Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Hundred and One Uses For Salt

A good friend of mine from work gave me this awesome little book. It was published in 1914 by the Diamond Crystal Salt Co. of St. Clair Michigan. It has a nice little forward by a woman named Martha Elizabeth Stuart on the essentials of salt. My favorite part is her quote from her "old Aunt Samanthy". "If you forgits that little pinch of salt afore you boils your 'taters they never do taste right - no matter how much you salts 'em arterwards."

I remember my mom saying something very similar when I was a child, only with less of a southern drawl.

This book has the same appeal to me as MFK Fisher's book How To Cook A Wolf in that it has money saving tips and strategies in tough times. There are things in this little booklet that we all take for granted today, things like refrigeration. ("use number 38. To Keep Butter Hard: Butter may be kept hard without ice by setting the dish in which it is contained in cold salt water. Do not allow the water to come above top of dish. Keep butter covered with cold damp cloth. " ) In this time of environmental concern, the numerous laundry uses of salt are spectacular. Did you know that you can remove insects from your garden vegetables with salt water? You can clean sinks and drains with salt, prevent moths, and put out a fire. You can remove tea stains, wine stains, and polish your copper. You can sooth soar throats and take soothing baths in the stuff. You can kill weeds and bugs in your garden and and relieve colic in horses of all things. Who knew sodium chloride was such and amazing element?

In spite of all the negative publicity salt gets, I LOVE the stuff, and this little booklet is a neat little treasure. I especially like the write up at the end of the the little book promoting "Shaker Table Salt - the Salt that flows"

"For your table, then, you want a salt that does not lump or 'stick' in the shakers when your family or guests want it to come out." They recommend first thah your grocer only sends you Shaker Table Salt made by Diamond Crystal Salt Company, and second, on very damp days, keep you salt shakers, between meals, in the warming oven (remember this is 1914, odds are the stove is wood fired) or under an upturned glass or tumbler.

The final paragraph:
"Truly Shaker Salt is the dainty salt for dainty folks, as well as the pleasant salt for pleasant folks. Your husband, or your guest, has no need to rap and pound for salt when Shaker Salt is Used.

Its price, except in the far West, is 10c a box. Good grocers everywhere sell it. Diamond Crystal Cooking Salt - brings out the flavor

Pass the salt please.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Chinese Kale - Early havest meal

Back in August of 2008 I posted about our trip to Oakland's Chinatown. While we were there I picked up a few seed packets in one of the many awesome grocery stores there. One of those packets was Chinese Kale, also known as Chinese broccoli. The same kind of broccoli we were served at Restaurant Peony in Oakland along with our delicious chicken that still had the head attached. Later I posted about my Chinese Kale starts on my Ignorant Gardener Blog and how I was having great success starting them in my milk jug greenhouses. Again, just a little over a week ago I wrote on my Ignorant Gardener blog about how those starts have grown into a fantastic patch of vegetables to be eaten. Well, tonight we got that pleasure, thanks to my husband harvesting, washing, preparing, and cooking that beautiful kale. We rarely have such an abundant harvest of anything but radishes this time of year, so this is particularly exciting for us.

We focused our meal around the Chinese Kale/Broccoli. I found a recipe in my cook book The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen by Grace Young. (I'll post the recipe at the end with my husbands modifications) and threw together some Chinese fried rice. One of the best ways to use up leftovers and odds and ends from your fridge.

The fried rice consisted of 4 cups of cooked long grain rice, two scrambled eggs, cooked, sliced and set aside, a mixed frozen package of seafood, a tsp of fresh ginger, 1/3 cup onion, about a cup of mixed frozen "stir fry" veggies and two tbsp of soy sauce. First my husband fried the onion and ginger in about 3 tbsp of olive oil/sesame oil. He added the frozen mixed seafood and then the frozen stir fry veggies. Last he added the rice. Then he stirred in the cooked eggs and the soy sauce and mixed it all up. This ended up being some excellent comfort food.

Then he cleaned the kale, chopped the stems up and set the leaves aside, and he cooked it, for the most part according to this recipe:

Stir-Fried Chinese Broccoli and Chinese Bacon (in our case, salt pork)

10 stalks Chinese broccoli/kale (gai lan) about 12 oz

3 oz Chinese Bacon (lop yak) - we used about a 1/4 of some salt pork that chopped up in bits.

1 (we used a bit more) tsp soy sauce

1 tsp Shao Hsing rice cooking wine ( we used Mirin)

1/2 tsp sugar

2 tsp vegetable oil

2 garlic cloes, smashed and peeled

John washed the kale and trimmed it. The thicker stalks (more then 1/2 inch in diameter) he peeled with a veggie peeler and halved lengthwise. All (including leaves) were cut into 2 inch pieces and the stalks were kept separate from the leaves and buds.

John then combined the soy sauce, rice wine and sugar and set aside.

He heated the wok over high heat and added the oil and garlic and stir fried for about 15 seconds. He added the salt pork and cooked until done. Next he added the stalks and cooked for 3 or 4 minutes, and finally he added the leaves and cooked until limp. Then he added in the soy sauce mixture and cooked a couple more minutes. We served this up immediately with the fried rice. A quick and simple (simply delicious) dinner. Our kids happily devoured their meals.

Here's what it all looked like:
The Kale stems:
The fried rice:
John, adding in the Kale leaves:
My beautiful and delicious serving:
My youngest's serving (she wanted her dinner posted on Mom's blog - and she ate it all!)
I quick and economical meal. I love how the Chinese cook. Little to no waste, and I love being able to eat fresh Chinese veggies from my own garden. That trip to Oakland Chinatown keeps paying off.
Happy dining!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Quick Beef Noodle Soup

My husband made this great soup last night. It cured my soar throat and was delicious!

Here's his recipe:

Quick Beef Noodle Soup

2 cans beef consomme
6 cans water
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
grated ginger
pepper corns

beef, thinly sliced

thinly sliced:
vegetables (onion, sweet pepper, carrot, cucumber...)
spring onions
fresh hot chile

bean sprouts
fresh basil and/or cilantro
lime wedges

banh pho (flat Vietnamese rice stick noodles, substitute rice noodles, rice vermicelli, fettuccine)

The key to get the texture of the dish right is the noodles of course and to slice the vegetables and meat paper thin. Bring consomme, water, star anise, cinnamon, grated ginger, and pepper corns to boil in large soup pot. Simmer 15/20 minutes until aromatic. Remove star anise, cinnamon stick and pepper corns with slotted spoon or strainer. Add beef simmer two minutes, add noodles and simmer 3-5 more minutes until noodles are done. While noodles boil add sliced vegetables and spring onions to bottom of serving bowls. Serve cooked noodles, meat, and broth onto vegetables in bowls. Top with fresh bean sprouts, sliced fresh chiles, fresh basil and squeezed lime.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Easy homemade mac and cheese

A few days ago my girls were begging for mac and cheese. Not the super rich yummy homemade kind, but that processed stuff in the blue box. Well, I didn't have any blue box mac and cheese. I was down sick with the flu and didn't have it in me to go get any and I wasn't up for making the super rich yummy special homemade stuff, so I whipped up what I could with what I had. This is what I came up with:

I cooked 8 oz of bow tie pasta. I didn't have macaroni, and bow ties are more fun anyway

In the mean time I cubed up about 1/2 cup of medium cheddar cheese and placed that in a small sauce pan.
I added 1/4 cup shredded pecarino romano.
Added 2 tblsp butter
Added 1/4 milk
a couple pinches of kosher salt and a couple turns on the pepper grinder.

I slowly melted this until it was all mixed and liquid then tossed it with the drained bow ties.

My girls loved it! They even said they'd rather have that over the stuff in the blue box! Now that's a compliment!