Archive for the ‘Nostalgic Foods’ Category

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January 06, 2016: “Little Night” on “Little Christmas”

January 6, 2016

 

Moo's Minestrone SoupI get this Christmas article done just under the wire: today is the last day of the “Twelve Days of Christmas.”

Today, January 6th, is known as “Little Christmas” or (in Irish) “Nollaig na mBan” otherwise know as “The Feast of the Epiphany” when the wise men, according to tradition, gave the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the Christ-child. It is also the day, James Joyce used to place in time one of my favorite short stories, “The Dead.”

It is quite appropriate that I should publish this on “Little Christmas” as it concerns the Christmas dinner I made for my family, which I called “Little Night.” Swaseys+DogsFor a while now, I have been promising a “Big Night” for my folks. This is a dinner based after one of my most favorite foodie films of that name. The film features some of the most amazing Italian food in cinema, and my idea is to make a number of dishes from the film to serve after my family seeing the film. Christmas, of course, has too much going on to devote all that time to cooking, so I thought I would give my family a scaled-down version to whet their appetite…hence, “Little Night.”

One of our family traditions for some time was developed when, years ago, I made Minestrone Soup at Christmas and it was a universal hit. Even the guys who won’t eat veggies (…and you know who are…Stephen Swasey…oh, did I just type that?!!!) liked it. A tattered copy of my recipe has been hanging around for some time, and the actual dish has been duplicated so well by others, that I haven’t made it at Christmas for years now. Moo did an excellent job with this years’ batch. The rest of the meal was mine, ‘tho. We had:

Moo’s Minestrone Soup Chicken Roasted in Spiced Dough Bow Tie pasta with Greens Fancy Salad Tiramisu Chicken B-Ball

The chicken dish is called “Pollo al Sal” or chicken roasted in a salted dough. The dough spices the meat as it traps all the delicious moisture in. The dough bakes as the chicken roasts. At the end of cooking (dubbed the “chicken basketball” by the guys by virtue of how it looked) and after resting, you break the dough with a hammer and you have the most tender chicken of your life! We decided to substitute fresh herbs (rosemary, and thyme) instead of salt for a healthier, tastier chicken.Hammering Chicken

My next dish was a bit of a flop…this time. I usually make the bow tie pasta dish with broccoli raab, a slightly bitter veggie that looks like broccoli gone to seed. It sweetens very nicely when you saute it with garlic in olive oil and sweet red peppers. Trouble was…I couldn’t find broccoli raab anywhere, so I substituted dandelion greens instead. This ended up a little too bitter for most of my family’s taste. I also made the mistake of grilling the parmesan cheese which ended up hardening the pasta a bit. Microwave always has worked for me in the past. Lesson: stick to what works for the basic dishes.Plated Chicken+Pasta Salad

My salad was nice with a center of lentils cooked in olive oil, garlic, tomatoes and spices. This was covered with exotic greens, matchsticked fennel, fresh mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, pomegranate seeds, clementine sections, all topped with a blood-orange olive oil and wine vinegar. The salad tasted very good, but I need to work on my salad-arranging skills for the next big meal.

My Tiramisu has been perfected over the years, and I love especially it near Christmas. When I found out that Nickki my niece liked it, I had to make it! Most recipes use beaten raw egg yolks. I cook mine with kaluha, beating all the while, to make zabaglionTiramisue, an Italian light custard, which I then cool before whipping in the marscapone (an Italian cream cheese.) I could not find espresso either, so I brewed a strong coffee and concentrated its brewing to get a good substitute. I also could not find spiced cocoa, so I made my own. Then, it’s all assembly: lightly dip lady fingers in the coffee, a layer of the custard, sprinkle of spiced cocoa, and shaved dark chocolate. Cover and chill. I save the top layer of chocolate shaving until just before serving. Steve+Sophie“Little Night” was my gift, but my family spoiled me rotten with gifts of their own, with the charming company of four lovely dogs, as well as their own sparkling personalities!

[Thanks to Stephen Swasey for all photos, except the one of the family (me) and the one of me and Sophie (Nickki)]

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March 08, 2015: A Riff On A Classic

March 8, 2015

Riff On A ClassicMost of my adult life I have been prone to slam my mother’s cooking. In recent years, I’ve come to realize how unfair my attitude has been.

Like most children, I suppose, we don’t find the true worth of a parent until it is far too late. My mother had to cook, daily, for ten people. If she sometimes found shortcuts to stretch my dad’s salary and cover what must have been a huge drain on our household…well, now that I am older and perhaps a bit wiser, I realize she did a pretty decent job, all in all.

Like most women of post-WWII, my mom took advantage of popular foods of the day. Many of these included, frozen and canned foods. Some were bland and awful…and a few were pretty spectacular! One dish my mom made often was “her” tuna fish casserole. I seem to remember that it came right off the back label of a Campbell’s mushroom soup can. It was a combination of boiled noodles, a can of tuna fish and two cans of the mushroom soup (plus milk) then baked. It was cheap, fast, fed a lot of hungry kids, and was a no-brainer. Best of all, as kids, we loved it! No wonder my mom made it often!

I thought I could make a healthier, veggie-based, slightly more jazzed-up version of this dish:

Peel skins off 3 large portobello mushrooms (I put these in a sandwich bag and keep them frozen until I make my next broth.) Slice them 1/2″ thick, and saute in 4 Tblsp. melted butter until soft. Add the juice of 1 lemon and a splash of sherry. Continue cooking a little until the shrooms almost absorbs all the liquids.

Chop 1 head of broccoli. (In keeping with my mom’s economy sense, I used the stalks as well, but chopped them a bit finer.)

I set about 4 Qts. H2O to boil while I made my veloute. This is always slightly different, depending on the dish, but this one was:

4 Tblsp. of melted butter+4 Tblsp. flour whisked together on medium heat until it has turned a slightly tawny color. Add 2C. whole milk and 1 can mushroom soup and continue whisking until just thick enough to pour easily. I had some organic mushroom gravy so I added 1C. of that. Normally, I would have used veggie broth instead.

When the H2O came to a boil I added 1 bag (12 Oz.) wide egg noodles. These usually boil for about 7 minutes, but I did them for 6 (knowing I was to bake the dish, a bit al dente is best) adding the broccoli for the last 2 minutes. Drain.

Butter the bottom and sides of a large (18″ X 12″) Pyrex pan and add drained noodles and broccoli. Top this with mushrooms and add veloute. I then topped this with 1/2C. each grated Swiss, Asiago, and Colby Jack cheeses and a sprinkle of each ground pepper and herbs de Provence and baked at 325°F for half hour.

A crunchy, cheesy top with tender noodles and veggies underneath. Best of all was the earthy, tangy, lemony shrooms that accented every bite.

Mom’s dish was more easily made than mine, but with just a tiny bit more effort and time, this classic turned into a real treat!

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January 01, 2013: A Feast of “The Dead”

January 1, 2013

deadtable[One of the luxuries of blog-writing is the ability to write an article far ahead of publishing it. I fell in love with John Huston’s last film, “The Dead” when it first came out in theaters in 1987. Seeing it was one of the last pushes to get me to finally visit Ireland in 1988. The story by James Joyce is considered, by some, to be one of the best short-stories of the English Language and it has always been one of my most favorite Christmas-time stories. “The Dead” took forever to come out on DVD, being released finally in 2009. Thank you to the Hudson Public Library for ordering it for me. I write this almost one month before publishing.]

It is a brave undertaking, attempting to make a film of one of the best and most-beloved of short stories of English literature. It would take an accomplished and confident director and one who understood the story’s concern for the impermanence of the human condition and the frailty of one’s best endeavors. The story: “The Dead” by James Joyce from “The Dubliners.” The director: John Huston. It was Huston’s last film.

The story of “The Dead” is deceptively simple. If you are not a fan of subtext, you will be bored to tears by this film. On the surface, “The Dead” is a dinner/dance party in Dublin on a snowy night of The Feast of the Epiphany” (January 6th) 1904. Two older sisters and their niece, all musically inclined, are putting on the event for family, students, and friends. It is a hodgepodge mix of people of all types and ages. In the center of a maelstrom of food, drink, dancing, music, and recitation are a couple: Gabriel, who is the nephew of the older hostesses and his wife Gretta. Gabriel is a university English professor and his main role of the evening, outside of carving the goose, is an after-dinner toast to the hostesses, which appears to be an annual responsibility for him. Gabriel takes this duty very seriously. Throughout the evening he sneaks peeks at his notes and ruminates on the appropriateness of his lines.

Gabriel Rehearses.jpgAs the evening progresses, the audience is introduced to every person at the party, in turn. Despite our technological advances since, society itself has changed very little since 1904, so the audience is assured of finding familiar characters of this group of drunkards, fools, sycophants, and bores as well as those of a more talented, sophisticated, and erudite leaning.

I hope someday to have an Epiphany meal for friends or family. I would most certainly flesh this out more with a soup, salad and more veggies, but I have devised a menu, from as far as I can determine, from both story and film of the basics.

Menu from  James Joyce’s “The Dead”
Roast Goose and Stuffing           Baked Potatoes
Spiced Beef          Red Currant Jam         NO APPLESAUCE!!!!
Blancmange          Christmas Pudding          Chocolate
Toasted Almonds          Raisins          Celery (“capital for the blood”)
White Wine          Port          Sherry          Stout

As well as being concerned with the language of his speech, Gabriel is plagued all night by his failings of his spoken language. [Torture for an English professor. Doubly so, for an Irish one, who value language above all arts. Some surmise that Gabriel is a projection of Joyce of himself, if he had remained in Ireland: a fussy and prim no-talent.] It is interesting that at the early stages of the feminist movement, that the challenges to Gabriel all come from women. The first is from the serving girl, who Gabriel has known since she was young, and when he insinuates that she must be close to being married, she bitterly replies, “The men that are today are all palaver and what they can get from you.” The word “palaver” is  little archaic to our ears but means “idle or worthless talk.” Essentially, the girl is saying (in modern terms) “Men are rats!” A statement that automatically includes Gabriel.

The second challenge comes from a colleague. Molly Ivers is strong-minded, political, and far from shy, fellow teacher. While dancing with Gabriel, she accuses him of writing for an English-sympathizing newspaper and labels him a “West Briton” a shameful term at the time for an Irishman with English sympathies. Gabriel is ignorant of the term, and Molly points out that he is also ignorant of his own language and taunts Gabriel by saying “Good Night” to him in Irish.Grett Contemplates2

The last…and worst…is a rebuff from his wife, while driving home. Gretta has been distracted all night. It is clear she has a secret and Gabriel is anxious to know what it is. He uses jokes and stories to try to wheedle out what she is thinking about…all of which fall very flat.

“The Dead” is a subtle fable of a supposition about humanity: that despite all our surface trappings of tradition, pleasant company, intellectualism, and comforts, in reality all that is truly important is totally out of our control. Our loves, our creative ability, and even life itself, must finally pass.

jj_the_deadBut, this supposition has an inherent flaw, which is evident in the very story itself. Joyce, through this wonderful creative endeavor has captured the life of people (or at least archetypes) that he most certainly knew. Even Gretta must have been based as much on his wife, Nora Barnacle, as Gabriel is based on himself. This creative endeavor inspired one of the best directors of the 20th Century to reproduce it in fine form. In one of the most poignant endings of cinema, Huston gently reshuffles Joyce’s words to mark his own creative endeavor, in order to speak for himself…and for us all:

“Think of all those who ever were, back to the start of time. And me, transient as they, flickering out as well into their gray world. Like everything around me, this solid world itself which they reared and lived in, is dwindling and dissolving. Snow is falling…falling in that lonely churchyard where Michael Furey lies buried, falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living…and the dead.”

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December 25, 2012: Best Green Bean Casserole

December 25, 2012

Green Bean CasseroleThis is one rare dish that wasn’t planned to be included on the blog, but as I was making it, I realized that it would be hard to improve on this recipe, so into the blog it must go!

This recipe has my “first” student Regan all over it. Regan faithfully sends me foodstuffs at Christmas, and it was this year’s Christmas parcel that put this recipe over the top! Regan probably doesn’t realize that she may never top her own best Christmas gift ever, when a couple of years ago I got a beautiful Christmas card from her with a Nativity theme, that announced the upcoming birth of her and her husband’s Max son Mason. The foodstuffs, however, are very, very welcome and they have found their way into many of these recipes on the blog. This year’s parcel from my favorite elf came right on Christmas Eve, just in time for my Christmas Dinner plans. Along with an adorable photo of Mason by the tree, I was treated to dried mushrooms of many varieties, most of which I had never worked with in a recipe and could never afford now.

I love Green Bean Casserole and somehow have associated it with holiday meals, despite that I really don’t remember having it growing up at the holidays. Most people have it as a side dish, but for me it is a main dish, as I love it so.

Green Bean Casserole
Soak about 1/4C. dried mushrooms (I used Regan’s Wild Morels and Chanterelles) in 4-5C. veggie broth for about a half hour. While the mushrooms soak, in 4Qts. lightly salted boiling H2O, add 32Oz. washed and de-stemmed French green beans. Boil beans for NO MORE than three minutes (you want the beans to still have a good green color and plenty of snap) and immediately immerse into cold H2O. Drain well. Slice 2C. “Baby Bella” mushrooms (these are immature Portobello mushrooms: these are tastier, more colorful, and larger than the button mushrooms normally used in this dish.) In a 9″ x 14″ buttered Pyrex dish add the beans and rearrange a bit to get them more compact. Top with mushroom slices. Salt and pepper and sprinkle with French Thyme and Herbs de Provence. Fill casserole with velouté.

Velouté
Bring dried mushrooms and stock to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. While stock is cooking, in a medium pan melt 6 Tblsp. butter, add 6 Tblsp. flour and whisk over medium-low heat for about 2 minutes. This will darken slightly but be careful you do not burn it. While still whisking, strain broth into flour/butter. This mixture will thicken rapidly. Add about 4-5C. milk while still whisking. It will thicken more as the milk gets warm over the heat. You want the velouté to be a little on the thin side as cooking it with the baking of the casserole will thicken the velouté further. If needed, add more milk, in small amounts, whisking all the while, to thin. Add lemon zest from a half lemon. Add sprinkles of white pepper, sal de mer, French Thyme and Herbs de Provence. Finish by whisking in 1/2C. Sherry (the real stuff, NOT cooking sherry.) Taste. Correct seasoning. Add to casserole.

In a 325°F oven, on a cookie sheet lined with parchment, toast 1/2C. slivered almonds, turning often. Remove almonds when they are a tad underdone, as you will be baking these further in the casserole. Top the casserole with these almonds and about 1 and 1/2C. French Fried Onions. Bake casserole on an upper oven rack at 325°F for 45 minutes.

Using the Baby Bellas was a big improvement for this recipe, adding the sherry and  lemon zest bumped the taste up a bit, but it was Regan’s dried mushrooms that gave  the velouté the bass note and rich tones that I never had before. It should be noted that the almonds and French Thyme came from Regan’s last year’s gift. I hope to return the favor someday and make this dish for Regan, Max and Mason. I promise to make the whole meal worth the wait!

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December 17, 2012: Bittersweet

December 17, 2012

Bittersweet LayoutI know what you would say. “We have more than enough Christmas traditions. There is no need to concern ourselves with yet another Christmas decoration” and in one sense you’d be correct. We have all the holly, ivy, wreaths, mistletoe, Yule Logs, perfectly healthy conifers that we cut down and bring inside to put lights on. No, I’m talking a decoration for a very different set of folks. Let’s say the holly, ivy, etc. are for the “haves” of the world, because let’s be honest…few people with money collect decorations from nature. I know of no one now that actually goes out to chop down the Christmas tree, anymore. Most people buy Christmas decorations, and if you have the ready cash to buy temporary vegetation to decorate your home for the Christmas season, that pretty much qualifies you as a “have” as opposed to a “have-not.”

Here, I want to break off and say I hope you are a “have.” I sincerely want each and every single one of you to be a “have” because now that I have had the experience of a “have-not” there is no one I would wish this state upon. Yet, I am far from alone…not this Christmas anyway, and for most Christmases either. As the man said once,”The poor will be with us always.”

The Christmas decoration that I propose for the “have-nots” is that of the American Bittersweet. First, it is a true American plant, as opposed to the holly and the ivy, both which grow in the Americas, but it is the European varieties that we see at Christmas. Bittersweet has a festive coloring, forming red berries with the occasional yellow sheath covering, just before Christmas. It is found on a long, flexible vine that can be wound around like a wreath or cut into smaller pieces. It grows in abundance just about anywhere in the wild and is free for the taking. Symbolically, it is appropriate for us “have-nots” as like poverty, Bittersweet can surround and choke off all other life it grows around. Most symbolic is the plant’s name, because as we all carry memories of better Christmases, being poor at Christmas can be perfectly described as “bittersweet.”

Bittersweet_LThe Sweet
My first introduction to Bittersweet as a decoration was at my last “real” Christmas four years ago. I was visiting my sister in Western New York State and she had her house decorated in her unique and quirky artistic style. Every corner of her house had a different and usually antique, decoration or toy. I noticed she had tastefully placed vines of red berries with yellow accents behind a number of pieces of artwork and when I asked what they were and she told me it was Bittersweet. As always, she was the perfect chef and hostess and served the family a most wonderful Christmas Eve Dinner, complete with candlelight, champagne, and  a slew of wonderful Christmas desserts she is famous for. Christmas morning was the best because I had the money to spoil my niece and nephew with a shower of gifts. As Christmases go, it doesn’t get more sweet than that.

No Cash at Christmas is a Real Dickens
Probably the biggest success story of being poor at Christmas is famous because it has been turned into the best-loved Christmas stories in English literature. Despite having been the most celebrated authors of his time, just before Christmas 1843, Charles Dickens was having his own financial crunch. His last two novels were a critical, but not monetary, success. He had just come back from a bad tour of America, where he hoped to get new ideas. It wasn’t a good mix. Dickens found Americans crude and boorish. They found him foppish and irritating. With his fifth child born and overdrawn at the bank, Dickens needed a real good story, and he needed it quick! Dickens was forever haunted by the idea of poverty. When he was eleven, he was pulled out of school and had to work at a boot-blacker shop as his father was put into a debtors prison for his own bad money management. Not only was the work, messy, dirty, smelly and filling the long day with mind-numbing dullness, but Dickens had ignominy of having to perform his job in front of a window for passer-bys. He was never going down that road again if he could help it.

So, by locking himself in a room with pen and paper, in just six weeks, he Bittersweet_Cpounded out “A Christmas Carol” and self-published it just in time for the Christmas season. The rest, they say, is history. He had managed to not only eventually rekindle his bank account but also to capture the perfect and concise story of what it means to be human. He also, single-handedly reinvented Christmas from a not-so-special holiday into what we know of it today. He managed to do all this, while at the same time not sacrificing his moral or creative ideals. Due to his own experiences, Dickens was much concerned with the education of English youths and counted it as the only way to improve the welfare of his nation’s future. Witness, the youthful spectres of “Want” and “Ignorance” that are sheltered under the Ghost of Present Christmas’s cloak.

As with our dreams, storytellers tell stories about what they know…and what they know best is themselves. It is understandable that in “A Christmas Carol” Dickens is at once Cratchit, Fezziwig, and Scrooge, especially when chastised for his avarice from his young finacee with, “You fear the world too much!”

Bittersweet_RThe Bitter
Yet who could blame anyone for “fearing the world too much” when you are under the threat of poverty? The fear is generating from the idea that you have no real control over your life. Having some experience with this, now for the fourth year, I would like to offer some thoughts that may possibly help others in my “have-not” condition (and might not hurt those of the “have” category as well!) Most of these are indeed old chestnuts, so roast them long and slow over your Christmas hearth:

No amount of wretchedness can remove your good memories. Those are yours forever. Use them to remember a time when things were not as bad. All things pass.

Never lose your ideals. There is one thing worse than being poor and that is being poor and not being able to look yourself in the mirror from being bad to yourself or others.

The only real thing you have control over is your attitude. Misery hates laughter. Find the humor. You might even find (like Dickens) with a little imagination, you have a good story.

You might feel embarrassed because it seems  you are failing. Please stop. The only people your condition matters to, are the ones who love you anyway and sincerely want you to improve. Just do your best.

The world tends to obscure blessings through the cataract of misery. Look closer. You will find blessings behind the veil.

Find solace in the free (or cheap) stuff…it is usually the best stuff anyway. Libraries, laughter of children, exercise, sunlight, fresh air, the occasional moment of grace….and just a whiff of hope, are all not to be undervalued.

I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t point out that like most Christmas decorations, Bittersweet is also slightly poisonous and should not be placed in households with pets and small children.

To my friends and family: to all the “haves” and “have-nots;” I wish you a most lovely and wondrous Christmas season. Oh…one more exceptional free thing…a good wish. Yet…if I had wealth of millions that sincere good wish would still be the best of what I could offer.

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December 10, 2012: Wassail, Wassail!

December 10, 2012

WassailAs Americans, we are familiar with the Christmas tradition of wassail mostly through carols passed along from our neighbors across the pond, where the wassailing traditions are the strongest. One starts:

“Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green,
Here we come a-wand’ring
So fair to be seen.
Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail, too,
And God bless you, and send you
A Happy New Year,
And God send you a Happy New Year…”

Even the carols themselves seem a bit archaic and quaint as most Americans have never gone “a-wassailing” nor seen, nor made, nor tasted, the beverage on which the proceedings are based.

“Wassail” is from the Old English (wase haile) meaning “good health”  and is traditionally celebrated on New Year’s Day. It is a mix of older traditions that coalesced in the Saxon period of occupation in England. Kalends, the Roman celebration of the New Year was already established after the Celts and before the Saxons. The Celts and those before them would, of course, celebrate the Winter Solstice…the returning of the sun to the world. The Saxons themselves celebrated the Wassail as a way to ward away the “dark spirits” from affecting the growth of fruit trees, particularly apples, which grew so well in England. All of this tradition simmers down through human consciousness as a desire to party at the darkest time of the year…and what better way to celebrate than to drink beer and sing songs?!!

The Ancient Rite
On New Year’s Day Saxons assembled at mid-day in an orchard. They would surround the largest tree and pour cider at its roots and put toast dipped in cider in its branches to nourish the “good spirits” taking the form of robins, thought to be the guardians of the orchard. At a pre-arranged point the people would shout “Huzzah” or bang drums or whatever, to make noise to drive the “bad spirits” away to encourage a good crop for the coming year.

Beer made a lot of sense back in Saxon times and people then drank far more beer than water, as the beer was safer. In the days before we knew about microbes, all that people knew was that water that stood around made people sick. Beer did not, because to make a proper beer you must first boil the wort (a kind of barley-tea) that makes beer. This disinfects it. Because the nutrient-rich property of beer would grow microbes much faster than water, people at first tended to drink it before it was properly aged (called green beer…and it is indeed as nasty as it sounds!) They eventually found that if they could hermetically seal the beer away from air in barrels, the beer tasted better as it aged. This had the added benefit of keeping microbes away, creating a more hygienic beverage that kept longer, while at the same time increasing the alcoholic content!

Wassail is a mostly beer, part fruit-juice with sundry spices, served warm in an ornate cup. Wooden bowls are the most traditional serving container. If you’ve got a bowl made from apple wood, this is the best! The final touch of the wassail is a topping of lightly whipped cream (just a little bit…it’s mostly a decoration.) This is to represent lambs wool. All I could find on this part of the tradition is that the drink’s nick-name is “lambs wool” in some parts of England. Recipes tend to be kinda loose with just about every facet and most say there is “no bad Wassail recipe.” I beg to differ. I made some for friends a couple of years ago that was pretty nasty. After everyone took a sip, I was left with a gallon of wassail to finish myself. Way to kill a tradition, Steve! I figured that my choice of beer had too much hops in it, which get even more bitter as you heat it. Stay with porters and other English ales and you will be OK. Stay away from the more hoppy beers like IPAs

A Wassail Recipe
Gently warm one bottle (12 Fl. Oz.) of English ale (or similar brew…I used Wachusett Winter Ale and that turned out very well) and 1/4C. apple cider (or lemon juice or pineapple juice or some combination of all) one cinnamon stick, four whole cloves, the peel of 1/4 of an orange and a few apple pieces. You want to warm the wassail, but not to boil it! Just before serving, strain the wassail into the serving bowl with a sieve. In a separate bowl, whisk a few tablespoons of cream (I used evaporated milk) until frothy and add this to the top.

Wassailing eventually turned into a social event of visiting neighbors on New Year’s Day, wassail in hand, singing songs and begging for treats for the entertainment, something like our present-day Halloween. This eventually turned into the more Victorian-age caroling..today itself, looked upon as being quaint and “old-folkey.” So traditions pass. But if you have an interest in fruit crops, old traditions, or just want a tasty warm beverage on a cold WInter’s night..try wassail! And if you then feel the urge to visit neighbors and sing a few songs…well….then, that’s what the season is all about, isn’t it?

“Wassail…wassail, all over the town.
Our cup is white and the ale is brown.
Our cup it is made of the white ashen tree,
and so is the ale of the good barley!”

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September 24, 2012: Mom’s Stuffed Peppers

September 24, 2012

Celts love the number three. Whether it’s trefoils, triskelions, or triads, three is that magic number that pops up all over Celtic culture and art since before recorded history. Because my Celtic side comes through my mom, I thought I would round off my trio of tributes to her cooking with my variation of the dish that she made that was my favorite.

You can find stuffed pepper recipes wherever peppers are grown, and they grow most places on earth, making stuffed peppers one of the most universal human dishes. Mom made hers with ground beef, but my store sells a soy product called “soyrizo” that I like, which is a vegetarian variation of chorizo (the Portuguese sausage.)

 

Mom’s Stuffed Peppers:
Wash and slice the very top of two peppers, core and discard seeds, wash inside and dry on a paper towel. Dice pepper top around stem. Dice 1/4 Vidalia onion, one small medium-hot red pepper, and 1 clove garlic and cook over low-medium heat in 3 Tblsp. corn oil for about 2  minutes in medium pot. While veggies are cooking, wash 1/2C. basamati and 1/8C.brown rice well and drain. Add 3oz. of the soyrizo to the veggies and cook for another 2 minutes. Add dashes of ground pepper, oregano, chili powder, and a small bay leaf. Add rice to pot and cook for yet another 2 minutes. Add 2C. veggie broth, bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until rice is almost dry, stirring once and while. Stuff peppers with rice/veggie/sorizo until about 7/8th full. Put in an oiled shallow pan with extra stuffing on the side. Top with grated pepper-jack and parmesan cheeses and a few flakes of red pepper. Bake at 325°F for 1 hour. Give peppers a quick shot under the broiler (low in the oven for more control) until browned. Serve.

“What are the three welcomes of a good chef? Not hard to tell…plenty, kindliness, and art”  -Celtic Triad

 

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