Friday, December 13, 2013

Pan Fried Oyster Po' Boy with Louisiana Remoulade











   
     Poor Boy sandwiches are a Louisiana tradition.  Originally these sandwiches were big, cheap to make and they were served like street vendor food to hungry folk who were on strike.  Sliced meat poor boy sandwiches are usually not garnished and the sandwich ingredients consist of just thin sliced deli meat, cheese and creole mustard, unless a customer asks for the works.
     Louisiana and New Orleans is prime seafood territory.  Fried shrimp, fried catfish and fried oysters are the most popular kinds of poor boy sandwiches.  Seafood poor boy sandwiches in this region are almost always slathered with Louisiana style spicy remoulade.
     There are several kinds of remoulade and the colors can be white, yellow or pinkish orange.  The lighter colored remoulades are French in origin.  The pink or orange remoulades originated in Louisiana.  Catsup, paprika and cayenne pepper is what gives a Louisiana remoulade its distinct color
    Any oysters are good for frying, but gulf coast blue point oysters seem to have the best flavor.  Unfortunately, because of the recent oil spill, gulf coast oysters are probably still on the iffy side.  Farm raised oysters or sustainable farmed wild oysters from good clean ocean water is always the best choice.
     Poor boy bread is a French style baguette that has a thin crust and a soft pith.  Tough chewy crusty baguette bread is better for serving with cheese.  Cuban style baguettes have the right kind of texture for a poor boy sandwich.  Cuban bread is made with a milk enriched French baguette dough.  A butter and milk enriched white bread baguette that has a thin crust is also a good choice.  I made a nice batch of Butter Bread dough for today's Po' Boy Sandwich and a few other recipes.  Butter Bread makes this sandwich look like the great Po' Boys from long ago.

     Butter Bread:    
     This small batch recipe yields enough dough to make 1 large hamburger roll, 4 double knot dinner rolls and a foot long hoagie roll.
     This recipe is written for a mixer with a dough hook.  
     Place 1 1/2 cups of water in a sauce pot.
     Add 1/2 cup of milk.
     Gently heat the liquid to 112º.
     Place the liquid in a mixer bowl.  
     Add 2 tablespoons of fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon of dry yeast.
     Place the mixing bowl in a lukewarm place like on a towel on top of a warm oven.
     Wait for the yeast to activate. 
     Add about 1 1/2 cups of flour.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of sugar.
     Add 1 whisked large egg.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of melted unsalted butter. 
     Place the mixer bowl on the mixer and attach a dough hook.
     At low speed, mix till a very loose wet dough is formed.
     Start adding a little bit of flour at a time, till the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. 
     You will be able to see when the dough is starting to get elastic.  It will stick to the hook and bowl.
     Add just enough flour, so the dough starts to look like it can start to gather on the dough hook.
     Allow the dough to mix and knead at a low speed for about 5 minutes.  By now the dough should be gathering on the hook.
     Remove the mixer bowl from the mixer and remove the dough hook.
     Cover the dough in the mixing bowl with a dry towel. 
     Set the bowl on top of a warm oven, 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.
     Place the dough on a lightly floured counter top.

     Shaping:
     Roll the dough into a large ball. 
     Cut the dough ball into 3 equal size portions.  (Each portion is enough for 1 foot long hoagie roll.)
     Roll and tuck each dough portion with your hands to make 12" long sub roll shapes.
     Place each sub roll dough shape on a parchment paper lined pan.  Space the rolls so they will not touch each other after proofing!
     Use a razor sharp knife to bias cut shallow steam slashes on each roll.
     Gently brush each dough shape with melted unsalted butter.
  
     Proofing:
     Place the pans and dough in a warm area.
     Allow the dough to rise to 1 1/2 times its original size.  (This only takes a few minutes, because the dough is still very active.) 

     Baking:
     Bake in a 425º till the bread becomes a golden brown color.  

     Serving:
     If the bread is for later use, then reheat the bread before serving.

     Louisiana Remoulade:
     This recipe makes enough rémoulade for a foot long Po' Boy!  This Louisiana rémoulade version is a little bit different than some of the other Louisiana rémoulade recipes that I have posted in the past.   
     Place 1/4 cup of mayonnaise in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 tablespoons of organic catsup.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced gherkin dill pickle.
     Add 2 minced garlic cloves.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced onion.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of worcestershire sauce.
     Add 1 teaspoon of creole mustard or dijon mustard.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 2 teaspoons of dried French Herbs de Provence.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of paprika.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Chill the sauce before serving.

     Po' Boy Sandwich Set Up:
     It is best the have the bread ready, so the pan fried oysters can be placed directly on the sandwich when they are done frying. 
     Trim the ends off of 1 foot long butter bread hoagie roll and split the roll open.
     Spread a thin layer of the Rémoulade Louisiane on the bread.  Place any extra rémoulade in a small ramekin.
     Place some mixed baby lettuce leaves on the bread.
     Set the bread set up aside.

     Pan Fried Oysters:       
     This recipes makes enough pan fried oysters for a foot long Po' Boy.
     Heat enough vegetable frying oil in a cast iron skillet to fry a few oysters with.  The oil should be about 3/4" to 1" deep.  Heat the oil to 360º.
     Season 2 cups of breadcrumbs in a mixing bowl with sea salt, black pepper and a few pinches of cayenne pepper.  (The amount of cayenne pepper is personal choice.)
     Dredge 8 ounces of large shucked oysters in flour.
     Dip the floured oysters in egg wash.
     Dredge the oysters, one at a time, in the breading mixture.
     Place each breaded oysters in the hot oil.
     Pan fry the oysters on both sides, till the oysters become fully cooked and light brown highlights appear on the breading.
     Note:  Oysters are tender and moist, so do not disturb the oysters while they pan fry, or the breading will break loose.  When the bottom side becomes golden brown, carefully flip the oyster over and finish frying the oyster.  Oysters cook quickly, so when the bread crumbs turn golden brown, they are ready.
   
     Pan Fried Oyster Po' Boy with Louisiana Remoulade:
     Use tongs or a small fryer net to pick the pan fried oysters out of the hot oil and place them directly on the prepared hoagie roll.  (The less pan fried oysters are handled the better!)
     Place the Pan Fried Oyster Po' Boy with Rémoulade Louisiane on a plate.
     Garnish the plate with parsley sprigs and dill pickle spears.
     Place a small ramekin of Rémoulade Louisiane on the plate.
   
     This Pan Fried Oyster Po' Boy has a good old fashioned look.  This Po' Boy is also an old fashioned big portion size.  To do a Louisiana Pan Fried Oyster Po' Boy right, you got to go all the way!  Hooo Dawgy!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Canadian Back Bacon Maple Coffee ~ A Great White North Café Cocktail!



A nice hot coffee cocktail for chilly winter evening!

     Bacon is en vogue.  Bacon is a tradition and bacon is here to stay.  There are two kinds of bacon.  Pork Belly Bacon is fatty and it has a rich flavor.  Canadian Bacon is really Back Bacon that is made with a pig's back straps.  Back bacon is lean, mean and when it is pan fried crisp, it sure taste great with mayonnaise on white bread, especially when the outdoor temperatures are below zero.  
     Since bacon is at an all time high in popularity, liqueur distillers have jumped on the bacon band wagon.  Mama Walker's Maple Bacon Liqueur is a good example of a modern bacon liqueur that is done right.  This liqueur is sweet with maple flavor and it has a nice rich bacon flavor.  The flavor tastes something like pancakes with maple syrup and bacon.  Mama Walker's Maple Bacon Liqueur has an addictive flavor that makes this distilled product dangerously close to being breakfast in a bottle!   

     Canadian Back Bacon Maple Coffee:
     This recipe yielda an 8 ounce coffee cocktail serving!
     Pour 5 ounces of Colombian Coffee in an 8 ounce coffee cup.
     Add 1 1/2 ounces of Canadian Whiskey.
     Add 1 1/2 ounces of Mama Walker's Maple Bacon Liquor.
     Float 2 tablespoons of frothed milk or loosely whisked sweet cream on top of the coffee.  
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of cinnamon on the cream.

     This Canadian Back Bacon Maple Coffee is a great way to start a Saturday morning day off in the Great White North, eh!  This hot coffee cocktail a nice warmer upper after a long day of shoveling snow in the cold.  Bacon cocktails!  Yum!  ...  Shawna      

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Rigatoni with Fire Roasted Tomato and Portobello Ragù










     Mushrooms are basically meat.  In many regions of the world, especially in Asia, vegetarians commonly refer to mushrooms as meat.  Wood ear mushrooms are a good example of this statement.  
     In today's Italian ragù recipe, Italian brown field mushrooms take the place of meat.   A petite soffritto is part of the stewed sauce, just like for a ragù that is made with pork or beef.  Fire roasted tomatoes are usually acidic tomatoes, so the soffritto also helps to "sweeten" the sauce.  
     Many Italians add a splash of red wine to meat sauces to raise the acidity.  This helps to tenderize the meat and the wine adds flavor.  A splash of red wine was added to this recipe just to create a bold flavor, because mushrooms need no help to become cooked tender.  Home made lard is usually used to make meat ragù, but olive oil can be substituted.  Olive oil is better for light stewed sauces like today's recipe.     
     Ragù can be made with no broth if the proportion of meat is high.  If a moderate amount of meat is in the sauce, then broth is usually added to increase the flavor.  Since mushrooms were used in todays recipe, the choice of broth is a matter of personal choice.  Either mushroom broth, vegetable broth, chicken broth or beef broth can be added to a mushroom ragù.
     The strict vegetarian readers of this recipe can easily figure out how to convert this recipe to their preference.  Dairy product tolerant vegetarian readers can add the cheese, but the the egg garnish can be omitted.  
     Poached egg are sometimes used to garnish pastas in Italy.  I once worked with a Northern Italian chef who garnished a few of his pasta specialties with a poached egg.  This chef knew plenty about nutrition, because every time that he garnished a pasta with a poached egg, he pointed to his own eyes.  Eggs provide lutein and zeaxanthin, which help to protect the eyes from macular degeneration.  The Northern Italian chef wore thick eye glasses, so there was more to the poached egg garnish than what meets the eye.  

     Fire Roasted Tomato and Portobello Ragù:
     This recipe yields enough for 1 pasta entree!
     Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/4 cup of olive oil.
     Add 2 cloves of sliced garlic.
     Saute till the garlic becomes a golden color.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of brunoise diced onion.  (Brunoise = 1/8"x1/8"x1/8")
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of brunoise diced carrot.
     Add 1 tablespoon of brunoise diced celery.
     Briefly saute, till the onions just start to turn clear in color.
     Add 1/4 cup of small chopped portobello mushrooms.
     Add 1/3 cup of portobello mushroom half slices.  (Cut a small portobello in half and then slice.)
     Saute till the mushrooms become tender.
     Add 1 ounce of dry red wine.
     Add 1 1/4 cups of vegetable broth.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of canned crushed fire roasted tomatoes.
     Add 1 pinch of ground sage.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 2 pinches of basil.
     Add 1 pinch of whole fennel seed.
     Add 1 small pinch of nutmeg.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Simmer and reduce, till the sauce become a medium thin tomato sauce consistency.
     Add 2 pinches of minced Italian parsley.
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat.

     Rigatoni with Fire Roasted Tomato and Portobello Ragù:
     Cook 1 portion of Rigatoni Pasta in boiling water over high heat, till it is al dente.
     Just before the pasta finishes cooking, poach 1 egg in gently boiling shallow salted water, in a saute pan, so the yolk remains a bright color.
     Drain the water off of the pasta.
     Place the pasta in a mixing bowl.
     Add enough of the Fire Roasted Tomato and Portobello Ragù to generously coat the pasta and gently toss the ingredients together.
     Mound the pasta in a large pasta bowl.
     Sprinkle some minced Italian parsley over the pasta. 
     Sprinkle a few generous pinches of finely grated parmesan cheese over the pasta.
     Garnish with a sprig of Italian parsley.
     Use a slotted spoon to place the poached egg on to of the pasta.  (Trim the loose egg while flash if necessary, so the egg looks nice.)

     This pasta actually is heartier than it seems to be.  The mushrooms create a rich satisfying flavor that sticks to the ribs.  Yum!  Ciao Baby!  ...  Shawna

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Fried Pork Rinds with Three Sauces






Pork Rinds!

     Some people would rather eat a bag of pork rinds, than to munch on a bag of candy.  There are folks who prefer jerky or pork rinds over any other kind of snack.  People who like pork rinds do not necessarily have to only be country folk.  Pork rind munchers do not necessarily have to reside in a big city ghetto, a Mexican barrio or a trailer park.  On second thought, maybe they do!  
     The demographics of pork rind consumers is not exactly refined high class city slickers.  In fact, I have rarely seen people of high social status eating pork rinds in public.  There is a slim possibility that socialites eat pork rinds in private, away from possible criticism by their peers.  There actually could be a demographic sector of closet case pork rind munchers, who save face by not letting their fellow high society members know that they "have a thing" for this crunchy snack.  
      
     It is kind of funny, but a lot of my relative are from the Carolinas.  Carolina people have good old fashioned down to earth taste preferences.  Since I have some Carolina blood flowing through my veins, it is just natural to crave pork rinds on occasion.  I have actually shown up at some of the classiest places with a bag of pork rinds, just to get some amusement out of the public reaction that this snack creates.  
     Snobbish people hear the enticing crunching and munching going on, then they curiously turn around and say "What is it that you are eating?!"  The best way to answer this naive question is to hold up the bag and say, "Spicy BBQ Pork Rinds!  Y'all want some?"
     Offering pork rinds to classy acting folks who pretend to have social grace really does draw some amusing reactions like, "Ugh!  You are disgusting!  How could you eat that disgusting garbage?  I am becoming ill, just by watching you eat that stuff.  You unrefined lowlife country bumpkins should not even be allowed to exist!"   
     It works every time!  Munching on pork rinds, when high society members are around, does create a stir.  Coaxing a classy elite person to try one can successfully be done.  This also creates a funny reaction that is similar to what a person does before telling an ethnic joke.  Elite high society members actually turn their head and look over their shoulders, in order to make sure that there are no witnesses, before accepting the offer to try a crunchy pork rind!
     After tasting a Spicy BBQ Pork Rind, a high society member usually says that the crunchy snack tastes pretty good.  They also mention that they would appreciate not letting the word get around about how they actually tried a pork rind, because it would certainly cause frowns among their peers.  
     Even with the risk of lower social ranking, asking for a second pork rind is not uncommon for a classy person to do.  Pork rinds have an addictive savory flavor.  A personal pork rind addiction truly is something that is kept "locked in a dark closet" by high society members.  An empty bag of pork rinds on the floorboards of a Mercedes Benz could be a sad sign of hopeless addiction.  "Oh dear, ...  Oh dear, ... There seems to be no recourse for poor Biff now, ...  Oh dear, ... What shall we do?  What shall we do?"
     What shall we do?  Well, seeking pork rind addiction counseling or attending "Pork Rind Eaters Anonymous" group sessions might be upper class options.  The chances are that the fall from social grace may be so severe, that a pork rind eating outcast of society might even be subject to complete financial ruin.  
     
     The answer to the problem is easy!  Instead of fighting pork rind addiction, just give in and get a big bag of pork rinds.  Better still, make a batch of pork rinds from scratch.  By presenting freshly fried pork rinds in a tasteful manner, this crunchy snack can achieve the elegance that it deserves.  A rebound from being labeled as a "pork rind addicted social outcast" could possibly be achieved, just by whipping up a batch of gourmet pork rinds as a classy dinner party hors d'oeuvre! 

     Pork Belly Skin Preparation:
     Pork belly sections are usually sold with the skin attached.  The skin must be removed, before making home cured bacon or pork belly recipes.  Pork belly skin can be frozen for later use or prepared on the spot.  
     It is best if the skin has a minimal amount of fat attached.  The pork fat trimmings can be rendered to make fresh lard.
     Soaking pork belly skin in bacon soda water overnight in a refrigerator will help to make the flavor milder.  About 1/2 tablespoon of baking soda per quart of water is plenty.  
     After soaking, drain off the water.
     Place the pork belly skin on a roasting rack in a refrigerator.
     Allow the pork skin to air dry. 
     Use a steak perforating tool to pok a holes through the skin.  (optional) 
     Cut the pork rind into large bite size rectangular pieces and set them aside.    

     Japanese Teriyaki Sauce:
     This recipe yields 1 small portion!
     Place 3 tablespoons of soy sauce into a small sauce pot.
     Add 3 tablespoons of sugar.
     Add 1/2 cup of water.
     Place the sauce pot over low heat.
     Simmer and reduce the teriyaki sauce, till it becomes a syrup consistency and till the sauce can easily glaze a spoon.
     Place the teriyaki sauce in a ramekin.
     Keep the sauce warm on a stove top. 

     Lillet Blanc Dijon Mustard:
     This recipe yields 1 small portion!
     Place 2 ounces of Lillet Blanc wine in a small sauce pot.
     Add 2 tablespoons of Dijon Mustard.
     Place the pot over low heat.
     Simmer a reduce, till the sauce becomes a medium thin consistency.
     Keep the sauce warm on a stove top.

     Fried Pork Rinds with Three Sauces:
     Any amount of pork can be fried per batch.  The oil will have a pork flavor after the frying is done, so the oil can then only be used for certain applications.  
     Heat 4" of vegetable frying oil in a high sided pot to 360º.  
     Place a few pork rind pieces in the oil at a time, so hot oil foaming does not occur.
     After no moisture sizzling can be heard and the pork rinds become crisp, then they are ready.
     Use a fryer net to place the pork rinds on a wire screen roasting rack on a drip pan.
     Season with sea salt and white pepper.  
     Place a bed of kale leaves on a plate and mount the pork rinds on the kale.
     Serve with your favorite hot sauce, the Lillet Mustard Sauce and the Teriyaki sauce on the side.

     Pairing:
     Since this is the late autumn and early winter season, a nice beer pairing came to mind.  Seasonal craft beers are always en vogue.  During the fall season, spiced pumpkin ales are a great choice.  Pumpkin ales are usually dry and not sweet.  A mild German dessert spice blend in the brew makes pumpkin ale suitable for the holiday season.  One of the best tasting seasonal pumpkin ales that I have tried is made by the Buffalo Bill's Brewery.  This ale has a medium body and the hops flavor is not overpowering.  Buffalo Bill's Brewery Pumpkin Ale is a nice early winter beer!     

     Pork rinds are a tasty snack to eat while watching a ball game on the weekend!  Yum!  ...  Shawna

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Bourbon Cheddar Smoked Turkey Soup with Herb Focaccia Bread Sticks






A nice soup for winter and the holiday season!

     There is a fine line between what defines a cheese sauce and a cheese soup.  The proportion of cheese tends to be lower in a soup, but not always.  Secondary flavors, like herbs and mirepoix vegetables are part of a cheese soup and they are not usually part of a cheese sauce.  Beer, wine or liquors can be added to either cheese recipe.  Basically, a cheese soup is thinner than a cheese sauce and the flavor balance is more delicate.  
     The quality of the cheese does make a big difference, especially when cheddar is used to make a soup.  Cheap bulk mild cheddar has very little flavor at all.  Several handfuls of cheap mild cheddar can be added to a soup and the cheddar flavor will still not be pronounced.  Cheap mild bulk cheddar is a waste of time.  A small amount of good quality sharp cheddar will produce a richer cheddar flavor in a soup, than a large amount of cheap mild bulk cheddar.
     Beer cheese soup is a nice tasting classic cheddar soup.  The savory barley wheat grain and hops flavors of beer go well with cheddar.  Bourbon also is a nice flavor for a cheddar soup, because the sour mash corn grain and wheat grains have basic flavors that go well with this cheese.  To achieve the best flavor, the bourbon should be added late in the recipe.  It takes less bourbon to flavor a soup when the bourbon is added last.  After the soup simmers for a few minutes, the alcohol will evaporate and the bourbon flavor will remain.     
     Cream soups are not typically made only with milk and cream.  A broth or stock can be added and the soup will still be called a cream soup.  A cheddar soup does not have to look plain, like a cheese sauce.  A cheddar soup can have bits of savory meat, aromatic vegetables and herbs in the recipe that compliment the cheddar flavor.  The object is to accent or compliment the cheddar flavor in the soup.
     Bread sticks are nice with a cheddar soup.  If the herbs or additional flavors in the bread sticks clash with the flavor of the soup, then the bread sticks should not accompany the soup.  When garnishing a soup with bread sticks, the bread stick flavor has to be a good match for the soup.    

     Seasonal Herb Bread Sticks:
     Follow this link to the recipe!  It takes a few hours to make this bread recipe.

     Bourbon Cheddar Smoked Turkey Soup:
     This recipe make 1 large serving of soup our 2 small servings!  The yield is about 2 3/4 cups.
     Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour while stirring.
     Constantly stir the roux, till it turns a golden color and till it just starts to emit a light hazelnut aroma.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of light chicken stock, while stirring with a whisk.
     Stir till the roux thickens the stock.
     Add 2 cups of milk.
     Stir occasionally, till the soups heats and till it becomes a very thin sauce consistency.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of small chopped smoked turkey.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced celery.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced green bell pepper.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced carrot.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of minced onion.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of ground anatto.
     Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of Spanish paprika.
     Add 1 small pinch of nutmeg.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 pinch of dill weed.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Simmer and reduce the soup, till the vegetables become tender and till the soup becomes a thin sauce consistency.  Stir the soup occasionally.
     Add 1/2 cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese while stirring with a whisk.
     Stir till the cheese blends with the soup.
     Add 1 1/2 ounces of Kentucky sour mash bourbon.
     Add 2 pinches of minced Italian parsley.
     Simmer and reduce the soup, till the alcohol evaporates and the soup becomes slightly richer than a thin sauce consistency.  If the soup becomes too thick, add a little bit of milk.  (This soup should not be as thick as a nacho cheese sauce!)
     Keep the soup warm over very low heat or in a 135º bain marie.  Stir the soup occasionally.

     Bourbon Cheddar Smoked Turkey Soup with Herb Focaccia Bread Sticks:
     Ladle the soup into a large shallow soup bowl.
     Place 2 warm long thin bread sticks in the soup, so they lean on the rim of the bowl.
     Garnish with an Italian parsley sprig.

     The smokey turkey flavor, bourbon, mirepoix and herbs combine with the sharp cheddar to create a and very satisfying flavor.  This is a nice chilly weather soup!  Yum!  ...  Shawna  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Agave Pomegranate Tangy Sweet Bulgur Wheat







A nice bulgur wheat mezze with an interesting flavor!

     As every cook who has a taste for international cuisine knows, acquiring one of a kind ingredients is necessary to do.  Pomegranate molasses and a long list of spices are necessary to have on hand for certain Middle Eastern recipes.  Pomegranate molasses is very strong and it can take months to empty one small bottle.  Few people use pomegranate molasses on a daily basis, but many health conscious people do regularly include pomegranate products in their diet.  Traditional recipes that require pomegranate molasses do take some effort to find.  Pomegranate molasses can be adapted to other Persian and Arabic recipes that require other kinds of fruit molasses flavors.  
     While browsing the internet yesterday for traditional ways to use bulgur wheat, I ran across an interesting Lebanese recipe for bulgur wheat that was flavored with grape molasses.  The translation of the recipe name is "Sweet Bulgur."  The recipe was well written and it was one of a kind.  After looking at the recipe, I thought that making a similar recipe with pomegranate molasses would be nice.  
     I searched on the internet to see if a traditional pomegranate molasses bulgur wheat existed and found none.  This does not mean that such a recipe does not exist, it just means that there was no such recipe on the internet.  I decided to model a new pomegranate molasses bulgur wheat recipe after the "Sweet Bulgar" recipe example and keep the flavor goal within the bounds of Middle Eastern taste preferences.  Because my step grandfather was a great Syrian Lebanese chef, I learned middle eastern taste preferences at an early age.  Spiced sweet tangy flavor combinations are a recurring theme in Middle Eastern cuisine.  
     Today's bulgar wheat recipe balances the tangy pomegranate molasses flavor with sweet blue agave cactus nectar.  A few Middle Eastern spices were chosen to accent the tangy sweet flavor combination.  The result was a tangy sweet flavor that is so interesting, that it is nearly impossible to put the spoon down after one taste!  
     For those who seek interesting vegetable side dishes for holiday season dinner, Middle Eastern vegetable mezze recipes can provide plenty of ideas.  Today's Agave Pomegranate Bulgur Wheat recipe was designed to be a vegetarian mezze offering.  The flavor that is so appealing, that I thought that it would be nice to post this recipe before the holiday season begins, so viewers could give it a try.  One taste is all it takes to agree that a bowl of Agave Pomegranate Bulgur Wheat on a holiday dinner table spread would surely please the guests and it would inspire some interesting conversation! 
     
     As the viewers of this recipe website know, most of my recipes are written for one single portion.  This is done few a few good reasons:  
     
      • People who are single, do not like try a recipe that is written for 4 to 16 portions, because multiple portion recipes require doing baker's math, just to get the proportions right.  
     
     • Those who want to learn a new recipe, often find better control when cooking  a single portion example on a first attempt.  After learning the recipe on a small scale, it is easier to mentally calculate how to duplicate that recipe, when cooking more than one portion, without doing baker's math.  
     This is what is known as cooking by proportion.  This method allows adjustments to be made, because certain ingredients cannot be expanded in a recipe by doing simple math.  Logarithmic calculations are necessary for certain ingredients.  It is easier to rely on one's own senses when making a judgement call, than it is to do a precise logarithmic calculation. 
     
     • Single portion recipes make it easier to judge how much of each ingredient is necessary to purchase and how much excess raw material will be leftover, for use in future recipes.  This also helps to manage waste.  I personally waste nothing in a restaurant kitchen and I waste nothing at home.  
     For example, if 1 tablespoon of bell pepper is needed for a recipe, then cut off the top of the pepper and use the pepper top trimmings!  The rest of the bell pepper will be whole and it will be perfect for a stuffed bell pepper recipe.  This is what is called minimizing waste and controlling food cost.
     
     • A third good reason for posting single recipes is self preservation related.  This is kind of funny, but I have have gone hungry many times in restaurants and at culinary arts college, because I cooked something that really looked tasty, then senior chefs simply absconded my meal and made it their own dinner.  Chefs like to taste food that is made by a good chef and they have no regrets about stealing a meal that is cooked by a good chef when the opportunity arises.  
     A chef who confiscates a fellow chef's dinner creation, is kind of like the classic example of leaving a pie in a window to cool and the pie mysteriously disappears!  This situation stinks, because somebody ends up with nothing to eat.  Cooking food for this food website professionally at home, behind locked doors, has left me with more opportunities to taste my own food and to get my freshly cooked meal in my own belly where it belongs!     

     Agave Pomegranate Tangy Sweet Bulgur Wheat:
     This recipe yields 2 petite portions!  Keep in mind that pomegranate molasses is not sweet.
     This is not really intended to be dessert recipe.  In many cultures, a petite portion of something sweet is served as a first course or it is served early in the meal.  The early sweet offering is intended to refresh weary guests and provide the energy that is necessary for enjoying an entertaining dining experience.   
     Boil 2 cups of water in a sauce pot over medium high heat.   
     Add 3/4 cup of #3 size bulgur wheat.
     Return the liquid to a boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.   
     Simmer till the bulgur starts to become tender. 
     Remove the pot from the heat. 
     Drain off any excess liquid.
     Add 3 tablespoons of blue agave nectar.  (Alien Honey!)
     Add 1 tablespoon of pomegranate molasses. 
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unrefined raw sugar.
     Add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of ginger paste.  (Ginger paste in a jar is really kind of a wet minced puree.) 
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of fenugreek.
     Add 1 pinch of finely crushed dried mint.
     Add 1 pinch of cinnamon.
     Add 1 pinch of nutmeg.
     Add 2 pinches of cardamom.
     Add 1 small pinch of cumin.
     Add 1 small pinch of white pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Add 1 cup of water.
     Add 1 teaspoon of seville orange juice.  (Bottles of Bitter Orange are available at most food markets.)
     Place the pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Bring the liquid to a simmer.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce, till the liquid evaporates and the bulgur wheat becomes glazed.  The tangy sweet bulgur should be thick.  Be sure to stir occasionally to prevent sticking.  Do not stir excessively, or the glaze will become cloudy. 
     Keep the Agave Pomegranate Tangy Sweet Bulgur Wheat warm on a stove top or in a 135º bain marie.

     Presentation:
     Place a petite portion of the Agave Pomegranate Tangy Sweet Bulgur Wheat in a shallow bowl.
     Pour 1/2 tablespoon of mild light olive oil over the bulgur.
     Sprinkle 4 to 6 drops of rosewater over the bulgur.
     Garnish with an Italian parsley leaf.

     Like what was mentioned earlier in this article, "One taste is all it takes!"  Yum!  ...  Shawna

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Downtown 3rd Farmers Market, Las Vegas!
























     This article was edited on 9-3-2013.  A slide show was added!

     The New Farmers Market Trend
     Farmers markets of all shapes and sizes have been popping up in urban areas during the last few years.  Modern farmers markets are now located in places like upscale neighborhoods, plazas at busy intersections, cultural entertainment districts and center city high-rise buildings.  The new marketing strategy of these shops is to make farm fresh food easy for customers to find.  The theme of modern farmers markets focuses on locally grown agricultural products, organic food and farm sustainability.

     In the old days, farm produce stands were not easy for urban dwellers to access.  Even in today's age in some states, the only way to find a farm stand is to take a long drive down old country roads.  Sometimes the only indicators of where a farm stand can be found is a hand painted sign nailed to a fence post on the shoulder of an old two lane highway.  
     Word gets around out in the country, as to where a good farm stand can be found.  Along old travel routes that run through the countryside, a big old shade tree is a traditional location for a farm stand.  Asking local country folks at a gas station where a farm stand might be located, can result in a wild goose chase.  Many country folk do not always get out and about too often, so they may know where a farm stand was sometime in the recent past, but the current status of the business may not be known.  Going on a lead like this can result in driving 50 miles just to find an empty farm stand that has been abandoned for months.  

     In some rural communities, especially along major two lane travel routes, a farm stand is often located near the hub of a town's small business district.  Large easy to see signs or billboards advertise where these kinds of farm stand are.  These heavily advertised farm stands kind of act as a tourist attraction, as well as a market for the local community.  
     Fresh produce is not the only thing sold at these little country town farm stands.  The local residents market handcrafted products like honey, jerky, pickles, preserves, jellies and pies.  For those who miss the taste of country home cooking or for those who never experienced what hand crafted boysenberry jam is all about, small country town farm stands offer a treasure trove of good old fashioned food products to take back home.  

     Many big city folk take a leisurely drive through the country every Sunday, just to get some stress relief.  During the long scenic drive, many of these folks have a ritual that involves purchasing a jar of "Granny's Bread n' Butter Pickles" at a small farm stand out in the middle of nowhere.  After getting back home in the thick of the big city hustle and bustle, the jar of old fashioned pickles sits in the fridge, just like tonic in a medicine cabinet.  After a long day on a high pressure big city job, opening up the mason jar and eating a few old fashioned pickles spells out nothing but pure stress relief and old fashioned flavor heaven!  
     There is no use trying to tell somebody why driving 100 miles on a Sunday afternoon just to buy a jar of pickles is worth the trip.  It is the memories of the clean air, the scenery and the pleasant pace of the simple life that make the drive to a farm stand such a priceless venture.

     Not every citizen in a major city has the opportunity to take a long drive in the country.  If the customer cannot get to the farm stand, then bring the farm stand to the customer!  This is what the recent farmers market trend is all about.  Consumers want organic locally harvested produce that grown with sustainable farming methods.  Supporting locally grown organic food is the solution for many modern food chain problems.  
     Consumers do not want mass produced food that is contaminated with pesticides and chemicals.  Most people really do not want anything to do with GMO food at all.  The more that major corporations force their food production policies upon consumers, the stronger the demand for natural food becomes.  Modern farmers markets offer natural food options that consumers demand.
  
     Variety is the spice of life!  Modern farmers markets do not just offer the limited selection of vegetables and fruit that are found at common grocery stores.  Exotic fruit and vegetables can be found at modern farmers markets for a nice price.  Modern farmers markets are not just a place to buy a cheap bushel of pickling cucumbers, they are a destination for gourmet shoppers.  The photographs above certainly show what kind of selection can be found.

     The Downtown 3rd Farmers Market, Las Vegas!
     The Downtown 3rd Farmers Market is located next door to the Mob Museum in the old public transportation depot.  This market is open every Friday starting at 9:00AM.  Getting to the market early is always a good idea, because some items sell out quickly.  
     There is a nice selection of top quality locally grown, organic, sustainable produce at the Downtown 3rd Farmer's Market.  For those who crave old fashioned country style pickles, relish, jams and jellies, there are vendors at this market who offer nice quality products.  Everybody knows that vendors all have sales pitches to get consumers interested, but the best sales pitch of all is tasting a sample of the product.  One taste is all it takes to make a sale when the product is good.  

     I sampled some pickles that were offered by the Pickled Pantry vendor and their products tasted very nice.  This small batch pickling company also offered some spicy hot pickle products.  They actually had jars of Trinidad Scorpion Pepper Pickled Beets and I could not resist tasting a sample, because I am a hot chile pepper freak.  The spicy pickled beets were tastefully hot and only enough pepper was added to give the beets some character.  Trinidad Scorpion Peppers are the hottest peppers in the world, but when the right amount is added to a recipe, like pickled beets, a rich robust red habanero kind of flavor spreads through the ingredients.  A little bit of this super hot chile pepper breed goes a long way.  

     There was a honey vender on site who offered a wide variety of wildflower raw honey and domesticated flower honey.  Supporting the beekeepers is more important now than ever, because recent findings show that the same corporations who market GMO seed and agrochemicals may be part of the reason why bee populations have sharply declined in recent years.  One fact that will never be dismissed, is that if the bees become extinct, humanity will face extinction shortly after.  
     Honey offers good health and it has medicinal value.  Purchasing honey is not just the health conscious thing to do, it is what is necessary for helping to promote a flourishing bee population. 

     Those who have a sugary sweet tooth have options at this market too.  A vendor next to the honey display was selling old fashioned candies, toffee, fudge and brittle.  The sweet treats all looked really good.  Old fashioned stick candy always looks nice on the table during the holiday season. 
     
     Thanksgiving is just around the corner and many consumers prefer to purchase hand crafted pies, rather than bake their own for family gatherings.  Vickie's Fabulous Fare is a local Las Vegas vendor that markets sweet treats and fine desserts.  I tasted a few of thei cakes and pies while chatting up a storm, like all cooks do.  I was impressed by the quality of the desserts.  The flavors were right on the money and the textures were as they are supposed to be.  One cake that I really liked was the Rosemary Lemon Cake.  A delicate fresh green rosemary flavor could be tasted with every bite.  I have not seen a Rosemary Lemon Cake in over twenty years and I was pleased to see that this classic ckae flavor combination was not a forgotten relic of the past.  
     Vickie's Fabulous Fare also offers nice sweet treats like hand crafted Chocolate Hazelnut Spread.  Fans of "Nutella" know what this spread is, but those who buy mass produced commercial quality spreads really are not getting the best quality for their dollars spent.  Hand crafted Chocolate Hazelnut Spread has a much better flavor and texture.  One taste is all it takes to notice the difference.
     During the next few days, when people go on a holiday cake and pie shopping spree, many sources of fine baked goods will sell everything they have to offer in a short amount of time.  Not being able to land a good pie for the holiday dinner table can lead to a frustrating moment.  I have mentioned a few good holiday pie sources in recent weeks.  Since I recently found out about Vickie's Fabulous Fare, viewers in Las Vegas now have another option.  Vickies Fabulous Fare vends their products at the Downtown 3rd Farmers Market on Fridays and they also market their desserts Wednesdays at the Indoor Swap Meet at Decatur and Oakey. 

     Fresh baked artisan bread and cookies are more items that are in demand during the holiday season.  I chatted briefly with the Great Harvest Bread Company vendor and fount out that this bakery supplied the Las Vegas Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts College with bread that was used in cooking classes.  Specific kinds of bread are not always made by students on a daily basis, because such a wide variety of dessert making is taught in the Baking and Pastry course of study.  Nobody turns the ovens on when the class is learning how to make ice cream!  Outside baked good sources are necessary for a chef school to have and the lead chefs select the best sources.  
     I sampled a variety of savory and sweet bread.  One sample of a dark ginger spice bread really caught my attention.  This sweet tasting bread really had a nice aroma and the flavor was well balanced.  The savory bread samples exhibited high quality standards and there was no amateurish tunneling holes from over-mixing or lack of proper kneading time.  The Great Harvest Bread Company products were consistent and well crafted.  This bread vendor is at the Downtown 3rd Farmers Market on Fridays and they have two bakery locations in this city.  One site is at 6475 North Decatur near the 215 Beltway and the other bakery shop is at 4800 East Bonanza Road by the intersection of Nellis.    

     Just like many farmers markets that are located on travel routes or near tourist destinations, the downtown farm stand has more than just food vendors.  Artisan crafts, semiprecious gems, crystals, beads, Native American jewelry, hand crafted soaps, incense and natural cosmetics are just a few of the interesting products that are offered.  Local chefs do cooking demonstrations at the local farm markets and they often feature food items that spectators are not familiar with.  Kitchen equipment vendors market old fashioned cast iron pans and modern electric utensils.  
     Food trucks frequent the grounds and they serve up some trendy popular offerings.  Healthy food was was offered by the Abdoo's Fresh Mediterranean vendor while I was at the market and Haloumi looked tempting.  Ready to eat hot or cold entrees are available at this market and this is good for lunch break shoppers.
     I had a nice conversation with a lady from Germany who was selling hand crafted soaps and natural cosmetics.  She also had a line of tasty fresh dips and condiments.  Sin City Sue's had a really nice selection of crystals, semiprecious gems and hand crafted jewelry.  Indian Soul Art offered Native American Jewelry and interesting decorations.  All of the non-food products drew interest from shopper passing by and the vendors were fun to chat with.  Swap meet style vendors do make use of persistent tactful sales techniques, so be ready to strike up a bargain!

     I definitely recommend doing the Friday food shopping at the Downtown 3rd Farmers Market in Las Vegas!  By supporting the local farm markets, consumers are supporting local farmers, organic food production and sustainability.  These are all good causes and there is nothing better than guilt free dining!  Yum!