Saturday, October 19, 2019

Chicken Soup for the Soul

I have said before that Italian food is much blander...no, perhaps bland is not a good choice...mellower than we think of it in the US.  So many young(and old) men try to impress everyone with being able to consume the hottest food possible(and suffer for it all evening and next morning) that we have a very spicy view of Italian food.  There are some very spicy dishes in Italy.  Most of them are from the deep south, and not Sicily exactly.  Calabria comes to mind immediately, and that is because when you walk the streets of southern towns you see festoons of hot red peppers hanging in the sun.  Much Italian food has a few sprinkles of red pepper in a dish, but the morning Fire Dance on the toilet is not common there.

Chicken soup therefore is not an unusual dish on the lunch table.

Often, the meal will be a little bowl of soup as a starter.
 
Then there will be a rather plain dish of pasta, perhaps with Marinara sauce or a few bits of sausage, mushrooms or vegetables in it. Whatever is in season will appear, as in most Italian dishes.

Then the boiled chicken or pot roast(Italian style) will be cut up and served(this is where the broth came from for the soup).  There might be a seasonal salad or vegetable side dish(a Contorno) and then there will be nuts, cheese and fruit.  A sweet may also follow.

In most cases, though this seems like a lot of food, each plate will be a tiny amount spread around to the family.  The pasta is not a very big dish either.

Mostly soup will be the byproduct of whatever meat is being cooked(Steaks and oven roasts are a side issue which would have a different appetizer.)

Mainly, you would stew a roast or foul(usually an old one) and serve the liquids as a soup for the first course. Perhaps scraps of meat might end up in the soup, some of the veggies from the roast or a few hands full of greens from the lawn or back lot, etc.. My Great Aunt sent me out to the railroad tracks beyond town to gather Fennel in Italy.

Soup as an event or a whole meal is less common.

Here though, we have a different view of soup, as a main dish, but some tips from the Italians can help.

Flavoring soup is a very diverse subject.  Unfortunately we have in this country a view of soup as the Campbell's broth base with a few noodles floating around in it.  That can be good, but there is a world of flavorings that you can use.  I used to think that starting with a plain chicken and adding an onion(unpeeled and chopped), a celery stalk or two and a carrot or two(also unpeeled) was all there was to it.  Don't forget the parsley for its grassy freshness and even a lemon rind.

Now I am an opportunist soup maker.  I try to make soup once a week if I can, and use the leftover meats and broth to help out.

Basic Chicken soup from raw.

Cut up a whole small chicken into several pieces.  Into a large pot and cover with water.  Chop up a medium onion without peeling it(very coarse chopping, perhaps just scraping of the roots if they are dirty) Two medium carrots coarsely chopped, little greens top removed but the rest unpeeled and just washed.
A couple of coarsely chopped celery ribs and especially the leafy parts.

Do not forget the giblets when making the broth.  If you have them, cut up and add.  The liver can be set aside for other uses, and there are many.

Bring this all to a boil and reduce.  As it boils, skim off the foam that forms at the top if you want your soup clearer. Add parsley(1-2 tablespoons), just a little sage, a clove of crushed garlic(if you like), salt and pepper to taste.  Correct at the end, so do not over do the salt.

Now, cover, reduce the heat and simmer for as long as you have available.  A soup can be made in an hour, or wait for four hours.
As the chicken is cooked, you can remove it to a platter and carve the portions that you want to serve separately.  I cut the meat off the breasts for sandwiches.  Return the bones and all the meat that you want in the soup to the pot as you continue to simmer. 

Cool the pot slightly and remove the solids with a slotted spoon and spread out to cool.  Strain the rest into a bowl and cool the broth until all the fat has risen to the top.

Pick the bones and the solids for every scrap of edible meat. Chop coarsely and return to the pot.
If you want to keep the cooked veggies(they are pretty useless now as everything good is in the broth now.  But you can mash them to a paste and use in the soup which will become cloudy as a result.  Some like to make use of the fiber in the veggies.  Personally I throw them out or snack on them as I cook.)

Skim off the fat from the broth with a ladle.  Leave a bit.  We all need a little fat in our diet.  Discard bones(they are too dry and brittle to be crunched up and eaten as some people do.  They will only break up into slivers and can puncture you inside.

Return the meat, the broth, freshly chopped(skinned veggies), mushrooms, etc. to the pot and bring to a boil till the new veggies are cooked.  Add rice or pasta to cook near the end, and if you do not want to reduce the volume of the broth, cook the starches separately and add at the end.  Adjust salt and serve with fresh bread, biscuits or Garlic bread and a bowl of Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese on the side.  Any regional grating cheese will be good.  There is wonderful grating cheese with peppercorns in it.


Second Version

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Bill's Scones

Bill's Scones


2 Cups of flour
1/3 Cup sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
8 Tblsp Cold butter cut in small cubes
1 Cup of additives, like blueberries, Raisins, coarsely
chopped nuts etc..
1 beaten egg
1/2 cup milk any form(heavier milk makes heavier
scones)
 Any flavoring like lemon extract, almond extract or
vanilla

Mix all dry ingredients.

Pinch the butter into the flour till it is the size of split peas
.or Coarse meal texture.

Add nuts or other additives.
 
Dribble half of the premixed liquid ingredients and toss
and stir with a fork.

Drizzle in the rest of the liquid and
stir till combined.

Press together till all of the crumbs
are stuck to the lump of dough.

Knead a couple of times, but only till it is all
incorporated and more of less uniform.  It will be tough
if you over knead.

Pat into a disk about 8 inches around. 

Place on a sheet of parchment on a baking sheet or lightly grease
the sheet. 
Cut the disk into eighths and separate, or into fourths and
shape the fourths into heart shapes. Half cut the hearts
from point to dip in heart to be broken apart when
served. 

You may also leave in a disk but half cut the
eight wedges and leave whole.

Brush the tops of whatever shape you made with
cream, milk or egg wash.

Press the streusel onto the top.

Bake at 400 till dry internally checked with a toothpick. 
Bake much longer and check more carefully as they
are larger like the heart or disk.

18- 20 minutes or up to 40 min or even more for the disk.

Streusel topping:

1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
2 Tblsp cold cubed butter

Pinch all together till like coarse bread crumbs.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018


I AM IN THE PROCESS OF TRANSFERRING NON FAMILY RECIPES TO A NEW BLOG TO MAKE THIS ONE MORE ABOUT FAMILY ONLY.  FIND RECIPES AT:

http://miocucinarustica.blogspot.com   It is a grammatical mess, but it is an address that is available at this writing

Thursday, May 25, 2017

I Hate Fish Baked fish for those who don't like it.

I think that it is widely known in my family that I hate fish!
So, to eat it without distress, I really have to gussy it up to cover it.  I cannot say that I truly hate all fish.  I can tolerate Haddock, sometimes a little salmon.  I can tolerate most anything if it has enough hot sauce, cayenne and dry mustard.
So, Here is one way I actually like fish.
 
Oil a baking dish just large enough to hold the fish.

Mash one, or if adventurous, two cloves of garlic with salt to form a more liquid paste. 
Spread a little of the garlic on each fillet or steak, then drizzle olive oil over the fish in the pan.
  Garlic can really take over here, and it has little time to cook, so be careful.  For me all this is a plus!  I do this mashing because I really like the garlic, but also because the mashed garlic does not have to be cooked as long as chunks or even minced garlic.  some people can do all this by just rubbing the pan or fish with the cut end of a clove of garlic, but that is too insipid for me.  I live alone...what can I say?

  Chop a few small, very ripe tomatoes over the entire layer of fish. Salad or cherry tomatoes are perfect for this.

Sprinkle with scallions or minced onion.  Do not over do the onion. I use chopped greens from Grammie's walking(Egyptian) onions.

Chop 1/4 cup of black olives( the better the olives the better the dish, so the olive bar is great, but canned are OK) and sprinkle over the fish thickly.
 
Sprinkle capers(the little ones in the jar do not need to be washed, but be careful to wash large ones to remove much of the salt)  Contrary to many peoples' opinions, fish needs salt, and the mashed salted garlic and the capers are a good source, especially as the salt is often sea salt from the islands.

Sprinkle with black pepper and a few red pepper flakes and a very light sprinkle of dried oregano.

Drizzle the toppings with oil.

Cover the baking dish with foil or a cover, and bake at 400 till desired doneness...maybe half an hour.  Just check it a few times.

Uncover and serve with oiled pasta, or pasta with ROMANO cheese and black pepper.  Parmesan is too nutty flavored.
 Sicilians do use cheese with fish sometimes, but you are not making Fish Parmesan with melted cheese on top.

You can sprinkle the fish with a bit of red wine vinegar, or lemon if desired.

Pasta is often served in restaurants with just oil, with salt, with lemon or black pepper and grated cheese. Pasta con cacio e pepe is on many menus.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Mildred Stevens Cafarella's Raisin M-m-m-Mumbles

Filling

2 1/2 cups Raisins
1/2 cup sugar
2T cornstarch
3/4 cup water
3T lemon juice

Combine and stir over low heat till thickened.


The Crumbs

3/4 cup soft margarine
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 t salt
1/2 soda
1 1/2 cups rolled oats

mix butter and sugar, add dry ingredients.  then add oats.

Press half of the crumbs into the bottom of a greased 13 x 9 x 2 inch pan.
Spread the filling on the crumb base.
Pat on the rest of the crumbs.
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes at 400 degrees F.
Cut in squares as it cools.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Nothing Says Loving Like Something Deadly From The Oven.


I thought I had discovered something new and awful in my food today, but in researching it I found that it has been in use since the 1950s.  Interestereified soybean oil was in the cookies I just ate.  Why Oh Why don't they check out the ingredients at the store!!!??? (There has to be something wrong with an ingredient whose name has a homonym for terrified in it.)  This was in a care package sent to me from a cousin.
These oils are chemically modified versions of old familiar trans-fat oils and fats.  They do not actually fit into the same category as TRANS-FATS which are absolutely horrendous for our health.  So, they are no longer mentioned as trans-fats, but are seemingly much worse.  These will lodge themselves in Male arteries, inflame them and promote plaque adhesion.  In women, they lodge in fats of the body and so promote cancer such as in the fat of the breast.  There were a number of other issues surrounding them, but too many for me to list here.  Sooooo....just avoid them!
I hope that all of you are already looking for and avoiding labels that say Trans-fats, Saturated fats, Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated...for that matter...why not just avoid all fats, but if you cannot, go for Olive oil, Butter and mono-unsaturated fats.
Now, I really want to avoid butter....good heavens what a bad choice, but if you are making something that requires shortening, Butter is a much better overall choice. 
Here is the real kicker...these fats may not even appear on the ingredients list!

Here is a health tip to top all health tips:

Make as much of your food from scratch as possible!


Butter vs shortening

I remember the taste of rolls in big pans...wonderful...and baked goods of all kinds, made with shortening.  I guess it is made out of vegetable fat, and that has to count for something, but it is Hydrogenated...one of the great watchwords for foods to avoid. Butter on the other hand may be high in calories, and full of fat, but at least it is not hydrogenated.  If you are baking, shortening makes the baked goods much more tender, and butter tends to crisp the baked goods up a bit, sometimes unpleasantly so, but it is clearly the better choice if you must eat fat in baked goods.
Here is a compromise...I give you permission to eat butter instead of shortening....but eat much less just to please me!
Margarine too is hydrogenated and though it may work in your baked things, is not a good choice for your health.  To be fair though, you should read the label on your brand of margarine to look for the words Hydrogenated, trans-fat and saturated fat.  If they appear, you should avoid them.
Olive oil is a mono-unsaturated fat.  It is a good oil, as are others, but it may not be satisfactory for baking.  There are some fine recipes in the Italian repertoire for baked goods with Olive Oil, but traditional recipes do not work well with it because of the liquid state of the oil and because of the pronounced taste of the oil.
If you are Italian though, you probably enjoy the taste of Olive Oil on your bread, vegetables etc., so please try this instead of butter or margarine.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

fred Burrill's Uncle Ed Bearce's Griddle Cakes. From Alberta Burrill

I just rummaged around in packed boxes and came up with these, here where my cooking facilities are minimal, so instead of cooking and eating, I will put them in the blog to satisfy my craving.

Sift together:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 t soda
2 t cream of tartar
1 t salt

add:
 1 egg beaten
3 T melted shortening
1 cup milk

Stir only to mix

This should be stirred as little as possible to make it fairly uniform as otherwise gluten will form

Cook on a hot seasoned or buttered pan

This forms a very light and fluffy batter similar to a mousse
1/4 cup measures must be spread around manually in the pan as it will form a mound without doing that.  It makes very light and fluffy pancakes.  Add a little more milk to make a more traditional batter.  Add blueberries or other berries or apples.  Try with chopped nuts like pecans or walnuts.  soak raisins in brandy till they plump and add them with as little liquid as possible.