Saturday, March 28, 2015

Greek Deli Meat Platter

     A Nice Greek Delicatessen Platter!
     There is a big difference between commercial mass produced domestic delicatessen meats and high quality hand crafted old world style deli meats.  There really is no comparison between the two.  Domestic mass produced deli meats are cheap, but they really lack quality.
     Imported old world deli meats deli meats are much more healthy to eat, because European AOC laws forbid any changes of traditional products.  How a traditional European cheese, sausage or food product was originally made many centuries ago, is how it is made today.  There is no long list of chemicals, preservatives, flavoring agents, artificial coloring or genetic modification in AOC protected traditional European deli meat products.  That is integrity at its best!

     For a social gathering or while watching a sporting event, a nice deli platter is a great choice.  When the afternoon gets to be boring during a long rain storm, a good deli platter can inspire pleasant thoughts.  Traditional deli meats taste so good, that they instantly trigger conversation at a party, just like good cheese and wine.  Deli meats, bread, cheese and wine in picnic basket is perfect for a romantic springtime afternoon.

     When designing a delicatessen cold cut platter, it is best to go with a theme.  The theme for today's deli platter is cold cuts and accompaniments that are popular in Greece.  Just like a good Italian deli style antipasto platter, the design has to be appealing to the eye.  Leaving no empty spaces on a deli platter adds to the appeal.  Open and airy clean designs are good, but deli platter fans prefer like to see a full platter.
     When placing deli meats on a platter, it is best to use simple patterns of rows, circles or "S" shapes.  The deli platter design must leave room for condiments.  Bread can be placed on the platter or served on the side.  Items like pickles, olives, peppers or onions are good for filling the blank spaces and adding color.
     For sauces, dips or spreads, it is best to select one or two that support the theme.  For a Greek Deli Platter, Ajvar is a good choice.
     Greek Deli Meat Platter:
     Forget about getting the deli meats at a common grocery store.  Quality is always better than quantity.  The best place to go for high quality traditional Greek or Balkan cold cuts and condiments is an old fashioned Greek Delicatessen!  
     I was in in Northwest Indiana near Chicago when I made this Greek Deli Platter.  That neck of the woods is loaded with many good Greek delicatessens.  Often local hand crafted specialty lunch meats, like Indiana Bolshevik Loaf, are offered in the deli case. 
     Ajvar can be found at Mediterranean and Greek food markets.  Ajvar is also easy to make, but it is more cost effect to purchase a jar.  Ajvar is a thick minced spread of sweet red or orange bell pepper, eggplant, garlic and mild chile pepper.
     • All it takes to make a nice Greek Deli Platter is to think of a tasteful design and just go with the flow.  The neater every item is prepared and placed on the platter, the better the eye appeal will be!

     • Mixed Spicy Greek Olives
     • Mild Red Greek Chile Pepper
     • Yellow Fefferoni

     • A large ramekin of Mild Ajvar Vegetable Spread
     • A small bottle of olive oil on the side
     • Sliced crusty mini baguette or pita bread

     Greek Delicatessen Meats:  
     • Svinjski Vrat  (thin sliced dry cured and lightly smoked pork neck)
     • Lovcka (dry cured smoked peppery beef & pork sausage)
     • Soppressata  (Italian Soppressata Sausage is also popular in Greece)
     • Bolshevik Loaf  (Bolshevik Loaf is aa local Indiana specialty Head Cheese.  French Brawn style Head Cheese is a similar product.)

     No cheese?  Greek cheese of any kind is an option, but this is supposed to be a Greek Deli Meat Platter!
      Even though the ingredients for this Grecian deli meat platter were purchases Northwest Indiana, it shows that there are many small communities in this country where old world food traditions live on.  One simply does not have to go all the way to Greece to get a good Greek Deli Meat Platter, when there is a good Greek Delicatessen in town!

Chesapeake Blue Crab Imperial

     Classic Blue Crab Imperial!
     Crab Imperial is an old school east coast American seafood restaurant entrée that is served from North Carolina to New Jersey.  This portion of the east coast is the Chesapeake Bay region and Blue Crab is the king of local seafood!
     Some of the old fashioned Baltimore and Annapolis crab house restaurants still offer Crab Imperial on the menu.  Many old restaurants in Philadelphia offer Crab Imperial too.
     I learned how to make Crab Imperial while working as a cook in Philadelphia.  This entrée is notoriously rich and aromatic!  When a waiter sets a plate of Crab Imperial on a table, the rich baked crab custard aroma fills the air and customers smile from ear to ear.
     This is a very impressive tasting entrée and it is easy to savor each bite, while sipping on fine wine.  A semi sweet Bordeaux Blanc or a White Burgundy Chardonnay is best when paired with Crab Imperial.

     There are several variations of the custard for Crab Imperial.  The basic custard recipe may include combinations of cream, mayonnaise, hollandaise, béchamel and egg yolk.  The best custard choice is a fortified egg custard with no binding agents.  After baking, the egg custard looks like a hollandaise glaçage application.

     The classic custard style for Imperial made in "Philly or Bulletmore" is made with mayonnaise, cream and egg yolks.  The egg yolks serve to stabilize and tighten the cream and mayonnaise while baking.
    A very thin béchamel sauce can be used in place of cream, but this option actually creates more of a standard crab casserole kind of flavor.  Sour cream is also an option, but the flavor of the Crab Imperial will end up sitting too heavy on the palate.
     The quality of the mayonnaise does make a big difference, when making Crab Imperial.  A natural pre-made organic mayonnaise product with no additives or modifiers is good.  Fresh mayonnaise made from scratch is best.
     Last but not least, the quality of the crab meat for an Imperial is everything.  Poaching and shelling live Chesapeake Blue Crabs is best.  Second best is canned or vacuum packed blue crab meat.  If convenience is a priority, then canned blue crab meat is the best option.

     Crab Imperial:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée size portion!  A half portion can be served as an appetizer.
     About 3 medium size Live Chesapeake Blue Crabs will yield enough crab meat for 1 Crab Imperial entrée.  
     The other option is to purchase canned pre-cooked shelled Blue Crab meat.  About 4 to 4 1/2 ounces of prepared Blue Crab Meat is enough for 1 Crab Imperial entrée. 
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 small clove of minced garlic.
     Add 1 teaspoon of finely chopped shallot.
     Add 2 tablespoons of finely chopped sweet vidalia onion or bermuda onion.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of small diced sweet mini red bell pepper.
     Gently sauté till the vegetables just start to become tender.
     Step 2:  Add 2 1/2 ounces of sherry.
     Simmer and reduce the mixture, till almost all of the sherry evaporates.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     Step 3:  Place the sherried vegetables in a mixing bowl.
     Add 4 to 4 1/2 ounces of shelled poached Chesapeake Blue Crab Meat.
     Add 1/4 cup of cream.
     Add 1/3 cup of mayonnaise.
     Add 1 egg yolk.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of dijon mustard.
     Add 2 drops of Worcestershire Sauce.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add Kosher Salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 teaspoon of chopped Italian Parsley.
     Add 1 small pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 teaspoon of chopped cilantro.  (optional)
     Gently mix the ingredients together.
     Step 4:  Place the Crab Imperial mixture into an individual portion size casserole dish.  (A 10 to 12 ounce capacity casserole boat dish is good.)
     Step 5:  Drizzle a few drops of melted unsalted butter over the casserole.  (About 1/2 teaspoon)
     Sprinkle 1 teaspoon bread crumbs over the Crab Imperial.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of Spanish Paprika over the Crab Imperial.
     Step 6:  Place the casserole dish on a baking pan.
     Bake the Crab Imperial in a 350ºF oven, till the custard puffs up and light golden brown highlights appear on the surface.
     Step 7:  Place the Crab Imperial on a stove top and let it cool to a safe serving temperature.
     Place the casserole dish on a doily lined serving platter.
     Garnish with Italian Parsley sprigs.
     The crab flavor and aroma is so rich!  This classic east coast seafood cooking at its best!

Hearts of Health Salad with White Truffle Oil Roasted Red Pepper Lemon Vinaigrette

     A modern Version Of The Classic Hearts Of Heath Salad!
     Today's salad recipe dates back more than 50 years.  In the 1960's and 1970's, casual hotel café restaurants and American diner style restaurants offered two well known menu items that had a healthy theme.  One was the "Diet Platter" and the other was "Hearts of Health."

     A diner style Hearts of Health was always made with a wedge of iceberg lettuce heart, canned hearts of palm and canned artichoke hearts.  This salad was always garnished with canned pimiento strips.  Oil and vinegar or lemon wedges were always served on the side.
     Hearts of Health appealed to women that were health and calorie conscious.  This simple salad appealed to ladies of all ages.  The last time that I actually sold a Hearts of Health was at a French café in the late 1980's.
     The French café was located at a small city in Florida that had a very high percentage of affluent senior citizens in the community.  A marquis department store in the area marketed fashionable clothing for women over 45 years old.  The French Café hosted a local department store's fashion shows twice per week during lunch hours.  The fashion models were not exactly young 21 year old girls from Paris or something.  They were older models that were at least 50 years old and the average age of the cafés female clientele was about 73.
     Yes, fashion show day at that French café was wrinkle city, but the elderly ladies did have class.  The wealthy elderly women really liked classic restaurant food items that were designed for ladies.  The first time that I ran the good old Hearts of Health as a special du jour at the café was during a fashion show.
     The elderly ladies all remembered this diner style classic and they knew that fashion models always ordered this salad at restaurants back in its heyday.  Many of the elderly ladies exclaimed that they had not seen this salad on a menu for many years and it used to be their favorite.
     I actually sold well over 50 orders of Hearts of Health that afternoon.  The French chef could not believe that such a simple salad could sell so well, but obviously he had never worked as a short order cook in an American style diner, so he did not know what the Hearts of Health was all about.
     A few weeks later, the French chef actually put the Hearts of Health on the regular menu because it was such a good money maker.  It just goes to show that when a classic food item is no longer en vogue with the younger crowd, it can still be marketed successfully in a community comprised of folks that are retirement age.

     Today's recipe is a modern version of a Classic Hearts of Health.  The original was made with a wedge of iceberg lettuce heart, but iceberg lettuce has been replace by mixd baby lettuce greens in restaurants during the last 30 years.  Since a pile of greens was used, this Hearts of Health version has to be called a Hearts of Health Salad.
     The recipe is modified with the addition of white truffle oil.  A lemony flavored truffle oil and roasted red pepper vinaigrette turns today's Hearts of Health Salad into an appealing gourmet item!

     *This entire recipe yields 1 individual portion salad!

     White Truffle Oil Roasted Red Pepper Lemon Vinaigrette:
     This dressing should not be made like an emulsified vinaigrette!  A stirred loose vinaigrette is best for a Hearts of Health Salad.
     Step 1:  Place 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 1 tablespoon of finely minced roasted red bell pepper.
     Add 4 teaspoons of lemon juice.
     Add 1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of finely chopped Italian Parsley.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of strong white truffle oil.  (Add 1 tablespoon if the white truffle oil is a weak tasting.  Add less vegetable oil in the next step to compensate.)
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
     Step 2:  Stir the ingredients together.
     Set the dressing aside for 10 minutes, so the flavors meld.
     Stir the dressing before serving.
     Hearts of Health Salad with White Truffle Oil Roasted Red Pepper Lemon Vinaigrette:
     For a classic version, use a whole wedge of iceberg lettuce instead of mixed baby greens.
     Canned artichoke hearts and canned hearts of palm are actually the classic choice for any Hearts of Health recipe. 
     Step 1:  Mound 2 1/2 cups of mixed lettuce on the center of a plate.
     Step 2:  Place 6 artichoke heart halves on the sides of the lettuce mound.
     Place 6 thin plum tomato wedges between the artichoke hearts.
     Surround the lettuce mound with circle of bias sliced hearts of palm.
     Step 3:  Place a couple of thin sliced bermuda onion rings on top of the salad.
     Garnish the onion rings with an Italian Parsley sprig.
     Step 4:  Spoon just enough of the White Truffle Oil Roasted Red Pepper Lemon Vinaigrette over the salad to add flavor and color.  

     A Hearts of Health Salad is perfect for a spring season lunch!

Friday, March 27, 2015

English Malt Vinegar Marinated Tri-Tip Steak Bits ... with Chips, Peas and Grilled Craft IPA Beer Bread

     English Comfort Food!
     Modern pub chefs often make use of classic French café food presentation styles.  Modern English pub chefs often place gourmet items on the special du jour board.  Dometimes English style variations of French food is featured.  Traditional regional British Isle favorites, items from exotic places from the British empire days or just plain old English pub chef's creations hit the special board too.  
     At a pub, the daily special board is a great promotional device.  The regular menu at most pubs is short and sweet.  Customers that frequent a pub a few times per week do get bored with the regular menu.  The daily special board offers new items everyday and this inspires customer interest.  The better the special sound on the board, the more tempting they will be for customers!
     I was the chef at an English pub for 2 years and I ran an aggressive daily special board.  I have a notorious reputation for offering the right choice of food as daily special at just the right time.  More often than not my daily special entrées outsold the regular menu items.  This is also true in nearly every French café that I worked in too.  This is evident in all of the food website that I publish, because about 75% of the recipes are actually items that I have successfully marketed as daily specials at restaurants during my career    

     Today's recipe is an example of simple English pub chef's special du jour creation.  I could post this recipe on the board on a Saturday afternoon and sell plenty of it by the end of the night. Saturday is the best day to sell a tasty beef item, especially tender Tri-Tip Steak Bits!
     Tri-Tip is a cut of beef from the lower sirloin section.  Because the sirloin strip and tenderloin are cuts of beef from the loin section that are in high demand, they command a high price.  The top sirloin and bottom sirloin in the loin section tend to sell for a lower price.  Unfortunately when any cut of beef becomes popular on a grand scale, the price goes up.  Currently Tri-Tip is at a peak in popularity and the actual consumer value is not quite as good as back when relatively few people knew about this cut of beef.  
     Tri-Tip Steaks from the loin section of beef usually only have to be marinated to increase tenderness and to add flavor.  Braising usually is not required to make a Tri-Tip steak tender.  The configuration of muscular grain of Tri-Tip meat grain is perfect for marination.  The meat grain tends to be loose, so a marinade easily penetrates this cut of beef.  A mildly acidic marinade is best and English Malt Vinegar is perfect for the task.

     English Chips are basically French Fries.  Traditional English chips are not cut with the French pont neuf precision cut that is used to make French Fries.  Traditional English Chips look like "chips off of the old block!"  The potato is simply cut into pieces that will cook quickly and fry evenly.  The chips should be odd shaped and they should be small enough to eat with one or two bites.

     English Malt Vinegar Marinated Tri-Tip Steak Bits:
     This recipe yields 1 portion!  
     Steak does not need to be swimming in a sea of marinade.  Only enough marinade is needed to coat the steak bits with flavor.  Too much acidic marinade can cause undesirable changes in the character of beef.
     Step 1:  Cut 10 ounces of Tri-Tip steak into bite size pieces. 
     Step 2:  Place the steak bits in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 tablespoons of English Malt Vinegar.
     Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 1 pinch of rosemary.
     Add 2 pinches of thyme.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of crushed black peppercorn.
     Add 2 pinches of Kosher Salt.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar.
     Step 3:  Toss the ingredients together.
     Chill the ingredients for 2 hours, so the flavors meld.

     Craft IPA Beer Bread:
     Follow this link to the recipe:
     • Craft IPA Beer Bread

     English Chips:
     Step 1:  Heat 6" of vegetable frying oil in a high sided pot to 360º.
     Step 2:  Cut 5 to 6 ounces of peeled russet potato in into odd shaped chips.  (large bite size) 
     Step 3:  Fry the chips for a few minutes, till they just start to become tender and so they are still white in color.
     Use a fryer net to place the chips on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan.
     Let the chips cool.
     Step 4:  Fry the chips a second time, till they are fully cooked and crispy golden brown.  (CGB!)
     Step 5:  Use a fryer net to place the chips on the wire screen roasting rack to drain off any excess oil.
     Season the chips with sea salt.
     Keep the chips warm on a stove top.

     Grilled IPA Beer Bread:
     Heat a griddle over medium/medium low heat.
     Cut 1 petite IPA beer bread loaf into 1/4" thick slices.
     Brush both sides of each slice with melted unsalted butter.
     Grill the beer bread on both sides, till it is toasted golden brown.
     Keep the the grilled beer bread warm on a stove top. 

     English Malt Vinegar Marinated Tri-Tip Steak Bits:
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Step 2:  Remove the steak bits from the marinade and place them in the hot pan.
     Grill the steak bits on all sides, till they are cooked to the desired state of doneness.  (Medium/Medium Rare is best for Marinated Tri-Tip Bits.)
     Step 3:  Remove the steak bits from the pan and place them on a plate.  
     Keep the plate warm on a stove top.
     Step 4:  Drain the grease out of the hot pan.
     Place the pan over medium heat.
     Step 5:  Add 2 ounces of beef broth.
     Add 1 tablespoon of English malt vinegar.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Step 6:  Quickly deglaze the pan, as the jus reduces to a very thin glace consistency.
     Remove the pan from the heat.

     English Malt Vinegar Marinated Tri-Tip Steak Bits ... with Chips, Peas and Grilled Craft IPA Beer Bread:
     Pour the jus over the steak bits and on the plate.
     Place the Grilled Craft IPA Beer Bread Slices, the English Chips and a vegetable of your choice on the plate.  (Buttered Boiled Sweet Peas are a traditional English favorite!)
     No garnish is necessary!

     This English Malt Vinegar Tri-Tip Steak Bits Entrée can be served for lunch, low tea or a late night pub snack.  The flavors are uncomplicated, yet very tasty!  

Craft IPA Beer Bread

     IPA Beer Bread!
     Beer Bread is made wherever beer is made or served.  Beer bread is usually made with leftover flat beer or beer that is to low of a quality to be enjoyed on its own.  In this day and age of the western craft beer trend, some chefs use top quality beer to make tasty beer bread.  In my opinion, if the craft beer is great, it should be served on its own.  
     Believe me, I have tasted plenty of western craft beer and there are many craft brews on the market that are inconsistent in quality from one batch to the next.  The rule of thumb is if you do not like a craft brew's character, then use it in a recipe.  The flavor can always be doctored up!  

     Craft IPA Beer Bread:
     This recipe yields enough dough for 3 petite mini loaves of beer bread.  (2 1/2"x3"x4 1/2" loaves) 
     Any kind of hoppy western craft IPA beer can be used to make this recipe.  The more unbalanced and foul tasting, the better!   
     Step 1:  Place 1/2 cup of IPA beer in a mixing bowl.
     Float 3/4 cup of all purpose flour or bread flour on top of the beer.  (flour island technique)
     Place 1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt on the flour island.  (salt to taste)
     Place 1 tablespoon of sugar on the flour island.
     Place 1 small pinch of allspice on the flour.
     Place 1 small pinch of cardamom on the flour.
     Place 1 small pinch of white pepper on the flour.
     Place 1 small pinch of nutmeg on the flour.
     Place 2 teaspoons of baking powder on the island.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of melted unsalted butter or warm bacon grease.
     Step 2:  Use a whisk to mix the ingredients together to create a loose wet dough.  (sponge)
     Add a little bit of flour at a time, while mixing with a spoon, till a soft dough texture is created and the dough can be gathered in a ball shape.  (The dough should not be sticky or dry.)
     Step 3:  Bench the dough on a lightly floured countertop.
     Divide the dough into 3 equal size portions.
     Roll the dough into petite loaf shapes. 
     Step 4:  Place each dough shape in 4 1/2" x 2 1/2" petite bread loaf pans that are brushed with melted unsalted butter.
     Brush each loaf with melted unsalted butter.
     Step 5:  Place the mini loaf pans on a baking pan.
     Allow the dough to rise for 5 minutes.
     Bake in a 425º oven, till the beer bread is a golden brown color.  
     Step 6:  Place the bread pans on a cooling rack.

     Grilled IPA Beer Bread:
     Heat a griddle over medium/medium low heat.
     Cut 1 petite IPA beer bread loaf into 1/4" thick slices.
     Brush both sides of each slice with melted unsalted butter.
     Grill the beer bread on both sides, till it is toasted golden brown.
     Keep the the grilled beer bread warm on a stove top. 

     Grilled IPA Bread is a nice accompaniment for marinated chargrilled steak!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

English Pub Style Cobb Salad with Stilton Cheese and Curry Spice Chicken

      A Nice Variation Of The Classic Cobb Salad!
      For some reason I felt like making a Classic Cobb Salad example to used for a recipe article.  After giving it some thought, I figured that a regular Classic Cobb Salad would not be a good choice, because every chef and their mother's mother probably already has a Classic Cob Salad recipe published on the internet.
    Creating a unique Cobb Salad variation seemed like the best choice.  I had some good English Stilton Cheese in the fridge and then an idea clicked.  An English style version of a Classic Cobb Salad is probably something that has never been published as a recipe by anyone else.  "By jove, I think I've got it!"

     Passing By The Brown Derby
     The original Cobb Salad was created in the 1930's at the famous Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood California.  The Cobb Salad is one of the most popular salads that there is.  Many modern restaurants still offer this classic salad on their menu.
     My step grandfather managed several great Mexican restaurants in the Los Angeles area in the 1960's.  I used to tag along when he was driving around Los Angeles doing his district manager duties.
     The old original was located along the rout that my step grand-dad took to get to one of his job sites.  When we drove by that landmark restaurant, I always used to point at the Brown Derby and say "Lets go eat lunch at the place with the big hat!"
     My step grandfather always comically answered with this same response every time.  "What do you want to do?  Eat a Cobb Salad with the snooty rich Hollywood people or something?  I can't take you in there, because Hollywood stars steal children and stuff!" 

     The original Brown Derby in Hollywood sure was an easy landmark restaurant to identify.  The shape of the building looked like a gigantic brown derby hat!  The Brown Derby became a Los Angeles franchise restaurant and soon there were Brown Derby restaurants nationwide.  The Cobb Salad was the Brown Derby's signature salad.

     The Original Cobb Salad
     There are many recipes for classic Cobb Salads on the internet already.  There are many modified Cobb Salad recipes too.  It seems like the most recent modified Cobb Salad recipes were created several years ago, when fried chicken was a popular salad topping.

     The original Cobb Salad Ingredient List:
     • Iceberg Lettuce, Romaine Lettuce, Watercress and Sliced Chives
     • Crumbled Maytag Bleu Cheese
     • Broiled or Boil Chicken
     • Chopped Bacon, boiled egg, tomato and avocado
     • A Classic Cobb Salad can have a composed presentation or the ingredients can be tossed together.  The best Cobb Salad composed presentation is line up rows of each topping across the top of the salad.
     • French Salad Dressing was the original choice for Cob Salad dressing.  French Dressing may sound odd, but back the 1930's, Red Wine Vinaigrette was often called French Dressing.  The Brown Derby called Red Wine Vinaigrette by the name French Dressing for many decades.

     English Style Cobb Salad Version:
     For today's English Pub version of a Cobb Salad, crumbled English Stilton Cheese replaces Maytag Bleu Cheese.  Stilton Cheese has deep rich aged bleu cheese flavor.  Aged English Stilton is much sharper than Danish Bleu Cheese or French Roquefort.  Stilton is one of the world's most highly regarded cheeses.
     Seared Curry Spice Chicken gives today's Cobb Salad variation an English touch.  British folks like Indian curry, so curry spiced chicken fits nicely with the theme of this Cobb Salad variation.  
     Smoked Bacon adds a nice touch.  The lettuce choice is a mixture of baby lettuce greens, sliced chives and watercress.
     Stilton Cheese: 
     The history of Stilton Cheese is well worth reading.  When Stilton Cheese first came about in the early 1700's, the dining habits of cheese connoisseurs were quite different than in modern times.  Stilton cheese in the 1700's was served with a thick layer of cheese mites and insect larvae on the Stilton Wheel serving plate.  A spoon was set on the plate, so the mites and larvae could be eaten along with the cheese.
     Serving fine cheese in this manner was common practice in Europe several hundred years ago.  Since modern health regulations now take precedence, Stilton is now served clean with no cheese mites or larvae.

     *This entire recipe yields 1 large salad portion that can be shared by 2 guests!
     Red Wine Vinaigrette (French Salad Dressing):
     Step 1:  Place 1 1/2  tablespoons of red wine vinegar in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of of dijon mustard.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced shallot.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch each of:
     - tarragon
     - basil
     - thyme
     - chervil
     Step 2:  Slowly stream of 1/4 cup of olive oil into the mixture, while gently whisking, to create a semi emulsified vinaegrette.
     Step 3:  Add 1 teaspoon of virgin olive oil while stirring.
     Allow the vinaegrette to stand for 5 minutes, so the flavors meld. 
     Smoked Bacon:
     Heat a griddle or sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Grill 3 slices of smoked bacon, till they are crispy.
     Place the crisp bacon on a cutting board.
     Chop the bacon into small bits.
     Set the smoked bacon bits aside.
     Curry Spice Chicken:
     Step 1:  Place 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of garam masala.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric.
     Add 1 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add sea salt.
     Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Step 2:  Trim the fat and skin off of an 8 ounce chicken breast filet.
     Place the chicken breast in the curry spice oil.
     Allow the chicken to marinate for 10 minutes in a refrigerator.
     Step 3:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Place the curry spice chicken breast in the hot pan.
     Gently sauté the chicken on both sides, till it is fully cooked.  Flip the chicken often, so it cooks evenly and the curry spices do not brown.
     Step 4:  Set the chicken aside and let it cool.
     Dice the curry spice chicken breast into small bite size pieces.

     English Pub Style Cobb Salad with Stilton Cheese and Curry Spice Chicken:
     Step 1:  Place 2 1/2 cups of mixed baby lettuce in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 cup of watercress.
     Add 3 tablespoons of fresh chives that are cut into 3/8" lengths.
     Toss the lettuce mixture.
     Step 2:  Mound the lettuce mixture on an oval shaped serving platter.
     Step 3:  Arrange 1 or 2 rows of each of these ingredients across the salad in any order that that creates eye appeal:
     - chopped hard boiled egg
     - crumbled English Stilton Cheese
     - chopped tomato
     - smoked bacon bits
     - diced avocado
     - diced curry spice chicken
     Place the red wine vinaegrette in a small ramekin and serve it on the side.
     This English pub style Cobb Salad has an interesting flavor combination that is quite tasty! 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Armenian String Cheese Summer Salad

     A Tasty Summer Salad!
     Armenian cuisine is interesting, to say the least.  Armenia has a long culinary history that offers many great traditional recipes.  Everything from simple comfort food to fine pastry arts can be found in this cuisine.  Influences of Roman, Grecian, Turkish and Russian cooking styles can be noticed, but many more food traditions are unique to Armenian culture. 

     Many modern restaurant chefs overlook diverse old world cuisines.  The television food media seems to have a narrow range of focus that only places celebrity chefs in the spotlight.  Their are so many great cuisines that never seem to gain media attention.  The only way for the general public to find out about cuisines that are not featured in the spotlight is to do culinary research on their own.  The internet has become a good source of culinary information, but filtering data is necessary when seeking traditional cultural cuisine information that places importance on originality.  
     Another way to discover diverse cuisines is to dine a restaurant that has cultural cuisine theme.  For example, go to an Indian, Malaysian, Ethiopian or any restaurant that offers ethnic food and ask a few questions while ordering food that has never been experienced before.  Give the food a try.  This way an old traditional food item can be like something novel and new.  Trying traditional ethnic food for the first time can be an eye opening experience.  Experiencing the culture's traditional table service style is a learning experience too. 

     Goat Milk Yogurt Sauces are common in Armenian cuisine.  Exotic flavors are achieved with both simple combinations of ingredients and complex arrays of spices.  Fresh herbs are predominant in Armenian cuisine.  A salad dressing made with goat milk yogurt is refreshing, fat free and very healthy to eat.

     Today's recipe is not a traditional Armenian recipe, but it does feature good imported Armenian String Cheese.  The rest of the salad ingredients are common in Armenian cuisine and this supports the theme of today's salad creation.  The idea behind a creative recipe that features ingredients from a foreign cuisine is to create interest in classic cultural food from around the globe!  
     Most importantly, today's salad creation inspires readers to purchase some really good imported Armenian String Cheese.  This helps to support the Armenian traditional cheese making heritage.  
     Armenian String Cheese is different than commercial national brand String Cheese that is made in tonnage numbers at some giant cheese factory in Wisconsin.  Wisconsin cheese factories are well known for producing quantity cheese, not quality cheese.  High volume production methods usually sacrifice quality and the original character of a cheese is lost.  Basically if a bland lifeless flavor is what one seeks, then purchase cheese from a high volume domestic cheese company that only cares about bottom line profits.
     Imported Armenian String Cheese is made from goat milk, it is pure white in color and a few black caraway seeds flavor the stretched curds.  The flavor is very rich and the tangy goat milk flavor is present.  
     Salt brine is what creates the stringy texture when the warm curds are stretched.  The salt content in traditional string cheese can vary.  It is best to taste imported Armenian String Cheese to check for salt content when making something like today's salad recipe.  If the string cheese is a little salty, then add no salt to the salad dressing.  
     A peppery olive oil helps to offset salty flavors.  Virgin Olive Oil al Peperoncino is olive oil infused with mild dried chile pepper.  This type of infused oil is perfect with good imported Armenian String Cheese.  
    Where to find imported Armenian food products is a good question.  All that I can say is that a consumer would be lucky to find a wide variety of Mediterranean food in a common American grocery store.    
     The best source for authentic imported food products from Armenia is a Mediterranean, Grecian or Eastern European food market food market!  Another option if no such market exists in the local area, is to purchase Mediterranean food items at specialty shops on the internet.  Amazon offers a wide variety of specialty food items and sometimes free shipping is available.  

     *This entire salad recipe yields 1 serving!

     Armenian String Cheese Preparation:
     Separate a single rope of Armenian String Cheese that weighs about 3 1/2 ounces.
     Start separating the grain of the cheese at one end of the rope and pull long thin strands.
     Set the string cheese threads aside. 
     Be sure to taste the cheese to check for salt content.

     Sumac Berry Mint Goat Milk Yogurt:
     This sauce can be used for anything from making a Shawarma Sandwich to Salad Dressing!
     Step 1:  Place 1/4 cup of goat milk yogurt in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 teaspoon of rubbed dried mint.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of sumac berry spice.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of garlic paste.
     Add 1 pinch of onion powder.
     Add 1 small pinch of black pepper.
     *Only add salt if the Armenian String Cheese is not salty tasting.
     Step 2:  Add 1/2 tablespoon of virgin olive oil while stirring.
     Step 3:  Add just enough water, while stirring, till the sauce is a thin consistency.  (About 2 to 3 teaspoons.)
     Chill the sauce till it is needed.

     Whole Wheat Pita Bread Toast Points:
     Step 1:  Cut an 8" whole wheat pita bread into thin wedges.
     Step 2:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Allow the butter to cook to a light golden color.
     Step 3:  Add the pita wedges.
     Sauté and toss, till the bread is lightly toasted and crisp.
     Step 4:  Place the pita toast points on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan.
     Keep the pita toast points warm on a stove top.

     Armenian String Cheese Summer Salad:
     Virgin Olive Oil al Peperoncino is infused with dried mild paprika chile peppers.  This kind of fancy olive oil is nice for garnishing!
     Step 1:  Place the prepared string cheese in a mixing bowl.  
     Add 1/2 cup of peeled cucumber that is cut into thick quarter wedges.
     Add 4 to 5 plum tomato wedges.
     Add about 8 pickled sweet red & yellow banana pepper rings.
     Add 1 tablespoon of petite fresh dill weed sprigs.
     Add 6 to 8 large capers.  (Soak the capers in warm water to remove the salty brine.)
     Add the Sumac Berry Mint Yogurt Sauce.
     Toss the ingredients together.

     Armenian String Cheese Summer Salad - Sumac Berry Mint Yogurt and Virgin Olive Oil al Peperoncino:
     The quality of fresh herbs here in the desert can be lousy when summer temperatures are over 118ºF.  The fresh dill weed in the photos definitely was affected by the extreme heat.  Dried herbs are an option, but fresh herbs are traditional for Armenian cuisine. 
     Step 1:  Mound the Armenian String Cheese Summer Salad on the center of a plate.
     Arrange the whole wheat pita bread toast points on the plate around the salad to create a sunshine effect.
     Garnish the salad with fresh dill weed sprigs.  
     Step 2:  Drizzle a thin stream of Virgin Olive Oil al Peperoncino around the salad on the pita toast points and plate.  

     Viola!  This salad is very filling and it is meant to be slowly savored on a lazy summer afternoon.  A relaxed casual dining style is preferred by many folks prefer this time of year.