Good morning, friends, with cupboards full or with shelves empty. For all of us this is a useful conversational thread, knotted here at the beginning: What foods have comforted you? How have meals become — to you the giver or you the receiver — "edible prayers"? What's the simplest recipe, the simplest meal you've had these mysterious days? How have you celebrated, and how have you pinched a penny?
And what creativity will emerge as we look into our refrigerators, pantries and freezers ... what never-before-imagined combinations. Here's a snapshot from one shelf in one house: wild salmon, chili, garbanzo beans and pineapple all in cans; a jar of Duke's mayonnaise and one of olives, and a bag of dried pink lentils. Ideas?
I will borrow the words of Mr. and Mrs. Sunday below, as they remembered a meal that "tasted of love and that was enough." So may it be in this precarious present.
I doubt many of us are serving fresh scallops in these puzzling March days, but if you noted the ceviche recipe in last week's Exchange, here's a comment from Martin Davis. "Lime juice DOES NOT MAKE RAW FISH SAFE. This is a very common misconception (and one of several that I had before my son and I went through FDA-mandated training for when we were commercially smoking salmon a few years ago)."
Mr. Davis has done what all of us are wise to do: investigate several sources and opinions. So, do your due diligence, readers, when scallops again on the menu bloom.
And now, as usual, we turn to your generous recipe correspondence. Terry Keister created this original recipe in the Keister kitchen in Harrison.
1 large loaf sandwich bread
1 package (8 ounces) soft cream cheese
1 stick butter or margarine, melted
Cinnamon sugar (approximately 3/4 cup sugar mixed with 1 tablespoon cinnamon)
Trim edges from bread. Flatten bread slices with a rolling pin.
Spread cream cheese thinly on each slice. Roll up tight (like a cigarette). Each slice of bread will make 2 blintzes. Cut in half. Dip in melted butter and then roll in sugar/cinnamon mix. Chill in refrigerator or freeze. These make great finger food.
Variations: There are varied flavors of soft cream cheese on the market now: strawberry, blueberry and pineapple.
Emily Main shared shopping advice on two topics: flours and prosciutto. She wrote "to the reader who was looking for specialty flours. I think the best source around here is Wildwood Natural Foods in Wildwood, Georgia (the small store run by the Seventh-day Adventists). They have a great variety, and I know they sell rye flour (possibly even a few different types). I can't say for sure whether they sell kamut, but Whole Foods sells einkorn flour, which is similar. Einkorn is the only (and I think oldest) strain of nonhybridized wheat and, I've been told but can't verify, it's tolerable by people with gluten sensitivity."
Ms. Main turns to a meaty subject. "To the person looking for good prosciutto, check the Whole Foods deli counter. They sell one kind that I absolutely love. I wish I knew the name, but they're always willing to give you a sample if you ask. I'm sure Main Street Meats would be equally willing. They always have a great selection."
It has to be comforting to know the Sundays are in their expert place among us, offering commentary and shopping hints alongside recipes. This morning their topics are chicken potpie and sweeteners.
* Chicken Potpie and Memories:
"Chicken potpie for us calls up memories of Nana making a scratch-built supper mostly made out of leftovers — not that we cared. It tasted of love, and that was enough.
"We don't bake much anymore (one of us is Type 2 diabetic, so it's not the best idea), but every once in a while we like to remember the taste.
"Last year we set out on a search to see if there was a commercial frozen chicken potpie that was at least 'OK'. We're sorry to have to report that there's an awful lot of library paste out there claiming to be chicken potpie. The best of the lot is Blake's (available at Walmart, Publix and Whole Foods, at varying prices), and there are a few in our freezer as we speak. That was supper tonight. Thanks, Nana."
* Sweetening and substitutions:
"Most folks aren't aware that brown sugar is usually made by stirring molasses into refined white cane sugar. If your favorite way of making oatmeal taste better is brown sugar and you shouldn't have that, here's a trick: Separate the sweetness from the taste. Stir in your sweetener of choice and very small amounts of unsulfured molasses until the flavor appeals to you. If you're bitter-sensitive or go overboard a little, stir in a little salt as well to help mask the bitterness.
"P.S.: No, this isn't a general-purpose substitution. Sugar is often a structural element in baking, so this trick isn't a win in cookies, for example.
"P.P.S.: No, vegans, your "raw" or Demerara sugar (usually light brown) is unrefined and unwhitened (a process often involving activated charcoal from bone char); we were talking about commercial brown sugar."
There endeth today's bright ideas from the Sundays, but the last one reminded us of a recent tip from a young entrepreneur, Cookie in the Kitchen. "Sprinkle a little bit of that raw sugar on your scones before you bake. It is a nice touch."
A daughter named Gwendolyn shared her late mother's treasure trove of recipes.
Lemon-Herb Chicken Breasts
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
3 large cloves garlic
Juice of 3 lemons
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon rosemary (or fresh rosemary sprigs)
1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Rinse chicken breasts, pat dry and set aside. Combine remaining ingredients, and mix well. Using a large freezer bag, combine chicken with liquid mixture and marinate for 12 hours in refrigerator. Turn bag occasionally. Remove chicken from bag, and drain. Grill over mesquite chips, or bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 1 hour. This makes 6 servings.
Notes: When marinating the chicken, throw in the lemon rinds, too. When grilling, also grill the garlic cloves — use more than 3 — and the rosemary sprigs.
Gwendolyn's recipe is a reminder, as per the Sundays' thanks to Nana above, of how memory comforts. Food is pretty good at comforting, too. This morning I remembered my mother's way with canned whole Blue Lake green beans. Perhaps there will be some well-preserved surprises for those of us who have been living in the land of fresh green beans, sautéed but still with a crunch.
Here is my mother's 20th-century method. "Drain liquid from canned green beans into saucepan. Add butter generously and Cavender's Greek seasoning. Boil down until you have a nice thick sauce. Add green beans, heat gently and serve."
Serve. Let's do it, shall we ... in all the ways we can, as we have been served in the past.
* Comfort foods
* Creative combos
TO REACH US
Fare Exchange is a longtime meeting place for people who love to cook and love to eat. We welcome both your recipes and your requests. Be sure to include precise instructions for every recipe you send.
Mailing address: Jane Henegar, 913 Mount Olive Road, Lookout Mountain, GA 30750