Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Soul Food Sauerkraut







Say what?
   
     I was working for a great French chef at a cafe in Florida when I created this recipe.  We hosted fashion shows in the cafe during the day shift.  I was the day chef.  I ran an aggressive special du jour board each day.
     We cooked a few German specials du jour during the fall season for Octoberfest.  November came quickly and we had a few big jars of imported German sauerkraut leftover from the Octoberfest menu items.  The French chef asked me to run a special du jour that would require sauerkraut, so we could rotate the stock for the next season.  My response to the chef was in jest.  I said to the chef, "How about Soul Food Sauerkraut!" as he was walking by.  He stopped and turned to face me.  He was trying to keep from laughing.  The French chef said to me, "That is a good idea!"  He stood there like he was thinking of how to put the Soul Food Sauerkraut plate together.  I said to him before he could speak, "Let me handle it, I have an idea!"
     We had all of the ingredients to put this plate of Soul Food Sauerkraut together, except for collard greens.  I went next door to the food market and bought a few bunches of fresh collard greens.  We made our own stocks and bouillons, so we had ham hocks, hog jowls and pigs feet that we cooked to make ham stock.  We had ribs and chicken too.  I always kept okra in stock to make gumbo with.  French and German sauerkraut recipes use all kinds of different cuts of pork meat.
     When I received the first order of Soul Food Sauerkraut for a customer, I called the French chef over to take a look at the plate and to get his approval.  The chef looked at me with a straight face and said, "Cook another order of Soul Food Sauerkraut for the customer.  This one is mine!"  He walked to his office with the plate of Soul Food Sauerkraut and I did not see the chef for an hour.  When he came out of his office, he carried a plate of bones to the dishwasher.  As he passed by, he said, "It was very good!"
     I sold every bit of sauerkraut that we had in stock at that restaurant that day.  The Soul Food Sauerkraut special du jour was a success!  The customers loved it!

     Georgia BBQ Sauce Recipe:  
     This recipe makes about 1 1/2 cups of BBQ sauce!
     Place 1/3 of a cup of brown sugar into sauce pot.
     Add 2 cups of water.     
     Add 4 tablespoons of ground guajillo chile powder.     
     Add 2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper.     
     Add 2 tablespoons of paprika.     
     Add sea salt and black pepper.     
     Add 1/4 cup of tomato puree.     
     Add 1 ounce of cider vinegar.     
     Add 1/2 ounce of white vinegar.     
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of dry mustard.     
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of onion powder.     
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of garlic powder.     
     Add a 4 or 5 drops of red food coloring.     
     Place the sauce over low heat.     
     Simmer the sauce till the flavors meld.  Wait till the sauce cooks for 30 minutes before tasting or the flavors will not taste right.  The sauce should be mildly spicy, tangy and not sweet.  The BBQ sauce should have a dark red brown color.  The sauce should be reduced slowly to a medium thin sauce consistency.  Add water if the sauce becomes too thick.     
     
     Georgia Style BBQ Ribs Recipe:
     This recipe make a full order of spare ribs.  Only a couple of ribs are needed for the sauerkraut recipe.  
     Place a section of a spare rib rack on a wire rack in a baking pan.  (About 8 to 10 ribs on a spare rib section is a good portion.)
     Generously brush the sauce on the spare rib rack.
     Slow smoke the ribs over an open pit BBQ or in a smoker at 250º.  (Use an oven at 250º if you do not have an open pit BBQ or a smoker.)
     Flip the ribs and baste with the sauce while the ribs slow cook.
     When the sauce starts to darken and the ribs are tender, then the ribs are done cooking.  (The meat should be tender and juicy, but not quite ready to fall off of the bones.)
     Place the rib rack on a cutting board.
     Cut between the bones to completely separate each rib.
     Heat a char grill or cast iron grill over medium/medium high heat.  (You can place the ribs under a broiler in an oven on a broiler pan, if you are cooking indoors.)
     Place the ribs on a char grill and brush them lightly with the BBQ sauce.
     Char grill and finish cooking the ribs. 
     Brush the ribs with the sauce a few times. 
     (If you are using an oven, set the broiler to high heat and place the ribs on a baking pan and brush them with the sauce.  Broil the ribs to finish cooking.)
     Do not burn or char the ribs!  The char grill step is just to add fresh BBQ flavor and give the ribs that glazed BBQ rib eye appeal.
     Set the finished ribs on a platter and keep them warm.

     Collard Greens and Smoked Ham Hock Recipe:

     Heat a sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 2 pats of unsalted butter or 1 tablespoon of bacon grease.
     Add 1/4 cup of small chopped onion.
     Cook the onions, till they become a caramelized brown color.
     Add 2 pinches of crushed dried red pepper.
     Add 1 smoked ham hock.
     Add enough water to cover the ham hock.
     Bring the broth to a boil over high heat.
     Reduce the temperature to medium/low heat.
     Simmer the ham hock.
     Wash about 5 to 6 large leaves of fresh collard greens with cold running water.  Trim off any damaged parts of the leaves.  Cut the thick veined ends of the collard leaves off and discard them.  (The thick plant veins will be tough and chewy no matter how long you cook the greens.  So it is best to trim them off.)   Take the smaller collard leaves and split them down the middle, splitting the leaf vein in half.  Do the same for the larger leaves, but cut the large leaves into 4 large pieces.
     When the smoked ham hock broth is reduced to half of the height of the ham hock, add the collard greens.
     Gently press the greens into the hot broth with a wooden spoon, as the leaves wilt.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of cider vinegar.
     Cover the pot.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer for 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
     Take the lid off of the pot occasionally to gently "turn the collard greens from the bottom of the pot to the top.
     After 2 hours, the greens will start to become tender.
     Check to see that there is enough "pot liquor" in the pot.  It may be necessary to add a splash of water while simmering, but do not dilute the pot liquor broth!  The broth has to be rich, so the flavors meld together.
     When the collards are done cooking, there should be barely enough pot liquor to cover the greens.
     Keep the greens warm. 
  
     Roasted Trotter and Chicken Wing:
     Season 1 trotter that is cut in half lengthwise with sea salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper.  (Trotters are also known as pigs feet.)
     Lightly brush 1 chicken wing with the Georgia style BBQ sauce.
     Set the seasoned trotter and chicken wing in the same roasting pan.
     Bake in a 300º oven.
     The chicken wing will finish baking first, so remove it from the pan and set it aside.  
     Bake the trotter till the meat inside is completely cooked.  Do not bake the trotter till it is browned, or the juices inside will dry out.
     Set the trotter aside after it becomes fully cooked.
     
     Soul Food Sauerkraut:
     Rinse about 10 to 12 ounces of good quality German sauerkraut twice with water.
     Place the sauerkraut in a casserole baking dish.
     Add 1 handful of sliced okra to the sauerkraut.
     Season the sauerkraut with black pepper.
     Add 2 to 3 pinches of cayenne pepper.
     Take the excess broth (pot liquor) from cooking the collard greens and pour it over the sauerkraut.
     Place 1 thick slice of smoked hog jowl on the sauerkraut.
     Place the trotter and the chicken wing on top of the sauerkraut.
     Place the reserved smoked ham hock from cooking the collard greens on top of the sauerkraut.
     Place a small mound of the collard greens on the sauerkraut.
     Cover the casserole dish.
     Bake the casserole in a 325º oven for 45 minutes.
     Remove the casserole dish from the oven.
     Raise the temperature of the oven to 350º.
     Remove the cover from the casserole dish.
     Bake the casserole uncovered this time, so the meats will get some roasted color.  Bake uncovered for 15 minutes.
     Heat the Georgia Style BBQ ribs in the oven at the same time.
     Brush the ribs with the BBQ sauce, so they do not dry out.
   
     Presentation:
     After the soul food sauerkraut ingredients are done baking, set the casserole on a counter top.
     Set the meats and the mound of collard greens aside.
     Use a slotted spoon to set a bed of the sauerkraut and okra on a plate.
     Place the collard greens on the center of the sauerkraut.
     Set the trotter, smoked hog jowl, smoked ham hock and the chicken wing around the collard greens on top of the sauerkraut.
     Set the BBQ ribs on the sauerkraut too.
     Garnish the collard greens with a couple of pickled hot peppers.
  
     The flavors of this soul food sauerkraut recipe are superb!  The meat juices and the collard green's pot liquor give the sauerkraut a very savory flavor.  The collard greens do take on some of the sauerkraut flavor.  There is not much meat in a trotter, but the glutinous fat inside is a pleasure to nibble on.  Same for the smoked ham hock.  The streak of meat in the smoked hog jowl is a pleasure to eat too.
     The chicken wing and Georgia BBQ ribs really add a great flavor to this plate of food.  The okra slices are tender and have the sauerkraut's flavor too.  This is a great tasting German soul food recipe!  Or, this is a great soul food recipe with German sauerkraut!  No matter how you describe this dish, it is yummy!         

Monday, December 13, 2010

Soul Food! Collard Greens and Smoked Ham Hock







     The aroma of simmering collard greens and ham hock is truly one of the greatest aromas that there is!  Collard greens are one of the most famous plates of soul food!
     I really do have to laugh about this memory of mine.  One side of my family is from the American South.  I ate collard greens and ham hocks, as well as many other southern recipes for many years as a kid.  Then somebody gave this kind of food a name.  People started calling southern down home cooking "Soul Food." I just looked at my granny and said "Somebody gave a name to this stuff that we eat all the time?"  Granny smiled and said "Somebody was bound to give our cooking a name sooner or later!"
     Soul food has been cooked in the south by all races, creeds and colors.  Soul food is color blind!  Everybody who cooks collard greens is proud of their recipe too.  Collard greens just about have the most nutritional value of all greens.  Collard greens are native to Africa, just like okra.
     You can not cook collard greens quickly, unless you have a pressure cooker.  Most soul food chefs cook collards slowly for a long period of time, the same way as I do.  The leaves have to be cooked tender so they can be eaten.  Canned collard greens are taboo!  Fresh is best.
 
     Collard Greens and Smoked Ham Hock Recipe:
     Heat a sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 2 pats of unsalted butter or 1 tablespoon of bacon grease.
     Add 1/4 cup of small chopped onion.
     Cook the onions, till they become a caramelized brown color.
     Add 2 pinches of crushed dried red pepper.
     Add 1 smoked ham hock.
     Add enough water to cover the ham hock.
     Bring the broth to a boil over high heat.
     Reduce the temperature to medium/low heat.
     Simmer the ham hock.
     Wash about 5 to 6 large leaves of fresh collard greens with cold running water.  Trim off any damaged parts of the leaves.  Cut the thick veined ends of the collard leaves off and discard them.  (The thick plant veins will be tough and chewy no matter how long you cook the greens.  So it is best to trim them off.)   Take the smaller collard leaves and split them down the middle, splitting the leaf vein in half.  Do the same for the larger leaves, but cut the large leaves into 4 large pieces.
     When the smoked ham hock broth is reduced to half of the height of the ham hock, add the collard greens.
     Gently press the greens into the hot broth with a wooden spoon, as the leaves wilt.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of cider vinegar.
     Cover the pot.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer for 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
     Take the lid off of the pot occasionally to gently "turn the collard greens from the bottom of the pot to the top.
     After 2 hours the greens will start to become tender.
     Check to see that there is enough "pot liquor" in the pot.  It may be necessary to add a splash of water while simmering, but do not dilute the pot liquor broth!  The broth has to be rich, so the flavors meld together.
     When the collards are done cooking, there should be barely enough pot liquor to cover the greens.
     Keep the greens warm. 
     Use a spoon or tongs to set the collard greens in a shallow bowl.
     Pour some of the pot liquor over the greens.
     Place the simmered smoked ham hock on the greens.
     No garnish is necessary!
 
     The chopped caramelized onions are cooked for so long, that they dissolve into the broth.  The flavor of the smoked ham hock is thoroughly infused with the greens.  Collard greens are very durable.  Even after simmering slowly for hours, they still retain their shape.  Serving the ham hock with the greens is optional.  Some people like to nibble on the simmered ham hock meat.  This is a warm, comfortable, healthy bowl of collards!  Soul food is feel good food!  Delicious!  ...  Shawna

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Anise Bulb Salad with Yukon Gold Potato, Purple Peru Potato and Tarragon Vinaegrette






     I once sold a similar anise root salad at a high end seafood restaurant in a resort in Florida.  I added some colorful exotic potato slices to the recipe to give this salad some balance.  Many salads from the French Provence region have potatoes in the list of ingredients.  Salade Nicoise also requires potato as a garnishing ingredient.
     Since a few colorful Peruvian hybrid potatoes have finally been offered at markets, the plain white potato or bliss potato is no longer the only option.  Natural varieties of potatoes were hybridized by the Incans and earlier South American civilizations.  There are hundreds of ancient potato hybrids from Peru that have not been marketed at grocery stores as of yet.  One that I would like to see marketed is the Peruvian Calico Potato, because it is multi colored.  Calico potatoes look nice on a plate.
  
     Yukon Gold Potato and Purple Peru Potato:  
     Do not peel Yukon Gold or purple potatoes before boiling, or the color of the potato will fade.  the skin can be left on the potatoes for this salad. 
     Place 1 Yukon Gold Potato and 1 Purple Peru Potato in a pot.
     Cover the potatoes with water.
     Bring the water to a boil over high heat.
     Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Simmer the potatoes, till they are cooked  just a little bit more than al dente.
     Cool the potatoes under cold running water.
     Cut the potatoes into thick slices and set them aside.

     Tarragon Vinaegrette Recipe: 
     Place 1 1/2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 2 pinches of white pepper and sea salt.
     Add 1/2 of a minced garlic clove.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of dijon mustard.
     Add 2 teaspoons of finely chopped green onion.
     Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of chopped fresh tarragon.
     Slowly stream 4 tablespoons of olive oil, while whisking, to create a vinaegrette emulsion.
     Set the tarragon vinaegrette aside.

     Anise Bulb Salad with Yukon Gold Potato, Purple Peru Potato and Tarragon Vinaegrette:
     Toss a few slices of mushroom and mixed baby lettuce together with some of the tarragon vinaegrette in a mixing bowl.
     Mound the letuce mixture on the center of a plate.
     Garnish the plate with 4 thin bermuda onion slices.
     Garnish the plate with 4 plum tomato slices.
     Garnish the plate with 4 anise top green leaf sprigs.
     Arrange the purple and gold potato slices around the lettuce on top of the garnishes.
     Toss 1 small handful of thin sliced anise bulb with some of the tarragon vinaegrette dressing.
     Place the dressed anise slices on top of the lettuce.
     Drizzle a little bit of the the tarragon vinaegrette over the onions, tomatoes and potatoes on the plate.
  
     The exotic potatoes add a nice color and warmth to this salad.  The tarragon vinaegrette is perfect for the sliced anise.  The anise has a very nice delicate flavor.  This salad is delicious!

Seared Chicken Filets with Mango Salsa and Toasted Chile Couscous






     Mango salsa is a delicious tropical treat!  Cool and refreshing salsa is always welcome with a meal in tropical heat and humidity.  I worked with a great caribbean executive chef for one season in a caribbean restaurant in a resort.  Our food was complex with tropical caribbean flavors.  We garnished many of the entrees with 3 small little dabs of different salsas on the plate.  Some of our salsas were very wild in flavor.
     I made many different flavors of tropical caribbean salsa in that resort.  I've posted only a few of those caribbean salsa recipes in my blog so far.  Mango salsa has always been my favorite!  I just wanted to make a very simple recipe that featured mango salsa for this blog post.  The are no garnishes on this plate other than a popular caribbean flavor of couscous.  This is how food is served at small cafes in the caribbean tropics.  "Plain Jane" with nothing extra and full of flavor!
  
     Mango Salsa Recipe:
     This recipe make 2 to 3 portions of mango salsa!
     Place 1 cup of chopped peeled ripe mango into a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/4 cup of chopped onion.
     Add 2 chopped green onions.
     Add 10 to 15 chopped fresh cilantro leaves.
     Add 3 tablespoons of diced red bell pepper.
     Add 1/2 of a diced jalapeno.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of lime juice.
     Add 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Let the salsa set for twenty minutes, so the flavors meld.

     Toasted Chile Couscous Recipe:
     Toast about 1 tablespoon of mild ancho chile powder in a dry pan over medium low heat, till a roasted chile aroma develops.
     Set the pan roasted chile powder aside.
     Boil 2 cups of chicken broth in a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add enough millet size couscous to soak up all of the broth.  (About 3/4 cup.)
     Add the pan roasted chile powder.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Reduce the temperature to medium low/low heat.
     Cover the pot with a lid,
     Simmer and steam the couscous, till it is fully cooked.  (About 4 minutes.)
     Place the couscous in a mold and invert the mold onto a plate.
  
     Seared Chicken Filet with Mango Salsa Toasted Chile Couscous:
     Season 2 chicken breast filets with sea salt, cracked black pepper and a little bit of cumin.
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 small splash of vegetable oil.
     Pan sear the chicken filets and turn them frequently.
     Remove the chicken from pan when it is fully cooked with brown highlights.
     Set the chicken filets on a plate.
     Spoon a generous amount of the mango salsa over the chicken filets..
 
     Serve with a vegetable of your choice and some pigeon peas to turn this entree into a full caribbean style meal!  Mango salsa is so cool and refreshing!  Mango salsa is great with grilled fish too.  Couscous has become very popular in the caribbean.  The mild roasted chili flavor of this couscous is perfect with a mango salsa.  Delicious!  ...  Shawna

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cotlete Porc Cu Bere









Romanian Pork Chops with Beer Sauce!

     This is one of the greatest pork chop recipes of them all!  The cooking method is superb!  Romanian cuisine offers many traditional tasty pork recipes.
     It seems like all traditional Romanian farms have a few pigs on the land.  Many Romanian farmers dress in their colorful traditional folk clothing and they turn the pig slaughtering day into a celebration day.  A freshly butchered pig can turn into a big event.  The farmer's children hang around, waiting to eat the delicacy yet to come. The first thing the farmer does is remove the pig liver and rest it on top of the pig.  The raw liver steams in the cold winter air as pieces of the warm fresh liver are sliced and eaten raw by the children first.
     This may be a bit much for western world people to handle, but this is an old Romanian tradition that dates back to an age where wild animals were hunted when tribal members were hungry.  Every predator animal, including man, goes for the liver first, when prey is killed.  The liver offers instant nutrition and it usually eaten raw.  The difference between mankind and animals is that the hungry children are fed first.
     Once the Romanian farmers pig is butchered, the pig roast begins.  Traditional pork roast dinners for special visiting guests are usually the reason for a pig slaughtering event.  If a local inn or restaurant has a group of special visitors, the pig roast event takes place there.  If the pig roast event takes place on a farm, some of the freshly slaughtered pork is sold to local markets and eateries as a source of income.  Pork is an old tradition in Romania!
  
     Cotlete Porc Cu Bere:
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of home made lard or vegetables oil.
     Add 2 thick pork chops that weigh 6 to 8 ounces apiece.
     Sear both sides of the pork chops, but only cook the pork chops till they become a rare temperature of 115 to 120 degrees.
     Place the pork chops in a baking pan and broil the pork chops under a medium flame.
     Flip the pork chops occasionally so they roast evenly.
     When the pork chops become fully cooked and they become a light brown color, remove them from the broiler and set them aside.
     Heat a saute pan over medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of home made lard or unsalted butter.
     Place 3/4 cup of very thin sliced onions in the pan.
     Use a spatula to form the sliced onions together, so they create a bed that is the same size as the pork chops.
     Place 1 peeled, seeded and sliced Granny Smith green apple on the onions.
     Sprinkle 2 cloves of chopped garlic over the apples.
     Place 1/2 cup of thin sliced onion on top of the apples.
     Place the pork chops on top of the onions and apples.
     Season the pork chops with sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1/4 cup of water to the pan.
     Cover the pan tightly with a lid or foil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer the pork chops over the layered onions and apples.  Do not disturb or shake the pan!
     Cook for about 30 to 40 minutes, till the onions become caramelized to a brown color and the apples have completely dissolved.
  
     Romanian Beer Sauce recipe:
     Make a blond roux in a pan with equal amounts of flour and unsalted butter over medium heat while constantly stirring.  About 2 to 3 tablespoons of blonde roux will be plenty.
     When the roux becomes a blonde color, set the pan aside.
     Gently boil 1 1/2 cups of Romanian blond pils beer Czechoslovakian pilsner beer in a sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add just enough of the roux, while whisking, to thicken the beer to a very thin sauce consistency.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of sugar.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 tiny pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of marjoram.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a medium thin sauce consistency.
     Add 3 to 4 pinches of finely chopped Italian parsley just before serving.
     Add 2 to 3 pinches of very thin sliced chives just before serving.
  
     Presentation:
     When the pork chops are done cooking, there will be just a little bit of caramelized pan juices in the saute pan.  Be sure that the pan jus lands on the plate!
     Use a large spatula to slide the apples, onions, pan juices and pork chops onto a plate together as one.  (The apple onion and pan juices must be served beneath the pork chops on the plate!)
     Generously spoon the beer sauce over the pork chops.
     Serve with a vegetable of your choice and garnish with a parsley sprig.
     Serve with a starch of your choice on the side.
  
     This Romanian pork chop recipe is the best of the best!  The pork chops become very tender using this Romanian cooking method.  The onions and apple slices are caramelized brown and the pan juices have such a very nice flavor.  The apples melt into a dark jus while slow simmering.
     The beer sauce is well balanced and it gives the pork chops a wonderful old world flavor.  This Romanian pork chop recipe is a must try!  Delicious!  ...  Shawna

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Onion Focaccia with Pan Seared Red Bell Peppers and Basil Leaves




     
     Onion focaccia was the house focaccia at a very nice Northern Italian Restaurant that I worked in several years ago.  When onion focaccia bakes, the aroma is mouth watering!  Olive oil should drip from a well made focaccia.  Italian cooks that I worked with would say "Focaccia is no good unless olive oil is dripping over the customers chin when it is eaten!" 
     Focaccia can be made about 3 inches thick or it can be made very thin.  Focaccia must be brushed with olive oil or have olive oil poured on it while baking.  Focaccia dough is the same as Italian pizza dough.  The better you can make pizza dough, the better your focaccia will be.
     Pizza dough is made with just a few basic ingredients.  Making a good pizza dough comes with experience.  Most people can make a good pizza dough after three or four attempts at making the dough.  So, don't give up trying and buy a pre-made focaccia.
   
     Focaccia Dough Recipe:  
     If you have dough making experience, then this will be easy.
     High gluten flour is best for this recipe, but bread flour can be used.  Pizza dough is focaccia dough or Italian bagette style bread dough.    
     Focaccia style doughs require enrichment with fat.  Olive oil is a fat!  Oil strengthens and elongates the gluten strands of the dough.  It only takes a very small amount of oil to produce a nice texture.  The elastic gluten strands give pizza dough the ability to be stretched and tossed in the air!
     Add 2 tablespoon of fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon of dry yeast to 16 ounces of tepid luke warm water in a mixing bowl.
     Place the mixing bowl in a luke warm place like on top of a warm oven.
     When the yeast activates, add 2 teaspoons of sugar to proof the yeast.
     Add about 2 cups of flour.
     Add 2 teaspoons of sea salt.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Stir the mixture with a spoon, till a very loose wet dough is formed.
     Start adding a little bit of flour at a time,while stirring, till a loose dough is formed.
     Add a little more flour at a time, while mixing with your fingers, till the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
     You will be able to feel when the dough is starting to get elastic.  It will stick to your hands when made correctly, but that will change after rising twice.
     Add flour, while hand mixing, till the dough can pull away from the sides of the bowl.
     Cover the dough in the mixing bowl with a dry towel.
     Set the bowl on top of an oven in a luke warm area, with a second towel underneath the bowl to protect the dough from too much heat.
     When the dough rises more than double, beat it down with your knuckles and gather the dough like a ball in the bowl.
     Cover the dough with a towel and let it rise again.
     When it rises the second time, beat the dough down and knead firmly with your hands for 1 minute.
     Place the dough on a floured counter top.
     Roll the dough into a large ball.
     Cut the dough ball in half for two medium size focaccia portions or into four portions for small focaccia bread.
     Roll and tuck each dough portion with with your hands to make smooth dough balls.
     You can cover and refrigerate each dough ball for a few days or freeze the dough portions for later use.
    
     Onion Focaccia:
     Pat 1 focaccia dough portion into a flat round shape with your finger tips.
     Brush the dough generously with olive oil.
     Sprinkle some very thin sliced onions on the dough.
     Allow the dough to rise and proof.
     Pop any large bubbles that form on the dough.  (Focaccia is an airy kind of dough.)
     Bake the focaccia on a sheet pan in a 450 degree oven, till it is half way done baking and still white in color.
     Remove the focaccia from the oven.
     Sprinkle virgin olive oil over the focaccia.
     Return the focaccia to the oven.
     Bake until golden brown highlights appear on the bread and the onions become caramelized.  
     Remove the focaccia from the oven.
     Drizzle a little more virgin olive oil on the focaccia.
     Cut the focaccia into square or pie shaped slices.
   
   
     Pan Seared Red Bell Peppers and Basil Leaves:
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 small splash of olive oil.
     Add 1 whole clove of garlic.
     Add 1 small handful of red bell pepper strips.
     Pan sear the peppers, till they become caramelized on the edges.
     Discard the garlic clove.
     Add 3 or 4 fresh basil leaves and toss the ingredients together.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Set the pan aside.
   
     Onion Focaccia with Pan Seared Red Bell Peppers and Basil Leaves:
     Set a slice of the focaccia on a plate.
     Place the seared red bell pepper strips and basil leaves on the plate beside the slice of focaccia.
     Drizzle some high quality virgin olive oil on the plate.
     Garnish the focaccia with a small basil sprig.
   
     Delicious, simple and healthy!  The health benefits of olive oil are well known.  In Italian cooking, it is not how many ingredients that are in a recipe that makes it great.  It is the skilled techniques that bring the most flavor out of food that make Italian cooking great.  Yummy!  Ciao Baby!  ...  Shawna

Salad of Shrimp, Asparagus and Baby Lettuce with Ginger Pomegranate Vinaegrette





A nice simple light salad for openers!  

     Ginger Pomegranate Vinaegrette Recipe:  
     This recipe makes enough for 2 small salads!
     1 tablespoon of pomegranate vinegar in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of dijon mustard.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sesame oil.
     Slowly add 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil, while constantly stirring, to create a loose vinaegrette.
     Set the vinaegrette aside for 10 minutes.
     Stir before serving.

     Salad of Shrimp, Asparagus and Baby Lettuce with Ginger Pomegranate Vinaegrette:
     Boil 3 cups of  water in a sauce pot over high heat.
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 4 crushed black peppercorns.
     Add sea salt.
     Add 1/3 of a lemon.
     Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 5 large shrimp.
     Boil till the shrimp become fully cooked.
     Cool the shrimp under cold running water.
     Remove the shrimp shells and tails.
     Devein the shrimp.
     Blanch 5 pencil thin asparagus spears in boiling salted water, till they become cooked al dente.
     Cool the asparagus under cold running water.
     Place a small mound of mixed lettuce on the middle of a plate.
     Place 5 petite tomato wedges around the lettuce.
     Place the shrimp between the tomato wedges.
     Tuck the asparagus spears under the shrimp, so the asparagus spears lean on the tomato wedges.
     Spoon the Ginger Pomegranate Vinaegrette over the greens and tomato wedges.
   
     The Ginger Pomegranate Vinaegrette very light and full of flavor!  I intended to write this recipe, just to feature the vinaegrette.  You can garnish this salad with more ingredients if you wish.  Many old school seafood restaurants do serve salads like this as house salads.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Coca Leaf Focaccia with Smoked Salmon, Brie Cheese and Spinach Chipotle Vinaegrette







Food of the Andes!
   
     First of all, if you are drug tested in the work place, then one piece of this coca leaf focaccia bread will cause you to fail a drug test.  Coca leaf flour and coca tea leaves are legal, but extracting the active alkaloids is not.  Not all coca leaf is potent, but the flavor of all coca leaves tastes just about the same.
     Coca leaf is not only chewed or drank as a tea in South America.  Powdered coca leaf is referred to as coca flour.  Coca leaf is very nutritious as well as being the worlds best natural stimulant.  Ancient civilizations in South America worshipped coca.  And for a good reason.  Coca leaf gives unsurpassed stamina, cures altitude sickness and provides the body with many basic nutritional requirements.  Coca leaf is one of the strongest antioxidants on earth.
     Natives that live in the high Andes, combined coca leaf with maca root in arid desolate areas.  Those two plants products combined, provided every nutrient, protein and vitamin that the body requires.  High Andean natives needed no other food source to live upon.  The coca leaf increased oxygen intake and that made it possible for the high Andean natives to do much more than just survive.
     Ground coca leaves can be baked just like regular wheat grain flour or combined with wheat flour.  The bread dough is green colored, but it turns brown as is bakes and ends up being like the color of pumpernickel.  Coca leaf flour tastes great in bread.  Coca syrup is still used to flavor many cola beverages.  Coca leaf flour has spinach like undertone flavors, because the chlorophyl is still present in the ground coca leaves.
     The active alkaloid on coca leaf rapidly degrades when heat is applied.  Thin bread causes less degradation of the active alkaloids, than thick bread, because less baking time is required.  Still, after eating one slice of coca leaf focaccia, a slight numbing effect can be noticed in the mouth.  For the active alkaloid to be absorbed through the skin within the mouth, the PH of the mouth must be raised to 9.0 PH.  9.0 PH will free the active alkaloid from the vegetative matter.  Most public tap water from a faucet will test as 8.3 PH to 9.4 PH.  The addition of baking soda to a coca leaf bread recipe will certainly raise the PH of the saliva in a mouth.  If oral absorption of the active alkaloids is not a prime concern, then the ingestion of the bread will result in an effect that is similar to drinking coca leaf tea.  The nutrients will be beneficial and the increased intake of oxygen will help maintain high altitude stamina.
     As far as the effects of coca leaf alkaloids are concerned in coca leaf flour, they are about as mild as a cup of coffee.  The difference is that there is no shakiness of the hands and the effects last less than 30 minutes.  Coca leaf focaccia will not cause coffee like jitters, but is will increase stamina and mental clarity.
     I do not promote drug usage, but I also do not consider natural plants to be drugs.  They are just simply there.  You either like the taste of the plant, or you move on to dine on something else.  If we all ate the same food as everybody else for every meal of everyday, that would contribute to humans becoming sheep.  Treat the natural medicinal plants with respect, if your tastes point you in those directions.  By all means, do not go baking a batch of coca leaf focaccia for a business function.  Everybody would risk failing a drug test, even though the level of active alkaloids is very low.
         
     Coca Leaf Focaccia Recipe:  
     If you have dough making experience, then this will be easy.  
     High gluten flour is best for this recipe, but bread flour can be used.  Pizza dough is focaccia dough or Italian bagette style bread dough.  No oil in the mixture will produce a dough that is like many Italian breads that are not enriched with fat or like a French baguette bread dough.  Many pizzeria chefs do not add oil to a pizza dough and that is correct pizza dough too.  
     Focaccia style doughs require enrichment with fat.  Olive oil is a fat!  Oil strengthens and elongates the gluten strands of the dough.  It only takes a very small amount of oil to produce a nice texture.  The elastic gluten strands give pizza dough the ability to be stretched and tossed in the air!
     The coca leaf flour simply takes the place of a portion of the wheat flour in this recipe.  Baking soda for raising the PH level of the bread is optional.  
     Add 2 tablespoon of fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon of dry yeast to 16 ounces of tepid luke warm water in a mixing bowl.
     Place the mixing bowl in a luke warm place like on top of a warm oven, with a dry towel under the bowl.
     When the yeast activates, add 2 teaspoons of sugar to proof the yeast.
     Add about 1 cups of high gluten flour.
     Add 1 cup of coca leaf flour.
     Note:  So far this is a 50/50 proportion of coca leaf flour and high gluten flour.  After more wheat flour is added and after benching, the proportion of wheat flour will be much higher than coca leaf flour.  That is the goal.  The coca leaf flour is supposed to be a nutritious and flavorful flour additive.  If a stronger active alkaloid effect is desired from the coca leaf, then I would suggest studying chemistry, instead of culinary arts!  If the coca leaf flour proportion is too high, then the bread will have the texture of crackers or dehydrated spinach.
     Add 2 teaspoons of sea salt.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of baking soda.  (optional)
     Stir the mixture with a spoon, till a very loose wet dough is formed.
     Start adding a little bit of flour at a time,while stirring, till a loose dough is formed.
     Add a little more flour at a time, while mixing with your fingers, till the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
     Note:  You will be able to feel when the dough is starting to get elastic.  It will stick to your hands when made correctly, but that will change after rising twice.
     Add flour, while hand mixing, till the dough can pull away from the sides of the bowl.
     Cover the dough in the mixing bowl with a dry towel.
     Set the bowl on top of an oven in a luke warm area, with a second towel underneath the bowl to protect the dough from too much heat.
     When the dough rises more than double, beat it down with your knuckles and gather the dough like a ball in the bowl.
     Cover the dough with a towel and let it rise again.
     When it rises the second time, beat the dough down and knead firmly with your hands for 1 minute.
     Place the dough on a floured counter top.
     Roll the dough into a large ball.
     Cut the dough ball in half into 2 portions that are easy to work with.
     Roll and tuck each dough portion with with your hands to make smooth dough balls.
     You can cover and refrigerate each dough ball for a few days or freeze the dough portions for later use.
     Pat the green dough out on a floured counter top into a flat focaccia flat bread shape.
    Transfer the green focaccia dough to an oiled sheet pan.
     Reshape the dough if necessary.
     Brush the green focaccia dough with virgin olive oil.
     Bake the focaccia in a 350 degree oven, till the bread is firm but not crusty.
     Remove the pan from the oven.
     Brush the bread with virgin olive oil again.
     Place the bread pan back in the oven.
     When the focaccia is done baking, it should be slightly crusty, but soft in the middle.
     Sprinkle coarse sea salt on the bread as it cools.
     Cut the bread into pie shaped slices.
 
     Coca Leaf Focaccia with Smoked Salmon and Brie Cheese Garnish:
     Top 2 coca leaf focaccia bread slices with thin sliced smoked salmon and brie cheese.
     Place the bread in the 350 degree oven till the cheese softens, but does not brown.
   
     Chipotle Vinaegrette Recipe:
     Place 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small bowl.
     Add 1 teaspoon of pomegranate vinegar.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of dijon mustard.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced chipotle pepper en adobo.
     Whisk the ingredients together to make a loose vinaegrette.
   
     Coca Leaf Focaccia with Smoked Salmon, Brie Cheese and Spinach Chipotle Vinaegrette:
     Place the 2 smoke salmon and brie garnished coca leaf focaccia slices on a plate.
     Place a small mound of baby spinach leaf on the plate.
     Spoon the vinaegrette on and around spinach.
 
     Unreal flavor!  The chipotle vinaegrette spinach salad compliments the flavor of the bread.  The coca flour focaccia has a deep spinach like aroma with a pretzel like flavor from the baking soda.  Coca flour bread always turns out very dark in color.
     This bread is an energy and stamina booster.  You simply will not run out of breath even under heavy exertion after eating coca leaf flour focaccia, till about an hour later.  The is no famous euphoric effects from the small amount of active alkaloids present in this bread.  This bread is very nutritious.  If you are a mountain climber, this bread is the cure for altitude sickness.  By the way, eat the bread quickly before your mouth goes slightly numb.  Coca flour does have a local anesthetic numbing effect, so making an after dinner speech may not be wise!  ...   Shawna

Blackened Tilapia with Braised Napa Cabbage and Coconut Cumin White Yam





     The flavors on this plate go very nicely together!  Quickly made white wine and apple braised cabbage is on the opposite end of the flavor scale, when compare to the spicy fish.  That is what is known as an offsetting flavor combination.  Sweet white yam with the cumin coconut milk sauce has a warm and soothing flavor.
     This is a caribbean style plate of blackened fish.  Cajun blackening spice and the cooking technique is popular throughout the caribbean.

     Braised Napa Cabbage Recipe:
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 2 tablespoons of chopped onion.
     When the onions turn clear in color, add 1 small handful of coarsely chopped apple.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Add 2 cups of coarsely chopped napa cabbage.
     Saute and toss the ingredients together, till the cabbage becomes wilted.
     Add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice.
     Add 1/2 cup of dry white wine.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Cover the pot with a lid.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Braise the cabbage, till the cabbage becomes tender.
     Remove the lid.
     Simmer and reduce, till most of the liquid has evaporated.
     Stir in 1 pat of unsalted butter.
     Keep the braised cabbage warm on a stove top.

     Coconut Cumin White Yam Recipe:
     Bake 1 white yam in a 350 degree oven, till it is fully cooked but not mushy.
     Drag the back of a knife over the hot yam's skin, while holding the yam with a dry towel, to peel the skin off.
     Cut the hot white yam into a large, thick medallion shape.
     Heat a sauce pot over low heat.
     Add 1 cup of coconut milk.
     Add 3 pinches of cumin.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add the yam medallion to the sauce.
     Simmer the sauce with the baked yam, till the starch from the yam thickens the coconut milk to a medium sauce consistency.
     Keep the coconut cumin white yam warm on a stove top.
   
     Cajun Blackening Spice Mix Recipe: 
     Place 1/2 tablespoons of onion powder into a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 tablespoons of garlic powder.
     Add 4 tablespoons of paprika.
     Add 4 tablespoons of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 tablespoon of black pepper.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of white pepper.
     Add 1 tablespoon of sea salt.
     Add 1/3 tablespoon of sugar.
     Add 1/3 tablespoon of flour.
     Stir the ingredients together.
   
     Blackened Tilapia:  
     Heat 2 ounces of unsalted butter in a skillet over medium high heat, till the butter begins to smoke.
     Dredge 3 to 4 ounce tilapia filets in the Cajun Blackening Spice Mix.
     Place the small tilapia filets in the smoking hot butter.
     Blacken for 4-5 minutes on one side and only one minute on the other side.
     Set the blackened tilapia on a dry towel to drain off any excess grease.

     Blackened Tilapia with Braised Napa Cabbage and Coconut Cumin White Yam:
     Mound some of the braised napa cabbage on a plate.
     Set the blackened tilapia filets against the braised cabbage.
     Place the large white yam medallion next to the cabbage.
     Generously pour the cumin coconut cream over the white yam.

     White yam is so sweet and good tasting!  We always called white yam Yama Blanco.  The coconut milk and cumin flavors delicately accent the white yam's flavor.  The braised napa cabbage is tart from the lemon and wine with a light sweet flavor from the apple.  There is no pork fats or sugar in this lightly braised napa cabbage recipe.
     Spicy blackened tilapia is a nice match for delicate mild flavors on this plate.  Tilapia, in the wild, is a brackish water fish that is in the snapper family.  This is a nice tasting plate of food!  ...  Shawna

Lemon Parsley Chicken Filets with Sun Dried Tomato Spinach Wontons




A nice light entree!
   
     Lemon parsley chicken is not quite as rich as a Poulet a la Francaise because the sauce is not finished with butter.  The wontons have a very nice flavor and they are a good accompaniment for the chicken.  This is a tasty lunch entree or light dinner!  

     Sun Dried Tomato Spinach Wonton Recipe:
     Heat 2 cups of water in a sauce pot over low heat.
     Add 3 sun dried tomato halves.
     Simmer the sun dried tomatoes, till they become soft.
     Remove the reconstituted sun dried tomatoes from the water and finely chop them.
     Heat a saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 1 clove of minced garlic.
     When the garlic turns a golden color add 1 handful of fresh spinach leaves.
     Add the chopped sun dried tomatoes.
     Saute till the spinach becomes wilted.
     Season with sea salt and white pepper.
     Remove the spinach and sun dried tomato wonton stuffing from the heat and let it cool.
     Place 4 wonton wrappers on a counter top.  (Store bought pre-made wonton wrappers are fine for this recipe.)
     Place a dab of the sun dried tomato spinach stuffing on the middle of a wonton wrapper.
     Brush the edges of the wonton wrappers with egg wash.
     Form a simple triangle shaped wonton fold.
     Allow the wontons to dry in open air for five minutes.
     Heat a pot of water over high heat, so the wontons can be cooked later in the recipe.
  
     Lemon Parsley Chicken Recipe:
     Butterfly cut a 6 to 8 ounce chicken filet into two pieces, so they are an even thickness.
     Dredge the chicken filets in flour.
     Dip the chicken filets in egg wash.
     Lightly dredge the egg washed chicken in flour that is seasoned with sea salt and black pepper.
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 small splash of olive oil.
     Add 2 pats of unsalted butter.
     Saute the filets on both sides, till they become a golden brown color.
     Drain the excess oil out of the pan.
     Add 1 generous squeeze of lemon juice.
     Add 3/4 cup of light chicken broth.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer the filets in the thin sauce.
     Simmer and reduce, till only a few tablespoons of the pan juices remain.
     Add 1 small splash of virgin olive oil.
     Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of chopped Italian parsley.
     Toss the chicken and lemon parsley sauce together.
   
     Lemon Parsley Chicken Filets with Sun Dried Tomato Spinach Wontons:
     Cook the wontons in the boiling water, till they float.
     When the wontons float, then they are done cooking.
     Place the lemon parsley chicken filets on a plate.  
     Pour any extra sauce over the chicken and onto the plate.
     Set the wontons next to the chicken filets on the lemon parsley sauce.

     Simple crisp flavors are the theme of this entree.  The flavor of garlic spinach and sun dried tomato is complimentary to the lemon parsley sauce.  Yum!  ...  Shawna