This has been a rough year. Well, just for starters, mom died this January. Lorene was the one person that I knew I could always talk to, from the time I was very young, for about 70 years. One of the things I most valued about mom was that she was a really good cook, and we talked about cooking a lot. So was my dad, my grandmother, and her mother a good cook, but it was my mother’s cooking that made my day. Once I set up housekeeping on my own, never very many days went by without my cooking something “Like mom used to make,” a practice which continues to this day.
Cooking like mom becomes a special challenge when your partner has food sensitivities. Readers of this blog will remember that we are currently living in a gluten-free household. We are also avoiding OD’ing on certain other foods, cow’s milk being one of these. Now milk and flour were staples of my mom’s cooking, so to continue in this cooking tradition, I have to be really inventive and experimental. And once in a while, I do whip up a meal or two that I can brag is “just like mom used to make.” Tonight was such a night, and I am proud to report it one day after what would have been her 96th birthday.
The meal we had tonight was an entree of bratwurst, potatoes and sauerkraut, which honors the German strain in my mom’s cusine. The vegetable, I am calling Lorene’s spinach, simply because I have never seen or tasted anything close to it, except at Lorene’s dining room table. First I will tell you about the spinach recipe, and how I modified it to be gluten-free. Mom took two 1 lb. cans of spinach and dumped them into a skillet covered with bubbling hot butter. In another cast-iron skillet covered with bubbling hot butter, mom tossed several cubed slices of white bread and made toasty croutons. She had boiled a couple of eggs earlier in the day. She cooked the spinach until the liquid was mostly boiled off, and then right before serving, she lightly stirred in the croutons and the chopped eggs, and added salt and pepper.
For starters, there are many delicious fat substitutes for butter. This time, I used clarified butter (you can buy it or make it) because almost all of the milk has been skimmed or burned off of it, leaving only a delicious butter flavor. A bigger challenge was what to do about the croutons. I have been using for some time now a delicious brand of gluten-free bread by Kinnikinnick. I have tried both the tapioca sandwich bread and the tapioca Italian bread. I toasted two slices of the bread in peanut oil until it was crispy brown and then diced it. Finally, I didn’t boil the egg earlier today, in fact, I didn’t even get home until time for supper. However, I have found a quick substitute for a hard-boiled egg. Take an egg, break it into a lightly oiled cup, beat it up with a fork, and microwave it on 50% power for about a minute. The egg should be completely set. Do this first before you do the other cooking, then chop it and use it like a boiled egg. Finally, I added one improvement. Along with the salt and pepper, I added a dash of nutmeg, which also goes great with asparagus, too. Oh, yeah, and use frozen spinach rather than canned spinach.
Real close to Lorene’s Spinach. Happy 96 birthday, mom, one day late.