food

Dinner on Lake Como

 

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I recently spent a week in a villa on Lake Como in the Italian Alps. On our last night we had a local chef come in to cook us dinner. He was the brother of the villa’s owner and worked for a restaurant in Bellagio. He suggested a menu made up of local foods and, with a few adjustments to our group, we eagerly agreed.

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Lake Como is in the Lombardy region of Italy and is known for its risottos and polentas. They boast a wide variety of cheeses and the fish in the lake is abundant. We watched people fishing just outside our villa and it took them less than a minute to catch something. Normally fish would have been on our menu but some in our group couldn’t eat it.

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We started with a typical Antipasto of meats and cheeses including mortadella, salami, mushroom pate and local cheeses accompanied by a local white wine “Le Calderine” from the Angelinetta Winery in Domaso.

 

 

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The next course, we were told, was a local peasant dish called Pizzocheri. It was a pasta made with buckwheat flour. The chef and his sister hand rolled it into fat wormlike noodles. These were boiled and finished with cream, herbs, walnuts, and cheese. This was the dish we all liked the least. It was heavy and a bit sour. We all thought it might have been better if it was cooked a bit longer but having nothing to compare it to, we couldn’t be sure. Most of us could not finish it.

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Our main course was roast pork shank with porcini mushrooms and a polenta cake. The pork was magnificent. It fell off the bone and melted in your mouth and the mushrooms were the perfect accent to the dish. We asked if the mushrooms were fresh, they were so delicious, but were told they were not in season. They had been preserved locally in jars. A “ca del Mot” red wine from the same local winery accompanied this dish.

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For dessert we had frittelle stuffed with apples and raisins. These are deep fat fried yeast risen pancakes similar to a doughnut and sometimes called Venetian Doughnuts. The frittelle were served hot, dusted with sugar and cocoa and drizzled with honey. They were quite good but kind of heavy on top of a heavy dinner.

 

 

 

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The grand finale was the Grolla. It originated in a region to the west of Lombardy also on the Swiss border, the Valle d’Aosta. It is a drink that requires a special container, or Grolla, the cup of friendship. It is carved out of one piece of wood and has openings for each person at the table to drink out of. The saying goes that the people who drink from the same Grolla will be united in eternal friendship but everybody must drink from their own opening and the entire contents must be finished.

The traditional recipe is one cup coffee and one cup hot grappa and a spoonful of sugar per person, add an orange peel, a lemon peel and light. When the flame burns out, let it cool a bit and start drinking.  I’m not sure this recipe was followed exactly but the drink was delicious and we enjoyed it very much.

Greek Power Food

 

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I bought the Weight Watchers Power Foods Cookbook because it makes it easy to count calories.  Everything is broken down for each recipe. The problem is I can’t follow a recipe. There is always something that isn’t right with it and I have to change it to my liking. I am going to present the recipe as it is in the book.

I made the following changes. Ground chicken? Just didn’t appeal to me somehow. So I substituted ground lamb. Don’t know why that is better but it just is. Non-stick cooking spray. What is that? Really. Sorry, I can’t do it. I used butter. Plus I used a whole egg instead of egg whites. Everything else is in there.

Of course, it kind of throws the calorie counting out the window. With the butter and the lamb I figure if I double the calories, I’m good.

Greek Chicken and Spinach Phyllo Pie

1 lb ground skinless chicken breast

1 onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

½ tsp curry powder

½ tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground allspice

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp black pepper

½ cup tomato sauce

1 10-oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

1 cup crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese

2 large egg whites, lightly beaten

8 (9X14 inch) sheets frozen phyllo, thawed

6 servings

239 Cal. Each

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Spray 9 inch pie plate with nonstick spray. (Here I use olive oil.)

 

Filling:

Spray large nonstick skillet with nonstick spray (again- olive oil) and set over medium heat.  Add chicken (lamb) and onion. Cook until meat is done.

Add: Garlic, curry powder, cinnamon, allspice, salt and pepper.

Stir to mix well.

Add tomato sauce and simmer until thickened – about 5 minutes.

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Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in spinach and feta. Add egg whites (whole egg).

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Lay 1 phyllo sheet in the pie plate; lightly spray with nonstick spray (brush with melted butter). Keep remaining phyllo covered with damp paper towel (dish towel) and plastic wrap (not needed) to keep it from drying out. Repeat with 3 of the remaining phyllo sheets, placing corners at different angles and lightly spraying each sheet with nonstick spray (melted butter).

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Spoon filling into the crust.

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Top filling with remaining 4 phyllo sheets, repeating layering and spraying with nonstick spray (butter). Roll up edges of phyllo toward center to form 1 ½ inch wide rim.

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Bake until phyllo is golden brown 30-35 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Cut into 6 wedges.

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The Burmese Coconut Tree

 

A friend of mine is married to a chef. He was recently invited to do a cooking presentation in Rangoon, Burma (Myanmar).  I would love to know what he is preparing for them. Perhaps it includes coconut.

 

The Origin of the Coconut

Many hundreds of years ago a raft with three people on it reached a city on the Burmese coast. The three strangers were taken before the king. In answer to the king’s questions, the strangers said that they had been set adrift on a raft on the orders of the king of their own country across the sea, because they were found guilty of certain crimes. One of the strangers was a thief, another a witch, and the third a mischief-maker who harmed people by his tittle-tattle.

The king gave a house and one thousand silver coins to the thief, and allowed him to settle in Burma. “He was a thief only because he was poor,” explained the king, “and now that he is no longer poor, he will make a good subject.” To the witch also the king gave a house and a thousand silver coins and allowed her to settle in Burma. “She bewitched people merely out of jealousy,” explained the king, “and she was jealous of others only because she was poor and unhappy. Now that she is rich, she will no longer be jealous of other people’s happiness.” But the king ordered the mischief-maker to be executed at once. “For,” said the king, “once a mischief-maker, always a mischief-maker.” So the mischief-maker was taken to the place of execution, and his head was cut off.

The next day one of the king’s officers passed by the place, and to his surprise he found the head of the mischief-maker rolling about on the ground. He was the more surprised when the head of the mischief-maker opened its mouth and said repeatedly, “Tell your king to come and kneel to me here. Otherwise I will come and knock off his head.” The officer ran back to the palace and reported the matter. But nobody believed him and the king was angry, thinking that the officer was trying to make fun of him. “Your Majesty can send another person along with me,” suggested the officer, “and he will surely bear me out.” So another officer was sent along with the first officer to the place of execution.

When they reached there, however, the head lay still and remained silent. The second officer made his repot, and the king in anger ordered the first officer to be excutied at once as a teller of lies. So the unfortunate officer was taken to the place of execution, and his head was cut off in the presence of his fellow officers. When the execution was over, the head of the mischief-maker opened its mouth and said, “Ha,ha, I can still make mischief by my tittle-tattle, although I am dead.” The officers, realizing that a gross injustice has been done to the dead officer, reported what they had seen and heard and the king was full of grief an remorse.

The king, realizing that the head of the mischief-maker would make further mischief by his tittle-tattle if it was to remain unburied, ordered that a deep pit be dug and the head buried inside it. His orders were obeyed and the head was duly buried. But the next morning, a strange tree was seen growing from the place where the head had been buried. The strange tree had even stranger fruit, for the latter resembled the head of the mischief-maker. The tree is the coconut tree. It was originally call ‘gon-bin’, which in Burmese means ‘Mischief-maker tree’, but during the course of centuries, the pronunciation of the name has deteriorated, and it is now called ‘on-bin’ or ‘coconut tree’. And, if you shake a coconut and then put it against your ear, you will hear a gurgling noise for, you see, although now a fruit, the head of the mischief-maker still wants to make tittle-tattle.

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Maung Htin Aung was born on 18 May 1909. He was the great grandson of a military officer who fought in the first war against the British in 1826. There were two more wars against the British and eventually Burma was completely overtaken in 1885.

Maung Htin Aung was part of an aristocratic family and received a Bachelor of Laws from Cambridge Univiersity, a Bachelor of Civil Law from Oxford University, a Master of Laws from the University of London and doctorates in Anthropology and Literature from Trinity College, Dublin.

He wrote books on Burmese history and culture. The above is an excerpt from his book Selections from Burmese Folk-Tales published in 1952 by Oxford University Press.

A later edition: Burmese Folk Tales is available at Amazon.com

 

Burmese Coconut Rice

Serves 8

Ingredients
5 cups rice
3 coconuts
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp sugar
1/3 tsp salt
2 onions

Grate the flesh of 3 coconuts. Pour some hot water and squeeze the milk through thin muslin. Repeat till all the milk is extracted. Wash rice thoroughly. Put rice into pot. Add this milk until it stands ¾ inch above the rice. Peel, quarter and wash the onions. Add to the rice, oil, sugar, salt and onions. Stir till well mixed. Cook till the milk is evaporated and the rice tender.

 

Easy Hunter’s Chicken

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Easy Hunter’s Chicken

1 lb chicken breasts

½ cup flour seasoned with salt and pepper

1 Tbsp olive oil

2 tsp basil (or use fresh if you have it)

1 tsp thyme

2 cloves garlic, diced

1 bay leaf

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup red wine

1 cup crushed tomatoes

1 – 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables, thawed

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Dredge the chicken in seasoned flower and cook in olive oil.

Add rosemary and garlic

Add chicken broth, wine, and crushed tomatoes

Let simmer for about 30-45 minutes, until chicken is very tender.

Add frozen veggies and cook until hot.

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I served this with mashed potatoes but it is good rice or noodles.

 

 

 

Nomad on the Loose – 2013 Recap

Last year was a busy one. Some challenges and some fun.

My child’s father, Nicholas, died a year ago today after a battle with cancer. In February we traveled to Milwaukee to bury him. We stayed a couple of extra days and saw the IMG_0092 Quadracci Pavilion and the Alumni House at the University of Wisconsin.

 

 

I posted 43 recipes and published my cookbook 52 Food Fridays on Amazon. IMG_1551 Baked Asparagus was my most popular recipe. 

 

 

 

I started writing for the Baltimore Post Examiner. Check it out – there is a good post on Boarding Schools.

IMG_1418In March I spent four days in Miami reunited with old friends.

 

 

 

 

In April it was back to Wisconsin for my parent’s 70th Wedding Anniversary. While we were there we enjoyed a quick tour of the Capital building. P1140558

 

 

 

IITA268I wrote a posts on TCK Patriotism HOME and Facebook and the TCK

 

 

 

P1150226In July we went to Halifax, Nova Scotia. A beautiful amazing place - Public Gardens, Halifax Part Two. This piece was so good somebody stole it and put it on their Facebook page claiming to have written it themselves.   After asking him politely to take it down, I had to write to Facebook to get it off.

 

IMG_2185My local trips included the National GalleryGreat Falls National Park, the Botanical Gardens and Shenandoah Skyline Drive.  

 

CoverShotI had a promotion on Amazon that gave away my memoir, Expat Alien.  I was surprised when 712 people in the US and 103 people in the UK downloaded it. I hope you all enjoyed it!  Write a review on Amazon!! Help me out!   

 

 

20131122-160324.jpgIn November it was a quick trip to New York City.

 

 

 

IMG_0115December took us to Chicago and back to Madison to celebrate some Nomad Holiday Traditions.

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What will the New Year bring? My son graduates high school and goes off to college. I’m going to Europe in June. Anything can happen, and probably will. Let’s hope we all have a great year!

 

Ginger Beef

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Ginger Beef

1 lb beef cut into strips (something tender)

1/4 onion, chopped fine

1-2 garlic cloves, chopped fine

1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped fine

1/2 cup soy sauce

1 cup water

1 1/2 cups rice

2 cups broccoli florets, frozen.

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Stir fry the beef in a little oil along with the onion, ginger and garlic.

Add the soy sauce and water.

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Add the rice.

Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

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Food Friday: Hummus

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Food Friday Number 52!

Hummus

1 19 ounce can chick peas (garbanzo beans)

3 cloves garlic

1/4 cup olive oil

3 Tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste) – use fresh if you can find it

2-3 Tablespoons water

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Rinse the cooked chick peas in water. Add to food processor and process.

Add the oil, tahini, garlic, lemon, and salt.

Process until smooth.

Add water to soften to desired consistency.

Serve with Pita Chips.

 

 

Food Friday: Plain Old Cheesecake

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Plain Old Cheesecake

Crust:

18 graham crackers (I have used digestive biscuits)

1/4 cup melted butter

1 Tablespoon honey

Filling:

16 ounces cream cheese

1/3 cup sugar

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

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Crumble graham crackers in a food processor. Melt the butter with the honey and pour into the crackers as the food processor is going.

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Turn it out into a spring form pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper if you like. Press the crust into the bottom so it is more or less even and comes up the sides a little.

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Put all the filling ingredients into a bowl and blend until smooth. Pour it on top of the crust and bake for 20-25 minutes at 375 degreed F.

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Cool at room temperature until you can handle the pan. Then put it in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours so it is firm.

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Top with berries, or jam, or eat it plain.