Words Escape Me

laundry line

Sometimes,

I feel like working in silence.

Kneading bread dough,

painting walls,

pulling weeds with the sunshine on my back.

fence

Here are some images from a walk around the block in historic Richmond on a quiet afternoon.

 

wringer

Richmond oaks

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Beyond Ramen: Students Abroad Seeking Inspiration!

Ramen

You’re far from home, renting a room and dealing with limited resources and unfamiliar ingredients.  It’s the middle of winter and the schedule is busy but you’ve got to eat and stay healthy.  You can’t eat out every day but don’t want to eat leftovers all week.  What’s a student to do?

Here’s the challenge!  Find a few recipes that are:

  • quick and fairly easy – prep shortcuts welcome
  • nutritious, including several food groups and some variety
  • inexpensive, with limited ingredients and waste
  • made with readily-available ingredients (anywhere in the world)
  • vegetarian or fish
  • made on the stove (no oven available)

I’ve been cooking for the multitudes since I was 15 and have a walk-in pantry and more than enough gear – so cooking for one on a hotplate is a distant memory.  Daughter and I are both doing some research, but I know that all of you are a great resource!  Please comment with your best tips.

Around the World #7: Moroccan-Inspired Vegetable Stew & Couscous

Moroccan Market

Creative Commons: Adam Greig

I dream of someday exploring the markets or souks of Marrakesh.  I see a clash of colors, with slippers of every hue piled high, stacks of pottery, piles of beads and textiles draped across the ceilings.  The sounds of music playing, vendors shouting and people talking are overwhelming and spicy scents fill the air…

Wait – that is just the lingering aroma of our Moroccan-inspired dinner!

This post is dedicated to my father-in-law, a Spaniard born in Morocco, and my daughter, a student and explorer of North African cultures.

Moroccan Vegetables

Moroccan-Spiced Sweet Potato Medley

Serves 6

(this recipe was borrowed and adapated from Good Housekeeping’s Simply Vegan!)

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped fine

3 garlic cloves, pressed

1½ teaspoons curry powder

1½ teaspoons ground cumin

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

1 can (14½ oz.) diced or crushed tomatoes

1 cup vegetable broth

1 cup garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1 large sweet potato, cut into ¾” cubes

2 small zucchini, cut into ¾” pieces

¼ cup frozen peas

1 cup couscous (prepare as directed)

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot.  Add onion and cook until tender and golden, 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in garlic and spices and cook 30 seconds.

Add tomatoes, garbanzos and sweet potato; cover and heat to boiling over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Stir in zucchini and peas, cover and cook until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare couscous according to package directions.

Serve stew over couscous.

Good with warm naan or pita bread and a salad.

Regional Cooking: Cincinnati Chili

Cincinnati Chili

Not long before he died, my grandfather sent me his recipe for his famous Cincinnati Chili.  I was thinking of him over the holidays and reminiscing about his chili and cheese grits with my brother.  In the spirit of family and regional cooking, I’ll share his “secret” recipe that he was careful to pass along to me.

Cincinnati Chili is a regional style of chili con carne which is believed to originated with immigrants from Macedonia and has been served for almost a century in hot dog stands, diners and “chili parlors” throughout Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.  Cincinnati Chili has a thin consistency and is made with seasonings such as cinnamon, cloves, chocolate or allspice.  It is usually served over spaghetti or hot dogs and often topped with shredded cheddar cheese and diced onions.

I did a little research and found that there is an art to ordering this chili, something like ordering a coffee at Starbucks.  Here’s an example:

  • Bowl:  chili in a bowl (may be served with oyster crackers)
  • Two-way:  chili and spaghetti
  • Three-way:  chili, spaghetti and cheese
  • Four-way:  chili, spaghetti, cheese and onions
  • Five-way:  chili, spaghetti, cheese, onions and beans
  • Four-way bean:  chili, spaghetti, cheese and kidney beans

Cincinnati chili can also top a “coney dog,” which usually also includes mustard, cheddar and onion.

Cincinnati Chili

makes 2 quarts

Combine the contents of 1 package of chili mix (any brand) with 1 – 6 ounce can of tomato paste in a large saucepan and add 6 cups of cold water.  Add 1½ lbs. of lean ground beef – RAW (do not brown).  Stir with a fork until the beef is completely broken into small pieces.

Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring vigorously.  Sprinkle in 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 4 bay leaves and 2 dried chilies.

Reduce to a simmer and DO NOT COVER.  Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 3 hours until desired consistence – not too watery and not too thick.

Serve over spaghetti and add grated cheddar cheese.  Makes good conies, too.

Add salt, pepper and hot sauce to individual taste.

Sounds crazy, but it works.  And only one dirty pan.

 

Around the World #6: Tunisia, Shakshuka and Salad

Tunisia

House on the Mediterranean (photo credit:  Valerie Montes)

The smallest country in North Africa, Tunisia is bordered by Algeria, Libya and the Mediterranean Sea.  Tunisian culture is mixed due to a long established history of conquerors such as Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs, Turks, Spaniards, and the French who all left their mark on the country.  In January, 2011, Tunisia made headlines around the world when a campaign of civil resistance led to the removal of longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and eventually to protests throughout the Middle East known as the Arab Spring.

This post is dedicated to my eldest daughter, a courageous world traveler who spent some time in Tunisia and came to love its beauty, food and blend of French, Berber and Arab culture.  Her stories have made me want to visit this little-known place so full of natural beauty and history.

Tunisian Market

Tunisian Market (photo credit:  Valerie Montes)

Shakshuka is a flavorful egg dish that can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Perfect meal with a salad and bread.  I accompanied this with a cheap and cheerful German Gewürztraminer – the fruity sweetness of the wine was a nice contrast to the spicy salad.

Shakshuka

¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable oil
1/2 onion peeled and chopped

1 clove garlic, pressed
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 yellow bell peppers, seeded and chopped
2 tsp brown sugar
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
2 tablespoons fresh coriander, minced
3 ripe roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
¼ teaspoon saffron strands (optional)
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
¾  cup water
4 eggs

2 green onions, sliced

In a skillet, dry-roast the cumin on medium-high heat for about two minutes, until fragrant and golden brown.  Add the oil and sauté the onions for two minutes.  Add the garlic, peppers, sugar, bay leaf, thyme, parsley and coriander, and cook on medium-high heat until vegetables are tender. Add the tomatoes, saffron, cayenne, salt and pepper. Cook on low heat for 15 minutes, adding just enough water to keep it the consistency of a pasta sauce.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.  You can prepare the sauce in advance.

Make 4 wells in the tomato mixture and break one egg into each well.  Cover the skillet and cook gently for about 8 minutes, until the eggs are set.  Top with green onion and serve with pita bread or French baguette.

Tunisian Shakshuka

Tunisian Salad
3 large roma tomatoes, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, choppedPeppers and Tomatoes
2 small serrano peppers
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed
3 eggs, hard-boiled and quartered lengthwise
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 small can light chunk tuna or albacore, drained
10 olives (black or green)
Romaine lettuce leaves

Place eggs in cold water in a saucepan, bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Drain hot water and fill with ice water.  Peel and quarter hard-boiled eggs.

Preheat oven broiler and place serrano peppers on a broiler pan.  Broil peppers for 4 minutes, turn over and broil another 4 minutes until skin is charred.  When cool, peel charred skin off carefully. ( **Use latex gloves or similar when handling peppers, if possible and be sure not to touch your eyes).  Once peeled, cut in half lengthwise, remove seeds with a knife or small spoon, and chop peppers finely.
In medium bowl, combine tomatoes, bell peppers, roasted serrano peppers, onion and garlic.  Sprinkle lightly with salt and allow to sit for 15 minutes.   In a small bowl, mix coriander, red pepper flakes, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Pour over vegetables and toss.  Chill for 30 minutes.  On a serving platter, arrange romaine lettuce leaves.  Mound vegetable mixture on the leaves, then top with tuna chunks.  Arrange eggs and olives around edges.  Drizzle with additional olive oil and sprinkle with paprika if desired.  Serve with a French baguette or loaf of sourdough bread.  Serves 3 – 4.

Tunisian Salad

Tunisian Salad

Around the World #5: Chocolate con Churros in Spain

Photo Credit: Leslie Montes
Inviting fruteria on a rainy night in Madrid

It’s Thanksgiving, and I think of two of my daughters who are far away:  one in Cairo and the other in Madrid.  Although I can’t travel to Spain, I will imagine the busy streets of Madrid and take you there with a couple of recipes to make a typical Spanish breakfast.  There’s so much I could write about Spanish food, with all of its flavor and regional variety but I’ll keep it simple!

When visiting Madrid, a traditional way to start the day is to stop by a local cafeteria for chocolate con churros.  This breakfast treat is inexpensive and delicious, but not exactly a dieter’s delight!  The hot chocolate is thick, almost like pudding, and churros are sticks of fried dough meant to be dipped in the chocolate.  Churros can be sprinkled with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar (Mexican style) and come in 2 sizes:  thick (porras) or thin (churros).  Places like Chocolatería San Ginés in Madrid’s center are popular and open all night long if you’re on Spanish time and prefer late night to early morning.

Photo Credit: Leslie Montes

Spanish Chocolate

Mixing the Chocolate

3 tablespoons cocoa powder (preferably Dutch or dark cocoa)

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons corn starch

1/2 cup water

2 cups milk

1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate (chopped bar or chocolate chips)

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix cocoa powder, sugar and corn starch together in a saucepan.  Slowly add water until mixed thoroughly.  Place on a burner, turn heat to medium high and bring to a boil, whisking constantly.  Watch very carefully as the mixture will become very thick and come to a boil quickly.  Take off the heat and whisk milk in slowly until well blended.

Turn down heat to medium and return to the burner.  Do not bring to a boil again – just heat.  Whisk in semisweet chocolate until thick and smooth.  Turn off heat and stir in vanilla.  Chocolate will be thick – almost like pudding.  If too thick, add a little milk until it’s the consistency you like.

Dough goes into the churro press

Churros

1 cup flour

1 cup water

1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil

1 teaspoon salt

(oil for frying)

Powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar

Mix water, salt and oil.  Heat t0 a boil and add flour all at once, stirring quickly with a wooden spoon until a soft dough is formed.  Let cool.  When cold, spoon into a pastry bag, cookie press or churro press fitted with a star tip.  Heat oil in a deep fryer or heavy pan.

Press churro dough into long strips into the hot oil and fry.  You may need to cut with a knife or kitchen shears.  Fry until golden brown and remove to a plate lined with paper towels.  Once slightly cooled, arrange on a serving plate and sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar.

Serve warm with Spanish hot chocolate.

Around the World #4: To England with Bangers and Mash

Scarsdale Tavern – Edwardes Square, London

This one is dedicated to my youngest daughter – born in London and an Anglophile through and through.

Bangers and Mash is a traditional English dish (aka sausage and mashed potatoes).  It can be served with onion gravy and I topped with fried onions.  You’ll find bangers and mash on pub menus and it’s a simple and hearty meal.  According to legend, the term “bangers” came about during WWII, when sausages were made with water and were likely to explode if not cooked carefully.  Today’s upscale chefs often create exotic variations on this simple fare, but my version is pretty plain jane.  I did use a vegetarian Tofurkey sausage in addition to fresh Italian sausages from Whole Foods and admit that my first impression of the veggie version is “just ok.”  Maybe I’ll get used to them.

Here’s to pub grub for autumn weather!

 

Bangers and Mash

Sausages:

2 teaspoons olive oil

1/2 sweet onion, thinly sliced

4 Italian Sausages (or vegetarian sausages)

Beer (if desired – I used Guiness)

Ingredients

Mash:

4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

1/4 sweet onion, diced

2-4 tablespoons half and half

1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Dash of salt

In a saute pan, heat olive oil on medium heat.  Add sliced onion and brown slowly for about 5 minutes.  Move to the side of the pan to continue cooking.  Add sausage and brown on all sides, turning at regular intervals.  Add beer to cover bottom of pan, turn down heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring salted water to a boil for potatoes.  Add potato cubes and diced onions, turn heat down and simmer for 20 minutes.  When cooked through (you can test with a fork), drain and put into a large mixing bowl.  Add half and half, cheese and butter and mash potatoes until smooth (a staff mixer works well, or use a potato masher).  Add parsley and mix well.

 

Serve mashed potatoes and sausages on a plate and top with onions and some sauce from the sausage pan if desired.  Bangers and mash are also good with coleslaw on the side.

 

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