Welcome to February!

The most noticeable thing about February this year is that MOUNTAIN is due to go to Saga in March, so time to finish it up and tie a ribbon around it! I just sent it off to Caitlin this morning, since the re-write is so extensive that I would like her opinion before I send it off to my editor.

So, reading closely through a manuscript takes a couple of days. I think it’s pretty good, so it wasn’t too great a chore to read through it. On the other hand, it did take up the whole weekend, minus time to take the dogs out for a run each day because it was supposed to get cold. (It did: 18 degrees this morning.) But I did do quite a bit of cooking. I made four new-to-me dishes and every one of them was good enough to make again and plan to serve to company. That doesn’t always happen when you’re trying new things! It was a nice assortment of dishes, and since they were all good, I thought I’d share them with you.

Salt Cod and Ackee, from The Complete Mexican, South American, and Caribbean Cookbook, by Jane Milton, Jenni Fleetwood, and Marina Filippelli, which after this weekend is a cookbook I will be picking up more frequently.

1 lb salt cod
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
8 oz tomatoes, chopped
1/2 hot chili, chopped
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp ground allspice
2 Tbsp chopped spring onion
1 lb 6 oz can ackees, drained
Fried dumplings to serve (these are essentially fried biscuits and I didn’t make them)

Soak the salt cod in a large bowl of cold water for 24 hours or longer, changing the water at least 5 times. It didn’t say to keep the fish in the fridge, but I did. Drain and rinse and place the fish in a large pan of cold water. Bring to a boil. Immediately drain and set the fish aside to cool. Then remove the skin and bones and flake the fish. Here I must add that the removing-the-skin-and-bones part was tedious and a pain in the neck. It took about 40 minutes, and even then I missed some of the small bones. So I wouldn’t want to do this all the time. It’s interesting to imagine living in a time and place where salt cod was a staple food, though. As an added note that ought to make anybody want to try this fish, in the 1800s, a shopkeeper in Bilbao saved his city during a siege by ordering 20,000 salt cod — he meant to order about 20, but the person filling the order mis-read his order, and thus the city was saved. How about that?

Anyway, now you can proceed with this very easy recipe.

Heat the butter and oil. Saute the onion and garlic 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and chili and cook five minutes. Add the fish, pepper, thyme, allspice, and spring onion. Stir to mix. Add the ackees, stirring very, very gently. Nothing can keep them from breaking up, but try to minimize this for a prettier presentation. Don’t add salt without tasting, because both the cod and the ackees are somewhat salty.

This was more than acceptable, despite having to watch out for little bones.

Peanut Chicken, from the same cookbook

2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp curry powder
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp butter
1 onion, chopped
2 Tbsp chopped tomatoes
1 hot chili, chopped
2 Tbsp smooth peanut butter (I used a very, very generous couple of Tbsp)
2 C warm water (I think this was too much)

Toss the chicken with the garlic, thyme, black pepper, curry powder, lemon juice, and some salt. Cover and marinate 2 hours.

Melt the butter and sauté the onion 5 minutes. Add the chicken. Cook 10 minutes or so. Stir in the tomatoes and chili.

Blend the peanut butter with 1/2 C water to make a smooth paste. Stir this into the chicken mixture. Stir in the rest of the water, though I would suggest just another half cup or cup. Simmer 20 minutes or until chicken is done. I wanted the sauce reduced more, so I simmered it longer, thus overcooking the chicken. I’m sure you all would be bright enough to simply remove the chicken after it was done and then simmer the sauce as long as you wanted.

Now, I’m not sure where I got these other two recipes, but if I guessed, I would say probably from “Taste of Home,” which my mother gets and I read.

Glazed Shrimp and Pork Meatballs

3/4 lb shrimp, chopped
1/2 C soft bread crumbs
4 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 egg
1 Tbsp mustard
1 1/2 tsp liquid smoke
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika, which actually I forgot to add, whoops
1 tsp salt
1 clove garlic
3/4 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp hot pepper sauce
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 lb ground pork

1/2 C brown sugar
1/4 C cider vinegar
1 Tbsp mustard

Pulse the bacon in your food processor to reduce bits to very small crumbs. Add bread and pulse. Add shrimp and pulse to chop. Put this mixture in a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients through the pork. For into 1 inch meatballs and bake on a rack at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

Combine the glaze ingredients in a skillet, add the meatballs, and cook 10 minutes, turning occasionally, until glazed. These were very good and not TOO much trouble, even granting that forming meatballs is always somewhat annoying.

Garlic Cauliflower Pumpkin Pureee

I meant to make this last Thanksgiving, but didn’t. So I tried it now. It would be well worth making at Thanksgiving or whenever, because it’s quite good.

1 head cauliflower, in florets
3-4 cloves garlic, whole
8 oz cream cheese, softened (the recipe said six, but who wants 2 Tbsp left over?)
1 can pumpkin (the recipe didn’t specify can size; I used just one 8 oz can because I’m not crazy about pumpkin)
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp pepper

Cover the cauliflower and cloves of garlic with water, bring to a boil, and simmer ten minutes. Drain, place in food processor and puree. Add the remaining ingredients. Place in casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or so. I covered the dish for about 20 minutes and then uncovered it. This was quite tasty, really, and a far more inviting way to serve vegetables than in a pile next to a Piece of Meat, a cooking style I have never understood.

So there you go! If you try any of these, I think you’ll like them.

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