portuguese influence: cod stew

When I was little we knew this wonderful Portuguese lady named Belmira. Sometimes she would cook us these amazing Portuguese dishes. She lived somewhere in Philadelphia’s Olney section which had a big Portuguese section in the early 1970s, the time when we knew her.

One of the things she made was a codfish stew. Belmira used bacalao which is dried and salted cod. She would soak it a couple of days in milk. I loved her codfish stew but she is the only one who I have ever known to make the bacalao palatable. My mother tried but it was always too salty.

Yesterday I was wondering what to make for dinner. I had gotten yet more potatoes in my vegetable box. (We always seem to get so many kinds of potatoes this time of year.) I also had a bunch (a little over two pounds total) of flash frozen cod in the freezer my husband had bought. Ash Wednesday was the other day, and I randomly remembered Belmira would make codfish stew.

I couldn’t find quite the right recipe. I looked at a couple of recipes, but then decided to wing it. Codfish stew is essentially tomatoes, cod, potatoes, onions, bell or sweet peppers, herbs, spices and white wine.

I decided I would make the stew part of it without the cod at first. I remember when you’re doing fish stews you only add things in like the last 20 minutes or so you’re cooking it so it doesn’t get over cooked. Cod is a great fish for soups and stews because it holds up and doesn’t disintegrate.

First I sliced thin a red onion and a white onion. I decided it would be prettier sliced than chopped. I put that into the bottom of a big pot with olive oil, five cloves of garlic sliced very thin, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning. To that I added a cup of white wine.

All the onions and garlic were starting to do their thing and white wine I also took two red bell peppers I had. I sliced them into thin rings. I also had three zucchini which I sliced into thin discs, and about six medium red bliss potatoes as well. I did not peel the potatoes. Finally I had a bag of spinach in the refrigerator so I cleaned that and drained it.

I added all of the other vegetables to the onions and garlic and white wine and started to let it cook down. then I added two 14 ounce cans of Mutti Baby Roma tomatoes. They are small, a little bit larger than the grape tomatoes you can buy in the supermarket. I just opened the cans and put them in juice and all. If you can’t find these tomatoes, you can use a regular 28 ounce can of plum tomatoes but you will have to break up the tomatoes because they will be too big. These Baby Romas are little so they just sort of pop open as they cook and they aren’t too large.

To this I added a little more salt, sweet Spanish paprika, basil, a little more Italian seasoning blend. The blend I use contains no salt, by the way.

I added another half cup I believe of white wine, a few tablespoons of tomato paste (maybe four), and then I just kept an eye on everything and let it cook on a low flame until the vegetables were tender and the flavors were right I don’t know how else to describe it.

About 20 minutes to half an hour before serving, I chunked up in two rather large chunks of the thawed codfish. I added it to the stew and bought the heat slightly. When the fish was cooked and flaking slightly at the chunk corners, I served it. It was really good!

I would say that you might have to add a little more liquid if you didn’t add spinach. And spinach as well as zucchini wasn’t part of what Belmira cooked when I was a child. I just had them to use up.

I will make this again. I imagine I could use other meaty white fish and even add shrimp to this dish. Alternately, the dish without the fish would make a good vegan dish. If I made it vegan, I might add capers.

Happy Saturday!

winter cooking & what’s cooking in my kitchen…read and discover

It’s a cold, crisp winter day, and we even had snow flurries this morning. So it’s time for some winter cooking.

My vegetable box this week had some really nice potatoes, mushrooms, and carrots. I had four good size slices of beef shin in my freezer that I had been thawing this week. So that’s basically what dinner is tonight: beef shins in red wine, garlic, beef broth, tomatoes, carrots, celery, onions, mushrooms, and some herbs and spices.

The spices are used in addition to garlic, salt and pepper are Herbes de Provence and an Ethiopian spice mix called Berbere. I also added a few sprigs of rosemary from my greenhouse. My greenhouse isn’t heated so I am thrilled it’s still alive.

I started with searing the beef shins in my big Dutch oven. Before I added the meat I had put into the pan some olive oil, a couple of dashes of teriyaki sauce, Berbere, and garlic powder. The beef shins had been drenched in flour and salted a little bit. I added a little red wine and let that cook off as I was searing.

After the beef shins were seared I moved them to a big metal bowl and deglazed my pan with some more red wine. I then added my chopped carrots, onion, celery, and mushrooms. I seasoned them just a smidge added a little bit of Herbes de Provence. I let the vegetables cook down a bit and then it was time for the final step before putting them in the oven. The oven had been preheating at 300°F.

Before I added the beef shins back to the Dutch oven I added two small cans of tomatoes. The tomatoes were chopped and 14 ounce cans. The brand is Mutti. I also had a can of Campbell’s beef consommé sitting in my cupboard and then I added two more cups of beef broth.

I added back the beef shins and I actually had to pull out 2 cups of liquid for the time being and put it in a measuring cup because the Dutch oven was just so full. I added the two sprigs of rosemary. Everything is now covered and doing the low and slow dance for a few hours in my 300° preheated oven.

I will serve with smashed red bliss potatoes.

People always ask what cookware I use besides my vintage Dansk. I use cookware from a really awesome female owned company called Great Jones. I saw them a few years ago on a segment on cooking by the Today Show, tried them and have been using them ever since. I really like them. The Dutch oven is 6.75 quarts and solid cast iron and it’s called the Duchess. I will warn you the one thing I don’t like about it is how heavy it is but it’s great to cook with especially for a recipe like this.

Please note I am not compensated by Great Jones to write about their cookware. I just happened to own it and love it.

This isn’t a recipe that I have written down anywhere. It just sort of came together in my head this morning when I was thinking about what I was going to do with the beef shins. The mushrooms I like to use are the baby Bella. I am just not a white mushroom person unless it’s a salad. And seriously it’s so easy to throw things together. You don’t always need a set in stone recipe, just wing it.

What’s cooking in your kitchen on this winter’s day?

a new cookbook

I don’t just make up recipes I actually follow recipes and read cookbooks. I will admit I have a lot of cookbooks, as I love cookbooks and gardening books. One of my favorites over the years has been The New York Times cookbook.

I bought my copy of The New York Times cookbook in either 1990 or 1991. It was done by Craig Claiborne. I also have a copy of the 1961 original cookbook. You can find them all over. My copy of the 1961 edition came from a fair book tent years ago – an impulse buy. My 1990s version I splurged for, and some of the pages are stained and the cover has been taped back together.

For 2022 I just bought the updated and revised edition by Amanda Hesser. I think there was another one from 2010 but I don’t have that edition. That one is also by Amanda Hesser.

Apparently the edition we can now find in 2022 I think it was supposed to come out in late 2019 or early 2020. Thank La vida COVID for that I think.

The author/editor Amanda Hesser, is a former New York Times food critic and successful author who is also the co-founder of the Food 52 website, which is a favorite of mine.

One of her best known books is Cooking for Mr. Latte written a bunch of years ago. It also lives in my library and is actually kind of special to those of us who went to Shipley. You see it was kind of written about her husband and their courtship. He was a year ahead of me at Shipley and is in his own right an incredibly accomplished author and writer for The New Yorker, Tad Friend. I also have one of his books in my library and understand he has a new book due out this spring.

But back to the cookbooks of it all. The New York Times Cookbook is one of the essentials that every home chef should have in his or her personal library. And maybe I am just old school, and although you can find almost any recipe you want on the Internet, there’s nothing like cracking open a book.

Treat yourself to the new and updated and expanded New York Times cookbook. It’s still maintains a lot of your favorite old recipes that you know from the New York Times cookbook, but as I’ve been swimming through it I see lots of new recipes. And the thing about this book is it’s not complicated or intimidating the recipes are things that you can do.

Please note I am not being compensated in anyway shape or form for writing about this. I love books, I love cookbooks and I love to cook. Maybe someday I will have my own little self-published cookbook, but I can’t hold a candle to an updated classic like this! In the meantime I will continue to wish for occasional help cleaning up the kitchen in my house! It’s fun most of the time being chief cook and bottle washer, but sometimes I just wish I didn’t have dishpan hands.

Thanks for stopping by- I am actually going to make chicken chili this afternoon. Yes my own recipe, no one famous.

mrs. stull’s tomato jam

A few years ago I went to a Smithfield Barn on-site estate sale in Coatesville. It was out of the center of town, and it was in neighborhoods which I guess started to go up post World War II.

It was this cute little two-story house with a really big garden out back. I remember that the man who lived there must have worked for Lukens Steel, because there was memorabilia from there. This house also had these cases in a library-type room full of Dicken’s Village houses.

Anyway, in this estate sale there was some great kitchen stuff, including vintage cookbooks which I love. Vintage cookbooks are simply more helpful a lot of the time. At this sale I bought a vintage canning book. I have been experimenting more and more with canning since I moved to Chester County. And a lot of it is to use produce that I grow in my own garden.

Inside this cookbook were two recipes for tomato jam. Well one is for tomato marmalade and I’m not sure if the recipe is complete or not but I am going to transcribe both recipes for all of you today.

Mrs. Stull’s Tomato Jam

1 tablespoons pickling spices

1 teaspoons ginger root

4 cups sugar

2 thin sliced lemons

3/4 cup water

1 1/2 quarts / 2 pounds firm ripe tomatoes

Tie spices in a cheese cloth bag. Add to sugar, lemon, and water in a big pot. Simmer 15 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook gently ‘til tomatoes clear.

Stir, cover, and let stand 12/18 hours in a cool place.

Next heat up water in a canner pot.

Ladle tomatoes into jars leaving 1/4” head space. Add extra syrup from jam pot over tomatoes. Can with a 20 minute hot water bath.

6 1/2 pints.

Mrs. Stull’s Tomato Marmalade

3 pounds tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cut in pieces

1 orange seeded and sliced thin

1/2 lemon seeded and sliced thin

1 1/2 pounds white granulated sugar (or around 3 1/2 cups)

Combine all ingredients in a large pot and cook slowly – three hours – stir frequently until thick. Pour in hot sterilized jars and seal in a water bath.

Now I have transcribed the recipes for you verbatim. And I made a batch of tomato jam yesterday. I used both recipes to put it into one. I use the tomato jam recipe as the base, and then the tomato marmalade recipe was used for inspiration.

The extra ingredients I added were as follows: a small thinly sliced lime, a teaspoon or so of ground cumin, one Vidalia onion chopped fine, and one red hatch chili pepper minced.The extra ingredients I added were as follows: a small Finley sliced lime, a teaspoon or so of ground cumin, one Vidalia onion chopped fine, and one red hatch chili pepper minced. I used half a cup of water and a quarter cup of cider vinegar, instead of 3/4 cup of water.

Before I put everything into the jam pot I blanched and peeled all my tomatoes. While not difficult to do, it is labor-intensive. But I blanched the tomatoes and then I let them cool off for an hour or so. I kept some of the “tomato water“ back to use in the jam.

I will note I cooked the jam down for a few hours. Over a low heat like when I make apple butter. I really am pleased with the flavor profile of the jam and I just sort of had to fiddle with the cooking of it because it really wasn’t clear on the handwritten recipes. But handwritten recipes hidden away in vintage cookbooks are like kitchen gold.

After cooking the jam down I jarred and tidied everything up and did a hot water bath for about 20 minutes. I let everything sit out on the counter on wooden cutting boards overnight and cool, tightened the lids this morning and labeled.

Thanks for stopping by!

roasted squash soup

There are a lot of things I just make. There is no recipe, there’s nothing I look to, it’s just in my head. But today friends asked me to write down how I make my roasted squash soup.

So how did squash soup happen? Two weeks in a row I have gotten squash in my vegetable box. So squash soup popped into my head since it was a comparatively cool day (finally) to be in the kitchen. I decided small fresh sweet potatoes would be added to thicken it up and bone broth made in the InstantPot. Lots of fresh herbs from garden for the broth. When broth is ready and vegetables are cooled from roasting, into another pot it all goes to cook and purée with hand (immersion) blender.

So basically I lined a half sheet pan (18” x 13”) with foil, cut up all my hard sided squashes, baby sweet potatoes, and a couple of chili peppers from the garden, and sprinkled a little olive oil , some tikka masala powder, hawayij spice blend, and salt. I roast everything in a 425° oven for about 40 minutes. Then I turned the oven off and just left the vegetables in there with the door closed until everything cooled down.

Now for the broth part. I keep a Ziploc bag in my freezer where I put the gizzards and necks from whole chickens I buy to roast. I keep those in a bag in the freezer when I want to make broth. Sometimes I even save a chicken carcass after cooking (and freeze it) but that’s not what I used this time. This time I had a bag full of liver, gizzards and chicken necks. Literally like six sets. I used my small InstantPot which makes 3 quarts of broth.

How do I make the broth besides the chicken parts? One onion cut in 4, a couple of carrots cleaned and chunked, salt, rosemary/thyme/sage from the garden. I add water, leaving approximately 2 inches clearance from the top of the InstantPot liner pot. I hit the broth button and let it cook.

After both the vegetables are roasted and the broth is cooked I let everything cool down so I can proceed to the next step. The next step is easy: I take all the squash and scoop out everything from the skin of each piece and put it into a soup pot with the roasted baby sweet potatoes, the carrots used to make the broth, and 6 tablespoons of creamy peanut butter. I give everything a mash with a hand potato masher, and add the strained broth and cook on low for a couple of hours. Then I use the immersion blender and purée everything together. At that point I put it on simmer and let it cook down a little more.

Oh and this soup does not require a dairy component. It’s good just the way it is!

That’s it! Enjoy!

bolognese in the summer

Well I hope my happy hater from the other day isn’t too distressed by Bolognese sauce. Hope she doesn’t find a red sauce too angry….but I digress. (I do that sometimes )

A true Bolognese sauce does take time to create. But it is one of the most delicious sauces you can put over pasta… ever. I shared Bolognese sauce before, but I am sharing this again because I change my recipe slightly sometimes.

I started my sauce first thing this morning. And that’s something that creates a memory smell for me for lack of a better description. When my father’s mother (Grandmom) used to babysit us when we were younger, and even when we were in high school she used to make her sauce first thing in the morning. (And no, this sauce is not her recipe it’s my recipe I never recall her making a true Bolognese.)

First you would smell the smell of a fresh pot of coffee (she would make it in one of those stovetop blue cornflower Corningware coffee pots). Then wafting up behind the fresh perked coffee aroma, was the smell of sautéing garlic and onion in her big sauce pot. She gave my mother that saucepot eventually, and I think my mother still uses it. It was hammered aluminum so it wasn’t like Farberware. To me those are the smells of home.

We are trying to empty out a chest freezer in the basement and I came across three 1 pound packages of ground meat. I usually use about three pounds of ground meat when I make a Bolognese.

Here are the ingredients:

THREE 1 pound packages of pork, veal, lamb, or beef. I’ll use whatever I happen to have handy.

TWO Onions. Chopped. 1 big sweet onion, 1 red onion.

SIX cloves garlic, minced. We like to keep the vampires away in my house.

DASH nutmeg or cinnamon- My late father always did it , so I do it.

Kosher salt to taste, ground pepper after you add the tomatoes.

TWO Bay leaves.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

ONE cup whole milk

ONE cup red wine or 2/3 cup red wine vinegar.

TWO cans crushed tomatoes – 28 ounce.

ONE 6 ounce can tomato paste

BIG bunch fresh basil and oregano from garden.

GOOD pasta and grated cheese.

I will start with I chopped up two onions and threw into my pan (I use one of my larger vintage Dansk touch ovens) with extra-virgin olive oil and some kosher salt.

After the onions started to get that translucent look, I added the three one pound packages of ground meat. Today I am cooking with ground pork and ground lamb which is one of my favorite combinations for a truly flavorful sauce. I added a little more salt and a couple of dashes of nutmeg.

After allowing that to cook for about 20 minutes I added 2/3 of a cup of red wine vinegar. I let that cook off and cook down for another 25 minutes approximately, and then I added one cup of whole milk. I then allowed the milk solids and everything to cook off slightly which was almost half an hour.

As I am doing the meat and the onion I do stir occasionally so nothing has the chance to stick to the bottom.

Next I add my tomato paste and stir it into the meat mixture.

Then I add the cans of crushed tomatoes one at a time. I stir thoroughly after each time. Now I add some fresh ground pepper and a big bunch of just roughly torn up basil and oregano from my garden.

My kitchen smells amazing. I don’t care if it’s July a good Bolognese sauce is perfect all year round. And I like making it in the summer because I can use all my fresh herbs.

Now the pot is on simmer and I will just let it go on simmer for a good couple of hours. Then I will turn it off. It will take a few hours for the sauce to completely cool down. At that point I will skim off any fat that rises to the top from the meat.

Then around dinner time I will slowly bring this sauce up to temperature again and serve with a good pasta, grated cheese, and a big green salad.

Good pasta does make a difference even with dry pasta. Today I am going Delco. Springfield Pasta and Mangia Famiglia grated cheese. (Mangia Famiglia is also one of my favorite sources for Italian sausage.)

A true Bolognese sauce is some thing that is truly amazing. and even in the summer it’s a great family meal option. And don’t be afraid to load up the fresh herbs. I forgot to mention I will finish this with some fresh flat leaf Italian parsley on top.

Buon appetito!

beef mac and cheese…my way

Beef Macaroni and Cheese

1 stick of butter

A few tablespoons of Wondra gravy flour

Dash of nutmeg

A couple of dashes of Tabasco

1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese

8 ounce bag of shredded Swiss and Gruyere cheese

8 ounce bag of shredded mixed cheddar cheese

6 ounces chopped Velveeta cheese (the kind that comes in a block)

14 ounce can of fire roasted diced tomatoes

12 ounce can of vitamin D evaporated milk

1 – 1 1/3 cups buttermilk

1 lb ground beef

1 small red onion, chopped small

1 pound bag of Gemelli pasta

Salt and pepper to taste

I have never written this down, so bear with me.

First I sauté the pound of ground beef in a nonstick pan with the red onion. Salt and pepper to taste. Because I am using a nonstick pan I don’t grease it. Remove from heat.

In another pan I make my cheese sauce. It starts with a roux which is butter and flour. I just eyeball the flower and I use Wondra which is a great flower to use for things like this and gravies because it’s very fine. So I say a few tablespoons, it’s either that or a few dashes.

After the flour and butter have kind of cooked together, I had a dash of nutmeg and a few dashes of Tabasco sauce. Then I add the buttermilk.

I incorporate everything together whisking constantly and then I add the can of milk. Next I add the Swiss and Gruyere mix, whisking constantly until it’s incorporated. After that I add the cheddar and then I stir in the Velveeta chunks. As everything comes together you may have to add a little more milk. It just depends.

After it’s creamy and smooth I add the can of tomatoes which I do not drain. I then let the cheese sauce kind of meld together and I keep on stirring it. When I think it’s the proper consistency I turn it off and put a lid on it.

In a big Dutch oven I cook the pasta as per the package instructions and then drain. First I put the pasta back into the Dutch oven. Then I stir in the ground beef mixture. Then I slowly incorporate the cheese sauce until everything‘s together.

I always make a little more sauce than I am expecting but you just let your pasta sit for a few minutes with the lid on in the Dutch oven and the heat off on the stove and a lot of the moisture from the cheese sauce will be absorbed.

Serve with a salad and it’s magically delicious.

Thanks for stopping by.

vintage cookbooks

I love vintage cookbooks. Some of my favorites are these local or regional ones that are put out by nonprofits, schools, churches. They are usually for fundraising.

I scored three the other day, all local to Chester County. This one from Grove Methodist is the best of the three. It could also be because that is one of my favorite little churches in Chester County.

My cookbook is from 1991. I can’t wait to try some of the recipes. This is one of those cookbooks that doesn’t have any Michelin stars attached, it’s just good home cooking.

You can find these little gems in many places – I found this one on eBay. I had seen it in somebody’s house years ago and I don’t know what made me think of it but I went looking for it.

I figure since we are still home so much because of COVID-19 some new recipes are in order! Thanks for stopping by happy Thursday!

just a good dinner.

I love Mexican food and the flavors of the American Southwest. And sometimes I just crave this one particular no name meal I make.

My cousin asked me what I called what I made for dinner, and I couldn’t exactly tell her because I don’t know anybody else that makes it. It’s kind of pork carne asada inspired burritos meets enchiladas. Those are the things that inspire this yummy winter dinner.

So this is my attempt to write it down. I always remember how to make it but so many people keep asking me I figured I would try to get it written down.

I sautéed pork (six small boneless pork chops sliced as if I was making fajitas) with 1 sweet onion, cilantro, 1 red onion, a couple jalapeños (not seeded), bell peppers, Mexican spices (Tajin seasoning and Hatch chili powder, garlic powder, Goya Adobo, oregano, basil) , 2 limes grated for zest, juice of two limes and 1/4 cup water.

Then I make a little Mexican inspired tomato sauce with chili powder, red onion, jalapeños, cilantro, grated lime zest, juice of one lime, small can diced tomatoes, 1 6 oz can tomato paste.

Next I lined a 9” x 12” pan with non stick foil and rolled up in large tortillas one at a time the pork mixture, shredded Mexican cheese and fat free refried beans. Line up side by side – you can fit six. Layer on tomato sauce, top with shredded Mexican cheese blend, a little more sauce. Cover pan with foil and bake in a preheated 350° oven for 30 minutes.

Serve with Mexican inspired rice, sour cream, pickled jalapeños if you choose, more cilantro, etc.

peter’s peasant soup

Every time around this year and even into the winter my late father would make a soup. It was a pure peasant soup. It would be based around what he found fresh down on 9th street at the Italian market and from the local merchants there.

The soup would have cabbage, potatoes or turnips, onion, celery, carrots, tomatoes, fresh herbs, beans, and something cured like a small salami – a cured sausage. He liked soppressata. He would cut it into little chunks or rounds.

We were over at a friend’s house the other day and they have this amazing kitchen garden like I dream about but have no room for. So they gave us a bunch of fresh vegetables including Swiss Chard and fresh kale. Today’s vegetable box from Doorstep Dairy had a beautiful purple cabbage. So I knew I was making soup even though it’s somewhat humid out.

My father would often use a beef stock base but a lot of the time it was a chicken stock base. So last night’s roast chicken carcass went into the instant pot this morning to make bone broth. I also tossed in a little salt and pepper and zaatar spice blend.

While bone broth was cooking and cooling I chopped up all the vegetables. I threw them into my big Great Jones “Big Deal” pot. I really love their cookware and I have a few pieces now. I added a few cups of water, maybe four. I added salt and pepper and some fresh herbs. This morning I had picked basil, thyme, sage so that is what I used.

I left the vegetables almost completely covered on low and just let them cook down for probably 60 minutes. The tomatoes I used were a bunch of fresh cherry tomatoes from the garden. Probably about enough to fit in a pint container but I halved them. When the bone broth was finished (I just hit the setting for broth or soup) I fished out all the bones and the gizzards and disposed of them and added the broth to the pot.

Then I added a chopped up a small whole dry salami that I had purchased at the Tasty Table Market & Catering in Berwyn. After that I drained two cans of beans and tossed those in. You can use whatever canned beans you like. Things like cannellini beans, pinto beans, even black-eyed peas.

Now the soup sits on a simmer until some point this afternoon when I will start to cool it down and put into containers. Some I will freeze and some I will use now.

I have to tell you the soup smells really good. And it’s also a smell that I have memories of. Of course I’m a little more about cleaning up the kitchen as I go along then my father was and when he would make one of these soups it would look like a bomb exploded in the kitchen afterwards.

This soup is always best when it sits for a couple of days and then you heat it up because it gives a chance for the flavors to completely meld . All you do is serve it with a little crusty bread for the table and some grated cheese on top. It’s a basic peasant soup and it’s loaded with vegetables and you don’t really need anything else.

I hope you can follow along as to how I made this. There is no formal recipe it’s just some thing that my father made and his mother made and who knows how many other relatives in his family made.

I used my small Instant Pot to make the bone broth if you are curious about how much chicken broth to add. The small Instant Pot makes 3 quarts of broth. Now the soup condenses and cooks down because I let it simmer on a very low setting for a few hours.

Buon appetito!