Saturday, January 05, 2013

In the two days I've had off since the holidays. . .

. . .I've gotten into an Ancient Cookbook Frenzy.

One thing I can say for people in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: they had one hell of a collective sweet tooth. Make a pie of artichoke bottoms? Strew it with sugar before you serve it to table. Boil a calve's chaldron (which I just found out is entrails) and spice it with mace and nutmeg and cinnamon? Sprinkle a little sugar over that mofo before you serve it up in a pasty. Roast a rooster? Sugar. Making a nice (meaning exacting) recipe for biskit? Sugar. Sheep's feet? Sugar.

When a recipe starts with "Take a pound of sugar, seirced, and lay it onto four pounds of butter, add enough flower to make a past with rosewater and fresh Milk," you know you're really on to something.

My goal is to find recipes that don't involve too much sugar, like roasted capon with a cream/anchovy/egg yolk sauce, and try to make them. The trick is deciding when "enough" is really enough, as most of the recipes say to bake, boil, or chafe something until it is enough or is meet.

The best instructions I've found so far are for Makeing a Caudle After the French Manner, in which you are directed to Seethe as much Milk as is fit on the Coals of the Fyre, and when little Pimples appear, you are to Take It Off and Coole It by the Fyre until it is Hardened, which, ew.

In that vein, I offer two recipes, primarily for Friend Penny The Lotion Slut, but also for anybody who needs soup. Non-vegetarian alternatives for the first are given in parenthesis.

Auntie Jo's Pseudo-Mexican Veggie and Corn (and Chicken) Soup:

In preparation:

Pour one box of vegetable stock (chicken stock)--Kitchen Basics makes an excellent one--into a very large pot

Set to seethe over a low fyre.

Meanwhile, chop one small or one-half of a large Onyon
Two Peppers, either Poblano or Bell, (but not green bell, because they suck)

And wilt (fry over very low heat) them in a little vegetable oil

Open three cans of beans: one white, one red, one black. Dump them into a colander and run water over them until those weird starchy white bubbles no longer form. This process will take out the fartification chemicals.

(If you want to make this with chicken, now is the time to add your preferred cut of said bird to the stock. When it's simmered enough that there's not actual blood coming out of the meat, you can pull out the meat and shred it, then return it to the stock.)

Add the onion/pepper mix to the stock.

Add one can of petite diced tomatoes with juice.

Pour in enough water that you've got a kind of watery thing going on. You're going to cook this for a good while, so don't be afraid to add plenty of H2O. I usually add about four cups.

Now add your beans. If you have a bag of frozen corn in the freezer, the cheap sort that is sold for fifty cents a bag, add that too. A can of shoepeg or regular corn, well-drained and rinsed, will do as well.

If you're doing this right, you should have about a gallon of very watery soup: enough to make you wonder if this was a good idea. You're doing fine, don't worry. (How I wish this reassurance came in 16th century recipes!)

Now for two spices: cumin and chili powder. You are a fool if you use hot chili powder for the majority of this, since you want to dump in at least a quarter-cup of each. Seriously: you want this sonofabitch to be a dark red color with a hit of cumin to your nose. If you want the heat, you can add a couple tablespoons of hot chili powder about midway through, but don't use all hot; you'll be sad.

Allow to come to a boil to kill off bacteria. Then simmer for several hours, or until it looks like supper. (For reference, I usually have at least an inch of soup-ring around the edge of the pot before I serve it.)

This makes a lot of soup. I freeze about three quarts every time I make it. Serve with shredded cheese and tortilla chips, either on the side or crumbled in. Do not sprinkle with sugar before taking to the table.

Auntie Jo's Weird Pseudo-Tabbouli Thing Made With Kale

I'm actually very proud of this. It keeps forever and tastes better the second, third, and fourth day.

Get you one bunch of kale. Curly or not, doesn't matter. It's cheap, so maybe you should get two.

Get you a bunch of parsley. The flat-leaf Eyetalian kind is best, but you can skate by with that curly stuff.

Get the other half of that onion out of the fridge.

Buy a long English cucumber, one red or yellow bell pepper, and three good tomatoes, if any are to be found in the winter.

Make sure you know where your salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice are.

Be warned: this is a labor-intensive recipe.

Wash your kale in several changes of water. The easiest way to do this is to fill a really big container with cold water, plunge the vegetables in and swish them around, then yank them out. Empty the container and rinse and refill, then repeat. You can't be too careful with kale, as it tends to be sandy.

Do the same with the parsley.

Dry them both by shaking them out, then wrapping them in a dishtowel. Set that mess aside.

Peel and seed your cucumber, or don't peel it. Just seed it. Whatever. Chop it very, very finely.

Chop your tomatoes very, very finely. Save as much juice as you feel like.

Ditto your onion. Ditto your pepper, removing the seeds and weird white membrane first.

If you have garlic, mince a couple of cloves of that, too.

Set all of that aside. Now you're starting the really labor-intensive bit:

Stem the kale. This is most easily done by simply grabbing the leafy parts of the kale and ripping them off the stem. A little stem is okay, but not a lot, as kale stem is best digested if you have four stomachs.

Stem the parsley. You don't have to be as careful with this. As a matter of fact, I usually just cut off the top two-thirds of the bunch and save the rest for stock.

Chop the kale and the parsley together (you should have about equal amounts of each) very, very finely. No, finer. No, finer than *that*. You want the two to be indistinguishable on the cutting board. Seriously: chop it fine fine fine. Otherwise, the kale will be tough.

Mix the kale/parsley stuff with all your other veggies. Salt generously. Use some pepper. Squirt more lemon juice than you think is wise over it, then finish with a dollop of olive oil. Stir. Refrigerate. Eat entire bowlsful for lunch.

Sometimes I add quinoa to this to make it a main dish. Sometimes I just eat it straight out of the bowl, standing in front of the fridge, when I get home from work.

You could possibly use a food processor for the chopping, but only if you're better with a food processor than I am. I got kale and parsley pesto the first time I tried, and haven't gone back.

Do not Boyle with a Large Blade of Mace, or bruise with Sugar, or Bake in Coffin until Fit.


Lynda Halliger Otvos (Lynda M O) said...

Green bell sucketh so baddddd. I bow to your knowledge in this matter and will now follow you to the ends of the produce aisle.

(an aside: i am recovering from a food-borne illness (day 4 i think). soup sounds so good that you are actually making my hunger meter step up off the peg just a nudgie)

Thanks for the recipes, Jo, just what helped a bit to make it thru the night.

Happy New Year.

Rosanna said...

I described to my husband how you prepped your white; red; and black beans (for your soup) by first putting them in a colander; then - under your sink's faucet - just running water over them............ to take out "the FARTIFICATION chemicals." He laughed *so* hard, Jo, that I thought he might, (even as trim-and-fit as he is)............ get a.n.o.t.h.e.r. inguinal hernia, (haha)!!

'Super-*interesting*............ (and really researched in-depth, too!)............ post----thank you!!

Allison said...

You know, I think you have a cook book in you. Get thee to the writing place.

Chris said...

Those soups sound excellent! I collect cookbooks (not ancient, just whatever happens to look good, especially ones from around the 1950s). I have one you'd love - I'm Scottish on my dad's side, and my mom found me this awesome cookbook from the 40s - A Scot's Kitchen. Talk about butter and sugar - whoa.

Wendy said...

Sugar: to cover up the taste of something that might have turned.

At least that's my guess, since preservation of food was limited to tons of salt and smoking for the most part.

Okay, now I'm going to have to go look that up!

Shelly Burke said...

LOVE the Kale recipe--and laughed while I read it. :-) THANKS!!!