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The Festival of Weird Foods II

Well, let's continue on with our Thanksgiving Festival of Weird Foods with that rutabega-parsnip stromboli. Part of this recipe is copyrighted and that's the part I can't reproduce. I can, however, give you the filling and let you know what changes I made in the original recipe. Now, rutebega-parsnip stromboli is an idea I have had for some time. Both these vegetables are sweet and good. They are standard autumnal and Thanksgiving fare. A rutabega is called a swede in England. It is a yellow turnip, though not exactly a turnip. When in season, rutabega are sweet with a slight mustardy or cabbage kick. Some people, particularly older ones, consider them a low class vegetable. Too bad. Like kale they have become classy. You can peel a rutabega with a carrot peeler and cut it up wtih a sharp paring knife. Knife and peeler work has the added plus of being wonderfully cathartic, but I'll even cut up celery roots happily.

Parsnips are a bit more than "white carrots." They are nuttier, sweeter, mroe fibrous, and yes more exepnsive though not outrageously so. My favorite remark to stumped cashiers in Price Chopper on Mohawk Street was "didn't your mother make you parsnips?" Well a lot of people had deprived childhoods. You can fix that you know....

OK, here is the recipe...

Rutabega-Parsnip Stromboli

You will need...

Stromboli dough (See notes below. This is the copyrighted part of the recipe.)
1 average to goodly size rutabega
3 goodly size parsnips
1 Tblsp of oil
A goodly was of fesh rosemary leaves (or dry ones if that's all you have.)
Salt to taste (You have mostly unsalted ingredients.)

Prepare the stromboli dough according to the directions in Ultimate Bread with two exceptions: You don't need to use olive oil. Plain old vegetable oil works just fine and substitute 100% whole wheat flour for the white flour. Follow the directions exactly. This recipe will not work well with a bread machine due to all the chafing and shaping involved, and the resting. The dough moves fast for this recipe, but there is still time to prepare the filling before or druing the rise.

Naturally, you don't use the filling that comes with the recipe. Instead, you use mine. Peel and cut up the rutabega into bite size chunks. Do the same for the parsnips. Heat 1 Tblsp of oil in a big pan. When a piece of vegetable inserted sizzles, put all the veggies in. Turn down the heat a little bit. Cover the pan. Check periodically and stir. Also add the salt and some rosemary leaves. When the vegetables are cooked, you have a filling. If you let them cool a bit, they are easier to work with. You could make them in advance.

After the dough rises, and you have rested it chafed it, rolled it, and let it rest one more time, spread it with vegetables and roll it up like a swiss roll. You can divide it in half for two loaves or even three if you have twice the recipe. This recipe scales well. Once the dough is rolled and sealed. Slit the top with a sharp knife. Make only a small slit. Put the dough on an oiled baking tray or shallow oiled pan and bake for about an hour at 400F.

You do not have to add additional oil. Yes, this is a fairly low fat recipe. It tastes pretty good. I am just starting to enjoy it now.You can try other vegetable combinations for stromboli filling. This summer I made dandelion green stromboli. That was an interesting combination. Just remember, everything does not have to be gloppy.

Eileen H. Kramer -- November 27, 2011

The Festival of Weird Foods I

I meant to write this for a while, but I've been bleeding graphics. That is a very bad thing, but the muse was determined to learn to make hair in Second Life. Graphics are sometimes the only way to make sense of things. Food is also a way of making sense of things. My mom could not get a motel room, so I am alone this Thanksgiving. I'm not doing pennance. I did make a modified Thanksgiving meal that had more fruits and hot peppers in it than what I'd make for Mom who is afraid of hot peppers and does not like sweet accents in her entrees. Two recipes turned out spectacular. One uses delicacies. The other is a bit pricey. Both are Atlanta-centric. Atlanta is a food city, NOT a food desert, like Columbus.

Let's get on with the goodies, and remember these dishes are weird. There'll be more weirdness later this weekend. Weirdness is good and it's an artifact of scratch cooking, and why not? Just ask yourself that? Let's get going...

Orange and Fig Moqua Squash Salad

You could make this recipe with cucumber or zucchini, but moqua are better and cheaper. They look like humungeous cucumbers. A kind of average size one weighs close to two pounds. Don't let it scare you. The real exotic ingredient in this recipe is sour orange. If you don't have it, use a regular navel or other juice orange and a bit more zest. I had a sour orange kicking around my refridgerator which inspired this recipe. The DeKalb Farmer's Market sells all this stuff. Believe it or not, even with the sour orange, this is a rather inexpensive dish, a real recession buster, but that's an added bonus.

You Will Need

1 average size moqua squash (approx 2lb)
1 sour orange (See above for substitutions)
2 hamlin, navel, amber sweet or valencia oranges (Any sweet yellow fleshed orange will do.)
4 oz calymyrna figs (1/2 a package of string figs. Don't worry, there are takers for the other half)
A small amunt of salt
4 oz lime juice (Nellie and Joe's or Real Lime is fine. You can use the leftovers for other salad dressings and for limeade so no loss.)
2 Tlbsp salad oil (Not olive oil! Plain old vegetable oil works just fine.)
Powdered ginger to taste
Mrs. Dash to taste

First wash the sour orange and grate off the zest. That's the orange part of the peel. A hand grater and bowel is all you need. My sour orange yielded about an eighth of a cup which was a lot for this recipe. I had some leftover. A sweet orange will yield less potent zest. You can use more of it. A sour orange is an orange on steroids.

Cut the sour orange in quarters or eighths or anything in between. Juice it into a cup and pull out any seeds you find. I did not get much juice. A navel would have given me more, but something in that sour orange juice burned my fingers.

Scrub the moqua. They are often fuzzy and a scrubby and water takes the fuzz off. This is very easy. Cut the very ends off the moqua and slice a bit from each end. Cut the slices in quarters throw them in the salad bowl. Cut the moqua in half and cut the halves in sixths. Then slice the sixths. If you are using zucchini or cucumber, cut it in thin slices, half slices, or quarter slices depending on the size of your vegetables. Taste some of your cucurbit. If it is bitter, you will need more salt in the dressing. My moqua was not one bit bitter. It was also .59 a pound.

Score your sweet oranges. Pull off the peel and some of themembrane. Cut or break them into sections. Remove seeds and extra membranes. Cut the sections into seclets. Put the seclets in the salad bowl.

Cut the figs into strips, discarding the stems. Put the fig strips in the salad bowl.

Add a small amount of salt (more if your cucurbits are bitter) on the bottom of a graduated measuring cup. Add the powdered ginger and Mrs. Dash. Add the juice from the sour orange. Throw about half the orange zest in the salad bowl. Add enough lime juice to the spices to make 4-5oz of dressing. Add two tablespoons of oil. Stir. Taste. It doesn't have to be very salty. It will be rather sour and taste intensely of oarnge.

Dress and mix the salad. Put it in a container. This salad improves by standing overnight. It tastes fantastic. My sweet oranges were .69 a pound. My figs were not that expensive either. What could be better? Now don't you wish you had this for Thanksgiving!

Pear, Blueberry, Mandarine Fruit Salad

Fruit salad is an autumnal dish because the best fruits are in the market in the fall. Autumn features great storage apples and pears along with the prime early citrus. The blue berries in this dish are dried. The oranges are also not a cheap variety. This dish is NOT a recession buster, even though Kroger gave me thirty percent off on the dried blueberries. I still paid four dollars and change for a five ounce bag instead of five and a half dollars. Still fruit salas the best part of any festive meal, and it whips most pastries rear ends so soundly it is worth making. Dried blueberries are available in nearly any supermarket as are the pears of the type used in this recipe. Mandrines are hard to get, so you can substitute some other variety of tangerine, though they will be harder to peel and sometimes seedy. Clementines are a kind of tangerine. Substituting oranges for tangerines changes the flavor. Lime juice is also not exotic. It is worth buying, because it has a place in a lot of recipes.

You Will Need

3 goodly size bosc pears (More if they are average size. Bosc pears are the pears with brown skins. Make sure they are firm ripe and have a scent. Buy them a few days before you make this recipe.)
6-8 mandarines (These are fresh mandarin oranges, the kind you find in cans. Don't use canned ones. Ues other tangerines if mandarines are not available where you live. Mandarines are pricey but not inordinately so, a dollar and change a pound.)
1 bag of dried blueberries (Open your wallet wide for these. Yes, they are sweetened. No, I don't care.)
2 oz approximately lime juice (Real Lime or Nellie and Joe's are just fine. This souring agent has a lot of uses so having extra left over is not a bad thing.)
4 Tblsp sugar (or to taste and a fair amount. You are adding it to something very sour.)

Peel the mandarines and section them. Cut the sections inot seclets and remove any seeds you find. Try to use a variety of tangerine for this recipe that has few seeds or none. Put the seclets in the salad bowl.

Wash the pears and cut the fruit in big sections from around the core. You should have two large sections and two small pieces. Cut the big pieces into cubes and throw them in the salad bowl.

Add the dried blue berries. These will have a slightly waxy taste. They lose this as they sit.

Pour the lime juice into a graduated measuring cup. Add the sugar. Sprinkle some leftover orange zest on the salad if desired. Stir up the dressing and taste it. It will be sour but bearable. Make sure all the sugar dissolves. It has a hard time doing this. Put the dressing on the salad. Mix it up, and store it. It is better for this salad to sit ovrenight or a bit longer.

It is good when buying fruits for this recipe to purchase a few extras. Bosc pears are sweet and creamy. They are a snack enjoyed for millenia. Mandarines or tangerines are a great treat as well, and the salad. Well, it's going to go fast and it's why they have holidays.

I'll do more weird food tomorrow. I figure two recipes is enough for today. Actually the Rutabega-Parsnip Stromboli has copyright issues so I can't post the whole thing, but I'll let you see the part of it that I created.

Eileen H. Kramer -- November 24, 2011

Are Certain Foods Addictive?

I know that it is fashionable to say that junk food is addictive and that there are scientific studies to prove it, but hey when you have a hammer isn't everything a nail? To put it another way, you can squeeze just about any activity into an addiction model when people do it badly or to excess, but food.... First, eating is a good activity. We need to do it to survive, not that we can't do less of it or skip an occasional meal.

This food is the product of centuries (if not millenia) of selective breeding. Humans unlike rats have agriculture and have been able to grow crops that appeal to our primate eyes and palettes. If you put that piece of cheese cake up against a plate of beautifully presented citrus of many colors, the orange and grapefruit smiles have a fighting chance, especially if the cheese cake is naked. Cherries, strawberries, and pineapple tip the playing field a bit in cheese cake's favor, but only prove the fact that fruit can be a winner. Another possible winner in the cheese cake (or brownie) round is an apple or pear on a schmitzig which is what my Dad used to call an apple slicer. The fact that my Dad used a Yiddish word for apple slicer indicates that fresh fruit desserts are esteemed and loved at many tables, or were once. The point is we are designed to eat fruit and have created fruits to please ourselves.

The reason we don't eat more fruit is not that the junky desserts are so fantastic, it is that good fruit (in season, easy to peel and eat out of hand etc...) is unavailable in many restaurants and retail outlets. As I've mentioned before on this blog, fruit requires knowledge to handle. It often comes home green and needs to go to a ripening bowl. Ripe fruit needs to go to the fridge. Fruit needs to survive transport, even in a lunch bag, purse, or backpack. It can't be too mushy. Those eating fruit need to know the difference between a few minor bruises and bungs (Pears get very bunged up and are fine inside) and serious affliction. If you are running a restaurant or convenience store, fruit is expensive to sell. The varieties your supplier sends you are the prettiest ones that don't taste the best. You mark it up to cover the cost of handling and refridgeration, and don't sell very much. In a home environment, a fruit bowl in the fridge and a ripening bowl on the table are easy to maintain. Fruit is easy to grab and go, but you do have to find a good supermarket or green grocer to obtain the best supply.

Meanwhile, if you are not keeping fruit at home and bringing it with you, when you go to buy a snack what gets shoved under your nose is....And you buy it and eat it, because humans are opportunists. Succumbing to advertising and merchandising when you are hungry and don't have another decent choice is NOT addiction. Not buying something because it is overpriced and the quality is not that great is NOT addiction. It's wonky economics and advertising.

And the problem is worse with vegetables. Take creamed spinach. If there were cafeterias in every office building (or many office buildings) serving this vegetable dish regularly, some people would eat it regularly and even look forward to it. Many people like it. Some don't but many do. If sauteed escarole got on the menu regularly in office cafeterias, again it would have a following. When I was a student Cornell Dining served brussel sprouts with some regularity because there were people, clearly a reasonable proportion of the population who actually enjoyed eating them. With vegetables there is a failure rate. What tastes good to some people, tastes vile to others, but if no one regularly offers what tastes good to at least some no one has it to eat healthy vegables as a choice.

Worse yet, french fries or tater tots may be the only good tasting game in town, because the "healthy vegetable" limply steamed frozen broccoli. There is no Spike, Dash, or garlic powder on the condiment bar to put on this tasteless offering along with salt. It's hard to even get a pat of butter for it. A pat does not have many calories. It tastes.... If marinated brocoli or broccoli slaw were on the menu instead of tasteless steamed broccoli or maybe even sauteed greens (collards or broccoli rabe) with onion, those french fries would lose some of their luster, but as it is, they are without decent competition.

OK, so how do we fix this problem? Well, bringing lunch from home and cooking at home help because you can alter your own supply chain to have access to good tasting, healthy food. In addition, we need a better language for food than talk of addiction and morality. There are no bad foods. There are many tastes. Let's talk about taste. We eat food, not chemicals. Our language for taste is awful. There are five tastes and a bunch of smells. There are a lot more tastes. Fruit sweetness is different from confectionary sweetness. It's often mixed with sour and similar to the sweetness of soda. Vegetable sweetness (think frozen or fresh green peas, carrots, parsnips, beets, and even rutabega) is different from fruit or confectionary sweetness. The slight sweetness in cooked dired or frozen shell beans is different from the unami in those beans or the sweet in sweet vegetables that aren't beans. The bitter in radishes, greens etc... is different from the bitter in bitter melon or chocolate. The bitterness in beet relatives is different from the bitterness in crucifers, and none of these are bad bitterness. They are a kick. You can tame the kick until it is pleasant. A lot of people also dislike bitter chocolate so taming a kick is not that hard to do. If we can talk about food in neutral terms and have a vocabulary for describing tastes, we are half way to finding healthy and very tastey foods that blow junky alternatives out of the water. The advantage is obvious, people can swim downstream and satisfy their cravings for something tastey and eat foods that are healthy.

Is it worth a try? I wish someone else would try it.

Eileen H. Kramer -- November 8, 2011

Vindicated!

I broke my diet this morning. I did it with good reason. I need some extra calories for a big task around 1pm., but all that aside it was a mild disappointment. I've learned a lot about what makes a good cup of mocha. When I can get to a supermarket, I will get supplies for making my own and also bring a smaller cup to work. I don't need sixteen ounces of the stuff every day. A little of something that good goes a long, long way. My mocha will be low fat, caffeine free, with no ugly additives. The main problem is cost. I need tou outlay some capital for my dreams.

The other problem, is I need to get to a store. Normally this would not be a problem. Today there would have been plenty of seltzer water at work. I hump the stuff in on Monday morning. I didn't have any to hump because I could not make it to the store last night. I set out at sunset. That was not an issue. We were on standard time, and stores stay open until nine or ten at night.

What I needed to shop was money. I went to the ATM at Wells Fargo even though it would make me miss my bus. I could catch either another number Two from Candler Park dtation or even another one from Decatur station. Number Two buses alternate leaving from either location giving them a weird and complex schedules. I could handle that though, once I had the cash, and I knew there were no ATM machines near the stores I wanted to go to on Ponce.

The ATM at the Wells Fargo was black. Someone had turned it off or the power had gone out. Oh where or where was another ATM? Worse yet, this was not my fault. I pondered paying for groceries several times over with my debit card, but I wanted to pay bills. I had planned to buy stamps in Kroger or Publix. I planned to visit both. Now it looked like I would visit neither.

I needed another ATM, even another bank's ATM would be fine. I had nothing against paying a small fee to fill my wallet. One has to know when one purchases convenience, and this does not bother me, unlike my mom. I remembered there was a local bank behind the CVS. I thought they might not charge. I thought they'd be on a different network than Wells Fargo. I went to look at the bank and...they had no ATM. Now I was two for two.

I tried to think of whether I really wanted to use my debit card for groceries. I tried to remember what other ATM's I had seen, and there across the street from the CVS was a SunTrust bank with an ATM! It's light was on. I walked up to the machine and it said on its well-lighted screen: "This machien temporarily unavailable." I was three for three, and I was sure there were no more ATMs.

Then I looked across the street, back at the CVS. In its window a blow Chase light glowed like a beacon. Do I have to tell you, I was sure it was for Chase credit cards, but no it was an ATM! I was saved. It's light was on. I inserted my card. It said it could not read it. I was four for four and that was end of my trip downtown.

I thought over my alternatives. I could eat the leftover casserole for supper tonight, but that would leave nothing for Monday. One of the reasons I wanted to shop at Publix was csanned fish, as in sardines and herring. One of the reasons I wanted to shop at Whole Foods was Bar Harbor Cracked Pepper flavored Kippered Herring. This is the best kippered herring out there. I also wanted some Rye Vita crackers. It's good for me to have animal protein. I'm not getting enough of it, and it made my lab tests wonky.

Well Kroger's canned fish selection is lousy, so the little, dinky Kroger on Commerce was not going to help. I did not need cat food or cat litter so desperately I needed to shop there. i could drink tea instead of seltzer on Monday etc... but that still left the dinner problem on Monday night or even Sunday open. I hadn't imagined that I couldn't find a working ATM in downtown Decatur.

Then I remembered that I horde food. I horde it for all sorts of reasons, but mostly for emergencies like this. I remembered that I had plenty of dried beans, bags of frozen ones, and an unopened bag of ditalini. I had about a pound of leftover nappa cabbage and more carrots than I could do anything with. I also had an unopened jar of capers and bread and butter pickels, and best of all I had enough money to buy stamps. I could pay my bills and make another entree, and have the supper question licked.

I talked to my Mom who was watching the football game. She was happy I did not pay an ATM fee. I would have preferred to pay the fee and go shopping, but there is now a very decent ditalini and Ford Hook lima bean salad in my fridge, one with lots of carrots, cabbage, capers and bread and butter pickels. I broke my diet because I felt after going through the ATM mill last night I deserved it, and I now have the money (There's an ATM in the QT where I bought the mocha.) to buy groceries and there is a Publix close to work. I'll have gross-eries tonight including seltzer. I'm all set to make another salad to go with the bean and ditalini salad. This one will have shredded beets. The animal protein didn't really have to wait. Maybe I should make my own mocha mix and bring in my own (smaller than QT's) cup. I definitely think I should keep hording food. Emergencies happen!

Eileen H. Kramer -- 11/7/2011