Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Daily Beans! ~ Butter Beans & Southern Fried Chicken Fingers

     The Daily Beans!
     The Daily Beans has its roots in down home style cooking.  In the old wild west, beans were probably consumed more than any other kind of food.  Pioneers, gold prospectors, natives and cowboys all relied on beans.  Beans are a main staple in the modern world too, especially during poor economic times.  If there ever was a food item that could be considered to be the fuel that built a nation, then beans would certainly be it.
     In Southern states, slow simmered beans are often served as a side dish.  The choice of beans down south leans toward Red Beans, Black Beans, Lima Beans and Butter Beans.  This may be confusing to some, but Lima Beans and Butter Beans actually are two names for the same kind of bean.  Lima Beans are usually a pale green color or light beige color.  Butter Beans are most often a beige color.  Fordhook is a breed of Lima Beans that are fairly large and Butter Beans are usually this size or larger.  
     Southern Style Butter Beans are usually slow cooked till they are very tender.  Some of the Butter Beans are crushed while simmering and this creates a rich thick bean gravy.  Fat, bacon or ham are the classic choices for flavoring Butter Beans, but these beans naturally taste great on their own.  Usually a small amount of lard, bacon grease or oil is added to the Butter Beans as they simmer and this dramatically increases the flavor, while giving the pot a beans a shine that glistens.
     Traditionally a serving of The Daily Beans is a complete meal.  Meat is mixed with the beans and cornbread is served on the side.  Today's choice of meat accompaniment is Southern style fried chicken fingers.  Pan fried buttermilk and flour coated chicken fingers that are made from scratch look, taste and smell much better than any manufactured frozen breaded chicken finger product.  The savory flavor of Souther Fried Chicken Fingers tastes great with slow simmered tender Butter Beans!      

     Butter Beans:
     This recipe yields about 6 cups.  (Enough for 3 hearty portions.) 
     Lima Beans and Butter Beans are the same thing.  The name of the bean is just a matter of personal preference, but Butter Beans are usually are larger than Frozen Green Lima Beans.  Butter Beans are almost always preferred to be a light beige color too.       
     Crushing a portion of the beans then adding them back to the pot will create a thick rich gravy when slow simmering Butter Butter beans for a long time. 
     Step 1:  Rinse and clean 1 pound of Dried Large Butter Beans under cold running water.
     Place the Butter Beans in a container.
     Add enough water to cover the beans with 3" of extra liquid.
     Soak the beans overnight in a refrigerator.
     Step 2:  Drain the water off of the soaked Butter Beans.
     Place the soaked beans in a pot.
     Add 2 cups of chicken broth.
     Add enough water to cover the beans with 3" of extra liquid.
     Step 3:  Place the pot over medium high heat.
     Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Boil for 17 minutes.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1/3 cup of small chopped onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of bacon grease.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt.  (to taste)
     Step 5:  Place a lid on the pot.
    Gently simmer till the Butter Beans just start to become tender.
    *The Butter Beans will soak up plenty of water and some evaporation will occur.  Add water as necessary to keep the beans covered with about 1/2" of extra liquid.  Stop adding water, when the beans can absorb no more water.
     Step 6:  Remove the lid from the pot.
     Place 2/3 cup of the Butter Beans in a mixing bowl.
     Thoroughly mash the beans.
     Return the mashed beans to the pot.
     Step 7:  Cover the pot with a lid.
     Continue simmering till the Butter Beans are very tender and the liquid turns into a medium thin bean gravy consistency.
     *Only add water if there is not enough bean gravy to cover the beans or the bean gravy is too thick.  Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and black pepper if necessary. 
     Keep the Butter Beans warm over very low heat or chill them for later use.

     Southern Fried Chicken Fingers:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.  (5 fingers)
     Step 1:  Select 5 chicken breast tenders.
     Use a meat mallet to slightly flatten the chicken tenders.
     Step 2:  Place 1/2 cup of buttermilk in a mixing bowl and set it aside.
     Step 3:  Place 1 1/3 cups of flour in a second mixing bowl.
     Lightly season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of ground sage.
     Add 1 or 2 pinches of cayenne pepper.  (to taste)
     Mix the ingredients together and set the bowl aside.
     Step 4:  Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of lard or bacon grease.
     Add enough vegetable frying oil, so the level of oil is about 3/8" deep.
     Adjust the temperature, so the oil is 350ºF.
     Step 5:  Dredge the chicken tenders in the seasoned flour.
     Dip the tenders in the buttermilk.
     Dredge the chicken tenders in the flour a second time.
     Step 6:  Place the coated chicken tenders side by side in the skillet.
     Pan fry till they are crispy golden brown on both sides and fully cooked.
     Step 7:  Place the fried chicken tenders on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan to drain off any excess oil.
     Keep the Southern Fried Chicken Tenders warm on a stove top.

     The Daily Beans! ~ Butter Beans & Southern Fried Chicken Fingers:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty entrée.
     Daily Beans is usually served with cornbread on the side.  There are several pan fried cornbread recipes in this website or use your favorite baked cornbread recipe.
     Step 1:  Place 2 1/4 cups of the Butter Beans with a portion of the bean gravy in a wide shallow soup bowl.
     Place the 5 Southern Fried Chicken Fingers on top of the beans, so they point out from center.
     Step 2:  Sprinkle 1 bias sliced green onion over the chicken fingers and beans.
     Garnish with a Curly Leaf Parsley sprig.
     Step 3:  Serve with cornbread and a bottle of hot sauce on the side.

     Viola!  A big hearty bowl of Southern style Daily Beans! 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Spicy Southern Comfort BBQ Swai with Hickory Smoked Bacon Bits

     Gourmet BBQ Fish!
     Barbecue fish started to catch on back in the 1980's.  Many chefs just basted char grilled fish with pre-made bottled western style BBQ sauce.  The strong tasting bottled BBQ Sauce was not well suited for fish.  Floribbean and Caribbean chefs made nice hand crafted BBQ sauces for fish back in those days and the flavor was much better.
     Today's Spicy Southern Comfort BBQ Sauce recipe definitely is not a disappointment.  The complex flavor of Southern Comfort Liquor does shine through.  The ingredients that are used to flavor Southern Comfort Liquor taste good in a barbecue sauce on their own, so this liquor and sauce pairing naturally is a real crowd pleaser.  
     Fish with dense firm textured meat can easily be chargrilled when cooking barbecue.  Firm textured fish can also be used to make barbecue kabobs or brochettes.  Since firm texture fish, like salmon, tuna or swordfish are so easy to barbecue, why bother with any other kind of fish?  The answer is because many people prefer to only eat delicate texture whitefish.  
     Fish with light flaky textured meat should be broiled, smoked or roasted in an oven when barbecuing, because delicate whitefish tend to fall apart when chargrilled.  A combination of smoking and roasting delicate whitefish at a moderate temperature yields a rustic fish flavor that is perfect for pairing with a good barbecue sauce.  It is best to let the fish meat cook till some light brown highlights appear, before starting to baste with the BBQ sauce.  Otherwise, the full flavor of the fish will not develop.  This is especially true for a delicate fish that is barbecued under a broiler.    
     Swai is a large catfish species that has light delicate textured meat.  Swai are not exactly bottom feeders and their aggressive nature is part of the reason why they are also called "Iridescent Shark."  Swai meat is a bit too delicate for chargrilling, so barbecuing the Swai under a broiler is the next best choice.  Spicy Southern Comfort BBQ Sauce tastes nice with the light delicate Swai meat. 
     Farmed Swai have been under scrutiny for sustainability issues in recent years.  Much of this is due to outdated pond fish farming methods and environmental threats.  When farmed correctly, Swai production is efficient and the sustainability rating is high.  The problem is that Swai are farmed in Vietnam, so it is difficult to tell if the Swai comes from a sustainable resource.  Vietnamese fish farming techniques are improving, so the sustainability issues associated with Swai will hopefully become a thing of the past.  If Swai sustainability continues to be an issue, then substitute any other sustainable farm raised catfish species from a source that meets modern standards.                    

     Spicy Southern Comfort BBQ Sauce:
     This recipe yields 3 cups of thin BBQ sauce.  (Enough for 6 to 8 fish filets.)
     The key to making this sauce is to let the flavor of the Southern Comfort Liquor take center stage.  The rest of the ingredients should meld with the Southern Comfort Liquor flavor.  
     Step 1:  Place a large stainless steel sauce pot over low heat.
     Add 3 cups of water.
     Add 2 seeded chile guajillo.
     Add 3 seeded mild New Mexico Chile Peppers.
     Add 2 teaspoons of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
     Step 2:  Add 1 teaspoon of cumin.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of coriander.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder.
     Add 2 teaspoons of onion powder.
     Add 1 pinch of allspice.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of ginger powder.
     Step 3:  Add 3/4 cup of tomato puree.
     Add 1/3 cup of peeled seed chopped fresh tomato.
     Add 1/3 cup of Organic Ketchup.
     Step 4:  Add 1 tablespoon of Dijon Mustard.
     Add 1/2 cup of light brown sugar.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of granulated sugar. 
     Add 1/4 cup of cider vinegar. 
     Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Step 5:  Gently simmer the ingredients till the chile peppers become very tender.
     Step 6:  Remove the pot from the heat and let the sauce cool to room temperature.
     Puree the sauce with a blending wand (immersion blender), food processor or a blender.
     Step 7:  Return the sauce to the sauce pot and place it over low heat.
     Season the sauce with sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it can thinly coat a spoon.
     Step 8:  Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of Southern Comfort Liquor.
     Bring the sauce back to a gentle boil.
     Step 9:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a thin consistency that can glaze a spoon.
     Step 10:  Place the sauce in a container.
     Keep the sauce warm on a stove top or chill it for later use.

     Hickory Smoked Bacon Bits:
     Smoked Bacon is best when cooked just a little it less than crispy.  
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 strips of Hickory Smoked Bacon that are diced.
     Sauté till the bacon bits are golden brown.
     Step 2:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Place the bacon bits in a strainer to drain off any excess grease.
     Place the bacon bits in a container.
     Keep the bacon bits warm on a stove top.

     Spicy Southern Comfort BBQ Swai with Hickory Smoked Bacon Bits:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Delicate whitefish like Swai should be smoked, broiled or oven roasted when barbecuing.  
     Step 1:  Set a broiler to a moderate heat setting.
     Step 2:  Select a 6 to 8 ounce Swai filet.
     Lightly brush the Swai filet with vegetable oil or melted unsalted butter.
     Lightly season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 3:  Place the Swai filet on a broiler pan that is brushed with vegetable oil.
     Broil the Swai on both sides till a few golden brown highlights appear and the fish is almost fully cooked.  (Only flip the filet once.)
     Step 4:  Use a pastry brush to baste the Swai filet with the Spicy Southern Comfort BBQ Sauce.
     Broil and baste occasionally, till the BBQ sauce glazes the fish and the sauce lightly caramelizes.
     Step 5:  Remove the broiler pan from the oven.
     Use a large spatula to place the Spicy Southern Comfort BBQ Swai on the front half of a plate.
     Pour about 2 tablespoons of the Sicy Southern Comfort BBQ Sauce on the plate around the fish.
     Sprinkle the Hickory Smoked Bacon Bits over the fish.  
     Step 6:  Serve with a rice and vegetable of your choice.  
     Garnish with an Italian parsley sprig.
     *Buttered Okra braised with chicken broth and Thai Black Jasmine Rice are the vegetables in the photos.

     Those who like BBQ fish will surely like this recipe! 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Pork Chop a la Sliven

     Classic Bulgarian Comfort Food!
     Pork is popular in Bulgaria.  In fact, Bulgaria produces some of the highest quality pork and pork products in the world.  When seeking a new or different way to prepare pork in the home kitchen, Bulgarian cuisine is a great resource to look into.
     Sliven is a very old Bulgarian community and the local cuisine is unique.  Pork chops in the style of Sliven is a tradional recipe that is well known.  The pork chop and vegetables are sautéed and then slowly braised in a covered baking dish or pan.  A minimum of seasoning is used in this recipe, because the natural flavors of the vegetables and pork take center stage.
     Sliven cuisine has old Roman and Slavic influences.  Greek spices are not usually used for recipes in Sliven region of Bulgaria.  The key rich flavors of this pork chop recipe come from the aromatic mirepoix vegetables, tomato and mushrooms.  When the pork chop is done braising, the vegetables become the thick sauce that cling to the pork chop.  

     Bulgarian Pork Chop a la Sliven: 
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Step 1:  Select a large 10 to 12 ounce Pork Chop.
     Lightly season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan (or sauteuse pan) over medium heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of blended olive oil.
     Place the pork chop in the hot oil.
     Pan sear the pork chop on both sides till a few golden brown highlights appear.
     Step 3:  Add 1/3 cup of diced carrot.
     Add 1/3 cup of diced celery.
     Add 1/3 cup of diced onion.
     Add 2 minced garlic cloves.
     Sauté and stir till the vegetables start to become tender.
     Step 4:  Add 3 tablespoons of chopped Portobello Mushroom.
     Add 1 fluted small Portobello Mushroom.  (This mushroom will be used as a garnish!)
     Sauté and stir till the mushrooms are tender.
     Step 5:  Add 1/3 cup of diced ripe Plum Tomato.
     Sauté till the tomato starts to become tender.
     Step 6:  Add 1 pinch of chopped Italian Parsley.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 3/4 cup of dry white wine.
     Add enough water to almost cover the pork chop.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 7:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Cover the sauté pan with a loose fitting lid.
     Place the partially covered pan in a 325ºF oven.
     Bake the pork chop for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
     Allow the excess liquid to evaporate, so the vegetable sauce becomes thick enough to cling to the pork chop.  (Only add water if the sauce starts to become dry before the pork chop is tender.)
     Step 8:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Set the pork chop on a plate.
     Spoon the thick sauce over the pork chop.
     Place the decorative cooked fluted mushroom garnish on top of the pork chop.
     *Serve with buttered boiled potatoes that are seasoned with sea salt, black pepper and chopped Italian Parsley.
     Garnish the plate with an Italian Parsley sprig.

     Pork Chop a la Sliven has a gentle hearty flavor that will please guests!      

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Penne Rigate with Yellow Squash, Hickory Smoked Bacon and Onion en Bourbon Sauce

     A Savory Southern Style Pasta!
     Yellow Squash is a favorite in southern states.  Southern style Yellow Squash is almost always slowly cooked with butter, onions, salt and pepper when it is served as a side dish.  This way of cooking Yellow Squash yields a unique simple flavor that causes a craving for more.
     Just like Zucchini, a tasty pasta entrée can be made with Southern Style Yellow Squash.  Hickory Smoked Bacon and Kentucky Sour Mash Straight Bourbon gives today's pasta sauce a rustic flavor that cannot easily be described.         

     Penne Rigate with Yellow Squash, Hickory Smoked Bacon and Onion en Bourbon Sauce:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty portion (or 2 petite side dish portions).
     Just like with Italian pasta, only enough sauce should be made to coat the pasta with flavor and the pasta should not be swimming in sauce.
     Step 1:  Cook 1 portion of medium size Penne Pasta in boiling water, till it becomes al dente.
     Cool the pasta under cold running water.
     Drain the water off of the pasta.
     Toss the pasta with 1/2 teaspoon of vegetable oil and set it aside.
     Step 2:  Select a Yellow Summer Squash that is about 6" in length.  (Enough for 1 cup to 1 1/4 cups of sliced squash.)
     Cut the yellow squash lengthwise into quarters.  
     Cut the squash core off of each quarter.  
     Finely chop the squash pulp and set it aside.
     Cut the seedless Yellow Squash sections into large bite size pieces and set them aside. 
     Step 3:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 teaspoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of coarse chopped Hickory Smoked Bacon.
     Sauté till the bacon is a light golden brown color.
     Step 4:  Add the Yellow Squash and the fine chopped squash pulp.  
     Add 1/3 cup coarse chopped onion.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced white part of a green onion.
     Sauté till golden highlights start to appear on the vegetables.
     Step 5:  Add just enough flour, while stirring to soak up the excess grease in the pan and to make a roux.  (About 1 tablespoon.  The roux should not be thick and pasty!)
     Stir till the roux combines.
     Step 6:  Add 1 cup of chicken broth.
     Add 2 1/2 ounces of Straight Sour Mash Bourbon.
     Add 1 small pinch of ground sage.
     Add 1 small pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 small pinch of ground celery seed.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.  Stir as the sauce thickens.
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 3/4 cup of milk.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a thin consistency that can coat a spoon.
     Step 8:  Add the reserved portion of Penne Rigate Pasta.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Simmer till the sauce clings to the pasta.
     Step 9:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Mound the pasta in a shallow bowl.
     Sprinkle 2 pinches of minced curly leaf parsley over the pasta.
     Serve with fine grated Cheddar or Parmigiana Cheese on the side.  (optional)

     This pasta has an unbelievably good tasting Southern style Yellow Squash flavor! 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Romaine Hearts with Basil Garlic Aioli Salad Dressing

     House Salad!
     Ordering a House Salad used to be something special.  Up till about the 1970's, a House Salad was a unique creation that represented what a restaurant was all about.  The salad ingredients reflected on the restaurant theme and this is why it was called a House Salad.
     In modern times, the House Salad has been relegated to being a small bowl of baby lettuce greens that are minimally garnished with a choice of dressings that are usually commercially produced.  This is a far cry from the design of the original House Salad theme, which was a reflection of the unique qualities of the restaurant.  For the most part, the modern House Salad is really nothing more than a token side of salad, which lacks character and does not reflect upon the theme of the restaurant.  
     Bringing back the good old days of dining out is as easy as making a House Salad that is designed to entertain guests.  Let the House Salad be a pleasant surprise, rather than try to describe it to guests in detail.  The mystique of the House Salad is every bit as important as the unique ingredients that set the salad apart from another House Salad that are served at different restaurant down the street.  The House Salad should be unique at every restaurant!
     Today's salad recipe actually was a House Salad at an Italian restaurant that I worked in back in the early 1980's.  This Italian restaurant style House Salad has an uncomplicated Romaine Wedge presentation.  The Basil Garlic Dressing is made like an aioli or mayonnaise, but the basil and garlic are not finely pureed.  The result is a garden fresh herb flavor with every bite.

     Basil Garlic Aioli Salad Dressing: 
     This recipe yields about 1 1/4 cups.  (4 to 5 portions)
     The aioli can be made in a food processor, but whole basil leaves should be added last while pulsing, so the basil is not finely pureed.
     Step 1:  Measure 3/4 cup of olive oil and set it aside.
     Step 2:  Place 1 egg yolk (large egg) in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of chopped garlic.
     Add 1 drop of the measured olive oil at a time while constantly whisking, till a thick aioli emulsion starts to form.
     Step 3:  Continue adding a thin steam of oil while constantly whisking till about 1/4 cup of the measured oil is added.  The aioli emulsion should look thick and pale yellow at this point.
     Step 4:  Add 1/3 cup of chopped fresh basil.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Continue adding a thin stream of the measured olive oil while constantly whisking, till a thick basil aioli forms.
     *At this point the aioli will be thick enough to stand tall in a spoon.
     Step 5:   Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.
     Slowly add 3 tablespoons of virgin olive oil while whisking.
     Step 6:  *The aioli will be very thick after adding the last portion of oil.  The consistency must be adjusted by adding warm water.  Be careful not to add too much water or the dressing will be too thin.  
     Add l teaspoon of warm water at a time while constantly whisking, till the dressing becomes a medium thin consistency that easily coats a spoon.
     *Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and black pepper if necessary.
     Step 7:  Place the Basil Garlic Aioli Salad Dressing in a container.
     Chill in a refrigerator for 1 hour, so the flavors meld.
     Romaine Hearts with Basil Garlic Aioli Salad Dressing:
     This recipe yields 1 salad entrée.
     Step 1:  Place 2 romaine hearts side by side on the center of a plate.
     Step 2:  Garnish the plate with 4 slices of Plum Tomato.  (1/4" thick).
     Garnish the tomatoes with 4 slices of peeled seeded cucumber.
     Garnish the cucumber and tomatoes with 4 black olive halves.
     Step 3:   Pour a generous portion of the Basil Garlic Aioli Salad Dressing over the romaine hearts and onto the plate.  (2 to 2 1/2 ounces)
     Step 4:  Sprinkle some thin shaved Parmigiana Cheese over the romaine hearts.  (About 1 or 2 tablespoons.)
     Garnish with a basil sprig.

     The Basil Garlic Aioli Salad Dressing has a strong flavor, with plenty of fresh basil oil "bite."  This healthy Italian House Salad will certainly entertain guests!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Caribbean Yellow Split Pea Soup

     A Traditional Island Style Yellow Split Pea Soup!
     Yellow Split Pea Soup is popular in the Caribbean region.  This style of legume soup is a good source of nutrition for an economical price.
     During the age of spice trade and imperialism, English and Dutch traders depended upon slavery and indentured servitude in the Caribbean region.  Slaves and servants from Africa and India brought their own crop seeds and cooking styles to the Caribbean Islands.  These cooking influences helped to shape modern Caribbean cuisine.
     Yellow Split Peas were introduced to the Caribbean from India.  Yellow Split Pea Soup became popular in the islands and traditional Indian spice blends usually flavored the soup.  Curry flavored Caribbean style Yellow Split Pea Soup not only tastes good, the Curry Spices help to beat the tropical heat, so this soup is a welcome sight even during hot summer weather.

     Caribbean Yellow Split Pea Soup:
     This recipe yields about 4 1/3 cups.  (2 portions)
     This soup is made like a potage in one pot.  The soup is pureed, so it gains a refined texture. 
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 2 cups of water.
     Add 3 cups of chicken broth.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of chopped garlic.
     Add 1/4 cup of chopped celery.
     Add 1/4 cup of chopped onion.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced carrot.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of minced seeded jalapeño pepper.
     Add the chopped white part of 1 green onion.
     Add 1 1/3 cups of yellow split peas.
     Step 2:  Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Boil for 5 minutes.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of Yellow Madras Curry Powder.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric.
     Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.  (to taste)
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the split peas are very tender and the volume of the soup is about 4 1/2 cups.
     Step 4:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Use a food processor, blender or an emersion blender to puree the soup to a smooth consistency.
     Step 5:  Return the pureed yellow split pea soup to a sauce pot over low heat.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lime juice or lemon juice.
     Add 1/3 cup of coconut milk.
     Stir the soup as it comes to a simmer.
     Step 6:  Gently simmer and reduce till the soup is a medium thin consistency that can coat a spoon.  The finished volume should be about 4 1/3 cups.
     Keep the Caribbean Yellow Split Pea Soup warm over very low heat or in a 135ºF bain marie.    
     Pour a 2 cup portion of the Caribbean Yellow Split Pea Soup into a shallow soup bowl.
     Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sliced green onion over the soup.
     Garnish with buttered grilled French bread slices.

     Delicious soup, Mon!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Linguettine and Chicken with Tomato Herb Sauce

     A Comfortable Café Style Pasta!
     Pasta with Tomato Herb Sauce was popular back in the 1980's, especially when shrimp or chicken was added.  In cafés and upscale casual restaurants the customers often prefer an easy to identify entrée that provides satisfaction, especially when doing a business lunch.  A name of a pasta entrée that is easy to pronounce and easy to comprehend does please casual members of the dining public, especially at places like an English pub, where most customers focus on socialization and expect simple good food that is not too sophisticated.
     During the mid 1980's I was working in a French café with a French chef that taught culinary arts at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.  The café was located in a wealthy retirement area in Florida.  The cafe hosted fashion shows a few days each week.  Most of our lunch clientele was senior citizen ladies and local department store shoppers.  A clientele base like this prefers to not struggle with difficult to pronounce foreign language names of food items on a menu or overly complicated cuisine.  Keeping the menu item and special du jour offering names simple was part of the key to success. When the chef wrote the menu for the cafe, all the items on the menu were written in plain English.  The French chef put no pastas on the menu.  I was the sous chef at the café and I was responsible for the lunch specials du jour.  I ran a pasta as one of the special offerings nearly every day, because I had a lot of Italian cooking experience.  Serving Italian pasta in a French café is kind of frowned upon, so I cooked pasta creations that had some French flair.
     Tomato Herb Sauce for pasta is a French style recipe and there really is not such thing in classic Italian cuisine.  White wine is nearly never added to an Italian tomato sauce, but in Provence, France, adding white wine to a tomato sauce is quite common.  In fact, the modern Provencal Tomato Sauce recipe nearly always requires liquor or white wine.
     Fresh herbs are always used to make Tomato Herb Sauce for pasta.  Sauce Provencal always requires local herbs that can be gathered during a walk in the Provence countryside, but in America, these herbs are usually only available dried and not Fresh.  The nice thing about Tomato Herb Sauce is that the selection of fresh herbs is not specific, so a chef can add any combination of fresh herbs that is preferred and seasonal herbs are usually the best choice.
     Chicken is not a traditional pasta ingredient in Italy, but in America, casual restaurants nearly always feature a chicken pasta on the menu.  The chicken pasta trend began back in the 1980's when chicken was considered to be a healthy food option.  Even so, most American style chicken pastas back in those days were usually smothered with a cheesy cream sauce that actually defeated any healthy dining intentions.  Customers that saw the word chicken in the name of the pasta used the healthy meat option as an excuse to devour a rich cream sauce pasta regardless of the consequences.  Pasta and Chicken with Tomato Herb Sauce definitely was the true healthier option back in those days.  
     As a sous chef, I liked making Tomato Herb Sauce, because it presented an opportunity to liquidate all of the fresh herbs that were overstocked.  A copious amount of any combination of fresh herbs can be added to this sauce, so the restaurant waste percentages could be kept in check.  The same strategy can be used in a home kitchen to eliminate waste when too many fresh herbs are leftover from previous cooking projects or when the garden produces a bumper herb crop.      
     Fresh peeled and seeded overripe fresh plum tomatoes are a good choice for today's recipe, but modern ethylene gas ripened GMO tomatoes do not ripen like old fashioned natural tomatoes.  I personally do not like GMO products at all, because they pose a potential health risk.  Italy and most European countries have banned GMO vegetables.  Imported Italian canned San Marzano Tomatoes are the best tomatoes that money can buy.  Whole or crushed San Marzano Tomatoes are good for today's recipe.
     Tomato Herb Sauce:
     This recipe yields about 1 1/2 cups.  (1 portion)
     This sauce should be prepared shortly before it is served, so the herbs retain their green color. 
     Step 1:  Place 1 1/2 cups of imported Italian canned peeled and seeded San Marzano Tomatoes that are packed in their own juices in a mixing bowl.  (Be sure to add a portion of the thick juice from the can.)
     Crush the tomatoes by hand.
     Set the hand crushed San Marzano Tomatoes aside.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Gently sauté till the onions turn clear in color.
     Step 3:  Add the reserved crushed San Marzano Tomatoes and their juices.
     Add about 2 tablespoons of a selection of minced fresh herbs of your choice.
     *The sauce in the photo examples was made with these minced herbs:
     - 1 teaspoon of basil
     - 1 teaspoon of cilantro
     - 1 teaspoon of chives
     - 2 pinches of marjoram
     - 1 pinch of sage
     - 1 pinch of oregano
     - 1 pinch of dill weed
     - 1 pinch of tarragon
     - 1 pinch of thyme
     - 2 pinches of minced Italian parsley.
     Step 4:  Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.  (1 or 2 pinches)
     Add 1/2 cup dry white wine.
     *French White Burgundy Chablis is a good choice.  Only cook with a wine that you would be happy to drink!
     Add 1 cup of chicken stock.
     Step 5:  Raise the temperature to medium heat
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the excess liquid evaporates and the sauce is a medium thin consistency.
     Remove the pot from the heat and set it aside.

     Linguettine and Chicken with Tomato Herb Sauce:
     This recipe yields 1 pasta entrée.
     *The pasta and Chicken with Tomato Sauce can be prepared at the same time!
     The cardinal Italian pasta rule still applies to this French style pasta!  Make only enough sauce to flavor the pasta and not flood the pasta with sauce.
     Step 1:  Start cooking 1 portion of Linguettine Pasta in a pot of boiling water over medium high heat till the pasta is al dente.
     Step 2:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of blended olive oil.
     Add 6 ounces of boneless chicken breast filet that is cut into small bite size pieces.
     Sauté till the chicken is fully cooked and a few golden brown highlights appear.
     Step 3:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Drain off any excess oil.
     Step 4:  Return the sauté pan and chicken to medium low heat.
     Add about 1 1/2 cups of the Tomato Herb Sauce.
     Bring the sauce to a simmer.
     Reduce the temperature to very low heat till the pasta finishes cooking.
     Step 5:  When the pasta is cooked al dente, drain the water off of the pasta.
     Add the portion of al dente cooked Linguettine Pasta to the sauce in the sauté pan.
     Toss the sauce and pasta together.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     Step 6:  Use a long tine carving fork to twist and coil the pasta while placing the pasta on a plate.
     Spoon the remaining sauce and chicken from the pan over the pasta.
     Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of grated Romano Cheese over the pasta.
     Garnish the pasta with a small basil sprig.
     Delicious and healthy!  The white wine combines with the tomatoes and herbs to create a very nice aromatic flavor.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Romanian Red Cabbage and Pork Sausage

     Old Fashioned Comfort Food!
     Romanian style Red Cabbage and Sausage recipe is nice entrée for the change of seasons.  During the autumn and spring seasons daytime temperatures can be warm and the nights can be chilly.  Wide swings in temperature can stress the immune system and the high Vitamin C content in cabbage will help to maintain good health.  The comfortable warmth of mild Hungarian Paprika in this entrée not only adds character, it also helps to ward off the change of season blues too.      
     Today's recipe is traditionally made with white cabbage, but red cabbage is also popular in Romania.  The purple color of the cabbage gives this entrée nice eye appeal.  The Hungarian Paprika also brightens the color.
     Pork is the number one meat staple in Romania and traditional small farm methods of harvesting a pig in this country are interesting to see.  It goes without saying that some of the greatest pork recipes in the world are Romanian.  Where plenty of pork is marketed, fresh pork sausage is readily available.
     Romanian fresh pork sausages tend to be lightly seasoned, just like fresh Kielbasa from a good butcher shop.  Fresh Bratwurst from a butcher shop is a good choice for today's recipe too.  Bratwurst is made with a high proportion of pork with a low percentage of beef and veal.
     The reason why hand crafted pork sausage from a good butcher shop is recommended comes down to quality.  In modern times, national brand sausage companies have found ways to turn cartilage and fat into a slurry that is added to a mass produced pork sausage meat mixture to extend profits.  The result is a Bratwurst or Kielbasa that has a Hot Dog texture and increased saturated fats.  Cheap mass produced sausage may be okay when junk food is craved at a ball game, but it is definitely is not a good choice for an old fashioned comfort food meal.
     Romanian Red Cabbage and Pork Sausage:
     This recipe yields 2 portions.
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauce pot (or brazing pan) over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of blended olive oil.
     Add 1/2 cup of thin sliced onion.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1/4 cup of chopped red bell pepper.
     Sauté till the onions start to turn clear in color.
     Step 2:  Add 7 to 8 cups of very thin sliced red cabbage.
     Sauté and stir till the cabbage starts to wilt.
     Step 3:  Add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste.
     Add 1 teaspoon of mild Hungarian Paprika.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of Smoked Hungarian Paprika.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed dried red pepper.  (Optional for a spicy flavor.)
     Add 1 pinch of whole caraway seed.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of chopped fresh rosemary leaf.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.  (to taste)
     Step 4:  Add just enough light pork broth to almost cover the cabbage.  (About 2 1/2 cups.)
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Place 3 Fresh Pork Sausages that weigh 5 to 6 ounces apiece on top of the cabbage.  (Uncooked Fresh Pork Kielbasa or Fresh Bratwurst are a good choice.)
     Cover the pot with a loose fitting lid.
     Gently simmer till the sausages are fully cooked.
     Step 6:  Remove the sausages from the pot and place them on a cutting board.
     Cut the sausages into large bite size pieces.
     Return the sausage pieces to the pot of red cabbage.
     Add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Step 7:  Leave the lid off of the pot.
     Simmer and reduce till the cabbage is very tender and till only about 1 cup of liquid remains.  (Only add a splash of water if the liquid evaporates too soon.) 
     Step 8:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Place the Romanian Red Cabbage and Pork Sausage in a large serving bowl.
     Try to expose some of the sausage pieces on the surface.
     Garnish the bowl with a rosemary sprig.
     Serve with sliced bread on the side.
     Romanian Red Cabbage and Pork Sausage is simple delicious entrée!