book cover

Endless Feasts Cover.

Endless Feasts — Sixty Years of Writing from Gourmet

  • Ruth Harkness munching on exotic pheasants left in a Tibetan Lamasery by monks fleeing the Chinese invaders in 1944 because that’s all the food she had.
  • Novelist Pat Conroy in Umbria rediscovering the food and sights through the eyes of his new mate.
  • The demise of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York as told by Louis DiaGou, the chef who was ran the kitchen in 1910 when the hotel opened and was still there when it closed in 1950.

These are just three of the 41 narratives from  the late, great Gourmet magazine.  My grandmother wrote a few articles for Gourmet in the 1940s-early 50s.

I wonder…. do travelers possess innately complex palates that drive them to sample the world’s cuisines?  Or, does travel expose people to exotic — perhaps fresher — ingredients, unusual preparations and intriguing cultural traditions?

The interplay between food and travel is logical.  Go traveling and you’ll be foraging, whether at the street market in Ho Chi Min City, the Ritz in Paris,  a Bayou gumbo shack,  or at Havana, North Dakota’s community run Farmer’s Inn.

Travelers do develop faith in food; a meal is reward for a long day or night’s journey.  Sometimes the story is how grand that  meal; other times, how bad, and the aftermath.  These stories are nearly all about  the great meals and the iconoclasts who cooked them.  A few stories include recipes.

Details on the book: Edited and with an introduction by Ruth Reichl. Modern Library, 2002. 401 pages, no index, $24.95

A similar version of this article appeared in the  Bloomsbury Review.

Cucina Rustica

Abundance of fresh tomatoes.

Abundance of fresh tomatoes.

When I miss Italy — and anyone who’s lived there or eaten at the family table during a visit —  will miss Italy, then this is the kind of food  I create.  Simple, fast and marvelously flavored.  Don’t compromise on the ingredients.  That means : no industrial tomatoes that lack flavor, fresh mozzarella that comes in its liquid, not a plastic shroud, and fresh fish.

Excerpts from Cucina Rustica, by Viana La Place & Evan Kleiman , Wm Morrow & Co.,1990.

Bruschetta al Pomodoro e Rucola

Grilled Country Bread with Tomatoes and Arugula, Serves 4 to 6

All over Italy, grilled country bread topped with a mixture of chopped tomatoes and arugula is the most commonly served type of bruschetta. However, we strongly associate this antipasto with Rome during summer, when Bruschetta al Pomodoro e Rucola can make a meal, served with a firm, fresh piece of mozzarella di bufala.

3 large red, ripe tomatoes, blossom ends removed, diced

2 small bunches arugula, stems removed, coarsely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

6 thick slices good-quality country bread

2 garlic cloves, peeled

Extra-virgin olive oil

In a small bowl gently mix together the tomatoes and arugula. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. Grill or lightly toast bread. Rub with garlic cloves. Spoon tomato-arugula mixture over each slice of bread. Generously drizzle olive oil over the Bruschetta.

Pasta con Tonno alla Siciliana

Pasta with Fresh Tuna and Mint, Serves 4 to 6

A variation on a Sicilian dish in which a chunk of fresh tuna is stuffed with mint and garlic and braised in tomato sauce. In our recipe the tuna is diced and quickly sautéed, then added to the sauce to finish cooking. Paper-thin slices of garlic and chopped fresh mint are added at the last moment and cooked very briefly so that their flavors stay strong and bright.

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 large onion, peeled and cut into medium dice

2-1/2 pounds tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped

1 pound fresh tuna, cut into 1/2-inch-thick-steaks

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 pound imported conchiglie rigate

Place 4 tablespoons of the olive oil and the onion in a large sauté pan. Cook over low heat until the onion is tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. Add the tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat, partly covered, until juices thicken and a sauce forms, about 15 minutes.

Cut the tuna into 1/2-inch dice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a separate medium-sized skillet. Turn up heat to medium, add tuna, and toss until tuna is cooked on the surface but still pink at the center.

When the sauce has thickened, add the tuna, mint, and garlic, and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, or until tuna is just cooked.

Cook the conchiglie rigate in abundant salted boiling water until al dente. Drain the pasta well. Place in a serving bowl. Add the sauce and toss gently. Serve immediately.

Market in Guanajuato Mexico

Market in Guanajuato Mexico

Travel offers opportunity to try foods you might normally not see in your local market.  Wherever you go, visit the local grocery store, farmer’s market or street vendor.  In Guanajuato, there’s a vast two level city market built with great style and flair.  Navigate up the iron steps to the galleria on the top level where you can look down on the passing scene  then stroll around to buy Mexican candied delicacies, cacao, hammocks, clothes and every type of food.  On the streets around the market, small purveyors offer fruit at outdoor markets with prices marked on boards or called out by hawkers.

The delicate normal-sized strawberries sold during Spring carry stupendous taste.  Nothing sold in el Norte comes close for flavor intensity.

Crystallized Grapefruit

Clean grapefruit skins that have been cut in half and fruit removed for use in another dish.  Cut the peel in narrow  1/4 inch strips, the length of the halved fruit skin.  Cover with salted water (1 pint of water to each tablespoon of salt).  let boil 20 minutes.  Drain off this water and cover rinds with fresh water (no need to measure) and boil 20 minutes.  Do this again with fresh water.  Drain off the third water and for every whole grapefruit use 1 cup granulated sugar.  Let simmer until all the sugar is absorbed and the skins are clear.  Roll in dry sugar and put in sun or heated oven (which has been turned off) to dry.

Adapted from Charleston Receipts, an antique cookery book.

Photo from PierreProject.com

 

 

 

 

Chop massive amount of vegetables in fine to small dice. Use sweet potatoes, celery, red, green and chili peppers, red potatoes, julienne of carrots, turnips or yellow beets, mushrooms, greens, etc. Start with onions, garlic and seasoning in a large wok or saute pan. Saute in a small amount of olive oil on high heat. Reduce heat as other vegetables are added. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally to avoid burning for about an hour until the vegetables are soft but not mushy and excess liquid has evaporated. Open packet of large size rice flour egg-roll or won-ton wrappers. Working on the diagonal, place an amount of vegetable filling to create a roll approximately 1 to 1 1/2 inches diameter and about 3 inches long. Following package directions, wrap and fold over the ends of the wrapper around the vegetables, If the filling is too large, start over with a smaller amount. Place completed rolls seam side down on a lightly oiled baking sheet, leaving about 1/2 inch space around the rolls. When baking sheets are filled, brush with olive oil and place baking sheets in pre-heated oven 325 to 350 ° F. Cook  for about 1/2 hour or more. Rolls should be crisp on the outside, soft inside.

Rolls may be frozen or kept in refrigerator for a few days. Serve with sauce of choice – green chili sauce, soy, oyster sauce, etc.

This recipe was given to me by the Ethiopian parking lot manager during the 1990s when I complained that I couldn’t find a portable breakfast food that wasn’t sweet and starch based. He told me how to make these rolls in a few sentences and I’ve made them ever since varying the ingredients by season, adding dried fruit or seeds for accent flavor.

 

Of course you can!


Check out the fabulous salsa recipe with chipotle chilies — http://www.bernardin.ca/

Canning steps for tomatoes and mixed tomato sauces — tomato and herb pasta sauce, salsa, tomato chutney, etc.  Review canning process on videos and canning jar websites before embarking on this multi-step process.  Start small and work up to production levels if you are new to canning and preserving food in glass jars.

* Grow fresh produce. Harvest or buy at farm market.

* Wash.  Cut out bad spots, stems and hulls. Remove tomato skins if you prefer.

* Wash the jars.  Acquire lids and rings to match jar mouth.

* Boil water and put in the empty jars and lids.

* Boil water to cover tomatoes packed in the jars.

* Place tomatoes in jars (wide mouth jars are easiest) and push out air spaces with knife or spatula.

* Don’t overfill jars.  Food inside the jar should stop at least  3/4 to 1 inch from top lip. This is called the jar “head space” needed for processing period when the contents will boil and expand.

* Add a little sea salt to each jar.  Cover tomatoes with boiling water just to 3/4 to 1 inch from top lip.  Adjust tomatoes in the jar so there are no air bubbles and hot water is below the head space.  The hot water will spread the salt through the food.  If you are making sauces or salsa, the salt and other seasonings would have been added during cooking.

* With a clean tea towel, dip it in boiling water and wipe the edge of the jar, inside and out, until the entire top area of the jar and the head space area inside and out is perfectly free of food smears, seeds, etc.  Re-wipe the jar top edge with boiling water on another area of the tea towel.  With tongs, fetch a flat lid from the boiling water bath and place on top of jar.  Holding the jar with your other hand, screw on the ring until it is secure, but not overly tight.

* Place all the filled and sealed jars in a large pot about 1/3 filled with boiling water (a crab pot, kettle, soup pot, etc).  The appropriate pot will hold about 6 to 8 quart jars.  Add boiling water until the jar tops are just covered.  Adjust heat and cook for 10 to 15 minutes.  This is called the “boiling water bath” or “hot water processing”.  This is not steam processing in a pressure cooker used for all other vegetables.  Tomatoes are unique that their acid content is high enough to ensure that hot water boiling is sufficient to safely preserve the food contents.

* Please review the canning process on videos and canning websites provided by jar manufacturers.  If you don’t feel comfortable canning, freeze the mixtures.  It’s best to approach canning like changing a tire.  Get someone who knows how to do it to show you.

* Foods preserved in glass are lovely to look at, fun to eat and don’t rot when the electricity fails.

Time to sign up for your fresh vegetables for the next growing season of 2013.

National database of CSA farmers

Local Harvest explains that “Over the last 20 years, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Here are the basics: a farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a “membership” or a “subscription”) and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.”

Here are links to maps and lists that specify locations of  producers in the DC-MD-VA area.

Maryland

Montgomery County, MD

USDA resources on CSA

The Gastronomica Reader
Univ of California Press, 2010

What fun to find, by chance, that the Gastronomica Reader ,which includes my long article about Diana Kennedy and Mexican organic farming,  is featured in a biblio encyclopedia run by an Estonian webarian!  Fun because this connects directly to last week’s Wikimania 2012 in Washington, DC where I met the wikipedian from Estonia, Raul Veede.

Synchronicity and random serendipity are the indicators I follow in order to avoid the contrived pressures of marketing, crowd control, issues management, individual greed and social aggression.  Long live the randomness of the internet and the global volunteer efforts of wiki writers everywhere who are the activist-intellectual descendants of Thomas Paine.

Resource: Gastronomica, The Journal of Culture and Food.

Oldways is a non-profit culinary history organization based in Boston with a global outlook.

In 2011, Oldways initiated the K. Dun Gifford award for food journalism.  Affiliated reporters, freelancers and bloggers are eligible to enter.

Write and win a contest

Details:  http://www.oldwayspt.org/KDunGiffordAward 

Community Rooftop Gardens Go Global

What a splendid breath-enhancing addition to the city of Washington the new Czech Embassy will be!

Museums and post office administrators see the logic of cutting heating and cooling costs with roof top gardens and lawns that reduce solar impact. Quebec is moving forward with plans to green the roof of the Beaux Arts Museum.

In New York City, the USPS created a rooftop garden at a processing facility. Shanghai’s General Post Office, a vast marble showcase for postal services and museum exhibitions, offers a manicured rooftop garden overlooking the Bund.

Mexico City received a greening boost a few years ago when a popular mayor advocated turning rooftops into gardens. Now, a city once known for air pollution is making positive steps towards cleaner air by installing more gardens on rooftops.

The perception in some circles is that the U.S. lags behind progressive European and Asian countries. This green roof industry site suggests the U.S. needs to learn from other countries. But local governments in the U.S. are requiring that buildings incorporate green roofs in new designs or rennovation projects. Atlanta, Georgia is a green leader, retrofitting a green roof on City Hall in 2003.

« Previous PageNext Page »


  • Archives

  • Categories