Cambrian: Opinion

Culinary Corner: No longer in Rome, but can still eat as the Romans do

Consuelo Macedo cooks on Happy Hill in Cambria
Consuelo Macedo cooks on Happy Hill in Cambria

Your response to my return was gratifying, so thank you very much. Equally gratifying was your reaction to my including commentary on common grammatical errors which even the Food Network perpetuates.

Let me get one more thing off my chest.

Whatever happened to nice active verbs? All too many times I hear, “Give it a rough chop”; or “Give it a little stir”; or “Give it a little taste”; or “Give it a quick beat.” When Paula said, “Give him a little squeeze,” she wasn’t referring to her sweetheart, but to a lemon.

This may be a generational thing, but those of us who grew up parsing and diagramming sentences are appalled by many of the current changes in our language which are not apparent to youth today.

McDonald’s commercials come to mind.

Speaking of a lemon, did you know that the tart fruit is a native of China, the result of crossing the citron with a lime? The sour Eureka was crossed much later with an orange, and produced our sweeter, juicier Meyer lemon. Thank you, Food Network, for that factoid.

Grafting branches onto hearty trunks continued the lineage of many citrus “starts” brought to the New World by Spanish missionaries. I used to love pointing out to my students the tree in the garden at Mission San Luis Obispo which bore healthy fruit from about 14 different varieties, each on its own branch. Unfortunately, the last time I took friends on my “cook’s tour” of the area, the centuries-old tree was faltering.

Avid reader Toni Martinez reminded me that tweaking the orange sauce recipe from last week by stirring in about one-quarter cup of orange marmalade would intensify the flavor, and it will also add a nice glaze to the finished product.

Because of my new single status, my cooking habits have necessarily changed. Yes, the focus is on healthful entrees and side dishes, but small portions. So, I have been using my old friends, good quality heavy-duty zipping freezer bags, to stash away enough to heat and serve or share with friends. I cook as before, cool and label with title and date with a permanent marker. I freeze the packages flat, then arrange them upright like books in a library.

The following recipe is my version of a delicious entrée we enjoyed near the train station in Rome where the locals ate delicious inexpensive food heartily. I remember our slender tour guides gazing wistfully at all the gorgeous pastries on display there, before choosing a particularly decadent morsel. I just enjoyed theirs vicariously, as they ate with gusto.

Roman Beef and Vegetables

2 pounds tender lean beef steak, 1-inch thick

1/2 cup unbleached flour Olive oil

1 pound Crimini mushrooms, cleaned and cut into wedges

Six cippolini onions, peeled and halved

Four baby bell peppers, red, yellow, or orange, cut into strips

2 cloves fresh garlic, whole or minced Sea salt, freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tblsp. capers; or fresh basil or rosemary

1 cup dry red wine, broth, or water, room temp.

Italian flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Dredge thinly sliced steak (sirloin is fine) in the flour in a brown paper bag. Unbleached will brown the meat nicely and quickly in heated olive oil in a non-stick pan. Remove the meat and reserve until later; stir in the vegetables and sauté until lightly golden (since I am not fond of garlic, I use it whole and remove it later.)

Season as you go along; stir in the reserved meat and any juices, and your choice of capers (which my daughter loves), basil (my daughter-in-law’s favorite), or rosemary, finely chopped as I like. Stir in the liquid and allow to just heat through and thicken slightly. Sprinkle with parsley, and servewith your favorite macaroni — mine is buttered Orechiette seasoned with fresh thyme. Recipe works also with chunks of chicken or tofu.

Please share your favorite recipes with Consuelo, c/o The Cambrian, 2442 Main St., Cambria CA 93428; or e-mail to