This is a post I try to include every few years because it is so delicious!
I learned about Gazpacho when I first moved to California in 1960. It was a huge fad at that time, and I was knocked over by it! It’s been given a number of names, including “liquid salad,” but whatever you call it, it’s simply delicious!
This may seem like a summer-only dish to many of the mainlanders, but in California, and especially here in Hawai`i, we can eat it year-round.
The beauty of a healthy serving of Gazpacho is that you can put almost any kind of raw veggie into it. Take your pick from:
fresh tomatoes (about 2-3 pounds cut into quarters, skin and all – or canned, peeled tomatoes) cucumber
bell peppers (I used a combination of orange, red, yellow baby bells)
maybe a Jalepeño for a little kick?
Zap it up in a blender or food processor until thick and chunky.
Store it in the fridge until it’s good and cold.
Ladle it into a bowl, top with crumbled feta and sprigs of cilantro.
To go with this, I like to serve a good loaf of crunchy rustic bread fresh from the oven, and maybe a big hunk of sharp cheese.
Whether you celebrate Cinco de Mayo (Fifth of May) or not, it’s almost always appropriate to eat Mexican food. I honestly believe I must have had a former life as a Mexican because I could eat that food three (or more) times a day.
So I look forward to Cinco de Mayo each year to give me a valid excuse for my Mexican indulgence!
Because I was usually in a hurry to eat something when I came home from a long day of teaching, or even today as a stay-at-home author, one of the easiest meals for me to make is a simple pulled pork taco from my slow cooker.
I start out with the meat from pork steaks or chops, cubed in 1-inch pieces. (You also could use beef or chicken.) Then I dump in a 24 ounce jar of either red or green salsa (any style). The “heat” depends on your taste, but mine usually goes for the hottest.
To this you can add a bit of chopped onion, garlic, or more spice. I generally toss in two or three of the tiny Thai peppers from my garden. Uh…I like spicy!
Cover and cook on low all day until you get home – eight to 10 hours.
Sometimes I put it in a bowl, top with sour cream and chopped cilantro to eat like soup. If I plan to do this, I add a can of drained corn or black beans to the pot (or both).
If I want it as a taco or tostado, then the pork is so tender you hardly have to shred it. Spoon it in or on a warmed up tortilla, add chopped lettuce, grated Mexican cheese, a dollop of sour cream, chopped cilantro, and maybe even another spoon of salsa.
I could eat a dozen of these, but I’ll try to contain myself!
These two photos were taken in the patio of Tres Hombres in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, which sadly no longer exists. That was my “go to” place for Mexican food when I was in town. Each year, if it was your birthday, they would bring out this enormous (and heavy) sombrero for you to wear. Then they sang to you and took pictures!
This week we will celebrate Fat Tuesday, or Shrove Tuesday, more commonly known as Mardi Gras. I’m not from New Orleans, but I spent enough years in the Deep South to have this celebration in my soul. Since I won’t be there to toss beads or join in the festivities on Bourbon Street this year, I plan to do something to feel like I have truly honored the day.
Usually, this dish contains ham and/or shrimp, and/or chicken, and/or sausage. The only thing I could come up with this time was one lone sausage, so that’s what I used. Fortunately, when I added about a cup of black-eyed peas leftover from New Year’s Day, I found pieces of ham.
These are the basic ingredients but just use what you have. You could find many versions of this dish online, or you can dig around in your kitchen and come up with the basic ingredients of a traditional Jambalaya. This makes enough for a couple servings.
You can add the seasoning for your own taste, but I like spicy!
My Version of Jambalaya
Into a slow cooker, I put:
1 can non-fat chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes
1 large sliced spicy sausage
1 cup Jasmine Brown Rice blended with Wild Rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 diced garlic cloves
2 diced baby bell peppers
½ large onion, diced
A handful of chopped parsley
2 broken bay leaves
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper (more or less to your taste)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
All of this cooked for 4-5 hours on high. The last 30 minutes, I put in the pre-cooked black-eyed peas. I think you could put it on low for 8-9 hours if you wanted to leave it all day. Any bean can be added, but somehow the black-eyed peas seemed more in keeping with New Orleans.
“Laissez les bon temps rouler” (let the good times roll), as any good New Orleanian would say, until the beginning of Lent.
When I was in high school, I worked as a Saturday receptionist for one of the local optometrists who was also a member of my father’s church, which was probably the reason he gave me the job. His wife was known to be a great cook, so this is the recipe from Bea Henderson of Litchfield, Illinois – one I’ve made for many years.
This recipe became a staple when I lived on my boat. It was not only a delicious and fast bread to whip up in my tiny galley, but it used up the orange peels instead of tossing them overboard. Jokingly, I called it my “garbage bread,” but it is anything but garbage!
Decades later, I’m still making this bread and it continues to be one of my favorites. The picture above shows it fresh out of the oven.
¾ cup orange rind, cut into fine strips
1 ½ cup sugar
1 cup water
Boil the above until tender.
Add 2 tablespoons butter and ½ teaspoon salt. Cool.
Stir – put in loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes.
Good for “teas,” sliced thin and buttered (my mother’s words)
My Note: Many “heirloom” recipes don’t give specific instructions on what to do if the batter is too thick, what size pan to use, and the like. I think the thickness depends on how long you let the orange peels simmer. If it’s too thick, I add either water or a little orange juice when I’m mixing. But do expect this to be a thick dough. I sprayed my loaf pans with a canola oil spray to help it come out easier.
I’m afraid my loaves never last until a “tea.” It’s just too good not to eat warm and fresh out of the oven! It’s all I can do to limit myself to one (or two) slices right out of the oven. Also, I usually double the recipe and freeze one loaf for later. It makes great toast or just sliced up and eaten cold. This is absolutely a wonderful, simple bread to make, and tastes like autumn.
I confess! I’m addicted to books! But I have read all the books I own and continue to use them all as reference and/or for teaching.
My addiction carries over into cookbooks, and I doubt if there is even one of these books that hasn’t been used for at least one recipe. Like many cooks, I use recipes mostly for guidance to come up with my own variation. My cooking has never been an exact science.
The shelves of cookbooks shown above were in my kitchen/dining area when I lived in Ocean View, and I had another shelf of cookbooks in another bookcase, because there wasn’t room for them all here. I’ve even been known to borrow cookbooks from the library to read!
When I moved onto my boat from a large house in the late 70s, I gave a book box of cookbooks to each of my four children. This is what I have left!
I know I could probably find the same recipes online, but there is something deeply soul-satisfying about sitting down and reading through an old book of recipes that my mother, or grandmother used. Tucked into each book are other recipes given to me by friends, or that I have cut out of a magazine.
Yes, I think you can say I’m addicted!
Now, you may think that with all these recipes at my disposal, I’d be cooking delicious dishes every day. The fact is, I usually have only myself to cook for and if I ate the way I’d like to cook, I’d be as wide as the channel between here and Maui!
So this week, instead of sharing a recipe with you, I thought I’d tell you about my favorite books on these shelves, and even tell you about some of the recipes in them that I love.
Probably the oldest book I have is a little booklet from the Metropolitan Insurance Company; I think I inherited it from my great-grandmother. Several of my books date back to the 30s, and many of what I have date to the 50s, when I was a young woman. My first Christmas as a married woman in 1955, I received the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook, a three-ring binder that is barely holding together.
I also love my specialty books, like Mme. Bégué’s Recipes of Old New Orleans Creole Cookery, from 1953. You wouldn’t believe how many pages are spattered with oil and tomato paste! One recipe from that book is “Shrimp Creole” and someday I’ll post that because I make it often.
I have quite a few Mexican cookbooks, but my favorite is Elena’s Secrets of Mexican Cooking by Elena Zelayeta, blind, but she kept on cooking. Her “Caserola De Pollo Y Elote” (Chicken and Corn Casserole) is full of green chiles and wonderful!
Farm Journal’s Complete Pie Cookbook is another tattered book on my shelves, also full of messy pages! And Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook probably has most of the comfort foods I make.
The Rodale Cookbook published by the Rodale Press is where I go for breads and other wholesome foods. I have several other of the Rodale books and they are all great.
As I peruse the books, it’s fun to see how many phases and stages of eating I’ve gone through. You will find vegetarian/vegan books, low-fat books, low-carb books, and all sorts of specialized diet books, all of which I still read and sometimes use. Then there are the regional books that show where I’ve lived – Guam, Alaska, Arizona, California, Down East, Deep South, the Orient.
Even though I still buy new cookbooks, I still go back to my old “tried-and-true” standards when I want to make something special for friends. Maybe someday I’ll stop reading my cookbooks like novels (which is what I do!) and actually use them for more cooking.
Now I’m anxious to go find a new recipe to try for you!
A hui hou!
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