Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Making Spanish Chickpea (Garbanzo Bean) Soup

Spanish Chickpea or Garbanzo Bean Soup
We grew up eating all kinds of homemade soups, from chicken noodle to ham and bean to sauerkraut to mushroom to Dad's potato soup. When I went to Poland in the 1970s, soup was often served at lunch time at the Jagiellonian University. The best was a cauliflower soup with fresh dill. I still make different types of soup and enjoy sampling soups from different cultures when I get the chance. 

Chickpeas make a creamy, delicious soup.
When I worked at Lorenzo Walker Technical College in Naples, Florida, the administrators served their favorites at a faculty luncheon. I was particularly taken with a garbanzo bean-based soup. The recipe was very convoluted and there were lots of handwritten notes all over the recipe page, which made it very confusing. I looked the recipe up on the Internet and found many references to a Spanish Garbanzo Bean Soup that were similar. It appears that this particular soup is a national dish, but cooks have a wide latitude for making it their own. Which I did. The result was a fantastic soup which is supposed to sit overnight for the flavors to meld, but I can never do that, because it is so good right out of pot as soon as it finishes simmering. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Let me know what you think!

Sauteing the onions, green peppers, chorizo, and smoked ham. Note: I had a leftover hambone that I threw into the pot. It's optional.
Jackie Spencers Spanish Chickpea Soup (from Denise Dusick at Lorenzo Walker)*

1 medium onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium bell pepper, chopped (optional)
2 ounces Vigo olive oil
1 chorizo (Spanish sausage), skin removed and crumbled
1/2 pound smoked ham, diced
1/4 teaspoon Vigo paprika
1 29 ounce can garbanzo beans
2 medium potatoes, 1/2 inch diced
Vigo flavoring and coloring for yellow rice

In a large saucepan, fry onion, garlic, and bell pepper in olive oil. Fry until onions are tender, but not browned. Add chorizo, smoked ham and paprika and fry gently. Add entire contents of garbanzo beans can including liquid and also one and one-half cans of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 45 minutes. Add potatoes and Vigo Flavoring and coloring, ½ teaspoon at a time to obtain desired golden color and taste. Lower heat, and cook 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. I recommend doing this the day before serving and reheating and simmering the soup at a very low heat for 45 minutes.

Chopped bacon or salt pork that has been fried can be substituted for the olive oil.

*modified by Adam Janowski.

Note: I couldn’t find the Vigo flavoring and coloring for yellow rice by itself, so I had to strain a packet of Vigo Yellow Rice Mix to get the seasonings from the packet. It worked. And I didn’t need all the seasoning so I can use the rice mix for another dinner.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Saint Joseph Roman Catholic Mission: The Little White Clapboard Church in Whittaker, Michigan

When I can’t sleep, I pour myself a cup of milk and power up my computer and head for the Internet. I never know what direction I will go, but sometimes I get lucky and find something serendipitous. Well, to me, at least. Such was what happened the other night.

When I was a little boy our family went to Sunday service at St. Joseph Mission church in Whittaker, Michigan. We moved away in 1963 when I was 13 and the little, white, clapboard church was abandoned shortly thereafter, when the congregation decided to build a bigger, brick church with room to grow.

I drove by the old church a couple of times over the years, but when I went by a few years ago, nothing was left except the sidewalk and the foundation. I thought that age or fire had consumed the church and felt a sense of loss for a simpler time. I remember being an altar boy for a wedding. I remember a priest angrily chastising the altar boys for not knowing what the Pater Noster was. We knew the words in Latin, but had not put two and two together and realized that it was The Lord’s Prayer. I remember the little choir jammed in the tiny choir loft, and Marian Manners playing the organ and singing the lead. I remember the statues draped in purple and the Tabernacle empty on Passion Sunday. I remember the bishop coming for my confirmation and my dread that I wouldn’t know the answer to his questions about my faith, even though the answers had been drilled in my head.

Dad would drive the family to church on Sunday in one of his snazzy Desotos. I especially liked the 1959 coffee and cream version with huge fins.  We would listen to country gospel singing straight from the hollers of Kentucky on the way to church, and on the way back we would tune in The Polka Hour broadcasting from WFDF in Flint, Michigan. When my dad was on call at work and couldn’t make it to church, we went with my elderly neighbors  in their old lumbering Oldsmobile sedan that they drove to church, rain or shine, snow or sleet, every Sunday. There was many a Sunday when my mother had to stay home with the babies, but I made it to church in that roomy, rumbling Olds.

Field of Dreams Wedding Chapel in Milan was originally St. Joseph
Mission Church in Whittaker, Michigan. It was moved in 2007.
The loss of that simple white church bothered me for some reason and the other night I searched for information about the church. What I found brought me tears and joy. The little, white, clapboard church had indeed, faced obliteration by fire—as a training exercise for the fire department. The property had been sold and a housing development planned for the property. In the nick of time, someone had the idea to move the church elsewhere and rehabilitate it as a country wedding chapel. Built in the 1920s the old, clapboard building has new life as “The Field of Dreams Wedding Chapel”. I even located another website for the company, db.creations that restored the stained-glass windows. Many of the windows had been damaged in the moved, but the center panels which had been painted all survived intact.

Another website led me to an archive of newspaper articles collected by the Ann Arbor Public Library, where I found one that detailed the move of the church to its new home: 
Old News - St. Joseph's Catholic Church In Augusta Twp Waiting For The Train To Pass While Moving To Milan, May 2007. The journey was tedious and they had to cross a set of railroad tracks. The move was taking so long that they actually had to back the trailer up because of an oncoming train!


Moving the St. Joseph Mission Catholic Church in Whittaker, Michigan

One of these days, I might just make a trip back to that chapel, and spend a few minutes reflecting on a life well-spent, but regardless, I will sleep well, knowing that the little white church is still serving a spiritual purpose in the life of others.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Happy Easter from my Family to Yours!


Pysanky, Pisanki, Polish Easter Eggs, Ukrainian Easter Eggs
These are my latest additions to my Pysanky (Easter Egg) collection. These are all in the Ukrainian style.

On Good Friday, when I was young, we went to church from 12 to 3. I remember the lamentation, Stabat Mater, being sung in Latin. Here is one particularly beautiful and simple version for those who remember this beautiful song:


 Link to Stabat Mater
Image of Christ on the Cross used with permission from the Morgue file.

Wesolego Alleluja!, Happy Easter in Polish
Happy Easter in Polish.


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Yummy Baked Chicken Thighs

I have chickens on my mind. Chicken was a staple on our table when I was growing up, though rarely fried chicken. I don't even think my mother even owned an iron skillet. Today, I have a skillet, but, like my mother, rarely make pan-fried chicken.

I remember mom cleaning dead chickens that had been raised on the farm. There were times that I was forced to help her remove pin feathers, either plucking them by hand or burning them off with alcohol, which gagged me unbearably. Mom would save the formed eggs that were still in the chicken, but had not yet grown hard shells. 

When I think back to the "golden years" of the 50s and 60s, I am sure that my mother didn't miss leaving the killing of chickens and plucking their feathers behind. I surely don’t.

I also remember my grandmother retrieving errant chicks that had fled the chicken coop in the spring. My grandmother wore long cotton shirts and skirts, a “babushka” (a triangular piece of cloth) on her head, and usually a long apron. She would gather the ends of the apron together, and scoop up errant chicks and return them to the coop.

Dad got chicks from the feed store in Willis in the spring. We kept them in the basement with a light on that would give the chicks enough warmth to survive. He fed the chicks chopped hard-boiled eggs. I found it a bit strange—chicks eating their potential brothers and sisters. I kept my concerns to myself.
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I made this chicken recipe recently using a number of sources for ideas and ended up making baked chicken thighs that were absolutely delish! The crust was crispy and the chicken was juicy and the flavors melded together well.

I think were my best chicken thighs ever and I would love to hear from you if you decide to make them!

Serve with green beans and store-bought potato salad for a delicious and easy weekday dinner.


Roasted Chicken Thighs
INGREDIENTS
6 whole Bone-In, Skin-On Chicken Thighs
2 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 cups Panko
1 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons McCormick Grill Mates Montreal Chicken seasoning
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
Butter-flavored baking spray

INSTRUCTIONS
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line cookie sheet with tinfoil. Spray foil with butter-flavored baking spray.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, mustard, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Place chicken thighs in bowl and mix together until chicken is completely coated with mixture.
In another large mixing bowl, stir together, Panko, Parmesan cheese, and spices.
Remove chicken thighs, one piece at a time, draining well, then dipping piece into bread crumb mixture. Pat crumbs to chicken to adhere.
Place thighs on cookie sheet, skin-side down.
When all thighs have been coated with bread crumbs, spray each generously with baking spray.
Bake thighs for 50 to sixty minutes, turning once after 30 minutes.

Serve with green beans and potato salad for a delicious weekday dinner. Leftover chicken is great either cold or gently warmed in the microwave.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Christmas on Florida Street and other Stories: Our Interview with NPR StoryCorp

Florida Street in Detroit, Michigan. The neighborhood was almost exclusively Polish in the 1950s.

In January, 2017, my husband, John Rush and I recorded my stories of growing up in a Polish American family near Detroit, Michigan during the 1950s and 1960s. We were recorded by folks from StoryCorps at the StoryCorps van, which was visiting Fort Myers.
Click on the StoryCorps van above to access my stories of growing up in Detroit.

Many of the stories that were recorded have companion pieces in the written stories that appear on this blog. I thought it would be a nice idea for folks and family to be able to hear the stories in my own voice. Please feel free to send us comments.

John, me, and my sister, Barbara at a surprise Shrimp Dinner at her house in Michigan.