Friday, February 21, 2014

Food Friday: Food for the Sick from 1876

One of the great things about those 19th century cookbooks is that they had a little bit of everything. Yes, they had recipes for food but they also had household hints for cleaning, laundry, and medicinal recipes. These books served as an all-in-one household guide for women.

Since I am now sick with the same thing that has plagued by family for a month and many of my friends, I decided to check out some recipes geared towards feeding the sick.

I don't know about you but all I remember eating if I was sick as a child was chicken noodle soup. I think it's possible my mom served me milk toast one time but typically the food of choice was canned chicken noodle soup.

Earlier generations had all sorts of ideas about what would make you well. Some look similar to what we might suggest today. Take for example some recipe ideas found in the following cookbook.

This section starts off with oysters then continues on with the non-appetizing gruel recipes.

While other recipes utilized alcohol to help the sick person.

Let's see, oysters and wine  sounds like something that would either cure you or help you forget you were sick.

What was  served  to the sick people in your family?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Springtime cauliflower soup


This post is long overdue.. this soup actually won me a competition last year. It was the Swedish dairy producer Arla that had put up a recipe contest with set ingredients. They included cauliflower, chicken, cream, bacon and a number of other things, and as soon as I saw them I knew I wanted to make a light and delicious cauliflower soup with parmesan, bacon and sugar-fried cauliflower. Turned out the jury agreed with me - it was a great dish! (And I later found out I was the only contestant who opted to not use chicken!) My prize was a cookalong with Sigrid Bárany who won the first season of Sweden's Masterchef - a great fun-filled afternoon that I really ought to tell you more about sometime... But for now, make some soup!

Cauliflower Parmesan soup with Bacon
serves 4

1 large cauliflower, broken into florets (set aside a handful for the topping, see  below)
2 small potatoes, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp butter
100 ml white wine
800 ml chicken stock (or vegetable stock, by all means)
100 ml cream
100 ml grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tbsp fresh tarragon, minced
white pepper, salt

140 g bacon, diced

Sugar-fried cauliflower:
100 ml cauliflower florets, cut small
1-2 tbs butter
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Start by frying the onion and garlic in a heavy pot, on medium heat. They should become shiny and fragrant. Add the cauliflower and the potatoes. Add the wine and let it cook away. Add the chicken stock and cook until the veggies are soft - about 15-20 minutes. Use a stick blender to purée the soup. Add cream, parmesan and tarragon. Season with white pepper and some salt.

For the garnish: Fry the bacon until crispy, and drain on a paper towel. Melt the butter and heat until it becomes lightly brown and very fragrant. Fry the small cauliflower florets for about 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle with sugar and salt and caramelize for a minute.

Serve the soup with bacon and the caramelized cauliflower.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Why a Capon?

If you look at old recipes, especially those from the Renaissance, the preferred domestic fowl above all others is capon. I've always wondered, why not just a nice young chicken? The sort that we seem to like today? Well I think I finally figured it out this weekend. I suspected it was a flavor thing, sure. But it's actually even more a texture thing. Look at how wonderfully stringy that is. It shreds into a light kind of floss. I removed the breast and legs for roasting and put the rest in a pot for about 9 hours to gently simmer with vegetables for a brodo. The meat left on the bones was pure white, delicate, almost aethereal. Exactly the sort of whiteness you'd want in a blancmanger or the like. Even this dark meat is really light in texture, and I'm guessing this is why it was considered easier to digest than a chicken. It's also really moist and flavorful. Just a little pan drippings is all it needed. So is it worth it to find a capon? Absolutely.  

Here's an easy recipe to try from the Liber de coquina:

Capones et gallinas elixa et, positis speciebus et herbis odoriferis in mortario tere et etiam vitella ovorim et cum brodio distempera. Postea, insimul bulliantur quosque brodium sit gravatum.

Capons or chickens poach, and add spices and aromatic herbs, pound in a mortar and then egg yolks and temper with some broth. Next, boil briefly until the broth is thick.

The spices to use here would be cinnamon, sugar, maybe some nutmeg and herbs, parsley and maybe thyme. In the end you'll have a very interesting thick sauce. And remember to eat with your fingers.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Kombucha brewed with Homemade Mother Scoby and 2nd Flavored Ferment.


maybe it's just a "FAD"
(it's reported to go back 2000 years)

maybe i'm looking for "HEALTHY"
(full of probiotics for a healthy digestive system)


it's like a 3rd grade science project

so...after you've successfully made your own "homemade Mother Scoby", you are ready to brew some Kombucha that you've been paying 3$ - 4$ per bottle.  this is a little documentation of what to expect for the novice brewer...from a novice brewer.
UPDATE...i just posted an EVEN EASIER way to make a Homemade SCOBY HERE

note...this is what i do, but Cultures for Health has great kombucha brewing info.

1-2 cups starter kombucha
(this is kombucha from a previous batch or you should receive some with your new scoby)
8 bags of black tea
1 cup granulated sugar
a gallon size glass jar
clean cloth or paper towel and rubber band

isn't she a beauty !

FIRST...brew a gallon of black or green tea, i used black.
boil water.  turn off heat.  add 8 tea bags.  let brew 10 minutes.  remove tea bags.  add sugar.  stir.
LET COME TO ROOM TEMP...important!!!
add sugar/tea to clean gallon size glass jar.

carefully, WITH VERY CLEAN HANDS proceed. can clean your hands with anti-bacterial soap, but must rinse them very well with a splash of diluted white vinegar and rinse very well again.  scobys do not like anti-bacterial soap.   put scoby into tea mixture (shiny side up, if there is one) with about 1-2 cups of the "starter kombucha"(previously brewed kombutcha).  leave about 2-3 inch head room.  see photos.
cover with double paper towel or clean cloth and secure with a rubber band.
place out of direct sunlight, but in a warm-ish part of the house.  NOT the garage or where any strange airborne weirdness may be floating around.  just a nice clean area is fine.
leave UNDISTURBED.  do not poke at it.
the first brew should take about 10 to 16 days.  you will need to do a taste test after 7 days.  dip a clean (new) straw in, put your finger over the end and draw some liquid out.  DO NOT suck it out with your mouth.  you do not want any contaminates.  if it is too sweet, test it again in a few days.  i have found that 14-16 days works for me.  i have also noticed that a "SENIOR" SCOBY (one that has gone a few rounds) will brew faster than a newish scoby.

DAY #1...scoby floating
DAY #2...scoby sank to the bottom
DAY #5...scoby sideways with possible baby scoby growing on surface
DAY #7...scoby is moving back up

i found a great site "Cultures For Health" that has info for trouble shooting.  Scoby on the bottom, sideways scoby and floating scoby are all OKAY.  new baby scoby should form at the surface.

DAY #8 scoby is up top...under the new scoby
DAY #14  new scoby is the top layer about 1/4 inch thick
kombucha seems done.  not too sweet with just a slight effervescence.
time to bottle, add flavors and start second fermentation

first things first...prepare another batch of sweetened tea do this a few hours before you are ready to bottle your second ferment.  prepare sweetened tea as described above and let it come to room temp... so you can put the new baby in and start another batch.  give the mother away, stick it in with the baby in the new batch or store it in 2 cups of the newly brewed kombucha in a smaller jar until ready to use.  some say to keep it in the fridge with a solid lid, some say never put it in the fridge...  mine is in a smaller jar with a breathable top, just waiting....growing, but still looks very healthy.  NOTE...i have since learned NOT to put in the fridge and i now have 3 in the SCOBY HOTEL as shown below.  i have ALSO learned that the hotel will grow another baby scoby.  i have scobys on scobys.
 you'll always have a scoby for a new brew IN CASE ONE GOES BAD.
remove scoby...ewe
just kidding.  it's really not as gross as i thought it would be.  they might be separate or fused together.  place both scobys on a clean plate while you are bottling...then put them in your new sweetened tea with 1-2 cups of the just finished kombucha.
mother scoby on top, baby scoby weird!
choose lock top bottles for safety and better effervescence.
they should be your best.  i have also used clean bottles from store bought kombucha.  they are much easier to clean and DO hold some effervescence.

again, Cultures for Health has some good ideas and more explicit  instructions.
AND...Caroline Lunger at Mygutsy has a great tutorial for the 2nd fermentation.
Kombucha Girl has a wealth of great information.
Spoon Full of Sugar Free has some great flavor ideas.

you can buy some organic juice...make your own flavors.
my first batch i opted for Organic Peach Lemonade...great, but now i make my own.
whatever flavor you choose...the ratio should be 10-20% juice in the bottle you are using. (example of  added juice quantity is in very top photo.)
so far i have used the peach lemonade, crystallized ginger pieces, coconut syrup and homemade ginger vanilla syrup.
after you remove your scobys (new baby and mother) STRAIN kombucha into bottles.   use a filtered funnel for this job.  i use a few layers of cheese cloth. about 1-2 cups to put in your new batch.  seal the bottles and let the them sit on the counter for 3-6 days.  check one of the bottles after 2 days.  mine usually take 5-6 days to regain a little fizz and lose sweetness from the flavored juice..  you want to test for taste, fizz factor AND to make sure they are not going to explode from over fermentation.

NOTE...a small mini SCOBY will form in each bottle and there will be sediment at the bottom.  when serving, use a small strainer for a nice clean experience..

UPDATE....i've made about 9-10 batches now and have found that my favorite flavor is homemade ginger vanilla bean simple syrup with a splash of fresh squeezed lemon.
i let them sit on the counter for about 5-7 days.


NOTE...i don't like it to be too too syrupy/sweet for this application.
2 cups water
1 big cup of sugar
1 1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
OR 1 vanilla bean pod split
about 3 inches of ginger root, grated
put everything in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.  turn down heat and let simmer for about 5 minutes.  turn off heat and let come to room temp.  taste.  you might like more sugar.
i add about an inch of this in the bottle along with a good splash of fresh lemon juice.

pardon the lazy iPhone photo, but i wanted to catch the beautiful effervescence...too busy for the "beauty shot".

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!


This morning, I suddenly decided that I did indeed want to bring the kids teachers something for Valentine's. I hadn't planned on it, but hey - they sure deserve it, and besides, I like baking.

In the morning. Before breakfast.

No, not so much. But I did manage to swing these little vanilla heart cookies with dried sour cherries! 15 minutes from start to finish - really! Having a stand mixer is very convenient, but I think a food processor will work in a pinch. (But then, add the cherries by hand or they'll be too finely chopped.)

Vanilla Sour Cherry Hearts
15 large hearts

125 g cold butter
250 g flour
125 g powdered sugar
1/2 tbsp vanilla sugar (or 1/2 vanilla bean, scraped out)
1/2 egg (just crack it, whisk it a little, and use half.)
1/2 tsp baking powder
30 g dried sour cherries, coarsely chopped

Start by dicing the butter and mix with the flour. I use a Kitchen-Aid here but a food processor will work too. The butter should be very well distributed throughout the flour, and crumbly. Add vanilla, confectioner's sugar, egg and baking powder. If using a stand mixer, you can add the cherries too, but not if you're using a food processor with knives.  Knead until you have a smooth dough.

Roll out the dough, not too thinly as it's prone to crumbling - mine was about 3 mm. Use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to make large hearts, place on a baking sheet and bake at 175°C  for about 6-8 minutes. They should be lightly golden around the edges but not brown.

Cool on the baking sheets.

Food Friday: Valentine's Day 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!

From the collection of Gena Philibert-Ortega

Are you going out tonight or just making a cozy meal at home? Valentine's Day is one of those special food "occasions" that requires something different and often extraordinary.

In case you are staying home, here's some recipes courtesy of two editions (1925 and a later edition that has no date)  of The Metropolitan Cook Book (Metropolitan Life Insurance).

I have to admit that ever since I first saw the movie When Harry Met Sally I've wanted to have coconut cake with a chocolate sauce poured over it. If you have that hankering as well, here is a Chocolate Sauce from 1925.

If you believe in the power of oysters then you may want some ideas on how to prepare them.

Our ancestors ate oysters more frequently than most of us do. I've written about oysters on this blog and the GenealogyBank blog.

I would love to hear about your Valentine's Day food (or even that of past generations). Please leave a comment!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

BACON...I love you !

nothing says "I LOVE YOU" like a beautiful BACON HEART for your Valentine's breakfast

super easy, super fun
a big hit with the bacon lovers out there.
i found this at "The Paper Mama" on my never ending quest for bacon ideas.
i think it's genius!

not much of a recipe, BUT...

make bacon hearts as shown
put on aluminum foil sheet pan
put the formed hearts in a COLD OVEN and set at 390 F convection
set timer for 15 minutes
take out and drain some fat off corner of tray
optional...sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon, chipotle, cumin, or ?
put back in the oven
cook until crispy
remove and set on paper towels, then cooling rack