Category Archives: Cooking with a Pinch of History

Cooking with a Pinch of History: Apple Spice Dumplings with Cooked Custard

by Brittany Avila

Fall is here, and in the spirit of kicking off the holiday season right I chose a festive recipe for this month! This post includes two recipes, both of which are from one of my favorite cook books, California Mission Recipes. Apple spice dumplings and a cooked custard to top it create the ideal combo for a fall treat. This post includes two recipes, one for the apples and other for the custard, but it is not necessary to do both as they are delicious on their own!

Apple Spice Dumplings

1 cup raw rice

4 apples

2 quarts water

3 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon cinammon

Cheesecloth

Begin by washing the rice thoroughly through several rinses; drain and drop slowly into boiling water; reduce heat to a simmer, cover tightly and cook for 30 minutes. Drain the rice in a colander and rinse with cold water to separate the grains.

Although California’s climate is not ideal for growing rice, it was shipped to El Presidio de Santa Barbara several times from the port in San Blas, Mexico between 1779-1810.

The rice cooking just before I brought it to a simmer. Photo by Brittany Avila.
The rice cooking just before I brought it to a simmer. Photo by Brittany Avila.

Next pare and core your apples. It’s very difficult now to find an apple corer that doesn’t also slice up the apple into individual pieces as well, so if you have no luck in finding this instrument as I did, carefully use a knife to cut a cylinder out of the middle of the apple to remove the core.

Once you have done that without displacing a finger or limb, fill the cores with the sugar and cinnamon.

Sugar and cinnamon were also imported from San Blas to Santa Barbara.

The cavities of the apples filled with ingredients that give you cavities! Photo by Brittany Avila.
The cavities of the apples filled with ingredients that give you cavities! Photo by Brittany Avila.

Cover the apples with a thick coating of the boiled rice, which should be fairly sticky. Then, place each coated apple in the center of a cloth, gather and tie the ends of the cloth together. This should be done to each apple dumpling.

Due to California’s climate it is unlikely that apples were grown in most areas in Alta California during the Spanish period, but they may possible have been grown at some of the northern missions. There is no record of them being imported, since they do not travel very well.

Place your wrapped dumplings in a pot, and cover with 2 quarts of cold water. Bring the water to a quick boil and cook for 40 minutes. Allow the covered dumplings to cool, and then carefully remove the cheese cloth and place on a plate.

Custard

6 eggs

1 cup sugar

4 cups milk, scalded

½ cup masa (or ¼ cup corn starch)

½ cup water

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Begin preparing your custard by separating your eggs (pull the yolks out of the egg whites). Beat the yolks until thick and lemon colored.

Many of the California missions maintained livestock to provide basic ingredients and nutrition. Chickens were kept at many of the missions, but there is specific record that geese were the main producer of eggs at La Purisima Mission just north of Santa Barbara.

I found the easiest way to take the yolks out was by using a spoon. Photo by Brittany Avila.
I found the easiest way to take the yolks out was by using a spoon. Photo by Brittany Avila.

While preparing your eggs you can begin scalding the milk. For those of you who have not scalded milk before, pour in a pan and heat up your stove to 180 degrees. I used a cooking thermometer to measure this. Continually stir the milk to make sure it does not scorch. It is done when you start to see tiny bubbles appear on the edges of the pan.

Goats have been recorded as a popular source of milk in Alta California. Cattle were being utilized for meat, tallow and hide, so goats were an alternative milk source that is not as common today.

Add the scalded milk and ½ cup sugar to the beaten eggs. Then blend your masa with water and add to your mixture.

Masa is the dough used to make corn tortillas. Masa is made from nixtamal, which is created from soaking corn kernels in water and lime. This form of making tortillas was more common in Mexico, since corn grew better in that climate, while wheat grew better in California.

Cook this mixture in a pan over low heat. Stir constantly until the custard thickens. At this time preheat your oven to 200 degrees. Pour your custard into a baking pan and sprinkle with nutmeg.

Nutmeg is also one of the many items imported in from San Blas, Mexico during the Spanish period in California.

Make sure to spread the egg white mixture as evenly as possible over the custard. Photo by Brittany Avila.
Make sure to spread the egg white mixture as evenly as possible over the custard. Photo by Brittany Avila.

Beat the egg whites you separated earlier, add in the remaining ½ cup sugar and spread over the top of your custard. Bake in the oven for 7 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let it cool afterwards. Now you are ready to pour your custard over your warm apple dumpling and taste the fall season!

One word to describe this picture: YUM! Photo by Brittany Avila.
One word to describe this picture: YUM! Photo by Brittany Avila.

Bibliography:

Cleveland, Bess. California Mission Recipes. Japan: Charles E. Tuttle Company,1965, pp. 102,104.

“La Purisima Livestock.” In La Purisima Mission State Historic Park, 1970, p MIS 36.

Perissinotto, Giorgio ed. Documenting Everyday Life in Early Spanish California: The Santa Barbara Presidio Memorias y Facturas, 1779-1810. Santa Barbara, CA: Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, 1998, pp. 353-363.

Mike Imwalle, SBTHP Archaeologist and Master Gardener, also provided historical information about apples and rice in Early California.

Cooking With a Pinch of History: Pescado Asado Ahumado con Laurel

by Brittany Avila

Even though this month marks the beginning of fall, I wanted to continue to the healthy eating lifestyle most people take up in the summer with this delicious fish recipe based on California missions’ cooking. Fishing was an important part of the native Chumash culture as a seaside community, so I’m excited to finally cook a recipe that is so closely related to Santa Barbara. Not only is this recipe light and healthy, but also quick and simple!

Ingredients

1 fish (2 to 3 lbs—this is what the recipe calls for, but I bought two fish fillets which were a combined total of 18 oz. since I was only cooking for two)

Salt

Pepper

Lemon Juice

Olive Oil

Bay Laurel leaves, soaked in wine (white)

Scallions

Parsley

Begin by cleaning the fish and wiping it dry. I used Rock Cod for my fish, since rock fish are a common local fish in Santa Barbara water. If you have a whole, fresh fish that you caught straight from the sea, you’re on your own on that cleaning process. But since I bought my fish pre-cleaned from the market, I simply washed it off for good measure and used paper towel to pat it dry.

Rock Cod prepped for the seasonings. Photo by Brittany Avila.
Rock Cod prepped for the seasonings. Photo by Brittany Avila.

Begin soaking your Bay Laurel leaves in wine. These leaves were used by California Native Americans for a number of medical reasons, but also served the purpose as a flea repellent in their hot houses.

Since we are cooking fish, I used a cheap white wine for cooking.

Bay Laurel leaves soaking in a cup with white wine. Photo by Brittany Avila.
Bay Laurel leaves soaking in a cup with white wine. Photo by Brittany Avila.

Make a grill sauce of salt, pepper, lemon juice, and olive oil. This recipe did not provide any measurements, so it will be up to your natural taste and cooking abilities to decide how much of each ingredient is appropriate. I personally mixed in twice as much olive oil as the lemon juice, and did not hold back on the pepper.

When the missions began producing a surplus of olive oil, they were able to make their own holy oil for services. But before it was allowed to be used in a service, the oil first had to be sent to Mexico City to be blessed by a bishop.

As always, I used our Mission  Mills olive oil in the grill sauce. Photo by Brittany Avila.
As always, I used our Mission Mills olive oil in the grill sauce. Photo by Brittany Avila.

Brush the fish with your grill sauce and then place the fish in foil, and onto the grill. Californios would not have used a propane grill as I did, but instead would have probably used a bracero, which was heated by coal in stow holes beneath a ladrillo tile top counter. The fish may have then been placed on a comal, or type of iron pan to cook on.

Throw the soaked Bay Laurel leaves on the heat source from time to time so that the fish receives smoke. I’ve mentioned the practice of placing Bay Laurel leaves on the forehead to cure headaches, but in Early California they would also be binded to the stomach for days in order to cure stomach ailments. Turn the fish frequently, brushing with the grill sauce, so that it is golden.

Another sign that most white fish are ready is when they begin to flake, as you can see here. Photo by Brittany Avila.
Another sign that most white fish are ready is when they begin to flake, as you can see here. Photo by Brittany Avila.

Once it is ready, serve with parsley and scallions on top. Parsley was an introduced herb commonly used in Early California.

A flavorful, healthy entrée ready in minutes! Photo by Brittany Avila.
A flavorful, healthy entrée ready in minutes! Photo by Brittany Avila.

References

Garriga, Andrew, and Francis J. Weber. Andrew Garriga’s Compilation of Herbs & Remedies Used by the Indians & Spanish Californians: Together with Some Remedies of His Own Experience. S. 1978. 22, 25.

Hardwick, Michael R. Changes in Landscape: The Beginnings of Horticulture in the California Missions. Orange, CA: Paragon Agency, 2005. 8-64.

Preston, Mark. California Mission Cookery: A Vanished Cuisine-Rediscovered. Albuquerque, NM: Border Books, 1994. 116.

Timbrook, J. Chumash Ethnobotany:Plant Knowledge Among the Chumash People of Southern California. Berkeley, CA: Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Heyday Books, 2007. 26.

Mike Imwalle, SBTHP Archaeologist and Master Gardener, also provided historical information about local Santa Barbara fish.

Brittany Avila is SBTHP’s Office Manager and is enjoying  pursuing her dream to be a maestro de la cocina

Cooking With a Pinch of History: Chile Verde

by Brittany Avila

This month in the Presidio Heritage Gardens the following vegetables just so happened to be perfectly ripe and ready for picking: tomatillos, onions, poblano peppers and oregano. So instead of searching through historical cookbooks for my next recipe, I decided to utilize the products of our fruitful garden and create a traditional Mexican dish that was sure to have been served in various forms in early California. Therefore I present to you this fresh, tangy concoction known popularly as chile verde.

Ingredients

1 ½ lbs tomatillos

1 white onion

2 poblano peppers (halved and seeded)

4 cloves garlic

¼ tsp Mexican oregano

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp sugar

½ cup vegetable broth

fresh ground pepper (however much you feel necessary)

meat of your choice (pork and poultry are most common for this sauce, but everything from eggs to beef have been used instead!)

These tomatillos were picked fresh from the Presidio Heritage Gardens where they grew like weeds! Photo by Brittany Avila.
These tomatillos were picked fresh from the Presidio Heritage Gardens where they grew like weeds! Photo by Brittany Avila.

You will need to begin by preheating your oven to 450 degrees. Prepare your tomatillos by husking and washing each of them. The washing portion may also involve some scrubbing as some tomatillos might have a sticky residue.

Although we don’t have a specific historical reference of their cultivation in early California, tomatillos were so popular in New Spain that it’s assumed they made their way to California at one point or another through the colonists coming from Mexico.

The tomatillos after preparation and over-ready! Photo by Brittany Avila.
The tomatillos after preparation and oven-ready! Photo by Brittany Avila.

Cut into halves and place onto a well-oiled baking sheet. As always, I used our Santa Inés Mission Mills olive oil to lubricate the sheet.

Tomatillos were domesticated by the Aztecs almost 3,000 years ago. When Spanish conquistadores were introduced to them in Mexico and Central America, they brought them back to Spain but misnamed them as tomate.

Another pick from the Presidio Heritage Gardens! Photo by Brittany Avila.
Another pick from the Presidio Heritage Gardens! Photo by Brittany Avila.

Next cut the poblano peppers into halves, remove all of the seeds inside, wash them off for good measure, and place on a baking sheet when done.

In early California all chiles, regardless of their size, taste or origin were referred to simply as chiles. Therefore it is difficult to make reference to any type of specific chile during this era.

Onions from once again…El Presidio Heritage Gardens! Photo by Brittany Avila.
Onions from once again…the Presidio Heritage Gardens! Photo by Brittany Avila.

I then cut up my onion, which actually was a bundle of small white onions, since they grew to a smaller size in our garden. I guesstimated how much would be equivalent to one whole onion. I simply cut my small onions into halves, but if you are using one large onion I advise cutting it into quarters or even eighths. Place your chopped onions on the sheet.

Garlic before peeled. Photo by Brittany Avila.
Garlic before being peeled. Photo by Brittany Avila.

Lastly I peeled my garlic cloves and placed them on the sheet with everything else. Garlic was eaten raw to cure dropsy, which is more commonly known as edema. Unfortunately breath mints didn’t exist then to cure the bad breath side effects.

By this time my oven was toasty and ready, and I placed my sheet inside.

The outside of the pepper right before it’s ready to be peeled. Photo by Brittany Avila.
The outside of the pepper right before it’s ready to be peeled. Photo by Brittany Avila.

After 30 minutes, check on the vegetables…the peppers should be blackening on the outside but not so burnt that the skin WON’T peel off (that’s right, you want that leathery outside to come off). Take only the peppers off the sheet and run under cold water. As you do this, massage the pepper so that the black parts, or the skin, come off. Set aside.

Chiles sold in markets today are 20th century versions of the chiles found by Europeans during the colonization of California.

The vegetables are just brown enough and ready to be taken out of the oven. Photo by Brittany Avila.
The vegetables are just brown enough and ready to be taken out of the oven. Photo by Brittany Avila.

Once the sheet has been in there a TOTAL of 40 minutes, or when you see the onions browning take the sheet out and let cool.

In early California onions were used as an appetite enhancer, insect repellant and treatment for insect and snake bites.

Take your oregano, salt, sugar, vegetable broth and fresh ground pepper and mix in with peppers, tomatillos, garlic, and onion in a food processor.

The oregano shown here was taken from El Presidio Heritage Gardens and therefore had to be taken off the stalk and crushed before I could add it in. Also shown are the quantities of salt and sugar. Photo by Brittany Avila.
The oregano shown here was taken from El Presidio Heritage Gardens and therefore had to be taken off the stalk and crushed before I could add it in. Also shown are the quantities of salt and sugar. Photo by Brittany Avila.

Once the mixture has reached a puree, let it simmer in a well-oiled pan for 5-10 minutes. This is the point where you can add some shredded chicken as I did, or whatever pre-cooked meat meets your carnivorous needs.

Hens found in our local region during early California would have been Basque or Majorcan hens brought up from Mexico.

Finished to a puree in the blender and then simmering on medium level heat just enough to warm up meat choice and the chile verde. Photo by Brittany Avila.
Finished to a puree in the blender and then simmering on medium level heat just enough to warm up meat choice and the chile verde. Photo by Brittany Avila.

And once again a traditional recipe from Early CA turned out to be a taste bud pleaser!

The final product…tastes better than it looks! Photo by Brittany Avila.
The final product…tastes better than it looks! Photo by Brittany Avila.

Sources

Garriga, Andrew, and Francis J. Weber. Andrew Garriga’s Compilation of Herbs & Remedies Used by the Indians & Spanish Californians: Together with Some Remedies of His Own Experience. S. 1978. 22, 25.

Timbrook, J. Chumash Ethnobotany:Plant Knowledge Among the Chumash People of Southern California. Berkeley, CA: Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Heyday Books, 2007. 26.

Mike Imwalle, SBTHP Archaeologist and Master Gardener, also provided a significant amount of historical information for this piece

Brittany Avila is SBTHP’s Office Manager and is enjoying  pursuing her dream to be a maestro de la cocina

Cooking with a Pinch of History: Mexican Wedding Cookies

by Brittany Avila

After cooking multiple side and entrée dishes, my sweet tooth has finally set in and mandated that I make a dessert for this post. Since we are in the midst of wedding season, I thought what better than to prepare a traditional Mexican wedding dish to go along with this season of many matrimonies.  Mexican wedding cookies were introduced by the Spanish, as they originated in Europe and still exist in many other countries today.  The cookies were prepared at many California rancho weddings in the 1800s. Because this is a simpler recipe than some I’ve done in the past, I thought I would attempt to prepare nearly every ingredient from scratch, and essentially the way early California settlers would have. So you may choose to go the “old school” route with me by preparing your own whole wheat flour and powdered sugar, or use store bought items.

Ingredients

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup pecans, lightly toasted

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, slightly softened but still cool

½ cup powdered sugar

½ teaspoon almond extract

1 ½ cups powdered sugar, for coating

Colored tissue paper, cut into 6-inch squares (optional)

Ingredients for Whole Wheat Flour

1 ½ cup dried white Sonoran wheat grains

Wheat grinder

Ingredients for Powdered Sugar

1 ¾ cup white granulated sugar

¼ cup whole wheat flour

Food processor

Harvesting White Sonoran wheat from the Presidio Heritage gardens. Photo by Michael Imwalle.
Harvesting white Sonoran wheat from the Presidio Heritage gardens. Photo by Michael Imwalle.

If you’re going the old school route and making the whole wheat flour from scratch, you’ll want to begin with this part first as it will take the longest and is an essential ingredient for the rest of the recipe. The white Sonoran wheat I used was harvested from our very own Presidio Heritage Gardens! Assuming you, a friend or kind neighbor have a stock of white Sonoran wheat grains, you will begin with the process of removing the shells from the grain by “winnowing”. Please see a previous blog post on this process here.

 

Once the shells have successfully been removed, you will pull out your handy grinder, pour the grains in and begin what I am doing my best not to call a tedious process. I suggest you put on some good tunes or TV show because this might take a while. Amidst my complaints, it is very rewarding to say you’ve made your own flour!

Preparing to chop pecans. Photo by Brittany Avila.
Preparing to chop pecans. Photo by Brittany Avila.

Now that you have your flour, switch gears to your pecans. You’ll want to chop these up as fine or chunky as you would like them in your cookie. A food processor would make this easier, but if you’re going the old school route you still get the simple luxuries of a knife and cutting board.Pecans are native to North America, and grow primarily in the south-central regions. Although we do not have evidence of them being cultivated in California, we can assume that they may have been brought over from neighboring territories where they were grown.

Toasting the pecans.
Toasting the pecans. Photo by Brittany Avila.

Begin to preheat the oven and allow the nuts to sit in the oven while preheating to lightly toast them.  Their color won’t change dramatically once toasted, just a bit more golden-brown.

Mix the flour and pecans together in a mixing bowl, and being to add your softened butter, working it all with a large spoon. Contemporary appliances like a mixer would make this easier, but if you’re still passionate about doing this early California style you’ll stick with the spoon.

Ingredients for making your own powdered sugar. Photo by Brittany Avila.
Ingredients for making your own powdered sugar. Photo by Brittany Avila.

Before we can add the rest of our ingredients, we must make our own powdered sugar, since pre-made powdered sugar was not available in early California. Don’t worry, this is much simpler than making your own flour. Simply take your white sugar and some whole wheat flour (whether it be extra from your homemade batch, or I just used a store bought one) and mix the two in a food processor, pulsing it. I have a preference towards the highly advertised Magic Bullet, but any will do. Cane sugar was not grown in California, and we do not have evidence that sugar was sold or shipped here already powdered. What we do know though is that in the early 1800s there were two shipments of white sugar shipped to the Santa Barbara Presidio from San Blas, Mexico, and this can be finely ground in combination with flour to make powdered sugar.

Mixing the dough. Photo by Brittany Avila.
Mixing the dough. Photo by Brittany Avila.

Now that you have your powdered sugar, add this and your almond extract to the mixing bowl. Work this dough now with your hands, and then place in the fridge for 30 minutes to cool down. Almonds were brought to the Caribbean colonies and Cortes raised them on his mainland plantations, but they were not cultivated as much in New Spain as orchard fruits. Nonetheless, if they were being cultivated in nearby territories, we can assume they may have been brought to California. Once cool, take the cookies out and begin rolling into walnut sized balls on an UNGREASED pan (put your butter away, these will not stick to the pan!). Place in the oven for 14 minutes. Although they started out brown, take them out only once they have turned golden-brown, and no darker.

Coating the cookies in powdered sugar. Photo by Brittany Avila.
Coating the cookies in powdered sugar. Photo by Brittany Avila.

The cookies are not cooked as long as other cookie recipes in order to retain moisture for the powdered sugar topping to stick. Once they have cooled about 2 minutes, roll each ball in the rest of your powdered sugar and set aside on a plate. I allowed these to cool down on the plate about 15 more minutes until finally testing them on my palate.  Don’t be afraid to completely lather each ball up in with a thick coat of sugar, since some will fall off.

The finished product! Photo by Brittany Avila.
The finished product! Photo by Brittany Avila.

At this point, you have the option of placing each ball onto the center of a square of tissue paper, wrapping each square up and twisting it to make them truly authentic Mexican wedding cookies, and add a little flare to their aesthetics. Unfortunately, even a thin piece of tissue paper was too much of a barrier between the cookie and our staff’s mouths, so I left it out. Needless to say, everyone at SBTHP gave high points to this delectable desert!

Bibliography

Hardwick, Michael. Changes in Landscape: The Beginning of Horticulture in the                                    California Missions.  Orange, CA: Paragon Agency Publishers, 2005: 3-4.

de Packman, Anna BeGue. Early California Hospitality. Glendale, CA: The Arthur H.  Clark Company, 1938.

Perissinotto, Giorgio ed. Documenting Everyday Life in Early Spanish California: TheSanta Barbara Presidio Memorias y Facturas, 1779-1810. Santa Barbara, CA:Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, 1998: p.353-363.

Dunmire, William. Gardens of New Spain: How Mediterranean Plants and Foods Changed America. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2004: 143-295.

Brittany Avila is SBTHP’s Office Manager and is enjoying  pursuing her dream to be a maestro de la cocina

Cooking with a Pinch of History: Ensalada de Papas

by Brittany Avila

Spring is in the air! And with summer just around the corner, I thought a light, fresh, and healthy recipe would be appropriate. This recipe for ensalada de papas is simply an earlier version of our modern day potato salad, in which globs of mayo is not necessary for culinary success. It’s quick, easy, and of course delicious, so please join me on this salad quest! I found this recipe in the Early California and Mexico Cookbook by Don Ricardo.

Disclaimer: I multiplied the original recipe by 1 ½ times since the product would be my contribution to our monthly staff potluck. Therefore, it should serve about 6 people.

Salad Ingredients

9 medium sized Russet potatoes, boiled

4 ½ hard boiled eggs, sliced

3 slices of ham, chopped

(This is very vague on how big a slice of ham is, so I picked up a slab of ham at the store to use because I like ham. It’s up to your discretion how much you’ll add.)

3 celery branches, diced

1 ½ tbs. chopped green chili (I used a pasilla chili)

6 radishes, sliced

2 ¼ tbs. minced parsley

½ cup cooked lima beans (pre-soaked overnight)

Dressing Ingredients

¾ cup olive oil

4 ½ tbs wine vinegar

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 tbs. paprika

¾ tsp. salt

Begin by scrubbing down your potatoes to remove any excess dirt. Rubbing two potatoes together usually proves to be the easiest and quickest method. Then boil for approximately 20 minutes to soften them, or you can use the old fashioned fork method to test when they are soft enough. Allow these to cool.

The potato was introduced to California by a Mr. Collignon who stopped in Monterey when aboard the French expedition vessel led by Jean La Perouse. He was King Louis XVI’s gardener, and was traveling on the expedition in order to share and bring back new plants. He picked up the potatoes he shared in Chile. Photo by Brittany Avila.
The potato was introduced to California by a Mr. Collignon who stopped in Monterey when aboard the French expedition vessel led by Jean La Perouse. He was King Louis XVI’s gardener, and was traveling on the expedition in order to share and bring back new plants. He picked up the potatoes he shared in Chile. Photo by Brittany Avila.

Next, begin boiling your lima beans.

These dried “Christmas” lima beans were grown in the Presidio Heritage Gardens! Photo by Brittany Avila.
These dried “Christmas” lima beans were grown in the Presidio Heritage Gardens! Photo by Brittany Avila.

While you have your lima beans boiling, you can begin chopping up the rest of your salad ingredients and mix these ingredients together.

This celery was picked fresh from the Presidio Heritage Gardens! Early Californian settlers believed celery, or apio, was good for the liver. Perhaps the reason why Bloody Marys are garnished with it?? Photo by Brittany Avila.
This celery was picked fresh from the Presidio Heritage Gardens! Early Californian settlers believed celery, or apio, was good for the liver. Perhaps the reason why Bloody Marys are garnished with it?? Photo by Brittany Avila.

Once the potatoes and lima beans are cool you can slice these up and add them to the mix.

When raw, peeled, and placed on a wound, spuds were believed to decrease bruising. Photo by Brittany Avila.
When raw, peeled, and placed on a wound, spuds were believed to decrease bruising. Photo by Brittany Avila.

Now you may begin preparing your dressing. First mash your garlic into the olive oil. I believe crushing the garlic helps to release more of its flavor. Next add your salt until emulsified, or in simpler terms, the olive and salt are mixed together well.

Garlic, or ajo, was believed to have curative powers when mixed with boiled sweet crab powder into a paste and placed on a cancerous wound. Photo by Brittany Avila.
Garlic, or ajo, was believed to have curative powers when mixed with boiled sweet crab powder into a paste and placed on a cancerous wound. Photo by Brittany Avila.

Lastly add the paprika and wine vinegar; beat well.

Adding paprika and red wine vinegar gives a bright red color to your dressing. Photo by Brittany Avila.
Adding paprika and red wine vinegar gives a bright red color to your dressing. Photo by Brittany Avila.

Now you are ready to complete your salad! Simply mix the salad ingredients together, and fold the dressing in.

A colorful and DELICIOUS masterpiece! Photo by Brittany Avila.
A colorful and DELICIOUS masterpiece! Photo by Brittany Avila.

 

Based on the unanimous reactions of our staff, this recipe is a MUST TRY!

Bibliography

Dunmire, William W. Gardens of New Spain: How Mediterranean Plants and Foods Changed America. Austin: University of Texas, 2004. 280.

Garriga, Andrew, and Francis J. Weber. Andrew Garriga’s Compilation of Herbs & Remedies Used by the Indians & Spanish Californians: Together with Some Remedies of His Own Experience. S.l.: S.n., 1978. 20-33.

Hardwick, Michael R. Changes in Landscape: The Beginnings of Horticulture in the California Missions. Orange, CA: Paragon Agency, 2005. 8-64.

Ricardo, Don. Early California and Mexico Cookbook. California: Borden Publishing, 1968. 27.

Brittany Avila is SBTHP’s Office Manager and is enjoying  pursuing her dream to be a maestro de la cocina

Cooking with a Pinch of History: Lamb Shanks with Claret

by Brittany Avila

I found this particular recipe in California Mission Recipes and decided on it solely for the self-serving purpose that I LOVE lamb. I cut the original recipe I found into a third, as it calls for 6 lamb shanks, and I wasn’t keen on cooking for a large family. Therefore, I began with 2 lamb shanks and cut down the rest of the ingredients accordingly:

Ingredients:

2 lamb shanks

1 tablespoon of dried celery tops (you can find this in the spice isle of the grocery store, or do what I did and simply use fresh celery tops)

1/3 sprig of parsley, chopped

1/8 tsp thyme

1/3 of a bay leaf

½ to 1 cup of boiling water

¼ cup whole wheat flour

½ cup claret wine (any light, dry wine will do; I used a cheap sauvignon blanc)

1/6 cup olive oil (I used Mission Mills olive oil, SBTHP’s newest product in the shop (for sales info contact our shop manager through the link) pressed from olives grown at the historic Santa Inés Mission Mills! You can find more info about our olives here)

Salt and pepper

Parsley was originally imported to Alta California for use as an herb, spice, and vegetable. Its herbal uses ranged from cooking to medicinal purposes, where it was used to treat gastronomical disorders by grinding the root, stem and seeds into a flour that was then eaten. California Bay Laurel (bay leaf) is a native plant used for flavoring in early California. Photo by Brittany Avila.
Parsley was originally imported to Alta California for use as an herb, spice, and vegetable. Its herbal uses ranged from cooking to medicinal purposes, where it was used to treat gastronomical disorders by grinding the root, stem and seeds into a flour that was then eaten. California Bay Laurel (bay leaf) is a native plant used for flavoring in early California. Photo by Brittany Avila.

Place both lamb shanks and herbs together in a kettle. If you are puzzled by what celery tops are, they are exactly what they sound like. Cut off only the top leaves of the celery stalks if you’re going fresh, or make life easy and simply add your pre-dried celery tops.

Sheep, or borregas, were brought to California to the beautiful frontier during the Portola-Serra expedition. Sheep’s wool was the chief source for clothing and blankets for both Spaniards and neophytes at the missions, but sheep were used secondarily as a meat source. Photo by Brittany Avila.
Sheep, or borregas, were brought to California during the Portola-Serra expedition. Sheep’s wool was the chief source for clothing and blankets for both Spaniards and neophytes at the missions, but sheep were used secondarily as a meat source. Photo by Brittany Avila.

Because this would’ve been a large iron cast kettle hung over an open fire, I improvised with an iron cooking pan over my stove, since I imagine my landlord wouldn’t be too pleased with an open fire on my porch and I didn’t have a large iron kettle laying around, nor would I know where to purchase one.

The modern day stove top we are cooking on would’ve been replaced by a bracero during Early California, which was a ladrillo, or red tile stove top with stow holes and iron grates to place hot coals in. The bottom portion would’ve been built out of adobe, ladrillo or stone. If you’d like to see a reconstructed bracero, stop by the cocina at El Presidio de Santa Barbara, SHP! Photo by Brittany Avila.
The modern day stove top we are cooking on would’ve been replaced by a bracero during Early California, which was a ladrillo, or red tile stove top with stow holes and iron grates to place hot coals in. The bottom portion would’ve been built out of adobe, ladrillo or stone. If you’d like to see a reconstructed bracero, stop by the cocina at El Presidio de Santa Barbara, SHP! Photo by Brittany Avila.

Place the ½ cup of boiling water (boiled in a separate pot) over the lamb shanks and herbs. Let this simmer for one hour. During my cooking venture, I had to add ½ cup more boiling water half way through since most of it had evaporated and I didn’t want the herbs or lamb burning on the pan.

Take lamb shanks off the pan and allow to cool slightly. Then sprinkle with salt and pepper, roll each shank in flour, and sprinkle with salt and pepper again. Because I wasn’t growing and grinding up my own flour as Spanish settlers did (my porch doesn’t make for a good garden), I purchased whole wheat flour to be as close and accurate to the recipe as possible.

Flour was made from Sonoran wheat, which was introduced to California by Spanish missionaries coming from the Sonora region of Mexico. Instead of a factory with specialized heavy machinery, a grinding stone or metate, would’ve been used by early Californians to grind the wheat into flour by hand or por mano. The stone used to grind the wheat against the metate was called a mano! Photo by Brittany Avila.
Flour was made from Sonoran wheat, which was introduced to California by Spanish missionaries coming from the Sonora region of Mexico. Instead of a factory with specialized heavy machinery, a grinding stone or metate, would’ve been used by early Californians to grind the wheat into flour by hand or “por mano.” The stone used to grind the wheat against the metate was called a mano! Photo by Brittany Avila.

Heat oven to 375 degrees and place lamb shanks in a shallow cooking pan. Place in oven for one hour. Instead of an oven, an horno would’ve been used in Early California, which is a dome shaped adobe structure commonly used to bake bread and other foods. This too can be seen in the cocina at El Presidio de Santa Barbara SHP.

Mix the olive oil and wine together. Baste the lamb shanks with this mixture every 15 minutes. Do not skimp on the basting; the more basting, the more juicy your meat will come out.

Claret was a type of grape introduced to California by the Spanish. Claret and other wines were made by fermenting all of the sugar from the grape. These wines were popular as a lot could be consumed before intoxication. Photo by Brittany Avila.
Claret was a type of grape introduced to California by the Spanish. Claret and other wines were made by fermenting all of the sugar from the grape. These wines were popular as a lot could be consumed before intoxication. Photo by Brittany Avila.

Take lamb shanks out of the oven after an hour, or when they reach a nice golden brown.

I cut my lamb shanks up and shared with the SBTHP staff, who gave the final product a thumbs up! Lamb mission #1 successfully completed!

The final product! Photo by Brittany Avila.
The final product! Photo by Brittany Avila.

Sources

Sortomme, Jerry. Plants of Spanish, Alta CA 1764-1834. Rep. N.p.: n.p., October 2011.

Cleveland, Bess. California Mission Recipes. Japan: Charles E. Tuttle Company,1965: 50.

Spiller, Monica. “Sonoran Wheat History: Another Look.” mss (2008): 1-2. Presidio Research Center Vertical Files, “Plants.”

Tays, George. Ranch and Mission Industries in California. Berkeley: n.p., 1941.

Mission San Antonio De Padua Herbs: Medical Herbs of Early Days with Ambrisan, Latin, remedial and common index and glossary. 1974. Presidio Research Center Vertical Files, “Plants.”

Brittany Avila is SBTHP’s Office Manager and is enjoying  pursuing her dream to be a maestro de la cocina

Cooking With a Pinch of History: Fried Fish

by Brittany Avila

Brittany Avila, left, with Anne Petersen, preparing a historical meal in the Presidio Cocina at a recent living history event.
Brittany Avila, left, with Anne Petersen, preparing a historical meal in the Presidio Cocina at a recent living history event. Photo by Fritz Olenberger.

In an effort to broaden our culinary horizons in relationship to our historical work, I have decided to produce a cooking series to share with blog readers. I offer myself as the inexperienced chef, and will attempt to cook traditional recipes from Early California in my modern kitchen. I will strive to be as historically accurate to the recipe as possible through research and use of exact ingredients from the original recipe, but my use of ovens and non-stick cookware will bring us back to the 21st century. Nonetheless, if you follow my series you will get the opportunity to taste the flavors of Early Spanish California!

Fried Fish

I found this delightful recipe in the book California Mission Recipes, and mainly chose it for its simplicity, which I felt needed to be a necessary quality for my first Spanish colonial cooking venture. But I also decided on this recipe because I liked the idea of cooking fish, as this was such an important resource in the Santa Barbara area. The fish, as well as the other ingredients, are a fantastic representation of the food prepared in our region.

Ingredients:

½ cup of olive oil

2 teaspoons onion juice

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 bay leaf

½ garlic clove, crushed

4 whole peppercorns

dash of grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon salt

2 pounds filet of fish (I used tilapia, but any white fish will do)

butter (left up to your discretion)

1 cup white wine

1 sprig parsley, minced

Although Early Californians often cooked in adobe cookhouses, which were typically separate from the main house, your kitchen (which I assume is in your main house) will do and I simply advise that it’s equipped with a chopping board and stove top.

Onion and garlic were common herbs used in early California. Photo by Brittany Avila.
Onion and garlic were common herbs used in early California. Photo by Brittany Avila.

Make a sauce by blending the first 8 ingredients in a bowl. Because I could not find onion juice at the store and (you may run into this problem as well), I simply improvised by adding about a quarter of an onion, chopped.

Making the fish marinade. Photo by Brittany Avila.
Making the fish marinade. Photo by Brittany Avila.

Cut the filets into serving portions, if they are not already cut so.

The Chumash of the Santa Barbara region were expert fishermen. Common fish in the area were seabass, and any rock fish such as smelt and red snapper. The Chumash introduced these local delicacies to the Spanish settlers. Photo by Brittany Avila.
 Common fish in the area were sea bass  and any rock fish such as smelt and red snapper. The Chumash, expert fishermen, introduced these local delicacies to the Spanish settlers. Photo by Brittany Avila.

Please note that I used tilapia for this recipe, and although it’s not historically accurate it was the only fresh fish available to me at the time!

Dip each piece of fish in the sauce, and then place in a bowl and pour the remaining sauce over them. Let this marinate for 2 to 3 hours. I marinated mine for 2 hours, and felt this was long enough.  Remove the fish and wipe dry (with a paper towel or napkin). Strain the sauce that remains and put aside.

Marinating the fish Photo by Brittany Avila.
Marinating the fish. Photo by Brittany Avila.

Place butter in a heavy skillet, set at med/high temperature. I used about half a cup, because in my own and Paula Dean’s opinions you can never have too much butter.

Early Californians would have used a comal instead of a stove top to fry fish. This was an iron griddle placed over a fire and most commonly used to cook tortillas. Photo by Brittany Avila.
Early Californians would have used a comal instead of a stove top to fry fish. A comal is an iron griddle placed over a fire and most commonly used to cook tortillas. Photo by Brittany Avila.

Place fish on the skillet and fry until a golden brown color. Remove from the pan and let cool.

While frying the fish, add wine to the remaining sauce. (I used a cheapo bottle of wine ($3.00) since it is only for cooking and the variance in taste will not be as noticeable.)

Heating the sauce.  Photo by Brittany Avila.
Heating the sauce. Photo by Brittany Avila.

Heat the sauce over the stovetop in a small pot. When finished pour over the fried fish.

Garnish with parsley (this is not just for looks, I believe it adds a hint of taste too).

The finished dish!  Photo by Brittany Avila.
The finished dish! Photo by Brittany Avila.

If you don’t consider yourself a wine snob, pour yourself a glass of your leftover cheapo wine, pair with some rice (it went well with my meal) and enjoy!

Sources

Cleveland, Bess Anderson. “Fish and Poultry.” California Mission Recipes. Rutland, VT: C.E. Tuttle, 1965.

Kimbro, Edna E. “Early California Kitchen and Hearths.”  July 23, 1992. MS Presidio Research Center .

Photo by Fritz Olenberger
Photo by Fritz Olenberger

Brittany Avila is SBTHP’s Office Manager and is enjoying  pursuing her dream to be a maestro de la cocina