Friday, May 02, 2008

Food for Thought

(DISCLAIMER: My profile says I enjoy cooking, which is true. Some people doubt that or think it's strange. And to those people, I say ``Pish-tosh,'' or some other phrase that rhymes with ``duck shoe.'' In fact, I do enjoy cooking, and some other people enjoy my cooking too. So I am building a cookbook for my daughter that has some of the basic things people should know for survival cooking. I'll post a few entries here now and then.)

Roux-tine sauces begin with a base that is equal parts flour and oil or (arteries groan in protest) butter. The simplest would be a cup of all-purpose flour and a cup of vegetable oil. A heavy iron skillet is best for making roux (or for making anything that involves frying, I think.) Heat the oil and gradually add the flour, stirring constantly until the mixture turns brown and is a smooth texture. This may take about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. The trick is to brown the roux, but don't burn it, or it becomes too bitter to use.
Moving on from there, a more time-consuming roux is made with butter and an equal portion of mashed cooked carrot. Again, blend the butter and mashed carrot until brown.
Ethnic stuff? Sure. Indian curry roux starts with finely chopped onions, cooked with oil until smooth. This can take a lot of time, so a good curry base is usually made at least a day ahead. The same thing works with other ingredients, such as coconut powder and oil for Thai curry roux.
My cooking philosophy is that it is good to know how to make things from scratch. But in the interest of time and convenience (and available equipment), there's no need to spend all day preparing sauce bases by churning your own butter or grinding grain into flour and so on. Simple and delicious sauce bases can be made with canned or packaged soups and favorite herbs and spices. The beef stroganoff in the picture above is made with a basic flour-and-oil roux, to which I added beef and vegetable bouillon cubes, rosemary, thyme and pepper, and boiled down gradually adding milk. I sauté-ed an onion--chopped fine--and some garlic with sliced brown mushrooms, added thin-sliced beef sirloin, then blended it all with a splash of red wine and a tablespoon of sour cream and let it simmer for a half-hour.
Egg noodles? Sure, you can make them easily with 2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, two beaten eggs or the beaten yolks (only) of three eggs, a half-cup of milk and a tablespoon of butter. Mix it together with a pinch of salt and knead into a ball, roll thin on a floured surface and cut into strips. Let the strips dry at least three or four hours in open air.
Or you can buy a package of egg noodles and be ready for business in about 10 minutes!
Mango treats.
Ok, now if I say cream puffs and ice cream, you start thinking about calories and all that. True, but a mango (the Mexican ones are my favorite) is a great source of dietary fiber (helps you poop) and protein, plus other minerals and vitamins and foliate, which is an important acid for pregnant women (not that you need to be pregnant to eat mangos). So the dessert trio of choice is a cream puff filled with mango custard, served with a scoop of mango ice cream drizzled with a mango sauce, and slices of fresh mango with shredded coconut and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Join me?
Learn more about the food values of fruits here: