Sunday, December 27, 2015

Dining-In: A Culinary Tour of America-Portsmouth, New Hampshire

The Location: Portsmouth, New Hampshire
2013 population: 21,440; 88.5% white, 3.9% Asian, 3.9% Hispanic. 2013 per capita income: $40,437

Prior to the European invasion, Portsmouth had been home to the Abenaki and other Algonquian language-speaking tribes. Martin Pring is the first recorded European to explore the area in 1603. By 1630, Europeans were colonizing the area. A British fort, Fort William and Mary, was built near the village of Portsmouth, giving it added protection. Portsmouth is located on a river harbor that opens to the ocean, and is thus a strategic location for trading. Other industries included lumber, ship building, and fishing. By 1645, enslaved Africans were being used as a labor source. Portsmouth profited greatly from their role in the Atlantic Slave Trade.

The city was first incorporated in 1653. In 1679, it was named the capital of the colony of New Hampshire and also became a place of refuge for Puritan exiles from Massachusetts. In 1774, Paul Revere rode to Portsmouth and warned people that the British were on their way. During the Revolutionary War, the slaves helped defend the city from the British. Once the war ended, in 1779, a group of 19 slaves submitted a petition to the state asking them to abolish slavery in exchange for the role they had played in the state and the nation's freedom. The petition was ignored, but New Hampshire did eventually unofficially abolish slavery in 1783 when they changed taxation codes and reworded the state constitution. It was not officially abolished in writing, however, until 1857, when the state passed legislation that stated that a person's decent may not be used to deny them citizenship to the state. Though it wasn't until New Hampshire ratified the 13th Amendment on July 1, 1865, that it was truly and officially ended.

Portsmouth was incorporated as a city in 1849. Though President Lincoln toured through the state of New Hampshire, and the state sent soldiers to fight, the state itself was too far north to have had any battles fought on its soil. Though Portsmouth lost many men to the war, the city itself remained unscathed.

Today, there are many museums and historical buildings dedicated to preserving the early American history of Portsmouth. The city itself now is considered a politically liberal city with many colleges and universities. The publishing company, Heinemann USA, is located in Portsmouth. Portsmouth is home to a plethora of well-known names throughout history. A few recent names include: Ilene Woods, the voice of Disney's Cinderella, Brooke Astor, philanthropist, Samantha Brown of the Travel Channel, and Tom Bergeron, tv host.

The Food: New England Clam Chowder and Brown Bread

I couldn't not do New England clam chowder at some point in time with this blog project. It is so quintessentially New England that it would be criminal of me to neglect it. I know there are several types of clam chowder, but I wanted the traditional New England kind, with a dairy or dairy-like base and no tomato products in it. And soup needs bread, right? One of the most famous kinds of New England breads, is Boston baked bread, the brown bread with raisins, baked/steamed in a cleaned out metal can. But this isn't Boston and so I couldn't do that one. But I found a similar bread and made that one instead. The bread recipe comes from my own recipe collection, at this point in time, the source is unknown. The clam chowder recipe came from online.

Raisin Rye Bread
1 pkg. active dry yeast
1/4 cup water, 105-115 degrees
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup molasses
1/4 cup butter
1 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. caraway seeds
1 1/2 cups rye flour
2 3/4-3 cups white flour(I only needed the 2 3/4 and probably could have used less. I had to add a bit of water to get it to mix properly because it was too dry.)
1 cup raisins

1.) In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water.
2.) In a saucepan, combine the milk, molasses, and butter.
3.) Heat to lukewarm, 110-115 degrees. Pour into yeast mixture.
4.) Stir in the salt and caraway seeds. Beat in the rye flour and white flour with the raisins.
5.) Form a soft dough. Knead on a lightly floured board.
6.) Let rise in a buttered bowl, covered, until double in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.
7.) Shape into a round loaf. Let rise on a buttered baking sheet, covered, for 30 minutes or until almost doubled. Slash the top.
8.) Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
9.) Let cool on a rack.
Makes one loaf, 16-20 slices
The bread was kind of tough to knead. I had to add water to it to get the flour to incorporate fully and I feel like it never rose as much as it was supposed to. In spite of all that, the flavor was fantastic! I bet you never thought that a caraway flavor would taste good with raisins, but it does! This is a nice, rustic bread that is good with lots of butter on it. I am going to try toasting a slice today and I bet it will be really great that way! This was super easy to make.

New England Clam Chowder-Dairy and Gluten Free
I have made the base for clam chowder in the past, when I worked in the restaurants I used to work at, but have never actually made it from start to finish before. I think it's a soup that people are intimidated by for some reason, but there is no reason to be. I wanted a recipe that was dairy-friendly and this one is! It's also gluten-friendly for those who need that. The original recipe that I will put in my sources section, has instructions for using canned and fresh clams. Because I used all canned, I will only write out the recipe the way I did it.

3 (6.5 oz.) cans chopped clams with liquid (Strain these with a strainer into a bowl. Keep the clams separated from the juice because you will add them at different points in the cooking process.)
1 (8oz.) can clam juice
3 strips bacon, chopped (I recommend freezing the bacon before chopping, it will make it so much easier.)
Olive oil, if needed (I ended up needing it, my bacon did not give off much fat.)
1 small onion, chopped
2 leeks (I used one large and it was enough.)
1 cup finely chopped celery, with leaves
2 Tbsp. sweet rice flour (Can use regular flour if gluten is not an issue for you. I had the rice flour on hand so I used it.)
1/2 cup white wine (I didn't have any on hand, but you'll note that sherry is listed as an optional ingredient in this recipe, at the end. I used it in place of the white wine at the earlier step instead.)
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram or thyme (I had marjoram on hand so I used it.)
1 bay leaf
1-1 1/2 cups almond milk or alternate to dairy milk of choice (I used coconut milk and it was wonderful in this. Not the kind from the can, the kind from the cardboard carton like you would use for cereal. You'll find it at the store in the same place as the almond milk. Probably the same brand too.)
1/4 cup sherry, optional

1.) Cut off and discard root ends and green tops of leeks. Slice leeks in half lengthwise, remove outermost layer and discard. Run leeks under water, separating layers to rinse out sand. Slice leeks thinly.
2.) Cook bacon in a large pot, until crisp. Remove bacon from pot and leave about 2 Tbsp. bacon fat in the pan or use olive oil to make up the difference, if there isn't enough.
3.) Add chopped leek, onion, and celery to the pot and saute over medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes.
4.) Add flour and wine and stir about 30 seconds. Working slowly at first to avoid lumps, stir in the clam juice and deglaze the pan. 

5.) Add potatoes, marjoram, bay leaf, and pepper. Liquid should cover the potatoes. If it doesn't, add water to cover, and bring to a boil.
6.) Reduce heat to simmer and cover, for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Remove the bayleaf and discard.
7.) Using an immersion blender, puree about 1/3 of the potato mixture. Mix in the almond milk, reserved bacon, and the clams, and heat back to a simmer. Add sherry, if desired.
This was fabulous! I am looking forward to reheating this tonight because you know how soup always tastes better the next day. I ate this with the bread and some potato chips and it was a perfect meal for a chilly winter night. The clams and clam juice weren't smelly, which is nice. If I had had Saltine crackers or some oyster crackers, that would have been a lovely addition to the soup.

Clam chowder is easy to find in canned form at the grocery store, or in restaurants, but it really is not hard to make from scratch. If you have always wondered what it's like to make, you really should try it out. It did not take long at all, I had much better control over what went into it, and it tasted delicious! If you want to try out a dish that screams "New England," this is it!

New England Clam Chowder Recipe

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Slavery in New Hampshire

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Dining-In: A Culinary Tour of America-Mankato, Minnesota

The Location: Mankato, Minnesota
2013 population: 40,641. 88.4% white, 3.7% African American. Per capita income: $24,330.

The region Mankato is part of was once home to different groups of Native Americans, and over time, when the East Coast began to be populated with more European Americans, the Native Americans were displaced and many ended up relocating in the Mankato area. European Americans also followed suit and began settling in the area in February of 1852.

Mankato as a city, was formed on May 11, 1858, by a man named Henry Jackson. Legend has it that the town was intended to be called Mahkato, the Dakota word for Greenish Blue Earth, but there was a clerical error, and it was entered as Mankato. The railroad came to Mankato in 1868, connecting it to the greater world and making it much easier to travel to and from.

"Fun" Fact: Mankato was the location of the largest mass execution in United States history. On December 26, 1862, the US Army executed 38 members of the Dakota tribe for their role in an uprising known as the Dakota War in 1862. 303 Native Americans had actually been sentenced to death, but President Lincoln pardoned all but 38.

You may be asking why I chose Mankato, out of all the cities in the state of Minnesota, why such a random, obscure town? Well, the answer is simple: Little House on the Prairie. Not the books, the tv series. Mankato was sort of the go-to town that the people on the show traveled to for trading and other business. And one of my rules in life is, if you can connect something to Little House on the Prairie, you do, no questions asked! And so, here we are!

The Food: Scandinavian Christmas
So, I have had a bad cold and was unable to do this blog project for two whole weeks. This set of food was actually scheduled for last week and I was going to take the food to a family gathering to share, but I was too sick to cook and too sick to attend the gathering. I was very sad to miss out, especially since one of the items was tied to a date. In the end though, I decided to do it this week instead and freeze the results to bring for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Lussekatter-Lucia Buns
December 13th is St. Lucia Day, and though St. Lucia is a Catholic saint, she is highly celebrated in the mostly-Lutheran Scandinavian countries. If you have ever seen drawings or pictures of blonde girls with wreaths and lit candles in their hair, this is it. Traditionally, the eldest daughter in the family dons the wreath and candles and serves her family Lucia Buns, which are a saffron-flavored and -colored sweet roll.

I have had this recipe for Lussekatter for years. Every year around Halloween, I pull out my holiday recipes and decide what I'm going to make for the year, for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Every year I pull out the recipe and I say, "I'm gonna make these finally!" and every year, I don't, and then I put it back till next year, where the ritual is repeated. When I started this blog project, I thought this would be a great opportunity to finally make these. And in keeping with the tradition, it fought me every step of the way. First off was getting sick when I was supposed to make them. I wondered if I should forget it, yet again, and put the recipe away for another year. But then I decided that I am neither Scandinavian, Lutheran, nor Catholic, so what the heck did it matter if I did it on the proper day or not? So, I did it, a week late, but I did it! And then there was preparing to make it. When you bake, one of the most important things to do is get your mis en place, this is a French term that basically means "getting your sh-- together". You make sure you have all the stuff you need before you get too far into the process and find out something's missing and your project is ruined. I had just gotten back from the store with ingredients for my other recipe, yet did not look at the ingredients for this one. Of course, it turned out I didn't have enough yeast, so back to the store I went and bought yeast. Then I was able to get started!

Traditionally, these buns have saffron in them, but if you can't find it or afford it, you can use turmeric instead. This particular recipe does not have either in in, but as a nod to it, I added a pinch of turmeric to the egg wash I put on the tops before baking to turn it a bit yellowish. If I had thought of it ahead of time, I would have added it to the milk and let it color the entire dough itself, which is how it's supposed to be done.

Here is the recipe:
3/4 cup milk
2 pkg. dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
2/3 cup sugar
5 cups flour, sifted(I did not notice this part, I would definitely sift it)
1/2 cup softened butter
2 eggs
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1/4 cup seedless raisins(You need two per roll, so a total of 64)
1 egg white, beaten slightly with 1 Tbsp. cold water(I used the whole egg after realizing it should be a yellow dough, I added a pinch of turmeric too. It worked pretty well, I think.)

Scald milk and cool to lukewarm. Add yeast to lukewarm water and mix until yeast is dissolved. Add milk, sugar; mix well.

Add two cups flour and beat until smooth. Add butter, egg, salt, and cardamom. Beat to well mixed. Gradually add in the remaining three cups of flour until well-incorporated. Turn out on a floured board. Knead to smooth and elastic. Place in bowl. Let rise until double in bulk. Punch down and repeat.(Note, I did not repeat, I went directly to the next step. I have never heard of a bread dough where you let it rise and punch it down two times before moving on to the formation and final rise step. You can try it and see what happens, but I can't vouch for it...)

Divide dough into 32 pieces. Roll each piece until about 16" long. Cut in half. Place two side-by-side and curl up ends. (As usual, I didn't actually really read the recipe as I went along and didn't do this. I rolled each piece out as much as I could and then rolled it up into a sort of S shape, making 32 rolls. This is possibly why they came out a bit on the dry side, because they were too small.) Place raisins in curl.

Cover-let rise until double. Brush with egg white and bake at 350 degrees for 11-12 minutes.

The cardamom flavor in these rolls is amazing! I really love the flavor of cardamom, it's a nice change from cinnamon. It's a prominent flavoring in Scandinavian cooking and baking. I like to think about the history of food and these buns are a good example. How do cardamom and saffron, spices from Asia or the Middle East, make their way to the northernmost parts of Europe? Why, the spice trade of course! You can see the geography and history sitting right there in the roll, and you can taste it as you eat it. Portable, edible history is always the best kind, I think.

The next recipe is a Christmas cookie recipe I have also had for a very long time but never tried. I decided it fit in very well with the buns and the theme of the blog meal. There is an icing for these cookies, but I did not make it yet. Since I froze the cookies to take to Christmas Eve and Day, I will make the icing fresh and put it on the thawed cookies. They were pretty awesome even without it, though!

Scandinavian Almond Bars-Source: Taste of Home Magazine

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1/2 tsp. almond extract(I have to thank the tall man at the grocery store for reaching to the very back of the top shelf for the almost extract, or I would have been stuck with the imitation stuff!)
1 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. milk
1/2 cup sliced almonds, chopped(These are so thin you can actually crush them in your hand and not need a knife and cutting board to chop these up)
1 cup powered sugar
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1-2 Tbsp. milk

In a mixing bowl, cream sugar and butter; beat in egg and extract. Combine dry ingredients; add to creamed mixture and mix well. (The recipe does not call for chilling the dough, but I do think this type of dough would benefit well from it. If I was to make this recipe again, I would chill the dough.)

Divide the dough into fourths; form into 12"x3" rectangles. Place 5" apart on greased baking sheets. Brush with milk; sprinkle with almonds.

Bake at 325 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until firm to the touch and edges are lightly browned. (I found 18 was too much and the first batch was a bit overdone. I did 15 minutes for the second batch and it turned out better. 14 would probably have been best.) Cool on pans for 5 minutes, then cut diagonally into 1" slices. (I found mine stuck to the pan, use a spatula and carefully remove each rectangle to a cutting board ASAP.) Remove to wire racks to cool completely. Combine icing ingredients; drizzle over bars.

Makes: About 4 dozen

These have a texture akin to biscotti, and I thought it could have stood to have a bit more almond flavor. Next time I would double the amount of extract I used to help bring that flavor out a bit more. I am also curious to see what the icing will do to the flavor. I am not generally an icing person, but it will add more almond flavor, so I'll try it out.

Though neither of these recipes turned out perfectly, I really had fun making them, and that's all that really matters. I would make them both again, with the small changes that I think would make them even better. If you are of Scandinavian descent or just enjoy the cuisine, I highly recommend both of these! You can have St. Lucia buns next December 13th!

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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Dining-In: A Culinary Tour of America-Tahlequah, Oklahoma

The Location: Tahlequah, Oklahoma

2013 population: 16,359; 46.4% white, 29.2% Native American. Per capita income: $17,056.
Tahlequah, legend has it, is derived from the Cherokee word "Ta'ligwu," which means "two is enough". According to the legend, after the Cherokee people arrived in Oklahoma, upon finishing their trek along the Trail of Tears, there was to be a meeting with three tribal elders for them to decide upon a location for the Nation's new permanent capital. Only two of the elders showed up, so they decided that two was enough, and made the decision themselves. In 1839, Tahlequah was named the capital of two Cherokee tribes based out of Oklahoma: the Cherokee Nation, and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, and remains the capital of both to this day. The oldest public building in the state is located in Tahlequah: the Cherokee Supreme Court Building.

Tahlequah has a Cherokee language immersion school, and children from elementary school age through middle school age are taught 100% in Cherokee. This causes some issues, however, when students are tested for statewide testing, they are tested in English, and therefore do not do as well. When they graduate to high school, classes are taught bilingually, however. Most street signage in Tahlequah is also bilingual. The Cherokee language is part of the Iroquois language group, and is one of the first Native American languages to have been written down. A Cherokee silversmith by the name of Sequoyah, or Ssiquoya, created a syllabary(alphabet) in 1821, and it was officially adopted by the Cherokee Nation in 1825.

The original Cherokee Nation was first recognized by the United States government in 1794, until 1907. Prior to their removal by the United States government to Oklahoma, the Nation's territory extended from Texas to North and South Carolina, and up from Tennessee down to Georgia and Alabama. The Cherokee, along with the Seminole, the Choctaw, the Creek, and the Chickasaw, were what is referred to as the "Five Civilized Tribes" by the United States government. They were called this because they adopted many of the traits that the United States favored, such as conversion to Christianity, slave ownership, a centralized government, and intermarriage with white people.

So, how did a large, well-organized group of people come to live in Oklahoma when they had enjoyed such a large territory? Well, in 1830, the United States government passed the Indian Removal Act. This would remove all of the "Five Civilized Tribes," one by one, from their territories and move them all to Oklahoma. The route they took would become known as the "Trail of Tears". The first instance of this term comes from the removal of the Chocktaw Nation in 1831.
Between 1830 and 1850, the "Five Civilized Tribes" and any white members of their families, and any of their slaves, were forcibly removed from their lands. The Cherokee removal started in 1838, when gold was discovered in Georgia. In the summer of 1838, 16,543 Cherokee were removed from their territory, and put into concentration camps. About 353 people died during that time. The death march to Oklahoma started in the autumn of 1838, and an estimate of 2,000-6,000 people were killed along the way, due to freezing temperatures and extreme weather. They arrived in Tahlequah on March 18, 1839.

The Food: The Other Side of Thanksgiving
You might be asking yourself why I chose to celebrate this horrible moment in history at this particular holiday. Well, I don't consider this a celebration of the Trail of Tears, or what was done to the Cherokee or any other Native American tribe in our long, and mostly sad, history between the United States government and the Native Americans. I know a lot of people struggle with allowing themselves to enjoy Thanksgiving, knowing what we are responsible for. I don't know how much of the original story of Thanksgiving is actually true, and how much of it is myth, but I like to think of it as a moment in time in which we had many paths to choose from. Paths in which we worked together with other groups of people, and lifted ourselves up equally and coexisted peacefully and lovingly. Ultimately, though, we did not take that path, but chose a path of ignorance and selfishness and hatred. But for that one moment, all things were possible. I think it's a good time to not only look at what we have in our lives to be grateful for, but to also remind ourselves to choose the path of peace and love and working together.

The state of Oklahoma is difficult to find, shall we say, culinary gems that I wanted to feature on this blog, so that meant looking outside of the usual Euro-centric cultures that I too-often default to. I remembered a piece of information from school about the Trail of Tears ending in Oklahoma, and that's where I started my research. I looked up my schedule for when Oklahoma was going to be featured, and saw it was the weekend after Thanksgiving, and thought it was a sign that it was meant to be. But this presented some other issues. What to eat? I had resisted for this entire project, the idea of doing fry bread for a Native American food post. I have wanted to feature more Native American food, but so much of it is so obviously post-Columbian in nature that I wasn't sure I wanted to go there. Unfortunately, I had very little luck finding anything doable that was pre-Columbian. This was one of the first times I talked over a blog post with somebody else prior to doing it. I talked to my friend, Mika, and expressed my concerns and issues. I only wanted to feature Native American food if I could do it with the utmost respect, and honor it as best as I could. It isn't my culture, after all. Whenever I write about a meeting of two cultures in this project, I present it as a good thing to celebrate, but how do you celebrate this particular meeting of cultures? Her suggestion was to just go for it, and express my misgivings, and that it is a celebration, of sorts. A celebration that, in spite of all that was done to them, and all the people and land lost over the years, the Cherokee, and other tribes, are still here. They were not wiped out entirely, and though they are not nearly what they were before, they still exist. The United States government failed in their attempts to wipe them all out, and that, is deserving of a celebration, in my opinion. And so, I decided to do the fry bread, because if there is one dish I would assign as "Native American" more than any other, it would be fry bread. Each tribe seems to have their own recipe, and within the tribes, each family probably has their own take on it as well. Mika also helped me find some other recipes to try, and I ended up with four! It was a proper feast. All the recipes come from the internet, and I will include the links in the sources section at the end of this blog.

I think this is the first time I have done a beverage for this blog project. I ran across a recipe that sounded so unusual to me I knew I had to try it. I figured it would either be the best thing or the worst thing I've ever had, and I was lucky that it turned out to be amazing! Here is the recipe:

1 cup cornmeal(the recipe calls for blue or white but my store only had yellow. I opted for the medium grind and I think that was a good call.)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Pour the cornmeal out onto an ungreased sheetpan and put into a 425 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. Every few minutes, take the pan out and stir the cornmeal around. This will brown very quickly and mine actually got to the edge of burned, but was still ok. It may smoke, so make sure to turn on your stove's fan or you may set off your fire alarm. When it's toasted, pour it onto a plate or another sheetpan to cool off.

When the cornmeal is cool, combine it with the sugar and cinnamon and mix well. When you are ready to drink, heat one cup of milk and one Tablespoon of the cornmeal mixture over medium heat for 15-20 minutes. You don't really want it to boil, and make sure to stir often.

This was a crazy good drink. It almost smelled like chocolate, and the cinnamon tasted really good. The texture is really rich and you think you're drinking something really unhealthy, but it's just because the cornmeal softens and has a really amazing texture. You will need to stir it often while drinking, but I was surprised at how much I liked this drink. The mix makes a lot, and I'll keep it around for special treats.
The cup has the pinole in it, and the cut up item behind it is the unfried fry bread. I have seen fry bread, and have eaten it once before, but never made it myself. It turned out to be very simple and delicious! Here is the recipe:

Cherokee Fry Bread 
1 cup flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup milk

Mix the ingredients in a medium bowl, adding more flour to make a stiff dough.(I found mine needed almost an entire cup more.) Roll out the dough onto a floured board as thin as possible. Cut into strips 2" x 3" (I used a pizza cutter to do this) and fry in an inch or so of oil over medium heat. Brown on both sides. 

My first batch was flat, but all the rest bubbled up more like fry bread is supposed to. I think the oil wasn't quite hot enough for the first batch. I loved watching these bubble when you put them in the oil. They were sort of like a cross between a pancake and a tortilla. They were awesome!! I ate them plain but the recipe said you could add honey if you wanted. 

In my search for an entree, I kept running across something called "Cherokee Chicken". I'm always a little wary of recipes with titles like these. If they are authentic at all, they've usually been Americanized beyond recognition, but I found a recipe for it on a Native American message board, so I felt a little better about using it. It was super simple and used ingredients I was familiar with, but put them together in such a unique way that I was was just really impressed with the result. It's also Thanksgiving-worthy, as you'll see...

Cherokee Chicken
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tbsp. butter or margarine
2 Tbsp. minced onion
1 green pepper, minced
Salt/pepper to taste
1 frying chicken, disjointed (I bought two chicken breasts, with skin and bones, because my store didn't have a whole chicken and I didn't really need that much. Because of this I cut the recipe in half and it worked out just fine)
8 oz. can whole cranberry sauce (Because I try to limit my sugar intake, this was a place to cut out sugar by making my own cranberry sauce. I made my own with a bag of cranberries, about a half cup of unsweetened applesauce, a teaspoon of lemon juice, and about 1/2 cup of water used to rinse out the jar of applesauce and boiled it all in a pan until the berries popped and everything got nice and thick.)

Heat oil and butter in a 12" skillet. (I used a large pan with a lid. A Dutch oven would have been awesome for this too, if I had one.) Add chicken; cook until golden brown on all sides.

Remove chicken from the pan and move to a plate. Pour off all but 2 Tbsp. fat. Add green pepper, garlic and onion; cook until soft. Add cranberry sauce, salt and pepper. Return chicken to the pan and turn a couple times to cover all sides in the sauce. Cover, simmer 25 minutes. Every once in a while, turn the chicken to continue flavoring all sides with the sauce.

Serves 4 to 6.

This was amazing! I was a bit concerned about the cranberries in this recipe. I mean, cranberries are native to this continent, but they are not found anywhere near where the Cherokee used to live or in Oklahoma, so why were they used in this recipe? There was a note on the message board that said the cranberries had come to be used instead of wild berries that were originally used in the recipe, so I felt better about using them. This definitely works in keeping with Thanksgiving flavors. And I think the homemade cranberry sauce kept it from being too sweet. This was worth every step it took to make this. 

And as if all of these recipes weren't enough, I decided I needed a dessert too. I ran across a unique recipe that I was sure I could reduce the amount of sugar from and still have a good texture and flavor. It turns out I was right! I probably ate five of these tonight...

Cornmeal Cookies with Dried Cranberries
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar(I used 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce instead)
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 tsp. baking power
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries

Cream the butter and sugar(and applesauce if using). Add the egg and vanilla and blend well. Stir in the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt until combined. Stir in the cranberries until well mixed.

Drop dough from tablespoon on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350° for about 15 minutes until lightly browned.(Mine were a little smaller than a Tablespoon and made two full dozen. I cooked them for slightly less time, maybe 12 minutes.)

Makes about 1 1/2 dozen.

You should be really jealous of me and the meal I ate tonight. Or, you could try out all the recipes yourself and you can partake of the amazingness as well! I had no idea cornmeal was so versatile. I have used it a lot over the last year during this project. I know corn is native to this continent, but there is something about cornmeal in particular that seems to be so very American. I used it in two very different ways tonight. Ways I have never used it before. Maybe it's another example of two worlds colliding. Instead of death and destruction, though, it created something amazing and beautiful. Perhaps I could look at it as a glimpse of the world we could have had, if we'd taken that other path so long ago when we'd first had the chance to...

Cornmeal Cookie Recipe

Fry Bread Recipe

Pinole Recipe

Cherokee Chicken Recipe

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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Dining-In: A Culinary Tour of America-Cuba, Kansas

 The Location: Cuba, Kansas
2013 population: 149; 96.8% white, 1.9% two or more races; per capita income: $19,062

Cuba was founded in 1868 by Southerners after the Civil War. It was named after the country in which one of the travelers had spent time and grown to love. In the 1870's, Czech immigrants settled there. In 1884, the town moved from its original location to a location closer to the newly-built railroad. It has since moved one more time to its present day location. The Czechs left a rich cultural heritage behind and today, the city proudly boasts this cultural contribution to America.

Cuba doesn't appear to have a terribly thrilling past, but what I find interesting about it is, it seems to be the perfect example of small-town America. Kansas is in the center of our country, and was once a hub of farming communities. Today, though, big agriculture business has wiped out most of these small towns, making them truly a dying breed. As young people leave in search of more interesting activities or to increase their chances of financial success, and as the older folks who stayed behind begin to die off, these towns are dwindling. Some might think that we should be allowed to die out and move on with the future, but I think it's really quite sad. Some of these towns at least, should be preserved. For so long, states like Kansas were responsible for feeding this nation, and it was the toil and sweat of hardworking people who fed us. I'd say it's time we gave back to them. Perhaps, like the Czech immigrants who came to Cuba so long ago and infused the town with their culture, it's time for a new group of people to come and help Cuba to thrive again. New blood, as it were. I can think of one particular group of people in desperate need of a place to live right now, but that's a topic for my other blog...

The Food: Klobasnek and Kolache
Kolache is a Czech food, and Klobasnek is an American invention that is a savory take on the Kolache. Though the Klobasnek hails from Texas, I am using it for the state of Kansas because I wanted to focus on Czech food and wanted a savory item to balance out the sweetness of the Kolache. Kolache are a cross between a cookie and a bread. Its bread dough that is rolled thin and filled with some type of sweet filling and then baked. They come out of the oven looking a bit like a cookie, but still have a bread-like texture. Klobasnek are sausage and cheese rolls made with a savory Kolache dough. The recipes I used came from the internet and are so long that I won't put them here. I will include the links in the sources section and write up my experience in making them.

I made both recipes concurrently, so I will write up the experience all in one section, rather than one recipe at a time. First up was the Kolache-or, the trouble-maker dough.

So, this was a trouble maker from start to finish. First off was the adventure of buying poppy seeds for one of the fillings. I made three fillings for these: a poppy seed, an apricot, and a blueberry filling. I have never cooked with poppy seeds before, but have seen them used in a lot of Eastern European baking that I knew I wanted to try it out. I went to Fred Meyer and luckily they had poppy seeds in their bulk spice section, so I got a small bag, about one cup worth. Now, these run a little expensive, about $13 a pound, which makes sense because poppy seeds are so light. I bought a few other items at the store and when the checker told me the amount right as I ran my credit card through, I knew $41 was way too much for the poppy seeds, the lemon, the orange, and the croissant I had purchased. It was too late though, the transaction had gone through. I thought maybe they were more expensive than I had though, maybe I'd misread the label. I looked at the receipt though, and noticed they'd come in as nearly three pounds of poppy seeds! There was no way that small bag was three pounds. Luckily the customer service area was empty and the woman there was very nice. She reweighed the bag, which actually came in at a third of a pound, and discounted me the $32 overcharge! Easy peasy, and then I was on my way.

Fast forward to the afternoon when I'm finally going to start these blog items, to about 3:30pm. You know, there's a reason people make bread earlier in the day, but I thought, how bad can it be? This is plenty of time! Wrong! I did not pull the last set of Kolache out of the oven till about 9:30pm last night...The moral of that story is, you don't have to get up at 2 in the morning maybe, but do start a bit earlier in the day than I did. You'll thank yourself later.

So, first off, the yeast wouldn't dissolve in the milk. I think I let the milk that I heated cool off too much because I was afraid it was too hot. So, I pour most of the milk, minus the chunks of yeast, back in the pan and heat it up again. Then I put it in the bowl with the yeast and it still won't melt! I have never had this happen before. It wasn't expired yeast, I checked the date. I finally used my fingers(with gloves on) to sort of mash the yeast into the milk and force it to dissolve. Fun, fun, fun!

After that time, I went about the recipe exactly as it was written. I had set the stick of butter on the stove to soften. It was perfectly soft and ready to use. The only problem? I forgot to put it in the dough! So, I am kneading this dough that is stiff as heck and would only let about half the flour absorb into it. I finally gave up trying, greased the bowl, covered it, and moved it to the stove to let it get warm for the first rise, and see the stick of butter sitting there! What do I do to fix this? I was pretty sure that leaving it out with be an absolute disaster, so I had to figure out a way to get that butter into an already-formed dough. I was not about to start over, so I took the bowl back to the counter, unwrapped the butter and smashed it into the dough. Literally. And then I kneaded it as best I could, while sort of tearing the dough from the inside and letting the butter incorporate all the way into the center. I didn't want it to turn out like a croissant dough, where the butter layers remain distinct from the dough. I just worked and reworked it, while adding more flour to absorb the extra fat. Finally, it looked halfway decent, but I'm afraid it never quite recovered. That plus the earlier yeast issue meant that I could never get it to rise quite as much as I had hoped it would.

While that dough was rising, I started on the Klobasnek dough, or, the well-behaved dough. This dough was a dream, and everything the Kolache dough was not. It rose easily and fully and was soft and easy to handle.

While both doughs were rising, I worked on the three fillings for the Kolache. I made half batches of what the recipe calls for and ended up with extras for the poppy seed and the apricot fillings. The blueberry filling was just enough. I recommend making quarter batches for the apricot and poppy seed fillings, unless you plan on using it for all the Kolache. For all of the fillings, I replaced the sugar with an equal amount of unsweetened applesauce and I think all of them turned out just fine. You would never know unless I told you. The blueberry filling was very straight forward and cooked up very nicely. The poppy seed filling was interesting because I had to grind the seeds up first, using my spice grinder. Did you know that poppy seeds are filled with oil? I did not, and found this out when I ground them up and they started clumping together. The oil has a very distinct smell and scent, one that I am sure most of us are unfamiliar with, since most of us only eat them on our everything bagels or mixed into muffins. The apricot filling was boiled for a while and then I used my hand-held blender to puree it into a sauce.

In this picture, you can see all the fillings, and the doughs while they rise. The blueberry is on the left, and the poppy seed filling is on the right. The Kolache dough is in the metal bowl, and the Klobasnek dough is in the blue bowl. You can clearly see the difference in how they are rising.

For the Klobasnek dough, you mix a few of the dough ingredients first and let it sit for a half hour before adding the next set of ingredients and letting it sit for it's first rise. After that first rise, I punched it down and divided it up into 8 equal pieces. You roll them or stretch them out into small rounds, like little pizza doughs, then place a Tablespoon or two of shredded cheddar cheese in the center. Top that with a piece of sausage. I had Polish sausages that are basically in the shape of hotdogs, so I thawed two of them and cut them up into quarters, once lengthwise, and once widthwise so there would be a good amount of sausage in each one. Then you roll them up, pinch the edges to seal them, and set them on a greased sheet pan to rise the second time.

I managed to stick all of them on one sheet pan. The sides on some of them did end up touching some of the others, but it all baked up just fine.

For the Kolache dough, after its first rise, I punched it down and kneaded it some more, while adding more flour, because of all the mishaps it had had, it was still a little greasy. It looked much better after adding more flour. This dough is divided in half and each half is rolled out as thinly as you can get. Then you use a cookie cutter, or I used a glass, and cut out rounds. It's supposed to make 24, and mine might have if it had cooperated better, but mine only made 21, and the last few times of rerolling it were really difficult. The dough did not want to stretch out anymore, so some of them were pretty sad-looking. Those rounds were placed on greased baking sheets and set aside for their second rise. I did seven on each pan and did not want to dirty yet a fourth pan, so I only put two sets on the pans first and let the last set sit on the counter to rise.

After their second rise, I used my hands to press down the center of each Kolache and make a space for the filling to go. I made 7 of each flavor, putting the filling in before you bake, so that it all bakes together.

I didn't follow the egg glaze or the posipka recipes for these exactly, but made it work for what I had on hand. The Klobasnek dough called for two egg yolks, so I had two egg whites left over, so I threw some milk into them and mixed them and used that as the glaze and I think it worked just fine. And my sister had some sugar and cinnamon mixed for toast, so I just sprinkled some of that on over the glaze and it was perfect.

After the Klobasnek had finished their second rise, I finally was able to bake them, while working on the Kolache. Before you put the Klobasnek in the oven, you brush them in melted butter. When they're done and you've taken them out of the oven, you brush them in more melted butter while they're still hot.

OMG, these things were fantastic! The bread dough was the softest I think I've ever had in my life and the cheese and sausage were ridiculous. I ate two of them last night! I ate them while I was baking the Kolache, which I did one batch at a time, rather than trying to use two racks and hoping the bottom one didn't burn. They each took 12 minutes to bake and turned out amazing! I liked the blueberry and apricot ones the best. I didn't care for the flavor of the poppy seed filling. It was just too strong of a floral flavor for me. Since I don't have any experience with this filling, I have no basis of comparison, so I don't know if it's supposed to be that way, or if I did something wrong. Maybe if I had been raised with that flavor, I would like it more. But I am very excited that I tried it out and got to see just how that filling is made! I had no idea they grind up the seeds.

So that's all of it, in its glory, about six hours after I started...My feet and back were so sore and then I still had to deal with packaging it all up for people! Many of the Kolache were placed on a plate and I froze them to take to my family's Thanksgiving dinner this week, so they will get a chance to taste them all! Some are being shared with my parents today and some will go to work tomorrow for a few people to try them out, but the rest of the Klobasnek are mine!! I froze them so I can have them whenever I want!

During the last part of this, I of course had to watch The Wizard of Oz. I mean, Toto and Dorothy might not have been in Kansas anymore, but that's where I was visiting, and so it was a must.

This was quite an adventure, trying to make two completely different bread-dough based items at the same time. I have never tried that before, and I have never started it so late in the day before, either. I would highly recommend starting a bit earlier in the day for these, especially if you are making both. They were both fantastic, though, so if you feel confident in your bread-making skills, and have never made these before, you really ought to try them out. You'll come away from it asking yourself where these have been your whole life!

Klobasnek Recipe

Kolache Recipe

Cuba City Website

City Map

City Pic

City Info1

City Info2

City Stats

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Dining-In: A Culinary Tour of America-Winchester, Virginia

The Location: Winchester, Virginia
2013 population: 27,216; 68.8% white, 15.9% Hispanic. Per capita income $26,061.

Before the Europeans arrived, the region around Winchester was home to Iroquoian-speaking Native American tribes. This included the Sherando and the Senedo. In the late 17th century, the Shawnee challenged these tribes for their hunting territory, and eventually took over. The area was also a battleground for the Seneca and the Lenape who hailed from the North, as well as the Siouan Catabwa, from the Carolinas. The Shawnee would end up being removed from their land in the 1830's by the United States government as part of the Indian Removal Act. Though they did not travel on the Trail of Tears, like many other tribes, they ended up in Oklahoma, with all the other tribes who did.

The area around Winchester began to see European settlers starting in 1729, when Quakers from Pennsylvania traveled there. The Scots-Irish and Germans soon followed. The city was founded in 1738, as Frederick Town, but in 1752, it was renamed Winchester, after the town in England. A young George Washington spent a lot of his younger years here, surveying the surrounding land. During the Revolutionary War, a militia group from the city came to General Washington's aid during the Siege of Boston in 1775.

During the Civil War, Winchester's proximity to the Shenandoah Valley made it a large target for both the Union and the Confederacy. It was the location of five battles between 1862 and 1864, and there were two more nearby in 1864. After the war, the United States government assigned a military presence in the city during the Reconstruction era.

Today, Winchester has several museums and tours available for tourists and Civil War buffs.

The Food: Peanut Soup and Savory Baklava

Peanuts originate from South America, but are now known as an American staple. Virginia peanuts, which actually grow in various Southern states, are very large in size and in high demand. Virginia began growing them in the 1860's. When I think of this state, this is one of the foods that immediately come to mind, so I knew I wanted to do something with them. I could have tried out boiled peanuts, but from everything I've heard about them, they're just not all that amazing. I wanted to try something very different and substantial. Peanut soup is something I've heard mentioned off and on over the years and in the course of researching for this project, but I have never been brave enough to try it until now. It just sounded so weird to me, but it was actually really good! My recipe comes from a vegetarian recipe site, and I'll copy it here with my changes and put the link to the original recipe in the Sources section at the end of the post.

Peanut Soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 large celery stalks, finely diced
8 to 10 ounces carrots (6 to 8 medium), peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 cup dry white wine or water
2 tablespoons unbleached white flour
 32-ounce container low-sodium vegetable broth
3/4 cup natural smooth peanut butter(I used Adam's brand)
1 to 1/2 cups unsweetened rice milk or almond milk(I used dairy milk because that's what I had at home and I didn't want to buy more)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish(I skipped this, I'm not a big parsley fan)
1 to 2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice, to taste(Mine needed at least twice that to get the flavor to come through. I used lime juice because that goes really well with the peanut flavor. Think Thai food.)
Cayenne pepper or other hot seasoning, to taste(I used Tabasco sauce)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Chopped roasted peanuts for garnish, optional

Heat the oil in a large soup pot. Add the onion, and sauté over medium heat until translucent.

Add the celery, carrots, and wine. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft but not overcooked.

Sprinkle in the flour in with the vegetables, and stir it in until it disappears.

Add the broth and bring to a rapid simmer. Cover and simmer gently over low heat for 10 minutes.

Spoon the peanut butter into the pot and whisk it in briskly until blended with the liquid.

Stir in the rice or almond milk and bring to a gentle simmer once more. Stir in the parsley and lemon or lime juice.

Add cayenne or other hot seasoning to taste, then season with salt and pepper.

If time allows, let the soup stand off the heat for an hour or so to allow the flavors to blend, then heat through as needed.

Taste to adjust seasonings, then serve. Garnish each serving with some chopped peanuts and parsley if desired.
I'm pretty proud of the fact that my soup looks pretty much exactly like the picture on the original recipe. It definitely had a Thai flavor to it that I really liked, but there was too much celery for my tastes. Next time I'd probably cut that at least in half. I found this soup to be really rich and filling. I mean, it's peanut butter, it's full of fat(the healthy kind) and protein, so there's a lot going on there. A cup of soup, rather than a bowl, is best for this sort of hearty soup. This was pretty easy to make and didn't take long to cook. I didn't have any peanuts to use as a garnish but that would have looked nice on top and added some crunch to it. Make sure you have some for the garnish if you try this recipe out.

And for the entree...Virginia ham is a unique ingredient, akin to proscuitto. It is very salty and meant to be eaten sparingly. It is also referred to as Country ham. But, it can also refer to other types of ham, the sliceable kind for sandwiches, and this is the kind I used. It's not easy to find in Seattle, so I went to two grocery stores and went with the first kind I found, no questions asked. It said Virginia on it, so I was cool with it. It wasn't the prosciutto-style, but it was very smoky and didn't seem to have any sweetness to it, like most hams do.

So, this recipe was supposed to be something else, and I had to change it at the last minute due to a couple different things. First, it was supposed to be baked in mini cupcake tins, and I only had one and didn't want to prep these 4 times which is the amount of batches I'd have to make with only one tin. Second, to thaw out the few sheets of phyllo dough I needed, I actually had to thaw the entire half package. The phyllo dough I bought came in two separate halves that you have to unroll. What to do with all the other dough? You can't refreeze it and you can't really refrigerate it, and I was not about to just toss it. I spent good money on the high quality stuff, I wanted to use it. So, I thought about the recipe and how I could change it to make it work for me. And thus, this recipe was born. When I ate sweets, baklava was one of my favorite desserts, so I am quite familiar with how it works. How to turn it into a savory entree, though? Well, that's where the original recipe came in. I used all the filling ingredients, added one of my own, and assembled it in the style of baklava. I will write out my recipe and include the link to the original inspiration in the Sources section as well.

Savory Baklava with Virginia Ham
1/2 pkg. phyllo dough, thawed
1/2 lb. Virginia ham, chopped
6 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 tart apple, chopped or shredded
1/2 cup pecans, chopped(Because baklava needs to have nuts in it. I know pecans don't scream "Virginia", but they are a Southern staple and I looked it up and George Washington grew pecans in his home at Mount Vernon in Virginia, so that to me makes it an appropriate nut to include in this dish.)
1 stick butter, melted
1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed(I used the Trader Joe's brand, because the Nabisco brand still has partially hydrogenated fats in it it, even though it's not a lot. I try to avoid those at all costs, but use whichever brand you like most or have access to.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter the bottom and sides of a 9"x13" baking dish. I used a glass dish. Layer several sheets of phyllo dough on the bottom and brush with melted butter. Sprinkle some of the crushed crackers and then put another several layers of phyllo dough over that. Butter that layer and put half the ham mixture on top of that, spreading it out evenly. Repeat with the phyllo, butter and crushed crackers for a layer or two and then top with the rest of the ham mixture.
Continue with the phyllo, butter, and crackers until it's all used up.
Any extra butter you have can be poured over the top and then tilt the pan around to let it seep through to the lower layers. Or you can just use it for something else if you don't want to use it all up. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, checking to see that it's browned all the way through before it's finished. Remove from the oven and let sit for a few minutes before cutting into pieces and serving.

 I found this to be really rich, and didn't need much to get filled up. I can see why the original recipe was for appetizers. A little of this goes a long way! Paired with the peanut soup, I got full really fast. Of course, it might have something to do with the bag of Pirate Booty I ate during the Presidential debate last night. Dinner was suuuuuper late! This made a lot of leftovers, so hopefully my coworkers will help eat it all up tomorrow for me! I gave some to my parents too, so I'll have to check later to see what they thought of it.

I looked at my blog schedule last night and did the math. This week's post denotes the start of my final fifth of the states. I am amazed that I have managed to keep up with this project for so long and that it's getting down to the last set of states to study! I'll be sad when this is over...!

Original Ham Tart Recipe

Peanut Soup Recipe

City Info

City Stats

City Map

City Pic

Virginia Peanut Info

Monday, November 9, 2015

Pumpkin Pie Success

So, I have wanted to experiment with pumpkin pie for a long time but have never tried it until now. I have tried in the past to use different types of milk, and it has worked, so I knew it was a possibility. As a person who is lactose intolerant, most pumpkin pie is off-limits because, as a custard, it needs some sort of milk-like liquid to make it work properly. I have used rice milk in the past, but rice milk is very sugary. The other half of my experiment was to reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe but without greatly altering the flavor or texture. I had some ideas and ran with them and was happily surprised at how good it all turned out. The base of the recipe is the tried and true recipe from the can of Libby's pumpkin puree, the kind without the spices, just the pumpkin. The canned pumpkin I used was actually Trader Joe's brand, so the color is a bit different, but I think the flavor was the same.

Summer's Pumpkin Pie:
1 can(15oz.) canned pumpkin
1 can(13.5oz or however size your brand comes in) coconut milk, simmered to evaporate down to 12 oz. and cooled off
2 eggs
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 unbaked deep-dish pie shell

In a large mixing bowl, mix all the items except for the pie shell, with a whisk.
Place the pie dough in a pie dish or if you are using one in a tin, leave it in the tin. Press the dough into the pie dish and with a fork, prick the dough all over to keep from puffing while baking. Place the tin or dish on a baking sheet and pour the filling into the shell.

Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes and then turn it down to 350. Bake for 50-60 minutes, taking the time to remove it from the oven and cover the crust edges with foil if it begins to brown too much. The center will jiggle slightly, but you don't want it to jiggle too much. The top will start to crack, but this is ok.

This needs to chill like any other pumpkin pie to let all the flavors develop properly. Because there is less sugar, the spices come through more strongly. The coconut milk is not terribly noticeable. To my taste buds, it tasted just like any other pumpkin pie, which is what my goal was. My coworkers seemed to like it, and my parents thought it was ok, but hadn't tried it with whipped cream yet. I eat mine without any topping, but by all means, put Cool Whip or whipped cream on it if you so desire! I even have an idea for how to do a gluten free version with sort of a streusel/granola topping and no dough. We'll see what I come up with, if there's any demand besides myself for Thanksgiving dinner. Those of you who will be coming to Thanksgiving this year, let me know if you're interested and I'll plan on making this for you!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Dining-In: A Culinary Tour of America-New York, New York

The Location: New York, New York; Brooklyn, Coney Island-Little Pakistan
New York City 2013 population: 8,405,837; 32.6% white, 28.9% Hispanic. 2013 per capita income: $32,540

This is the first time I have been able to pinpoint a specific neighborhood in the city I was featuring on this blog, but with a city the size of New York, you have the luxury to be able to do this. I am very excited about this! New York is so big that it seems to have regions within it. They are known as "boroughs". Think of it like this, if New York City itself was a state, the borough would be the county in which you live. From there, the smaller neighborhoods would be like your individual city or town in which you lived. For my mind, New York City is so big, the population is so unfathomably large, that it's easier for me to think of it this way. To try and write up the history of the entire city would be ridiculous to even attempt, so I am going to keep it focused on the neighborhood I am featuring.

Little Pakistan is part of Coney Island, which is in the borough of Brooklyn. Coney Island, prior to the European invasion, was home to the Lenape Native American tribe. They referred to the island as "Narrioch," which translates to one of several things: "Land without shadows", "Always in light", "Point", or "Corner of land". The first Europeans to settle in the area were the Dutch, who named it, "Niew Amsterdam," in the early 1600's. Nobody knows for sure how it came to be called Coney Island. There are about five possible theories, though the first time a name akin to "Coney" was recorded, is on a map dating back to 1690. The island was originally unattached to the mainland, a true island, but was connected by a landfill in the 1950's.

Over the years, since the 1840's, when Coney Island was being developed, there have been issues and arguments about how much of the land should be developed and how much should be preserved for wildlife, and of the amusement side of the island, how much should be residential use and how much should be used for entertainment and amusement purposes. The amusement side of Coney Island has changed ownership many times over the years, including Donald Trump's father Fred, who wanted to demolish it all and build luxury apartments. That idea ultimately failed, but it was enough time and pressure that it lowered attendance at the parks significantly for a time. Popularity of the parks has ebbed and flowed over the years as well. Hurricane Sandy caused a lot of damage to the amusement side of the island in 2012, but it has largely been rebuilt since then.

On the other side of Coney Island, is a residential area. Little Pakistan is an ethnic enclave in this area. It resides between Beverly Road and Avenue H, and is home to about the large community of Pakistani Americans in NYC. Pakistani immigrants are one of the fastest growing immigrant groups in New York City. The neighborhood had once been home to a Jewish community, but during the 1990's, the Pakistani community grew ever larger in the area. Between 1990 and 2000, the Pakistani population doubled, and thrived in their new home. But then came 9/11 in 2001, and everything changed. This event would end up devastating Little Pakistan, as they fell under government scrutiny. In the aftermath of 9/11, the FBI swept through the neighborhood, questioning the residents. In 2002, the Department of Homeland Security created a registration program that mandated males 16 and older from 25 mostly Muslim African and Asian countries had to register with the immigration department. From there, about 500 men were rounded up by the department for various issues. Because many of them weren't yet permanent residents, they faced deportation and had to engage in legal proceedings. During this time, 20,000 residents of various South Asian communities in Brooklyn left the city altogether. Some returned to Pakistan, others moved to Australia, and some to Canada. Most never returned. 9/11 and it's consequences forced Little Pakistan to become politically active as a neighborhood. Organizations were formed to help provide legal aid to citizens, as well as helping them learn English and learn how to adapt to American culture. This has helped the community regroup and rebuild, and as of 2011, Little Pakistan now boasts a community of about 50,000 people.

I don't know about you, but I had never heard about what these groups of people were subjected to in the aftermath of 9/11. It's something the media, at least in Seattle, never really focused on. I cannot help but be reminded of what happened to the Japanese American population after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Though the residents of these neighborhoods were not forced from their homes and jobs en masse, I hardly find that a justification for what was done to them. I am very glad to have been educated about, what I feel is an injustice, and though I try to keep this blog relatively light and politics-free, I felt I needed to share this with others. Though I am a foodie, I am also a history major, and I feel I need to stand as a witness to what happens in this country, and share it with others, so that we don't forget. And hopefully, if we remember, we won't let it happen again.

The Food: Poori and Chicken Jalfrezi
Pakistani food is something I have never had before. It was a bit of a last-minute change of plans for this city. Originally I had planned on doing Chanukah for NYC, but I have actually explored the foods of Chanukah a lot over the years, and as I had featured Jewish cuisine for Passover earlier this year, I decided to look around and see what else was out there in the city that I had never tried. I figured that if any place in this country could provide me with an unexplored cuisine, it would be NYC. And it did not disappoint! Pakistani Americans are one of the fastest growing populations in the city. I was really excited to try out the food. I was a bit nervous too, though, because I am not the world's largest fan of Indian food. India, of course, is their neighbor, and I assumed the cuisines would be very similar. But, Pakistan, is in a unique position, geographically, in that while it is next to India on one side, is it next to the Middle East on the other side, so it's influenced by both cultures in their cuisine. And I just happen to love Middle Eastern food! I chose two recipes that I thought would be good for a beginner to the world of Pakistani food, and they were awesome!

Pakistani food relies more heavily on meat than Indian cuisine, and it is Halal, which is the Muslim version of Kosher, if you will. So, you will not find any pork products in their cuisine, and not being Hindu, have a lot more beef in their dishes. Since I don't eat beef or lamb, and they don't eat pork, that basically left me with chicken, and the recipe I found was really good. Both of the recipes come from the internet and the formatting isn't conducive to cutting and pasting, so I will describe the recipes here, but provide the links in the source section at the end of this post.

This is a flat bread that was ridiculously easy to make. A half cup each of white flour and whole wheat flour, a half teaspoon of salt, a half Tablespoon of oil. The recipe didn't specify how much salt to use, so I used a half teaspoon as my best guess of what would be a proper amount. It was just about right, but I could probably have gotten away with a quarter of a teaspoon as well. Depending on your taste buds, I'd recommend between 1/4 and 1/2 teaspoon. Mix it in a bowl and then add water slowly until it all comes together in a dough. I used my hands to mix it. Cover it and let it rest for twenty minutes to relax the glutens in the flour. After that, cut it into ten pieces and roll them into small rounds. Or shapes that cannot quite be named, but are sort of blobs, but are at least flat.

Pan fry them in oil on both sides and let them drain on paper towels. I was really unsure about this one. How can something with so few ingredients, prepared so simply, taste any good? Well, it was amazing! It was a bit crunchy, but the flavor was fantastic! I gobbled them up and still have some for tonight. I hope they will be good the next day and not rock hard. You could probably use all white flour if you wanted something a bit lighter in texture, but I would not recommend using all whole wheat flour. It would be too tough. The photograph in the link for the recipe is much lighter in color than mine. I think that is what it would look like if you used only white flour. I don't think it's because I did something wrong...!

Chicken Jalfrezi
I chose this one because the ingredients were all ones I was familiar with and either had on hand, or could easily procure. When trying out a new cuisine, I think it's good to start with familiar ingredients that are put together in ways you're not used to. It's a good foot in the door. This was such a dish. This called for chicken thighs, which I love, but I suppose you could use boneless skinless chicken breasts if you really wanted to. It might take a bit longer for them to cook, though. The dish was surprisingly simple to make. Chopped onions and garlic in a pot, fry them in some oil, then add tumeric, salt, and chili powder. Then goes in the chicken to cook for a while, mixed with the onions. To that goes a ton of chopped tomatoes and their juices. Cover and cook for a while, though I took the lid off to let the liquid begin to evaporate. My tomatoes had a lot of liquid in them, and the idea of this sauce is to be sort of thick, so you need to let it evaporate as much as possible. To this goes the ginger, cilantro, cumin, and coriander. Mix it all well and continue to cook to let all the seasonings blend together. And that's it.

The flavor was really good! I think if I make this again, though, I will cut the amount of ginger at least in half. Fresh ginger is delicious, but in large quantities, it's actually quite hot and spicy. In small doses, it's good for soothing upset stomachs. In large quantities, it can give you heartburn...! I served this with the poori, but it would also be fabulous with rice pilaf.

As you can see, it's a bit monochromatic. If I'd had parsley, that would be a good garnish, or if you like cilantro, more of that sprinkled over it would be very pretty. The flavors, however, were anything but single-toned. The bread was crunchy and salty and the chicken was filled with delicious spices. I was really impressed with all of it. I definitely want to explore the cuisine more now! This is what I love about this blog project, and what I love about this country. All of these different countries are represented in our nation. Each country adds a patch to the quilt that is American cuisine. I don't like the idea of a "melting pot" as American food is often thought of. Though most cuisines do become Americanized, each one is still entirely distinct, and traceable back to its country of origin. I love exploring it all, and I continue to feel lucky to live in a country where it is all right at my fingertips. I can go anywhere in the world, and I never have to leave my kitchen to do it!

Rebuilding Little Pakistan-1

Rebuilding Little Pakistan-2

Rebuilding Little Pakistan-3

Rebuilding Little Pakistan-4

Poori Recipe

Chicken Jalfrezi Recipe

City Pic

City Map

City Stats

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Dining-In: A Culinary Tour of America-Hallowell, Maine

The Location: Hallowell, Maine
2013 population: 2,343 people; 94.6% white, 1.6% two or more races. Per capita income: $35,148.

Prior to the European invasion, the land around Hallowell was home to the Penobscot, or Panawahpskek, tribe. Hallowell was named for Benjamin Hallowell, a merchant from Boston. It was originally part of the city of Augusta, but it became its own town when Augusta broke off from it in 1797. The entire area was a part of the state of Massachusetts to begin with, but in 1820, Maine seceded from Massachusetts, and became its own state.

From 1815 to 1908, granite was the major industry for Hallowell. Ice was also a large part of their economy. Today, though, the city is known for its antique shops and pubs. For the most part, Hallowell has been a town relatively untouched by the major events of American history, though they did send many men to fight for the Union during the Civil War. The city today leans more liberal, in terms of politics, as it did then. Many people joined the war in order to help abolish slavery.

Why Hallowell? Because it's Halloween, of course! What a perfectly named city for this holiday!

The Food: A Duo of Desserts
I haven't done an all dessert post since Washington state's trio of apple desserts. Maine has a lot of seafood dishes it's known for, but as with last week with Maryland, there are so many kinds of seafood I don't eat that it wasn't very practical for me to feature them. This meant I had to get a bit more creative. With the fact that I would be doing this on Halloween, I decided to go in the dessert direction. Maine is also known for blueberries, and I opted for a recipe that heavily featured blueberries in their honor. Further research revealed a dish I have heard of, but never tried. I knew this was the time to try it!

First up is a recipe I found in my own collection. It comes from the Taste of Home magazine, unknown date.
Blueberry Oat Cake
2 eggs
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup packed brown sugar(I used 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce and I think it turned out just fine)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups quick-cooking oats
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, unthawed
1 cup chopped walnuts(I used pecans because they are naturally sweeter in taste than walnuts), optional
Powdered sugar

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs, buttermilk, brown sugar(and applesauce, if using) and egg. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; add to batter. Beat on low speed for 2 minutes(or by hand, which is what I did). Fold in oats, blueberries and walnuts(or pecans), if desired.
Transfer to a greased and floured 10" fluted tube pan(Bundt cake pan). Bake at 375 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.(Note, this cake is way too thick for a toothpick to do any good. I used a bamboo skewer since it was long enough to get to the bottom.) Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar.
Makes 12-16 servings
This is what happens when you didn't see the part about flouring the cake pan until you just typed up this recipe 30 seconds ago, and try to remove it while it's still too hot. This was a literal hot mess, but it tasted good. I was able to dislodge the top half of the cake and sort of put it back together, but unfortunately it definitely crumbled when I cut pieces from it. Again, the flavor was fantastic and I'm sure if I'd floured the pan and had let it cool longer than the 10 minutes it called for, it would have done better. I have used my Bundt pan many times and have rarely had this bad of an issue.

Next up, a New England staple called Indian Pudding. I don't know about you, but I am not necessarily comfortable eating a dish with the word "Indian" in it, when it isn't actually Indian food. This dish has an interesting history. In England, it is made with wheat and is known as Hasty Pudding. You may have heard of this. It's pretty well-known, and even has its own club. When people started traveling to the New World, they discovered new ingredients, such as corn, that when dried and ground, was a grain that could be used in a variety of ways. The Europeans referred to it as "Indian meal," and from there comes the name of this dish.

I would argue that Indian Pudding is one of the first, if not the first Americanized recipe. Or to be even more historically-accurate, the first New Englandized recipe. America, of course, wouldn't be in existence for a little while longer. Taking a well-known recipe from England and substituting ingredients available in the New World, though in a very simple and humble dish, was the beginning of what would become American food culture.

If I was to rename this dish, I would propose calling it "Yankee Pudding," because it refers to the region in which it was invented, and acknowledges its American-ness. Though we were introduced to corn from the Native Americans, they never ate it in this form.

The recipe I used is from the internet, but I will type it out here, along with any changes or notes of my own.

Maine Indian Pudding
2 cups milk
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup milk, cold(Note, the website lists this as 1/4 cup, but the instructions say 1/2 cup. I used 1/2 cup, so I changed the quantity in this section to match because it was confusing otherwise.)
1/2 cup dark molasses, not blackstrap(I am not the biggest fan of molasses. I cut this down to 1/4 cup and did 1/4 cup of raisins to give it additional sweetness. I still found it to be overwhelmingly sweet and if I was to do this again, I would probably have cut it down to 1/8 cup, which is 2 Tablespoons of molasses and the rest raisins. With molasses, a little really does go a long way.)
1 tsp. salt(Because I did cut down on the amount of molasses, the salt came through a bit more than it should have. If you reduce the quantity of molasses, I would cut the amount of salt in half.)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
4 Tbsp. butter
1 3/4 cups milk, cold

*Scald 2 cups of milk in a double boiler.
*Mix the cornmeal and 1/2 cup cold milk until smooth. Stir into the hot milk and cook over the hot water for 20 minutes, stirring frequently.(When you do this, you will be wondering what, if anything, is happening with your mixture. The milk will get frothy as you stir it but not much will change until about the last 5 minutes when it starts to thicken. Just keep faith in what you're doing and know that it will turn out ok in the end.)
*Add the molasses, salt, sugar, cinnamon, and butter; mix well.
*Pour into a buttered dish.
Pour the last 1 3/4 cups cold milk over the top of the pudding.
*Bake at 250 degrees for three hours(I started this about 4.5 hours before I wanted to serve it. The dish is based on something called Hasty Pudding, which is ironic, because it takes hours to prepare. Go figure!) Remove from oven and let sit for 30 minutes. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.
Makes 4-6 servings.

As you can see, the cake was better-looking once I dug the top half out of the pan. It's just a facade though, it's definitely a chunky cake. The pudding is really interesting. The milk poured on the top sort of soaks into the pudding and also evaporates and creates a skin. Normally I don't like skin on pudding, but this was different. Because of the sugar and molasses, it was almost like the top of a burnt creme where you have to break through the caramelized sugar topping. It provided the majority of the texture. The rest of the pudding is very soft, but that gave you something to bite into and chew. The raisins also were really good in this. And not only is this something that doesn't call for a lot of cornmeal, which means your cornmeal goes a long way, it's also properly gluten free! So, all you gluten free eaters can partake of this and not worry about it! I cannot vouch for using an alternate non-dairy milk. It may or may not turn out the same. Try that out at your own risk, but do let me know if it works for you!

I really liked both of these desserts. Even though the pudding was a bit too molasses-ey for my tastes, it was still tasty. It was cool to use cornmeal in a completely different way too. I have used cornmeal a lot in this project. It's a New World ingredient after all, so it should feature highly in a project about American cuisine. For some reason, the pudding evoked images of the past. You can feel the history in it. The cake was delicious as well, but a much more straight-forward dessert. Both of these also make a lot. These would be good for groups. I had enough for tasting tonight, and to try tomorrow, and still had enough to share with my parents, my grandparents, and still have enough of the blueberry cake to take to work on Monday to share with my coworkers! You should definitely give these recipes a try!

City Info

City Pic

City Map

Indian Pudding Recipe

Indian Pudding History

City History