Eating With the Seasons

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Maddie Earnest, owner of Local Harvest and author of “Missouri Harvest – A Guide to Growers and Producers in the Show-Me State” (Published by Reedy Press : Webster University Press, 2012), presented an exciting program of how to eat local Missouri produce and products. She offered tips to eat through the seasons and to eat healthy. Bringing with her freshly picked swiss chard, Maddie advised how you can enjoy locally grown vegetables. By doing so, a home chef and reduce their vegetable costs, something that is always welcome.

During her presentation, audience members got to ask questions about what it takes to eat locally grown produce and products. They could view photos of local Missouri farms where chickens are range free.  Dining at her restaurant, customers are guaranteed fresh food. Delicious waffles with freshly picked blueberries can tempt anyone who thinks they should be skipping breakfast, to enjoy a hearty meal.

Thanks to Maddie for sharing her vast knowledge of bringing local harvest to your palate and kitchen!

 

 

Culinary Food Month at SLPL

March is a great month to be thinking of food. At Saint Louis Public Library, March is a month to celebrate and explore the joy of food.

On 3/6/2014, I attended the Culinary Month 2014 Kick Off with Miss Robbie Montgomery of Sweetie Pies. She was talking with culinary students from the Clyde C. Miller Career Academy and the Beaumont High School. It was great! Offering stories of her life, especially referring to having the “stickability” to pursue your dreams. Miss Robbie recommended to read positive things and said how ideas only happen if you put them into practice.

Miss Robbie was very uplifting and encouraging to all the young culinary students attending. I had the pleasure of meeting each class as they came, after her talk,  to visit the Science/Technology Room of our Central Library. Here I could talk about our excellent culinary collection, where we have a quarter of our Central Library circulating collection made up of culinary books.

I was thrilled to meet Miss Robbie again on 3/8/2014, when she came back and talked to an excited and interested audience in our new auditorium. Again, she was very positive and encouraging members of the audience to pursue their dreams and to believe in yourself. Learning of how Miss Robbie started her restaurant, Sweetie Pies,  offered me a view of St. Louis history. Mayor Slay’s representative presented Miss Robbie Montgomery a lovely framed proclamation that 3/8/2014 was to be officially Miss Robbie Montgomery’s Day.

After listening to her second program, I drove up to Sweetie Pies “Upper Crust” restaurant, located on Delmar, and enjoyed a meal of crispy chicken wings, sweet potatoes, okra, and green cabbage. Super-delicious!!! Definitely a place to return too….. Miss Robbie was already back meeting and greeting restaurant guests as they enjoyed their dining visit. What a memory to keep!

Pasta, Pasta, Pasta

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Our monthly Culinary Book Club met on Wednesday, February 5, 2014, from noon to 1 p.m. to talk about pasta. Members got to share their pasta stories, tell each other where to dine in St. Louis that they enjoyed the dinner menu, and even sample a freshly made whole wheat spinach pasta (yes, it was green!) that was served with a tomato based sauce that had mushrooms, chicken, oregano, basil, chipotle pepper, and salt to season. A yummy sampling of a simple spaghetti with sauce was enjoyed by all.

We discussed the various shapes and sizes that pasta can be made or bought. From little wheels to fancy bows, shapes can make eating pasta more exciting, especially for young children.

I have found that many children avoid anything with tomatoes, including my son when he was little. Pizza, spaghetti, were two foods that we found our day cares would always order with tomato sauce. What a bummer! Now, if I ever serve food to young children I always try to give them a no tomato option. What is that option? How about a white sauce? Made with flour and milk or water, a white sauce can be richer. Butter can be mixed into the flour to create a roux, while it is being heated in a deep pan. By adding thyme, salt, pepper, you can gently flavor your white sauce. If you enjoy a spicy sauce, add a curry or an ground ancho, a type of pepper.

During our book talk about pasta, we reminisced about the best places to eat .
Buffets were at the top of our list. However, for a fine dining, romantic evening with your loved one, more upscale restaurants were suggested.

I prefer to make a homemade meal where I can experiment with various sauces.
My favorite red sauce includes lots of diced garlic, chopped celery, ground beef, green peppers, tomato paste, tomato sauce, diced fresh tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, jalopeno peppers, and for spices: salt, oregano, thyme, and basil. Again, I prefer to use fresh herbs rather than dried ones. The taste is much stronger. To make a more flavorful sauce, cook it one day, let it sit in your fridge overnight, then serve it the next day. Your spices will be more dramatic to your taste buds!

Check these out!
Brown, Ellen. 2012. Mac & Cheese: 80 Classic Versions of the Ultimate Comfort Food. Philadelphia, PA: Running Press.
D’Acampo, Gino. 2012. Pasta Italiana: 100 Recipes From Fettucine to Conchiglie. London, UK: Kyle Books.
Scappin, Gianni. 2013. Pasta: Classic and Contemporary Pasta, Risotto, Crespelle, and Polenta Recipes. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley.
Tremblay, Carl Van Ackere. 2012. Pasta Revolution: 200 Foolproof Recipes That Go Beyond Spaghetti and Meatballs.
Brookline, MA: America’s Test Kitchen.
Zanini Da Vita, Oretta. 2009. Encyclopedia of Pasta.
Berkley, CA: University of California Press.
Zavan, Laura. 2010. Pasta Basics: 82 Recipes Ilustrated Step By Step.
Buffalo, N.Y.: Firefly Books.

Soybean – To means “bean” and Fu “curds”

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Tofu originated in China more than 2,000 years ago. TO means “bean” and FU refers to “curds”. It is a protein staple of many parts of Asia. It is known as a chameleon to chefs, as it can absorb many flavors.

I recall walking into a tofu shop in Hong Kong and being amazed at eating curried tofu, bbq pork flavored tofu, and duck flavored tofu. Amazing to someone that only thought it was white, soft and the texture of a soft curd. However, it was bean curd.

Tofu comes in three different textures: soft or silken, medium or regular, and firm or extra-firm. Soft tofu can be pureed and made into a dip, drink, or sauce. It can offer you a nice creamy textured milkshake. A medium tofu is the most versatile. You can puree it in a blender, or chop it with a knife.

I prefer to buy the firm tofu. Drain the water that it sits in, and cut it into equal sized squares. Cooking it in a frying pan in a stir fry with snow peas, oyster sauce, garlic, ginger, and thinly sliced beef or pork. Add a mixture of soy sauce and corn starch to make a sauce that can accompany your stir fry.

It is good to know that you can substitute sour cream or whipping cream in a recipe for at least half of it with tofu.

Where do I find tofu in my grocery store? Most stores will have it in their produce section. It is usually sold in containers filled with water that are vacuum packed. These usually will last a week in your fridge. However, make sure you check the expiration date on the package.

Check these out!
Boyte, Frances. 2003. Tofu Gourmet Cuisine.
Burlington, ON,Canada: Dillon Publishing Inc.
Hagler, Louise. 1991. Tofu Cookery.
Summertown, TN: Book Publishing Company.
2001. Tofu Quick & Easy.
Summertown, TN: Book Publishing Company.
2008. Tofu Cookery.
Summertown, TN: Book Publishing Company.
Housez, Brita. 2000. Tofu mania: add tofu to 120 of your favorite dishes.
New York, NY: Marlowe & Company.
Lund, Joanna M. 2005. Cooking Healhty With Soy.
DeWitt, IA: Healthy Exchanges, Inc.
Nguyen, Andrea. 2012. Asian Tofu: Discover the Best, Make Your Own, and
Cook It at Home. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press.

You Call it Cilantro and I’ll call it Coriander

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I have often wondered who made the common names of herbs? Why do we call some herbs by more than one name? For example, in North America, this herb, whose Latin name is Coriandrum sativum, is known as Coriander. However, where it is native, in the Mediterranean, it is known as Cilantro. It is the same plant where we get coriander seeds.

Coriander is in the Umbellierae family, which is where other delicate, leafy topped plants such as dill, chervil, fennel, parsley, carrots, and parsnips are also members.

We can often find coriander seeds on our market shelves that come from Morocco and Romania. These small, brown ridged seeds, when combined with other spices, are known as garam masala.

It has been used as long as 8,000 years ago by the Israelites. The leaves were mentioned in Sanskrit texts that date back to nearly 7,000 years ago. As well, cilantro was mentioned on an Egyptian papyrus. It was also found in King Tut’s tomb! In the Exodus 16:31, the Bible mentions coriander,”And the house of Israel called the name there of Manna: and it was like coriander seed, but white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.”

I enjoy the thin, feathery leaves, as an addition to a delicious lamb tangine. It is often called Chinese parsley becasuse it is found in every Asian cuisine, except Japan.
You will definitely find coriander in East Indian, Middle Eastern, and North African foods.

Here’s a delicious recipe that is based on a recipe developed by the American Lamb Board.

Ingredients:
1 lamb shank per person
4 cloves garlic finely chopped
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
juice of one lemon

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Before cooking, rub the above ingredients over lamb shanks and let rest in a plastic bag overnight. Once oven is at 350 F, place lamb shanks, and rest of the ingredients in a covered tangine.

To add to your dinner, try making the following cilantro gremolata.

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro leaves
3 gloves garlic, finely chopped
Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon

Mix these ingredients to make your cilantro gremolata. This dinner goes well with rice and lots of sauce. Yummy delicious!

January Culinary Book Club – “Soups”

Come visit Central Library, located at 1301 Olive Street, Saint Louis, MO 63103 on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 from noon to 1 p.m. in the Locust Street Atrium Book Club Room, to attend the Central Library Culinary Book Club. The topic for this month will be “Soups”. You can bring your favorite soup recipe to share, stories about your best soup experience, or just sit and listen to the facilitator and other participants. No need to register, just drop by at noon!

Lentils and Rice

 

Lentils and rice are a great way to have a vegetarian meal. Although not a vegetarian, I enjoy meals without meat or fish. However, I totally enjoy, as many do, adding various spices to my meals. The first time I ever had lentils and rice, I was taught by a friend to make my lentils with onions, tomatoes, and several spices. Here’s what I was taught, and still enjoy years later.

First, decide which type of lentil you would like to serve with your rice. Choices include brown or green lentils. Lentils are a type of legume. Usually one or two lentil seeds, that are either, round, oval, or heart-shaped, are found in pods. When you buy them in a store, you might find them whole or split. Either way, they are cooked the same way.

You begin by rinsing your dry lentils in a sieve with water. I like to swish the lentil seeds around with my fingers while still holding the sieve under a tap of running water. This helps you clean off any debris that is in with your bag of lentil seeds. Before I put them into boiling water to cook, I begin to slice one large onion, dice one large tomato, chopped green chili, and chop two cloves of garlic, ginger, and a bunch of parsley. I like to have all my spices set on the counter next to my stove before I start cooking. So, next I retrieve my tumeric, garam masala, and salt. If you do not have garam masala available, you can make your own by mixing ground cloves, cardamon, cinnamon, and cumin together. I also like to add a few whole cloves if I use garam masala.

Next, once you have all your ingredients ready, it is time to start cooking. You need to start with adding 3 or 4 tablespoons of olive oil to your pot that you will use to boil your lentils. Once oil is hot, add your chopped tomatoes. Stir. After the tomatoes are soft add garlic, ginger, chilies, parsley, and your spices. Keep stirring to prevent your mixture from burning. After this mixture is soft, add your rinsed lentils, and then twice the amount of water as lentils used. Put your lid on your pot and let boil. Once boiling, turn it down to simmer for twenty minutes.

At the same time, I have been cooking basmatic rice in a separate pot. Remember to rinse your dry rice, the same way as with the lentils. I usually use double the water to the amount of rice I use. Once the water is boiling, I add the rinsed rice, put on the pot lid, and turn my stove down to simmer. Again, usually it cooks in about twenty minutes when I cook a cup of rice (2 cups water). Don’t forget to check in case your stove is heating faster than usual so you do not burn your rice.

If you choose to be a meat eater, you can add chicken or beef that has been precooked, to your lentils. I usually like to use lemon juice over my finished dish, to taste. Using the lemon brings out the flavour of the spices. You might recognize this vegetarian dish as daahl. My friend was Tansanian and was used to making this recipe for a delicious dinner. I hope you can try it and enjoy it as well!