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!

Monday, April 17, 2017

English Shepherd's Pie

     English Style Comfort Food!
     There are several potato topped meat pie recipe variations in England and Ireland.  Shepherd's Pie is the most well known.  In England, Shepherd's Pie is traditionally made with minced lamb.  Irish Shepherd's Pie is made with ground beef.  Both of these meat pies are topped with a mashed potato mixture and they are oven baked in a ceramic crock or casserole dish.
     Both English and Irish Shepherd's Pie can also be made with leftovers from a previous meal, especially when the leftovers are from a traditional Sunday Roast.  During tough economic times, just about any kind of leftover meat and vegetables has been known to make its way into a Shepherd's Pie, so the list of ingredients can depend on what was cooked the previous day.
     Another kind of potato topped meat pie is English style Cottage Pie.  Cottage Pie is usually made with coarse chopped beef, because this pie was created before mechanized meat grinders were commonly available.  Cottage Pie was originally topped with thin sliced potato, so the topping looked like a wood shingle roof after it was baked.  When a Cottage Pie is topped with a mashed potato mixture, a thick slice of tomato is placed on the potato topping.  Cheese can be melted on top of a Cottage Pie potato and tomato topping too.
     The English Shepherd's Pie filling that people know best is made with a mixture of cooked ground lamb, diced onion, diced carrot, peas and brown gravy.  The topping is buttery mashed potato that are tightened with egg.  The English Shepherds Pie recipe can vary.  The two most common variations are one that has no vegetables added to the meat mixture and the second is replacing the ground lamb with ground beef.  
     I was the chef at an English pub for two years and I made plenty of Shepherd's Pie.  The way to make this English specialty look best is to use individual portion size ceramic crocks or soufflé ramekins.  This way the ground meat and vegetable filling is contained and and the whipped potato topping can be piped on top with a star tipped pastry bag.  The result is an individual portion Shepherd's Pie that has good eye appeal.  
     English Shepherd's Pie Filling:
     This recipe yields 1 individual portion Shepherd's Pie!
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoons unsalted butter (or lard).  
     Add 3 tablespoons of minced onion.
     Sauté till the onions start to become tender.
     Step 2:  Add 6 ounces of lean ground lamb.
     Use a wire whisk to stir and break up any clumps of ground lamb as it cooks.
     Sauté till the ground lamb is fully cooked and lightly browned.
     Step 3:  Add just enough flour while stirring to soak up the grease in the pan and make a roux.  (About 1 1/2 tablespoons.)
     Stir till the roux is combined.
     Step 4:  Add 1/2 cup of English Porter or Stout Beer.
     Add 2 cups of rich beef broth.
     Add 1/4 cup of diced carrot.
     Add 1 small bay leaf.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 or 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.  (to taste)
     Stir the stew as it comes to a gentle boil.  
     *The stewed meat filling will be a very thin consistency at this time.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the gravy is a medium consistency that easily coats the ingredients.
     Step 6:  Add 1/4 cup of thawed frozen peas.
     Simmer a few minutes till the peas are tender.
     Step 7:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Remove the bay leaf. 
     Let the Shepherd's Pie Filling cool to room temperature
     Set the English shepherd's pie filling aside or chill it for later use.    

     Potato Crust Topping:
     This recipe yields a little more than enough to top 1 individual portion ceramic crock or soufflé ramekin.   
     Step 1:  Place an 9 ounce peeled russet potato in a sauce pot. 
     Cover the potato with water.
     Boil the potato over medium high heat till it is soft.
     Step 2:  Drain the water off the potato.
     Place the hot boiled potato in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 tablespoon of milk.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of melted unsalted butter.
     Step 3:  Start mashing the potato with a whisk. 
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of whisked egg while whisking.
     Thoroughly mash the ingredients together till the potato topping medium thick crème potato consistency.
     Step 4:  Let the potato topping mixture cool to less than 100ºF.
     Place the potato topping mixture in a star tipped pastry bag.

     English Shepherd's Pie:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Step 1:  Place the English Shepherd's Pie Filling in an individual portion size ceramic baking crock or soufflé ramekin.  (The volume of the baking crock or ramekin should be about 2 1/4 cups to 2 1/2 cups.  Be sure to leave enough room for the potato topping.)
     Step 2:  Use the pastry bag to pipe the potato topping on the Shepherd's Pie.  (A spiral pattern looks nice.  The topping should be about 1/2" to 1" thick.)  
     Step 3:  Place the ceramic baking mold on a baking pan.
     Place the pan in a 325ºF oven.
     Bake till the filling is piping hot and golden brown highlights appear on the potato topping.
     Step 4:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Allow the English Shepherd's Pie to cool to a safe serving temperature.
     Place the pie crock on a doily lined serving plate.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.
     English Shepherd's Pie is savory hearty comfort food!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Lamb and Dried Fruit Kefta with Harissa White Beans

     Moroccan Spiced Lamb and Dried Fruit Meatballs!
     There are just about as many ways to spell Kefta as there are recipes for this food item.  How the word Kefta is spelled does provide a clue to which cuisine style should be focused on, based upon the regional language dialect.  Just like Kofta, the word Kefta refers to a ball shape.  In a culinary sense, Kefta refers to meatballs.  Since the word Kefta is used to describe meatballs in languages that are common in Morocco, some traditional Moroccan style cooking knowledge should be applied to making the meatballs.  This means that a complex array of spices should be used and dried fruit can also flavor the minced meat.  This combination yields an intriguingly good tasting meatball!
     Beans of any kind are commonly called Hummis in most parts of the Middle East and North Africa.  It does not matter if the beans are whole or mashed into a paste.  It does not matter is the beans are chickpeas, fava or white beans.  On the other hand, beans are also referred to by their specific names in this region too and this can put recipe translators to the test.  For example, today's recipe's alternative name could be Lamb and Dried Fruit Kefta with Hummus en Harissa.  In western world countries, this would lead to confusion, because the word Hummus refers to Bean Dip.       
     White Beans are popular throughout the Mediterranean region and North Africa.  White Beans are also called Cannellini or White Kidney Beans.  White Beans are available in most grocery stores. 
      The heavy use of Harissa Sauce is common in Tunisian cuisine.  For the sake of convenience, a pre-made Harissa Sauce product was used to make today's recipe.  The Harissa product selection at a common grocery store is limited and if a Harissa paste or sauce is available, it is usually overpriced.  The best place to find a good selection of Harissa products is at a Mediterranean food market.  Many different brands and regional styles are available and the price is a bargain.  Some Harissa products are labeled as mild or spicy.  There really is not much difference in the spicy heat range between the two label descriptions, because Harissa traditionally is mild tasting.  A Harissa Paste is as thick as tomato paste and can be thinned to a sauce consistency.  Harissa Sauce products are ready to be used as is.  
     Lamb and Dried Fruit Kefta:  
     This recipe yields enough for 5 or 6 meatballs.  (2 ounce to 2 1/2 ounce apiece)
     While the meatballs are baking, the Harissa White Beans can be made.
     Step 1:  Soak 1/4 cup of Basmati Rice in water for 1 hour.
     Rinse the rice with cold water.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of water.
     Add the soaked Basmati Rice.
     Bring the water to a boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer till the rice is a little more than halfway cooked.  (About 14 minutes.)
     Step 3:  Drain the water off of the al dente Basmati Rice with a fine mesh strainer.
     Cool the rice under cold running water.
     Drain the water off of the rice.
     Set the prepared Basmati Rice aside.
     Step 4:  Heat a sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced celery.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced garlic.
     Gently sauté till the onions begin to caramelize.
     Set the pan of aromatic vegetables aside to cool.
     Step 5:  Place 8 ounces of ground lamb in a mixing bowl.
     Add the prepared Basmati Rice.
     Add the sautéed aromatic vegetables.
     Step 6:  Add 5 Dried Apricot Halves that are small chopped.
     Add 1/4 cup of minced Golden Raisons.
     Step 7:  Add 1/2 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of crumbled dried mint leaves.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of cumin.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric.
     Add 2 pinches of Safflower Saffron.
     Add 1 pinch of ground cardamom.
     Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 pinch of nutmeg.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Add 2 pinches of black pepper.
     Thoroughly mix the ingredients together.
     Step 8:  Divide the mixture into equal portions that weigh about 2 ounces to 2 1/2 ounces apiece.
     Roll the meatball portions into smooth round ball shapes.
     Step 9:  Brush a baking pan with vegetable oil.
     Place the meatballs on the baking pan.
     Place the pan in a 325ºF oven.
     Roast till the meatballs are fully cooked and they are lightly browned.  (About 20 minutes.)
     *Be sure to occasionally turn the meatballs as they bake, so they cook evenly.
     Step 10:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Keep the Lamb and Dried Fruit Kefta warm on a stove top.  
     Harissa White Beans:
     This recipe yields 3 cups.  (2 portions)
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 5 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1/4 cup of minced onion.
     Gently sauté till the onions just start to caramelize.
     Step 2:  Add 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth.
     Add 2/3 cup of Harissa Sauce (or 3 tablespoons of Harissa Paste).
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add 2 pinches of black pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Spanish Paprika.
     Whisk the sauce till it is blended.
     Step 3:  Add 2 cups of rinsed cooked White Beans (or rinsed canned White Beans).
     Bring the liquid back to a simmer.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the Harissa Sauce is a medium thin consistency that can easily cling to the beans.
     Keep the Harissa White Beans warm over very low heat.
     Lamb and Dried Fruit Kefta with Harissa White Beans:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Place 1 1/2 cups of the Harissa White Beans in a shallow single portion casserole dish.
     Place 1 or 2 of the Lamb and Dried Fruit Kefta on the Harissa White Beans.  (1 kefta is a petite portion.)
     Spoon a little bit of the Harissa Sauce over the kefta.
     Place the casserole dish on a doily lined serving plate.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.

     Lamb and Dried Fruit Kefta with Harissa White Beans is as flavorful as can be!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Rhineland Himmel Unde Erde with Jalapeño Chicken Bratwurst, Smoked Bacon and Onion

     Heaven and Earth!
     Himmel Unde Erde translates to "Heaven and Earth."  Apples represent heaven and potatoes represent earth.  Himmel Unde Erde is a classic German recipe that is hearty and delicious.  Himmel Unde Erde is a traditional fall and winter entrée that will keep a person warm and comfy in chilly weather.
     Either fresh apples are cooked with the potatoes or home made apple sauce is added to the mashed potatoes.  Fresh made apple sauce or fresh apples cooked with the potatoes is a better choice, than adding a pre-made sugar free apple sauce product.  Himmel unde erde is best when the apples and the potatoes are only partially mashed, but many people like a smooth himmel unde erde texture.  Any kind of starchy potato can be used for this recipe.  I chose red bliss potatoes and I left the skins on the potatoes for more color.  The apples should be semi sweet or tart.  Gala Apples or Granny Smith Apples are a good choice.
     Sausage can accompany Himmel Unde Erde.  Any kind of Bratwurst or traditional German sausage is a classic choice.  I found some Jalapeño Chicken Bratwurst Sausages that looked quite nice at the market and I figured that a mildly spicy sausage would add an interesting flavor contrast.  By classic definition there really is no such thing as a Chicken Bratwurst except for in America, but Chicken Sausages have become popular worldwide in recent years, because they are a healthy option.
     There are a few traditional recipe variations for Himmel and Erde.  Pears take the place of apples in some recipes.  Bacon and onion is another traditional accompaniment for Himmel Unde Erde.  Rhineland Himmel Unde Erde is often served with Blutwurst (blood sausage).
     A variety of Blood Sausages are available in German delicatessens and Eastern European food markets.  Nearly all traditional Blood Sausage is made with bits of grain in the sausage meat mixture.  The grain absorbs the pig blood, which is the key flavor.  Warm whole Blood Sausage can be served on the side with Himmel Unde Urde, but if the Blood Sausage is just used to flavor the Himmel Unde Urde, then sautéing a small amount and placing it on top is a good way to feature this unique sausage flavor.  When sautéed, the Blood Sausage pieces will crumble, because of the grain content.
     Himmel Unde Erde: 
     This yields makes 1 hearty portion.
     While the apples and potatoes are cooking, the rest of the ingredients can be prepared.  
     Step 1:  Peel and core 1 Granny Smith Green Apple (or a Gala Apple).
     Cut the apple into fourths.
     Step 2:  Place the apple pieces in a sauce pot.
     Add 9 ounces of red bliss potatoes that are cut in half.
     Add enough water to cover the ingredients with 1" of extra liquid.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Step 3:  Place the sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Gently boil till the apples and potatoes become soft.
     Step 4:  Drain the water off of the potatoes and apple.
     Step 5:  Return the sauce pot with the apple and potatoes to very low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 2 pinches of nutmeg.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Use a heavy wire whisk or a potato masher to mash the apples and potatoes till the texture is almost smooth.
     Step 6:  Place the Himmel Unde Erde in a ceramic bowl.
     Keep it warm on a stove top or in a 135ºF bain marie.

     Jalapeño Chicken Bratwurst:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Step 1:  Heat a griddle (or sauté pan) over medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 2 Jalapeño Chicken Sausages that weigh 4 to 5 ounces apiece.
     Grill the sausages, till they are browned and fully cooked.  Turn the sausages often, so they cook evenly.
     Step 2:  Place the sausages on a platter.
     Keep the Jalapeño Chicken Bratwurst warm on a stove top.
     Smoked Bacon and Onion:
     This recipe yields 1 garnish portion.
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 strip of smoked bacon that is cut into 1" long pieces.
     Pan fry the smoked bacon pieces till light brown highlights appear.
     Step 2:  Add 1/2 cup of chopped onion.
     Sauté till the onions are lightly caramelized.
     Keep the smoked bacon and onions warm on a stove top.
     Sautéed Blutwurst (Blood Sausage):
     This recipe yields 1 garnish portion.
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of unsalted butter.
     Add a 3 ounce piece of Blood Sausage.
     Sauté the Blood Sausage till it crumbles apart and the bits are lightly browned.
     Step 2:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Remove the spent piece of sausage casing.
     Keep the Sautéed Blutwurst warm on a stove top.

     Rhineland Himmel Unde Erde with Jalapeño Chicken Bratwurst, Smoked Bacon and Onion:
     Step 1:  Mound a generous portion of the Himmel Unde Erde in a shallow single portion casserole dish.
     Step 2:  Use a perforated spoon to place the grilled bacon and onions around the border of the Himmel Unde Erde.
     Place the crumbled Sautéed Blutwurst on top of the Himmel Unde Erde.
     Place 2 jalapeno bratwurst on top of the himmel unde erde.

     Viola!  Classic Rhineland Himmel with traditional and modern sausage flavors!

Collard Greens and Smoked Neck Bones ... Soul Food!

     Smoked Pork Neck Bones and Greens!
     Soul Food was not always called soul food.  Before the 1960's, Soul Food was simply called old fashioned down home cooking.  Slow simmered recipes that are rich in nutrients are the hallmark of down home cooking.  Down home cooking is done with tender loving care.  Soul Food is a great name for this kind of cooking, because this cooking style satisfies the needs of the body and the soul!
     Soul Food definitely puts meat on the bones!  I was raised on this kind of down home country style southern cooking.  I was an athlete when I was in high school.  I can honestly say that soul food did make me feel stronger and healthier.  Coordination also seemed to improve after eating this kind of down home cooking.
     There once was an American champion bodybuilder in the late 1900's that used to preach about the benefits of eating old fashioned Soul Food.  During this same period in time, steroid usage was rampant amongst professional athletes.  I still remember a reporter asking the champion muscle man if he uses steroids during a television interview after winning another major event.  The big body builder smiled ear to ear and honestly said that he did not even take vitamins and the secret to his trophy winning physique was good old fashioned hearty Soul Food!        
     Soul Food adds strength and tensile strength definition to muscles.  Slow simmered cartilaginous bones and joints, like trotters, hocks and neck bones, create a rich broth that increases tendon strength, healthy heart valves and is toughens cartilage between the bones.  The rich broth in a pot of greens cartilaginous meat is call Pot Liquor.  The Pot Liquor is highly revered, because it is an elixir of life.
     Never discard the pot liquor from a slowly simmered soul food recipe!  The broth should be poured over the greens and neck bones before serving and any excess can be served on the side.  Cornbread or sliced white bread is great for sopping up the tasty pot liquor on a plate.          
     Collard Greens have the highest nutritional value of all leafy greens.  The flavor of Collard Greens is one of a kind and they go well with savory meat.  Smoked Pork Neck Nones provide plenty of flavor Collard Greens and this combination makes a great tasting savory pot liquor.
     There is plenty of meat on Pork Neck Bones.  Smoked Neck Bones are cure fully cooked and ready to eat items, but the meat is drawn tight to the bone after smoking and it can be tough if the Smoked Neck Bones are not fresh.  Slow simmering loosens the smoked meat on the neck bones and the meat becomes very tender.  The cartilaginous material softens too, so by all means, nibbling the meat and soft cartilage on the neck bones at the table is okay to do.
     I made today's Collard Greens and Smoked Neck Bones photo example while working in Chicago back in 2010.  The meat processing companies in Chicago have always been some of the busiest in the industry.  The Chicago meat smoking business district supplies great smoked meats to most of this nation.
     As one can guess, the closer the food market is to Chicago, the fresher the smoked meats will be.  The Smoked Pork Neck Bones in the photos were so fresh, that they had not even started to take on a darker dry aged color as of yet.  In fact, the patina coating had not even started to develop.  If the Smoked Neck Bones are fresh out of the smoker, they can be added to a pot of greens as is.  If the Smoked Pork Neck Bones are aged and they have a slimy patina coating,  then the patina should be removed before adding them to a pot of greens.  Placing the aged dark color Pork Neck Bones in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes will remove the patina coating.    

     Collard Greens and Smoked Neck Bones: 
     This recipe yields 1 hearty portion (or 2 petite portions).
     *If the Smoked Pork Neck Bones are fresh, then they can be added to the pot of greens with no preparation.  If the Smoked Neck Bones are aged and dark color with a slimy patina coating, then the patina must be removed.  To remove the patina coating, follow these steps:
     • Place the Aged Smoked Neck Bones in a pot of boiling water over medium high heat.
     • Gently boil till the patina coating dissolves and floats to the surface.  (About 5 to 10 minutes.) 
     • Remove the Neck Bones from the hot water and let them cool.  
     • Rinse the Neck Bones under cold running water and set them aside.
     Step 1:  Soak 1 bunch of Collard Greens in sink full of cold water.
     Rinse the greens under cold water.
     Trim off any bruised or brown spots.
     Trim the tough stems and thick leaf veins off the collard greens.
     Cut the collard greens into large pieces that are about 2" to 3" wide.
     Set the prepared collard greens aside.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter (or bacon grease).
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1/3 cup of small chopped onion.
     Sauté till the onions and garlic are tender.
     Step 3:  Add the prepared collard greens to the pot.
     Add 3 large Smoked Pork Neck Bones.  (About 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of meaty smoked neck bones is plenty.  Be sure that there is plenty of meat attached!)
     Add enough water to barely cover the greens and smoked neck bones.
     Step 4:  Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.  (About 2 to 3 pinches.)
     Add 1 pinch of crushed red pepper.
     Add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or cider vinegar.
     Step 5:  Raise the temperature to medium high heat.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Cover the pot with a lid.
     Gently simmer till the greens are tender and the neck bone meat loosens.  (About 1 hour.)
     Step 7:  Remove the lid from the pot.
     Raise the temperature to medium low heat.
     Simmer till the amount of Pot Liquor reduces to about 1 cup.
     Keep the Collard Greens and Smoked Neck Bones warm over very low heat.

     This recipe yields 1 hearty entrée.
     Step 1:  Use a slotted spoon to mound the Collard Greens and Smoked Neck Bones on a plate or a a shallow bowl.
     Step 2:  Pour some of the Pot Liquor over the Greens and Neck Bones.
     Serve any extra Pot Liquor on the side in a small soup bowl.
     Serve with sliced bread or cornbread on the side.

     Collard Greens and Neck Bones is a hearty meal that satisfies the body and soul!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Penne Rigate e Melanzane al Salsa di Pomodoro

     A Simple Italian Red Sauce and Eggplant Pasta!
     Today's pasta is an easy sauté recipe.  The traditional Italian Tomato Sauce is made ahead of time.  All that needs to be done is to sauté the eggplant before adding the sauce and pasta!
    The first Italian restaurant that I apprenticed in actually had Pasta e Melanzane al Salsa di Pomodoro on the lunch menu.  The chef was Sicilian and his sauces were supreme.  What sounded like a simple lunch pasta on the menu actually was quite a lively tasting experience.  The sautéed eggplant also makes this pasta light on the tummy, which is perfect for guests that do lunch while on the go.

     Salsa di Pomodoro:
     Follow the link to the recipe in this website. 
     • Salsa di Pomodoro

     Penne e Melanzane al Salsa di Pomodoro Recipe:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Like many Italian pasta recipes, the sauce can be prepared in the same amount of time that is takes to cook the pasta al dente.
     Step 1:  Place a small pot of water over medium high heat.
     Bring the water to a gentle boil.
     Add 1 portion of Penne Rigate Pasta.
     Boil the pasta till it is al dente.
     *Penne Rigate takes about 10 minutes to cook.  The eggplant and tomato sauce can be prepared while the pasta cooks!
     Step 2:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 1 chopped garlic clove.
     Sauté the till the garlic is a light golden color.
     Step 3:  Add 1 cup of thin bite size pieces of peeled eggplant.  (The eggplant pieces should be about 3/4" square and 3/16" thick.
     Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.
     Sauté till the eggplant is tender and golden brown highlights appear.
     Step 4:  Add 1 1/2 cups of Salsa di Pomodoro.
     Bring the sauce to a simmer.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Keep the eggplant and tomato sauce warm till the pasta finishes cooking.
     Step 6:  When the Penne Rigate Pasta is cooked al dente, drain the water off of the pasta.
     Add the pasta to the sauce in the sauté pan.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Step 7:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Mound the Penne Rigate e Melanzane al Salsa di Pomodoro on the center of a plate.
     Sprinkle 1 or 2 tablespoons of finely grated Parmigiana Cheese over the pasta.
     Serve with garlic bread on the side.

     The wine in the background is a 2004 Cabezac French Domaine vin de pays val du cesse.  This Cabezac Domaine is an interesting Languedoc Region Zinfandel and Merlot blend that goes well with red sauce pasta, as it should, because the Zinfandel Grape varietal is native to Italy.  Cabezac wines are worth looking into!  

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Hor'i - Yemen Style Beef Shank

     A Tasty Beef Shank Entrée!
     Hor'i is a traditional beef shank recipe that is well worth giving a try.  Hor'i is one of the tastiest beef shank entrées of them all and it is considered to be one of the Yemen national dishes.  
     A traditional Yemen spice blend called Hawayij is part of this recipe.  Like most African and Middle Eastern spice blends, the spices should be ground shortly before they are used, so peak aromatic flavors can be achieved.  
     Green Cardamom is sometimes available in Mediterranean food markets markets.  Green Cardamom Pods can always be found at internet shopping sites.  Green Cardamon is much more aromatic than ground dried cardamom.  Green Cardamom is part of the Hawayij spice blend and it does make a difference in flavor.  

     Hawayij Spice Blend:
     I use an old brass hand turned Turkish spice grinder to grind spice mixtures.  A Turkish spice grinder can also used as a Turkish Coffee Grinder, so sometimes this kind of brass grinder is marketed as a coffee grinder instead of a spice grinder, but it is the same thing.  The texture of the grind can be adjusted from fine powder to coarse granules by turning two lock nuts in the mechanism.
     There are a few different styles of Hawayij and some blends can require several more spices to achieve an even more complex flavor.  Today's Hawayij recipe is fairly basic.  This recipe makes more Hawayij than what is needed for 1 portion of Hor'i.  Store any extra Hawayij in a small jar for later use. 
     Step 1:  Place these in ingredients in a Turkish spice grinder, spice mill or a mortar and pestle:
     - 4 tablespoons of black peppercorns
     - 2 tablespoons of caraway seeds
     - 1/2 teaspoon of Crocus sativa Saffron Threads (or 2 teaspoons of Safflower Saffron threads)
     - 1 tablespoon of green cardamom seeds 
     Grind the spices to a powder.
     Step 2:  Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of ground turmeric.
     Step 3:  Mix the ingredients together.
     Place the Hawayij Spic Mixture in a sealed container till it is needed. 

     Hor'i - Yemen Stewed Beef Shank:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.  
     There are no complicated cooking techniques involved in the traditional recipe.  The beef shank is pan braised.
     *Start cooking 1 portion of Plain Basmati Rice when the Beef Shank is almost finished cooking.
     Step 1:  Select 1 large Beef Shank Steak that is 3/4" to 1" thick.   The Beef Shank should weigh about 12 ounces with the bone attached.
     Step 2:  Place the beef shank in a sauce pot that is just slightly wider than the beef shank.
     Cover the beef shank with 1" of extra water.
     Place the pot over medium heat and bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Skim the foam and fat off of the surface of the liquid, till most of the impurities are gone.
     Step 3:  Add 3 partially crushed cloves of garlic.
     Add 3/4 cup of small chopped onion.
     Add 1/2 cup of chopped peeled seeded plum tomato.  (concasse)
     Add 1 tablespoon of tomato puree.
     Return the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 1 or 2 pinches of crushed dried red chile pepper.  (to taste)
     Add 1/2 teaspoon to 3/4 teaspoon of the Hawayij Spice Mixture.    
     Add Kosher Salt to taste.
     Step 5:  Cover the pot with a lid.
     Gently simmer for about 3 hours till the beef shank becomes very tender.  
     *Only add water if necessary to barely keep the beef shank covered with liquid.  Do not stir or flip the beef shank in the pot, so it is not damaged when it becomes tender. 
     Step 5:  After the beef shank becomes tender, remove the lid from the pot.
     Raise the temperature to medium low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till the sauce is a medium thin consistency that can cling to the beef shank.
     Keep the Hor'i warm over very low heat.
     Place 1 portion of Plain Basmati Rice on the back half of a plate.
     Carefully use a wide spatula to place the beef shank on the front half of the plate.
     Spoon a generous amount of the braising sauce over the beef shank and onto the plate.
     Garnish the Hor'i with an Italian Parsley sprig.  

     The flavors of Yemen Hor'i comfortably complex and satisfying, especially during warm weather!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Hearts of Romaine Lettuce with Lemon Dill Balsamic Dressing

     A Nice Light Wedge Salad!
     Romaine Lettuce Wedge Salads were popular in fine dining restaurants from the late 1800's through the 1930's.  Back in those days, a Romaine Wedge Salad was eaten by holding the stalk end of the Romaine Wedge with fingers, then swirling the romaine wedge in the dressing on the plate and taking bites of the leafy lettuce end.  The original Caesar Salad was a Romaine Wedge Salad and guests ate this salad the classic way with fingers.  
     In the mid to late 1900's, a knife and fork was used to eat a Romaine Wedge Salad instead of fingers.  In recent years, Romaine Wedge Salads have shrunk in size at fine dining restaurants with the advent of petite baby lettuce heads.  A split head of Baby Romaine that is less than 5" long that weighs about one ounce is a typical Lettuce Wedge Salad portion at a modern fine dining restaurant.  Cafés and casual restaurants still offer full portion size Romaine Wedge Salads that offer good dining value.
     Romaine Wedge Salads are usually plated with a composed presentation that is appealing to the eye.  The Romaine Wedges are the primary focal point and the garnish ingredients are arranged on the plate in a way that adds appeal.  A composed salad presentation is easy to do with a Romaine Wedge Salad.     
     A strong tasting Balsamic Vinaigrette has its place, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing and many people are tired of the same old strong tasting Balsamic Vinaigrette.  Relatively few chefs make a mild Balsamic Vinegar flavored salad dressing and a "delicato" approach may appeal to guests that have lost interest in strong Balsamic Vinaigrette. This dressing uses just a dab of mayonnaise as a starting base for the finished product.  Today's salad dressing is toned down with mayonnaise, then lightened with lemon juice and fresh dill weed.  The Balsamic Vinegar flavor is present, yet it is not overpowering.    
     Lemon Dill Balsamic Dressing: 
     This recipe yields a little more than 1/2 cup.  (2 to 3 portions)
     Step 1:  Place 1/4 cup of mayonnaise in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.
     Add 2 tablespoons of Balsamic Vinegar.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of fresh chopped dill weed.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 2 pinches of coarsely ground black pepper.  (To taste.)
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt.  (To taste.)
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Step 2:  Check the consistency.  The dressing should be a thin consistency that can barely coat a spoon.  If necessary, add a few drops of water to thin the dressing.
     Step 3:  Place the Lemon Dill Balsamic Dressing in a container.
     Chill for 30 minutes, so the flavors meld.  
     Hearts of Romaine Lettuce with Lemon Dill Balsamic Dressing: 
     This recipe yields 1 salad entrée.
     Step 1:  Select 1 large head of romaine lettuce.
     Pull the large outside leaves off till the Romaine Lettuce Heart remains.  (Save the large leaves for another recipe.)
     Trim the stalk end.
     Step 2:  Rinse the Romaine Heart in ice water.
     Drain off the water.  
     Air dry the Romaine Heart in a refrigerator over a drip pan.
     Step 3:  Cut the head of romaine in half lengthwise.
     Split 1 Romaine Heart Half lengthwise to create 2 quarter wedges.  (Save the other half of the Romaine Heart for a second salad portion or another recipe.)
     Step 4:  Place the 2 Romaine Quarter Wedges on the center of a plate.
     Garnish the plate with:
     - 6 thin Plum Tomato slices.
     - 2 Button Mushroom that are thin sliced.
     - Thin 1/2 lemon slices.
     - 2 boiled egg halves.  (9 minute boiled eggs are best!)
     Garnish the plate with dill weed sprigs.
     Step 5:  Pour about 1/4 cup of the Lemon Dill Balsamic Dressing over the Romaine Wedges.
     A Romaine Heart Salad with a crisp light lemon dill Balsamic Vinegar flavor!