Monthly Archives: March 2014

Sheilah Kaufman Cooks

My dad was great at finding interesting people and bringing them into our lives. At least a few decades ago, he met Sheilah Kaufman while on a business trip. He was working for a food company and Sheilah’s career also revolved around food. She was a cooking instructor and cookbook author. While Sheilah lived on the East Coast and we lived in the Midwest, travel, especially hers, brought us into fairly regular contact. She is closer to my age than to my dad’s, and we became friends over the years, drawn together by a mutual love of food history and cooking.

I always loved Sheilah’s idea of what she called “fearless, fussless cooking”–that is, recipes that didn’t take over your whole life, with lots of options for making things ahead, so one could enjoy one’s own parties. Granted, there are days I want a recipe to fill the entire day, or several days, but one can’t live like that, at least if one needs to earn a living.

From Sephardic cooking to general cookbooks to an entire book of recipes that use bread (titled, appropriately, Upper Crusts), Sheilah’s cookbooks covered a fairly wide range of specialties. It was fun to see the books as they came out, and I found a number of recipes in her books that have become favorites.

This last weekend, I connected with Sheilah again, this time at the annual conference of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP). We’re both members, but Sheilah’s connection is a little stronger: she’s one of the organization’s founders. Aside from being there to network, she was also carrying her newest cookbook, a handsome and impressive tome titled The Turkish Cookbook: Regional Recipes and Stories, which Sheilah co-authored with the wife of the Turkish ambassador. (Sheilah lives near Washington, D.C., so ambassadors are not so hard to come by.) If you want to try out a few recipes before buying, you’re in luck. Sheilah has a website that offers samples from this and other works. Check out Cooking With Sheilah. It’s a great resource–as is Sheilah herself.
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Ancient Grains

It has been several years since I worked with Maria Kijac on her highly acclaimed cookbook, The South American Table, but for the last eight months, we have been working together again, this time on a cookbook that focuses on the ancient grains of Latin America: quinoa, kañiwa, amaranth, and chia seeds. These “super grains” (which are really seeds, rather than true grains) offer many benefits, including a full complement of essential amino acids, which no cereal grain offers. Because quinoa is the most easily obtained of these grains, there are more recipes using quinoa, but because chia is the greatest powerhouse of the group, Maria has found plenty of recipes to feature this astonishing grain (which has more antioxidants than blueberries and more Omega 3 fatty acids than salmon). Because of their remarkable health and energy benefits, these grains were considered sacred among the ancient people of Latin America, from the Inca of the Andes Mountains region to the Aztecs of central Mexico.

I can’t share with you any of Maria’s recipes (or the joy of testing them while we worked together), but I can share a quinoa recipe I developed for an outing with friends a couple of years ago. It has a lot of big flavors, plus the high fiber and other nutritional benefits of quinoa.

The dried mushrooms I used were the Gourmet Mushroom Blend from Manitou Trading Co. The blend included morels, porcini, Brazilian caps, ivory portabellas, shiitakes, and oyster mushrooms.

I think you’ll like it.

Mushroom Quiona
5 to 6 ounces dried mushrooms
1/2 lb. slab bacon
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
2 cups quinoa
enough chicken broth to make up four cups liquid with the mushroom soaking liquid
salt and pepper to taste

Soak the mushrooms overnight in water to cover. (I poured hot water over the mushrooms, let it cool, and then put it in the fridge till the next day.)

Drain the mushrooms, reserving the liquid. Chop the mushrooms roughly and set aside.

Cut the bacon into lardons (blocks about 1/2 inch x 1/2 inch x thickness of slab of bacon). Fry in large pot until they begin getting crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Sauté the onions in the fat from the bacon. When onions are translucent, stir in the quinoa. (NOTE: Check the package of quinoa. Some is prewashed. If it isn’t prewashed, the instructions will instruct you to rinse the grain. You definitely want to rinse any unwashed quinoa. If you bought bulk and there are no instructions, taste a bit of the uncooked quinoa. If it tastes soapy, then rinse it thoroughly before cooking. Or, to be really safe, just go ahead and put it in a strainer and rinse it. Quinoa seeds produce a protective coating of saponins, which are bitter and will ruin the taste of the dish if the quinoa is not rinsed well.)

Stir the quinoa into the onion and fat, to coat the grains. Add the reserved mushroom soaking liquid and chicken broth, combined to make four cups liquid. Cook for twenty minutes, or until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is tender. Stir in the bacon and chopped mushrooms. Season to taste. Enjoy.

(Note: if slab bacon is not readily available, get the thickest cut bacon you can find, and cut it into 1/2 inch pieces).

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