NWK

NWK

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Skillz? Nope, none here!

But I try.


Honey-Sesame Tofu

I used to hate tofu, but I learned to like it a few years ago. Normally when I order it at a Chinese restaurant it's deep fried, which kind of misses the point. It's a light, low-fat, high-quality protein. I really like it now that I have a band in my tummy. It's nice and soft and doesn't get stuck on the way down :)

This is a recipe that I have made with other forms of protein too. I've used chicken and shrimp (my favorite). It works really well with all three, and you can adjust the sauce to taste. The sauce only has 3 ingredients (4 if you had red pepper flakes).

To begin, you need:



1 block of firm tofu, pressed, drained, and sliced
corn starch to dredge the tofu

And for the sauce:
4 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp toasted sesame oil (yum!)

Garnish with toasted sesame seeds if you like

Dredge the slices of tofu in corn starch. This is the key to crispy, delicious tofu. Fry the slices of tofu in a nonstick skillet with nonstick cooking spray or a little olive oil. Let it cook for a few minutes on each side, until it is brown and crispy. GIve it about 5 minutes on one side, and 3-4 minutes on the other.

Whisk together your sauce ingredients and pour over the tofu. Turn down the heat and let it simmer for just a couple of minutes, to glaze the tofu. Add the toasted sesame seeds once it's plated.





I served mine with Basmati rice and a frozen vegetable mix. The vegetables were tossed with 1 minced clove of garlic and 1/2 tsp fresh minced ginger. I also added a couple splashes of soy sauce.

Nom!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Mercimek Koftesi - Red Lentil Patties

Today I decided to make a couple of my favorite Turkish dishes. These savory lentil patties are a mezze dish - a cold appetizer. They make a great meat-free meal on their own, served in lettuce leaves with a squeeze of lemon.

Ingredients



Red lentils - 1 cup
Fine bulgar - 1 cup
Tomato paste - 2 tablespoons
Green onions - 2 or 3, finely sliced
Parsley - 1/2 bunch, finely chopped
Cumin - 1 tsp
Salt and pepper to taste
Red pepper flakes (optional) - 2 tsp

Rinse the lentils and cook them in 3 cups of water for 10 minutes. Add the bulgar. Stir, cover and turn off the heat. Allow to sit for about 20 minutes.



Using a spoon, finely mash the lentils to a paste. Mix in the rest of the ingredients and chill for 1 hour. When chilled, form into patties. Chill until times to serve.






I like to serve mine with more garlic-dill yogurt.

Sunday

Today is the sun's day, and to honor the sun, I decided to hit the kitchen and make some foods the remind me of the sun, whether in color, heat, or (masculine) energy.

Carrots - Masculine. Obviously a phallic symbol. The orange color resembles the sun, especially when the vegetable is sliced into discs.

Dill - Masculine. Ruled by Mercury. Element: Fire.
Uses: intelligence, mental powers, psychic powers, self-improvement, study, travel, and wisdom. Can also be used in love spells.

Parsley - Increases sexual energy and increases fertility (w00t!)

Onion - Same as parsley

I have included some feminine ingredients today as well. Yogurt is one. I am also going to share a lentil recipe with you. Lentils are ruled by the Moon. Tomorrow is the moon's day and I am getting ready.

Now, some books state that we should not incorporate ingredients with conflicting energies into the same recipes. For example, you do not want to make a recipe that includes foods for promoting psychic or mental powers with ingredients that promote increased sexuality. However, I am not making anything for a specific magical purpose. I'm cooking because I'm bored, hungry, and have some ingredients to get rid of before I travel to the US for my vacation!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Baked Carrot Fritters - Firinda Havuc Mucver

Maybe some of you were wondering what I eat now that I live in Turkey. Okay, so most of you probably weren't, but I'm going to share a recipe with you anyway. The original recipe contains zucchini and it's usually deep fried. I found a baked zucchini fritter recipe at http://almostturkish.blogspot.com and have adapted it a bit. If you have a lot of zucchini this summer, I highly recommend Burcu's recipe. It's delicious. This is my carrot version.

Cast of Characters



Flour - 1 1/2 to 2 cups
Baking powder - 2 tsps
Grated carrot - approximately 3 cups
Parsley and Dill, fresh - about 1/3 cup each
Green onions - 3
Oil - 1/4 cup
Eggs - 3
Salt and Pepper to taste
Red pepper flakes (optional) I used about 1 teaspoon

Grate the carrots and finely chop your herbs. Thinly slice the green onions. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and pepper, oil, red pepper, and eggs. If your batter is a bit too thick, you can thin it out with some milk. I sometimes add another egg too, if I'm using both carrots and zucchini (about 2 cups each).



Isn't that pretty? I wish you could smell the combination of green onions, parsley, and dill. It's heavenly!

Fold those beautiful vegetables and herbs into the batter and spread into a greased baking dish. Place into a preheated oven (375 degrees) and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Check it by placing a knife in the middle. When it comes out clean, you're good to go.

Before



After



The Perfect Accompaniment

Mince 1 clove of garlic with some thick, plain yogurt (1 cup) and add 2 tablespoons fresh dill and salt to taste.




There's nothing left to do but eat!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Seasonal Eating

One of the ways in which we can better attune ourselves to the cycles of nature is by buying and eating seasonal produce. Not only is it cheaper to buy fruits and vegetables when they are in season, but the produce is also much more flavorful. Since different states and countries have different growing seasons (especially when you think about the Northern and Southern hemispheres), it isn't a bad idea to hop on the internet and search for what is in season in your particular area.

www.nrdc.org allows you to search by state and season.

If you are outside of the US as I am, you can still find information on the internet. No matter where yo uare, one of the best ways to see what is in season is to visit a farmer's market.

For many of us, spring means asparagus and spinach. It also means broccoli, cauliflower, arugula (rocket/roka), peas, spring onions, new potatoes, rhubarb, apricots, strawberries, and cherries. I've been seeing watermelons in Istanbul for weeks. I don't know where they're coming from, but they're already ripe and delicious. What a treat!

Seasonal eating and cooking is good for our bodies and our souls because it helps us tap into the wheel of the year. It is important for us to become aware of our surroundings and see the bounty that the goddess bestows upon us throughout the year, every year.

The goddess provides wonderful things for us. We just need to be able to recognize it. I recommend picking up a good book on wild foods and learning to recognize some of the edible plants that might be growing in your very back yard. However, I do not recommend foraging for wild mushrooms. It is much too risky, and one mistake may be all it takes. Also, if you do wish to forage for wild food such as dandelions and purslane, don't pick anything that is growing close to the road or anything that has been sprayed with pesticide. Wash everything very well.

Talking about the abundance of foods that are provided for us also reminds me of the people on this planet who do not have enough food. It is important that we keep these people in our prayers, and it is also imperative that we help them when we can. If you are able to do so, please make a contribution to your local food bank. And yes, I mean even if it isn't a secular organization! You know who you are... There are also sites on the internet that provide donations of food to the less fortunate. Visit them, and contribute when you can.

Until next time, afiyet olsun.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Midsummer

Midsummer is only a few short weeks away. I'm happy to say I will be back in my home state during that time, but as of yet I have no plans for the actual celebration.

Midsummer celebrates the God in all his glory. The Goddess is heavy with child, as the trees and plants grow heavy with their bounty. The Oak King and the Holly King are one. The Oak King is young and full of vigor, while the Holly King represents maturity and wisdom. Midsummer is a classic time to perform all kinds of magick. Herbs harvested at dawn on this day are considered to be especially potent.

Some symbols of Midsummer are the sun, fire, blades, oak leaves, mistletoe, sun wheels, and faeries.

Some of the foods and herbs in tune with this holiday include lemons, oranges, , fresh vegetables, lavender, chamomile and thyme.

Decorate your table/altar with herbs, flowers, fruits and vegetables of the season, blue and green candles, and burn lavender, rose, cinnamon, or citrus incense.

Set up tables outside in your yard if you can, or find a nice park. Provide your loved ones with the following feast and nourish their bodies they can perform their healing, purifying, or love magick. They will be fed in body and spirit.

Midsummer Menu

Chamomile-Lavender Iced Tea with Honey

Pumpernickel Bread (with spinach-dill dip)

Grilled Vegetable Salad with Goat Cheese

Grilled Summer Salmon with Herbs

Key Lime Pie



Iced Tea
This couldn't be simpler. Depending on the amount of iced tea you want to make, steep chamomile tea bags in hot water for a few minutes, along with a good tablespoonful of dried lavender buds, wrapped in cheese cloth. Sweeten with honey. Chill. Serve over ice and garnish with lemon wedges, if desired.

Grilled Veggie Salad

1 each red and orange/yellow bell pepper
2 small zucchini
1 small eggplant
4 Portobello mushrooms, cleaned
1 red onion
3 small leeks (optional, if you don't want too much onion flavor)
Assorted salad greens
Extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Salt and Pepper
1 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
4-6 ounces goat cheese

Rub the bell peppers with oil and roast on the grill until the skins blacken. Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the peppers to sit and steam for about 10 minutes. When they are cool enough to handle, peel, core and slice into strips.

Preheat the grill. Blanche the leeks (carefully cleaned) and the red onion (sliced into wedges) in salted boiling water for 2 minutes. Slice the zucchini and eggplant into 1/2-inch thick slices. Brush all the vegetables with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the vegetables separately until barely done, about 5-7 minutes, turning once. Slice the mushrooms into strips after they come off the grill.

Whisk together olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a 2:1 (oil to vinegar) ratio. Add the fresh thyme and season with salt and pepper. Toss the salad greens with the dressing and arrange on plates. Top with the grilled vegetables and chunks of goat cheese. If desired, a little extra balsamic vinegar can be drizzled over the grilled vegetables. If you aren't a fan of goat cheese, some shaved Parmesan would also do nicely, or leave the cheese out completely.


Grilled Summer Salmon with Fresh Herbs

4 medium to large salmon fillets
4 sprigs each fresh thyme, basil and rosemary
1/2 cup parsley
3 cloves garlic
Juice of 1 lemon
3 - 4 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and Pepper

In a blender combine everything except the salmon. If using fillets that have the skin, apply the herb mixture on the skinless side. On a preheated grill that has been sprayed with nonstick spray, grill the salmon 3-4 minutes on each side.

Stay tuned for Pumpernickel Bread with Spinach-Dill Dip and Key Lime Pie

I need a typing break! :)







Sunday, May 17, 2009

Cooking by Days of the Week - Monday

This comes from Patricia Telesco's book, A Kitchen Witch's Cookbook.

Monday - Originally known as Moon's Day. Cooking on Monday will improve magicks for creativity, insight, maternal nature and Goddess-related efforts.

Good foods to eat are mushrooms, for moon magick, and potatoes, for grounding. Here, then, is a recipe for potato-mushroom gratin, courtesy of epicurious.com

Potato-Mushroom Gratin

Ingredients:
5 Tbsp olive oil, divided
2 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut length-wise into 1/8"-thick slices
1 1/2 tsp coarse Kosher salt, plus extra for the mushrooms
3/4 tsp ground black pepper, plus additional for mushrooms
1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (approx. 3 oz), divided
2 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
12 oz fresh crimini mushrooms, sliced

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Oil a 13x9x2 glass baking dish with 2 Tbsp oil. Arrange 1/3 of the potatoes so they overlap. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour 1/3 cream over; sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheese. Repeat layering 2 more times. Bake uncovered until potatoes are tender, adding additional cream by tablespoonfuls if dry, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven; maintain oven temperature.

Sprinkle thyme and garlic slices over gratin. Toss mushrooms in a medium bowl with 3 Tbsp oil; sprinkle on salt and pepper. Arrange mushroom slices atop gratin around the edge of the dish. Drizzle with 1/4 cup cream; sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheese. Continue to bake uncovered until mushrooms are tender and potato edges are golden brown, about 20 minutes longer.

Cooking by Days of the Week

I have met Patricia Telesco but I don't own any of her books. Maybe I should buy one or two, to generate good book selling karma :) This list comes courtesy of the wonderful invention that is the internet (thanks, Al Gore *L*)



Source: A Kitchen Witch's Cookbook, Patricia Telesco



Monday: Originally known as Moon's Day. Cooking on Monday will improve magick for creativity, insight, maternal nature, and Goddess-related efforts.



Tuesday - Tiw was a god of athletics, combat and law. Consider meals to improve physical well-being, encourage justice, or increase strength and strategy.



Wedesday - Odin (Woden) was a god of the mystical, poetry and resourcefulness. Meals prepared today can accent magick for improved focus on your spiritual path, artistic ability or imagination.



Thursday - Thor, the god of strength and commitment, ruled over this day. Consider dishes prepared to enhance vigor, stamina, devotion and dedication.



Friday - From Frigg, the goddess of relationships and fertility. A good day to create foods for any lunar magick, love-related spells, and improved productivity.



Saturday - Saturn was a god of harvests and planting. A good week day to consider combining with harvest-themed meals, or to sow any seeds to bring positive traits into your life.



Sunday - The sun is the ruler of this day. Any solar magick, god-related foods and foods for leadership, logic, study, etc. are enhanced when prepared on this day.



There you have it.

Kitchen Deities, Part II

There are so many aspects of the Divine that are associated with the hearth, fire, and food preparation. And why not? Food sustains life, and that which sustains life is sacred. These days, many of us are fortunate to have an abundant supply of affordable food. Sadly, though, many are not. For those of you interested in helping feed those in need, donating non-perishable food to a local food pantry can be a ritual in itself. Just leave the food with a prayer that it nourish those who receive it.

The post I made just a moment ago included a list of various kitchen deities, but it seems that there are more than I originally thought. Fortunately, the Pagan Soccer Mom has a list at her blog ( silvermoonwitch.blogspot.com ). She was also kind enough to list some of the foods and herbs that are sacred to these hearth deities. I recommend visiting her blog. I plan to provide more detailed information about some of the deities and include suitable recipes as I have in the past.

More Kitchen Deities

A while back I made a few posts about kitchen deities from various countries, as well as recipes from their cultures. Since I haven't done that in a while, I thought I would make a few more posts regarding gods and goddesses of food, agriculture, and the hearth.

Below is a list of kitchen deities, courtesy of www.thepaganpath.net:

Agni - Indian fire god and god of the home and hearth
Atar - Zoroastrian god of celestial and terrestrial fire
Ayabba - African goddess of the hearth
Bast - Egyptian cat-headed goddess, goddess of the flame and fire
Brigit - Celtic fertility goddess and goddess of the fire, hearth, healing, poetry, and wisdom
Chantico - Aztec goddess of the hearth fires and volcano fires
Chiconahui - Aztec goddess of the hearth and guardian of the home
Chu Jung - Chinese god of fire
Gibil - Babylonian god of fire
Ephesus - Greek god of fire and volcanoes
Hestia - Greek goddess of the hearth, fire, and family life
Hyang Api - Indonesian god of fire
Hyang Kehen - Indonesian god of the hearth
Kagutsuchi - Japanese fire god
Kiyoshikojin Seichoji- Japanese god of the cooking stove
Loki - Norse god of the fire, hearth, and lightning. Also known as the trickster god.
Ong Tao - Asian god of the hearth, stove, and household
Pele - Hawaiian fire goddess, goddess of volcanoes
Prometheus - Greek Titan, he stole fire from the gods and presented it as a gift to humans
Sanpo Kojin - Japanese god of the hearth
Tsao Wang - Chinese god of the hearth and family
Ut - Siberian goddess of the hearth
Vesta - Roman goddess of the hearth and eternal fires (Roman version of Hestia)
Vulcan - Roman god of fire and volcanoes
Xiuhtecuhtli - Aztec fire god


Although the kitchen has traditionally been viewed as the woman's domain (you may not agree with this, but there's no denying it is a common viewpooint), you can see that there are many gods associated with the hearth. More specifically, these gods are associated with the fire in the hearth, fire being masculine, as the sun.

There are also many gods and goddesses of agriculture and the harvest - Dionysus, Bacchus, the Corn Mother, John Barleycorn, Dumuzi (Sumerian), Demeter, etc.

If you are considering putting together an altar for a kitchen god or goddess, do some research and either fine a harvest or hearth deity from the pantheon you follow, or find another kitchen deity with whom you identify.

A simple, small table or shelf in the kitchen (or just outside the kitchen if the space is small) can house your kitchen altar. Some things you can include are dried kernels of corn, seeds, dried herbs and flowers, a representation of fire or the hearth such as a dollhouse fireplace or stove, and a picture or other representation of your deity. You can make it yourself out of clay. Craft and hobby stores have a large selected of dollhouse miniatures, so you can even include food or plates. I've been working on my kitchen altar for some time and I made most of the items out of polymer clay. My only problem is living in one place long enough to set up the altar! Hopefully when I move back to the US...

Stay tuned for more information on kitchen deities, recipes, and tips on making an kitchen altar and for making your kitchen the heart and soul of your home.

A Few Ideas

I don't want to be one of those cookbook authors who refuses to share recipes from books for free, but I can't give away all of the culinary secrets just yet :) Some of the recipes I've included in this blog so far have been mine, while others have come from other sources (which I have dutifully cited).

Here are some of the dishes that will be included in the Summer section of the book, encompassing Midsummer and Lammas/Lughnassadh. There will be meat, dairy, and gluten-free recipes as well.

Appetizers and Drinks (note to self - find cute title :P)

Shrimp Enchilada Dip (recipe featured in an earlier blog entry)
Guacamole (everyone has a recipe for this, I know, but I promise you mine is amazing)
Summer Wine Punch (a refreshing mixture of wine and fruit, but lighter than sangria)
Mango lassey with mint

Main Courses

Grilled Kofte (the Turkish influence is creeping in!)
Grilled vegetable Skewers with Middle Eastern-style marinade (also a grilled chicked version)
Pesto Pasta Salad with Shrimp and Vegetables

Sides and Salads

White Bean Salad
Red Potato Salad with Dill
Quinoa Tabbouli

Dessert

Grilled Pineapple with Ginger, Honey, and Lime

That's just a sample of the recipes I have been working on and plan to continue testing. The book will also include information about the magical uses of some many of the foods included in the recipes, plus a few surprises.

Let's Talk Cookbooks

Specifically, I want to talk about the cookbook(s) I have in the works. For a while now (I'm ashamed to say how long), I've been toying with the idea of writing a kitchen witch cookbook. That's one of the reasons I started this blog. I enjoy cooking and I like combining ingredients for specific purposes - finding a new job, making people feel warm and loved, etc.

People who eat my food tell me how delicious it is, and I feel both grateful and humble. I say that I feel humble because the materials and ingredients that I use were created and provided by the Divine. I combine the ingredients, add heat and intent, but most of the work has been done by the earth, the sun and the rain. I strive to feel more in touch with the gods and honor them by nourishing the people I treasure, and by respectfully using the fruits, vegetables and grains that grow upon this planet. I am thankful to the animals whose bodies also provide food for us. I want to put together a book of recipes that reflect the wheel of the year with seasonal menus, potluck dishes for get-togethers and Sabbat celebrations, or just every day.

What I'm looking for is some feedback. Lately it seems as though everybody is writing a cookbook. What makes mine different? Well, all the things I mentioned above, hopefully. There are a few Pagan-oriented cookbooks on the market, written by Patricia Telesco, Karri Ann Allrich, Cait Johnson, and Scott Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Wicca in the Kitchen (a favorite resource). Can anyone think of any others? Other authors have included some recipes in their books about Sabbats (Ravenwolf's book on Halloween, for example), but their books haven't been all about the recipes.

I'm getting ahead of myself here, but I have ideas for three books. However, I haven't even officially started the first one yet. Right now I have lots of notes, some finished recipes, and not enough time to sit down and do all the work I need to do. I also don't have access to all of the ingredients that I need right now, which means I have had to put off testing some recipes. If anyone is interested in being a tester for recipes, please let me know! I plan to test some things when I go back to the States for my six-week vacation this summer, but I am interested to see how recipes turn out for other people. I've had to learn to really measure things, as opposed to my usual "pinch of this, dash of that, eyeball that" style.

As this jorunal entry is getting too long, I am going to wrap up and start another one that talks about some of the things that will be included in the book, should I ever get off my butt and write it! Publishing is another concern of mine. It will pretty much have to be a Pagan-friendly company, but I don't want to limit myself to just Llewellyn, in case the people there aren't interested, and I want a hard copy, as opposed to an e-book. At least for the first one. We shall see.