buy and chop a few more mushrooms, thus 10-12 are called for in the ingredients.  Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter and brush over mushroom caps, coating thoroughly.  Stir together the remaining 4 tablespoons of soft butter, garlic and cheese and chopped mushroom stems until well blended.  Stir in wine, soy and crumbs until well blended and hanging together.

Place mushrooms, cavity side up, on a large rimmed baking sheet.  Evenly mound filling in each mushroom, pressing filling in lightly.  Broil about 6 inches below broiler until bubbly and lightly browned (about 3 minutes).  Serve warm.  Makes about 10 appetizers.

 

Using the old noodle

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Well, the folks at Golden Grain have upped the ante on sliced bread with their pot-sized spaghetti. Best idea I’ve come across in ages but why did we have to wait so long, always breaking spaghetti in half over the pot of boiling water and having little bits of it end up everywhere while risking a nasty steam burn?
What WILL they think of next?

Tourshee

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It’s been a while since we had Tourshee, but I’ve been craving it lately. Last time I made it I burned my hands so severely while pouring the boiling brine over the vegetables that I had to go to the nearest urgent care center and they slathered the second degree burns with cream and wrapped my hands in gauze. What happened was that the brine sloshed over one hand and then my reaction caused it to splash back over the other hand. Then I dropped the pot. I was lucky it didn’t splash back into my face, really.

Next day when I went to my own doctor, he declared all the gauze wrappings to be overkill and introduced me to Aquaphor ointment which quickly became a staple in the household first aid kit. I was ready to get back on the pickle horse right away, but the family was too traumatized and begged me not to make Tourshee anymore and I haven’t until now.

But enough about that, let’s talk about the actual Tourshee, a life-saving Armenian staple. Basically Tourshee is any pickle, but the way we make it, it’s a brined or marinated pickle. It could be a fermented one, or a traditionally canned one, depending on your choice of recipe.

I say Tourshee is life-saving because I remember when there was a terrible earthquake in Armenia I read about a man who was dug out of the rubble that had been his home and rescued 3 or 4 weeks after the event when the hope of finding survivors was virtually gone. He explained that he had been making pickles and carrying them down to his basement when the earthquake struck. He survived all that time by eating the pickles and as I recall, was in pretty good shape when they found him.

I’ve been craving them because they are a perfect low carb food as long as you don’t eat the onions or carrots and I’m bored with my usual fare. Trust me, there is nothing boring about Tourshee! Oh my, the vinegar burn and the heady garlic and onion fumes will knock your socks off. Nothing subtle here. The only other Armenian food I’ve tried that comes close in assertiveness is Basturma, a preserved meat that shares a common linguistic heritage with Pastrami, but let’s just say I’ll never be ordering a Basturma sandwich even though a nice Pastrami on Rye used to be my standard deli order back in the sandwich days.

Recipes abound on the internet for mixed pickles. Nothing too special about this one I got out of an old Sunset book on Canning and Preserving, the vegetables do all the work. So I won’t post the recipe. If you have a hankering for pickles outside of the ordinary, pick the recipe that sounds best to you and get going, just be careful handling that hot brine!

Fresh eggs

Fresh Eggs

 

The next best thing to having your own chickens is having a friend with a few too many.

Here’s an omelette-making secret I picked up by watching the pros do it at a buffet brunch:  put only the cheese in the middle.  Any vegetables or meat should go into the pan first and be cooked or reheated to your satisfaction first.  Then drop in the beaten eggs and proceed with standard omelette procedure.  When it’s ready to fold in half, put the cheese in.  Give it some time on each side to finish cooking and melt the cheese.   So much better than having a pile of mixed vegetables and cheese 2 inches high inside plain eggs.

Adoption readiness

Kefir strainer
I’m adopting Kefir grains this weekend. Kefir is reputed to be many times more beneficial than yogurt and lower carb to boot. Supposedly, any metal is anathema to the living grains so I laid in this non-metal strainer in order to separate the grains from the milk as directed. This claim is suspect since one of the sites that stridently proclaims that contact with any metal will kill the grains clearly shows photos of a standard metal mesh strainer being used to drain off the kefir and save the grains for re-use. Well, just to be safe. Here’s to my new Kefir grains, slainte!