Mrs. Deckert’s Hawaiian Banana Bread

My mother’s recipe box has a lot of banana bread recipes in it. Since I like numbers and facts, I was going to count them today. However, I abandoned that project after looking at the third card in the box. It was a recipe for Hawaiian Banana Bread that had no pineapple, macadamia nuts or coconuts. I was intrigued. Why call it Hawaiian?

Mom’s note said “Patsy’s from Mrs. Deckert. Very good.” So I grabbed the cell phone and called my sister.

After telling her of my aborted banana bread counting project I asked, “Why do you call it Hawaiian?”

“That’s what Mrs. Deckert called it,” she said. “I don’t know why she did, but it’s our favorite banana bread. You should try it.”

She explained how she got the recipe. “When we were first married, we bought a house in Northwoods Beach south of Hayward. Mrs. Deckert lived across the road and next to the town hall across from our house. She was the nicest little old lady. She had a strong German accent and came over to welcome us when we moved in. She brought us a loaf of her Hawaiian Banana Bread. I asked for her recipe and later gave it to Mom. Mrs. Deckert used to bring us Kuchen too. It was delicious but I never got that recipe.”

Bananas do ogrow in Hawaii, so maybe that explains the name.

Too lazy to go back to my recipe counting project, I decided to see how many banana bread recipes would show up on a search of the Internet. The answer is, A LOT. Even more than recipes for zucchini bread, a notoriously prolific squash that frugal cooks desperately keep trying to use up every summer.

My Google search returned about 3,260,000 results for zucchini bread but over 7,750,000 for banana bread. If each banana bread recipe were written on a standard three by five-inch recipe card and laid end to end, you could mark the route all the way from St. Paul, Minnesota, to Rapid City, South Dakota with enough cards left over to guide you most of the way to Mount Rushmore.

The zucchini bread cards would run out at Sioux Falls.

This is another really easy recipe. Just cut the shortening into the dry ingredients before folding in the banana and eggs. No electric mixer and just a little stirring. Here is what you do.

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
3 ripe bananas
2 large eggs

PROCEDURE:

Preheat the oven to 350º and mash enough bananas to fill a measuring cup. Grease and flour two bread loaf pans.

Sift the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder into a mixing bowl. With a pastry blender or table fork, cut the shortening into the dry ingredients until it looks like coarse corn meal. This is like the first step in making pie crust.

Beat the eggs in a small bowl until they are lemon-colored. Fold the mashed bananas and eggs into the flour mixture until everything is moist and put half of the batter into each pan.

Set the pans on the center shelf in the oven and bake for thirty to forty minutes. Check for doneness at thirty minutes. A toothpick inserted near the center of the bread should come out clean.

Remove the pans from the oven and let them stand for about six minutes to cool slightly. Then loosen the loaves and transfer them to a rack to finish cooling.

NOTES: Patsy says that you can bake this bread in one standard loaf pan if you want. Extend the baking time to an hour and test for doneness before taking it from the oven.

Frugal shoppers watch for discounted bananas at the supermarket. Produce managers often reduce the price on bananas starting to get brown streaks on the peel as they ripen. If you want bananas to peel and eat raw, buy ones with little or no brown on them, but if you want to make banana bread, pick ones that are turning brown or take yellow bananas home and let them ripen on the counter. They get sweeter and sweeter.

This recipe produces two five by nine-inch loaves a little more than an inch thick. Maybe because you cut the shortening into the dry ingredients, the bread is a bit darker than most banana breads, but it is delicate and flavorful.

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The Turk’s Shish Kebab

If you happened to be driving U.S. Highway 63 from Rochester, Minnesota, to Ashland, Wisconsin, on April 21, 1957, you might have wondered why there were so many cars parked on the shoulder of the highway north of Hayward. Some sort of celebration, you would have concluded as you passed the full parking lot at The Turk’s Inn. After all, it was Easter Sunday, and people were probably celebrating the holiday.

One of your passengers might have glimpsed a short man with a fez on his head in front of a large brick barbecue just south of the building. If the wind was from the east, you might even have smelled the wonderful aroma of meat and vegetables cooking over an open fire. George the Turk was cooking shish kebab!

Hundreds of people used to reserve a table for Easter Sunday shish kebab a year in advance. Served with bread, salad, and pilaf, George’s shish kebab was an Easter Sunday favorite with people from all of northwest Wisconsin. I have often wished that I had George’s recipe.

Now, thanks to my sister Barbara, I do. Barb likes to play golf and lives in Hayward, Wisconsin. When I found a little cookbook, Vol. II Treasured Recipes–from the Kitchens of Members and Friends of the Hayward Women’s Golf Club, at the Goodwill store in Stillwater, Minnesota, I thought that she might enjoy it. The book was published in 1977 and includes recipes by many prominent Hayward ladies. In what became one of her Christmas presents she found George the Turk’s recipe for shish kebab.

The book credits the recipe to Marge, the daughter of George and “Ma” Gogian, from the Turk’s Inn at Hayward, Wisconsin. Here it is.

INGREDIENTS:

1 leg of lamb (2 lbs. meat cut in cubes)
3/4 cup sherry (Amontillado or dry sherry)
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. garlic salt or 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1 T oregano
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 medium onions (about 3 inch diameter)
2 medium green bell peppers
12 small tomatoes (about 1 inch diameter)
6 skewers

PROCEDURE:

Trim the fat and gristle from the lamb. Remove the bone and cut the meat into one inch cubes. Clean and finely chop one of the onions. Put the meat with the chopped onion, wine, lemon juice and seasonings into a resealable plastic bag. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator, turning the bag a few times to make sure all the meat is coated with marinade.

When you are ready to start cooking the shish kebab, fire up your grill or light the charcoal to make a hot fire.

Clean and quarter the second onion and separate the pieces into layers. Wash the peppers and remove the stem, seeds and white membrane. Cut the peppers into two inch pieces. Wash the tomatoes.

Drain the marinade from the bag into a small saucepan and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the marinade for a few minutes to make the basting sauce. If there is not enough liquid, add a little more sherry. Remove the sauce from the heat.

Load the skewers as follows: Start with a lamb cube, then pieces of onion and green pepper, another cube of lamb, then a tomato followed by another cube of lamb, pieces of onion and green pepper and another cube of lamb. Continue alternating the meat and vegetables until you have one-sixth of the meat on each skewer.

Broil over a hot grill, turning and basting the meat and vegetables often. Cook until the meat is nicely browned and sizzling. Serve with rice pilaf.

NOTES: Marge advised “If lamb is tough, sprinkle with lemon juice.” but since I do not know how to determine if the meat is tough without cooking and eating it, I always add a little lemon juice. Lamb is seldom tough, but the lemon juice is insurance and adds a little extra zip to the flavor.

Since the Turk’s Inn was cooking for hundreds of guests, Marge’s recipe for a family dinner is, as my sister Barb says, “a little vague” about exact quantities and how the skewers were loaded. Barb remembered that two skewers were plated with the pilaf for an order, so each diner would get three tomatoes. I have adjusted the quantities to make four generous servings.

Barb also noted, “Marge would get upset often when the tomato would drop off the skewers, typical of grilling them with the meat as it took longer for the meat to grill than the veggies.” Many grilling recipes suggest grilling tomatoes on a separate skewer, so they can be cooked for a shorter time than the meat. If you fear tomatoes on the floor, you might want to try this. Firm tomatoes cut into one-inch pieces work for this recipe too, though they don’t look so nice on the skewers.

George always grilled shish kebab over charcoal, but a gas grill would probably work just as well.

I had shish kebab at the Turk’s Inn only a couple of times, and both times it was served with the Turk’s Pilaf, which is made with bulgar or coarsely cracked wheat. However, George and Ma both knew I really liked that pilaf, so they may have substituted it for rice pilaf.

Here is a recipe for deliciously simple plain rice pilaf.

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Swiss Vegetable Medley

The recipe for Swiss Vegetable Medley in Mom’s recipe box is written in pencil on a recipe card probably given to her by a friend, since it is the only card with that particular floral decoration in the box. Later she added an emphatic “Try This” in ink, which caught my eye.

My guess is that she asked for the recipe over a lunch table or at a potluck long after I left home. At least I don’t recall eating many frozen vegetables at Mom and Dad’s until after Jerri and I were married. When they were in season, we ate fresh vegetables from our garden. In the winter, besides onions, celery, carrots and potatoes, we ate canned peas, beans and corn that Mom put up in the summer and—I still dread it—canned spinach from the store.

Starting with frozen mixed vegetables, however, makes this a ridiculously easy recipe for making a tasty side dish.

INGREDIENTS:

1 16 oz. bag of frozen vegetables (broccoli, carrots, cauliflower)
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup French fried onions
1 small jar pimientos (optional)

PROCEDURE:

Thaw and drain the vegetables. Preheat the oven to 350º, grease a one quart casserole and grate the cheese. Stir the vegetables, soup and sour cream together in a mixing bowl. Stir in the black pepper and half the Swiss cheese and French fried onions.

Pour the mixture into the casserole and bake covered on a center shelf for thirty-five minutes. Sprinkle the rest of the onions and cheese over the top and bake uncovered for another five minutes.

Serve hot and bubbly as a side dish with just about any meat you like.

NOTES: I haven’t tried it, but I don’t see why you couldn’t substitute three or four tablespoons of finely chopped red bell pepper for the pimientos.

Posted in Side dishes, Vegetables | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Great Grits—A Native American Treasure

Once upon a time there was a young native American wife who simply could not parch corn without burning it. She could plant corn in the spring, tend it all summer, shell the dried kernels in the fall and store them in clay pots she made herself. But parching corn was beyond her.

On one particularly bad morning a few thousand years ago, things were going even worse than usual. Maybe the rock was too hot that day, or she was dreaming of becoming the perfect cook, but whatever the cause, quite a few kernels were raw on one side and black on the other.

Tired of hearing her husband complain about how she parched corn, she decided to do something different. She put the corn on a flat rock and crushed it with another rock until she had a cup of corn meal, stirred it into a pot of boiling water and cooked it until it turned into a thick pudding.

“Not bad,” said her husband “Not burnt at least,” he added just to be nasty, “but what are the little black specks?”

She was ready for that question. “Something I thought might make the grits taste better.”

“Grits” he asked, “What kind of a word is that?”

“It’s a word I made up. It means tasty breakfast food.”

“It’s better than Mom’s parched corn!”

And so a wonderful new food came into the world and they lived happily ever after.

This could be a true story, except for a couple of small details. First, the word itself. “Grits,” comes from an old English word, “grytt,” which means a coarse meal. And second, parched corn would not turn into the creamy delicacy that we call grits today. Grits are made from hominy rather than from unprocessed corn (maize).

The people who lived in mesoamerica discovered how to make hominy thousands of years ago. When the Spaniards arrived in Mexico, hominy was a staple food of the Aztecs. It is made by a process called nixtamalization, which means soaking the kernels in an alkaline solution such as a mixture of water and wood ash. After washing and drying, the nixtamalized corn is more nutritious, flavorful and easier to grind.

After you dry and grind the hominy, you have grits. When you grind unprocessed corn, you get corn meal. The Spaniards brought maize back to Europe, but they did not bring back instructions for making hominy. Later they gave some seed corn to the Italians. Those ingenious people found that corn grew well in their country and that corn meal could be substituted for other starchy ingredients like millet or chestnut flour to make polenta, a food Italians had been eating before Rome became an empire. Polenta tastes pretty good but it’s not as good as grits.

The recipe below is based on the way I think Wayne, the chef at the First United Methodist Church in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, made the grits served at the men’s prayer breakfasts I attended with my brother-in-law Merle. When I told Wayne that they were the best grits I had ever eaten, he told me there was a half pound of butter in every gallon. The bottle of Louisiana hot sauce on the counter next to the range in the church kitchen prompted me to try that too, and the results were pretty darn good.

Here is what I do to make four modest servings.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups water
1/2 cup quick-cooking grits
1/4 tsp. salt
2 T butter
Black or white pepper to taste
Dash of hot sauce

PROCEDURE:

Bring two cups of salted water to a brisk boil in a one quart saucepan. Add the grits and stir until you have a smooth mixture that comes back to a boil. Reduce the heat to very low and simmer, stirring often for about six minutes until they are very thick.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter plus dashes of pepper and hot sauce.

Serve with eggs and ham, bacon or sausage for a real southern breakfast.

NOTES: When the grits begin to thicken, you need to stir them every half minute or so as they tend to stick on the bottom of the pan.

If you use unsalted butter, use a slightly rounded quarter teaspoon of salt. I usually just grind some black pepper into the grits, but if you don’t like the idea of black specks in your grits, use a dash of white pepper. Be careful with the hot sauce: Three or four drops are enough for this amount of grits.

These grits have a subtle flavor that complements the yolk of an egg fried sunny side up or over easy. Try the combination sometime.

Grits also are the main ingredient for a wonderful breakfast casserole I wrote about a few years ago.

Posted in breakfast Dishes, Side dishes | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Grandma Hopp’s Never Fail Doughnuts

Many years ago we used to drive from Murray, Kentucky to Hayward, Wisconsin in one day. Eight hundred miles may not seem so far today, but in the 1970’s three hundred of those miles were on two-lane highways that went through cities like Rockford, Illinois, that had, I swear, forty traffic lights timed to turn red as we approached them.

Actually, part of the pleasure of the trip north was driving those old highways. We drove past neat farms with wonderful murals painted on some of the barns, well-tended fields and pastures populated by horses and cows. Pheasants watched us from the shoulders and once we even waited for a bear to walk across highway 27 north of Ladysmith, Wisconsin. People sometimes waved as we drove by and we could read the ads in the store windows in towns we passed through.

The Interstate system is wonderful for getting safely and more quickly to your destination, but Jerri and I still occasionally choose a route that takes us away from the four lanes of concrete. We enjoy the forests and farmland, tiny villages and lovely cities. We pull off the highway to read historical markers and sometimes stop to visit a bookshop that catches our attention. For lunch we choose a cafe that looks promising.

Tightwad BankOn one such trip from Oklahoma we wandered through western Missouri north towards Iowa. My navigator suggested that it might be fun to see the Truman Reservoir and the Harry S. Truman State Park so we headed east on Missouri highway 7 to the village where I became a paid photographer. Doug Lansky sent me a check for this photo of the Tightwad Bank when he included it in Signspotting 4. If you want coffee table books to make people smile you might pick up some editions of Signspotting.

We left the village of Tightwad and continued into Warsaw, Missouri, where we stopped at the Chuck Wagon Bar-B-Q. We ordered pulled pork sandwiches and sides to go, then drove to the state park where we enjoyed the scenery almost as much as our lunch. The park was not crowded and the barbecue was excellent. Later that day we stopped at a little motel in Clinton, Missouri, where we had to telephone for the clerk, who was having supper a few blocks away at home. He asked us if we wanted ice and brought us some when he arrived to check us in.

When we were young, we didn’t stop overnight for a trip of eight hundred miles. We wanted to get to my family as soon as possible, and we didn’t have money to waste on motels. The kids could sleep in the luggage area of our little station wagon and we could take turns driving. If we left Murray by eight in the morning, we could count on reaching Hayward before midnight.

We would call my parents before we left so they would know when to expect us. They wouldn’t be awake when we pulled in the driveway, since the lights went out in the Rang household shortly after 10:30 PM when the TV news, sports and weather ended. They appreciated knowing that we were on our way, however, and made sure the front door was unlocked. The back door was always unlocked, but Mom thought that the front door was more convenient for us. The back door would have been more convenient for a burglar, but none ever paid a visit.

When we opened the front door, we were greeted by the smell of cinnamon. Mom had been busy as usual. Jerri and I tucked the kids into their beds and went to the back room where we found a platter of fresh cake doughnuts on the kitchen table. My mother made wonderful cake doughnuts. A friend and I once ate almost eight dozen at a single sitting before running outside behind the woodshed to dispose of them. When Mom came home to find us rather “green around the gills,” she was concerned. When Dad got home, he just laughed and said he hoped that we had learned our lesson. I couldn’t even look at a doughnut for months.

Anyway, I peeled back the plastic wrap and picked up a donut. They felt like steel rings. Instead of the tender doughnuts I had grown up with, these were tough and hard. We warmed up some coffee left in the pot and soaked them. I may have eaten two, just to be able to tell Mom that were tasty. Actually, before they were dipped in the coffee, the doughnuts tasted the same as always with a hint of nutmeg and cinnamon sugar on the outside.

The next morning Mom apologized for the doughnuts. I told her that they tasted good.

“But they turned out so tough!” she wailed, “I wanted them to be perfect, so I dug out Ma’s recipe and followed it exactly. And they turned out awful. I called Ma, and she told me I used too much flour. I told her I used four cups, just like the recipe said. She told me that she knew the recipe called for four cups, but that was too much.” Grandma and Grandpa made good doughnuts too, so I’m sure she knew what she was talking about.

My mother had been making wonderful cake doughnuts for years without consulting the recipe, tweaking the ratio of ingredients until she got it perfect. Then one day, to please her first born, she decided to trust something on paper. Fortunately she went back to her old ways, and I ate lots of her cake doughnuts in the years that followed.

I really wanted the recipe, and my sister Patsy found it in Mom’s handwriting. Mom didn’t note where the recipe came from, but I’m sure this is how Grandma told her to make “Never Fail Doughnuts.” Just don’t use all the flour it calls for, or they will fail.

INGREDIENTS:

3 1/2 – 4 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 T. shortening or butter
1 tsp. vanilla
Oil for frying
Sugar and cinnamon for dusting

PROCEDURE:

After listing the ingredients (without quantities for salt and nutmeg), Mom’s recipe said only “Roll out, cut, and fry.” If you haven’t been watching your mother stir up cake doughnuts since you were old enough to get in the way, you may need some guidance. Try this.

In a large bowl mix three cups of flour with the sugar, salt, baking powder and nutmeg. Melt the butter or shortening. In a smaller bowl, beat the eggs until they are lemon colored. Whisk the milk, vanilla and butter or shortening into the eggs, then stir the liquid ingredients into the flour mixture.

Add more flour by quarter cupfuls until the dough begins to firm up. You may need to add a little over a half cup, but be careful not to add too much. Turn the dough onto a floured surface. It will be sticky, so use a spatula or baker’s scraper to turn the dough until the surface is covered with flour. Knead gently for eight to ten turns. Form the dough into a ball, cover it with plastic wrap and chill it in the refrigerator for an hour.

Start heating about two inches of oil in a pan or skillet.

Roll about a quarter of the chilled dough to a half inch thickness on a floured surface. Cut circles using a doughnut cutter or round cookie cutter about two and a half-inches in diameter. If necessary cut the center holes with any small round tool. Even an old pill bottle works.

When the oil reaches 360º carefully drop the doughnuts into the oil. They will sink to the bottom but soon rise to the top. Turn them over with a slotted spoon in one minute and fry for another minute. Turn the doughnuts to make sure they are golden brown on both sides, then use the slotted spoon to set them to cool and drain on paper towels.

Gently knead the trimmings and roll out the dough again until you have cut all the doughnuts. The last bit of dough can be patted flat and simply cut into two or three pieces before you fry them.

Put about a half cup of granulated sugar and a heaping teaspoon of cinnamon into a paper bag. Hold it closed and shake it to mix the spice and sugar. Depending on the size of your bag, put three to six doughnuts into the bag and shake them vigorously. Shake off the excess sugar as you remove the doughnuts to a plate. Add more sugar and cinnamon to the bag if necessary.

Eat ‘em while they’re warm!

NOTES: A candy/deep fry thermometer is almost essential for making doughnuts. I don’t think Grandma or Grandpa used one, but I remember Grandpa telling me that he could tell how hot the oil was by how it shimmered.

The oil has to be over an inch deep. Period.

As with any food you cook, you can vary the spices to suit your taste. You also can ice or glaze these doughnuts instead of sugaring them. If your refrigerator is like ours, you might look toward the back on the bottom shelves for a partial container of cake icing that someone forgot.

After you make your first batch of these doughnuts, you will have a better idea of how much flour to use in the dough. The first time I made them, it was very sticky, but the doughnuts turned out great. The dough stuck to my fingers, but I used a fork to pry the doughnuts from the cutter. I kneaded a little more flour into the dough after rolling out the first batch, and that took care of the problem.

Posted in Breads and Pancakes, Desserts | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Hot and Sour Soup

Like many other people who live in northern Wisconsin, I have friends who think ketchup is a little spicy and that anything not pure white probably has too much black pepper in it. My parents were not that provincial in their tastes, but they would not have asked for seconds if I ever had had the courage to serve them hot and sour soup.

Good hot and sour soup is spicy, but once you get used to it, the heat of the peppers perfectly complements the acidity of the vinegar, and the two flavors meld with the other ingredients to produce a dish that you will learn to lust after. I speak from experience. I have been comparing hot and sour soups at Chinese restaurants since I had my first bowlful in Madison, Wisconsin, in the spring of of 1962.

For some reason I had gotten the idea that making hot and sour soup was something best left to Chinese cooks making it from a recipe passed on to them by their mothers or grandmothers. I thought that hot and sour soup was complicated to make and required foreign ingredients like Chinese black mushrooms and dried lily buds. And every hot and sour soup I liked had tofu in it. Fearful that one of my carnivore friends would see me, I had never had the courage to buy a block of the stuff.

All this changed when our friend Lorrie sent me her recipe for Burritos Deliciosos and followed it with the vegetarian version made with tofu. Lorrie’s recipe made wonderful burritos, but I was curious about using tofu instead of chicken. We have a vegetarian grandson who might be persuaded to try one of grandpa’s burritos made with curdled soy protein.

A few weeks ago I was shopping at Trader Joe’s in Woodbury and as far I could tell, there was no one in the store who knew me. I could buy some tofu anonymously. I looked around one last time, then asked a clerk to take me to the tofu and tell me what kind to buy. He did so, and I came home with a pound of super firm tofu in a brown paper bag.

Half of the tofu ended up in the vegetarian burritos, which were an unqualified success. The rest languished in the refrigerator while I wondered if I should wait until it got old and moldy. Jerri’s grandmother, who was a compulsive saver of leftovers, used to explain that she found it easier to throw something out after it had spoiled, and we sometimes feel the same way.

However, I had enjoyed a nice cup of hot and sour soup at one of our local Chinese buffets recently. Motivated by the memory of that cup of silky soup, I decided that the time had come to face the possibility of failure bravely and attempt to make hot and sour soup.

I checked some recipes on the web and improvised to produce a soup that Jerri and I thought was as good as any we had eaten in the past year. It was surprisingly easy to make. The most difficult part of the project was getting the proper pork chop. When I stepped up to the meat counter, I told the butcher that I wanted the smallest boneless pork chop he had. When he had it on the scale I asked what it weighed. “A little under two tenths,” he said.

“Too small,” I told him. It took him five tries to find a chop that weighed a little over a quarter of a pound.

“How about two chops?” he asked. I declined and told him I was following a recipe that called for a quarter pound pork chop.

“What are you making?” he inquired.

“Hot and sour soup,” I told him.

“Years ago,” he said, “when I lived in Anchorage, Alaska, there was a Chinese restaurant that made the best hot and sour soup I have ever had. I used to order a bowl every time I went in. How do you make yours?”

“This is my first time,” I answered.

“Let me know how it turns out,” he said.

Jerri suggested that I take him a taste, but we ate the leftovers for lunch the next day.

If you like hot and sour soup, here is a recipe that you really should try.

INGREDIENTS:

1 oz. package dried porcini or shiitake mushrooms
3 1/4 cups water, divided
3 chicken bouillon cubes
1 small lean boneless pork chop (about 1/4 lb.)
Dash of black pepper
1 quart chicken broth
2 T soy sauce
6 to 8 oz. extra or super firm tofu
1 can bamboo shoots
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. chili paste
4 T white vinegar
4 T cornstarch
4 T water
1 large egg
1/2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
2 green onions

PROCEDURE:

Start by preparing the mushrooms and meat about half an hour before you want to begin assembling the soup, which takes only a few minutes. Heat a cup of water to boiling and pour it over the dried mushrooms in a small bowl. Stir them a couple of times to make sure that all the mushrooms are rehydrated. Set the bowl aside for about thirty minutes.

Slice the pork into very thin strips about an inch and a half long. Put the pork into a small saucepan along with a cup of water, a bouillon cube and a dash of black pepper. Bring the pan to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer the meat covered for ten minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the meat finish cooking in the broth.

Drain and slice the bamboo shoots into matchsticks. Cut the tofu into quarter inch strips about one and one-half inches long. Drain and thinly slice the mushrooms, reserving the liquid. Clean and chop the onions into eighth-inch rounds.

Put the chicken broth, a cup of water, two tablespoons of soy sauce and two bouillon cubes into a three quart saucepan. Bring the liquid to a boil, then add the mushrooms, the mushroom water, the bamboo shoots and the pork with the broth. Bring the pan back to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about three minutes.

Add the tofu, white pepper, chili paste, sesame oil and white vinegar. Raise the heat slightly and stir the soup as it returns to a boil.

Meanwhile, dissolve the cornstarch in a quarter cup of cold water and whisk it into the soup. Cook the soup for three minutes until it thickens slightly, then remove it from the heat.

Beat the egg in a cup or small bowl until it is lemon yellow, then slowly dribble it into the soup, stirring very gently with a fork. Stir in the chopped onions. Taste and adjust the seasoning. You may want to add a little more vinegar or chili paste.

Serve with bread and salad.

NOTES: You will find chili paste in the Asian or ethnic food section of any good supermarket. Chili paste is not chili sauce, which is a variety of ketchup. Chili paste is made of ground up chili peppers with extra heat added. It keeps years in the refrigerator, so a bottle lasts a long time. WARNING: Do not try tasting a spoonful of chili paste. You will regret it.

Posted in Gluten free, Soups | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Mom’s No-Knead Rolls

On a sheet of unlined 8 1/2 by 5 1/2 inch paper from the kind of tablet Mom bought for writing letters is her recipe for No-Knead Rolls. It’s one of a hundred or more recipes jammed into a recipe card box. Mom scratched “From Charles XMAS 1955” on the back of the box so I gave it to her when I was twelve years old.

Recipe boxIt’s a tin box made in the USA by the Ohio Art Company with a floral design and “Recipes” imprinted on the front of the hinged cover. Last year I found one like it offered as a collector’s item on ebay. My sister, Patsy, who is the guardian of most of Mom’s recipe books, loaned it to me two years ago, and I have been reading through the recipes as I look for ones that seem familiar to me.

Before listing the ingredients Mom noted that the recipe makes one and half dozen rolls. This suggests why she saved this recipe. Mom baked lots of bread, but sometimes she would want to have rolls to serve warm from the oven rather than slicing bread she had baked a day or two earlier. This recipe produces enough rolls to satisfy a table of guests without burdening the breadbox with too many leftovers.

If there were any rolls left over, she could always offer to wrap a few for someone to take home. Odds are good that there were takers. These rolls are delicious, especially if you add the cup of cheese Mom suggests to make cheesy dinner rolls.

INGREDIENTS:

3/4 cup water, divided
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup sugar
3 T shortening
1/2 cup evaporated milk
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (1 package)
1/4 cup warm water
2 large eggs
3 – 3 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

PROCEDURE:

Bring a half cup of water to boiling and pour it over the salt, sugar and shortening in a mixing bowl. Stir until the shortening is melted. Heat a quarter cup of water to lukewarm in a cup or small bowl and stir in the yeast to proof.

Stir the evaporated milk into the hot water and shortening and allow it to cool to lukewarm. Add the proofed yeast to the other liquid ingredients. Beat the eggs until they are lemon colored and stir them into the liquid in the mixing bowl.

Stir about half the flour into the liquid and mix it well, then beat in more flour a half cup at a time until you have a stiff but not a dry batter. You will know it is the right consistency when the batter becomes elastic and follows the spoon as you stir. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and set the bowl in a warm draft-free place. Let the dough rise until it has doubled in bulk, usually in about an hour.

Stir the dough down and let it rest while you grease muffin tins with enough cups for eighteen to twenty rolls. Fill the cups a little more than half full and cover the tins with the damp towel.

Preheat the oven to 375º about twenty minutes after filling the muffin cups. Put a couple of tablespoons of water in any empty cups. When the dough rises to the top of the cups, put the tins on the center shelf in the oven and bake until the rolls are lightly browned, fifteen to twenty minutes.

NOTES: Mom’s recipe card included an option for “cheesy dinner rolls.” Fold a cup of shredded sharp or extra sharp Cheddar cheese into the batter just before you fill the muffin pans. I have tried it, and the rolls are wonderful this way too.

This recipe is perfect for the beginning baker. It will teach you that making bread dough is not difficult, that you can adjust the liquid and dry ingredient ratio if necessary and that yeast really does make dough rise. There’s no need to knead. You just stir and spoon the batter into the muffin tins, let it rise again and bake the tasty little morsels.

This recipe is a good one for learning to trust your eyes. Open the oven door after fifteen minutes to see how your rolls are browning. If they look done, take them out. If it turns out you should have baked them longer, they will still be edible. If you must, you can finish them in the microwave for a few seconds.

Posted in Breads and Pancakes | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Vegetarian Burritos Deliciosos

The first time I tried hot and sour soup, I was a student at the University of Wisconsin. When I asked what the floppy white stuff in the bowl was, my date told me it was tofu. Having grown up near Milwaukee, she was more knowledgeable about foreign foods than I. She probably even knew that tofu was made by coagulating soy milk and pressing the curds, somewhat like making cheese.

In the past fifty years I have eaten my share of tofu strips in hot and sour soup, and I now am a bit disappointed if the soup is short on that ingredient. However, I have stoutly resisted tofu burgers, tofurky, mock chicken drumsticks and other such things made with tofu. I like my meat to be an honest chunk of animal protein, well marbled if it is a steak.

This is the recipe that inspired Lorrie’s version of Burritos Deliciosos which is already on Courage in the Kitchen. Lorrie found the recipe in Recipes from a Vegetarian Goddess by Karri Allrich. While Lorrie chose to substitute chicken for the baked tofu, Karri’s recipe forced me to learn how to bake the stuff. Here is what I did.

INGREDIENTS:

6-8 oz. extra or super firm tofu
1 T vegetable oil
1 T soy sauce
1 T cider vinegar
1 T water
1 generous tsp. Mexican seasoning (recipe below)

PROCEDURE:

Make a marinade by mixing the oil, soy sauce, vinegar, water and Mexican seasoning together in a quart bowl. Slice the tofu block into half-inch thick slices. Spread the slices on a couple layers of paper towels, cover with two more paper towels and put a plate on top. Put some weight on the plate. Three or four cans of vegetables work well. Leave the weight on the tofu for thirty minutes to press out as much moisture as possible. Cut the slices into half inch by one-inch strips.

Put the strips into the bowl and turn the tofu to make sure that all pieces are covered with marinade. Put the tofu into the refrigerator for thirty minutes, stirring it two or three times.

Preheat the oven to 450º while the tofu is marinating.

Drain and spread the tofu in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Put the pan on the center shelf in the oven and bake for ten minutes. Use a spatula to turn the tofu and bake ten minutes longer. Remove it from the oven and add it to the vegetables. Taste a couple pieces of the baked tofu before you dump them into the skillet. I did and was pleasantly surprised that they tasted really good right out of the oven and even better in the burritos.

After baking the tofu you need to begin work on the burritos.

INGREDIENTS:

6 large burrito-size tortillas
2-1/2 to 3 cups cooked Texmati rice
1 can black beans
3 limes
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 Spanish or other sweet onion, diced
1 red bell pepper
6 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
6 oz. baked tofu, seasoned Mexican-style
1 cup sweet corn, fresh or frozen
Sea salt (1/4 to 1/2 tsp. to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper (1/4 tsp.)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1 avocado
Salsa (optional)
Sour cream (optional)

PROCEDURE:

Start by preparing the ingredients. To cook the rice, follow the instructions on the package or use this simple recipe: Put a cup of uncooked rice in a covered one quart saucepan. Add two cups of water and a quarter teaspoon of salt. Bring the pan to a boil, stirring the rice a couple of times. Reduce the heat to very low, cover the pan and simmer until all the water is absorbed, usually twenty-five to thirty minutes. Check at fifteen and twenty minutes to make sure that the rice is not boiling dry.

Drain and rinse the can of beans. Remove the root and stem ends and outer skin of the onion and chop it into a quarter to half inch dice. Set the onion aside in small bowl. Wash the pepper, remove the stem, seeds and white membrane and dice it as you did the onion. Remove the paper from the garlic and mince it. Set the pepper and garlic aside in a separate bowl. If the corn is frozen, measure a cupful into another bowl and allow it to thaw while the rice is cooking.

Preheat the oven to 300º and wash and chop the cilantro.

In an ovenproof casserole dish, mix the black beans with the cooked rice, and pour the juice from one and one-half limes over the rice and beans. You should have about two tablespoons of juice.  Stir well to mix.  Turn off the oven, cover the dish with aluminum foil and place it in the preheated oven to heat through.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a skillet and sauté the onions until they are soft, four or five minutes.  Add the peppers and garlic, chili powder, and cumin and cook the vegetables for another five minutes, stirring often.  Stir in the diced chicken, corn, salt, and black pepper.  Stir well and heat the mixture.  Add the chopped cilantro and remove the skillet from the heat.

Peel and slice the avocado.

Remove rice mixture from the oven.  Warm the tortillas.  Spread a thin coating of sour cream on each tortilla. Lay a couple thin slices of avocado on the tortilla and spoon a portion of the rice and chicken mixtures near the center, then fold and roll the tortillas to form each burrito.

Serve them warm. If you wish, pass slices of avocado and lime wedges along with salsa and sour cream.

MEXICAN SEASONING: You can find Mexican seasoning in the spice section of most supermarkets, or you can make enough to spice up a lot of dishes in a few minutes.

INGREDIENTS:

1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1?2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1?2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. paprika
1 1?2 tsp. ground cumin
1?2 tsp. sea salt
1?2 tsp. black pepper
1 pinch ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground cloves

PROCEDURE:

Grind the pepper flakes and oregano in a mortar. Add the salt and black pepper and grind more to mix well. Add the other ingredients and grind briefly to mix everything together. Store in a tight container in a cool place out of direct sunlight.

NOTE: I’m still not a vegetarian, but I’ll be making this recipe again. The tofu is a great substitute for meat.

Posted in Main Dishes, Vegetarian Dishes | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Pammy’s Peanut Butter Roundup Cookies

When my youngest sister, Pammy, was born, the doctors at the Hayward Memorial Hospital discovered that she had a heart defect. I was fourteen years old, and I remember being told that my new sister had a hole and a leaking valve in her heart. She was born in 1957 and finally had surgery at the University Hospital in Madison when she was six. I was a student at the university and remember that time well, since I had to escort my parents around Madison while my little sister recovered from the surgery.

She grew up to be the most gregarious and cheerful one of my four sisters. With her heart repaired she graduated from high school, went to the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse and married Mike, a chemist who today works for Valspar Corporation. Together they raised a daughter and son. Her greatest regret was not being able to serve in the military because she had a heart murmur.

Three weeks before she died this winter, she emailed me a note filled with the same optimism I will always associate with my little sister. She was looking forward to a new treatment when she lost her battle with T-cell lymphoma. She was only fifty-seven years old.

As I was going through my mother’s recipe boxes, I mentioned to Jerri that Mom had several recipes for peanut butter cookies, which are not one of my favorites. Jerri recognized Pammy’s handwriting on the card, so it must have been one she copied out for our mother.

Here is the recipe. She noted that it makes six dozen cookies. Little sister, I will always love you, but I wish your recipe made only three dozen peanut butter cookies.

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup shortening (soft)
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup rolled oats

PROCEDURE:

Preheat the oven to 350º.

Cream the shortening and sugars, then stir in the eggs and peanut butter. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt by halves into the sugar mixture, stirring well after each addition. Stir in the rolled oats.

Form the dough into three-quarter-inch balls and space them three inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Flatten the balls with the tines of a fork to make a crisscross pattern on each cookie. Dip the fork in flour occasionally if it sticks to the cookies.

Bake the cookies on a center shelf for eight to ten minutes.

NOTES: Pammy noted that these cookies are equally good with either old fashioned or quick cooking oats.

Use natural peanut butter. If the ingredient list on the label includes more than peanuts (and possibly a little salt), put the jar back and keep looking.

Posted in Cookies and cakes, Desserts | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Lorrie’s Burritos Deliciosos

Last year Lorrie agreed to share some of the recipes she cooks for her family. I have already posted her Baked Oatmeal and Roosevelt Beans recipes. A day or two later she sent me her recipe for Burritos Deliciosos. Here is her explanation of how she first came to make this wonderful example of Tex-Mex cuisine.

“I found this recipe in the early 2000’s, when I started to really focus on ingredients and started enjoying the cooking process.  For awhile I was having a great time with vegetarian cookbooks.  I’m not a vegetarian, but I found that those recipes most often used the kind of ingredients I wanted to use.  My little secret was to replace tofu with meat.  This recipe falls into that camp.  The original called for tofu, and I subbed in chicken.”

When they first came to the region we now call Mexico, the Spanish conquistadors found a civilization with a sophisticated cuisine. The largest was the Aztec empire. Reports sent back to Spain included descriptions of native foods. Virtually all the reports mention tortillas and some describe how meat and vegetables were wrapped in tortillas.

They were corn tortillas, of course. Since wheat was not native to the Americas, these sandwiches probably resembled the tacos you find in Mexico today—soft corn tortillas wrapped around various fillings. However, things tend to dribble out the ends of my tacos even when I try to be neat. The burrito, I suspect, was invented by someone like me who said, “If I fold the ends in and roll the tortilla up tight, nothing can fall out,” (in Spanish, of course).

Having tried to make burritos with corn tortillas, I can say that the ones I used didn’t work very well. After the Spaniards brought wheat to the New World, mills were soon grinding flour, and some creative Mexican cooks discovered they could turn that flour into tortillas. Flour tortillas are more flexible than tortillas made from masa, so they lend themselves to the folding that produces a tidy sandwich—the burrito.

No one knows when the first burrito ended up in someone’s hand, but a Mexican dictionary in 1895 defined a burrito as a tortilla rolled up with meat or other ingredients in it. Burritos, therefore, have certainly been on the menu for well over a century and probably a lot longer.

The modern burrito is often considered a Tex-Mex dish blending the cooking styles and food preferences of people in Mexico and the southwestern United States. Today you can find burritos from Nome, Alaska, to Capetown, South Africa, and probably just about everywhere else in the world.

Lorrie’s version of what was originally a native American sandwich is truly delicious. The fresh lime juice mixed with the rice and black beans provides a wonderful complement to the meat and other vegetables.

INGREDIENTS:

12 large burrito-size tortillas
2-1/2 to 3 cups cooked Texmati rice
1 can black beans
2 limes
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 Spanish or other sweet onion, diced
1 red bell pepper
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
2 cups cooked chicken, diced
2 cups sweet corn, fresh or frozen
Sea salt
Black pepper
1/4 cup fresh cilantro

PROCEDURE:

Start by preparing the ingredients. You can do this ahead of time and assemble the burritos just before dinner.

Cook the rice according to the instructions on the package or use this simple recipe: Put a cup of uncooked rice in a covered one quart saucepan. Add two cups of water and a quarter teaspoon of salt. Bring the pan to a boil, stirring the rice a couple of times. Reduce the heat to very low, cover the pan and simmer until all the water is absorbed, usually twenty-five to thirty minutes. Check at fifteen and twenty minutes to make sure that the rice is not boiling dry.

Drain and rinse the can of beans. Remove the root and stem ends and outer skin of the onion and chop it into a quarter to half inch dice. Set it aside in small bowl. Wash the pepper, remove the stem, seeds and white membrane and dice it as you did the onion. Remove the paper from the garlic and mince it. Set the pepper and garlic aside in a separate bowl. If the corn is frozen, measure two cups into another bowl and allow it to thaw while the rice is cooking.

Preheat the oven to 300º and wash and chop the cilantro.

In an ovenproof casserole dish, mix the black beans with the cooked rice, and pour the juice from one and one-half limes over the rice and beans. You should have about two tablespoons of juice.  Stir well to mix.  Turn off the oven, cover the dish with aluminum foil and place it in the preheated oven to heat through.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a skillet and sauté the onions until they are soft, four or five minutes.  Add the peppers and garlic, chili powder, and cumin and cook the vegetables for another five minutes, stirring often.  Stir in the diced chicken, corn, salt, and black pepper.  Stir well and heat the mixture.  Add the chopped cilantro and remove the skillet from the heat.

Warm the tortillas and remove the rice mixture from the oven.  Spread a thin coating of sour cream on each tortilla. Spoon a portion of the rice and chicken mixtures near the center of the tortilla, then fold and roll the tortillas to form each burrito.

Serve them warm at once.  If you wish, garnish the burritos with slices of avocado, salsa, sour cream, and lime wedges.

NOTES: I like to use chicken thighs when recipes call simply for diced chicken. Thighs are relatively inexpensive and have more flavor than chicken breasts, at least to my taster. If you prefer white meat, use the same seasonings. Here is a simple way to create your own diced chicken.

INGREDIENTS:

3 chicken thighs with the skin on
Water
1 chicken boullion cube or 1 tsp. instant boullion
1/4 tsp. salt
Grind of black pepper
1/8 tsp. thyme
1/8 tsp. oregano

Put the chicken thighs into a saucepan. Barely cover them with cold water. Add the seasonings and bring the pan to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the meat for forty-five minutes. Remove the thighs from the broth and let them cool. Discard the skin, dice the meat and set it aside until you are ready to add it to the skillet with the vegetables.

Incidentally, if you skim the fat from the broth, add some carrots and celery and any leftover rice mixture from the burritos, you can have a very nice soup from something you might have been tempted to throw away.

Texmati is an American variety of basmati rice. Either is fine for this recipe.

Lorrie’s instructions do not say to spread sour cream on the tortilla before spooning on the fillings, but I like sour cream and think that it adds to the flavor of the burrito.

The Turk’s Pilaf

Posted in Main Dishes | Tagged , | 2 Comments