Old World Meets New World

I am always adding new cookbooks to my already very large and varied cookbook collection.  I just got a new one a couple of days ago.  And the new one is …. A Spanish cookbook called The New Spanish Cookbook, Bites, Feasts, and Drinks.  Hmmmmmm.  Imagine that.  I like Spanish foods.  Who would have figured that one out?  My first recipe out of my new treasure was “Chuleta de Puerco con Piperrade Picante” or pork chops with peppers.  It sounds so plain and boring in English.  It has a lot more pizzazz in Spanish.  The funny thing though, is I have been making a dish very similar to this for many years, not knowing it was originally a Spanish dish from Spain.  I just made it because I like it.

The pork dish is from Spain, which we all know as the old world.  The wine was a chardonnay from Chile, which is part of the new world.  They blended together very well and made for a perfect choice for dinner.  I also served the meal with my zucchini cheese bread over rice with corn.  Pork and Pumpkin Empanadas Larry decided we needed more vegetables and added … more corn.  I couldn’t eat the corn, which is also an import from the new world, so again, old meets new.  I was already to full.  My tummy was very happy and satisfied.

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Piperrada sauce is a Spanish pepper sauce, originally from the Basque area of Spain,  that has gone beyond Spanish restaurants and is now found in many places all over the world.  Peppers, onions and garlic are the key ingredients to this sauce, and then anything goes from there.  Often a piperrada sauce is served over ham and with eggs, but as you can see, it’s not just for or juevos y jamon, or ham and eggs, any more.

Pork Chops With Peppers

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1 each red, yellow and orange pepper, seeded and sliced thin

3 TBSP olive oil

salt & Pepper to taste

1 yellow onion, sliced thin or 1-2 large shallots, sliced thin

2 TBSP garlic

1 tsp each fresh oregano and thyme, chopped fine – although dried is fine too

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup pickled peppers, sliced thin, with the juice

1 TBSP capers, with some of their juice

butter

For the Pork Chops

4 thick cut pork chops

salt & pepper to taste

dried thyme and oregano

garlic

olive oil

 

Marinate the pork chops in all of the above ingredients for at least 30-60 minutes before cooking.  You can pay fry them or grill them.  I grilled them, which added a bit of a smoky flavor as well.

Combine the all the peppers and their juices, onions, and garlic and then saute in olive oil for about 7 minutes or until they are tender.

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Once the vegetables are tender, add the wine and continue to cook for another 5 or so minutes, or until the liquid is reduced to about half.  Then add the capers and seasonings.

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Add the fresh herbs at this  point and mix thoroughly into the sauce.  If you are using dried herbs, you can add them at any time.  Add the butter and swirl the skillet around so the butter is evenly distributed throughout the sauce.  Serve over the cooked pork and enjoy like the Spanish do, with a glass or two of a good wine.  !Desfruitas!

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Recipes Are Just Suggestions

I would love to say I learned how to cook from my mom, but that just ain’t so.  My mother and her mother were both horrible cooks who burned everything.  My grandmother used to make some kind of fish cakes that weren’t to bad, but as I little girl, the only name I knew them by was “those burned things”.  I still have absolutely no idea what she actually made.  My mother must have inherited her lack of culinary skills from her mother, because she was just as bad, although I do have to give her credit for making really good fried chicken.   So you ask, where DID I learn how to cook.  I first learned by watching one of my aunts and my “second mother” who was always baking something.  The funny thing is that I don’t really have any recollections of them actually showing me how to cook, or giving me any specific instructions.  They probably didn’t even think I was paying that much attention, since I was just a little girl at the time.   But I guess I learned more than what we all thought.  My Aunt Gloria never measured anything.  She just threw a little of this into a little of that and mixed things together to create something delicious and wonderful.  And that’s how I learned to cook as well.  When I first started creating my own recipes and tweaking things, the hardest part was always giving actual proportions of my ingredients.  Today, because I have been doing it for so long, it’s no longer an issue.  Recipes for me, have always been just a suggestion.  I use them more for ideas that I do for actually following them.

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This is so NOT me.  I just throw everything in together and do what I do.  Although I have to say, because I have been cooking my whole life, I can eyeball amounts fairly accurately.  But I really just go by feel and by taste.

Mrs. Nash, my “second mom”,  only measured things when she was baking, which she did everyday.  Everyday, the house smelled so good because she always made us cookies as snacks for when we came home from school.  She is probably the reason why I love cookies so much.  It doesn’t even matter what kind of cookies are baking.  I just love cookies of all kinds.  I can eat them one after another and think nothing of it.

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I took a few cooking lessons in school and the local Girls’ Club, which were great.  And from there, I just started cooking anything and everything, all the time.  Cooking and baking were always, and still are, my stress relievers.  Some people get very anxious when it comes to cooking, whereas I am the opposite.  Even when I am making a complicated dish or recipe, to me, cooking is relaxing and obviously, very enjoyable.  I started cooking the family meals on a daily basis when I was around 9 years old, and have been doing so ever since.  By the time I went to culinary school, I had already been cooking for many, many years, and was already quite an accomplished cook.  Culinary school just refined my raw talents.

This was about the age I was when I first started cooking.  I went from this ….

to this …

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to this …

And back to this.  I have done it all.  It has been quite a journey, and believe me, I’m nowhere done yet.  I am still having way too much fun in the kitchen.  I hope you are too.

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The Soup is Hot

The other day, Larry came home with a H-U-G-E zucchini that one of his co-workers brought in.  My first reaction was “OMG!  What am I going to do with this?”  Well obviously I am going to be making quite a few things with it because there is so much of it.

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The first thing I made with it was some delicious corn, zucchini, chicken and sausage chowder.  YUM!  But, I only used about 1/3 of this huge zucchini.  Larry was positive I could use the whole thing in the soup, whereas I knew unless I was making an even bigger pot of soup than I normally do, there was no way it was all going to get used in this batch of soup.  As I make more zucchini dishes, you will hear all the details, fresh off the press and out of the kitchen.

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Even though it wasn’t exactly the soupiest of days, soup was just what I needed.  Soup is a great comfort food, and I needed a little comforting.  It just hit the spot.   I grew up with this picture and still have it hanging in my kitchen today.  This is one of my favorite pictures, and to me, it speaks volumes.  Keep it simple and stay humble.

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I am one of those people who actually likes “stuff in my stuff”.  Why have less when you can have more, right?!  This is a simple soup really, but has a lot of good, healthy foods in it, making it more like a meal than just soup or, in this case, chowder.  I LOVE my thick creamy chowders.  Most chowders always have potatoes and bacon in them.  That’s part of what makes them a chowder, or at least, this is what some of my old chef instructors taught me while I was back in culinary school, many, many moons ago.  I have always stuck to this theory when making chowders too.

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Corn, Zucchini, Chicken and Sausage Chowder

1- 1 1/2 cups zucchini, diced fine

1 lb (or more) frozen corn

2 lbs chicken, cubed small

2 medium potatoes, diced small

1/2 lb bacon, diced

1 lb cooked sausage, diced

2 TBSP garlic

2 large shallots or 1 white onion, diced fine

1-2 cups heavy whipping cream

6-8 cups chicken broth

flour to thicken (amount will vary depending on how thick you like your chowder)

salt & pepper to taste

cayenne pepper to taste

olive oil

5-6 sprigs of thyme, stems removed

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Cook the potatoes and bacon together until the potatoes are soft and the bacon is cooked.  You can cook the chicken at the same time in a different pan.

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Once the bacon and potatoes are cooked, or at least mostly cooked, you can add the vegetables.  Continue to cook until the vegetables are soft and the shallots are translucent.

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I added a “secret spice” to my chicken as it was cooking.  Some friends of ours have an exchange student from Israel who is now staying with them for the school year, and she brought over some Ka’taar that her mother made.  She gave me some and I decided to add some to my soup.  I probably added about 2 tsp.  I loved it.

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When the chicken is completely cooked, add it and the sausage to the mixture and combine well.  Then add the chicken broth and the seasonings.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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Add the cream and combine well.  If you like a thicker chowder, add some flour.  Add as much as you like to make your desired thickness.  Continue to simmer the chowder for at least about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, before serving.

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When the chowder is ready, serve it up and serve with some warmed bread and a glass or two of wine for a simple, yet hearty meal.  Soup, or chowder, always hits the spot.

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Back to Business in the Kitchen

It is once again time to be back in the kitchen, where I belong; one of my safe places.  In just a bit, I will be down making a big pot of soup and hopefully baking some bread as well.  Even though the weather is not exactly soup weather at the moment, that’s what we are hungry for, so that’s what’s cooking.  You will all just have to wait until tomorrow to see what kind I make.

In the meantime, I leave you with some more food for thought, or thoughts for food.  Either way, it’s all the same.

 

“It’s in the kitchen that confidences are exchanged, that family life takes place; it’s among the remains of a meal or when you’re elbow-deep in peelings that you ask yourself what life is all about, rather than when you are in an armchair in the sitting room”.

~ Benoite Groult, French Writer, from La Mer de la Cuisine, Loaves & Wishes~

Décès de l’écrivaine Benoîte Groult, figure du féminisme

 

” … a friend … showed me the kitchen in her new home with the words, “This is my office”.  I knew what she meant.  This is where I do the work I want to, the work I like and enjoy”.

~ Shash Deshpande, Indian Novelist~

 

” From morning till night, sounds drift from the kitchen, most of them familiar and comforting … On days when warmth is the most important need of the human heart, the kitchen is the place you can find it; it dries the wet sock, it cools the hot little brain”.

~ E. B. White, author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little~

~ Barbara Costikyan, American Advertising Executive~

 

“… devote all the time and resources at your disposal to the building up of a fine kitchen.  It will be, as it should be, the most comforting and comfortable room in the house”.

` Elizabeth David, British Cookbook Author~

I very deliberately chose the quotes I did for today.  I wanted and needed to find my safe space again; my safe space in my kitchen, since after all,  “This is where I do the work I want to, the work I like and enjoy”.

 

 

 

 

And This is the Catalyst that Started it All

KC Compton

KC Compton

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Aug 25 · 7 min read

Angry white bread

A few days ago I had a great margarita at my favorite Mexican restaurant, where I visited with the wait staff , all members of the family that owns the restaurant. La abuela doesn’t speak English, so explaining to her that no, really, that was all of the queso fundido I was going to eat and no, there was no problem, got a little complex. But with sufficient broken Spanish on my part and her grandson’s help, we got it sorted out — and enjoyed a moment.

A couple of days after that, I met a young woman from Ukraine whose English wasn’t great, but we managed to have an interesting conversation anyway. She told me she wants to start a YouTube channel for immigrants to share their getting-started stories. I told her it was brilliant — and I think it is.

Last week, I had a couple of medical tests; two of the technicians were Latinx, one was Chinese and the other looked as though he might have had a Viking up the family tree. My doctor is Japanese. My physical therapist is from India.

Yesterday in Target, a young mother wearing a hijab was checking out in front of me and taking longer than her adorable toddler daughter thought was necessary. The little girl started fussing and Mom was getting frustrated, so I played peekaboo with her until Mom had completed her transaction. As she was leaving, she mouthed “Thank you!” over her baby’s head.

Today, I went for a mani-pedi and the young technicians were laughing and talking in Vietnamese as they tag-teamed my fingers and toes. The one who spoke the clearest English asked me how long it had been since my last pedicure. I shrugged, rolled my eyes and she wagged her finger at me, scolding, “You come sooner next time…” and we laughed.

In the past couple of months, I have eaten food from at least six nationalities (go, Seattle!) and have had personal interactions with black people, white people, Latinx people, transgender people, Asian people, gay people, Jewish people, Hindu people, Christian people, Muslim people, unaffiliated reprobates like myself, male people, female people and people who have chosen not to pick sides. And probably a number of other categories I’ve forgotten by now because I don’t care. This is just how my life rolls in a diverse city, among a diverse community, with a heart that is richer for all of them.

I recently read a Washington Post article about the shortage of labor in Maine — where the population has now grown sufficiently old that the World Bank terms it “super-aged” — and the crisis they’re dealing with because there are not enough young workers to care for all those old people.

This imbalance is a harbinger of things to come for all U.S. states, the article said, but particularly for those who have fewer immigrants.

Derp.

People from other countries have long filled the ranks of medical professionals and caregivers in this nation, but with harsher immigration policies and a public sentiment that makes the U.S. less inviting, the immigrant population will, predictably, dwindle. Not having sufficient professionals and workers to care for elderly people will be a social and economic catastrophe in a decade or less (it’s already happening in Maine and another dozen states). One of the recommendations for the future is to “reshape the workforce” and I’d bet my hat, ass and overcoat that will involve … you guessed it! … more immigrants.

I wonder how some of the horrible white people we are seeing on a daily basis these days insisting in the local Starbucks that the people a table away (who weren’t talking to them) SPEAK ENGLISH!!! or castigating the waiter in the MEXICAN restaurant where they were buying tacos (!!!) to GO BACK WHERE YOU CAME FROM (“Unh … it’s my restaurant…”) are eventually going to deal with the fact that their lily white bum gets wiped by a foreigner or it doesn’t get wiped at all. That should be a day of reckoning, for sure.

I understand that some people are convinced — possibly by a 30-year diet of Fox and Rush — that they are the master race and every one not their particular shade of beige and of their particular pedigree should bow down and make way. If that’s the way they want to play it, OK, I guess. You can’t make people not be hateful. But there need to be some guidelines. These wannabe white separatists need to fully understand the dimensions of the narrow little world they’re condemning themselves to.

If I were named Queen for a Day, these are a few of the new rules I would hereby order for all those angry white people:

  1. If you don’t want immigrants to live in the U.S.A. and/or you think brown people of any type are your inferiors, you will be required to wear an indelible stamp across your forehead (not a tattoo, because we want you to have a change of heart) with a big, fat purple B for Bigot. If you are sporting this stamp, you cannot purchase anything brought to this country by an immigrant ever or made by a brown person. Food, clothing, jewelry, electronics … nada (or in English, for you, “nothing”).
  2. If you are wearing your required B-for-Bigot stamp and you become ill, you will not be able to access care by anyone brown or from another country, especially Muslim or shit-hole countries (is “shit-hole” hyphenated or one word? Whatever). You may die, but you’ll have the comfort of dying while being right about race.
  3. You have to give up any food that any immigrant group has ever introduced here. No Mexican food, no Chinese, no Thai hot, no sushi, no Indian buffet, no soul food — no nuthin’ but potatoes and whatever some Native American might be kind enough to cook up for you. They will retain the right to refuse. You cannot eat anything harvested by any immigrant ever. You will starve, but again, you’ll retain your righteousness on the way out.
  4. You will not be able to sell anything to anyone from an immigrant group or with skin darker than copy paper. If you’re a business owner or manufacturer or a tradesperson or … oh hell, anyone … you’ll notice the economic impact quickly because immigrants and brown people are, you know, drivers of our economy.
  5. You must relinquish all access to any music imported from any immigrant group or via brown people. This leaves … unh … gosh … hmmm … still thinking. Even bluegrass or old-time country are out because that came to us courtesy of that pesky Irish/Scot invasion and, even though these were my people and they borrowed heavily on the African traditions already taking root in the South, they were, you know, nasty immigrants. Certainly no blues, jazz, rock & roll, hip-hop, classical (all those Eye-talians, doncha know). Maybe you can listen to some nice Native American flute music, indigenous to this country, but again, you’ll have to rely on the kindness of the original residents of this continent and, frankly, some of them are weary of your bullshit.
  6. You will never be able to enjoy any electronic devices again — iPhones, tablets, laptops, PCs. According to the Census Bureau, despite making up only 16 percent of the resident population holding a bachelor’s degree or higher, immigrants represent 33 percent of engineers, 27 percent of mathematicians, statisticians, and computer scientist, and 24 percent of physical scientists. According to the Partnership for a New American Economy, in 2011, foreign-born inventors contributed to more than 75 percent of patents issued to the top 10 patent-producing universities. Immigrants and brown people have been all up in the development of all of the electronic stuff for a long time, so … sorry. It’s not easy being racist. Buck up.
  7. Alas, no sportsball. Given the preponderance of players of color in basketball, football, tennis and such, no B-for-Bigot can enjoy the sportsball games anymore, either in person or on TV. They’ll have NASCAR … hockey … lacrosse, so that’s something. Bottom line, you don’t get to enjoy the fruits of other people’s labor if you aren’t willing to grant them as much humanity and value as you grant yourself. Very simple, actually.

I could go on and on, but you get the drift. So you go ahead and sit over there in your little whitey-tighty corner, wrapped in gauze and buffered from any encounter with anyone not on your list of approved races, ethnic groups and/or gender expressions. I haven’t seen this list, but I assume you’ve all gotten together and worked it out, right? Because you seem to have such a clear picture of who is and isn’t a human being entitled to the full rights and respect one gives to others, I figured you’ve put your heads together and gotten very clear about who’s in and who’s out. Oh… that reminds me of Rule № 8.

8. You have to spit in a vial and/or swab your cheek and get that DNA sorted out. I know I’m white because I did that and was quite disappointed that the results came back white-white-whitey-white — British Isles all the way, yo. I was raised being told that for sure we had a Native American ancestor (I feel you, Elizabeth Warren) and probably an African American one. So imagine my chagrin to discover I’m “pure.” You, on the other hand, may not know your pedigree and it’s essential that you do. If you’re going to be such a hate-weasel about racial purity, you will need to scientifically verify that you are actually pure. Otherwise we add the orange H for Hypocrisy stamp to your forehead. It’s gonna get crowded up there if you don’t lighten up.

Meanwhile, the rest of us are going to go about our daily lives, enjoying each other’s company, benefitting from mutual relationships, taking pleasure in varieties of flavor and music and accents and skin colors and ages and religions and hair styles and personalities different from our own.

Just being, you know, decent human beings who are grateful for each other’s presence in this delicious world we get to live in together.

K.C. Compton is a journalist living in Seattle. She has worked as a columnist, reporter and editor at newspapers throughout the Rocky Mountain region and is a former editor with Mother Earth News. Pronouns=she/her

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Something On My Mind

This is one of my rare moments of commentary not related to food, but something that has been bothering me since I saw this last night.  I do my best to keep my politics out of my blog.  I have not set it up to be a political platform, nor do I want it to be.  I have my viewpoints, and I most definitely have strong opinions about why I feel and vote the way I do.  I am entitled to my opinions just as you and everyone else is entitled to yours and theirs, just as it should be.  I am going to be blunt and blurt it right out to all of you.  If you dislike me or un-follow me because of it then so be it.  Not my problem.  I am a conservative thinker.  I really could care less how other people think, feel or vote, and I try my best to respect others’ opinions and viewpoints, however, I at least hope for the same from others.  Last night I came across a post on Facebook that really bothered me.  It tied my personal and political viewpoints to what I should and should not eat and what I should and should not cook and decide to share and what I should and should not enjoy.  UMMMMMMMM!!!!!!  I really don’t think what I cook or eat or enjoy to eat is anyone else’s business, and I have NEVER in my life thought of my food choices as political.  But I guess in today’s world, EVERYTHING is political, apparently even our food choices.  I enjoy food.  I enjoy foods from all over the world and all ethncities  I always have, and always will.  I really don’t quite know how I am supposed to react to this.  I ignored it and just moved on, however, I thought about it all last night and all morning.  I am still bothered and upset about this.  Now that I have “outed” myself, if you dare to still follow me and speak to me, I am interested in your thoughts.

 

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Garlic Flan

Flan is a type of custard that is loved and appreciated all over the world.  There are many different types and it can be made either savory or sweet.  It can be cheesy, with or without vegetables, or it can be sweet and served on its own or with chocolate, fruits or nuts, or just about any other way you can think of to make it.

Flan was first created by the Ancient Romans, with the help of the Ancient Greeks.  The Romans had domesticated chickens for the eggs, and had an abundance of eggs that they needed to use.  The Ancient Greeks were known for their art of cooking.  The two civilizations collaborated and flan, or flado, was created, although to the Ancient Romans, flan was known as tyropatinam.  The word flado, which meant “flat cake” somehow evolved to the Old French word flaon, which then became flan, as we now know it today.  Originally flans were savory dishes, which ironically is not how most people think of flans today.  Flans in modern times, are almost always thought of as a sweet dessert, particularly in Spanish countries.  The English speaking countries usually refer to flans as custards, and are often cooked in a pastry crust with fruits or nuts.  Me personally, I will eat it any which way it comes, whether it is called flan, custard or creme brulee, I’m in and I am going to love it.

Back in the days when I was cooking professionally, I was always being asked “what types of foods were my favorite to cook”.  I love all kinds of foods and love being an adventurous eater.  My answer has always been that rather than focusing on a particular type of food or style of cooking, I prefer to cook in themes.  I still do, and I try to do this as much as possible.  So when I made my pork and pumpkin empanadas,  Pork and Pumpkin Empanadas I was also looking for a good side dish to accompany them.  I was going through all my Spanish and Latin cookbooks until I found just the right dish I was looking for.  I came across a recipe for garlic flan.  I had never heard of a garlic flan before and I thought it sounded really interesting and different.  It is also very easy to make, with just a few simple ingredients.

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Garlic Flan

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1 TBSP garlic

2 cups heavy whipping cream or half & half

5 egg yolks

1/4 tsp salt

pinch of cayenne pepper

 

Preheat the oven to 350* F or 180* C

Spray individual serving ramekins with cooking spray and place in a shallow baking dish big enough to hold them.

Whisk all the ingredients together and pour even amounts into the prepared ramekins.

 

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Place the filled ramekins in the baking pan and add about 1 inch of water, or enough to cover the bottom 1/3 of the ramekins.  This is called a “bain marie” or water bath.  It is used when baking custards or other delicate egg dishes so the eggs don’t scramble and cook on the bottom while the dish is baking.  Wrap the pan tightly with aluminum foil and bake for about 45-60 minutes.  You want the custards to be cooked and set, yet still soft.  Let the flans cool a bit, then top with your favorite vinaigrette and serve.  I used my chili lime vinaigrette on top.   This is an acquired taste, more for the texture than the flavors, especially when served as a side dish rather than a dessert.  I loved it, but Larry was a bit skeptical about it.  To each his or her own.

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