Sunday, January 31, 2010

Lavender and Pink Peppercorns

I love the reactions that lavender and pink peppercorns evoke out of the general public.  I have used both to flavor and adorn foods. 
I often pare lavender with my honey creme sauce to add a soft, floral scent for the nose before the silkiness of the honey touches the tonque.  It's a very sensual paring that creates a sense of well-being. (Lavender is often used to infuse baths; creating a sense of calm.)
The pick peppercorn, not of the pepper plant, is best used as a pretty garnish for dishes that might need a little color. . .like a period at the end of the sentence.
My favorite use of them is for a dish of pork medallions with a simple cream sauce.  It's a light dish and only requires a few of the pretty little buds.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Green Pepper Flakes

Years ago I was able to walk into one of the popular kitchen stores and buy small boxes of dried green peppers pieces! Not the seeds! They were either poblanos or jalepenos. As usual, the stores get you hooked on a product and stop carrying it! For years, now, I have been hunting for something to replace one of my favorite additives in the pantry.

Frustrated, I decided to dry my own. This picture was taken ten days after bringing them from the store. Now, I imagine that it would be a lot faster with a dehydrator but I don't have room for another piece of equipment.

My methods are primitive but I know the results will be worth it. I might try placing them on racks inside my warming oven. It only heats up to about 100 degrees which could easily produce great results.

I will report back to you, later!
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Friday, January 29, 2010

Chicken To "Thai" For

Smoky cumin and plump, sweet craisins are the stand out flavors of this easy chicken stew. Paper-thin slices of cabbage and slivers of carrot add texture while fresh basil and cilantro brighten the dish.

Subtle undertones of tamarind, garlic and scallions create authentic Thai flavors along with Dark Soy Sauce and smooth peanut butter.

Look for tamarind paste or pods at the grocery store.  Create quick tamarind sauce with the addition of fresh garlic, Dark Soy, vinegar, basil and cilantro.  Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Food of the Gods

I couldn't fall asleep last night thinking about the two bags of fresh citrus in the kitchen. A large bag of pink grapefruit and a smaller bag of Honeybell tangerines were calling my name.

When I finally freed up today, I made a simple ambrosia with the citrus but dolled it up with a few marachino cherries and brightened the juice with some Thai coconut cream powder!

Yummy, sweet and fresh!
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Monday, January 18, 2010

The Queen of Everything

My first proclomation as the new "Queen of Everything" was simply "Let Them Eat Cookies!"

Off my loyal palace baker flew to bake a batch of the best Chocolate Chip cookies from his favorite baking cookbook!
Here in the kingdom, we favor crispy, golden edges and a soft chewy inside.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Jamaican Chicken Stew

On a cold, wet night this is one of those dishes that can be pulled together so easily.

My first attempt at a similar dish was made after watching Anthony Bourdain exploring the African Bush. He made everything sound so delicious; causing me to rush into the kitchen one Sunday and stewed a pork roast with sweet potatoes. It was fabulous.

As my interest in African cuisine has grown so has my intrique for the subtleties of flavorings that spice these humble dishes. I query every African cook I meet about cooking methods as well as favorite herbs and spices. Methods are familiar and practical!

Yesterday,I found myself behind a man at the check-out lane at my favorite H-Mart. He had placed a few simple ingredients on the conveyor belt. I smiled and politely asked "what was for dinner". He eagerly shared his recipe! Jamaican Chicken Stew with Butternut Squash. "What spices?", I asked. "Only salt".

Never one to leave a recipe alone, I created my own easy recipe that is a variation of fragrant African stews that will satisfy the adventurer in each of us! This is a stew of chicken, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, carrots, and plantains with early onion bulbs, cilantro, Jamaican Oxtail seasoning and fresh cumin and coriander and my own dried red pepper. 
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Monday, January 11, 2010

Fig Balsamic

Today's taping of Home At Last! showcased one of Ron's favorite chicken dishes. Mediterranean Chicken with Grapes, or Chicken Veronique as it is sometimes called. Preferring red grapes to green, and globe reds to seedless red-I have really made it my own with the addition of fig balsamic.

I shared my easy homemade Fig Balsamic recipe, 3 cups of 15-year old Balsamic vinegar and 1 cup canned figs. I cooked figs over the summer, added a scant 1/4 cup of sugar, before processing the jars in boiling water for about 1o minutes. They were so perfect for the recipe and made an excellent fig balsamic. The mixture reduced on a low heat for about thirty minutes, creating a rich, almost-syrup like balsamic.

Making chicken stock from leftover trimmings of skinless chicken is another easy way to recycle in the kitchen. I made a bouquet garni bag of herbs. . .bay leaf, sage, and celery leaf. Into a large pot of water, I added chunks of chicken breast, carrot and celery chunks, fresh garlic and shallot. A week's worth of stock ready in under a half hour and for pennies.

After the show, I cut up another thick chicken breast and cooked it in the strained figs cooked in the balsamic, the carrots, shallot, celery and garlic cooked in the chicken stock. I added a 1/2 cup of the stock,, 2 tbsp of applewood-smoked bacon, cured locally and finally a tablespoon of butter. The chicken to cook until tender and the sauce reduced for a new favorite that absolutely recycled every bit of food used to make the show.

The only thing that went back into the refrigerator was about a quart of strained chicken stock. Not bad!
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Monday, January 4, 2010

Miso Soup with Egg

Miso Soup is one of my favorite soups and according to Dr. Oz, a food that should be eaten regularly to boost the immune system-along with garlic, carrots, papaya, and elderberry juice. 

I was able to work a few of these ingredients into my chicken lo mein and combine cabbage and romaine lettuce with the dark roasted miso for a hearty winter soup that was perfect for a cold, cold night.  Notice the boiled egg, a Korean ingredient often found in noodle pots. 

I added the hard-boiled egg during the final stages and allowed the egg to simmer for a slightly chewy egg that adds loads of great flavor and texture.  Red miso is the final ingredient; dissolved in some cooled stock and added just before serving.

I used a red miso paste for a more robust soup.  Both dishes used less than one chicken breast and I boiled the chicken in the water to make my soup stock before added the miso, seaweed, bonito flakes, cabbage and lettuce. 

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Friday, January 1, 2010

Whole Grain Pasta with White Beans and Black Olives

I find myself going back to the same conversation about saving money and time. . .and still creating delicious, healthy meals at home.
The gnocchi that I made early in the week were somewhat of a "cheat". I just can't indulge every craving and have to make substitutions that still deliver the results we have come to expect from eating out.
The substitution in my cream sauce was homemade vegetable stock, a tablespoon of flour and a little half and half and a bit more 2% milk. AND, a great German whisk that makes a ultra smooth sauce of anything! It takes practice-but I challange anyone to really taste the difference. There is so much flavor, texture and substance that it really doesn't seem like much of a sacrifice!
Tonight's meal was my leftover cream sauce, Goya White Beans (delicious) and canned black olives. Most of the added flavor came from slivered fresh garlic and the addition of my own garlic olive oil. The pasta was whole grain angel hair; one of the best ways to adventure into whole grain pasta.
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