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East Coast USA, United States
Lowcountry porch sitter. Appalachian Mountain lover. Finger Lakes dreamer.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

General Jollity for Fruit Paste

As the cards and semi-wrapped gifts begin to arrive, one feels rather special even before the holiday actually transpires.  There's shear joy when I go to check my post office box this time of year as invariably there's a key inserted into my envelope size mail box that fits the lock of a much larger box size variety.  There's wonder in my eyes as I retrieve the contents of the postal box and rush home to unveil what some friend or family member has lovingy sent my way.  Recently a rather large box arrived with a host of items in its interiors, but tucked within the layers of books and knick knacks were several Calumet Baking Powder sponsored pamphlets/booklets circa 1920's.  One of the booklets The Children's Party Book by Marion Jane Parker, illustrated by Frances Tipton Hunter, accompanied by recipes from Helen Harrington Downing finds its way to my kitchen this weekend with a quaint little recipe for Holiday Fruit Paste. Delightfully cheery the book is dedicated to busy mothers and to better and happier homes~very reminiscent of the era (1923) in which is was printed by Rogers & Company. (I gather quickly that Calumet baking powder is recommended in most all of the recipes and clearly saw these pamphlets as entertaining/educational endeavors to market their product).  Ideally this dish could stand as a starter but also make a perfect end note after a rather large holiday meal.  Essentially chop 1/2 pound portions of dates, figs, raisins, sliced citron, add a tablespoon of current jelly, press into a baking pan, cut into squares and roll the squares in powdered sugar.  I include dried cherries and cranberries in my mixture rather than raisins as a matter of personal preference, but know that one can not leave out the citron as it makes a tremendous difference in the mixture.  No doubt this is one easy peasy recipe to conjure up for the holidays, but Marion Jane Parker says it best:
I dont' know which is best all~
The turkey~or the tree~
The presents or the stockings
Or the general jollity!
The singing~or the Christmas bells,
The pudding~or the weather~
But then~I've just a notion
That it's all of 'em together.
*Marion Jane Parker

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Blending together rather than in

The holidays make it ever more evident that time has moved forward. Past the awareness that Santa was watching you while you mentally counted your lumps of coal, past the time when opening a present before Christmas was forbidden, past the heartache of family members no longer sharing the time in physical presence with you, past the years when some food products were store bought because you burned what was to originally be served...past so many memories, but memories not forgotten. To be here in the "now" part of living makes the planning, preparation and delivery of a blended "family and friends" affair during the holidays an affair to remember on so many levels.  First it's the initial act of urging everyone to gather, foregoing or bringing their respective traditions and activities to a location either central to travel or neutral in origin.  (Sidebar: When one lives in a warmer temperature than most everyone invited there's a greater likelihood of success). Then its the continual assurance that everyone will find the activity enjoyable, that they won't go hungry and that it truly is a season to be merry. Next it's actually doing it, the blended gathering, even if only 4 people on one side of the family show up (or 10 guests  beyond your original headcount of 10 appear at your door step) and repeat the event year after year.  What comes with the experience is recognizing that most people in general will show up for the food component of whatever  you plan.  That has become my most favorite part of blending, from the initial requests for food items, what we call Operation Name Your Holiday Food~those that desire a dish, but have no intention of ever cooking it get the opportunity to list an item, those that have their traditional favorites simply list it and commit to making it, and those who want to try something new in a hospitable environment give it a whirl.  I made a point this year to blend several traditional offerings (All of my dad's favs: cornbread stuffing, Italian green beans, egg nog~super sweet and spiked varieties, ham) with some unique side dishes (I for one relish the hospitable part of the occasion where even a flopped dish gets recognition for the attempt). I'm blending together a couple flavor favorites myself with one particular dish this year, Black-eyed Pea Salad with Tomato and Pineapple. The recipe hales from Elizabeth and Alexis Terry's Savannah Seasons cookbook, the recipe link is an archive from a local publication Savannah Now. The delightful blend of flavors in this side dish will go nicely with many of the holiday entree choices this year (Stuffed Turkey Leg, Pecan Pork, Brisket, Salmon Fish Fingers).  It's not about blending in, it's about blending together a great many people, aromas, flavors in a spirited occasion set yet to transpire but eagerly anticipated for the memorable moments to unfold.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Where is, rather here is the Beef

I personally loved the catchphrase "Where's the beef?" when it was introduced as part of a promotion for Wendy's restaurants back in the 1980's and appreciated it's application again when it was revived this year in a revised catchphrase as "Here's the beef!" With both catch phrases in mind, I've always been rather amused that during Thanksgiving there are those that ensure a beef dish makes it to the table when Turkey takes the main stage. And this year I choke back my amusement as I find myself answering the question "Where's the beef?" on my own Thanksgiving line up. A foodie friend suggested Beef Wellington which initially sounded daunting, but as luck would have it during a recent wine tasting via a Wine Shop At Home party a Wellington recipe pairing was suggested (and provided as a recipe card) to accompany a Sommersville Cellars 2008 Red Meritage (which by the way is also touted as an excellent pairing with dark chocolate). The recipe is linked here. I prefer the plating suggestion using the whole tenderloin for the presentation factor one grasps for in family-style dining, but do appreciate the individual filet preparation found at the link. Here's the beef folks, though a beef dish is provided, I for one will be strictly talking turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry relish and pumpkin pie as I feast and give thanks this year.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Holiday Worthy Bar Food (Crispy Stuffed Olives)

I'm not one of those individuals that has for years prepared and delivered some spectacular food offering that everyone clamors for when thoughts of holiday knoshing and dining rolls around on the calendar. (Though I dare say some might say after last year's experiment with several varieties of Egg Nog I may have now transitioned into the category of individual preparing by request of the masses). I reach this weekend for the ever-handy 2007 Food & Wine Cocktails for appetizer-style food to prepare for what must always accompany Thanksgiving feasts, Holiday spin the Dreidel and Ho Ho merriment....and what consistently accompanies the holidays is one's appetite. Last year the highly successful Chickpea Fries recipe from this same guide circled the electronic globe so I'm relying on Chef Jerry Pelikan's Crispy Stuffed Olives to stand for the same style recipe...reliable, simple, steadfast and true.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Mustering Mustard

Mustard is a seed, a spice, a spread, a sauce and perhaps even a state of mind. And much like the infamous parable of the mustard seed, mustard is a simple ingredient that no matter what form it takes it serves as a fundamental element in a host of food offerings, perhaps even boundless and limitless in its ability to enhance. The past week included a number of mustard encounters. Currently thinking about the "single dog" I devoured at Street Meet American Take Out and Tavern, a local restaurant offering a cornucopia of dog options reminiscent of early century street dog is complete without mustard and relish from my point of view. Then, local foodie favorite Ervena Faulkner brought us a hot mustard sauce recipe ~ complete with a slowcountry virtue attached that insisted no sauce should be hurried. That the long, slow cooking of it (sauce) gives the mellowness of flavor that is desired. While Ervena's celery and olive sauce recipe piqued my interest in the same article, it was her hot mustard sauce that I recreated in the kitchen with thoughts of holiday entertaining to come. The kind of entertaining where ham and cocktail sausages would most certainly be served. Then Juls Kitchen created the opportunity to think beyond preparing mustard for immediate consumption and suggested we gift it instead. Humble, homemade, jarred and wrapped this holiday season for the pure enjoyment of our loved ones...

  • Walnut Mustard:
  • 50 g of English mustard powder
  • water
  • 1 tablespoon of running honey
  • 3 tablespoons of honey vinegar (can be substituted with apple cider vinegar)
  • 3 pinches of salt
  • 50 g of shelled walnuts
Note: Giulia Scarpeleggia (Juls Kitchen) defers to a post on as her inspiration for her post. It is a wealth of information as to the history and splendor of mustard.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Forever Kahlua Flan

Birthdays and cooking classes go very well together! When considering what sort of occasion would appropriately say farewell to a year of monumental experiences and welcome another year full of promise (as it is every time a birth date comes around) I made arrangements with a local culinary center to host a small group of women for a "Girls Night Out." In September of this year the Hilton Head Health Institute announced the opening of its Culinary Arts Center; thus, it was a natural fit to pair the facility with an evening to celebrate one's life and to host some very special women in my life (as well as a desire to secure some healthier recipe options). Chef Karla Williams brought our group many wonderful healthy renditions of my favorite knoshes: Sun Dried Tomato Phyllo Triangles, Pork Pot Stickers, Mini Crab Cakes, Mini Pizza Pizzets, Light Hummus and Kahlua Flan. It's the "sweet" yet "lighter" version of the evening that I bring to the kitchen this weekend. Compare Chef Karla's ingredients below with a not as healthy version from Emerile Lagasse and one might think something gets lost in the translation to healthy, but we can say without a doubt Chef Karla's flan version is full of the same flavor and completely indulgent. She noted during our class that you can add additional flavor to this recipe by adding 1/2 c mashed banana (Kahlua, Banana Flan). Another year older and after this cooking class certainly wiser!

Kahlua Flan
1/2 c Sugar
3 Tbsp Water
1/3 c Dark Brown sugar
2 Tbsp Kahlua
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/8 tsp Salt
12 oz Evaporated Skim Milk
1/2 c egg substitute
# of servings: 6
Serving size: 1 pc
Calories per serving: 180
Fat Grams per serving: 1

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Battle of Burgoo

Bully for Burgoo.  A dear friend captivated by my ancestral connection to West Virginia recently sent a care package of every imaginable collateral item from that state and among the many brochures, magazines, key chains, and a t-shirt was a brochure from Webster County on their International Burgoo Cookoff  held annually over Columbus Day weekend (this weekend).  I had never heard of burgoo so I posted an entry on my personal Facebook account and a hodge podge of individuals chimed in via comments expressing their love for burgoo...most especially Kentuckians. Thus, I was set in motion to search my cookbooks to see if any referenced what I now perceive as an infamous dish.  And behold, I indeed locate a recipe in my 1997 Jeff Maxwell The Secrets of the M*A*S*H Mess as a dinner entry called "Battle of Burgoo."  The recipe I link here matches the Maxwell version with the inclusion of peas and okra. Most every reference to burgoo online or in text includes a disclaimer that reads "no two cooks prepare it the same way and most keep their recipes a closely guarded secret." The beauty of individualism in people flows through to their recipes, each familiar yet very distinctly their own variety....right now I'm thinking Lowcountry Boil and Frogmore Stew are the coastal cousins to burgoo.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Not Your Ordinary Can of Tuna

Likely we all have noticed the progressively expanding variety of tuna offerings on our grocer shelves over the last ten years. We went from simply packed in oil or water to all white albacore and chunk light in a can to vacuum sealed packages and individually portioned varieties. This week in a rare opportunity I found myself parked in front of a television to watch the Food Network on two separate occasions. I caught an episode of the Barefoot Contessa and an episode of Giada at Home that both featured an Italian canned version of what I only know of as Chicken of the Sea or StarKist. I immediately look up tonno (Italian for tuna) on the internet to learn that what makes Italian canned tuna better is the 1-2 month marination with olive oil that transpires before the canned product is distributed. I'm hopeful that the one local venue that I imagined carrying this product, The Market at Michael Anthony's, will not disappoint in offering or ordering what I'm clamoring to try. Both Food Network recipes are delightful alternatives to my usual tuna fish salad, celery sticks, and sesame crackers or tuna casserole. Ina Garten's open faced sammy sounded highly unusal, but seriously the combination of flavors appeals...Tuna and Hummus Sandwich. Giada's recipe is straight out of Davy Jones' locker as Pirate Pasta...something that clearly has many treasured ingredients deliciously tossed together and a definitively different pasta offering for dinner. We take great pride in our Lowcountry shrimp and oysters in these parts, but it's was fun to learn that off the coast of Sicilia there's another product that changes up the ordinary to something quite extraordinary.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Oysters in Port

Life along the coastal marsh is constantly wrapped around what we are pulling out of the waters of our nearest shores.  Our local paper, The Island Packet/Beaufort Gazette recently published a photo of locals preparing for the oncoming oyster season which immediately signaled my taste buds for a succulent salty delicacy one only finds in the Lowcountry. Recreational harvesting is a popular activity and there are a few rules to follow 1) It is unlawful to harvest between May 15 and September 1 annually.  2) There is a harvesting limit of two bushels of oysters or one-half bushel of clams, or both, per person, per day from authorized harvesting areas.  Mind you raking oysters is one serious endeavor...if you have ever been cut by an oysters shell simply walking along the shore, imagine that magnified x1000 in a bed full of these suckers.  My motto:  Wear protective gear as instructed!  The next harvesting season is scheduled to commence around October 1st so I'm rummaging through my modest library for my 1994 edition of the Christ Church Frederica Cookbook from St. Simons Island, Georgia.  I recall this cookbook containing a really easy starter dish for oysters called "Oysters in Port" that would be an appropriate kickoff to the October arrival of oysters. 1 pt oysters, 8 oz port wine cheese and sesame crackers.  Essentially single layer the oysters with a dot of port wine cheese in an oven 15-20 minutes, remove upon completion of cooking time and place atop a cracker.  We've used a pizza stone rather than a baking dish on several occasions to engage our guests in scooping up their desired morsel~many times the oysters don't even make it to a cracker.  For now, the cheese and crackers have been purchased and we simply must wait for recreational harvesting to begin.  Much like sport fans of American football, our Lowcountry oyster season entails some preparation in advance and once it starts it's one continuous roll until it all comes to an end.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Buttered Toast and Tea

My grandmothers were both native West Virginians, but economically and culturally opposite in their food preparation. One menu was limited by financial capacity, enveloped in coal camp traditions and always simplistically delivered in pure comfort. The other much more refined, served on china and included a great deal of red meat. Though described here with an emphasis on disparity, make no mistake I relished each equally. The defining difference in visiting each grandmother was the manner in which one dressed and behaved to participate in meal time endeavors. Breakfast in one home included pajamas, bacon, biscuits, fried eggs and coffee. Breakfast in the other, full dress, buttered toast points and Earl Grey tea served with milk (followed by an early lunch at the local country club after a round of golf). It's the memory of sipping tea and knoshing on buttered toast in my grandmother's kitchen around her dutifully appointed side table that I sought to recreate in the kitchen this week. My sister and I would awake, comb our hair, dress, slip downstairs and wait patiently as my grandmother toasted fresh bakery bread to a golden brown in the oven. Once toasted she would swiftly butter both sides then transfer each slice to a platter before cutting the slices on the diagonal. Had it been permitted beyond two slices I could have sat in that kitchen for hours lingering with the wafting smell of toast and the aroma of honeyed tea. I reach for my copy of Nigella Express: 130 Recipes for Good Food, Fast for her Lazy Loaf recipe and pull out a jar of Tupelo honey from H.L. Franklin's that I had recently been gifted to bring a childhood experience forward into the present. The beauty of this bread recipe is that it requires no kneading or rising and thus can be prepared in an instant (albeit initial baking requires an hour and 45 minutes). Cookstr's quote in introducing Nigella's recipe that I have linked here is a fitting conclusion to this post...It is heartening to know that you can be in a permanent hurry and not spend more than a few minutes at any time, any where, let alone just in the kitchen - and still make a beautiful loaf of bread (or recreate a beautiful childhood memory).

Monday, August 15, 2011

Saucy in Seven

I give Claire Robinson with 5 Ingredient Fix on Food Network a great deal of credit for accentuating many many simplistic options to deliver great flavor to the table in 5 or less ingredients. There are some days that an uncomplicated entry and exit to a meal is desired. Other days call for a long lengthy ingredient list and a multitude of steps to achieve the end result. Much like life, one must balance both scenarios in approaching daily existence. There are occasions where time should just stand still and tick forward ever so slowly. For instance, while a roast cooks slowly in the oven one spends the time sitting ocean side chatting it up with an old friend and reading a great book. By the same token, it's nice to have a few recipes in reserve that provide the opportunity to spend less time in the kitchen and more time sitting around a table reflecting on the day's events with a loved one. Notoriously I allow the moment in front of me to determine what the order of the day is to be. I have a fabulous text Ayurveda: A Life of Balance: The Complete Guide to Ayurvedic Nutrition & Body Types with Recipes that has a plethora of information both food and otherwise, but I've found the section on sauces and dressings to be exemplary. I have prepared a recipe for Cilantro and Coconut Sauce from this cookbook many times over (served with/fish, chicken or shrimp). Roasted pine nuts, cilantro, avocado oil, coconut milk, minced fresh coconut, sea salt and a couple tablespoons of hot water. Seven simple ingredients minced or pureed deliver a huge culinary experience via the aromatic quality that cilantro brings to the kitchen and the creamy goodness that coconut milk delivers to any dish. And when time is really cut short and won't allow preparation: I keep in reserve a jarred product from Stone House 27 that is deliciously lovely with a hint of lime and ginger. (and a web site filled with a healthy assortment of recipes).

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Common Denominators and a Melting Pot

The lions of August continue to roar their mighty breath across our area. Though expected this time of year after what feels like endless dripping of sweat from one's kneecaps I have to say it's a state of existence that for many of us has simply worn out its welcome this summer. Symbolically (as we all melt away in this heat) I pull out a chilled appetizer recipe for Stuffed Vidalias from the cookbook Recipes from the Hilton Head Melting Pot. In scanning the web I find a blogger/tourist referencing that she picked up this very same text in 2009 during a Thanksgiving vacation on Hilton Head Island that included a garage sale spree at the South Carolina Elks Lodge 2773 where I too had purchased this text. Always interesting when two seemingly disconnected individuals are brought together through a common passion (cookbook collection). Thanks to a host of channels today (Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, FoodSpotting, etc) one can easily locate like-minded individuals with similar passions (at least those who prevail in the open windows of the internet). No matter the occasion this specific appetizer (compliments of Elaine Mitchell of Elks Lodge 2773) is simple, easy and plates beautifully for any neighborhood gathering. You have to use the real deal Vidalia Onions, not the one's claiming to be sweet or passed off as onion cousins to the Vidalia (I've tried that and it truly does not taste the same). Essentially the recipe involves peeling and coring vidalia onions which are set aside while you blend cream cheese and deviled ham, dry mustard, pimentos and seasonings of choice. After blending, fill the onion cores with the blend then chill for several hours in the refrigerator. After chilling one simply slices the onions into rounds to serve and plate accordingly. From one woman's kitchen to a garage sale to an internet post to another woman's kitchen the life of a recipe comes full circle like so many other things in this life.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Farro and Layered Reality

A women's retreat in the mountains of North Carolina, specifically at a place called Mountain Air, near a quaint little town called Burnsville can simply be described as breathtaking. It truly is "a community that embodies the soaring spirit of the mountain beneath its feet and the divine beauty of the forests that surround it." Not only were the surroundings humbling, but the 25+ year history shared with an abundantly brilliant group of women who through college, illness, Transatlantic moves, relationships, recipes, sorority bonds, marriage, births, social networks, life reorganization, adult beverages, divorce, career beginnings and endings, food, death and even laughter brought a lifetime of learning to a reality point. That is, a point where we recognize that reality is a by-product of the constant layering of experiences in one's life. Thus, we scan for recipes that "layer" to fit this analogy of life that at the same time embodies the cooler climates of a mountain top region. Digressing from the simplicity of a Caprese and flanking on the decidedly different we'll deliver the Cucumber, Buffalo Mozzarella and Farro Salad. Farro is the oldest grain there is and it is believed that all grains derive from it. Visiting a mountain top, enjoying the cooler temps and contributing to a collective experience only emphasizes the point...that layering through and to others is the real beauty of what we call life.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Background noise a perfect ingredient

Background noise. It may be a favorite iTunes playlist, the topical stimulus of a cable television show, the rotations of an oscillating fan in constant motion, the purr of a kitten or slumbering cat, the home fountain mimicking a trickling brook or a cascading water fall, the hum or sizzle of a restaurant hive on a busy night, the air pressure stream of a CPAP machine, or maybe even the giggles of children playing in their room over a baby monitor . No matter the source we each have a tendency to fill air space with noise either on an intermittent basis or for an extended period of time. I happen to apply it when I write, cook, or drive. Don't get me wrong, silence cut by mother nature's hiccups (birds singing, insects clicking, frogs chirping, wind whipping, tidal lapping, rain falling) is also all right by me. A specific scallop dish from a 2003 edition of Dana Carpender's 15 Minute Low-Carb Recipes: Instant recipes for dinners, desserts & more comes to mind when I think about background noise as a simple ingredient lending to the creative process. That dish, Jalapeno Lime Scallops is described by Dana Carpender as "A sterling example of how a few perfect ingredients can combine to make something greater than the sum of the parts." I think about the act of "creating" in very much the same way, whether it's cooking in the kitchen or composing at my insertion of background noise is a necessary ingredient to designing and delivering the perfect moment, intermittently or long term.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Literary Madeleines from Martha

Planning a writers conference in one's back yard is like embracing a large bunch of mint in your hands and taking a deep breath inward to allow your mind to bask in the invigorating essence of bliss. (I bought fresh mint at the farmer's market yesterday just for this purpose). As I read the bios of the individuals possibly slated to attend the event next year I'm in awe of the great number of people who write for a living, edit for a living, and/or represent writing for a living. Actually I do not have to look beyond my back yard to find contemporaries living here in the Lowcountry...there's Margaret Shinn Evans editor at the Lowcountry Weekly, there's Teresa Bruce an author/screenwriter, and then there's Kami Kinard a young adult novelist (not to mention some nationally known authors like Pat Conroy, Cassandra King who enjoy the salt marsh as much as the rest of us). Up until last year writing was simply something I did well and it always was connected to my occupation. Now it is what I must breathe to live a literary life. I found a recipe in a 1988 edition of Martha Stewart's Quick Cook Menu: 52 meals you can make in under an hour to align the literary journey with the kitchen...Coconut Madeleines & Persimmons with Tequila and Mint. (Scroll through the link I've provided to page 221 for the it when cookbooks are online for the blog). There's a caption to a photo of this dish in Martha's text indicating that Madeleines have literary glory and cites that they play a memorable role in Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past. "But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection." Indeed, life through taste and smell serves to recollect, but it also creates.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Simply clockwork shrimp for the beach

While some families traverse to the beach the same week every single summer, our family had an annual menu of meals that were produced on specific days of the week during our week at the beach (whatever week we happened to land on the beach, some years it was early in the season, other years late in the season). My mother was not an expansive cook. In fact, she seriously only mastered about nine main courses during her lifetime, two of which were made in a crock pot. Of the nine, there was one dish that my mother reserved for the beach experience and only for the beach experience. That dish was Shrimp Jambalaya and it was always served on Day #2 at the beach. I honestly haven't made this dish since my mother's death in 2001, but somehow the universe for all her glorious works seems to know how to kick something back into mainstream life without too much fanfare (and much to my delight). This year, when the reconstituted version of my family gathered at the beach, my pseudo sister Linda (a family dynamic too complicated to explain here)and I each brought recipes from our personal collections to have and prepare on demand. Thus, it was more than fitting this year that Linda brings a recipe for a one pan dish she calls Savannah Shrimp (pictured here). The dish is simply, fresh from the dock sauteed shrimp seasoned with Old Bay accompanied by sauteed Vidalia onion, chopped and cooked creamer potatoes, newly picked field peas, fresh corn off the cob and diced vine ripe tomatoes. Like clockwork this simple dish brought back a treasured favorite albeit a revision of my mother's shrimp dish, but all the same it was served on Day #2 at the beach and will be from this point forward fittingly. Life's better at the beach with shrimp back on the menu.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fiddle-dee-dee Fish Cakes & Choices

Crab cakes, shrimp cakes, salmon cakes and now fish cakes. I recently dined at a Beaufort restaurant called Paninis where a precocious waitress attempted her very best to get me to order the custom made fish cakes...apparently the chef uses "fresh catch" determination in selecting fish to become the feature fish cake on the menu. Clever. And a good attempt by the waitress to make a pairing recommendation -- to accompany the wine spritzer that I had just ordered. But I didn't order the fish cakes. I went with the antipasto starter instead (which by far is the best North of the Broad River offering of such). And wouldn't you know I've done nothing but think about those darn fish cakes since. Fiddle-dee-dee. I'll just aim for a smoked fish variety of fish cake this week as my own "catch" to please the palate and return another day for the Paninis fish cake. Choices in life...sometimes they take you on the path truly intended, at least that's how I see things. So, I'm back to the Cooking for Friends text again (love you much Alastair Hendy). Simply poach smoked haddock in milk for 5, remove, cool and flake (easy). He uses champ, sometimes referred to as poundies, an Irish dish of mashed potato infused with scallion as the base for the cakes. This recipe for Smoked Haddock Fish Cakes is a bit of a twist from Alastair's version in using corn kernels (which I adore the inclusion of) but pretty much replicates his preparation and delivery (with the exception this recipe does not use champ as the base). Throw out your hollandaise and tartar sauce desires and use a lemon butter drizzle-tossed with fresh baby spinach leaves in plating these cakes. Choices, some good, some bad...some simply reserved for another day.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Popovers and Reminiscing

Breakfast is my dad's meal. For the life of me I don't think I ever witnessed my father prepare (from scratch) anything other than breakfast food my whole life. My fondest memory of his kitchen adventures totally revolve around a mental picture I retain of the state of the kitchen after he had finished cooking...flour everywhere, as if the experience was not complete unless there had been a baptism of some sort (and this transpired every single time). To this day, morning is my father's oyster and though he no longer engages in the grand production of yesteryear breakfasts I still think he reigns the breakfast hour. I love breakfast food myself, Prosciutto with Figs, Buck Rarebit, Croque-Monsieur, Spanish Omelet, Quiche Lorraine...but these are not the dishes my father would crave, one has to keep it simple to appeal to his taste buds. I turn to Herb Popovers with Butter Eggs to salute my dad this Father's Day. Out will come my all time favorite breakfast guide, a 1990 The Book of Breakfasts & Brunches Kerenza Harries, HP Books. You know how some introductions to cookbooks just read like accolades, acknowledgments and blah blah blah, well this one is different it traces the significance of the breakfast meal and the various means by which it can be delivered. There is a specific reference to brunch that caught my eye when I bought this book way back when. It describes brunch, combining both breakfast and lunch, so loved by the Americans, Australians and English, as reminiscent of the splendid English country house breakfasts served in the 1800s. "Breakfast for their house guests ran from early in the morning until the final stragglers appeared later in the day, and there was a wide choice of sausages, bacon, fish and egg dishes set out on the sideboard." We have something just like that here, Southern Graces housed in the Beaufort Inn,that on any Sunday is truly reminiscent of those English country sideboards. But for Father's Day we keep it simple because were it any other way it would not be a fitting tribute to a man like my dad who's influence and love made breakfast a meal memory that I'll relish a lifetime.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Forget the wake just roast it

Some aspects of one's life really should not go "out" with a sad remorseful departure. Rather, they should be roasted with humor and accompanied by an acknowledgement of the humility, compassion and wisdom gained from having had the experience. Favorite foods, spirited past times, and even some people all have their proverbial day (or days) in the sun. At certain junctures one must say goodbye to even the most treasured elements of life to garnish well-being. Our household said goodbye to gluten this week and though we will slip out of the "free" zone while attending wine dinners, chef demos and cooking classes we have opted to retain the state of "no gluten" at home. Thus, creatively we must expand our palate away from chips, breads and pastas to link our brains to other texture-rich and flavorful foods. Back to relishes we go this week. I've prepared this Emeril Lagassee dish for Roasted Fennel and Green Bean Relish at Thanksgiving in the oven so this week I'd like to revive it on the grill for summer enjoyment. The moral of the story is while some foods must go, others may be reoriented to fit the season.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Sultry, Dry and Chilled 3 Ways

Sultry summer heat has arrived early in the Lowcountry. It's drier than dry here and locally we have moved to the first stage of drought conditions. My lawn, even in good years, strives to thrive in the midst of neighbors who manicure and water their lawns to obsessive plushness. I casually refer to the "saltiness" of my lot as a character trait, but truly it's an attempt to explain my simplicity and inability to join the ranks of those that procure a carpet of lush green around their homes. This week the concept of creating a bocce court in one particular area seemed like a grand idea that could shift the pendulum in my favor. That is, if one considers shifting dry sandy dirt randomly situated into a competitive game of sport in your personal outdoor space. In some ways the theme of shifting a state of existence fits the weekend agenda in the kitchen. A recent purchase of a couple pounds of carrots turned into a marathon of recipe searches to find ways to recreate raw product into several new and interesting dishes. Back in January we introduced the Ginger Miso recipe that accompanied our infusion of pureed carrot to the dog's diet. In June we're ready to venture a little further with carrots as consuming foods prepared for consumption on the cooler side of things is far more attractive than the alternative (though grilling has not been eliminated as it lends to the outdoor experience). So here we go chilled three ways and each uniquely flavorful and fitting for the climate upon us 1) Chilled Carrot Honey Soup ; 2) Carrot Salad with Harissa, Feta and Mint ; 3) Raw Carrot & Parsnip Salad

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Buttermilk, Patriots and Poppies

Only a few guidelines set the tone for this particular Memorial Day weekend...securing red poppies and perfecting my picnic fare. This year, buttermilk takes center stage as the headline ingredient in many of the courses. (Actually, I started pouring and it just kept going). Here I feature three of those items. Borrowing a recipe from @TheRunawaySpoon for Buttermilk Fried Chicken as the Southern experience mentioned in the recipe blog is one I can truly identify with. Also after diving into Chef Richard's blog post on the GastroPub of the modern I'm drawn back to his portfolio to indulge readers in another home grown recipe from Maggie's Pub for Local Beet and Buttermilk Blue Cheese Salad. And finally a Buttermilk Pie that is likened to creme brulee's culinary cousin. What is not included here, poppy seed dressing for fresh greens, marcaroni salad, coleslaw, biscuits, and Amish sugar cookies round out the experience. We will graze, yes, but no one will lose site of the intent to reflect and salute those that have made such leisure pleasures possible.

Friday, May 20, 2011

True Grits and Relish

Grits are a staple dish in this part of the country, pretty much everyone knows that or discovers that after reading back issues of Coastal Living, Garden and Gun or Southern Living. Sometimes it's a reference to the people you find in the Lowcountry (those I like to refer to as salt of the sea type folk) other times its the food product. Our local farmers markets provide a myriad of produce, food products and grit (we have an abundance of such entities in Beaufort County, just waiting for another one to pop up so that we can start taglining the area as "serving local product from the source seven days a week"...seriously I think that would be something to tout) . One of my favorite food product vendors that exemplifies true grit as they make the rounds to all the local markets is Vegetable Kingdom, they carry jarred delicacies from preserves to pickles to chutney in about every seasonal flavor imaginable. My favorite is the Hot Pepper Pecan Jelly, truly it can stand on its own no need to use it as a garnish or spread, but lately I've been turned on to their relishes. So I've pulled out a recipe from my Vegetarian Recipes: Better Homes and Gardens Cooking for Today a 1993 hard copy edition that takes the ever popular staple (grits) and marries it with a relish...Southern Grits Casserole with Red Pepper Relish. I've married this particular recipe with VK's Cool Point Tomato Relish, but can say the red pepper relish visually makes for a far better table setting. I like food with my eyes as well as my palate and this casserole makes for a great Sunday Brunch filled with ah has!

Monday, May 9, 2011

In the land of Dr Enuf

Going home to Appalachia is at times a necessity, other times an immersion experience to recall a rich cultural link that I share by birth and familial allegiance. Over the years I'd smile silently when someone would mention the Smokie Mountains, Cherokee National Forest, Eastman Kodak, Tennessee Valley Authority, Roan Mountain, Beech Mountain Ski Resort, Grandfather Mountain, Watauga Lake, Boone Lake, The International Story Telling Center, the Penland School for Crafts, Tweetsie Railroad, The Biltmore, or the Bristol Motor Speedway. Reminiscing places is a favorite past time for most of us as is recalling food and beverage experiences. This particular visit home had a mission associated with it other than to spend Mother's Day with my father. That is,to purchase a soda drink called Dr. Enuf -- not found in the Lowcountry much less any place else other than in the Tri-Cities -- so that it could be used to produce a beverage I longed to include in my evening porch rituals in South Carolina. Dr Enuf I must note that my admiration for this beverage is certainly in its flavor and connection to East Tennessee but it also stems from the clever branding strategies of the bottler to distribute the product. "The Doctor has Arrived" seems to herald what can be bottled and consumed to achieve great verve and fortitude. Dr. Enuf at its inception claimed to relieve people's "untold misery" from aches and pains, stomach disturbances, and general malaise. And such claims of relief fuels my incorporation of Dr. Enuf in a porch-time libation. The libation being the Junior that I enjoyed at City House in Nashville, Tennesse. So as I sit peacefully to enjoy the later evening solitude of my porch I whisper "Indeed the doctor has arrived."

The Junior (from cocktail menu @ City House)
Death’s Door White Whiskey, Crème de Violette, Dr. Enuf, Lemon

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Lime light and Quinoa

Simple is the order of the day when summer time frolic creeps into being the routine rather than a solitary diversion. Easy to pack foods that don't lose their luster when secured in portable containers (tucked away in an ice-laden cooler) dominate the weekend menus. Tis the season for...motor boating along the intercoastal waterways, taking excursions to local fishing holes or socializing with friends on a tide exposed sand bar. Revisiting a folder from a 1999 Wegmans School of Culinary Arts class I took in Ithaca, NY called Grains and Greens for a light, refreshing lime vinaigrette infused quinoa "the mother grain." Quinoa cooks like rice, takes half the time and expands to four times its size. Found a similar online recipe that includes black beans to link here, but my preference is for apricots and currants instead of the beans. Served with grilled shrimp ala Bobby Flay prepared on skewers over a simple hibachi shore side this two course meal paired with some grilled pineapple makes for a relaxing leisure filled afternoon in a lawn chair or on a blanket size beach towel.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Beyond soft shells there would be a Ham

How could we even think about eating past yesterday after a delightful day filled with soft shell crab at the 8th Annual Soft Shell Crab Festival in Port Royal?! (It was a capital experience to hang out on Saturday with a couple of my most admired local foodies [Ervena Faulkner, Island Packet and Food Network Star's Orchid Paulmeier])
Somehow, when Easter follows on Sunday there's really no way to not continue to take your palate to other serious eats. In our case, to a home prepared ham. Actually the ham preparation began three days ago with brine and refrigeration. The recipe for a Brined Fresh Ham comes from Anne Burrell and not as labor intensive as I originally imagined a ham would be (silly me, I thought the high cost that I had been paying for a spiral ham in retail outlets was because it was a complex and laborious process). I really liked the glaze of Dijon, whole grained mustard and honey that accompanies this recipe. Perhaps even more so I will relish converting the ham leftovers into a childhood favorite~ham salad for snacking on saltines.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Bánh Bông Lan (Blooming Orchid Cake)

The Lowcountry is filled with notoriety. From stars who live here, like John Mellencamp and Brooke Shields to films that were made here, like The Big Chill and The Great Santini. Our home DVD collections contain all the locally produced flicks so we can watch with our guests and visitors to point out the same locale when on a walk or to refer to the locale on screen as a must see when in town. Same goes for Food Network Stars. We eat at their restaurants, buy their cookbooks, take their cooking classes, and watch their cable television shows. As you know Paula Deen and her boys Bobby & Jamie Deen are just across the river in Savannah. And from the blog post on January 9th you know that Robert Irvine of Restaurant Impossible fame has a restaurant called eat! on Hilton Head Island. What you may not know is that we are embarking on naming another local favorite restaurant owner as the next Food Network Star in season 7. Enter your life Orchid Paulmeier of One Hot Mamas. This wife, mother, chef is as humble, homegrown and dynamic as any one person can be. If you have attended a festival in the area, you've seen Orchid-if you've eaten at the restaurant, you've seen Orchid-if your kids go to school in Beaufort, you've seen Orchid. But to know her is really rather special and though I'm sure the other 14 candidates might score some of the same accolades from their friends and acquaintances, I'm pulling for this young woman. Not because she's local...because she represents for so many women an authentic individual, a master at juggling career, family and ambition while staying humble and true to herself. So in honor of her I'm pulling out a delightful recipe for Bánh Bông Lan. This is no ordinary spongecake this is a French butter sponge cake otherwise known as biscuit au beurre. Famously simple and sweet, just like Orchid Paulmeier.

To vote for Orchid in the public opinion of naming the next Food Network Star go to:

Monday, April 11, 2011

You Pick Strawberries and a Jewish Mother's Meringue

When the announcement came that Dempsey Farms located on historic St Helena Island had succulent strawberries for the picking it did not take any arm twisting to get me on board for the activity. Dempsey Farms is a working farm that sells what they grow and permits the community to come "pick your own bounty" for whatever is in season at the time. I had already pulled out the Frozen Strawberry Meringue Torte recipe from my favorite Jewish mother, Twyla Sable, several weeks ago just waiting for the strawberries to reach their prime. How I came to possess this delightful dessert dish is as serendipitous as life can provide in a moment. I sat next to Twyla at a dinner hosted by a mutual friend and when I mentioned I had failed at making a really great savory kugel she quickly offered to send me a guaranteed delicious, easy to prepare recipe. To my surprise a rather large brown envelope arrived via the US Postal Service with what I would characterize as a collection of recipes, kosher and nonkosher, that any mother would pass on to her daughter. I smile just opening the envelope to pull out a recipe from this collection and appropriately make this particular occasion a family affair from picking the strawberries to the preparation to the service on the porch during a cool spring evening.

Note: I happen to love macaroons, especially the ones made at James's Candy and Fralinger's Taffy, but in a hand written note in the margin of my recipe sheet Twyla indicates "one could use graham crackers"

Monday, April 4, 2011

So long oysters. Hello Soft Shell Crab!

By this point in the year those of us living in the Lowcountry have had our fill of oysters (well, maybe not everyone) so the inclusion of a new item on many local restaurant menus in April is cause for some celebration. During what I would call a short lived period there is a delicacy that is coveted by many coastal dwellers. Actually we are simply taking advantage of a reoccurring phenomena found in nature. That is, the period of time when crabs have molted their old exoskeleton and are still soft...Soft Shell Crab. Just this past week I noted that Plums and Saltus in Beaufort and Pour Richards in Bluffton have shouted out they are serving the softies. The Town of Port Royal actually takes the celebration to the old village streets every year (this year, April 23), brings the music (featured this year are the Headliners) and food frolic for it's 8th Annual Soft Shell Crab Festival. Believe it or not I've never prepared soft shell crab at home, I've done many a preparation with the hard shell version, but never ventured here. I went for the cookbook authored by the woman who introduced me to my first soft shell crab entree...Elizabeth Terry. Specifically the cookbook authored by Elizabeth and Alexis Terry in 1996 called Savannah Seasons. I believe Elizabeth Terry retired from her restaurant Elizabeth's on 37th the year the book was published, but I suspect the next generation of cuisine at the locale includes soft shell as a seasonal item.

Tips for dressing(cleaning and preparing)soft shell crab:

Friday, March 25, 2011

Shrimps ala Prep School (Shrimp and Rice Elegante)

Pulling out a 1993 edition of the Hilton Head Entertains cook book this weekend. I honestly can't remember the actual purchase of this cookbook and would have to say it may have been a gift from former in-laws that somehow made it past the post divorce cleansing way back when. The text was part of a fundraiser for Hilton Head Preparatory School and is dedicated to Carolyn B. "Becky" Fraser. I like it predominantly because the index has to be one of the most superbly organized of community cookbooks on my shelf and the recipes are simple concoctions with divine results at the dinner, coffee, or picnic table. There's a cheesy rich Shrimp and Spinach Casserole from this same cookbook that delivers magnificently when comfort food is the order of the day.

Chopped scallions or green onions
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound of shrimp, cleaned (assume devein is the instruction here)
4 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
3 tablespoons chili sauce
1 1/3 cups instant rice
1 2/3 cups water
1 teaspoon pepper
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon flour
Saute scallions in butter in skillet or wok. Add shrimp and mushrooms, saute until shrimp are done to taste (not long). Stir in chili sauce, rice, water, salt and pepper. Simmer covered for 5 minutes. Stir in mixture of sour cream and flour. heat just to serving temperature. 4-6 servings (Jane W. Kincheloe)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Beyond tots and fritters (Corn and Sweet Potato Bhajia)

As the daylight hours warmed to near summer-like temperatures and the pollen dust accumulated atop every surface it found hospitable, Mother Nature seems to be signaling the advent of spring here in the Lowcountry. Hooray! My taste buds immediately turn to memories of fresh tomatoes off the vine sliced and delicately plated with basil and homemade mozzarella as well as eating corn straight from the field and sprinkled with a bit of salt and smathered with butter. I love what summer symbolizes, most especially the dining out of doors. It heralds nightly opportunities to gather friends around a table set with a feast of local produce and the conversations lingering until no one can keep their eyes open. We've celebrated the sweet potato before on this blog from butter to cheese cake, but the kitchen experience this week was tickled by a twitpic photo from @seriouseats feauring sweet potato tots. That tweet and some encouraging words from Stevie, my favorite lady of craft brew @LadiesOCB led me to pull another Alastair Hendy creation from the cook book collection and procure the opportunity to make sambal (again). I never tire of either by the way. Thus, we located a recipe in Cooking for Friends that married a summer longing for corn and an always handy sweet potato...Corn and Sweet Potato not be put off by the long list of ingredients (says Alastair). The color and combination of flavors in this dish paired with a local craft beer, Westbrook White Thai made for a delightful sendoff to winter and a big bouyant hello to Spring!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Herbaceous L'il Jig and Green Tea Press

Live from the start of St Patrick's Day celebrations in the Lowcountry we plan the experience from start to finish. It's not about an affair to remember, it's about the occasions to record in memory that bring you back year after year. From the beverage in the to-go-cup to the green beaded necklaces to the parade down the street it's the people, places, and what's consumed to celebrate Irish heritage that keeps us all in the green. Our little band of revelers make it an annual tradition to create parade route beverages, one nonalcoholic and one a bit saucier. Each year the challenge remains the do something different and always with a little green.

Green Tea Press (inspired by Stonehill Tavern)
2 ounces chilled brewed green tea, 1 ounce Ginger syrup, 2 ounces chilled club soda, 1 lime wedge and 1 mint sprig
Fill pint glass with ice, add green tea, syrup, and soda and stir well. Garnish with lime and mint

L'il Jig (inspired by Pegu Club)
3 Thai basil leaves, 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice, 1/2 ounce simple syrup, ice, 1 1/2 ounce silver tequila, 1/2 ounce Chartreuse
Muddle the basil leaves with lime juice and syrup, add ice, tequila, and Chartreuse. Shake well and strain.

Start Celebrating the Irish on Hilton Head Island:
Finish in Traditional Fashion in Savannah:

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Skip a Sunday

As we relished the glamour and flavors of the Charleston Wine and Food Festival last week, we may have neglected our friends least the email messages of concern seem to have suggested when we failed to post on this blog. One realizes how viral this electronic world is when individuals from European nations fire an emergency call out to check on one's status...we have discovered there are a few reasons some tune in to check out the page (and not just for the kitchen experience). A humble thank you to the universe of caring individuals, twas four nights of pleasurable food comma love other than that we are alive and well. This week we move to thinking green and following a thought around a slushy green beverage for the next SSKE. And if ever in doubt, tune in each Wednesday in our right hand column for Hodge Podge --bloggers around the globe participate in a virtual conversation focused on 7 questions + a bonus statement.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Mad for Plaid (Better Homes & Garden Salmon Patties)

Locally we are gearing up for our PGA golf tournament called The Heritage and while I'm not an avid golfer the occasion is one of the most invigorating events to experience~on the course, around the course and throughout the community (for locals and nonlocals). I would definitely characterize the tournament as a happening. Pulling out the red plaid cookbook this week seemed appropriate to connect our kitchen to the huge tartan celebration that kicks off with its media day next week (Tournament dates April 18-24). I hold a first edition, second printing 1953 version of the BHG New Cookbook that assures me every recipe has been triple tested by the Taste Test Kitchens staff. (Don't you ever wonder who the test kitchen staff are in this world and if they ever imagined themselves a tester for life?) I suspect my edition was an engagement or wedding gift for my mother. I must say the pages wear their age rather well and are intact, save the last index page. Which fits the theme for the Heritage as it continues and remains intact, though its headline sponsor has indicated they will pull away in 2012 and thus we locally need to reattach a sponsor to this phenomenal event. Know any sponsors looking for great return on their investment? The golf tournament falls Easter Weekend and so my thoughts turn to the salmon patties my mother would make using a salmon loaf recipe she pulled from the red plaid book (though will also point out she made a ham this same time of year that was delish beyond your spiral franchise style). Red Plaid, Easter and Tartan not necessarily your pastel and eggs kinda weekend, but fitting none the less!

Salmon Patties:

Attending Heritage in 2011 YouTube promo

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Triangle of Delicious (romance, travel, art)

There was no better way to spend a post film festival experience in Beaufort than to trek to Orlando to read, write, grocery shop and make dinner. That's five hours not to see Harry Potter or Mickey, but to hang with a romance novelist (Karen Hawkins) and a mutual friend known to many as @travelblggr on Twitter. Last time our schedules permitted time face-to-face in the same space was over a year and a half ago at a wine festival...though would be true there have been many moments shared in our electronic realms through social media. As different in our every day demeanor as we are in our professions and our individual aspirations so too are our approaches to bringing food to a table. Simplistic and colorful was my approach, rich in flavor was @travelblggr's purpose and succulent creamy goodness (with a kick one would never forget they'd been kissed) was naturally the romance novelist's contribution.

Insalta Caprese

Mushroom Risotto

Rotisserie Chicken (thank you Publix Baldwin Park)

Chocolate Fondue

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pickled Cherries (soak your fruit)

Cherries are my favorite fruit transformed from raw product to preserves, jam, butter, compote and dumplings. Cherry butter like Sweet Potato butter is something I could eat straight out of the jar as a treat or dessert, hold the bread. A dear friend in Philadelphia gifted me with a copy of the Mennonite Community Cookbook: Favorite Family Recipes by Mary Emma Showalter, 8th printing 1957. She earmarked the section on pickles and relishes as a starting point indicating that she's heard me talk about the chef on Hilton Head who pickles items in vodka, gin, tequila etc and wanted me to know it does not always require alcohol to arrive at a great pickled product (grinning as I write this on her behalf). The chef she refers to is Chef Russell Keane at Wise Guys a lovely wine/tappas locale on Hilton Head Island. I'm forever inquiring of Russell as to his latest creations, which are clearly visible to patrons in flamboyant large glass vessels showcased on the shelves behind the bar. So about 30 days from now I'm walking into Wise Guys with a glass jar of my own for the chef to try! I've married a recipe from the Mennonite cookbook with one from Michael Symon's 2009 Live to Cook which I don't have on my shelf just yet, but did locate an assortment of his pickling recipes via Google books.

RECIPE: Pickled Cherries

Makes about 2 quarts

2 pounds bing cherries
2 cups red wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 strips orange zest, removed with a vegetable peeler
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 bay leaf

Prick each cherry with a fork several times and put them in a nonreactive jar or container.
Mix the vinegar, sugar, salt, orange zest, black peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, coriander seeds, and bay leaf in a nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat so the liquid simmer, and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cook for 10 minutes.
Pour the liquid over the cherries (they should be completely submerged). When the concoction is completely cool, seal or cover the cherries, and refrigerate for up to 1 month.

Pickles by Michael Symon: Google Books

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Hannah is my Betty Crocker (Thai Coconut Chicken)

Foodies who cook always bring their favorites forward. I had heard about a staff member (Hannah) at one of the local newspapers that loved to cook and bring her latest creations to the office for her co-workers to enjoy and critique. Then I got to judge chili sitting beside her a couple years ago and realized what the joy of cooking really meant. I follow her creative pieces in the local newspaper as well as her posts on her personal FaceBook page to capture her most recent kitchen episode. Cooking Channel this gal's definitely for you! So while many are focusing on the traditional Super Bowl fare I'm spending time with Hannah's recipe for Thai Coconut Chicken (straight from Betty Crocker). The simplicity of this dish is outweighed only by the color the ingredients bring to a serving bowl. The recipe calls for rice to complement the finished dish and while I consume quite a bit of rice in my diet I'm always in a quandary over what type of rice to buy and prepare. A bit of searching on the world wide web and I found a comprehensive A to W guide to rice via The Nibble. Literally a cornucopia of rice.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Yu: The Whole Fish (Progress, Togetherness, Abundance)

Year of the Rabbit. We're hopping right into the Chinese New Year on February 3rd with our usual verve. Three activities I've personally kept constant in approaching this second coming of new year bliss: spring cleaning , painting my toe nails red and consuming "fortune-boosting foods." In years past I've attempted sticky rice cakes and dumplings with glee, but preparing fish is definitely in order for beginning the lunar year. Fish served whole is a symbol of prosperity. As well, the Chinese word for fish, yu, sounds like the word for riches or abundance. Like greens and black eyed peas it is believed that eating fish will help your wishes come true in the year to come. And fish does my heart good, both figuratively and literally. I selected a recipe from Bon Appetit for Whole Fish baked in Sea Salt mostly because of the tag line associated with the recipe "ease of preparation with stunning presentation." And indeed it was! Cracking the salt pack around the fish and simply served with drizzled olive oil and lemon wedges makes for great fun with young sous chefs in the kitchen! [be sure to check out the video link, love it when there's a visual on the process from start to finish].


For more on Chinese New Year Traditions:

Friday, January 21, 2011

Carrots not just for dogs!

First, the local veterinarian indicated that I might want to add more carrots to my dog's diet. Then came my Go Red Heart Checkup at Coastal Carolina Hospital. Back to back these experiences were clear indicators that it was time for the dog and I to adopt a healthier regimen in our daily living. So we started this new regimen with carrots just like the vet ordered(sans the dog biscuits, sans the junk food and fat for the human). Carrots come in a wide range of varietals so preparation options are as diverse as potatoes. For me there was a simple first step, start with a great soup. My favorite locale to indulge in carrot soup is at Christine's Cafe on Hilton Head Island. Chef Christine makes a delish Carrot Ginger soup which features frequently on her specials board. My friend Chef Richard also features a Curried Carrot Bisque recipe on his blog...but for this Sunday's experience I'm using a recipe straight from FoodBuzz for Cumin, Coriander & Ginger scented Carrot Miso Soup. For the dog simply adding grated carrot to his food or offering baby carrots as treats did not entice him to cross over to this new way of life. Instead, for him it required pureeing steamed carrots and adding (in his presence)2 tablespoons to his meal. I can only imagine what this must read like to the non-animal lovers out there (admit it you are rolling your eyes). [Were time not plentiful there is a local option for such wholesome goodness for canines, Lucky Dog Cuisine, which simply requires purchase rather than process]. Carrots aren't just for humans (dogs).

Friday, January 14, 2011

Esoteric Chefs, Restaurant Week and Pastrami Salmon with Caraway Celery Root

I have indeed used the term esoteric to describe our local chef population. Each seems to be able to tap into a secret doctrine for delivering divine experiences to the table. So when asked to recommend or suggest a dining environment I tend to take the "long" thoughtful route to answering the question (frustrating many who simply want a quick answer). I start by asking what's desired in terms of experience both in palate and in ambiance, then proceed to inquire about the nature of dining desired...something unusual in format, food items never prepared at home, locale full of local color and character, or perhaps possessing a spectacular coastal view? Typically after defining the attributes of desire and nature, I'm confident in providing what the query demanded. My reservations have followed one particular local chef since my arrival in the Lowcountry. Thus, as South Carolina kicks-off its nine day celebration of everything culinary today, I'm providing a shout out to Richard Wilson of Maggies Pub to highlight his culinary genius. His passion for food exceeds the norm and his willingness to educate his patrons as to the opulence one enjoys in strict adherence to all things local is undeniable. In fact, were he able, he'd walk us all through the garden to the kitchen and finally to the table armed with a greater knowledge of the origins and best practices in honoring food. This salmon dish with pastrami-cure style ingredients marries my desire to honor Richard's passion and provides for an inclusion of another one of Alastair Hendy's Cooking for Friends recipes in this blog.

Salmon Recipe:

Caraway Celery Root
1 celery root 1 lb.
juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/2 c white wine
2/3 c double cream
1 tsp mustard powder
salt and freshly ground pepper

Celeriac: though implied this can be purchased in pillow packs at local specialty shops, I'm certain it would have to be sourced or ordered for our local market, this is a great question for Richard when I see him next. Unlike other root vegetables, which store a large amount of starch, celeriac is only about 5-6% starch by weight...also known as celery root, turnip-rooted celery or knob celery. More info

Sidebar: Richard's wife Peggy is a local real estate agent, but she's also a baker extraordinaire. I relish her Facebook posts that indicate what is to appear for service at the pub.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Robert Irvine in our backyard and Octopus Salad with Spiced Cucumber

News that Robert Irvine of Food Network fame will offer another haven for food lovers on Hilton Head Island speaks volumes for his commitment to contribute, participate and create vibrancy in his own back yard. Most noteable of late, he is spearheading an effort to raise funds to support an Extreme Makeover Home Edition in Beaufort County. Thus, I am pulling out a recipe from one of the cooking classes that I took at Robert Irvine's eat!. This salad reminds me of sprightly summer seasons and while sunny skies prevail here in the Lowcountry the temps are far less desirable so my rush for an injection of summer is quite intense. I may be sidetracking my resolution to respect local seasonal offerings a bit, but might as well digress from my intended path immediately (I resolve to never lose sight of my goal). I recall that one could also use scallops or grouper in this recipe for those of you not attuned to octopus. I discovered sambai oelek for my Chick Pea fries and through this cooking class at eat! so too did I develop an affection for sambal. Both are now constants in my kitchen.

sambal: chili based sauce which is normally used as a condiment; more at Wikipedia


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Prepare more seafood + Respect local seasonal offerings

2010 was a phenomenal year for living in the Lowcountry! I am one to reflect on the past with affection and do so always with great appreciation for the growth and experience gleaned from what has transpired throughout the year. As such a person, I consider it apropos to recognize the all time #1 post from this blog in 2010 (and no surprise for it was truly unique)....the November entry from Bon Appetit for Celery and Pear Bisque . And likewise, to transition into a new year by making at least one resolution to accompany this blog...prepare more seafood in 2011 while respecting the local seasonal offerings found in my backyard. What can you expect from a year comprised of double ones (11)? A weekly recipe insertion, answers to a hodgepodge of questions and a photo or two. Along the way I'll weave a story that hints at humor, celebrates a passion for food and unveils a bit of the saltlife found along our coast of South Carolina. Happy New Year!
Life Enrichment is like a travel and learn program...offering infusions that make every day life thereafter far more interesting! ~ Ann-Marie Adams, Reflections on a Meaningful Life