Homemade Margarine Recipe

This little gem of goodness came across my Facebook feed:

Now I’m thinking this could be made into a good natural spread, if one used a combination of coconut oil and olive oil, or at worst coconut and Russian sunflower seed oil.  Instead of using the water from canned chickpeas, one could use the leftover water from boiling chickpeas.  You could use gray salt, and if you make your own vinegar, use that too.

You could make a honey spread, garlic spread, raw chocolate and stevia spread…the possibilities are endless!

When I try this, I’ll take photos.

Another Tasty Success: Chicken Gizzards in Goji Berry Sauce

Chicken Gizzards in Goji Berry SauceI’ve been experimenting with more chicken gizzard recipes.  This time around, after hearing about what goji berries are really used for in Asia, I decided to give it a go myself.  As it turns out, goji berries are one of the most perfect seasonings for chicken or really any other poultry.  It may be because of the loads of vitamin C in them, but they totally remove any of the funny “this is an organ meat” aftertaste from gizzards.

Many people on the superfood trend eat goji berries like raisins, but be aware that they are in the nightshade family of plants.  If you have CFS, fibromyalgia, or arthritis, or any issues with potatoes or other plants in the same family, stay away from them.  Everyone else who has a tolerance for nightshade family plants should try them though, but sparingly.  They are like tiny, very sweet mild peppers.

How to Make Druze Pita

I love bread. It’s one of those foods that makes civilization so worth it. The problem is that the body uses carbohydrates like sugar if they’re not properly prepared. So I set about to finding ways to get my bread fix, making it fully satisfying but healthier than the typical selections. Mind you, some of us of African and Native American descent also have a problem with too much bran from certain grains, so switching to whole wheat wasn’t a good option.

From reading sites about glycemic index, and how the body processes grains, I learned that they should be fermented before they’re eaten. This alters their chemistry so that their GI is lower, and the sugars break down slightly, and become more digestible. People in Africa and the Mediterranean, as well as Japan, have been doing things like this for aeons. One group with a very tasty fermented dough recipe I’ll reveal to you today are the Druze. You can read about their fascinating culture here.

They make a special “pita” that isn’t like the pita pocket bread most folks are used to seeing in the west. In fact, almost every ethnicity in the middle east has their own kind of pita, and some even have more than one.

Druze pita are similar to what Americans may think of as “wrap” bread. If you get the genuine thing, it’s about the circumference of a large pizza, and very very thin. It is even thinner than a tortilla. If you put them in a plastic bag right away, they’ll be soft, but if you leave them out, they become nicely crispy. As crips, in my opinion, they’re better than potato chips.

Before we get started, I’ll let you know that there is an art to it. You probably won’t get perfectly round, uniformly paper thin pitas until you’ve been practicing for some months, or weeks if you do it every morning (which you might). If you follow my instructions though, you and your family will enjoy the practice pitas very much.

First of all, you need to make sure you have the things you’ll need to prepare this special bread.

A wok or other convex shaped pan that can take heat on the inside. The reason for this is that you will be turning that over so that you have a dome on which to “throw” and cook your pita.

You should be using a gas burner. You can’t do this on an electric stove.

Your wok should be able to rest securely so that the fire is more or less under the center of it. Because of how heat is channelled through a wok, it’s not so important if it’s a bit off. Just make sure it sits there securely.

Wooden spatula. It’s the same wooden spatula you’d use if you were cooking things on the inside of the wok. You’ll need this to slide under and lift your pitas without burning your fingers.

A round (unused) seat cushion. That’s right, a seat cushion. This will help you to stretch the pitas out, and to throw them on the pan fully spread out. If you don’t have one, or you don’t think you can keep it out of the household circulation of seat cushions in the laundry or something, you can instead use a large plate covered with a lint free cloth. You’ll need to tie the cloth securely around the plate. It will not work as well, but it’ll do in a pinch as a stretching surface and “throwing” guide.

Now, the ingredients.

1 kg. wheat flour
1/2 cup corn or potato starch
2 tsp. salt
1.5 tsp. baking soda
1.5 tsp. cream of tartar
lukewarm water

Reserve about a cup or cup and a half of the flour for the kneading.

Sift all of the dry ingredients together into a large bowl.

Add enough lukewarm water, while squishing it together with your fingers, until you have a somewhat wet ball of dough. Once you have enough water in, continue to squish out any major lumps.

Spread some flour over the counter, and turn the dough out onto it. You may have to do some scraping off the bowl and your fingers.

Knead the dough, adding flour as you go, until you have a pretty firm ball of dough that is somewhat dry and “heavy”. If you need to add more flour than you reserved, do so.

Put the dough in a food safe plastic bag, and squeeze out as much air as you can. Don’t seal the bag right up against the dough though. Give it some room to rise a little.

Now for the fermentation: put the bag of dough in a bowl in a warm but not too warm place for an hour, or put it in the refrigerator overnight. On top of the refrigerator is usually perfect for the hour.

When you are ready to start making your pitas, have ready your surface, some flour, a small roller, and your covered plate or cushion. Then heat your upside-down wok. The heat needs to be high or as close as possible without being nuclear.

Take about a half cup or palm sized ball of dough from the bag, and roll it to make it somewhat spherical. Then mash it flatter between your hands, and even more flat between your fingers.

Slap it down onto your floured surface, and then turn it over and slap it down again. This will help spread out the flour, and get the dough “conditioned” for stretching.

Mash the dough down even flatter, using brisk striking motions or just pressing firmly but quickly. It depends how familiar you are with say, pizza making. If you are, you’ll know the right “touch”.

Using the small roller, roll from the center of the patty of dough outwards. Rotate it a little, and roll out from the center again. Rotate and roll, rotate and roll, and on and on until you have a fairly thin, tortilla like circle of dough.

Gently transfer this onto the plate or cushion. Most like to do this using the back of their hands to avoid tearing it.

Pick up the cushion, and gently, a little at a time, stretch the dough over it. You want a large disk of dough that is not quite as big as your overturned wok. If you make it too big, it will hang off the edges.

Now, take the cushion with your dough, and plop the dough onto the very hot wok.

Once it is bubbling, it is basically done, but if you’re new at this, there may be some wrinkles, or your edges might be a little thick. Slide the spatula under the pita to lift it, turn it over, and then flip down the edges so that they touch the pan. You might need to press here and there with the spatula.

The cooking barely takes a minute, so be watchful, or you’ll burn holes right through it.

When it’s done, slide the spatula under it, and lift it. Put it on a plate and eat it.

These are usually served with labane, zaatar, and other middle eastern foods and salads.

Now, here’s a video I found on Youtube of an expert at work.

Masa Harina or Maseca Substitution

Nothing is quite like real masa de harina (dough flour) made from hominy or nixtamal, but in a pinch, some substitutions can be made.  This is also important for those who may be celiac or avoiding gluten for other reasons.  If you need to have “pure” dough flour, you may not be able to depend on your supermarket shelves.

What kind of masa you should mix depends on what you’ll be making with it.  So I’ll list recipes and instructions for two different purposes.

Tamales/wet wrapped corn dumplings

You will need:
1 cup yellow or white corn meal
1 cup rice meal or wheat semolina
boiling hot water
an airtight bowl


Mix your ingredients in the bowl, and then stir in just enough hot water to make a stiff but sticky dough.

Cover the bowl and let set for 15 minutes.

Uncover the bowl, and if needed, wait until the dough is cool enough to touch.

Gently handle the dough enough to make it spreadable, and then proceed to make your tamales or dumplings.

Crispy corn tortillas

You will need:
1 cup white or yellow corn meal
1 cup quick cooking rice meal or wheat semolina
1 heaping tablespoon of sticky rice, oat, barley, or wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder or 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and a teaspoon of lemon or lime juice
boiling hot water
an airtight bowl
lard, schmaltz, or palm oil
wax paper or a steady fast hand


Mix everything except the water in the bowl.

Add just enough boiling water to make a stiff dough.

Cover the bowl, and let set for 15-30 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat your oven to about 145 Celsius.

Knead the dough as best as possible, until it is somewhat pliable, and prepare your baking sheet.

Grease your baking sheet with the lard or oil.

Roll your tortillas out as thin as possible without risking tearing, between two sheets of wax paper.  Remove the wax paper gently, and place them one at a time on the baking sheet.  You will need to use multiple sheets or do batches of four to six tortillas depending on how wide you make them.

Bake for about 10 minutes until just dry and done, but not crispy yet.  When you see them threatening to make a bubble or something, they’re done.

Take them out, and let them cool on the pan for a couple of minutes.  Then transfer them to a plate and start the next batch.

You can store them this way in the refrigerator, but when you want them crispy, just fry them.

Chicken Schmaltz

You will need:

A deep, preferably seasoned cast iron frying pan.
A wooden spoon or spatula.

2 kg. Chicken skin
2 large onions
1 teaspoon sea salt if you aren’t using kosher chicken skin
a large, clean glass or pyrex type bowl
a cheesecloth or a steady hand
a sterilized jar with a resealable lid

Rinse the chicken skin, and pull out any feathers or roots that might be still in it.

As best as you can, chop the chicken skin into small pieces, and chop your onions into somewhat coarse chunks.  If you’ll be using the schmaltz for baking sweets or something, omit the onions.

Heat your pan on high heat, and then put in your chopped chicken skin and onions.

Turn the heat down to low, until you have nothing left but crispy chicken skin and browned onions, swimming in their own grease.

Pour the grease through a cheesecloth into the glass bowl.

Let this settle until any solids that may be left, settle to the bottom.

Pour the grease, leaving behind the settled solids, into the sterilized jar.  Let it cool and then close the jar.

Schmaltz can keep unrefrigerated for a couple of weeks, but most people like to refrigerate it so it will keep longer.

The solid bits of chicken skin and onions that are left are called “gribenes”.  These can be used for many recipes, or eaten on bread or sprinkled on salads.  Try it mixed with cream cheese on toast or a bagel.

Real Tomato Sauce

There is no good reason to buy canned tomato or spaghetti sauce when you have fresh tomatoes available.  Here’s a quick and easy way to make your own real tomato sauce with no additives.

You will need:

fresh tomatoes
a pot
enough water to cover the tomatoes plus a couple of centimeters
a relatively large holed strainer
a dash or two of salt

Just rinse and put the tomatoes in the pot, and cover them with water.

Add a dash or two of salt to the water.

Place on high heat until boiling, and then turn the heat down enough to just let it simmer.

Let the tomatoes cook until the peels start to split and come off a bit.

Pour the tomatoes into a strainer.  Discard the water.

Place the strainer over the pot and using the bottom of a glass or bowl or a masher, press the tomatoes through the strainer.

The skins will be left behind, and in the pot you will have basic tomato sauce (pomodoro).

If you like, you can cook it longer, but try it at this phase and I think you’ll like it.

Add whatever seasonings you like to make spaghetti sauce or salsa.

This can be frozen ahead, so it’s a good way to save tomatoes that are almost at the end of their shelf life.