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Friday, July 23, 2021

Smoking Greens

 Rainbow Chard from my garden, along with fresh thyme, sage and rosemary.

 A quick and easy way to incorporate some smoky , flavorful goodness into your freshly picked garden greens is to use a counter-top smoker.  Normally, you would achieve the smoke factor by adding a piece of good ole' side meat or jowl, which has smoke already imparted into the protein, transferring through some long simmering and juices infusing the water therein.  
A helping heaping of hickory smoke can be added with some hickory chips, or chips of your choice, like cherry or apple, and you can add a drizzle of olive oil, to create a healthier, heart healthful bunch of greens without feeling guilty.  Of course, the good ole way is wonderful too, plus you can always use smoked turkey parts, but this way is a vegan way to enjoy your greens, Southern style with no regrets.  
You can add as much or little smoke as you like, just be mindful that too much of it can cause a bitterness you may not enjoy as much.  Fresh lemon juice adds brightness and freshness, as well as fresh cracked pepper.  Put some smoke in the air and some good in your greens with a cold smoker, yet another way to add some Soul and Southern American to your plate!  

Thursday, July 22, 2021

New Adventures in Planting


 This is the flower of a Japanese Eggplant.  A first for me, I am interested in all of its growing phases and properties.  I just wanted to share this photo of my first bloom.  I thought it was really interesting that the center parts or anthers look like a bunch of bananas.  I find it fascinating that they are grouped as such.  I have them individually planted in growing vessels and they aren't going as fast as the ones I gifted my sister, as she has hers planted in her ground growing garden.  

The result should be a long cucumber shaped fruit that is deep purple, like the color of its stem.  I am excited about this new cooking endeavor.  I can see them stuffed and baked with all sorts of delicious fillings, both plant and meat based.  I plan to keep them all, because I need as much experience with cooking them as possible.  I like adding new and different ingredients to my cooking wheelhouse.   I'd love to know what you're adding to yours.  Feel free to share what you're curious about or working into your regime...you may leave your answers in the comments below. I look forward to hearing from you!

Cherry Grilled Cheese

Grilled Cheese with Cherries


Spice up your summer grilled cheese sandwich with some fresh cherries!  Aside from being rich in antioxidants and beneficial polyphenols and excellent for treatment of the gout or excess buildup of uric acid in the body, these deep red dollops of delicious, are a perfect way to elevate your old fashioned grilled cheese.   
The cheeses I used are Gouda, Sharp Cheddar and American.  They complement the cherries excellently and together they make a cohesive and bright addition to any hot summer's day menu.  While they are in season now, you can find the most flavorful and sweet fruits to make lots of fantastic dishes or add ins at a most reasonable price.  The cherries provide a great texture to match the crispy,buttery outer bread and the ooey gooey center of molten cheese.  Simply slice the cherries in half and remove the  pit.  Add the cherries just as the cheeses start to melt, so they are just warmed slightly and won't give up their juiciness on the bread.  
The larger pieces of cherry make for an awesome mouthful of juicy goodness.  I like to use mayonnaise on the bread for our grilled cheese because it provides impeccable crunchtacity (my word) and a gorgeous golden hue. I also like to use Honey Wheat.  Breads, cheeses and fruit go hand in hand, have some all in one! Grilled Cheese with Cherries, Yes, Please! 


 

 


Monday, July 19, 2021

Royal Chicken

 

I used a whole pineapple as the base and baster for a Cornish hen recipe and it turned out AAHmazing. 

The revised plan involves a pineapple after you have used a pineapple cutting device that cuts out the meat and makes slices in a couple of easy steps.  The marinated hen is then slid down on the core that remains inside the pineapple and open roasted or grilled until done.  The finished product is then removed from the stub and the stub can then be discarded.  The pineapple in the featured photo shows a bird that sits on a pineapple throne, with part of the pineapple flanking the back side.  This promotes the self basting aspect and leaves roasted pineapple to be sliced and served alongside as a side dish.  

I open roasted the Cornish hen in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes.  I then moved it to my smoker and added an elevated, smoky element to the already flavorful protein.  The end result is a tender, moist and absolutely delicious meal for one or light dinner for two.  I used a Kickin' Chicken' rub with a little heat to marinate the chicken, also a bit of liquid aminos, smashed garlic, freshly cracked pepper and a nice glug of olive oil.  I also painted on some of the residual juices with some fresh sage from my herb garden and let those flavors hang out and kiss the bird subtly as it rested.  

I love this dish for several reasons, but most appealing is finding another use for my pineapples when I remove the viable fruit.  The vessel that remains is still full of flavor and juices that can be a perfect cooking add on.  The small tasty bird sits on a throne of golden awesomeness and is fit for a king...or queen, Royal Chicken for the 'commonfolk', Long Live the Queen.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

5n@i1 5p@gh3tt1: Spaghetti a la Escargot

Escargot (Snails)
I have wanted to try Escargot for the longest time.  I had so many questions and I finally got the opportunity for some hands on lab. First off, man are they off putting, to say the least, I won't even tell you the words that came to my mind to describe them, nor will I tell you what my family members thought they resembled.  There were four of us willing to give them a try, my sister Bonnie. her husband Jackie, Bronwyn and myself.  I was relieved that they are not slimy in the can.  I can't say I enjoyed the smell at first though.  These were the giant variety and they were about the size of an average sized meatball.  They are quite firm and have good texture, with an almost rubbery undertone.  I made sure that I cooked them gently, afraid of the potentially irreversible consequences of a tough protein such as this.  
Traditionally, Escargot is prepared with a garlic, butter and parsley compound and broiled lightly to melt the delicious aromatics down into the shell, which are to be purchased separately.  I failed to get my order for the shells in before our vacation departure and I figured I would scarcely find them for purchase in any of the supermarkets or shoppes near the lake, so I took them in a different direction.  I wanted to come from this experience with something different and I think I achieved as much with this recipe.  
To counter the almost scary appearance of the Escargot, I halved them, then sliced them into manageable pieces, hoping to capture the appetites of the naysayers.  Next time, I will keep them whole and follow a more traditional route, preparing them in their I guess you would say intended form, for a more genuine experience.  
This recipe is a good introduction to the world of Escargot, a once exclusive dish for the wealthy, now transgressed into a dish to be served on any given weeknight, full of delicious nuances and mystery.

Snails are not just your average exotic food, they also bring with them many nutritional benefits.
They are rich in protein,  substantially so, providing about 18 grams per serving.  The fat in Escargot, albeit small, is mostly polyunsaturated.  Snails boasts essential fatty acids of the good variety, linolenic and linoleic acids, respectively, they lend brain and heart health benefits. There is a wealth of iron, magnesium and calcium, plus copper and phosphorus.   Snails are a good alternative meat as well as a healthy one.  They have vitamins A, B12 and K, where K is mostly found in the veggie department, particularly greens with leaves.  Vitamin B6 and folate also have presence.  If that weren't enough, Escargot has two amino acids that are also present in eggs, lysine and  arginine, both in higher amounts than it's more familar round buddy!  They are sustainable and have a much smaller impact on the environment than other animal proteins.  Just a thought.

Spaghetti a la Escargot


Recipe:

1 7.7 oz. can giant snails, halved and sliced thinly
1 lb. spaghetti, cooked according to instructions in salted water, al dente
1 large ripe tomato, chopped with seeds removed
1 bunch fresh herbs, about 1/2 c. lemon thyme, parsley and sage, rough chopped
6 tbsp. salted Amish Butter 
2 tbsp. Extra Virgin olive oil
1/2 c. chopped yellow onion
6 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)
Olive oil and fresh herbs for garnish
Shredded or Shaved Parmesan Cheese for garnish


Place butter, olive oil, onion and garlic in a large saucepan over low heat and let sweat for about 20 minutes, until soft and fragrant.  
Add Escargots and gently warm through, while pasta cooks.
Once pasta is cooked, drain and transfer to saucepan with butter mixture and turn  up to medium, add tomato and herbs, SPST, tossing until everything is coated and well incorporated.  
Garnish with additional herbs and Parmesan cheese as desired.  
Makes 6 to 10 servings. 





















 

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Calypso Cranberry and Pecan Shrimp Boats

Calypso Spice Rub Makes these Colossal Shrimp Pop!
Nice cooling salads are right at home this time of year.  With the heat hitting record highs week after week, we are all looking for a quicker and cooler way to get breakfast, lunch and dinner on the table, and at least try to follow the RDA.  I came up with this nutritious and delicious plus versatile salad while on vacation last week in the beautiful Occoneechee State Park.  I knew I wanted a nice bright salad along with our special steak dinner, commemorating our last night of another spectacular getaway, the other 5 nights went by so fast.  
We decided on a nice set of Ribeyes, on sale at the time for a great price via Food Lion, some fresh Romaine, cherry tomatoes and Italian Herbs, as I was in the process of making my first homemade, handmade pasta, after watching a couple of tutorials.  It had been on my mind for some time now and I made a promise to myself that I would execute while on vacation.  I can't wait to share that experience with you too. 
Back to the salads, I had some fantastic Colossal White Shrimp on board, as well as some salad topping with cranberries and candied pecans.  I also picked up some shredded Monterey Jack Cheese with Jalapenos.  I had a Calypso spice rub to try out and therein, the recipe was born.  
The Romaine was large, crisp and fresh with leaves as large as a small long plate, so I decided to build the salad right on it.  With the shrimp marinating since earlier in the day and my Blackstone grill, I was able to make light work of a nice Grilled Shrimp Salad to accompany the steaks, baked potatoes and pasta.  
The meal was a lovely affair, with a couple of simple candles and a bottle of Red, the kiddoes imbibed on some Zero Sugar fruit beverage blend, which was thirst quenching and refreshing.  We celebrated some of my personal achievements that had been forgone because of other obligations. Now, we could toast to those milestones and bright moments and be Thankful and Grateful for our each other and the many everyday blessings, often overlooked.   I could take a moment to be proud, with my loved ones and a good meal, every aspect, prepared by me, a dinner that would have easily cost around $200 including tip for 4 people.  The atmosphere was ambient and every aspect was spot on, like it was meant to be.  
This salad can easily serve as a nice lunch or dinner meal by increasing the amount of shredded Romaine, adding more tomatoes, cucumber and a couple more shrimp.  The added bonus is less dishes to clean afterwards, since you can literally eat the salad 'bowl'!  Don't have large shrimp? No problem, just use what you have on hand and be careful not to overcook them.  

Recipe:
1 large head Romaine lettuce, rinsed and patted dry
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 medium cucumber
4 oz. shredded Monterey Jack Cheese with Jalapenos
1 pkg. salad topper with Cranberries and Candied Pecans
Colossal Shrimp, shell on, but de-veined, mine came cleaned
Calypso dry rub, 1 tbsp. per pound
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 1 tbsp. per pound
SPST ( Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)
Olive Oil for drizzling
Dressings of your choice, I used Buttermilk Ranch and Tangy French
Directions:
In a large resealable bag, combine shrimp, spice rub and olive oil.
Marry the flavors and place in fridge until ready to grill. This may be done up to a day ahead for Colossal shrimp.
Tear the larger, best and sturdiest leaves off and trim or break to make the boats for the salads, trimming from the root side, for however many salads you'll need.
Julienne the remaining lettuce, light and dark parts, enough to fill each bowl with about 1/2 to 3/4 c. lettuce per boat.
Trim and peel the off most of the cucumber skin lengthwise, alternating in strips, such that it creates a striped design. Cut the cucumber in 1 to 1 1/2 inch portions and core out seeds using a butter knife or small paring knife. 
Place on paper towels to remove excess moisture, until ready to use. 
Grill the marinated shrimp, flipping once, until done, careful not to overcook, time depends on the 
size of the shrimp, mine took around 4 minutes total on a high griddle. Let rest before peeling. 
To assemble:
Place shredded lettuce on each boat, then nestle a piece of cucumber among the lettuce and top with a cherry tomato, several if you like.
Peel shrimp down to segment before tail, for aesthetic and position on top of lettuce or as desired.
Sprinkle with cranberries and candied pecans.
Sprinkle with scant amount of cheese.
Drizzle with Olive Oil and SPST, as desired.
Serve Dressings on the side.




 





Three Course Meal Celebration Dinner, with Handmade Pasta and Sauce, Casual Plating

Backyard Bounty; Black Raspberries


 Thanks to some resourceful and well traveled little birdies, I have these beautiful little gems in the backyard.  I'd walked past and wondered about them for quite some time, curious, enough to do a bit of research, with fruitful results.  The vines are relatively new to the landscape, and I was walking past them on my way to my small growing station, where some of my Rainbow Chard, Spinach and Brassica microgreens are taking advantage of the morning sun. 
I noted that the berries were very characteristic of what I know to be blackberries, our yard has two types, tasty and fresh, though not enough to 'stick in your eye', as the elders would say, only fit for a nice little bite of sunshine, while stirring around with yard chores, not even a bowlful.  Even still, we do have more blackberry vines on the outskirts of the thicket in our field.  I also have a neighborhood friend that once brought me a gallon bucket full! This was 2 summers ago.  He tells me that it's looking good for another good harvest and is keeping me in mind, fingers crossed.  I'm  already making plans for a delicious Blackberry Cobbler, scones and jam.  

The Black Raspberry looks very much like a blackberry at first glance, but if you pay attention to some of its characteristics, you will see the differences.  Leaf cluster and berry arrangement are two of them.  I found a spectacular article on a site while doing positive identification research that breaks these properties down in a way that really opened my eyes and was very comprehensive as well as informative, just scan this QR code for the full article!  

If you can't scan the code, simply follow this link to discover whether your 'blackberry' vines are actually black raspberries!  Identifythatplant.com .  The author does a fantastic job of helping you identify the treasures that could be hiding in plain sight, in your own backyard or even a walking trail, meadow or nearby field.  Organic Raspberries fetch a pretty penny in the supermarket, around $6 a pint, so why not do a little foraging and save on your fresh fruit budget.

Black Raspberries, also known as thimble-berries and black caps, not to be confused with the Death Caps, which are a species of poisonous mushroom, are a powerhouse of wonderment.  Not only to they provide essential Vitamins C,E and K (which is usually more prominent in leafy greens) but also cancer thwarting antioxidants, polyphenols, fiber and anthocyanins.  Anthocyanins are responsible for the red color in fruits and veggies, the deeper the color, the more it has.  Black Raspberries are even better for you than the red variety, boasting hyper positive digestive and heart health properties.  Additionally, the black ones are are anti-inflammatory and just plain delicious!  

National Fried Chicken Day Recap

As many of you all know, yesterday was the day of the golden fried and delicious pieces of Southern crispity happiness and we paid homage in the cooling evening air, with friends, family and good music and conversation.  It was a very informal affair and rather unannounced, but somehow, we kind of always end up together.  I made my custom breading for a crust that's hard to beat and a flavor profile bursting with levels, personality and the implement of heat using some Korean Red Pepper Flakes, thanks Mukbangers for turning me on to that gem!  My family adores my fried fare, though I don't make it so often as to worry about it being so bad for us.  
I feel that I've perfected my method over the years and all my tasters so far approve, Winning!  My youngest teen prefers boneless chicken and I credit that to sheer laziness haha, but she is a bit leary about food with bones in general, for fear of shards and bits of bone posing a choking hazard.  I respect that, though sometimes it does seem a tad trivial, but hey "Safety First".  I must admit though, she seems to always end up with that food item with something "chokey" in it.  With this in mind, I fried some boneless chicken breast cutlets, careful to examine the chicken before breading.    I also made some crinkle cut French Fries, along with some Waffle Fries, my girls' favorite of the two.  I served the chicken legs and breasts with all the dipper favorites including Buttermilk Ranch, Barbecue Sauce, Thai Chili Sauce, Sriracha, Texas Pete, Mayonnaise, Ketchup and lots of honey wheat and white bread!

I cooked outside on the patio using a propane burner in my go-to chicken frying pot.   I have a "deep frying" pot, but I just love my Emeril, it is a beast for everything.  I've been using it for years now, even and consistent, it's just awesome.  I've been using my primary fry pot since I was in college, well, just out of college. It was a part of my first set of cookware I purchased as an adult and has a wealth of history and 'meal memory'. Admittedly, it's not pretty anymore, but it sure is special, efficient and a true workhorse in the kitchen.  One of the 'rites of passage' in our family is being able to fry a good bird, one I take great pride in, gravy and 'hoe cakes' are in the same category, and with 7 sisters, I must represent. Though I make them infrequently, I like to keep my skills sharp.  The aforementioned foods are a part of the foundation of Southern, African American cooking.  

We also got together for the Fourth of July and I fried some rounds of fish, Whiting Fillets, (the standard for any summer gathering with many people of color) which is another crowd pleaser.   We had all the other customary foods, like burgers, hotdogs, various cold salads, Italian sausages and so on.  We even had a family member bring some crab legs and these gorgeous whole Dungeness Crabs, I used my steamer pot for those and they were spectacular, a wonderful variant to the rest of the menu.  

Dungeness Crabs ready for a steam bath.


We were very chill on National Fried Chicken Day, much like a regular dinner outside.  We didn't engage in the same activities as we did on the 4th, but I'll delve into that day in an upcoming post.  This is one phenomenal and fun 'holiday'! Until next time, keep your crust crunchy and the interior moist and don't forget the hot sauce!


 



Golden and Floating equals ready to eat!


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Smokinhotchef
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