Monday, January 2, 2017

New Year Resolutions, Part I: Cook More!

This is a blog I have been thinking about for the last couple of months: 1.) Cook more; 2.) Art of freezing casseroles; and 3.) Learn to cook at least one Julia Child recipe before the end of 2017 - make that, learn to cook at least two recipes from Julia

Okay, I am finally going to tackle my thoughts, especially after reading this article in the New York Times, The Dark (and Often Dubious) Art of Forecasting Food Trends. Seriously? You are worried about food trends? Have you ever heard the old quote, "Everything old is new again?"  

Some of the hot food trends for 2017 listed are: Sorghum, fermented vegetables, and "ugly produce." Since when is sorghum new? My grandfather use to buy sorghum syrup from some mail-order catalog when I was a youngster. This dark somewhat bitter, but sweet syrup was a treat for him on his Saturday morning pancakes. For my grandfather, who was born in the late 1800's, sorghum was a staple when he was growing up in the "fly-over" states (and before some of the area was even states).  What is sorghum? A grass - a grain crop. When boiled down, like sugar cane, it becomes a dark sweet syrup that is similar to molasses, but not molasses. 

Apparently fermenting vegetables was a new trend in 2016. Who knew? I grew up when fermenting cabbage for sauerkraut was an event in the fall. My father and grandmother would take a walk to the grandparent's garden and cut several large heads of cabbage. The large heads of greenish-white tough leaves would be washed and brought back into the kitchen where my father would start shredding the "slaw" on the old kraut cutter. Grandma would place the slaw in the old crock, sprinkle it generously with salt, and us kids got to pound the cabbage down with an old wooden rolling pin with no handles, until it made some "juice." Sometimes we would sneak a bite of that salty, and rather bruised shreds of cabbage. Today I am the sentimental owner of the old slaw cutter and crock. It sits in my kitchen, a trophy of memories from my youth during those fall evenings with my dad and grandma. 


My crock and kraut cutter

And to continue about my ranting of this new-fangled thing called "fermentation," my mother and grandmother pickled a lot of produce fresh from the garden. Everything from crab-apples (served on the pickle plate at Thanksgiving) to asparagus to green beans to peppers, and of course an assortment of cucumber pickles - from dill to sweet to spicy that was loaded with garlic and chilies. 

"Ugly produce?" Guess one hasn't grown or gleaned from a backyard garden if they think "Ugly Produce" is trend worthy. A trend? No! It should be a staple and has been a natural staple for years. Sorry, but not all apples are perfectly round, and I am happy to steer clear of the perfect-shaped apple. 

Chef, author, and television host, Anthony Bourdain is my personal "living" food hero, next to Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa. In fact, last year I saw Bourdain live and in lecture. He had many great rants from how we should stop overthinking food, and the importance of respecting Grandma's table and eat her lumpy gravy made with love - and eat it without criticism. Bourdain is against food trends and "listicles" - meaning lists that are created by the media to predict the coming year’s food trends. As he pointed out, are hungry nations really concerned about gluten in their diet? 

My poor attempt of taking a photo of Bourdain from my seat. 
My point of this rant? Stop worrying about food trends. Pick up a easy classic cookbook, like the basic old Betty Crocker or Joy of Cooking (see Amazon) - - and start cooking! If you have young ones, make cooking fun family time. Forget about "food trends" and visit your local farmer or farmer's market to see what is "new' and in season, instead. 



Get creative with your cooking. Experiment. Last night I prepared a fresh spinach salad. It was of the old 1950's version with the traditional hot bacon dressing. A fairly simple salad with sliced fresh mushrooms, sliced red onion, hard-boiled eggs quartered among the spinach, and dressed with a mixture of warm bacon fat, red wine vinegar, sugar, and Dijon mustard. However, I did one thing different this time. Instead of raw red onion, I lightly caramelized it in the bacon fat. Oh my - - I will never use raw onion in that salad recipe again. The onions took on a sweetness that added to the fresh spinach and the sweet and sour dressing. 

My motto, and especially when raising a family, is less meals in the back seat and more time in the kitchen and around the dining table. Get to cooking! 

4 comments:

  1. OK, Catie. We were in the kitchen on New Years Day. Stuffed mushrooms and grilled spicy shrimp for appetizers with Veuve Cliquot Brut. Spicy rubbed Costco bone in prime rib roast medium rare with twice baked potatoes and tender sautéed Brussels sprouts with Chester-Kidder. Dessert was lemon panna cotta (not my original recipe, but I haven't had this dish at any restaurant which was better than mine) with a late harvest Zin. Join us after the snow storms resolve.

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    1. Hey Wallatom! I cannot believe I missed this comment. Your NY feast sounded fabulous. Leave me a chair... I will be there after the snow leaves. Thanks for checking in.

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  2. Thank you.....My Dad and Grandmothers made Sauerkraut as well.in the very same kind of Crock ...I live it still ESPECIALLY in a Ruben Sandwich !!!But, they always served it as a side or with Wieners ( not HOT DOGS)I even like Blood Sausage if you can imagine..But Head Cheese I draw the line~~~~

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    1. Hi Linda, thanks for checking in. I was just now notified of this comment. You may remember the old local butcher shops in Walla Walla, and one of them sold a spicy sausage known as, Pep Sausage? That's often what my dad would serve with the sauerkraut. He would fry it up in an old cast iron skillet, and dump a jar of grandma's sauerkraut on top. Oh my to have that meal again...

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