Saturday, May 26, 2012

Broccoli Brain-Join Me!

The other day I cleaned off my counter a bit.  I already have more counter space than any girl should have a right to expect in life, but I get...cluttered feeling.  Plus, I need inspiration.  So the cookbooks that had become wedged into a corner behind the letter box and the crockpot came out of hiding, some went upstairs to be wedged into the bookshelves  and some became the newly displayed on Grandma's book table:


BTW, a brief aside:  Allow me to introduce you to the Food Lover's Companion. 


 A brilliant piece of gastronomic quick-reference, it's a dictionary--an encyclopedia, nearly--of food terms and ingredients concisely defined and elucidated. All entries contain phonetic spelling, Foreign-language terms are translated and referenced back.   Your romantic dinner menu for a new flame calls for Ostrica?  

"Ostrica [oh-STREE-kah]  Italian for Oyster."

The entry for Oyster being on the next page and beginning with reference to Jonathan Swift's appraisal of the first consumer thereof.  The Companion is a treasure.  This is no book for the Higher Gastronome, this is a pocket book for the people, demystifying and delineating.  I use it at work constantly and The Companion saves my bacon every time.

Oh, really, Who am I kidding...It wasn't just a Spring Cleaning, I am Deferring. 

I am Disturbed.  Deeply Disturbed.  

Joy has failed me.

No, Really.  Broccoli Salad has brought The Book low.  

The Scene:  Last week I sat in my nail salon (Strawberry Nails in San Jose for those on home turf, treat yerownself if possible), where they air Food Network allllll day long.  The Entrèe basket on Chopped included Catfish, and I became obsessed with frying dinner that night.  So I cruised through Lunardi's on my way home, grabbing some Cod (check Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch App for great recommendations on sustainable fish available in your area) and corn meal.  I remembered I had broccoli so I popped some raisins into the baskets too.  Southern peeps, you see my fever here.

Let me state here for all eternity the Most Sacred and Holy Writ of Broccoli Salad:  It shall contain, No More, and No Less than blanched Broccoli, Raisins, Bacon, Red Onion and Dressing. 

 I thought.

I get home, bouncing around the kitchen, setting up my fry station, fish station, heating the oven for the biscuits, then starting on the Broccoli Salad so it would have the requisite bedding-down time in the fridge.  I know, like I know the feeling of hand-knit socks on my feet, egg-zackly what this is supposed to be.  Each part, and the whole. 

I thought.

But I'm sketchy on the dressing.  So I swing over to the book rack and flip through the Joy (2006, 75th anniversary edition), straight to Broccoli. 

-Cheese Casserole

and five more of the like.  No salad. Check Salad; No Broccoli. Pardon, WHAT?  Vegetable salads, yes--Tomato, Cucumber and Waldorf. Period.  

Back to the 1975 edition-- Broccoli's Record in the age of Disco? Three, count 'em three entries: "Creamed, quick; deep-fried; timbale".  Salad includes "Cheese Ring"(bleurrrghhhh), but no cruciferous members.

Foxtrot back to the 1953 blue Joy.  Hooray!  Broccoli swingin' in the Salads!  "Cooked Broccoli; Raw Broccoli Stem Salad"!  Which basically consist of broccoli, in French dressing (the popularity of which between 1935 and 1965 is astounding in itself), served on a lettuce leaf.


So my lovely little blog post on yummy Southern Dinner night turned into OCD Days, heavy on the Obsession Sauce:


I went through Julia, Bon Appetit, America's Test Kitchen, two editions of Fannie Farmer and Better Homes and Gardens.  Then I went deep, to the cookbooks inherited from grandparents who would have long-hurdled 100 by now, to the odd-ball stuff like The Prudence Penny, the California Regional Cookbook, The Household Searchlight, TheWaldorf Astoria Hotel Cookbook, The White House Cookbook; pamphlets and hand-written notes on backs of envelopes; digging into a mayonnaise-and-canned-tuna-aspic laden first half of the twentieth century which should, for the most part, remain hidden.


Three winners emerged:  The Betty Crocker Cookbook, 10th ed. 2006 ( one entry- "Broccoli Sunshine Salad", pg 384);  the California Cookbook, Third Edition 1949 ("Raw Broccoli Salad", pg 8);  and the Grand Prize winner, with FOUR recipes, the Sisters In the Kitchen Cookbook, 2007 (pp 67-68),  from my sister's church in Kansas.


Now, to give you some small background on my madness (oh reaaaalllly,you say?),  at some point you will find I have had to return to university to obtain a degree in Food History solely to publish a Thesis on Potato Salad as Social and Historical Adhesive and Accelerant.  Meaning, I've been chewing over this idea for years that the complexity of the world of Potato Salad holds vast insight into the inner workings of social order, family structure, group migration and personal identity.  The variants of Potato Salad are infinite and someday I will invite you into this world.  

What I did NOT expect the other night, when I innocently set about my down-home dinner fixin' was to discover:  A) Broccoli Salad seems to be a quite recent invention;  B) It's permutations and social divisions appear to be in some sort of proto-Potato Salad state with regard to ingredients and dressings--Mayo vs. Miracle Whip, anyone??

What a mess. And it's fascinating.

I've been sitting here for days under piles of books, researching the internet for recipe variants and it's like watching a colony of Sea Monkeys suddenly start to ACTUALLY evolve.

And so far, no fun cook-along recipe and lovely photos for you from the other day. I tried a couple of dressings off the internet--one which shall remain un-referenced as it called for a HUGE amount of mayonnaise, a bit of balsamic and a small amount of sugar.  It tasted like the inside of a rancid Mayo bottle. So I found a couple more and improvised.  By the time I got the dressing together I was in a dead run to finish cooking dinner:


Sorry for the quality of the photo, but I only realized at the last minute I had no snaps to prove any of this happened.  The fish was not, in fact, plated by a Wolverine, I had only just forked it's crunchity flakiness when I grabbed my iPhone.

So, a delicious result, but a great deal of work ahead.  Hopefully by the end you'll love broccoli and begin to feel the wonder of how Cooking is a Living Art.  If you have a recipe for Broccoli or Broccoli-Cauliflower salad, please feel free to share, with full attribution for your genius, and maybe some info on who you got the recipe from, where you're from, how long you've been making it, etc.  Like I said, this is what makes Cooking Alive. Join Me? 

Pin It Now!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Coming Out Party

Obama Came Out--Shall we Give a Shower?

This morning marked an historic occasion, for which we should Give Thanks, Pause to Reflect, Take Action, and Have Cake.

We were greeted by the news that President Obama has stated his belief in marriage equality.

He considered his friends, his colleagues and staff, the parent's of his children's friends...and his children.  Do they see these same-sex couples as different and undeserving of total equality?


Former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, once he left office, fulfilled a long-standing promise to his wife to join the Catholic church.  Very soon after, he was vigorously questioned as to how he could have championed legalizing gay marriage in the UK when it went against the very strongest moral tenets of his faith.  His reply:

"It's what was right for the nation."

So Obama is charging ahead for equality, in the face of North Carolina's Amendment 1 passage, the now-constant assault on women's equal rights to access healthcare and reproductive services, and the long-standing barrage of Tea-Party/Right-Wing/Name-Calling. Dunno about you, I feel simultaneously wound to the hilt and worn the f*&k out people.

GingerMan and I donate to the Democratic party and PBS as a family. I donate to Planned Parenthood and Girl Scouts, and used to give to Susan G. Koman, until it surfaced with solid evidence that The Pink Ribbon had Consorted with Evil.  Until they show solid evidence of true directorial reformation, those funds are now redirected to Planned Parenthood, where they are again applied to a panoply of women's health checks and preventative care initiatives, free of politics.

But the phone calls...Ohhhhh the phone calls.  

And the emails.  I get five or six a day just from Obama for America, then one or two from Courage Campaign, a couple from Credo, who support PP, and on and on.....every day.

As I said last week, I really had to take stock and cut out most of the news in print and on TV.  The depression was overtaking me and the pleas for petition signing and letter writing and just that one more little donation of 5 bucks....

That was me: my mental capacity to deal and formulate the most cogent plan of attack; to streamline and focus attention and support, both moral and financial; was collapsing into useless ellipses.

So as I sat to write this, I decided.  Fixed donations, select recipients.

A contribution to Courage Campaign. I have supported them before, but I never before believed in sending money or manpower to other states to change their elections until the dilemma hit home.  I had a very religious friend who made it clearly known that they donated money to their church for the training of campaign workers sent here to California from their home state  in the midwest to promote Prop 8, the Anti-Marriage Equality law.  

As well as contributing to pro-Prop 8 advertising campaigns, funds went to the campaigns of elected officials IN MY STATE, NOT THEIRS, supportive of Prop 8 and ultra-conservatism in general.  We haven't spoken since.  Now it's a Civil Rights Issue, NOT a State's Rights argument.  They are no longer allowed to run and hide behind the good ol' Tenth when they come crawling out to infest the rest of us with their odious hatred when they think the coast is clear.

Also, I'll still support Planned Parenthood and Girl Scouts, with a huge-whoppin' cookie buyout every spring. Scouts, that is, PP don't do a range of cookies, but they sure deserve some.

 There are so, so many issues pulling us from so many directions--home, work, family, and all the political and social struggles that overlap-- I know I'm not the only one feeling stuck in Moral Molasses. 

We have Pagan Coming Out day, National Coming Out Day, and today is the President's Coming Out Day. So I declare this next week National Giving Out Week. It's breaking things down into smaller bites.  You may be a family of two Mums with a small child and four aging parents. You've got a lot on your plate just keeping up every day, and money can be tight. 

Step One: Ask fundraisers to take you off their phone lists.  I know it sounds obvious, but when it's the Democratic party, it seems a little harder to turn down the Home Team.  

Step Two: If you get a million emails from organizations you've donated to or signed petitions for once or twice in the past, deep breath--unsubscribe.  You can "Like" most of them on Facebook if you really want to keep track of them, but otherwise, just let yourself have some headspace, and inbox space, back.

Step Three: Then pick two or three organizations, set up contributions and be done.  

Some things, like PBS or Courage Campaign will do a small monthly amount you only have to set up once.  Anything else that comes in the mail, set it on fir--I mean, promptly recycle.

And that's it.  Really.  The rest of  it comes down to our own grass-rooting--what we talk about in Knitting Group, at parties, what we post on Facebook and Twitter and Google-Spaghetti-O's.  We may not feel it's a lot, but we have just made ourselves Drops in the proverbial Bucket.  Check your FB Friend's List--that's a whole lot of Drops--come join the Shower!


And what's a party without cake?  Well, we're talking about doing good, so it's actually a super-healthy Banana Bread which anyone I have ever put it in front of has snarfed like Chocolate Gateau. 

This is my amalgamation of a few very healthy Banana Bread recipes, and it turns out my favorite Baked Good is Secretly Packing Nutritional Heat.  TOP PRO TIP:  Slice this up and wrap separately, makes a great lunch bag snack or on-the-go breakfast!


BAKE: 40-45 MINS


-1/3 C Canola Oil
-2 Large Eggs.  Some Recipes split the eggs into whites and a yolk or accept egg-substitute, and it's possible, but I don't like to.
-1/4 C Sour Cream or Yogurt:  Using low-fat sour cream is a great idea, as it does nothing to the taste or moisture of the bread.  I have used plain 2% Yogurt and it was okay.    >>Graduate Level:  I'm planning to try Greek Style Yogurt in either 2% or Fat Free next, as they both have a very rich texture. Go for it, I'm saying.
-1C Ripe Bananas. We're talking way, way, way brown.  Like they look like UPS delivery guys.  Like they look nearly bad.  Trust me, they'll be MAGIC.
-1tsp Vanilla+ 1tsp Almond Extract.  You can skip the Almond Extract, most recipes call for just Vanilla. 
-*1.5 C White or Whole-Wheat Pastry Flour.  Purely up to taste and aesthetic.  
-*2/3C Sugar. Use White or Brown, again, to preference. I haven't used Agave or Stevia yet!
-1.5 tsp. Baking POWDER.
-1/2 tsp. Baking SODA.
-1 tsp. Cinnamon. OR 1 tsp. Penzeys Cake Spice.  (i <3 it.)
-1/4 tsp. Salt.

-4Tbs. Flaxmeal (ground Flax Seed).
-1/2C Chopped Walnuts.
-1/2C Chocolate Chips OR the darkest, highest % cacao chocolate you can find, chunked up.

My attempts thus far have yielded the following:  

White Pastry Flour:  Very cake-like product, especially when using white sugar as well, much like a store-bought bakery item.  

Whole-Wheat Pastry Flour:  A little firmer, still tender due to being pastry flour (it has low levels of weak-gluten protein content compared to All-Purpose or Whole Wheat).  

Whole Wheat Flour:  Okay, wait--what was that mambo 'bout weak glutes?

Wheat Flours contain gluten, which we hear a LOT about these days, but basically it makes a big sticky protein-y net when you add liquid to flour and make any kind of dough.  Different kinds of wheat have different kinds of proteins and are sometimes processed more (or less) to achieve different uses--e.g. bread flour, cake flour, all purpose, etc. (On Food and Cooking, Harold McGee)

The JoC explains further that these differences in types of wheat and proteins affect the amount of moisture the flour can absorb.  So in most cases, we want to stick right to the recommended flour for the recipe as all the other variables have been accounted for.  

Think of it like knitting a scarf:  Cake-flour cake is like lace, Pastry-flour goods are like a cashmere scarf. Whole-Wheat regular flour used in their stead will usually produce something akin to the Woolen Breastplate of Boudicca sweater your Great Auntie knit you for Christmas.  

However, in this very specific case, I've started playing round with all these variables.  You see I've toyed with the dairy.  I'm eyeing the Sugar with Intent to Tweak.  But I started with the Flour, and I have to say, switching all the way to Whole Wheat has produced a very firm, but tender bread.  


Definitely more bread than fluffy cake, and I feel there's even more nuttiness to it.  Start with the basic, then branch out.

As for the Add-Ins, they're all to taste, but I really do recommend the Flaxmeal, on two counts: Again, it gives a lovely nutty flavor without nuts, and it ups the fiber and omega goodness.  Nature's Broom and all...


1.  Lightly oil the bread pan.

2.  Beat- Oil, Eggs, Sour Cream, Banana and Vanilla in stand mixer or by hand mixer until creamy.  It'll look like Banana pudding.  Already Good.


3. Mix-Flour, Sugar, Baking Powder, Baking Soda, Salt, Cinnamon in a separate bowl.


4.  Start Mixer, Add Dry Ingredients to Wet.  Slowly, in a couple of stages. Mix until just combined.


5.  Add-Ins.  Stir in gently, just to combine.  Let it be cool and groovy, baby.

6.  Spoon into Pan, Pop into Oven.

7.  Check  at 40 Minutes, Skewer/ Toothpick/ Slim Knife should come out clean when poked in. 


8.  Let sit in pan on cooling rack for 5 minutes.

9.  Turn out on cooling rack, let sit for 10 minutes.

10.  Snarf.  Add Ice Cream or Yogurt as dessert. 


Pin It Now!