There are certain recipes that are essential to every wise traditional cook. For good health and tremendous flavor, here are a few of what I consider to be the most basic recipes that every good cook should master. And all made easy!
GOOD HEALTH AND FLAVOR WITH STOCKS
Stocks and broth are the backbone of classic recipes in many cuisines from around the world. They are made from the bones, skin, connective tissues and flesh of land and sea animals. For instance, you can use a whole chicken or a roasted chicken carcass—or a bone-in roast or just the beef bones (see “Making a Great Stock or Broth”). Enhanced with the flavors of herbs and vegetables, the concentrated flavors and nutrients of stocks and broths provide both enjoyment for the palate and healing to the body.
If you are able to acquire the feet of any animal (cleaned), toss them into your stock or broth for added nutrition and healing collagen and gelatin. I buy bags of chicken feet from one of my farmers and throw a few in the pot when making chicken stock. Neck and back bones also add extra potency and flavor.
Stocks and broths can be used at full strength for a variety of dishes, including soups, stews, gravies, and as the liquid to cook rice or other grains. The delicious flavor can also be increased by gently reducing the defatted stock at a simmer, uncovered, for several hours, or, for faster results, by boiling it down. (Save the fat for sautéing or adding to vegetables.) The flavor will also be tremendously enhanced by adding stock that has already been made, adding a little wine or brandy and including seasonings such as mustard, herbs, tomato paste or lemon rind. The resulting reduction—or “consommé”—is the basis for all great sauces and can be added in small amounts to vegetable dishes and casseroles for a real boost in flavor.
Who doesn’t love ketchup on a burger, dressing on a salad or mayonnaise on a sandwich? The trouble is, most commercially available products, even when “organic,” are made from health-compromising rancid oils, loads of sugar and powdered eggs whose proteins have been damaged. Fortunately, making your own condiments need not be difficult.
Traditional condiments are made using simple fermentation methods (see “Three Simple Condiments”). Sauerkraut is the most basic and will give you a vibrant condiment with juices ready for the preparation of other condiments. Kraut need involve no more than shredded cabbage and salt, possibly with a little added water for additional moisture (and brine for drinking). I use sauerkraut liberally to top salads, as a side for burgers or as a vegetable accompanying any meat. The juice is also very useful for treating stomach complaints and aids in detoxification.
A basic ketchup can be made using a mixture of crushed tomatoes and tomato paste, a little juice from the fermented sauerkraut (or whey)
and seasonings. I use anchovies (flat fillets in olive oil) as a seasoning in place of fish sauce and find it much easier and less costly. Mustard is also easy to make and more delicious than most store brands.
I make at least one quart of mayonnaise per week for a variety of purposes. If you wish, you may use bacon fat, avocado, avocado oil or a percentage of cold-pressed organic sunflower or flax oil to replace part of the olive oil. To make aioli, just add one or two cloves of garlic. Adding various herbs can also take your mayo from merely good to extraordinary.
A salad dressing can be as simple as a three-to-one ratio of olive oil and vinegar of your choice (or lemon juice). Adding fresh herbs and allowing the dressing to sit for several hours (or days) adds another flavor dimension (see “Three Simple Salad Dressings”).
There are many sauces that add depth and dimension to a variety of foods, but I’ll cover just a few that I consider essential for most home kitchens.
First, there is a classic white sauce—the basis for most casseroles, including macaroni and cheese. Although this sauce is customarily made in a saucepan over heat, for most applications, it need not be (see “Two Ways to Make a White Sauce”). A basic white sauce is always made with butter, but if you are using the white sauce in any type of baked dish (or cooked on the stovetop as part of a recipe), it is an easy thing to add soft butter to warm ingredients (as in cooked pasta, rice or vegetables), and then stir in the rest of the pre-mixed sauce ingredients. For example, I cook my rice or sprouted grain pasta first, toss it with butter and cheese and stir in the uncooked white sauce mixture. Then, I pour all the combined ingredients into a casserole and bake. The oven heat cooks and thickens all at once.
Second, most of us enjoy a good Italian-style tomato sauce, whether over pasta or vegetables. It is quite easy to make and need not take hours of simmering, although the longer it simmers, the more flavorful.
The final “sauce” that I consider not truly essential but highly valuable is not actually a sauce, but more of a paste that can be added to other sauces. This “umami” paste—which adds amazing flavor to many sauces, meats and stews, and can be spread on a burger or sandwich—represents the concentrated “fifth taste” after sweet, sour, salty and savory. A little goes a long way, so I only use about one to two tablespoons in a pot of soup, or even less in a casserole. The paste relies heavily on anchovies and fermented soy for its intense flavor (see “More Sauces. . . and Dessert”).
BAKING MIXES FOR BREAKFAST AND BEYOND
We all want a baked treat now and then, or pancakes or waffles for breakfast. In my home, I like to keep a mix or two ready so that my kids can whip up a quick breakfast or dessert to share. The basic ingredients are the same for both, with adjustments in sweeteners, fats and flavorings as needed (see “Baking Mixes”). I make both sprouted grain and non-grain alternative mixes. If you have a food processor, you can put the fats in the mix ahead of time. If not, add the fats separately when using your mix.
You may also use instead a combination of alternative flours such as cassava, tiger nut, green banana, plantain, sweet potato, garbanzo bean or others. Please remember to avoid using harmful soy flour or starchy flours that can change the texture of your baked goods to glue—and which are also banned on most gut-healing protocols.
ONE LAST ESSENTIAL RECIPE: DESSERT!
Let’s not forget dessert. One very simple, quick dessert that I believe should be included in every home cook’s repertoire is panna cotta (see “More Sauces. . . and Dessert”). It can be adjusted in many different ways with the addition of carob, fruits, mint and so forth. Just about anything you like in a dessert can be incorporated into this creamy, smooth delight!
So, there you have it—each of these are the essential recipes or formulas upon which I base most of our family’s meals. Will you share some of your own as well? I’d love to know what you find most important in your own kitchen!
MAKING A GREAT STOCK OR BROTH
One whole chicken or 3-4 pound roast (beef, venison, pork or lamb)
1/4 cup vinegar
1 yellow onion
3-4 cloves garlic
1-2 carrots and 1 stalk celery
Herbs (bay leaf, thyme, parsley)
Coarse unrefined salt and peppercorns
- Place the whole chicken or roast in a stock pot. Add vinegar (I generally use apple cider vinegar, but other vinegars may be used) and cover with water (preferably filtered).
- Peel and quarter the onion and smash and peel the garlic cloves and drop these in the pot.
- Add carrots and celery stalk, coarsely chopped.
- Complete the mix with a bay leaf, a few sprigs of thyme tied together (or one tablespoon dried thyme), two to three teaspoons of coarse salt and a few peppercorns.
- Let the pot sit for one hour.
- Bring the contents to a gentle simmer (don’t boil) and let the pot simmer for at least twelve hours, skimming any impurities that rise to the top.
- Add a large sprig of fresh parsley at the very end to round out the flavor.
- Strain the liquid, picking and retaining the bits of meat off the bones for use in soups or other dishes.
For broth, the procedure is basically the same, with the added step of roasting the bones first, which greatly enhances the flavor. (Carcasses from roasted poultry do not require a second roasting, however.)
THREE SIMPLE CONDIMENTS
- Shred desired quantity of cabbage into a large bowl.
- Add unrefined salt (about 1 tablespoon per medium-sized head of cabbage), working salt in with clean hands.
- Let the cabbage sit for about twenty minutes to allow the salt to bring out the juices, adding water if needed. It is not necessary to macerate the cabbage.
- Adding a few herbs such as dill or caraway seeds, and chunks of apple or garlic (not both) take the flavor from basic to marvelous. My favorite? I add thin slices of cucumbers, dill and a little garlic (or juice from fermented pickles) for a really delicious summertime kraut.
- Pack tightly into either a stoneware crock or glass jars and let sit at room temperature, with an airlock or daily “burping,” for at least five days.
MAUREEN’S FERMENTED KETCHUP
29-ounce can Muir Glen fire roasted tomato purée
2 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons whey (liquid, unpasteurized) or juice from kraut, pickles or kimchi
1/2 tin anchovies in olive oil
1/4 large green pepper, sliced
1-2 tablespoons raw honey
2 cloves fresh garlic
2 teaspoons basil
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground mace, 1 teaspoon dry mustard, 1/2 teaspoon powdered chipotle
2 pinches each ground cinnamon and nutmeg
- Purée the ingredients in a blender, Vitamix or with an immersion blender.
- Let sit at room temperature for several hours to culture. Makes about one quart.
2 whole eggs and 1 egg yolk from pastured hens
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice and 1 1/2 tablespoons juice from a ferment (such as sauerkraut or pickles)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Dijon or whole-grain mustard
1 1/2 to 2 cups good-quality olive oil
- Pulse or blend (using a small food processor, blender or immersion blender) the eggs, lemon juice, ferment juice, salt and mustard.
- Add olive oil in a slow, steady stream with the motor on high speed until desired thickness.
- Alternatively, put everything in a wide-mouthed jar and use immersion blender on high speed for about twenty seconds.
THREE SIMPLE SALAD DRESSINGS
BASIC SALAD DRESSING
1 cup good-quality olive oil
1/4 cup good vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 sprig fresh tarragon (or a mixture of fresh rosemary, thyme, basil and/or marjoram) or dried herbs
- Starting with the olive oil, add the other ingredients.
- If using dried herbs, remember that their flavor is more concentrated, so use half as much as fresh.
- You can make the dressing creamier by adding a little sour cream.
GLORIFIED CAESAR SALAD DRESSING
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 anchovy fillets
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice and 1 1/2 teaspoons juice from fermented sauerkraut, pickles, or kimchi
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons aged Parmesan or Romano cheese, freshly grated
1 tablespoon black olive tapenade (optional but delicious!)
1-2 teaspoons raw honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1 ripe avocado
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3-1/2 cup high-quality olive oil
- Blend the garlic, anchovy, lemon juice and ferment juice and let rest for five to ten minutes. A stick blender makes fast and easy work of this dressing.
- Alternatively use a Vitamix or upright blender (but at step #4, add the oil in a very fine stream, slowly).
- Add the eggs, egg yolk, cheese, tapenade, honey, mustard and salt, and blend.
- Add avocado, sour cream and olive oil.
MAYONNAISE-BASED SALAD DRESSING
A delicious mayonnaise-based salad dressing can be made by adding chopped blue cheese, scallions or red onions and a few drops of good vinegar (apple cider, rice or white wine vinegar) to a cup of mayonnaise.
TWO WAYS TO MAKE A WHITE SAUCE
BASIC MIX-AND-BAKE WHITE SAUCE
1 pint whole milk
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1 teaspoon yellow mustard (if for mac-n-cheese)
Freshly ground black pepper
- Add soft butter to cooked pasta, rice or vegetables.
- In a separate jar or bowl, mix sauce ingredients with a whisk.
- Pour over the other buttered ingredients, mixing together well.
- Put into a buttered casserole dish and bake at 350° for 30 minutes.
STOVETOP WHITE SAUCE
Same ingredients as mix-and-bake white sauce PLUS
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups shredded cheese
- In a small bowl, combine arrowroot and seasonings with 1/4 cup cold milk.
- Heat the remaining milk (1 3/4 cups) in a saucepan with the seasonings.
- When very hot, turn down the heat and add the arrowroot mixture, whisking briskly until thickened.
- Remove from heat (overcooking will cause the thickening action of the arrowroot to break down).
- Stir in butter. For a cheese sauce, add 2 cups of shredded cheese. (I like a combination of Emmenthal, Gruyère and a medium-aged cheddar or Gouda.)
MORE SAUCES. . . AND DESSERT
BASIC TOMATO SAUCE
1/2 cup minced yellow onion and 3 cloves minced garlic
2-4 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
1 large can organic crushed tomatoes (or the equivalent in meaty, fresh tomatoes)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Zested rind of 1 lemon or 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup fresh basil (or 2 tablespoons dried) and 1 tablespoon fresh marjoram (or 1 teaspoon dried)
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup Asiago, Parmesan or Romano cheese, freshly grated (optional)
- In a medium saucepan, sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil until soft.
- Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, zest or vinegar, herbs and salt and pepper.
- Simmer over medium heat for twenty to thirty minutes. Alternatively, combine in a Vitamix and blend until hot.
- Adding 1/4 cup of grated Asiago, Parmesan or Romano cheese enriches this classic sauce.
1/2 tin flat anchovy fillets in olive oil
1 tablespoon tamari or shoyu sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons aged Parmesan or Romano cheese, freshly grated
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic
4 shiitake mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon miso (optional)
1/2 teaspoon good-quality balsamic vinegar
- Using a food processor, combine all ingredients. Store in a small container in the fridge.
- This keeps for several months. You can divide it up into small containers and freeze for use throughout the year.
4 cups cream or full-fat coconut milk, divided into 1 cup and 3 cups
4 teaspoons gelatin
2 vanilla beans (split and seeds scraped into the pan) or 1 tablespoon good vanilla extract
1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
- In a saucepan, sprinkle the gelatin over 1 cup of cream or coconut milk. Let soften for five minutes.
- Add vanilla beans, if using. On medium heat, stir gently until the gelatin is dissolved. Remove from heat.
- Add the remaining milk, sweetener and vanilla extract (if using), stirring to combine well.
- Strain into dessert cups, ramekins or a serving dish. Cover with plastic wrap; chill for at least one hour until set.
- Serve with sliced fruit or fruit compote. Adding 2-4 lightly beaten egg yolks in step #3 makes it even richer.
SPROUTED GRAIN BAKING MIX
6 cups sprouted grain flour (spelt, soft wheat or any other sprouted grains you like)
1/4 to 1 cup sucanat, Rapadura or muscovado sugar (for sweeter confections, substitute honey or maple syrup)
2 tablespoons aluminum-free baking powder (store bought or homemade – see note below)
1 tablespoon salt
1/3 cup soft fat (such as lard, butter or coconut oil)
Mix ingredients in a food processor or by hand in a large bowl. Store in the refrigerator in a closed container.
Note: Make your own baking powder by combining two parts each cream of tartar and arrowroot powder and one part baking soda (skip the arrowroot if you are on the GAPS diet) and storing in an airtight container.
PANCAKES AND WAFFLES
1 cup sprouted grain baking mix 3/4 to 1 cup whole milk or coconut milk
1 egg (lightly beaten) 1 tablespoon melted fat (if not previously incorporated into baking mix)
- Mix all ingredients, adding the melted fat only if fat has not previously been incorporated into the baking mix.
- Drop by the quarter-cupful onto a hot, greased skillet. When bubbly, flip and cook an additional minute or two.
- For extra fluffy pancakes or waffles, add an additional egg, separated. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into the batter after everything else is worked in. Do not over-beat or the end product will have a tough texture.
- Serve with fresh fruit, maple syrup and/or warmed honey sauce. (Make honey sauce by combining and warming gently in a small saucepan 1 cup honey, 1/4 cup raw butter and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.)
MUFFINS AND CAKES
3 cups of sprouted grain baking mix
3 eggs (optional: separate eggs and beat whites until stiff)
2 cups milk
Up to an additional 1/3 cup of sweetener (honey or maple syrup work well), if desired
1 tablespoon good-quality vanilla extract
Spices as desired (such as cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves)
- Mix all ingredients together (except beaten egg whites, if using).
- Fold in beaten egg whites (if using).
- Pour into muffin cups or a lightly greased and floured cake pan.
- Bake muffins at 375° for about twenty minutes; bake cakes at 350° for twenty-five to thirty minutes.
GAPS-FRIENDLY GRAIN-FREE BAKING MIX
7 cups blanched almond flour (or alternative, grain-free flour)
2 cups coconut flour (full fat)
1 cup ground chia seeds
3/4 cup aluminum-free baking powder
1 3/4 tablespoons soft fat (such as lard, butter, ghee or coconut oil)
Scant 2 tablespoons salt
- Follow the same directions as for the sprouted grain mix. For the sweetener, add raw honey to your batter as desired (according to what you are making).
- Blanched almonds have fewer of the irritating compounds found in other seeds, nuts and grains; however, they should still be soaked in salt water and dehydrated before use in baking mixes.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Spring 2019