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Pound cake is another simple, elegant, universal recipe.  Whether you  have guests or are having an little snack for yourself, homemade pound cake is always heartwarming.  It is a little rich, and not too much trouble.  The name comes from using a pound of each ingredient: flour, butter, sugar.  This recipe comes from an old standby cookbook, The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.

I used a natural shortening, called Earth Balance, with some butter mixed in for flavor:

Wonderful Pound Cake

2/3 cup shortening

1-1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

1 tblsp lemon juice

(I added a tsp of vanilla)

2/3 cup milk

2-1/4 cups flour

1-1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

3 eggs

Set your oven to 300F and butter and line a 9 x 5 x 3 loaf pan with parchment paper (or butter & flour it)

Mix the shortening and sugar together with the lemon zest and beat until light (3 min).  Add lemon juice and vanilla.  Beat in the milk.

Add the sifted dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and beat on medium speed with a hand held mixer for a couple of minutes, scraping down the sides of your bowl.  Then begin adding your eggs, one at a time, beating a minute after each addition, and then beat everything together for another minute.  Don’t overmix, or you will develop the gluten, which will toughen your cake.

Finally, put the batter into your baking pan and place in a slow (300) oven and bake for 1 hour & 20 minutes.  Allow to cool enough to remove from the pan and let it cool completely.  A little cracking on top is perfectly natural.

A little custard and fruit- you have a little slice of heaven 🙂

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You want to say Chocolate in Nahuatl (Aztec)?  This is SO cool:  http://www.howjsay.com/index.php?word=xocolatl

Xocolatl was always reserved for the royal court before the arrival of the Spanish.

Hueytlatoani Matecuhzoma, Rey de los Mexicas de 1502 a 1520- aka Montezuma, if you have read ‘Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook’- served this food of the gods in golden goblets.  It was definitely not your gamma’s can of Hersey’s Chocolate Syrup (remember those?).  “Cacao beans had been roasted, ground, then mixed with corn meal, vanilla, peppers, spices, and herbs.” This is actually more or less correct- yay for Betty Crocker.  And Betty also correctly notes that cacao beans served as currency in the primarily cashless economy of the Aztec empire.

I visited Teotihuacan a little over a year ago and was able to climb the Temple of the Sun with a friend from Fiji and a Maori woman visiting from New Zealand.  Those Aztecs knew what time it was and they made some pretty big clocks and calendars to keep everything on schedule.  They drank their chocolate out of solid gold goblets, which were probably melted down and are now probably adorning the alter of the cathedral in Barcelona or something.

Around the time of the Quincentennial (1992), Peruvian people on the other side of the Equator made a collective statement and demanded of Spain the approximately One Trillion dollars worth of silver alone that was stolen from a mountain in their ancestral domains.  Before Columbus arrived and so rudely interrupted everyone’s civilizations they had been engaging in marvelous, sophisticated agricultural development in the middle of the Amazonian region, terraforming the earth with terra preta.   Of course at the time all of Europe was primarily a gold-based economy, and the Far East was strictly silver, and had been for about 200-300 years already since the Dutch Bourse was founded.  Looking back a century or two before that, the Champagne Fairs had previously confirmed that China and India preferred to trade in silver rather than gold as the precious metal underpinning the economies of their numerous kingdoms and empires.

In this continent, the Aztecs could eat their currency if need be- and that’s an interesting contrast to King Midas, who was not able to eat the food he turned to gold with a touch of his hand.  Not very nutritious, plus it sits a bit heavy on the stomach.  But it was in part gold the reason Cortés showed up in the 1500’s and was introduced to chocolate and maize:  silver showed up on the radar of the Spanish court soon thereafter, and then the ravaging of South America began as well.

Chocolate is one of many foods that we Native American people have developed over the past 10,000 years or so, and which now constitute three-fifths of all crops in cultivation across the globe.  If you sit down to a conventional Thanksgiving dinner, you know what I mean:  Potatoes, corn or cornbread stuffing, cranberries, turkey, pumpkin pie, beans.  Yup that’s all Indigenous – these form part of our collective Native intangible assets, our cultural and intellectual histories.

Until “1492, Europeans had never tasted avocados, beans (lima, kidney, pea, shell, string and others), cacao (for chocolate), cassava, chicle (for chewing gum), chilies, corn, hickory nuts, jicama, maple syrup, manioc, papayas, peanuts, pecans, peppers, persimmons, pineapples, potatoes, pumpkins, squashes, sunflower seeds, sweet potatoes, tapioca, tomatoes or vanilla. Nor had they worn clothes woven from long-fiber cotton. In all, Native Americans have contributed more than 300 food crops to the world.

“Native Americans in the central Mexican state of Puebla began collecting and domesticating wild plants about 7,000 to 9,000 years ago. By about 6,000 to 7,000 years ago about 10 percent of their food came from cultivated products; by about 5,400 years ago the amount ratcheted up to some 30 percent. Archaeological evidence indicates that by 5000 B.C., Native Americans began farming using indigenous agricultural practices as well as those learned from Mexican and Central American cultures.”  This is a pretty decent summary of the history and impact of Native foods on modern and post-modern human history.  http://www.allbusiness.com/agriculture-forestry-fishing-hunting/331083-1.html

Wikipedia has a more comprehensive examination of Native foods; and an excellent reference book I recommend is “Chilies to Chocolate:  Food the Americas Gave the World”, edited by Nelson Foster & Linda S. Cordell, University of Arizona Press, 1992.  Since that book appeared, another important book has since come to print, although its focus is not specifically on food.

“1491:  New Revelations of the Americas Before Columus” by Charles C. Mann, confirms all of this and additionally presents important new evidence of previously unknown agricultural practice in ancient South America.  “Having secured their food supply, Mesoamerican societies turned to intellectual pursuits.  In a millennium or less, a comparatively short time, they invented their own writing, astonomy, and mathermatics, including the zero.” — from “1491” (c) 2005 Knopt Press. – please see chapter 6 in Section II.

So back to Chocolate.  You want to show some love to your loved-one for Saint Valentine’s Day, and of course chocolate is the one of the holy trinity of Valentine’s Day traditions.  Chocolate, flowers and Valentine’s day cards.  It’s a little more elaborate than A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread–and Thou Beside me singing in the Wilderness,” (Omar Khayyam -1048-1131- a Persian poet, mathematician and astronomer).  I don’t know, this could be a serious toss-up, depending on the wine and the Thou (wink).  Valentine was a Christian martyr and I’m still not completely clear on how Roman religious persecution and violence eventually got conflated with Cupid (who is a primordial god, son of Venus and Mercury- who knew?).

If you crave even more obscure origins of Valentine, go all the way back to Lupercalia, a fertility festival in the pre-Roman world:  “ Lupercalia was a very ancient, possibly pre-Roman pastoral festival, observed on February 15 to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility. Lupercalia subsumed Februa, a possibly earlier-origin spring cleansing ritual held on the same date, which gives the month of February its name.”  God I love Wikipedia.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lupercalia

So, eat some Godiva chocolates (you know, the lady who rides around naked on a horse), make a batch of fudge, paint your lover’s body with a little melted ganache- and connect the dots between ancient pre-America and ancient pre-Europe.   And thank whichever gods are responsible for giving chocolate to the whole world.

(image courtesy of http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://webhost.bridgew.edu/phayesboh/Clipart/aztec2.gif&imgrefurl=http://webhost.bridgew.edu/phayesboh/&usg=__24rybt6BnKgdQsxLCZ9EY3PXsq0=&h=420&w=419&sz=102&hl=en&start=18&um=1&itbs=1&tbnid=wlq8U2gQCEwfVM:&tbnh=125&tbnw=125&prev=/images%3Fq%3Daztec%2Bclipart%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DX%26um%3D1)

 

What a movie!  It’s a little strange writing about a movie about a food blog (among other things) in this food blog.   “Life imitates art far more than art imitates Life.” (Wilde).   But IF you get a chance, go see this flick- four of us went together to look at it on Friday.  Meryl Streep nails the character of Julia Child (and the woman who incidentally portrayed her sister, well, they were phenomenal together)- the whole audience went ape over this movie.   Everyone in that packed cinema was happily yelling and cheering for almost 2 hours.  I’d see it again.  Stanley Tucci was good too.

I just re-deranged –as my friend Hortensia likes to say- -my kitchen cupboards.  Not the whole kitchen- I don’t want to get too carried away.  But I realized things were slowly careening toward a state of entropy for a couple of months and  becoming unmanageable.  And it was time to make granola, so it I had to find out how and where everything had migrated inside my cupboards while I wasn’t paying attention.

I discovered a jar of Organic Black Tahini and a packet of Junket (it’s a Scandinavian rennet product that you can use to make something like Panna Cotta, or a Trembleque (different, and made with cocunut milk I think).  Also I found my Mexican dried, powdered shrimp in one of 4 or 5 unmarked recycled, plastic yogurt containers.  Sometimes it’s like Christmas when I open one of these containers and it has Chinese Mu Er (Tree Ear), or semolina flour, or dried shrimp.

So today I make granola because I’m running out.  I usually make a huge batch about once a month, and I have done that fairly consistently for about 20 years.  I used to make a version from ‘Bridgehampton Works and Days‘ while I was still in my teens.  Then after I entered the restaurant business several years later, where we made fresh granola once or twice a week.  The New Riverside Cafe granola had a cult-following; our business logo was a cartoon of a plump flying purple eggplant with little white angel wings, and our official business motto was ‘NO MEAT!  NO BOSSES!’  I always did say that it was a slightly anarchical artists colony disguised as a vegetarian restaurant.

Actually I think the unofficial name of the business was ‘The New Riverside Cafe:  Biomagnetic Center of the Universe’.  Whenever we had anti-war demonstrations in town (which was FREQUENT in the late 1980s- Think:  Reagan/Iran-Contra) our little cafe storefront became standing room only, as energetic peaceniks flooded our shop for organic coffee and restorative rice and beans, or tofu, veg and brown rice.  It was the most financially successful, collectively owned business in the United States at that time (we cleared something like a $1M a year, if you can believe it).  Our neighboring counter-culture vegetarian sister-restuarant (The Seward Cafe) made t-shirts with the neo-post-constructionist image of a piece of an herioc spear of broccoli with the legend “EAT BROCCOLI!” -after George Bush the elder announced that he was now an adult and the President, so he didn’t have to eat broccoli if he didn’t want to.  So eating broccoli became a fashion statement of war resistance for a little while in certain enclaves.

When I started regularly making granola at home I combined these two recipes to my own use.  You to never make it the same way twice if you don’t want to.  I have converted this to standard recipe measurements (rather than handfuls) – but this is more or less how I make it.  This will make enough to feed you and your crew, and you will still have enough to give a couple of containers away- people love homemade granola.  It’s also gluten free (although some strict gluten free diets prohibit even oatmeal – in which case use rolled Rye Flakes)

equipment:

  • big mixing bowl
  • a couple of good sized measuring cups – one for wet, one for dry ingredients
  • baking sheet(s)- I always use a jelly roll pan- it has deep sides that contain everything
  • measuring spoons, rubber spatula, big metal spatula

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

dry ingredients:

  • 5-6 cups rolled oats (I don’t usually use Quick-type oats, but they will work)
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup shredded dry coconut (or big flaked coconut- makes an interesting texture)
  • 1/2 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 2 Tbsp of any whole grain flour(s) – I usually use 2 handfuls of buckwheat flour (it’s rich in rutin, which resembles a water soluble B vitamin- and its deep taproot gets lots of iron up from the soil subsurface); but sometimes I use wild rice flour (hard to find, unless you’re in Minnesota, probably- sorry); or rye-, or corn flour.  You could use wheat germ- that would be good – whole bran would be fine as well.
  • 1/2 cup of cornmeal
  • a teaspoon of cinnamon

Start with about 5-6 cups of oats, add coconut, cornmeal, buckwheat flour, pumpkin seeds and cinnamon.  You can mingle these dry ingredients together a little, but don’t worry about it too much.

wet ingredients:

in a measuring cup mix:

  • 1/2 to 3/4  cup vegetable oil (you could probably use half that amount if you have diet that requires low-fat)
  • a teaspoon of vanilla extract-

mix together and pour over the dry ingredients and toss together till everything is evenly coated.  If you use the measuring cup that had the oil in it, the wet ingredients won’t stick to the measuring cup:

  • scant 1/4 cup honey
  • scant 1/4 cup dark or blackstrap molasses (the latter is packed with iron, but not very sweet)
  • scant 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • scant 1/4 cup brown sugar

Agave (cactus) syrup is good also; you can also use birch-tree syrup (widely available in Alaska); sorghum syrup (the grain sorghum was introduced to North America by Africans in the slave trade); probably pomegranate molasses would work, as would date syrup (popular in Iraq, on bread with cream for breakfast).  You can actually use whatever combination of sweeteners in any proportion you want.  As long as you use between 1/2 cup and a cup of any combination of sweetener, the recipe is fairly fool-proof.

Start mixing the wet and dry ingredients.  It will be severely messy- use a spoon, use your hands, use a spatula- Whatever it takes, just get everything mixed together into a big sticky mass and turn out onto a greased baking sheet.  If you have a 13″ x 18″ jelly roll pan, the raw granola will be close to an inch deep.

I usually bake it at about 325-350F for upwards of 30-45 minutes, until it dries out a little and becomes fragrant.  If I have more time on my hands I might bake it for close to an hour at 300F.  Turn it carefully and thoroughly a few times and it will bake to a golden or dark brown (depending on how much honey or molasses you use).  About halfway through the baking I add  about 1 cup or more of pecans, walnuts or other nuts, very roughly chopped.  I’ve used hickory nuts, and those are very good, but hard to find.  And be careful with anything you bake with honey as an ingredient, it browns beautifully, but also can burn easily.

Take the granola off the baking sheet – I usually put it on a couple of big plates or platters to cool.  While it is cooling I sprinkle on about 2 Tbsp Gomasio (a Japanese condiment made with sea salt and roasted sesame seeds ground together (we used to make that every week at the restaurant too).  Then I add 2 big handfuls of roasted, salted sunflower seeds.  These 2 ingredients are the only salt I have ever used in the recipe, but I never skip them, because they are rich in flavor and very rich in nutrients- did you know Sesame Seeds are one of the few sources of Vitamin T? Portable, durable energy-imbuing food is the whole purpose of granola.  I’ve seen an interesting electric machine in Germany that is used to crush and soak whole-grains for Muesli, which is very popular in Europe, and from the same branch of the food-family tree as Granola.

The final ingredient is dried fruit- I use anything I have in my cupboard- dried apples, berries, pineapple, mango, apricots, bananas, peaches, cherries, raisins, golden raisins, currants (those are still truly raisins in this country, just not fully mature).  For today, I’m going to use 5 kinds of berries, because in our Oral History, Yupik people have a story that’s usually called The Five Berry Sisters, and it reminds us that the berries- where we have lived for the past 10,000 years or so- used to be human beings, just like us.  So sometimes you would see eskimo people talking to the berries as we picked them, since the berries are able to understand human speech, and we still have a relationship with them.  The berry sisters officially are: blueberry, strawberry, cranberry, salmon-berry and thimble-berry.  I have to substitute the latter two indigenous berries with dried raspberries and cherries today.

Use about 1-2 cups of diced dried fruit in any combination.  Mix the whole thing well, and when you’re sure it’s utterly cool place it in your storage containers, eat it, give it away.