The wholesome joy of 'peasant fare': comfort foods from around the globe elicit fond memories from overseas travels.
TRAVELING PRODUCES WONDERFUL MEMORIES of exciting places, different people and exotic foods. In each country, a visitor can find a popular comfort food that frequently becomes the visitor's favorite as well.
Such was the case on our trip to Scotland, with memories such as the kilt-clad Scotsman standing in the field playing the bagpipes as our bus drove by and the magnificent stained glass in the museum in Glasgow. And the best comfort food from there turned out to be collops.
A dear friend's mother was from Scotland, and she still had quite a thick brogue and a laugh you could hear around the block, so I checked with her about the recipe. She said it was good, and that you could use ground round steak for an easier and less expensive dish. She also advised using more onion than my recipe included, as the onion gravy was what made the dish so delicious. I tried to duplicate her recipe and was pleased with the result.
SCOTCH COLLOPS 1 pound lean round steak, ground 5 tablespoons flour 3 or more tablespoons margarine 1 large mild onion, chopped 1 1/2 cup water mixed with 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce 3 cubes beef or chicken bouillon Salt and pepper to taste  In large bowl, place ground steak. Sift flour over steak and mix until flour is thoroughly mixed in and absorbed by steak.  In heavy skillet, melt margarine. When sizzling hot, add meat and break into tiny pieces with wooden utensil. Add onion, water mixture and bouillon cubes, and cook until meat is thoroughly browned. Continue cooking until completely combined into thick gravy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve over thick mashed potatoes.
Three years after my husband died, I married an Italian gentleman whose parents had immigrated to Argentina from Italy, and we took a wonderful tour of Italy and Greece. Of course, almost any pasta is a comfort food in Italy, but I particularly liked one I had never had before. It was what we call Breaded Veal Cutlets, and it was served with pasta in a mushroom sauce.
COTOLETTE ALLA MILANESE 4 boneless pastured veal chops, pounded thin 1 egg, beaten well 1 cup fine bread crumbs 3/4 pound butter Juice of % lemon Salt and pepper to taste  Dip each chop in egg, then immediately in bread crumbs.  To clarify butter, put in small pan and allow to stand in very warm place (not over flame) until it melts and salt sinks to bottom. Pour off butter and discard sediment.  In skillet, heat clarified butter until very hot. Add chops and brown to dark golden color on both sides.  Squeeze lemon juice over chops and in butter, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Reduce heat, cover and let simmer for about 20 minutes.  Serve with your choice of pasta (preferably small) in thick mushroom sauce. I make it the easy way with mushroom soup, beef bouillon and mushrooms, preferably fresh, but canned if fresh are unavailable.
While in Italy, we saw all the famous places in Rome, Florence and Venice, where we bought beautiful glass items to take home to our children. We also visited Pompeii and the Blue Grotto, which I believe is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.
From there, we went by ferry to see sights in Greece, including the Parthenon and the Coliseum. Our last night there, we had dinner at a rooftop cafe. The entire city glittered with lights. It was spectacular! And so was the food. We chose Shish-ka-bobs with Greek Rice as our favorite.
SHISH-KA-BOBS Marinade: 1 cup dry red wine 2 tablespoons dried, chopped garlic 3 tablespoons olive oil Salt, pepper and oregano to taste 4 large, thin, lamb chops 12 cherry tomatoes 12 fresh mushrooms 12 small onions 2 green peppers, cut into chunks  For marinade, combine wine, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper and oregano. (The Greeks like a lot of oregano.) Reserve about % cup marinade for basting during cooking.  Cut chops into small squares and soak in marinade until almost all the liquid is absorbed. (Be sure you have soaked your skewers in water if using wood skewers. I find it easier and safer to use metal ones. Incidentally, the word "shish" means skewer.)  Thread meat, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions and green peppers on skewers. Broil until done, brushing reserved marinade on kabobs as they broil to give them more flavor and a glossy appearance. I serve the kabobs with brown rice, in which I add finely chopped walnuts, chopped onion, chopped black olives and chopped fresh mushrooms.
While I have always wanted to visit the Scandinavian countries, I have never had the opportunity. However, a small town in California, Solvang, near Santa Barbara, looks about like any small town in Denmark, and I have been there many times. We always have lunch at a small restaurant with a lovely smorgasbord. My favorite items are probably the Danish meatballs and the salmon salad.
DANISH MEATBALLS 2 slices bread, cubed 3/4 cup milk 1 pound ground beef 1/2 pound ground pork 1/2 small onion, minced 2 eggs, beaten 1 teaspoon nutmeg Salt and pepper to taste Olive oil Butter or margarine 1 can cream of mushroom soup 1/2 soup can milk  Soak bread in 3/4 cup milk until most of the milk is soaked up. Add ground beef, ground pork, onion, eggs, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Mix well and form into meatballs.  Heat olive oil and butter in skillet; add meatballs and brown well on all sides. Transfer to casserole dish.  Combine soup and remaining milk until smooth; pour over meatballs. Bake at 350[degrees]F for about 45 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked through.
SALMON SALAD 1 large can salmon, drained 1 hard-boiled egg, grated 1 stalk celery, chopped Mayonnaise and pickle relish to taste 1 onion, chopped fine Salt and pepper to taste 1 medium tomato, chopped fine  Discard bones and skin from salmon. Mix salmon with remaining ingredients.  Chill thoroughly before serving.
To these two recipes, I would add platters of cold meats and cheeses, pickled beets and onions, rye bread, spiced peaches and applesauce, deviled eggs and more. If you have a Danish bakery in your area, check out the aebleskiver--delicious small pastries similar to doughnuts, served with raspberry sauce and whipped cream.
My travels have yet to take me to Russia. However, one of my favorite meals is beef stroganoff, and I hope I have the opportunity to go to Russia someday and verify this delicious dish.
BEEF A LA STROGANOFF 1 1/2 pounds lean round steak 2 tablespoons water 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, cut into pieces 1 to 3 tablespoons butter, divided 1 tablespoon flour 1/2 pint sour cream Salt and paprika to taste  Trim meat. Cut across the grain into long, thin strips about half the width of a pencil, then cut into inch-length pieces.  Place water in skillet. When hot, add beef. Cover and cook slowly for 15 minutes, turning occasionally. Add mushrooms and allow to cook for an additional 10 minutes. If the pan becomes dry, add a little butter (just enough to keep the pan from becoming dry).  After 25 minutes in all, place meat and mushrooms in top of double boiler.  In frying pan, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Stir in flour until combined. Add sour cream and mix well. Pour into beef mixture and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, or until thoroughly heated through. Season with salt and paprika. Serve over hot, creamy noodles.
Freelance writer Margaret Saul has visited all 50 states and had traveled around the world. She now makes her home in southern Oregon.
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|Title Annotation:||Comfort Foods|
|Date:||Sep 1, 2011|
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