Cooking with Chef Lucas during the COVID lockdown and cautionary period was a bright light in during dark days. Our family came together to cook together and enjoy a wonderful meal of unique dishes. Mint and Cheese Greek Pies did not disappoint. Thanks to Chef Lucas and InVINtions for offering such a great program and helping our family create wonderful memories.
Who knew there was a National Holiday for Popcorn? I am a popcorn fan from way back. I generally take mine with real butter and salt along with a great movie. Although, I would never turn down a bag of kettle corn at the farmer’s market! I’ve been known to make myself a popcorn birthday cake, too!
Whenever I travel back to Iowa, you can always find a bag or two of local popcorn in my luggage for the trip home.
Researching the history of popcorn, I found popcorn.org to be a great resource of the history and recipes:
Popcorn Dates Back Thousands of Years
Biblical accounts of “corn” stored in the pyramids of Egypt are misunderstood. The “corn” from the bible was probably barley. The mistake comes from a changed use of the word “corn,” which used to signify the most-used grain of a specific place. In England, “corn” was wheat, and in Scotland and Ireland the word referred to oats. Since maize was the common American “corn,” it took that name – and keeps it today.
It is believed that the first use of wild and early cultivated corn was popping. The oldest ears of popcorn ever found were discovered in the Bat Cave of west central New Mexico in 1948 and 1950. Ranging from smaller than a penny to about 2 inches, the oldest Bat Cave ears are about 4,000 years old.
Popcorn in the New World
Popcorn was integral to early 16th century Aztec Indian ceremonies. Bernardino de Sahagun writes: “And also a number of young women danced, having so vowed, a popcorn dance. As thick as tassels of maize were their popcorn garlands. And these they placed upon (the girls’) heads.” In 1519, Cortes got his first sight of popcorn when he invaded Mexico and came into contact with the Aztecs. Popcorn was an important food for the Aztec Indians, who also used popcorn as decoration for ceremonial headdresses, necklaces and ornaments on statues of their gods, including Tlaloc, the god of rain and fertility.
An early Spanish account of a ceremony honoring the Aztec gods who watched over fishermen reads: “They scattered before him parched corn, called momochitl, a kind of corn which bursts when parched and discloses its contents and makes itself look like a very white flower; they said these were hailstones given to the god of water.”
Writing of Peruvian Indians in 1650, the Spaniard Cobo says, “They toast a certain kind of corn until it bursts. They call it pisancalla, and they use it as a confection.”
In South America, kernels of popcorn found in burial grounds in the coastal deserts of North Chile were so well preserved they would still pop even though they were 1,000 years old.
The use of the moldboard plow became commonplace in the mid-1800s and led to the widespread planting of maize in the United States.
Although popcorn is typically thought of as a snack food today, popcorn was once a popular breakfast food. Ahead of its time and very likely a role model for breakfast cereals to come, during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, popcorn was eaten just as we eat cereal today.
Long before the advent of the corn flake, Ella Kellogg enjoyed her popcorn ground with milk or cream. Although she discouraged in-between meal snacking, she urged others to eat popcorn at meals as popcorn was “an excellent food.” Ella understood, as her husband did, that popcorn was a whole grain. John Harvey Kellogg praised popcorn as being “easily digestible and to the highest degree wholesome, presenting the grain in its entirety, and hence superior to many denatured breakfast foods which are found in the market.”
The Great Depression
Popcorn was very popular from the 1890s until the Great Depression. Street vendors used to follow crowds around, pushing steam or gas-powered poppers through fairs, parks and expositions.
During the Depression, popcorn at 5 or 10 cents a bag was one of the few luxuries down-and-out families could afford. While other businesses failed, the popcorn business thrived. An Oklahoma banker who went broke when his bank failed bought a popcorn machine and started a business in a small store near a theater. After a couple years, his popcorn business made enough money to buy back three of the farms he’d lost.
Popcorn and the Movies
Unlike other confections, popcorn sales increased throughout the Depression. A major reason for this increase was the introduction of popcorn into movie theaters and its low cost for both patron and owner. One theater owner actually lowered the price of his theater tickets and added a popcorn machine. He soon saw huge profits.
The “talking picture” solidified the presence of movie theaters in the U.S. in the late 1920’s. Many theater owners refused to sell popcorn in their theaters because they felt it was too messy. Industrious vendors set up popcorn poppers or rented storefront space next to theaters and sold popcorn to patrons on their way into the theater. Eventually, theater owners began installing popcorn poppers inside their theaters; those who refused to sell popcorn quickly went out of business.
Popcorn sales increase throughout the Depression. A major reason for this increase was the introduction of popcorn into movie theatres.
World War II
During World War II, sugar was sent overseas for U.S. troops, which meant there wasn’t much sugar left in the United States to make candy. Thanks to this unusual situation, Americans ate three times as much popcorn as usual.
Slump and Bump
Popcorn went into a slump during the early 1950s, when television became popular. Attendance at movie theaters dropped and with it, popcorn consumption. When the public began eating popcorn at home, the new relationship between television and popcorn led to a resurgence in popularity.
Whether stovetop popped, fresh from the microwave or ready to eat, Americans love popcorn. In fact, Americans today consume 15 billion quarts of popped popcorn each year. That averages to about 47 quarts per person.
Americans today consume 15 billion quarts of popped popcorn each year.
Cabbage Pie is a new recipe, similar to a Frittata. I had cabbage that I needed to use and the other ingredients were on hand. What a simple, delicious recipe. It’s easy to imagine my ancestors making a similar dish from these simple ingredients. I did not add cheese to my pie. Next time I would experiment with different cheeses and herbs.
1/2 head green cabbage, thinly sliced
one small onion, halved and thinly sliced
salt and pepper
salt and pepper
1/2 cup to 2/3 cup flour
Shredded cheese (optional)
Combine sliced cabbage and onion in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Beat 3 eggs and add salt and pepper to taste. Pour egg mixture over cabbage and onions.
Add flour to cabbage mixture and stir to combine.
Add sunflower or canola oil to a non stick pan. Heat oil over medium heat. Add cauliflower mixture. Cover skillet tightly with aluminum foil. Place wooden cutting board (or heavy flat pan) on top of skillet.
Cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.
Remove cutting board and foil. Flip cabbage pie onto plate and place other side down in pan. Optional: Sprinkle top with cheese and cook until cheese is melted and bottom is golden brown.
Remove from pan. Slice into wedges and serve.
Optional: Top with a dollop of sour cream and chopped green onion.
Fresh Colorado peaches and so many recipes to try. I made this for a quick, delicious dinner and it didn’t disappoint. I enjoyed it with a glass of crisp, white wine. This flatbread with make repeat appearances in my home!
FLATBREAD WITH PEACH, PROSCIUTTO, AND MOZZARELLA
4 naan flatbreads
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
8 oz. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
2 peaches, thinly sliced
4 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto, torn into bite-size pieces
1/2 c. thinly sliced fresh basil
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 450°.
Place flatbreads on two baking sheets and drizzle each with ½ tablespoon olive oil. Top with mozzarella, peaches, prosciutto, and ¼ cup basil, and season with salt and pepper.
Bake until crust is crisp and golden and cheese is melted, about 8 minutes.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup basil. Cut each pizza into quarters and serve immediately.
Mediterranean Food is so fresh and delicious. Daughter, Sarah, has made this recipe many times with rave reviews. I decided to make it but add diced cucumber, making this more like a Greed Salad. Using fresh Feta cheese, in block form, allows the cheese to absorb the olive oil and seasoning. My family agrees that the cucumber takes this dip to a new level. If you like Greek olives, you could add those as well. I served with Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita Chips. Scrumptious!
MEDITERRANEAN FETA DIP
1/3 cup olive oil 3Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced 4-5green onions, sliced thinly 1/2 diced English cucumber 8ouncesfeta cheese, crumbled (I used fresh block Feta) 2-3teaspoonsCavender’s Greek seasoning fresh baguette, sliced thinly or Pita chips optional balsamic vinegar
On a large platter drizzle olive oil until you have a thin layer on the entire platter. You may use more or less here depending on your preference.
Add the tomatoes, green onions, and feta on top of the olive oil. Sprinkle with the Greek seasoning to taste.
With a spoon carefully combine the ingredients. We found that we like a little drizzle of balsamic vinegar on top. If desired, drizzle a little balsamic on top.
Serve with warm sliced baguettes for scooping up the dip.
Eggplant is one of my favorite vegetables. It started with fried Eggplant in my Mother’s kitchen, and through the years I have experienced eggplant in many ways. I have made Ina Garten’s Eggplant Spread dozens of times. This recipe is more like baba ganoush, with that wonderful smoky flavor. The dip would be wonderful served with a fresh Greek Salad.
SMOKY EGGPLANT DIP
Makes about 2 cups
2 medium eggplants (about 1 pound each) 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided 1 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt, or to taste 6 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste), well-stirred if a new container 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced or pressed Juice of 1 lemon, plus more to taste, if desired Pinch of cayenne or aleppo pepper Pinch or two of ground cumin 2 tablespoons well-chopped flat-leaf parsley, divided Toasted sesame seeds or za’atar for garnish (optional)
Heat oven to 375°F.
Brush a baking sheet or roasting pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt.
Prick eggplants a few times with a fork or tip of a knife. Over a gas flame, grill or under a broiler, evenly char the skin of your eggplants. I like mine quite smoky and like to leave no purple visible. Transfer to a cutting board, and when cool enough to handle, trim off stem and cut lengthwise. Place cut side down on prepared baking sheet and roast for 30 to 35 minutes, until very, very tender when pressed. Let cool to room temperature.
Next Step Option 1: Food Processor: In a blender or food processor: Scrape eggplant flesh from skin and into the work bowl. Add tahini, lemon, cayenne, cumin and 1 tablespoon parsley. Blend in short bursts (pulses) until combined but still coarsely chopped.
Taste and adjust ingredients if needed. You may wish to add more salt and lemon.
To serve: Spoon into a bowl and drizzle with remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Scatter with second tablespoon of parsley, and some toasted sesame seeds or za’atar, if desired. Serve with pita wedges or naan.
Sungold cherry tomatoes have become our family’s favorite tomatoes, eating them off the wine as a treat. They are so sweet and incredibly delicious. Just perfect for Cherry Tomato Jam.
Each year I seem to have an abundance of tomatoes, making salads with them, roasting them with peppers and garlic and much more. Tomato Jam recipes were popping up this year and I decided to try it. It’s so easy and delicious. I haven’t tried to can it because it disappears from the frig long before the expiration date. Serve it on a crusty bread or on top of a soft cheese. I also made a Grilled Cheese with a schmeer of tomato jam. YUMMO!
CHERRY TOMATO JAM
1 tablespoon olive oil 1 large shallot, chopped (about 1/3 cup) 3 cloves garlic 1 teaspoon chili powder 1 teaspoon smoked paprika 32 ounces (2 lbs.) cherry tomatoes (about 2 1/2 pints) 1/4 cup water 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup 1 large spring thyme 1 teaspoon kosher salt 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large stainless steel or non-reactive pot over medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic and sauté for 3-5 minutes until softened.
Add the chili powder and smoked paprika and sauté 30 seconds more.
Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, stirring often, until the tomatoes burst and thicken, for about 10-15 minutes. If at any time the pan becomes dry and the tomatoes begin to burn, add a tablespoon or two more of water and reduce the heat a bit more.
Remove from heat and season with additional salt and pepper, to taste. Cool completely and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 10-14 days.
Zucchini is normally the vegetable that you are drowning in by the end of summer. This year it was yellow squash. After making two batches of Lemon Yellow Summer Squash Bread and roasting pans of mixed garden vegetables, I moved on to a new recipe for Sweet Yellow Squash Pickles. My Mother always made Bread & Butter Pickles and I loved them. These are very similar and quite delicious. A new favorite for my yellow squash harvest!
4 small yellow squash – cut in thin (1/4-inch slices or less); about 3 cups 1/2 cup thinly slices red onion 1 tablespoon kosher salt 1 cup sugar 3/4 cup white vinegar 1 teaspoon mustard seeds 1 teaspoon celery seeds 1 teaspoon dry mustard
In a large non-metal bowl, combine the squash and onion. Sprinkle salt over the vegetables and stir to combine. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Then, drain the liquid from the vegetables.
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, vinegar, mustard seeds, celery seeds, and dry mustard. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
Add the squash and onion mixture and then return to boiling.
Remove from heat. Ladle the hot vegetables and liquid into sterilized canning jars.
At this point, the jars can be processed for long-term canning or covered and stored as-is in the refrigerator for up to one month.
My Mother always grew a large garden and had a plentiful canning room in the basement with many types of pickles, tomatoes, corn, green beans, chicken, beef, peaches, pears, apples, jams. jelly, and more. What she didn’t can, she froze. I fondly remember the annual family gathering to pick, husk, parboil, cut and pack sweet corn for the freezer. How wonderful to enjoy this bounty during the long, cold Iowa winters.
This year I had a plentiful harvest of cucumbers. With the first hard freeze shortly after Labor Day, I had to pick most the produce, including many cucumbers. I made my Mom’s Easy Dill Pickle recipe and it didn’t disappoint. The addition of fresh garlic to the second batch will be a new twist!
EASY DILL PICKLES
Medium Cucumber, sliced into spears or slices
Optional: Peeled cloves of garlic
Wash medium size cucumbers and pack in canning quart jars. Add fresh dill to the top (stem and all). Place 1/4 teaspoon alum in the top of each quart jar of cucumbers.
Boil canning lids and rings in a separate pot.
Mix 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water. To each quart of liquid add 4 tablespoons salt. Heat liquid to boiling point. Pour liquid, while hot, over pickles.
Immediately place lids and rings on each jar.Let stand until cool. Check to assure lid has sealed. Let the pickles sit in the brine for a few days/weeks. Store in a cool place.
I’ve also made these pickles and just placed in the frig, skipping the canning process.