Thursday, July 18, 2013

Five-Minute Fava Bean Salad


After a long day at work and a relatively intense workout, I decided to keep it simple in the kitchen today and whipped up a mean bean salad.  I chose fava beans and feta cheese for protein (needed for muscle growth after a workout), onions for pungency, tomatoes for acidity and cilantro dressing for a huge burst of flavor.  It came together rather quickly and I enjoyed it all with a serving of whole grain crackers (baked with 10 whole grains & seeds).  The crackers actually helped to complete the protein provided by the fava beans (adding essential amino acids) and added some much needed crunch factor.  For the sake of all the people out there who hate cooking or like something quick and easy, I managed to muster up the energy to share it with all of you.  Enjoy folks!

P.S. It's perfect for a potluck: low-cost, flavorful and quick and easy!

Ingredients:



  • 1/2 cup canned fava beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Roma tomato, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped yellow onions
  • 1 oz feta cheese in brine
  • 2 tbsp reduced fat cilantro salad dressing (available at Trader Joe's) or substitute pesto
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:


Add ingredients to a medium-sized bowl and thoroughly mix to combine.  Enjoy with whole grain crackers.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Mango and Red Bell Pepper Juice


Imagine your life.  Now, imagine your life with a refreshing glass of mango and red bell pepper juice. Yes, Vitamin C loves you, too!  Ring in the dog days of summer with this sweet and tangy juice.  It's absolutely scrumptious and can be completely made to taste.  The 1 to 1 ratio of mango and bell pepper I use here yields a slightly tangy juice; however, you could easily double up on the mangoes or bell peppers to make it sweeter or even tangier.  For an added punch, I decided to rim the glass with a sweet and spicy mix of sugar, cayenne pepper and finely chopped crystallized candied ginger.  And, I may or may not have added a shot of cachaca.  Delish.  Cheers to the weekend, folks!

Ingredients:



  • 1 mango, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeds removed and cut into strips
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • Ground cayenne pepper to taste, about 1 or 2 shakes
  • 1 small piece of crystallized candied ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp lime juice or cachaca/rum

Directions:


Begin by washing the mango and red bell pepper.  Prepare them for the juicer by dicing the mango and seeding the red bell pepper and cutting it into strips.  Juice the mango and red bell pepper using a juicer.    Mix and set aside. 

Add the sugar, cayenne pepper and candied ginger to a small bowl.  Stir to combine.  Transfer sugar mixture to a plate or bowl large enough to fit the rim of the glass you will drink from.  Next, dip the rim of the glass in lime juice or cachaca, being sure to moisten the sides of the glass near the rim as well.  Now, immediately dip the rim of the glass in the sugar mixture and press down on the ginger pieces to get them to adhere to the glass.  Turn the glass right side up.  Add the mango and red bell pepper juice.  If you're like me, you may or may not want to add a shot of cachaca or rum at this point, but that's at your discretion. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Good Eats in Delaware, Philadelphia and South Jersey

I know it's been a while since I last posted, but I've been pretty busy with work, moving and forgetting people's birthdays (sorry mom, dad and everyone else).  Fret not, I'm back and mixing things up a bit.  I'd like to share with you my Memorial Day weekend spent visiting some foodie friends and doing field research (i.e., eating my way through Wilmington, DE, Philly and South Jersey).

Staying true to myself and my style, I took off work on Friday and made it an epic four-day weekend.  I headed up to Hockessin, DE on Thursday evening to visit a close friend from graduate school.  It was good times as usual as we broke bread (literally) and ate several homemade meals.  For Friday dinner, we went to Le Shio, an Asian Fusion Restaurant in Wilmington, DE.  It's located in a strip mall with a rather unassuming storefront, which belies the modern and chic environs inside.  The menu is quite extensive, which seems to encourage indecisiveness, but we had plenty of time to deliberate while we were waiting for a table.  As a sweet potato addict, I decided to try the sweet potato tempura rolls along with several pieces of sashimi.  I even went out on a limb and tried squid sashimi for the first time.  It actually wasn't bad and I loved the sweet potato tempura rolls so much that I decided to bite the bullet and order a side of sweet potato tempura.  After dinner, we headed downtown to the riverfront for drinks at Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant.  Ironically, no one ordered beer as we were all in the mood for cocktails.  I had a dark 'n' stormy with quite the gingery bite, followed by a coffee cocktail.  Afterwards, we decided to call it a night and headed home to surprise my friend's friend (who was visiting from NYC during the same time I was there) with a cake for her recent birthday.


On Saturday, I headed into Philly and met up with a good friend in the area.  It was around lunchtime so I decided to revisit my Philly to do list and we agreed on Memphis Taproom as the lunch option.  I once saw this place featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives and knew I had to try the smoked coconut club (which has quite the bacony flavor).  We arrived to find their beer garden open and decided to split a veggie hot dog topped with grilled cherries and mangos (that was surprisingly good) from the food truck in the beer garden.  Then, we walked next door to the restaurant and ordered food and brews. There were lots of exciting options on the menu, but I decided to stick to my guns and order the coconut club.  My friend ordered the fried green tomato po'boy so we could split the sandwiches.  Final verdict: The smoked coconut itself was delicious, but I found the sandwich as a whole to be somewhat bland and unexciting.  The flavors simply weren't assertive enough for me.  I actually preferred the fried green tomato po'boy, but it wasn't phenomenal either.  You know, I am from the Deep South after all, and I LOVE fried green tomatoes so maybe my standards are just exceptionally high for this regional staple.


Next stop, South Philly!  I love South Philly's character and vitality and there's no better place to experience it than the East Passyunk Avenue Corridor.  First, we hit up Capogiro (an old favorite) for gelato (Pistachio and Nutella) and then we went to Stateside for artisanal, handcrafted cocktails made with American spirits.  I was good times as usual.  Then, we made a quick pit stop in my old neighborhood, Point Breeze (interesting article on gentrification and development in the neighborhood), at American Sardine Bar.  I noshed a $2 sardine sandwich and we were out.


Then, on to Fairmount where we picked up my friend's girlfriend, had Campari cocktails and checked out the sweet rooftop deck at her house.  For dinner, we traversed town once more, heading west to Kilimandjaro, a Senegalese restaurant in West Philly.  The decor was pretty basic, which allowed the delicious food to shine like a star.  We began our meal by sharing an appetizing house salad loaded with veggies, hard boiled eggs, and shrimp tossed in a house dressing.  My dining companions split an order of beef patties.  For the main course, we shared yasa fish, a traditional Senegalese onion sauce with fried fish accompanied by a side of white rice, and grilled fish with a side of plantains.  It was plenty food for three people to share and we were plenty full as we left West Philly and headed to Northern Liberties to experience the whimsy and refined cocktails at Emmanuuelle.  As I looked their impressive cocktail list, I noticed the 'Tubarao...Tubarao' cocktail.  It combined so many great flavors (i.e., cachaca, campari, fresh grapefruit, lemon peel oleo-saccharum, egg white, and rosewater) so I decided to give it a try and it did not disappoint.  It was super light and the rosewater and egg white really helped to round out the drink.  Everything about this place was perfect except our server was slightly overbearing and would refill our water glasses every time we took a few slips and ask if we were doing okay.  Really???  After leaving Emmanuuelle, we made one final stop in Midtown for drinks and dancing before calling it a night.


Sunday was my final day in the Philly Metro area and I decided it was the perfect time to go hunting for panzarottis in South Jersey.  See you, long ago, I saw an episode of Best Thing I Ever Ate on The Food Network where Aaron McCargo Jr. described Camden's panzarottis as the best thing he ever ate with his hands.  I'd been dying to try one for years so I rolled up my sleeves and convinced my friend that we should head to Camden (a place where I had long been advised not to go by college mates and Jersey natives) for a doggone panzarotti. Turns out, Camden is indeed rough and ramshackle, but I didn't see how it was all that different from other places like Northeast Philadelphia and West Baltimore where I've worked and done research. We did a quick windshield tour of Camden and then headed over to Panzarotti Pizza King, which turned out to be closed.  Fortunately, there's tons of places to get a Tarantini Panzarotti.  We ended up at The Famous King of Pizza in Cherry Hill, NJ where they offer both the original Tarantini Panzarotti and their very own version made in house.  I decided to order the version made in house and it was divine!  I could seriously go for one right now.  The outside was crispy with a slight crunch.  The inside was airy and light and the cheese and marinara filling on the inside was delicious and perfectly seasoned.   Mission accomplished!  Afterwards, we drove through Collinswood, NJ and headed back to Philly where I packed up, ended my adventurous weekend and headed back to Baltimore.




Saturday, May 18, 2013

Smoked Salmon BLT

Barbecue cookouts and fish fries are a requisite life experience growing up in the Mid-South and barbecue is probably the food I've missed the most as a pescetarian.  I keep holding on and hoping that one day I'll find a Southern style barbecue joint with enough gumption and foresight to realize that tofu, tempeh, shrimp, salmon and vegetable kabobs are absolutely divine when grilled and slathered in barbecue sauce.  However, at the moment, that's nothing more than a dream deferred.  Just yesterday, I was in York, PA and my eyes began to glisten and sparkle as I came across Big Lou's Bar-B-Q on Yelp.  I was ever so hopeful.  Then, I was abruptly snatched back to reality when I looked at the menu and realized the only vegetarian options were carbs since the vegetables were likely cooked and flavored with meat.

So, for now, I'll continue to comfort my aching heart and wistful spirit with crab cakes (so far Alchemy is the best I've had), oysters and smoked salmon and mussels from Neopol Savory Smokery.   I honestly stop at Neopol for their smoked mussels every single time I'm in that part of town.  Their smoked salmon and mussels are quite reminiscent of the smokiness of barbecue and that causes my palate to sing praises and brings me temporary relief from this meat-free burden that I've place upon myself unspeakable joy.


This sandwich is inspired by Neopol's Salmon BLT.  They make a pescetarian version, by replacing the bacon with thinly sliced apples, that is quite scrumptious. I was thinking how nice it would be to have one for dinner with a glass of white wine during the week (when it's nearly impossible for me to make it over to their counter) so I decided to recreate it at home using the ingredients I had on hand.  




Smoked Salmon BLT


Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp garlic herb lemonaise
  • 1/2 tsp dill
  • Bread or sandwich rolls (I used rye pumpernickel)
  • Pea shoots
  • 7-8 oz of cracked peppercorn smoked salmon
  • Thinly sliced tomato
  • 3 pieces of bacon (sub thinly sliced apples for pescetarian version)
  • Thinly sliced red onion
  • Thinly sliced cucumber

Directions:


In a small bowl, mix garlic herb lemonaise and dill.  To assemble, spread the dill lemonaise mix over the bread.  Layers with pea shoots, smoked salmon, tomato, bacon or apples, red onion and cucumber.  Add top layer of bread and serve.   

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Cocktail Hour: Paloma


Feliz Cinco de Mayo!  What is considered a relatively minor day in Mexico (commemorating the Mexican army's 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War) has evolved into a much larger celebration of Mexican culture and heritage here in the United States.

I am a huge fan of Mexican cuisine and it's a mere coincidence that I had Mexican for lunch today.  I was in Patterson Park for the Kinetic Sculpture Race so I decided to take advantage of being in Baltimore's Hispanic Corridor and went to La Sirenita for lunch.  I had a great ceviche tostada and cheese sopes, but it was the pumpkin flower quesadilla that was the star of the meal.  It had layers of flavor ranging from the corn tortillas and Mexican crema to the pumpkin flowers which tasted like they had been marinated for hours.  I decided to forgo beer and cocktails at the restaurant and opted to make homemade Palomas for me and a couple friends when I got back home.

According to my sources¹, the Paloma cocktail, not the margarita, is the most popular tequila based cocktail in Mexico.  I can definitely see why.  The Paloma is light, refreshing and slightly more balanced than a margarita.  I'm most definitely a fan.

1. Baltimore MagazineBon Appetit and Wikipedia

Paloma Cocktail


Ingredients:


  • Course Sea Salt
  • 1 lime
  • 1 shot tequila
  • Grapefruit soda (such as Jarritos, Squirt or Fresca)
  • Grapefruit wedge

Directions:


Pour some course sea salt on a small plate.  Rub the rim of a glass with lime and dip in salt.  Fill glass with ice.  Add juice from one lime and a dash of sea salt.  Stir in 1 shot of tequila and top with grapefruit soda, roughly 1/4 cup.  Garnish with grapefruit wedge. 



Monday, April 29, 2013

I Dream of Crabs and Iced Tea

This past Saturday, I woke up dreaming about Maryland's iconic blue crabs, which someone told me is a "new one" since "usually people wake up thinking about bacon".  Which kinda sounds like a euphemism for 'That's weird!'.  Which is actually not weird at all considering I'm pescetarian and crab benedict is absolutely phenomenal for breakfast.  Since everyone is so hashtag crazy these days, I'd just like that person to know that #MyPalateIsMoreSophisticatedThanYours  #CrabIsBetterThanBacon #MindYourBusiness #NoThankYouWouldHaveSufficed

On Sunday, it was iced tea.  The unfiltered, verbatim quote that I remember from my dream is, "If I have one more disgusting glass of iced tea up here!  These [northern] folks need to learn that it's okay to add a few tablespoons of sugar or honey or citrus to your tea while it's brewing."  Obviously, I was scarred by that unmemorable glass of orange blossom iced tea that I had at a local restaurant the day before.  Lol...

"Aha!  Why don't I try them together!" I thought.  Good idea.  So, yesterday, I made a proper glass of iced tea (see recipe below) and had steamed crabs for the first time.  I was in heavennnnnn!  The crabs were only $1 per crab (quite a bargain) and I even got a lesson on picking crabs at the crab shop.  The Old Bay coating was delicious and crab meat was divine.  Yeah, this is gonna be a problem...


A Proper Glass of Iced Tea


Ingredients:


  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 lime wedges
  • 1 sprig mint
  • 1 bag of your favorite tea

Directions:


Add water to a small pot and bring to a boil.  Stir in honey, squeezed lime wedges and mint.   Add tea bag.  Cover with a lid and steep according to package directions.  Allow to cool for a few minutes and then add to a tall glass filled with ice cubes.  

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Eat More Oatmeal


I'll admit to being a little obsessive about oats.  I'm partial to oatmeal, granola, oatmeal raisin cookies, these, this, this, definitely this and occasionally this.  And, I absolutely dig this!  I love how even the restaurant's bowl sizes are baby bear, momma bear and pappa bear.  I'm totally bookmarking this for my next trip to NYC. I know one thing, too, Goldilocks should steer clear of my bowl.  Lol. It may be hard for you to believe at this point, but my love and fascination with oats might be totally outdone by this (be sure to stroll all the way down to the bottom of the page).

It was second nature to sleepily stumble into the kitchen this morning and whip up this super quick bowl of oatmeal on autopilot.  I tend to use ingredients I have on hand for my morning oats (missing those toasted, unsalted, slivered almonds right about now) and I advise you to do the same.  Feel free to add, substitute and omit ingredients to your liking.

FYI: 10 Awesome Health Benefits of Oatmeal & Making Your Own Homemade Oatmeal Packets: A Visual Guide and Cost Analysis & 3 Ways to Save Money on Quick, Convenient Breakfasts

Ingredients:


  • 1 1/4 cup rice milk
  • 1/4 tsp pure almond extract
  • 1/2 cup quick cook oats
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 dates, chopped
  • 2 tbsp shredded coconut
  • 1 shake of ground cardamon
  • 2 shakes of ground cinnamon
  • 1 shake of nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 6 oz container Chobani Low-fat Passion Fruit Greek Yogurt, well-shaken

Direction:


In a medium saucepan, heat rice milk and almond extract until hot and starting to bubble.  Add the next 8 ingredients and stir to combine.  Reduce to medium heat and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.  Transfer to a serving bowl and top with Greek Yogurt for a healthy, delicious and creamy breakfast fix. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Baked Crab Cheese Grits


Because every office bake off needs a savory dish.  As the only southerner in my office, I'm sure no one will be able to guess who brought the baked cheese grits.  

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup old-fashioned grits
  • 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, cubed
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 lb crab claw
  • 4 oz extra sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded

Directions:


Butter a 2-quart casserole dish and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  

In a medium saucepan, bring the vegetable stock, white pepper and garlic powder to a boil.  Stir in the grits and whisk until well combined.  Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for 8 to 10 minutes.   Add the cubed cheddar and whole milk and stir to combine.  Gradually stir in the eggs and butter, paying careful attention to the eggs to ensure they do not begin to cook.  Once ingredients are well-combined, add the crab claw and transfer to the buttered casserole dish.  Sprinkle the shredded white cheddar cheese over top and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until set.  

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Green Eggs and Ham a.k.a. Leafy Green Frittata


[Exhale].  Let me start by saying how relieved I am to finally have a sense of normalcy back in my life after a busy first two months of the year.  Daylight Saving Time is on tomorrow and I'm anxiously awaiting my first opportunity to bask in the sun and open my moonroof for some much needed Vitamin D.  I finally made plans to visit the National Aquarium, and it only took me a year and some change. And, for the second time ever, my birthday falls on Easter this year.  Am I too old to have a grown-up version of my egg hunt birthday party of old?  As you've probably guessed by now, I'm pretty excited about the month of March.

Hopefully, things will be mostly uphill, weather-wise, from here on out, but we a couple more months of waiting to do before farmers' markets are back in full swing.  However, that doesn't mean you have to continue singing the root vegetable blues.  Thankfully, many leafy greens are in season year round, and they are a great addition to just about any meal.  You can check out this website to find a harvest calendar with fruits and vegetables currently in season in your state/region.

Over time, I've received numerous requests for quick cooking vegetable recipes and someone specifically asked for some gateway recipes for new pescetarians/vegetarians.  This frittata definitely fits the bill.  If you can beat eggs, saute vegetables, turn on your oven and set the oven timer, then you can make a frittata. The whole process takes about 30 minutes or less and consider this: frittatas are versatile enough to be eaten for any meal.  If you ever have a dinner party or some unexpected house guests show up and you need a quick fix, don't fret.  Frittatas to the rescue!

Ingredients:

  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/3 cup feta cheese
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 lb baby asparagus, tough ended removed, and cut into 3-inch pieces
  • 1 cup chopped lacinato kale
  • 2 cup chopped savoy cabbage


Directions:


Preheat oven to broil setting.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix the eggs, sea salt, black pepper, cilantro and feta cheese together with a fork or whisk.  Heat a 12-inch nonstick, broiler proof saute pan over medium high heat.  Add olive oil.  Then, add the asparagus, lacinato kale and savoy cabbage to the pan and saute for 3 to 4 minutes.  Pour the egg mixture into the pan and give the pan a good shake to evenly distribute the eggs.  Cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until the bottom has set and the top is beginning to set.  Place the pan in the oven and broil for 3 to 4 minutes or until fully set.  The frittata should be lightly brown and fluffy.  Remove from pan, cut and serve.   


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Exploring the African Presence in Modern American Cuisine: Coffee, Cocoa and Black Bean Chili


Wow.  What a month!  February has been quite busy for me with work, traveling, blogging and trying to manage a social life.   

When I launched the Black History Month series at the end of January, I reverted to my 21-year-old self and recalled the searing enlightenment of my informative speech on soul food in my Persuasive Communication class.  I opened up the speech with a poem written by the phenomenal Pat Parker.  Then, I talked about the history and evolution of soul food, and I ended with some open-ended questions and a food tasting of collard greens and candied yams.   First of all, I must ask is it any surprise that I ended up with a food centric career?  Second, I was quite surprised how much I learned about myself and my culture by exploring a topic that seemed so obvious and familiar.   Life Lesson # 324:  No topics are off limits.  Depth is just as important as breadth.   Third, the professor, a legend in her field, gave me the highest compliment by saying she would never think of soul food the same way again after my speech.   When it was all said and done, my multicultural classmates had told me all about their cultural "soul foods" and one of the students in the class had surreptitiously tried to convince me to cook for a campus event.  Ummm... No sir!

Much like that speech some seven years ago, the Black History Month series has been quite eye-opening.  I've learned a lot and I'm better informed about foodways in the African Diaspora.  However, it has also been a major life adjustment restricting my food choices and having such a regimented meal plan for an entire month when my cooking style is pretty spontaneous and in sync with the time constraints in my life.  I had lots of ideas and not quite enough time to blog about peanuts (George Washington Carver), sweet potatoes, black-eyed peas, watermelons, patties, jollof rice, and injera.  I also didn't get around to organizing the Black Heritage Potluck that I dreamt about.    The fact of the matter is I have a full time job with a ridiculous commute.  I work out four to five days a week.  I travel a fair amount in the region.  I have a personal life.  This blog is simply a personal project where I let my creative juices flow.  So, the Black History Month series wasn't all that I wanted it to be, but I hope you enjoyed it and learned something new.  

The last food I will be featuring in the Black History Month series is coffee.  Ethiopia is widely believed to be the birthplace of coffee.  According to legend, a goat herder discovered coffee after noticing his goats were so lively and "spirited" after consuming the mysterious berries that they did not sleep at night.  The goat header confided in a monk who made a drink with the berries and subsequently extolled their virtues to other monks in the monastery.  Word of the "energizing" black beverage eventually spread near and far and coffee soon became a global phenomenon.   Hmmm... Quite interesting.  There's a conversation starter for your next cup o' joe.

I'm actually not a coffee drinker myself, but I decided to try my hand at this quick and easy recipe for Black Bean and Espresso Chili.  I halved the recipe, using two onions and 3 cans of black beans.  I also added 1 tbsp of cocoa powder, substituted dark roast coffee for espresso and substituted two diced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce for the chipotle chili powder.  I initially served it with these Pan-Fried Grit Cakes.  They were okay, but I much preferred it with cornbread.  In fact, the chili and cornbread combination was so tasty that I'd have to say this recipe is a keeper.  It's a breeze to make, loaded with fiber and protein, relatively inexpensive and quite tasty.   I'll just have to tweak the recipe some more to kick the spice factor up another notch for me.




Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Exploring the African Presence in Modern American Cuisine: Crawfish Mac and Greens


Baked mac and cheese is my favorite food.  Period.  It's the thing I most look forward to at holiday dinners (as long as there is no Velveeta, American cheese, cornflakes, ham, peas, tomatoes, Rotel, ground beef, fat free cheese or whole wheat pasta involved).  Just a personal preference, but don't mind me.  So, imagine my excitement when I saw S'MAC, a mac and cheese restaurant, in New York City this past weekend.  I stopped dead in my tracks, about-faced and studied the menu.   That's right, I studied the menu (and made a few mental notes, too).  Despite the serendipitous discovery and my overwhelming excitement, I decided to stick with the original plan and headed to Momofuku Noodle Bar for dinner.

Since we're talking about New York City and all, I'd like you to take a journey with me.  Let's leave the quirky East Village behind and head up to historic Harlem.  There's this eatery called Red Rooster that you might find interesting.  It's the brainchild of Chef Marcus Samuelsson.   He is doing some interesting thangs up there and his mac and greens are truly swoon worthy.  Trust me.  I mean I've even been convinced of the virtues of adding vegetables to mac and cheese.  Not to mention, the mac and greens at Red Rooster are made with rice milk, making them a light and healthier alternative to traditional mac and cheese.  I've been dying to replicate this dish for months so I figured it was finally time for me to take a stab at Chef Marcus' Mac and Greens.  And, of course, I put my own little spin on them.

Question:  So, how did mac and cheese become a staple of soul food cuisine?  Why is the cheesy pasta dished out at soul food restaurants across the country?   Why do my friends guard their secret family recipes so closely?  It's something I've always wondered, but I didn't know the answer until I started doing research for this blog post.  According to the Taste History Culinary Tours blog, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia is credited with introducing the dish in America upon his return from France, where he served as the American delegate.  While in France, President Jefferson supposedly "immersed himself in the art and cuisine of Europe and traveled to Italy".  In 1802, President Jefferson served a "macaroni pie" at a state dinner that is believed to have been prepared by slaves working as cooks and maids.  The slave servants would eventually take what was considered an upper-class delicacy and appropriate it.  "Thus explains the familiarity and duplication of the cuisine by African Americans."

You can find the recipe for Chef Marcus Samuelsson's Mac and Greens here: http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/marcus-mac-and-greens

I made the following substitutions and additions:

  • One 17.6 oz package of Barilotti pasta substituted for 1 package whole wheat orecchiette
  • 1/2 lb Quickes English Farmhouse Cheddar substituted for 1/2 lb low-fat cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 lb Emmi Cave Aged Emmentaler Unpasterized Cows Milk Cheese substituted for 1/4 lb gruyere
  • 2 cups sauteed baby kale and bok choy with mushrooms substituted for 2 cups cooked collard greens
  • Added 1/2 lb of steamed and deveined crawfish tails along with the collard greens
  • Optional garnishes: Squeeze the juice from the crawfish head over each individual serving of the mac and cheese or add a dollop of creme fraiche, 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Exploring the African Presence in Modern American Cuisine: Whipped Sorghum Butter


The topic of today's Black History Month post is sorghum.  Sorghum is a cereal grain that originated in Northeastern Africa.  The earliest known record of the crop has been dated at 8000 B.C. (1).  In Africa, the grain is often processed into injera, couscous, dumplings, beer, malt beverages and fermented and non-fermented porridges (2), and it is an extremely important subsistence crop, both in Africa (3) and developing countries such as Haiti (4).  It is actually the only viable food grain crop for many of the world's most food insecure people, who live in sub-Saharan Africa (2).

Grain sorghum made its transatlantic journey in the early seventeenth century when African slaves brought the crop to North America (5) and used it to make brooms, pudding and bread.   Another African sorghum variety--sweet sorghum--was later introduced in the United States in the mid-1800s, becoming the basis of the sorghum syrup industry (6).   Today, sorghum syrup production is concentrated in the U.S. South (7) and sorghum syrup (also erroneously referred to as sorghum molasses) is a staple of southern & soul food cooking (8).  The most common practice is to eat sorghum syrup with biscuits, pancakes or waffles.  However, it can be substituted for honey, molasses and sugar, and it's also thought to be more nutritious (9).  So, recipes abound.

Here, I use sorghum syrup to make a batch of whipped sorghum butter to eat with homemade sweet potato biscuits.  I plan to enjoy these biscuits and butter for dinner all week with glazed salmon, kale chips and caramelized purple cabbage and onions.

Whipped Sorghum Butter


Ingredients:


  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sorghum syrup
  • 1 teaspoon ginger preserves

Directions:


Combine ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and combine well until whipped smooth and creamy.


1. http://www.sorghumgrowers.com/sorghum%20101.html
2. http://www.afripro.org.uk/papers/Paper01Taylor.pdf
3. http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=2305&page=145
4. http://chibas-bioenergy.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=30&Itemid=43
5. http://tinyurl.com/asy3vb7
6. http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/3743050?uid=3739704&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21101791510917
7. http://nssppa.org/Sweet_Sorghum_FAQs.html
8. http://www.npr.org/2012/09/12/160946531/sorghum-travels-from-the-south-to-the-mainstream
9. http://nssppa.org/Cooking_with_Sorghum.html




Saturday, February 9, 2013

Cocktail Hour: Bloody Mary

Lost in Translation...
Setting: West Andrews Hall Common Area, Brown University, Providence, RI

Me: What are y'all going to do with the potlikker?

First-Year College Student A:  Liquor?!?!?  There isn't any liquor in the pot.  We don't put alcohol in our food!

Me:  No, not alcohol.  The potlikker that's produced from cooking down the vegetables.

First-Year College Student A: How is it spelled?

Me:  I dunno.

First-Year College Student A:  Well, liquor is spelled l-i-q-u-o-r and it refers to alcohol.  There is liquid in the pot.  It's a liquid not pot liquor.

Interestingly enough, the second definition for liquor, noun usage on freedictionary.com is "a rich broth resulting from the prolonged cooking of meat or vegetables, especially greens.  Also called a pot liquor."


If I had my choice, this Bloody Mary would be garnished with pickled okra.  In the Deep South, you can find pickled okra at most major grocery stores, but it's nearly impossible to find in Baltimore.  As I searched to no avail, I triggered my monthly Déjà vu and I've resolved to start ordering my southern speciality food items online and avoid the hassle of calling and perusing local grocery stores, only to be disappointed.

In my former life as a bartender, I'd always have people coming into the bar, first thing in morning, on the weekends to order a Bloody Mary (the drink is widely thought to help alleviate hangovers by replenishing the body with vitamins and minerals).   I would have seasoned drinkers complimenting me on the quality and taste of my Bloody Mary cocktails, and there's no better boost to one's confidence.  I decided to revisit the classic cocktail and remix it by adding the nutrient-dense elixir of life, potlikker.


Bloody Mary 



Ingredients:


  • 6 oz Mr & Mrs T Bold & Spicy Blood Mary Mix with jalapeno, chipotle & cayenne peppers
  • 4 oz vodka
  • 1 oz potlikker (from collard greens)
  • 2 dashes Tabasco
  • 2 dashes angostura bitters
  • 2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • Ice
  • Premium blue cheese stuffed olives, carrot stick, red bell pepper, and lime wedge as garnish

Directions:


Add the Bloody Mary mix, vodka, potlikker, Tabasco, angostura bitters, Worcestershire sauce and ice to a highball glass.  Cover with a cocktail shaker and shake until a thin layer of frost appears on the outside of the shaker.  Allow the cocktail to settle in the highball glass.  Add extra ice if needed.  Garnished with blue cheese stuffed olives, a carrot stick, red bell pepper strip and lime wedge.  Enjoy!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Exploring the African Presence in Modern American Cuisine: Twice-Cooked Collard Greens

Man's yesterday may ne'er be like his morrow; Nought may endure but Mutability.
- Percy Bysshe Shelley


I can handle change.  It's my friends' constant reminders of change that give me pause.

"You've lost your southern charm.  You're kind of abrupt... slightly aggressive... and just a little rude.  You've become a true northerner!"
"Do you remember in college when you said you would never live above the Mason-Dixon Line?"   (For the record, Baltimore is actually below the Mason-Dixon Line)
"Do you still consider yourself a southerner?" 
"What!?!?  You don't eat meat?  You've lost your southern roots!" 

Hmph! I often think of myself as a cultural ambassador for the Deep South, showcasing the hospitality, style, quirkiness, wit and culture of the region through every fiber of my being.  I defy all those trite stereotypes about southerners, and I'm hospitable and kind.  While that may be true, I'm also a changed man.

In my stretch of the rural South, we have an open-door policy and it's completely acceptable for people to stop by my parents' house unannounced (Yeah, that's not gonna happen in Baltimore.  Let's schedule a time to get together so I can plan accordingly).  Some people come to chat.  Some people ask to borrow tools.  Some people come to pick a "mess o' greens" from the garden.   See, my dad would always plant rows and rows of mustards, turnips and collards, and the garden would be like a palette, overflowing with different shades of green. We would eat 'em, preserve 'em and let church members/relatives/friends of the family pick 'em, too.  It was like a psuedo community garden and my parents were doing their small part to nourish the community.

Collard greens are a true delicacy and staple of southern cooking.  In fact, they are the official state vegetable of South Carolina.  The dark green leafy vegetable originates in the eastern Mediterranean, but it was the African slaves who popularized their consumption in America.  White plantation owners at the time considered greens to be weeds, so it was one of the few vegetables that slaves were allowed to grow and harvest.  The slaves took the greens and ham hocks--relatively humble ingredients; scraps--and slowly cooked them down with a broth.  This cooking technique resulted in the rich flavorful broth known as pot likker, and the practice of drinking the nutrient-dense pot likker is truly African in origin.  For a more detailed history of collard greens, check out the following links:

http://www.pauladeen.com/article_view/whats_in_season_collards/
http://www.meatlessmonday.com/as-american-as-collard-greens/
http://www.cutnclean.com/history-of-greens
http://www.gracelinks.org/blog/1798/real-food-right-now-and-how-to-cook-it-collard-greens

In these recipes, I make some healthy changes (hopefully, that's okay with my critics) by skipping the pork, which is loaded with salt, fat, saturated fat and cholesterol, and packing on flavor with lemon, fresh herbs, garlic, onion, and sauteed mushrooms.  The collard greens are first braised (the traditional cooking technique) in a lemony, herbal broth and then sauteed (in a pan) with mushrooms, onions, hot sauce, sugar, crushed red pepper, vinegar, salt and pepper.  They are deliciously divine and completely vegan.  Dare I say, they're the best collard greens I've ever had.

Twice-Cooked Collard Greens


Braising Method
Ingredients:


  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke
  • 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 lbs collard greens (washed, stems removed and roughly chopped)
  • 3 cloves garlic, whole

Directions:


Heat the vegetable broth and water in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Season with the next 11 ingredients.  Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer.  Adjust seasoning, if desired.   Add the collard greens and garlic cloves, stir to combine and cover.  Cook until greens are tender, approximately 35 to 45 minutes.  Remove garlic cloves and bay leaves.  Enjoy.

Sauteing Method
Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb baby bella mushrooms
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 lbs cooked collard greens (about 6 cups), drain the pot likker and eat like soup
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • Louisiana hot sauce, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:


Stir together lemon juice, soy sauce, honey and Worcestershire sauce.  Heat a 14- or 15-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until very hot.  Add the olive oil and saute the mushrooms for about 2 minute.  Reduce heat to medium low.  Add the garlic, butter and soy sauce mixture.   Stir to combine.   Saute, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are golden brown and a nice sauce has formed in pan, about 3-4 additional minute.  Set aside mushrooms and reserved sauce and allow to cool.  

In the same skillet, add the collard greens and onions.  Saute until the onions are translucent, about 8-10 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and reserved sauce, sugar, vinegar, hot sauce, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to the collard greens mixture and stir to combine.  Saute for 2-3 additional minutes.  


Cook's Note: For a gourmet meal, these greens pair well with a pan-fried firm white fish, white wine and toasted French bread.  For a more casual preparation, pair them with your favorite protein, beer and cornbread.




Saturday, January 26, 2013

Shrimp and Crab Gumbo with Black-Eyed Peas and Collard Greens

You should know what's being cooked in the kitchen otherwise you might eat a forbidden food.
- African Proverb


Patience is not my strongest virtue.  I'm fiercely loyal, honest, creative, resourceful, compassionate, cool as a cucumber but I'm just a little, wee bit impatient at times.  Don't judge me.  With that said, I thought I'd jumpstart my Black History Month series a week early (Translation: I honestly tried, but I just can't wait ALL the way until next week.  After all, the elders did always say don't put off for tomorrow what you can do today.): Exploring the African Presence in Modern American Cuisine, where I'll highlight the presence of foods and techniques of African origin in modern American cuisine.  First on deck is okra.

Okra is my favorite vegetable.  My family planted the heat-loving vegetable in our garden every summer and it was a staple in our household.  Historians have identified the plant's origin as Africa, and evidence suggests that African slaves brought it to the United States by way of New Orleans.  According to agricultural experts at Alabama Cooperative Extension:

Okra "can be traced to the Nile basin in Egypt where Egyptians have cultivated it for centuries, according to accounts of the crop in the thirteenth century.  Okra spread through North Africa from the Nile basin and on to the eastern Mediterranean, Asia Minor, and India, spreading to the New World from Brazil and Dutch Guiana."*   

To recap, African slaves brought okra to the United States by way of New Orleans, and one of the primary uses for okra in New Orleans is gumbo.  Gumbo combines ingredients and cultural influences from the French, Spanish, Germans, Choctaws, and West Africans.  There's reason to believe gumbo's etymology and preparation may have respectively derived from traditional West African languages and West African native dishes.   For a detailed history of this Louisiana dish, visit the Gumbo Wikipedia page.  For now, let's have some pot stirring fun and do the gumbo!  It doesn't matter if you're young or old.  I'm gonna show you how it goes.  Stir to the right, to the right, to the right, to the right.  Stir to the left, to the left, to the left, to the left.  Now mix, now mix, now mix, now mix.  Now, stir it by yourself.  Now, stir it by yourself.  Who said you couldn't do a cooking remix to the Cupid Shuffle?  Most definitely not me.

For this gumbo, I used renown chef Donald Link's recipe for Shredded Pork Gumbo with Black-Eyed Peas and made the following substitutions:


  1. One pound of shrimp & 1 pound of crab substituted for 1 1/2 pounds of pulled pork.  Seafood cooks rather quickly.  Do not add the shrimp and crab until the last few minutes of cooking; otherwise, it will turn rubbery and be inedible.
  2. Whole wheat flour substituted for all purpose flour
  3. One container of white button mushrooms (washed, sauteed in olive oil, set aside to cool, and then chopped) substituted for 4 pieces of bacon
  4. Two pounds of okra instead of the 1 1/2 pounds of okra called for in the original recipe
  5. I eliminated file powder from the seasoning mix since I don't like the taste of it.  Hence, more okra to thicken and flavor the gumbo since I love the taste of okra


* http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-0959/

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cocktail Hour: Salty Dog


Did you know one of my first jobs as a newly minted Ivy League graduate was as a bartender?  I'd spent my entire life on the grind, and I thought I would do something "fun" for a change.  My family wasn't too happy about it.  My friends thought it was bizarre.  I actually ended up finding it to be a total drag.  I mean bartending did make the list of jobs that make the world a worse place.  Ouch.  I lasted about a year before I hit the refresh button; however, I'll always be grateful for that experience.  I can make a mean cocktail, and guess who my friends and family members are always requesting to make their cocktails at reunions and social events?  You guessed it.  Me, of course.  To keep things fresh and exciting over here, I've decided to incorporate a cocktail hour series with homemade cocktails.  I'll try my best to keep them as healthy as possible by using good ingredients.

I love, love, love grapefruit juice!  Quite naturally, one of my favorite cocktails to make is a Salty Dog.  It's made with vodka and grapefruit juice and served in a rocks glass with a salted rim.  Take away the salted rim and you have a Greyhound.   For an extra special touch, use fresh squeezed grapefruit juice.

Ingredients:


  • 1 grapefruit, sliced in half and juiced
  • 1 1/2 oz vodka (one shot)
  • 1 tbsp kosher or coarse sea salt
  • 4 to 5 ice cubes
  • 1 rocks glass

Directions:


Using a citrus reamer, juice the grapefruit over a medium bowl.   Set aside.   

Pour the salt in a flat saucer.  Then, take the rocks glass and dip the rim in the grapefruit juice.  Immediately place the moist rim end of the glass in the salt and twist it around until the entire rim is coated with salt.  

Fill the glass with ice, vodka, and grapefruit.  Stir and enjoy, preferably with some Michael Buble tunes in the background. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Egg Salad Sandwich


As a kid, I used to think protein-based salads were rather uninspiring and not fit for a proper meal.  Little did I know I would eventually become pescetarian and tuna and egg salad sandwiches would be my default options at every lunch and deli counter known to man.  At this point, I've had more than my fair share of egg salad sandwiches (some good, some bad) and picked up a few techniques along the way.  

The single most important factor determining the aesthetic and taste of an egg salad sandwich is properly cooked eggs.  If your hard-boiled eggs have green rings around the yolk, they are overcooked.  For perfectly cooked hard-boiled eggs, place the eggs in a single layer in the bottom of a pot of water and bring it to a boil.  Immediately, cover the pot and remove from heat.  Allow to sit, covered for 7 to 10 minutes for soft, slightly creamy yolks.  Allow to sit, covered for 10 to 15 minutes for hard yolks.  The other factors to consider are the quality of your mustard and mayonnaise (I recommend Duke's), consistency and your fillers.  I really like the flavor contrast that capers and Trader Joe's Veggie Sausage Patties provides so this is my go to recipe.  I hope you like it.

Egg Salad Sandwich


Ingredients:

  • 6 soft-boiled eggs
  • 1/2 cup Duke's mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp capers, drained and chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 veggie sausage patties, cooked and chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:


Using an egg slicer, slice the eggs horizontally and vertically so they are chopped into small uniform pieces.

Mix the first five ingredients in a bowl.  Add the veggie sausage patties and stir to combine.  Add salt and pepper as needed.  

Cook's Note: Serve on a toasted grainy bread.  I used olive bread that I bought at the local Giant.  

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Orange Creamsicle Smoothie



This recipe is inspired by Orange Cow -- a smoothie that I made last week for a nutrition education class at work.  The class participants raved about it, but I thought it was just okay.  It definitely had potential, though, and I couldn't wait to get home and experiment with the recipe.

Recipes abound for Orange Creamsicle smoothies, but my recipe is extra special because it has creamy fat free frozen vanilla bean yogurt.  Best of all, it taste just like orange sherbet.  Do you remember the cooling orange sherbet push up pops from childhood?  Here's your chance to recreate memories...


Ingredients:

  • 6 oz frozen 100% orange juice concentrate, slightly thawed
  • 1/2 cup fat free frozen vanilla bean yogurt (about 1 scoop)
  • 1 1/4 cup 2% milk
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 cup ice

Direction:  


Combine all ingredients, except ice, in a large blender and blend until smooth and creamy, making sure the sugar is well incorporated.  Add ice and blend until smooth.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Choose Your Own Adventure Creamed Spinach


Who said you couldn't make a healthy(er) creamed spinach by substituting butter with avocado and cow's milk with almond milk?  It definitely wasn't me...

So, I had this ginormous bag of spinach sitting in the 'frig, and I didn't want it to go bad because I absolutely HATE to waste food.  That's not kosher, green, or a good way to manage my resources, is it?  Nope.  Back to that bag of spinach -  every time I'd see it, I'd think how good it would be all creamy and silky, but do you know how much fat there is in butter and cow's milk?   Well, I do.  In the words of Sweet Brown, ain't nobody got time for that.

Then, it hit me like a rock, avocado (a healthier plant-based fat) and almond milk (also a healthier plant-based fat) might do the trick.  Some mushrooms would be nice, too.  So, I tried it and I like it.

So, they say you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him/her drink.  Well, folks, this is a choose your own adventure story.  If you like the fat in butter and cow's milk, follow Ree Drummond's recipe to the tee.  If the thought of consuming that extra fat will send you into a tizzy and ruin your day or something to that effect, make the following substitutions:


  • 1 stick of butter for one avocado and about 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 cups of cow's milk with 2 cups of almond milk. 

The avocado and flour will clump up initially, but it will dissolve in the milk just fine.  Regardless of how your story ends, I'd suggest adding some sauteed mushrooms:

http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2009/04/creamed-spinach-to-die-for/

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Sudado de Pescado


Rules for Staying Young


1. Avoid fried meats which angry up the blood.
2. If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.
3. Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move.
4. Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society--the social ramble ain't restful.
5. Avoid running at all times.
6. And don't look back--something might be gaining on you. 

Satchel Paige, American Negro League & MLB All-Star, 1906-1982


Happy New Year!  This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and Watch Night tradition observed in many African American communities of faith, and Haiti celebrates 209 years of independence.  While New Year's Day is shrouded by the rapt history of slavery and independence, it's also a day of revelry, merriment, and superstitions.

Here are a few of my family's quirky New Year's Day superstitions: 1.) My mom never washes clothes on the last Friday of the year because she might wash someone out of the family.  2.) The first person to enter/visit the house in the new year must be a male.  In my hometown, people are actually turned away over this one, resulting in frantic phone calls to men in the community.  My dad would be out at the crack of dawn, making his round of early morning visits, and his brothers and friends of the family would stop by our house as well.  My dad, who loves hosting, would usually break out the booze (which included muscadine wine and moonshine) for the special occasion.  3.) All Christmas lights and decorations must be taken down before the new year.  Otherwise, you might as well leave them up for the rest of the year.  Mom was always pretty adamant about this one.  4.) And my personal favorite are the food superstitions.  It doesn't get any more southern than chomping on black-eyed peas for good luck and money, leafy greens to bring money (dollar bills), and cornbread for wealth.  I've also seen this simplified to the phrase "peas for pennies, greens for dollars, and cornbread for gold."

In some cultures, fish is also eaten on New Year's Day for abundance in the new year.  So, I expanded on my family's tradition and brought in the new year with black-eyed peas, kale, cornbread, and sudado (Peruvian fish stew).  I loved eating this fish stew over jasmine rice.  You will noticed that my stew is green and the one from the original recipe (see link below) is red.  That's because I used green jalapeno peppers instead of red chiles.

Get the recipe for Sudado here: http://www.baconismagic.ca/food/my-first-love-affair-in-peru/
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