Meatless Monday – Fried Yellow Squash
Again a dish from my youth. Fresh from the garden squash, (yellow, summer, crook-neck, or zucchini), sliced thin, tossed in seasoned corn meal and quick fried, usually served hot. (actually, we just stood around the stove grabbing pieces off the plate as they came out for the frying pan.)
Squashes generally refer to four species of the genus Cucurbita native to Mexico and Central America, natively grown in parts of North America, Europe, India, and Australia. In North America, squash is loosely grouped into summer squash or winter squash, as well as autumn squash depending on whether they are harvested as immature vegetables (summer squash) or mature vegetables (autumn squash or winter squash). Well known types of squash include the pumpkin and zucchini.
When used for food, squash are usually picked when under 8in/20cm in length and the seeds are soft and immature. Mature squash can be as much as three feet long, but are often fibrous and not appetizing to eat. Squash with the flowers attached are a sign of a truly fresh and immature fruit, and are especially sought by many people.
I have started playing with a fusion diet of Mediterranean, Mid-Eastern, and Far Eastern cuisines. Heavy on Rice, Noodles, Breads, Pastas, fuits, veggies, nuts, beans, olive / sesame oil, and very light on red meat. A fair amount of fish, lighter on poultry. This does not mean I will run screaming at the sight of a a steak, (or at least run screaming AWAY..)
One item that keeps popping up is preserved lemons, used in all kinds of dishes around the Mediterranean, it really should be called preserved lemon peel, as that is the component most used.
Preserved lemon or lemon pickle is a condiment that is common in Indian and North African cuisine. It is also known as “country lemon” and leems. Diced, quartered, halved, or whole, lemons are pickled in a brine of water, lemon juice, and salt; occasionally spices are included as well. The pickle is allowed to ferment at room temperature for weeks or months before it is used. The pulp of the preserved lemon can be used in stews and sauces, but it is the peel (zest and pith together) that is most valued. The flavor is mildly tart but intensely lemony.
Pieces of pickled lemon may be washed before using to remove any surface salt, or blanched to remove more of the salt and bring out the natural mild sweetness. They may then be sliced, chopped, or minced as needed for the texture of the dish. The rind may be used with or without the pulp.
Preserved lemon is the key ingredient in many Moroccan dishes such as tagines. In Cambodian cuisine, it is used in dishes such as Ngam nguv, a chicken soup with whole preserved lemons. They are often combined in various ways with olives, artichokes, seafood, veal, chicken, and rice. Lemon Pickle is a standard accompaniment to curd rice, which is often the last course in South Indian Cuisine.
The pickled pulp and liquid can be used in Bloody Marys and other beverages where lemon and salt are used. The flavor also combines well with horseradish, as in American-style cocktail sauce.
In Ayurvedic cuisine, lemon pickle is a home remedy for stomach disorders, and its value is said to increase as it matures. In East African folk medicine, lemon pickle is given for excessive growth of the spleen.
From a VERY OLD COOKBOOK (Elizabeth Raffald (1786). The experienced English housekeeper )
They should be small, and with thick rinds: rub them with a piece of flannel; then slit them half down in four quarters, but not through to the pulp; fill the slits with salt hard pressed in, set them upright in a pan for four or five days, until the salt melts; turn them thrice a day in their own liquor, until tender; make enough pickle to cover them, of rape-vinegar, the brine of the lemons, Jamaica pepper, and ginger; boil and skim it; when cold, put it to the lemons, with two ounces of mustard-seed, and two cloves of garlic to six lemons. When the lemons are used, the pickle will be useful in fish or other sauces.
Note: When I speak of “Fresh” dried spices, I am stalking about items recently acquired, not sitting on a back shelf for a year. This should yield about a quart, so having a sterilized quart jar and lid is necessary. As a point, it is easier to manipulate the lemons in a wide mouth jar.
Meatless Monday – Grilled Cheese
The grilled cheese is true comfort food. Then again not just “normal” grilled cheese, I hate “white bread” and loth “spreadable cheeses”.
Considering the construction of a perfect grilled cheese, I turn to my trusty chill box, where I found Sourdough, Irish Cheddar cheese, pickles, various herbs, and of course butter… This looks like heart attack ala grilled cheese…
Uncooked cheese sandwiches simply require assembly of the cheese slices on the bread, along with any additions and condiments.
A grilled cheese sandwich is assembled and then heated until the bread crisps and the cheese melts, sometimes combined with an additional ingredient such as peppers, tomatoes or onions. Several different methods of heating the sandwich are used, depending on the region and personal preference. Common methods include being cooked on a griddle, grilled, fried in a pan or made in a panini grill or sandwich toaster (this method is more common in the United Kingdom where the sandwiches are normally called “toasted sandwiches” or “toasties”).
When making grilled cheese on an open griddle or pan, one side is cooked first, then the sandwich is flipped and cooked on the other side. The sandwich is finished when both sides are toasted and the cheese has melted. Butter, oil, or mayonnaise may first be spread on either the bread or the cooking surface in the case of butter and oil. An alternative technique is to toast or grill each half of the sandwich separately, then combine them.
When using butter best results are achieved at a medium heat. This prevents the milk solids in butter from burning and allows sufficient time for heat to thoroughly penetrate the sandwich and melt the cheese without burning the bread. A crispy golden-brown crust with a melted cheese center is a commonly preferred level of preparedness. Cooking times can vary depending on pan dimensions, ability to control the intensity of the heat source, bread type, cheese variety and overall thickness of pre-cooked sandwich.
One of my favorite squash recipes, this works well for those squash that have gotten a bit large for frying. This is prime time for squash and zucchini, they are making last fruit, in abundance. The pity is that soon they will be gone and the only one we will find are shipped in from every increasing distances, meaning ever decreasing levels of freshness.
Oh well, I suppose we should make the best of this as we can. This recipe is rather simple, but as most “simple” things quite good.
Note: I make this with butter, but one can also use other fats, (read this as bacon drippings for the porcine lover, olive oil for the health conscious / vegetarian), this is a basic recipe, some will move this to a casserole, cover with panko / butter and brown, others will add tomatoes, others will use zucchini, or mix them into the pot.
Meatless Monday – Fruit Cake Cookies
These really are the essanse of the holiday season, spicy, bright and loaded with dried / candied fruit as befits the season.
Fruitcake (or fruit cake) is a cake made with chopped candied fruit and/or dried fruit, nuts, and spices, and (optionally) soaked in spirits. In the United Kingdom, certain rich versions may be iced and decorated. Fruitcakes are often served in celebration of weddings and Christmas.
Typical American fruitcakes are rich in fruit and nuts.
Mail-order fruitcakes in America began in 1913. Some well-known American bakers of fruitcake include Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, Texas and The Claxton Bakery in Claxton, Georgia. Both Collin Street and Claxton are southern companies with access to cheap nuts, for which the expression “nutty as a fruitcake” was derived in 1935. Commercial fruitcakes are often sold from catalogs by charities as a fund raiser.
Most American mass-produced fruitcakes are alcohol-free, but traditional recipes are saturated with liqueurs or brandy and covered in powdered sugar, both of which prevent mold. Brandy- or wine-soaked linens can be used to store the fruitcakes, and some people feel that fruitcakes improve with age.
These cookies will have a proliferation of dried and candied fruit, roasted and toasted nuts, and of course good bourbon and candied cherries on the top.
Fruit used in these can be any and all of these, Dark sweet cherries, Pineapple tidbits, Dried figs, Dried peaches, Dried apples, Chopped dates, Dried apricots, Golden raisins, Dried currants, all of which can be chopped finely and macerated in a liquor for an extra taste kick.
Cranberry – Orange Relish
Ah, Thanksgiving!!! Turkey, Dressing, Gravy, Potatoes and the never ending argument over real cranberry sauce or jellied crap from a can…
Maybe this year, I’ll pull out a twist and do something different, I have seen this before, but can not remember where, the internet is vast, my memory is small. Fresh cranberries, whole oranges, tart apples, with a touch of sugar, vanilla, and as always the Rogue Chef touch with a taste of good bourbon
(Though, for those who LIKE crap in a can, there may be no salvation….)