Monday, July 30, 2012

A Fantastic Author; A Fantastic Chef


I'm delighted to welcome Elizabeth Sullivan to my blog today. I had the pleasure of reading her novel, Different Hearts, From Bondage to Freedom, recently, and am anxious to try the delicious recipes she provided below. If you think her food sounds wonderful, please read the review of her novel that immediately follows this blog. I promise you ... it's a tasty treat for your mind.

And now, here's Elizabeth: 
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Thank you, James for inviting me to cookinwithmisshavana. While Miss Havana is busy cookin up trouble, I spice up my world in the kitchen.

From Italian roots--my maiden name is Bisconti--I inherited a passion for food. As a child, I watched, assisted, and had fun with family members while they created specialties. I gleaned cooking tips from both my mother and father who often said, “To cook with love add kisses to your dishes.”

At eight years old, I felt a kinship to all living creatures and refused to eat fish, fowl, or meat. Fresh fruits and veggies were our mainstays; therefore, it was easy to become a vegetarian. Contrary to popular belief, this vegetarian doesn’t like bland foods, overcooked broccoli, or steamed vegetables. Both Miss Havana and I like things tasty, hot, and/or spicy.

Regardless of my eating preference, I serve meat to family and friends. Since I choose not to taste the stuff, I cook by aroma. One whiff tells me not only which spice to add, but how much. Following is an example of an aromatic recipe:

Bisconti Meat Sauce

Olive oil
½ of red or white onion
5-6 garlic cloves chopped
2-28 oz cans whole tomatoes
2- 6 oz cans tomato paste
1-1 ½ cups water
2 links hot Italian sausage (remove casing & sauté until cooked)
1 lb hamburger meat (sauté until cooked)
1 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons pepper, and 1-2 teaspoons sugar to offset the acid
1-2 tablespoons oregano

Heat oil, sauté onion, quickly add garlic (do not brown or garlic will taste bitter), add tomatoes, tomato paste, and water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to a slow simmer. Add cooked sausage & hamburger meat. Add spices. Cook at lowest temperature for 3-5 hours refrigerate, and serve with pasta the next day—makes a great lasagna sauce.

I subscribe to several food magazines, have shelves of cookbooks, visit lots of food sites, and watch TV cooking shows. Although I’m a recipe junky I seldom follow any recipe to the letter. By imagining a desired result, I add, delete, or create a new recipe before trying it. I use as few ingredients as possible allowing each flavor to maintain its identity and integrity.  Following is one of my own creations.

Sullivan Mushroom Bake

Coat a 9 X 13 glass-pan with olive oil, layer 8 oz sliced mushrooms, dot with cream cheese, sprinkle with diced scallion & 2 teaspoons of capers, cover with shredded cheddar cheese, and drizzle with olive oil. Bake @ 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

Last year my husband Bill and a neighbor built me a wood-burning pizza oven—il forno. The two men made a stone façade surrounding a clay dome imported from Tuscany. Using wood Bill cut, split, and cured he starts the four-hour process of raising the oven’s dome temperature to 1000 degrees—even Miss Havana would consider this oven hot.

Meanwhile, I prepare the dough—flour, yeast, salt, & water.  It takes three hours for the first proofing and 1 hour to proof the individual dough balls. I toss and shape the dough and top it with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil picked from my garden, crushed red pepper, chopped garlic, and olive oil. As my personal pizzaiolo--pizza chef—Bill bakes each pizza to perfection in 90 seconds. Yum!

Even after feeling satisfied with a recipe I tend not to measure usually adding a pinch of this and a dab of that. The exception is when I bake. Following is a family favorite:

Bisconti Cheesecake

1 lb cream cheese (2- 8 oz cartons)
1 lb ricotta (16 oz)
1½ cups sugar
4 room temperature eggs slightly beaten
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch

Mix well with an electric mixer (20 minutes on medium speed). Fold into mixture with wooden spoon ¼ cup melted butter & 1 pint (2 cups) sour cream.

Rub bottom & sides of a 9” spring-pan with butter; sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs. Cover outside bottom of pan with foil. Pour mixture in spring pan.  Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour.

Do not open oven.  Turn off heat.  Leave cake in oven for 2 more hours

Chill for several hours or overnight. Remove outer spring circle.

Top with strawberries, kiwis, fresh mint tossed with 2 teaspoons lemon juice or fresh berries and whipped cream. Indulge!

I especially enjoyed Miss Havana cookin up both mischief and wisdom by writing an advice column. As a psychologist, I too whip up practical psychological suggestions to enhance everyday life. A tidbit follows:

PERFECTION IS IMPOSSIBLE
EXCELLENCE IS ACHIEVABLE
BUT DOING WHAT WORKS IS BEST

Check out: http://www.ebsullivan.com/blog.html to view my Lyte Bytes Blog.
Buon Appetito!
Ciao, Elizabeth Sullivan 

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