Sunday, July 27, 2014

Cajun Spice Gravlax and Neufchatel Grilled Glazed Donut Sandwich with Bermuda Onion, Heirloom Tomato and Upland Cress











A modern American gourmet munch food instant classic!   

     Gourmet junk food creations have become a popular trend.  Most food creations in this category have something to do with burgers, bacon or a pre-manufactured junk food product that is featured in the recipe.  The flavor combination philosophy of the gourmet junk food trend, for the most part, continues to match savory with savory and sweet with sweet, but there are a few innovative exceptions.
     Gourmet cupcakes reached a peak in popularity a few years ago.  This sweet treat arena does have a large following of fancy cupcake fans that are devoted to the cause.  Gourmet donuts with fancy toppings have been marketed in Las Vegas for a couple of years now.   Folks that became bored with the average donut, that most run of the mill donut shops offer, rejuvenated their interest after experiencing fancy gourmet donuts for the first time.  Many agree that going over the top with fancy sweet flavor combinations is how the world of donuts should be.
     If there ever was a candidate for the donut junk food creation of all time, it has to be the famous musician, Luther Vandross.  Luther Vandross created the almighty Luther Burger.  A few bars, burger stands and restaurants in the southeast successfully marketed this item for what it was.  A gourmet sweet savory junk food creation!  The Luther Burger basically is a grilled glazed donut cheeseburger sandwich.  Die hard Luther Burger fans usually only have one word to describe this creation and the word is "irresistible!"
     
     Back in the old days of cooking in restaurant kitchens, before drug testing in the hospitality industry began, marijuana smoking cooks really had an advantage as far as creating novel new munch food goes.  The goals of drug testing in the hospitality industry were obvious, yet few have been able to effectively express their point of view concerning this matter.  Hospitality industry drug testing was in fact a discriminatory action with the intent of displacing nearly every highly skilled, highly paid creative cook in America, in order to make room for unskilled peon cooks that were willing to cook in corporate structure restaurants for minimum wage or less.
     As far as creative potential goes, unskilled cooks are worth a dime a dozen and they only contribute to the overall quality control problem in the hospitality industry.  Like the old saying goes, "you get what you pay for!"  A restaurant manager that hires the cheapest help available will never have a crew that can potentially break new ground in the realm of food creativity.  A low wage unskilled cook is a greasy burger flipping robot at best.  The low wage cook will move on to a higher paying job as soon as the opportunity presents itself, so there is not even employee loyalty at this level.
   
     The marijuana drug testing discrimination game caused many highly skilled cooks and chefs to become fed up with the hospitality industry.  Many of these talented culinarians simply retired or moved on to other non-discriminatory lines of work that still had room for creativity.  Now they are content with mocking the hospitality industry as a whole and criticizing what modern restaurant patrons describe as being creative perfection cooking.  They also criticize the lack of classic high cuisine ability in modern restaurant kitchen personnel.      
     I do have restaurant cooking experience from the 1970's and 1980's before drug testing, or to be more specific, before marijuana discrimination in the workplace began on a grand scale.  Honestly, the reason why I say marijuana discrimination is this.  The early urine tests focused on one substance and one substance only.  Nearly all hard drugs are flushed completely out of the body within four days, so hard drug users had an advantage as far as the old urine drug tests were concerned.  Many hard drugs were not even included in the drug testing procedure, because the testing warranted a very high price tag that restaurant operators could not afford.  Marijuana takes about two weeks to exit the system, so marijuana users were easy targets to pick off.  The early urine drug testing procedure focused on marijuana users and of course as all libertarians know, this is an illegal discriminatory civil rights violation.
   
     Since those who failed marijuana drug tests usually chose to fly under the radar, corporate restaurant drug testing policies were never challenged.  This was a win-win situation for corporate restaurants, because they used drug testing as an excuse to replace high wage cooks with low wage personnel.  Menus were changed to include pre-manufactured "heat & eat" food that any monkey wearing a chef toque could cook.
     Consumers assumed that they were getting a bargain on average priced, average quality food that was made from scratch, yet in reality they were getting ripped off.  The pre-manufactured food was worth pennies on the dollar, the quality sucked and the cooks were making minimum wage level pay.  The corporate restaurants were in fact setting new profit margin records at the expense of consumers and employees, all because highly skilled restaurant personnel were intentionally alienated from the hospitality industry via discriminatory marijuana drug testing procedures.  Ce set la vie.
   
     The real loss to the restaurant industry was the weird munch food that marijuana smoking cooks whipped up for an employee meal.  In the old days, the employee meal was an arena of testing new food ideas and for messing around with interesting food combinations.  If the employees liked the inventive food creation, then the chances were good that customers would like it too.
     Marijuana smoking cooks do invent awesome munch food creations with combinations of ingredients that are difficult for the average bystander to imagine!  I will not go into detail about specific munch food creations that I have seen stoner cooks make over the years, because this is sacred artistic territory that should be respected.  In other words, many cooks are so proud of their ultimate munch creation, that they are willing to keep the recipe a secret till they day they push up daisies.  Some of the old munch recipes that I witnessed did need further research and development.  It would be unfair to mention a work in progress that was not my own invention.  It is best to leave the stoner cook munch food creations from the old days up to the reader's imagination.  Ce set la vie!
   
     Personally, I lived in a little smuggling village in Florida when I first started cooking professionally and I smoked plenty of old school Jamaican, Mexican and Colombian weed back in those days.  My creativity skills expanded back then and the memory of the experience is all that it takes when thinking of a new food idea in this present age.
     Since I am completing a collegiate BA Degree in Culinary Management, I will be entering the job market in the near future as a restaurant or resort manager.  Doing any shady substances is out of the question, because I will be at the mercy of discriminatory corporate drug testing policies.  Even if I own my own restaurant, the insurers will still demand a clean bill of health for all personnel, so owning a restaurant is not a viable way to avoid the controversial matter.
   
     Recondital Meditation is the ability to remember or recall an event in the past and intentionally relive the experience in the present moment as if it were real.  For example, a cook that is dumbstruck for a new food idea intentionally remembers a moment in the past that involved creating great munch food while buzzing on marijuana, then the creative tone is recalled and novel new food ideas flow freely.  It is a good thing that there is no law against remembering making munch food in a restaurant kitchen while stoned in the old days or I might end up facing a life sentence in Sing Sing Prison!  I do use recondital meditation to its fullest potential when thinking up new munch food ideas and there is no crime in that.
     What truly is criminal, is when a munch food idea turns out to be so awesome, that the flavor is simply irresistible.  To clarify this matter, I mean the munch food creation is so tasty, that even teetotalers cannot resist!
     "You know something, Charley?  That gourmet donut sandwich creation that we are running as a special du jour is really gonna slay the customers this week!  The profits are gonna be murder, because there is no way that the customers can resist digging deep into their wallets!  Mwahahaha!"
     What evil lurks in the mind of a demented stoned cook, whose life ambition is to create the ultimate profit generating munch food creation?  ...  "Only The Shadow knows!  Mwahahaha!" 

     The recipe for Cajun Spice Alaskan Chum Salmon Gravlax was published yesterday, 7-26-2014.  Here is a hyperlink to the recipe page:
     Cajun Spice Alaskan Chum Salmon Gravlax ~ Cajun Gravlax Whole Wheat Crostini Platter!
   
     Glazed Donut:  
     I have not published any donut recipes in this food website as of yet.  This will be a project for a future time.  There is no sin involved with using a glazed donut that is made by another chef or manufacture, as long as the donut is a component of a recipe.
     Select 1 plain glazed yeast donut from a favorite source!
   
     Cajun Spice Alaskan Chum Salmon Gravlax and Neufchatel Grilled Glazed Donut Sandwich with Bermuda Onion, Heirloom Tomato and Upland Cress:
     This recipe yields 1 modern gourmet munch donut sandwich!  
     Use a microwave or low temperature oven to warm 1 to 2 ounces of American style Neufchâtel  Cheese, so it can easily be spread on bread.
     Thin slice 3 ounces of  Cajun Spice Alaskan Chum Salmon Gravlax.
     Heat a cast iron ribbed griddle over medium heat.
     Season the griddle with a small amount of vegetable oil.
     Split the glazed donut in half.
     Grill the the donut halves on both sides, till brown grill marks appear.  The glazed side of the donut should be grilled till a caramelized aroma develops.  Try to create crosscheck grill marks.  Use a spatula or tongs to handle the donut, so the glaze is not damaged.
     Place the bottom half of the donut on a cutting board.
     Spread a thick layer of the warm soft Neufchâtel Cheese on the donut.
     Place the sliced Cajun Spice Gravlax on the cheese.
     Garnish the sandwich with:
     - 1 to 2 very thin slices of bermuda onion
     - 2 to 3 thin slices of organic heirloom tomato
     - a few upland cress sprigs
     Place the top half of the grilled glazed donut on the sandwich and transfer it to the center of a plate.
     Garnish the plate with dill weed sprigs, petite sweet gherkin pickles and pickled mild red & yellow banana pepper slices.

     Viola!  The gravlax and neufchâtel grilled glazed donut ultimate munch sandwich.  Brunch or munch, its all good!  Yum!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Cajun Spice Alaskan Chum Salmon Gravlax ~ Cajun Gravlax Whole Wheat Crostini Platter!












Cajun Spice Chum Salmon Gravlax Crostini - Creole Mustard & Dill Weed Desert Wildflower Honey and Assorted Garni!

     Summer is the time for cool refreshing food.  Slaving over a hot stove is not really the thing to do when outdoor temperatures are over the 100º mark.  In this age of sustainability issues, conserving energy is the best course of action in the summer season.  By not depending on the home kitchen stove for meals, the summer air conditioning bill can be reduced dramatically.  Water consumption is also reduced, because there is no baked on food mess to clean up.  

     Gravlax is an old Nordic specialty that has been made since the age of European tribal foraging.  Every culture has a history of preserving food and salt curing is by far the most often used food preservation method.  Gravlax literally translates to buried in a grave.  The original gravlax was made by burying fish just above the high tide line on a beach in a cool climate.  The underground salt water intrusion cured the buried fish with sea salt.  
     Burying the fish also protected it from scavenger animals that looked for an easy meal.  The weight of the sand and rocks compressed the fish meat and forced out any excess liquids.  The length of time that the fish was buried determined the flavor of the cured finished product.  Gravlax that is cure for a few days has light "salami like" cured meat flavor.  Gravlax that is cured for a couple of weeks has a strong pungent cheese aroma and flavor.  

     When making gravlax in a home kitchen, there are a few important natural conditions that must be simulated.  The cold temperatures necessary to prevent spoilage are simulated with the refrigerator.  The ocean water salt curing process is simulated with a curing salt mixture.  The weight of sand and rocks compressing the buried fish is simulated by placing a weight on top of the fish as it cures.  When all of these conditions are satisfied, it is easy to produce top quality gravlax that is translucent, firm textured and can easily be sliced paper thin.  

     I usually use sea salt or Kosher Salt mixed with sugar when making gravlax.  A simple sugar and salt curing mixture is the traditional gravlax making choice.  A good pre mixed curing salt product that contains nitrites, nitrates and a color preserving agent can also be used, but accurately measuring the curing salt is necessary.  Morton Tender Quick curing salt is an easy to use safe product that is very forgiving.  The level of preserving salts in the mixture is well within the safe usage range, so if a little bit too much Tender Quick is added by mistake, there is no need to panic.  Morton Tender Quick was added to the standard Kosher Salt and Sugar Curing Mixture in today's recipe.  The result was gravlax that turned out nice looking and the flavor was superb. 

     Traditional Nordic gravlax is flavored with a very strong tasting local breed of dill weed.  Scandinavian Dill Weed is not readily available outside if its region of origin.  Regular fresh dill weed can be used instead.
     A Le Cordon Bleu culinary arts instructor at the Las Vegas Campus was big on modernizing or modifying old traditional recipes.  His ideas were pretty good and this opened up a new door for thinking about new gravlax flavors.  For example, the teacher once made gravlax with a Kosher Salt and brown sugar mixture that was flavored with German dessert baking spices and dill weed.  The result was a warm gentle gravlax flavor that was well suited for the holiday season.  
     One thing to keep in mind when curing any kind of meat, is that flavor additives that easily decompose should never be used.  For example, onion powder is safer to use than minced onion, because minced onion will spoil the gravlax after a few days.  It is best to stick with dried spices, fresh herbs and liquids that are preserved by fermentation.  
     
     Cajun spice mixtures never seem to go out of style.  A basic Louisiana Cajun spice mixture is the same thing as a Cajun Blackening Spice Mixture.  The optional addition of a small amount of flour and sugar to the Blackening Spice is not necessary, because gravlax is not sautéed or pan seared.  The Cajun spices, herbs and cayenne pepper thoroughly flavor the gravlax after a few days and the flavor is quite different than traditional dill flavored gravlax.  The level of spicy chile pepper heat is mild, yet zesty enough, to make the Cajun Spice Gravlax a nice summertime flavor choice. 
     
     Wild caught Alaskan salmon is the best choice from a sustainability standpoint.  The Alaska fishery is well managed and heavily regulated.  There are several different species of Alaskan salmon and each has its own meat characteristics.  Chum Salmon usually has a deep red color flesh that is loaded with essential Omega-3 Fatty Acids.  Chum Salmon has a little bit stronger flavor than Nordic Salmon or farm raised salmon, but those who truly enjoy the natural flavor of good fish will relish this thought.  
    There are several names for Chum Salmon.  The word "Chum" is the English translation of the Chinook word "Tsum."  On the Russian side of the North Pacific, the Siberian natives call Chum Salmon by the name "Keta."  Dog Salmon is a common name for this fish, because the mouth resembles the mouth of a canine.  Modern fish mongers and grocers came up with a name for this fish that has better marketing potential many years ago, because the chum word was easily associated with the act of chumming with bait scraps.  At most fish markets and grocery stores, Chum Salmon is now called Silverbrite Salmon.
     
     When making gravlax, the fresher the fish the better.  Curing salts will not reverse damage from spoilage.  Any size salmon can be salt cured.  Any size salmon filet can be cured, but there is no use making gravlax with a small 6 ounce filet, unless the reason is for experimenting with a new flavor idea.  For today's salmon recipe, I selected the tail half of a whole Chum Salmon filet that weighed 16 ounces.  That is enough gravlax for making 3 or 4 large crostini platters.  

     Cajun Spice Mix: 
     This recipe yields enough spice mix for flavor 1 or 2 pounds of chum salmon filets!  It just depends on how strong of a flavor that is preferred.  Any extra spice mix can be saved for another recipe.
     Place 1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 teaspoons of paprika.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of white pepper.
     Add 1 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add 1 pinch of tarragon.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 2 pinches of thyme.
     Add 1 small pinch of ground celery seed.
     Mix the ingredients together and set it aside.

     Cajun Spice Alaskan Chum Salmon Gravlax Information:
     This recipe is written for a 1 pound Chum Salmon filet.  The filet should be deboned and the skin must be attached.  The fresher the better when making gravlax!
     Morton Tender Quick Curing Salt was added to the salt cure mixture.  Morton Tender Quick not only increases the efficiency of the curing salt's ability to preserve meat, it also helps the Cajun Spice flavor to easily penetrate the meat.  Morton Tender quick is available at butcher shops and at internet shopping websites like Amazon.  
     
     Modern Gravlax Curing Salt Mixture:
     This recipe yields 1 cup + 1 tablespoon of modified traditional gravlax curing salt!
     The basic formula for a traditional gravlax curing salt mixture is 2 parts sugar and 1 part coarse Kosher Salt.  Modern gravlax curing salt contains fast acting curing salt compounds, like nitrates and nitrites.  The standard measurement of 1 tablespoon of Morton Tender Quick Curing Salt to 1 pound of fish applies to modifying the traditional sugar & salt gravlax curing salt mixture! 
     It might take 1-2 cups of the sugar and salt mixture to cure a whole large Chum Salmon that weighs over 8 pounds, so doing the math when expanding this recipe is necessary.   
     For today's recipe about 1/2 cup of modified traditional gravlax curing salt is more than enough to cure a 16 ounce Chum Salmon filet.  Any leftover salt mixture can be saved for later use.  
     Place 2/3 cup of granulated sugar in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 1/3 cup of Coarse Kosher Salt.
     Add 1 tablespoon of Morton Tender Quick Curing Salt.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Place the curing salt in a container and label the container, so it is not confused with regular salt or sugar!
  
     Cajun Spice Alaskan Chum Salmon Gravlax:
     Select a 1 pound Chum Salmon filet that is deboned and has the skin attached.
     Sprinkle a generous amount of the Cajun Spice mix on both sides of the salmon filet.
     Gently press the spices onto the meat.
     Generously coat the salmon with the Modern Gravlax Curing Salt Mixture.  (About 1/2 cup is plenty.)  The salmon should look like it was heavily dredged or frosted with sugar.
     Place a long piece of plastic wrap in a flat long plastic tub or a plastic storage container.
     Place the salted spiced filet on the plastic wrap in the plastic storage container.
     Place about 1/3 cup of fresh dill weed sprigs on the salmon.
     Cover the salmon with the plastic wrap.
     Place a second plastic storage container on top of the salmon filet, inside of the first plastic storage container.
     Place a few potatoes or onions in the storage container that is sitting on top of the salmon.  The potatoes or onions willact as a weight to press the salmon.  (The weight simulates fish that is buried in beach sand.)
     Refrigerate the salmon for 3 days.
     Flip the salmon over once every 12 hours.
     Do not drain off or discard the salty brine liquid in the container when flipping the salmon!  The brine is what actually cures the salmon.
     After 3 days in the refrigerator, the gravlax is ready!  The gravlax will be completely cured by the sugar and salt.  The gravlax can be cured for up to 7 days, before the flavor starts to become strong, like aged cheese.  Curing for 3 to 5 days produces a nice mild cured fish flavor.
     Remove the gravlax from the plastic container.
     Remove the plastic wrap.
     Scrape off any excess spices.
     Pat the gravlax dry with a sterile pastry shop towel.
     Cover the Cajun Spice Alaskan Chum Salmon Gravlax with plastic wrap and chill till it is needed.
 
     Slicing Gravlax:
     Slice the gravlax at a 45º angle and turn the knife parallel with the fish skin.  Just before the knife blade contacts the salmon skin, turn the knife, so the blade is parallel with the skin, then slide the knife against the skin.  This is how to cut a perfect thin slice of gravlax!

     Creole Mustard & Dill Weed Desert Wildflower Honey:
     This recipe yields about 1/3 cup!
     This is not a Swedish Hovmästarsås Sauce, because no oil was added.  This is a simple thin honey mustard sauce that features Louisiana Creole Mustard and rich tasting dark amber desert wildflower honey!
     Place 1/4 cup of Desert Wildflower Honey in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of Creole Mustard.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh dill weed.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Chill till the sauce is needed.

     French Onion Sour Cream:
     This recipe yield 1/2 cup!  French onion dip actually is a tasty garnish for Cajun Spice Chum salmon Gravlax.
     Place 1/2 cup of sour cream in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 1 teaspoon of onion powder.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of dried beef bouillon.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 3 pinches of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Chill for 30 minutes, so the flavors meld.
   
     Whole Wheat Crostini:
     Cut a whole wheat baguette into 1/4" thick slices.
     Place the bread slices side by side on a baking pan.
     Brush the bread with pomace olive oil.
     Bake in a 350º oven till the crosting become toasted and crisp.
     Set the crostini aside.
   
     Cajun Gravlax Whole Wheat Crostini Platter:
     Simply assemble a variety of garnished Cajun Spice Alaskan Chum Salmon Whole Wheat Crostini and arrange them on a platter so they look nice!  Mix and match the garnishes to your own taste preference!
     Suggested Garnishes Pictured In The Photos Above: 
     • sliced bermuda onion
     • sliced heirloom tomato
     • upland cress
     • capers
     • brie cheese
     • petite sweet gherkin pickles
     • fresh dill weed sprigs
     • goat milk yogurt
     • Creole Mustard & Dill Weed Desert Wildflower Honey
     • French Onion Sour Cream

     Cajun Spice Alaskan Chum Salmon Gravlax definitely has a nice spicy flavor that is perfect for casually lazing and grazing on a warm summer afternoon!  Whipping up a gravlax crostini platter and opening a bottle of crisp dry white wine will certainly please guests.  Yum!

New and Improved!



   









     One of the many upgrading projects underway during the rebranding process at this food website is modifying older travel destination articles.  Fast loading Google Picasa slide shows of the travel destinations are being added to articles that had a slew of slow loading high resolution photos.  This will increase the loading speed of these articles.  This will also decrease the size of the page, so mobile device viewers can easily navigate the content.
   
     I use a good professional camera when doing outdoor photography, so the picture quality of each photo is top notch.  Individual photos can be accessed by clicking directly on the the slide show.  Usage is limited to not for profit or educational guidelines as stipulated in the copyright agreement.  Use the contact form at the bottom of this page if a request for using photos for generating profit is in the plans.

     Two older travel destination food articles that recently were modified with slide shows are:
     • Elk Burger at the Cactus Cowboy Restaurant in Hatch, Utah ~ Bryce Canyon!   
     • Navajo Bread Breakfast Taco ~ Eldorado Canyon, Nevada!

     Check these refreshed articles out, because as everybody knows, a picture is worth a thousand words!  Inspiration is all it takes to enjoy scenic destinations and great food in the west.  Yum!  

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Kashmiri Chile Chickpeas & Cabbage with Fried Curry Leaves and Brazilian Pepper Akki Roti










     Vegetarian food at home or in a restaurant does not have to be pre-fabricated soy products, plain steamed vegetables, stir fry veggies or some kind of petite portion modern creation that is too challenging for the average customer to handle.  There are plenty of old traditional vegetarian recipes that are comforting and timeless in nature. 
     There are several international cuisines that are commonly overlooked by vegetarians in the western hemisphere, because of culinary propaganda.  For example, because the media portrays Middle Eastern cuisine as being nothing more than gyros and kabobs, gullible westerners assume that Middle Eastern cuisines primarily focus on meat recipes.  In reality, the opposite is true.  Persian, Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish and North African cuisines offer tons of great old fashioned traditional vegetarian recipes.  The same goes for Native American cuisines.  From a health standpoint, some of the greatest vegetarian recipes can be found in the Pre-Columbian cuisines of North, Central and South America.  All it takes is doing a little bit of research on the internet to find new vegetarian cooking ideas, that actually may be thousands of years old.
     Usually most modern westerners refer to the cuisines of Asia when seeking classic vegetarian recipes.  Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese vegetarian recipes tend to be the top choices of westerners that are new to the vegan food arena.  As long as stir fry, soy sauce and tofu are part of the recipe, neophyte western world vegetarians are in the game, because simple stir fry recipe flavors and ingrediuents are easy to comprehend.   
     
     Many sociologists classify India and its neighboring countries as being part of Asia, but in reality, this region of the world has its own unique characteristic cuisines that have nothing to do with the rest of Asia.  The ingredients and cooking techniques used in the cuisines of Pakistan, Afghanistan and India have little in common with cooking styles on the other side of the Himalayas.  Historically, the mountains act as an impenetrable geographic border that separate the cuisines that lay on either side.
     
     Other than easy to make curry recipes that are modified for ease of preparation, the average cook in the Americas has limited knowledge about Indian cuisine.  A recipe that reads like "cook vegetables, add vegetable broth, add curry powder and finish the sauce with yogurt" is a good example of a western world "easy bake, easy make" Indian style recipe.  These kind of recipes are great for novice cooks that are just starting to learn how to cook classic traditional Indian food.  
     Eventually an inspired novice cook will want to learn more about Indian cuisine, but then they soon realize that the complexities of this regional cuisine can be a bit intimidating.  
     Getting over the hump of intimidation is kind of like trying to figure out how to ride a camel for the first time.  With sweaty palms from being anxious and after scratching the forehead in wonderment a few times while gazing at the camel, enlightenment eventually occurs.  Just wind up the camel tail like the spring on a Swiss watch, hop on and away you go! 
     
     There is a sense of order in Indian cuisine, especially when starting a recipe.  The methods vary from region to region, but the important thing is to just learn a few recipe starting cooking techniques, so when making a creative Indian style entree out of the blue, the end result will be more appealing and the food will be more authentic.  There are several different cooking steps and stages that are the beginnings of Indian recipes that must be followed, if the recipe is going to be authentic.  The same applies to finishing Indian recipes.  
     In the Indian cooking language, the word "masala" refers to "the beginning of, the basis of or the start of a recipe."  Sometimes the masala is a complex spice mix.  Garlic and onions that are simmered till they become a soft puree is another kind of masala.  Sometimes the start of an Indian recipe involves the "tadka" cooking technique.  
     Tadka is the technique of popping whole spice seeds like popcorn in hot oil or ghee (clarified butter).  After popping, the spice seeds release flavor and they easily become tender after liquid is added.  Learning the tadka technique can expand the dimensions of a novice cook that wants to learn how to create authentic Indian flavors.                   

     Chickpeas:
     This recipe yields 3 to 4 portions of chickpeas!
     Soak 2 1/4 cups of dried small chickpeas in water overnight in a refrigerator.
     Drain off the soaking water and rinse the beans under cold running water.
     Place the beans in a sauce pot.
     Add 1 cup of light vegetable broth.
     Add enough water to cover the beans with 1" of extra liquid.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of cider vinegar.
     Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
     Add 1 chopped garlic clove.
     Add 2 tablespoons of chopped onion.
     Add 1 minced green onion.
     Add 1 laurel leaf.
     Bring the liquid to a boil over medium high heat.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Place a lid on the pot.
     Simmer the beans, till they become tender.  Add water as necessary to keep the beans covered with 1" of liquid.
     Simmer and reduce the liquid, till the level of liquid becomes slightly lower than the beans.
     Remove the laurel leaf.
     Keep the beans warm over low heat.

     Brazilian Pepper Akki Roti Dough:
     This recipe yields 5 or 6 small roti! 
     Akki means rice flour and this flour is available just about anywhere.  Roti refers to a thin flat bread that is cooked quickly on a hot surface.  The roti can be as thick as a pancake or as thin as a crepe.       
     For the best results the, dough should sit and chill for a while.  It takes a long time for rice flour to absorb water, even though hot water is used to create the dough.  
     Indians have a word for every cooking step and technique.  There is an Indian word for the hot water rice flour dough making procedure!  
     A small amount of fat (oil) added to the dough will help to keep the rice flour roti soft.
     Place 1 3/4 cups of water in a sauce pot over medium high heat.     
     Bring the liquid to a boil.    
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Add 2 teaspoons of warm coconut oil.
     Add 1 tablespoon of crushed Brazilian peppercorns.
     Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Very slowly add 1 1/2 cups of rice flour, a little bit at a time, while constantly stirring with a whisk, till all of the flour combines with the boiling water.  The dough should look like crumbled clumps at this point.  Remove the pan from the heat about halfway through the addition of rice flour, so the dough does not scorch.  
     Cover the pot with a lid and let the crumbly dough cool to room temperature. 
     Knead the crumbled dough, till it becomes a smooth stiff texture that can hold its own shape without cracking.  Add a few drops of warm water if the dough is too dry.  
     Place the dough in a container.
     Chill the dough in a refrigerator for 2 hours.

     Dried Kashmir Peppers:
     Dried Kashmir Chiles are fairly mild tasting as far as red chile peppers go, if the seeds are removed after reconstituting.  If a spicy hot flavor is preferred, leave the seeds in the peppers.
     Place 6 to 8 dried Kashmir chile peppers in a container.  
     Cover the peppers with warm water.
     Soak the pepper in a refrigerator, till they become reconstituted and soft.  (About 1 hour)
     Remove the stems.
     Split the peppers open and remove the seeds, if a mild chile pepper flavor is preferred.  (optional)
     Chill the peppers till they are needed.

     Kashmiri Chile Chickpeas & Cabbage:
     This recipe yields 1 large entree size portion!
     As everybody knows, cabbage plus chickpeas equals flatulence!  Adding vinegar to the basic chickpea preparation earlier in this recipe helps to reduce the bean's gas producing ability.  Indian chefs know that certain spice seeds also reduce the gaseous effects of beans and cabbage.  Fennel seed, cumin seed and black caraway seed have digestive aid qualities that do effectively reduce gas. 
     Heat a wide sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of coconut oil.
     Add 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of black caraway seeds.
     Add 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds.
     Gently pan fry the spice seeds, till they pop and no more popping noise is heard.
     Add 1 1/4 cups of small chopped cabbage.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped onion.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced shallot.
     Add 2 cloves of crushed garlic.
     Gently sauté, till golden brown highlights appear on the vegetables.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of the prepared chickpeas and a proportion of the bean broth.
     Add 1 cup of light vegetable broth.
     Add 1 cup of water.
     Add 2 pinches of turmeric.
     Add 1 teaspoon of crushed Szechuan pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of garam masala.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of galangal powder.
     Add 2 pinches of Himalayan black salt.
     Add 1 pinch of black sesame seed.  (optional)
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of ghee.  (Clarified butter - optional)
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil over medium heat.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add the reserved reconstituted Kashmir chile peppers.
     Simmer and reduce, till the excess liquid evaporates and the bean gravy becomes a medium thin consistency.  
     Keep the Kashmire Chile Chickpeas & Cabbage warm over very low heat.  
         
     Brazilian Pepper Akki Roti:
     The roti can be finished while the garbanzos and cabbage simmers!
     Divide the dough into 5 or 6 equal size portions.
     Roll each portion into a ball shape.
     Allow the dough to reach room temperature.
     Pat out or roll the dough out on lightly floured countertop, to form thin round roti bread shapes.  The roti should be thicker than a crepe, yet thinner than a pancake.
     Heat a cast iron griddle over medium/medium low heat.   
     Generously brush the pan with melted coconut oil.
     Grill each roti on both sides, till light golden brown highlights appear and the dough becomes cooked.  The roti should be fairly soft and not dry.  
     Stack the roti on a plate.
     Cover the roti with loose fitting plastic wrap or a dry towel. 
     Keep the Brazilian Pepper Akki Roti warm on a stove top. 
     • Optional Finishing Method:  
     The roti can be briefly held over an open flame to create dark brownish black highlights, just before serving.  A gas stove or char grill is required for this step.    
        
     Fried Curry Leaves:
     Heat a small 6" saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/4 cup of vegetable oil.
     Add about 12 fresh curry leaves.
     Fry the curry leaves till they become crisp.
     Carefully use a slotted spatula to place the fried curry leaves on a parchment paper lined pan.
     Keep the fried curry leaves warm on a stove top.

     Kashmiri Chile Chickpeas & Cabbage with Fried Curry Leaves and Brazilian Pepper Akki Roti:
     Place the Kashmiri Chile Chickpeas & Cabbage on the front half of a shallow dish.  Try to place the Kashmir peppers on top where they can be seen.
     Overlap 5 or 6 Brazilian Pepper Akki Roti in a row on the back half of the plate.
     Place the Fried Curry Leaves on top of the chickpeas and cabbage as a garnish.   

     This recipe is a nice example of Indian style slow cooked vegetarian comfort food.  The savory complex flavors are warm and satisfying!  Yum!  

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Ertranken Florentiner Omelett







     German style drowned Florentine Omelette!  

     Every chef, everywhere, recognizes the food word "Florentine" as representing a preparation of spinach or spinach in a cream sauce.  Geographically, Florentine refers to any recipe that is made in the style of Florence, Italy.  There are many Italian recipes that originate in Florence, but the recipe that is most often associated with Florence really has nothing to do with this region.  
     Spinach Florentine is more of a French, Austrian or Swiss recipe, than Italian.  Well over one hundred years ago, the French set about imperializing countries in the Mediterranean region.  In an effort to show superiority in every arena, French occupants of foreign lands set about infusing the cuisine of their homeland into the cuisines of local cultures.  In Italy, this caused resentment, because the bulk of modern French cooking has its roots in classic Italian fine cuisine.  Eventually the French occupation of Italy came to an end.  The majority of French cooking influences became mute.  Italian chefs reestablish traditional Italian cuisines and retained only a limited amount of French occupant culinary influences specific to food items that became popular during that period in time.  
     Italians consume plenty of spinach and spinach is part of many traditional Italian recipes, but in reality, spinach really has nothing to do with traditional Florentine cuisine.  When a food item is served on a bed of spinach or spinach is featured in the recipe, traditional Italian chefs rarely use the word Florentine to describe the recipe.  The word spinach usually is used in the recipe title instead of Florentine, Fiorentina or Florenz.  This is because traditional Italian chefs value integrity and authenticity.   Traditional Italian chefs know that Florence, Italy has nothing to do with spinach.  Spinach is not even grown in the Florence region.  
     Outside of Italy, Florentine is an easy to recognize food word.  No matter how the word Florentine is spelled, a restaurant customer knows that the word is associated with spinach.  There are old traditional French Florentine recipes, like Ouefs Florentine, which is poached eggs on holland rusk or toast, with sauce mornay and spinach.  
     A potage or cream soup, that is a spinach cream puree, often has the word Florentine in the recipe title, but the recipe is actually French and not Italian.  Since the word Florentine is descriptive and there is room for interpretation, chefs around the globe add influences of their own national cuisine when preparing a Florentine style recipe.  For example, today's omelette recipe is written in German language, so obvioulsy German cooking tradition influences the recipe.  Instead of making a French bechamel or French mornay sauce for the spinach flavored sauce, crème fraiche is used to make the sauce.  Crème fraiche is tradional in Northern European countries, so this variation is authentic from a geographic or cultural point of view.  
     Today's recipe is a German variation of an omelette with a spinach cream sauce or an Omelette Florentine.  Omelette Florentine can be made with sautéed spinach and Swiss Cheese or mornay sauce.  It can also be made with creamed spinach and Swiss Cheese.  Many chefs prefer Italian cheeses like Parmesan or Romano when making Florentine, because then there will be some Italian influence in the recipe.  After all, even though spinach has nothing to do with the cuisine of Florence, this is the first place that people tend to think of when they hear the word Florentine.  Using Italian cheese that is popular in the region of Florence adds a little bit of integrity to the somewhat misleading Florentine recipe.

     Fluted PortoBello:
     Trim the stem of a medium size portobello mushroom so it is flush.
     Peel the mushroom.
     Use a paring knife or a sharp channeling tool to flute the mushroom.  (Save the mushroom peelings for making stock or other recipes!)
     Heat a saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Saute the portobello, till it becomes tender with golden brown highlights.
     Season with sea salt and white pepper.
     Keep the portobello warm on a stove top.         

     Florentine Créme Fraiche:
     This recipe yields enough sauce for 1 omelette!  This sauce should not be made too far ahead of time or the green color will not look bright.
     Boil a pot of salted water over high heat.
     Place 2 1/4 cups of baby spinach leaves in a long handle strainer.
     Briefly dip the spinach in the boiling water for 2 seconds at a time, till the spinach begins to wilt.
     Cool the spinach in ice water.
     Drain the water off of the spinach and set it aside.
     Heat a small sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced shallot.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Gently sauté till the shallot turns clear in color.
     Add 1/2 cup of milk.
     Add 1/2 cup of cream.
     Add 1/3 cup sour cream.
     Add 1 ounce of dry white wine.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle simmer.
     Add 2 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese, while stirring with a whisk.
     Stir till the cheese melts into the sauce.
     Remove the pot from the heat.
     Add the reserved blanched spinach.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of nutmeg.
     Add 1 teaspoon of chopped Italian parsley.
     Use a blending wand, blender or food processor to puree the sauce.
     Return the sauce to a small sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce, till the sauce becomes a medium thin constancy.
     Add 1 teaspoon of unsalted butter while stirring.
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat.

     Ertranken Florentiner Omelett:
     Drowned Florentine Omelette!
     Place 2 large eggs in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 2 teaspoons of milk.
     Whish the ingredients till they start to foam.
     Heat a non-stick sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add the egg mixture.
     Use a rubber spatula to even the edges of the omelette.
     Sauté till the bottom half of the eggs are cooked firm.
     Flip the omelette.
     Sauté till the omelette is fully cooked.
     Triple fold the omelette and slide it onto the center of a plate.
     Smother the omelette with a generous amount of the Florentine Créme Fraiche sauce and spoon some sauce on the plate.
     Place the warm fluted portobello mushroom on top of the omelette.
     Garnish the plate with long green onion slivers.

     Viola!  A german version of a Florentine Omelette.  Yum!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Brawn Swag Zepp! - Braunschweiger Zeppelin with Bermuda Onion, Heirloom Tomato, Upland Cress and Dill Mustard Spread







Swag baby!

     Sometimes I just publish a food article about something simple.  Occasionally the simple food item is something that the viewers or myself have overlooked or completely forgotten about.  Braunschweiger is a good example of such an item.  
     Habitually eating the same food items everyday, week or month is what some folks do.  Sometimes it is by choice, but most often a repetitious food venue in the home kitchen is actually a habitual rut that a consumer might not be aware of falling into.  
     
     Morning sleepy heads that eat the same brand of cereal everyday for a week, often end up making a comment about how they did not realize that they ate the same breakfast for the previous seven days.  
     On the seventh day, these words are expressed:  "I am getting sick and tired of this same old lousy soggy cereal everyday!  How did I fall into this rut without realizing it?  Tomorrow, I am eating something different for breakfast!"  ...  
     Then tomorrow comes.  "...  And  on the eighth day, the sepreme being created a refrigerator and cabinets to stare into, when trying to think of something different to eat for breakfast."  
     Because the mind is numbed by repetitious meals and habitual rituals each morning, it becomes difficult to break out of the mold.  After staring into the fridge like somebody experiencing legal recreational marijuana for the first time after taking a vacation to Colorado, enlightenment occurs.  Of course a self commentary ensues:  "You know something  ...  I am totally clueless!  I have been eating the same breakfast everyday for so long, that I cannot think of anything else to eat, even though I am staring at tons of food in my fridge!  Forget about it!  I'm just going back to bed and I will get a pizza to-go later around lunch time!"  
     
     Food psychology, general psychology and organizational psychology are classes that I recently excelled in while attending a culinary management BA college degree program.  My success in getting high grades in psychology was due in part to having decades of experience in the restaurant business and by making observations.  In health cuisine class and nutrition class, food psychology is applied when diagnosing eating disorders and when discussing the eating habits of consumers.  From a professional chef standpoint, these are interesting topics to delve into, because they are relevant in today's modern age.  
     
     Some of those who suffer from eating disorders have no self control when eating food or when selecting food to eat.  Ingrained psychological disorders are usually the root of the problem in this case.  The problem might be a frustration that is difficult to overcome.  The problem might be a simple phobia that leads to selecting certain foods that provide fearless comfort.  
    The root problem of an eating disorder also might have something to do with lifestyle.  For instance, mindlessly spending too much time watching television can numb all sense of creativity and inspiration.  Classic television brainwashing techniques have the goal of causing the audience to dumb down, stare at the picture tube and use audio visual impulses to guide the participent toward common thoughts shared within the audience that are triggered by the content of the program.  
     The TV show might be boring, then the audience perks up, because the commercial is more exciting.  The television brainwashing goal is achieved and the commercial sponsors are pleased.  Unfortunately, the dumbed down audience ends up eating the same brand of cereal everyday till it becomes tiresome, then they draw a total blank while staring into the fridge when seeking something different to eat.  Now the dumbing down effect becomes evident as being a negative lifestyle influence.  Because no alternative or new food thoughts come to mind, frustration takes over and a stopgap measure is employed, before settling back into the same old routine.  One might say that the realization of this behavioral pattern by the subject, is the only self sufficient thought during the entire series of circumstances.  
     When that singular enlightening thought occurs while stuck in a habitual eating pattern, grasp the thought and do not allow it to escape!  Run with it and go for it!  Create change.  Just stop staring into the fridge, slap a few odd food items together that are out of the norm, give the creation a name and eat the stuff.  Even if the stopgap food creation tastes awful, it will help to break the chains of repetitive behavior and it will help to trigger more self sufficient thoughts.  Giving up, giving in and settling for the same old bowl of cereal status quo will be less likely to occur, even after breaking the behavioral pattern for just one short moment. 

     Why people overlook food items or completely forget about certain foods is a bit more difficult to figure out.  Factors that weigh heavily are a individual's lifestyle or recently adopted lifestyle changes.  
     For example, a consumer is sitting on porch with friends that are having boring conversation and his thoughts go adrift.  He recollects how he used to really like liverwürst sandwiches and remembers eating one 20 years ago in the past.  An urge to make a liverwürst sandwich occurs.  After staring into the home fridge, he find no liverwürst on hand.  He says to himself "I need to get some liverwürst next time I go to the store."  
     While at the grocery store, the consumer completely forgets about the liverwürst.  He returns home and keeps wondering about what he forgot to get at the store.  Then while staring into the crystal ball of the spirit world, which just happens to be his home kitchen refrigerator, he remembers the liverwürst.  Then he goes out on the porch with his friends.  His friends ask him:  "Why in the heck are you eating that same old cereal at 3:30 in the afternoon?"  ...  In response:  "Because I forgot the liverwürst, dammit!"
     The friends laugh and laugh because they thought the consumer was trying to be funny.  They laugh because they think that nobody in their right mind could possibly like liverwürst.  Out of frustration, the consumer jumps in the car and makes a mad dash to the grocery store to get the forgotten liverwürst.  Then the ultimate downer occurs when the consumer finds out that every hunk of liverwürst in the store was previously sold out.  
     After the frustrating experience concludes, the liverwürst is forgotten about for another few years.  Even when liverwürst is in stock at the grocery store and the consumer sees it on the shelf, the thought never crosses his mind to make a purchase.  Every once in a while as time moves on, he sees liverwürst on the store shelf and thinks "Gee!  A few months ago I was going to buy that stuff."  Because of the frustrating series of events that happened during the last liverwürst mission, the consumer takes a pass on the liverwürst and purchases something else.  
     
     Cravings that end in frustration have a way of influencing a consumer's food choosing ability.  Avoiudance or overcompensation are usually the course of action taken after a frustrating food incident.  It is comical, but this is human nature in modern times.  
     Liverwürst happens to be an item that people do not think about everyday, so even thinking about this food item can be frustrating.  This is true, especially when the mind draws a total blank when trying to remember the name of this product.  There is no use trying to describe this food product to a bystander, when trying to remember the name of this food, because most people are not liver fans and they will just say "yuck!"  Ce est la vie!   

     Liverwürst and Braunschweiger are similar yet different products.  Both contain liver and pork fat.  Braunschweiger differs liverwürst, because by USDA and European standards there is specific percentages of liver, minced scalded hog jowl meat, minced meat scraps, smoked bacon, pork fat and seasonings that compose the sausage meat mixture.  Beef liver, pork liver or a combination of both can be used to make either of these sausages, but in some cultures, only pork liver can be used.  
     Braunschweiger was created in Brauschweig Germany and the original recipe actually is similar to the braunschweiger that is sold in modern markets.  Sausage makers at butcher shops and specialty markets do produce hand crafted braunschweiger that is a little bit better quality than commercial braunschweiger, but the differences are minimal.  Commercial braunschweiger actually is a an authentic accurate product.  Local manufacturers and small German American sausage companies do produce braunschweiger that has more character than national name brands.
     There are three major braunschweiger varieties.  One is like a sliceable fairly firm smooth liver pâté that has an inedible plastic sausage casing.  The second is braunschweiger in a natural sausage casing.  The third is smoked braunschweiger.  Smoked branschweiger is always smoked whole in its natural casing and minced smoked bacon becomes an optional sausage mixture ingredient.  
     One intangible thing that these two specialty sausages have in common, is that consumers tend to overlook, forget or avoid liverwürst and branschweiger when shopping or thinking of something different to put on the dinner table.  Not everybody is a liver fan, but those who like liver relish the thought of a good liverwürst or braunschweiger sandwich!
     
     Today's sandwich recipe is simple.  The goal was to use modern popular sandwich garnishes to make the braunschweiger sandwich more appealing.  Upland cress, non-GMO organic heirloom tomato and a nice sandwich spread flavor achieve this goal.  Giving the sandwich a modern catchy name also helps the cause.  The name "Brawn Swag Zepp" is a slang sandwich name that has a ring to it and would look good on a delicatessen menu.  Trendy food names like this do create customer interest.  A Zeppelin Sandwich is the same thing as Subamarine Sandwich, but a Zeppelin is usually made with German style ingredients.  German American sandwich shops in the northeast region of America often call their sub sandwich offerings a Zeppelin or a Zepp for short.  

     Dill Mustard Sandwich Spread:
     This recipe yields enough spread for 1 large zepplin sandwich!      
     Place 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped dill weed.
     Add 1 pinch of blackk pepper.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Chill the spread for 20 minutes, so the flavors meld.  

     Brawn Swag Zepp: 
     Braunschweiger Zeppelin Sandwich with Bermuda Onion, Heirloom Tomato, Upland Cress and Dill Mustard Spread.   
     Warm an 8" to 10" whole wheat sub roll in an oven, then split it in half.
     Spread the dill mustard on the bread.
     Layer these garnishing ingredients:
     • A generous amount of upland cress
     • Thin sliced Non-GMO organic heirloom Brandywine Tomato or Beefsteak Tomato
     • Very thin sliced sweet bermuda onion
     Overlap 6 ounces to 8 ounces of 1/4" thick slices of braunscheiger on top of the garnishes.  
     Attach the top slice of bread with bamboo skewers, cut the zeppelin in half and place it on a plate.
     Garnish the plate with dill sprigs and petite sweet gherkin pickles.  

     Get your braunschweiger zeppelin swag on!  Yum!