Cooper self-taught and comfortable in the kitchen
This week’s featured home cook was suggested by his girlfriend, Donna Purvis, who says he’s quite worthy. He has raised his children on his own for the past 13 years and shares his cooking with many. “He loves to cook for others and is always willing to cater whatever type of dinner any of his friends need for a great gathering. He is great Southern cook and also makes great salsa!” Name: Alan CooperAge: ReallyResidence: CharlestonFamily: Four children, Candice, Ashley, Chaz and ChaceOccupation: Self-employed engineering sales repQ. You are a self-taught cook. When and how did that come about? A. My mother was a great cook. I would spend time sitting at the counter watching her cook. She would prepare several different meals and store them in the refrigerator so we could “Heat and Eat” as we came and went.Q. Had you had previous cooking experience? A. Not growing up. Started to cook while in college to survive. Made a deal with my roommates: “I cook, you clean.”Q. You don’t follow recipes much. How do you have the confidence to do that?A. I’ve become very comfortable in the kitchen. When I prepare food, I taste everything during the whole process. This way I know how it will turn out before I feed anyone else.Q. Do you recall the first thing you ever made that you could say to yourself, “Wow, this is pretty good.”A. Oh, yeah. It was ramen noodle soup. I added some pepper and a teaspoon of jalapeno juice. It was fantastic, and I have been making it like that for my kids and friends ever since. Sometimes the simplest of touches give the best results.Q. What has been the most important or valuable thing you’ve learned over the years?A. If I take the time to make food that makes people think about their mothers or grandmothers. The priceless stories they tell make it all worthwhile. I also trust my instincts.Q. What is your children’s favorite dish?A. No question, macaroni and cheese.Q. We hear you like to cook for gatherings. What might be on the menu? A. Slow-smoked beef brisket or pork roast and vegetables. With fresh green beans or butter beans cooked with smoked neckbone and onions and chicken broth. Mashed potatoes made with cream cheese, fresh butter and seasoning. Brown gravy made from the meat drippings is a must.Q. What is something you would like to know more about? Why? A. I would like to learn how to make more types of sauces to complement different meat dishes. A favorite recipe: Coop’s SalsaIngredients1 (14.4-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes or 2 large ripe tomatoes, quartered1 medium sweet onion, quartered2 tablespoons jarred jalapeno slices with juice, or more to taste2 cloves garlic1/2 bunch cilantro, leaves only1/2 teaspoon onion salt1 tablespoon cumin1 teaspoon black pepper1 teaspoon salt2 tablespoons red wine vinegarPinch of sugarJuice of 1 limeDirectionsCombine all ingredients in a food processor or blender. (You may have to blend half at a time depending on the size of your food processor.)Pulse ingredients until desired consistency: The longer you blend, the finer the salsa. If you would like to suggest a good home cook to be profiled, email email@example.com with “Good Cook” as the subject line. Briefly describe the person’s talent and how you know him or her, and provide a phone number or email address so we can contact them.
Last Sunday was not the last word on coleslaw, which is derived from two Dutch words, kool for cabbage and sla for salad — or “koolsla.” Apparently many of you prefer slaw without mayonnaise or dairy products, as more recipes trickled in.
Sharon Cook of Charleston writes, “This is a recipe that my mother and I got from some special ladies at Hibben United Methodist Church in Mount Pleasant back in 1973.”
She continues, “The original recipe had more sugar, less vinegar and no carrots but my mom and I tweaked it over the years. We often use a mix of green and purple cabbage as well. A small jar of diced pimientos can be substituted for the red pepper.”
1 large cabbage, shredded
1 pound carrots, shredded
1 medium mild onion, finely chopped (yellow or red will do)
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons mustard seed
2 teaspoons celery seed
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons sea salt
Place cabbage, carrots, onion and peppers in large plastic container with lid. Combine vinegar, sugar, mustard seed, celery seed, turmeric and salt in 4-quart pot on stovetop over medium high heat; bring to a boil and let boil for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until sugar is completely dissolved. Set aside and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Pour over vegetables in plastic container, and mix well. Allow to marinate at least 24 hours before serving.
Slaw can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. Excess liquid can be drained away prior to serving.
Also thanks to Karol Gobel of James Island.
Another order of business is correcting the amount of sugar in a recipe from last week.
Cliff’s Cole Slaw
1 medium head cabbage, shredded
1 teaspoon salt
1 carrot, grated
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon whole mustard seed
1 teaspoon celery seed
¾ cup sugar
Mix salt with cabbage and let stand to drain in colander for 1 hour. Squeeze out excess water and mix with carrot and bell pepper.
For dressing, mix remaining ingredients in medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, let cool to lukewarm and pour over cabbage mixture. Mix well.
Making Popeye proud
The comic strip and cartoon character Popeye the Sailorman once was synonymous with spinach in American culture. He was proof that spinach gives you swagger and big muscles.
But this is no joke. It’s been reported that spinach consumption markedly increased during the 1930s as Popeye’s fame grew. In 2010, a study showed that children who watched Popeye cartoons subsequently ate more vegetables.
So maybe we don’t need laws restricting or banning bad-for-you foods, just more Popeyes out there.
A recent request was made for easy, healthy recipes for spinach.
Well, it doesn’t get any better for you than a recipe sent by Mary Larry of Charleston. The recipe is found in the “Popular Greek Recipes” cookbook, a product of our local Greek community and the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church.
Yields 4 servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon chopped onions
2 (10-ounce) packages fresh spinach, trimmed, rinsed and drained
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of ½ lemon
Heat oil in skillet. Add garlic and onions. Stir for 30 seconds. Add spinach and cook for 2 minutes until wilted and liquid is absorbed. Add salt and pepper. Stir in lemon juice and toss to blend.
Mary also supplied a second recipe from the book:
Spinach Corn Bread
4 to 6 servings
1 stick butter, melted
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
½ teasooon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dried dill
1 (12-ounce) container cottage or ricotta cheese
2 cups cornbread mix
Beat eggs. Stir in butter, onions, spinach, salt, pepper, dill and cottage or ricotta cheese. Add cornbread mix. Spread mixture into an 8x8x2-inch greased pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 t0 35 minutes.
Variations: For a more pungent flavor, add ½ cup crumbled feta cheese to the mixture. Or, sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top before baking.
Karol Gobel shares a casserole recipe:
1 (10-ounce) package chopped frozen spinach, thawed and moisture squeezed out
2 beaten eggs
2 cups cottage cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Spray a 9x9-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray. Mix all ingredients together well. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until set.
Judy Reinhard of Mount Pleasant, retired kitchen store owner of “fred” on King Street, says she could not resist sending this recipe, even though the Italian sausage might make it less than perfectly healthy.
Not to worry, I say. There are lots of sausage choices available, such as turkey and chicken that would be alternatives to the conventional pork one, if that’s a concern.
Spinach Salad With Italian Sausage
4 hot Italian sausages
1 teaspoon plus 3 tablespoons oil
1 bunch of green onions, sliced
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 to 3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
4 cups spinach
Cook sausages in 1 teaspoon of the oil until done. Slice in 1- to 2-inch slices and set aside. Heat drippings. Add green onions. Cook 1 minute. Add vinegar, boil and scrape (deglaze) pan. Mix in the remaining 3 tablespoons oil and the mustard.
Add sausages to warm through. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour over spinach in a large salad bowl and toss.
Who’s got the recipe?
A reader is looking for beef and vegetable stir-fry recipes.
A West Ashley reader would like to make a from-scratch peanut butter cake (chocolate may be included).
If there’s a recipe you’ve lost or a dish you are just wondering about, email food@post andcourier or call Food Editor Teresa Taylor at 937-4886.
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