Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Moroccan Cinnamon Chicken with Orzo

Here in the USA we love cinnamon. It is one of the most popular spices sold, but usually we only use in sweet preparations such as: Apple pie, apple sauce, hot apple cider, mulled wine, sweet rolls, mixed with sugar for our toast, ice cream, etc...

Cinnamon is so much more than just a dessert additive. In Indian, Middle Eastern, and Northern African cuisine, cinnamon is added to sauces and rubs in savory preparations. It is a wonderful spice that add so much depth of flavor, and zest to whatever it has been grated or sprinkled into.  There are hundreds of recipes available on the net for preparing every kind of meat you care for with cinnamon, but here is one of my favorites. It is easy to make, and even though the ingredient list is a bit long you should have most of it already in your spice holder. You can use pork, or lamb, or even smoked tofu instead of chicken in this recipe, so there is no reason not to try it. If you don't want to use Orzo pasta you can simply cook a bit of your favorite rice in place of orzo too!

Moroccan Cinnamon Chicken with Orzo

1.5 Lbs. of chicken (white or dark meat, or a combination)-cut into 3/4 inch cubes
4 cloves (2 Tbs.) garlic
1 tsp. kosher salt
7-10 black pepper corns
2 tsp. smoked paprika (plain will work too)
1-3 tsp. excellent quality cinnamon (depending upon your personal tastes)
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (OPTIONAL)
1 Tbs. first cold pressed olive oil (or any oil you have will do)
1 cup diced onions
1 cup raisins
2 cups petit peas
1/2 cup water (or chicken stock)
Garnishes of your choosing (see below)

12 oz. package orzo
1 Tbs. turmeric

With a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic along with the salt and pepper.


If you do not have a mortar and pestle just mince the garlic by hand. In the mortar, or a small bowl add the next 4 ingredients (and cayenne if using), and stir with a small spoon until you have a thick paste.

In a nonreactive bowl, place you chicken pieces and with your very clean hand mix the spice pastes and the chicken together. Allow to stand in the fridge for 20 minutes-24 hours.

When you are ready to cook: Heat a little olive oil in a 12 inch sauté pan over high heat until it begins to shimmer. Add the onion and turn the heat down to medium low. Cook the onions 9-12 minutes stirring often. Bring the heat up to high and add the chicken and spice mix, and toss with the onions to mix them together.

Cook for 3-4 minutes without disturbing to brown the meat darkly on one side. Add the raisins, peas, and water, and stir. Cover the pan turn the heat down to medium and allow the mix to simmer until the meat is cooked through.

Meanwhile bring about 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add the turmeric and orzo, and cook according to the package directions.

Once the chicken is cooked; remove the lid and allow the water to evaporate. Drain your cooked orzo and spoon onto your serving plates. Spoon some chicken mixture over the orzo and serve with a few garnishes on the side:

Chopped cilantro
French fried onions
Hot chili sauce such as Sriracha or sambal sauce
Pickled onions
Sliced pickled garlic
finely sliced green onions or chives
Oil cured (or Kalamata) olives-chopped
Cayenne Pepper

HEALTH BENIFITS OF CINNAMON 

  1. Blood Sugar Control – Several studies have found that Cinnamon has properties that help those with insulin resistance. It is therefore very popular with Type 2 diabetics who take it to control their blood sugar variations.

    Ceylon Cinnamon is particularly popular because it has low levels of Coumarin. compared to Cassia Cinnamon found in your grocery store. In case you did not know Coumarin in high doses can cause liver damage.

  2. in another study Ceylon Cinnamon was found to have an effect on blood sugar control in a rat model. If you are taking Ceylon Cinnamon for diabetes, take it in moderation as part of a healthy program of diet, proper nutrition and moderate exercise.
  3. Candida Yeast Infections - Cinnamon has shown an amazing ability to stop medication-resistant yeast infections. This applies to Escherichia coli bacteria and Candida albicans fungus. This study discovered that Cinnamon Oil was one of three leading essential oils effective against Candida. Another study was found Cinnamon Oil to be effective against two strains of Candida, C. orthopedics and C. parapsilosis. A third study found that Cinnamon Oil was effective against three strains of Candida, Candida albicans, Candida tropicalis, and Candida krusei. Real Ceylon Cinnamon Tea infused with Cinnamon Bark Oil could be an excellent way to fight internal Candida infections and boost your immune system. For topical applications (except genital areas and mucous membranes) 1% Ceylon Cinnamon Leaf Oil mixed with a carrier oil could be an extremely effective treatment option.
  4. Stomach Bug/Flu - By far and away the best remedy for a horrible stomach bug is Cinnamon. It make sense because Cinnamon is a powerful anti-bacterial. Research has shown Cinnamon is one of the most effective substances against (click the links for the research) Escherichia coli Salmonella, Campylobacter. Another study found Cinnamaldehyde from Cinnamon Bark Oil in its various forms is effective against adenovirus. Another reason to have our Cinnamon tea which is infused with Cinnamon Bark Oil that has high levels of Cinnamaldehyde (over 75%).
  5. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) – As a digestive cinnamon dramatically reduces the uncomfortable feelings associated with IBS especially the bloating. It does this by killing bacteria and healing infections in the GI tract and enabling the gastric juices to work normally. A Japanese study apparently showed it to cure ulcers but this cannot be verified. But if you do have stomach cramps or upsets, a cup of Cinnamon tea 2-3 times  per day will dramatically reduce the pain.
  6. Cancer Preventer – Research shows that Cinnamon oil is a promising solution in the treatment of Tumors, Gastric Cancers and Melanomas. Research studies show that sugar maybe causing or sustaining cancer cells and cinnamon may have a mitigating effect by controlling blood sugar levels in the body. Another study found good results with leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells. Cinnamon in its various forms has two chemical constituents called Cinnamaldehyde  and Eugenol (From Cinnamon Oil). These have been used to develop nutraceuticals in this study that have proven fairly effective in fighting Human Colon Cancer Cells (Eugenol) and Human hepatoma cells (Cinnamaldehyde). So the evidence seems to suggest that Cinnamon is starving cancer cells of the sugar needed to sustain them.
  7. Arthritis/Osteoporosis –  The widely cited Copenhagen university study is a hoax. Most of the evidence that Cinnamon helps arthritis is from personal testimonials. Some people claim drinking Cinnamon tea helps the pain from arthritis while others claim a Cinnamon Oil based massage oil helps ease the pain.

    What we do know is that Cinnamon has high levels (73% DV in two sticks of Cinnamon) of Manganese which is used to build bones, blood and other connective tissues, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. The body needs manganese for optimal bone health, so people who are deficient in the mineral are more likely to develop osteoporosis. Of course another factor causing Osteoporosis may be excessive dairy consumption.

                                     
  8. Anti-Bacterial/Anti Microbial - Ceylon Cinnamon Leaf Oil is a powerful anti-bacterial and makes a great natural disinfectant. Cinnamon oil had the best anti microbial activity among three oils against Escherichia coli , Staphylococcus aureus , Aspergillus oryzae , and Penicillium digitatum.
                              Dilute it with water to disinfect kitchen counter tops, sinks, your refrigerator, door knobs, toys and many other things. If you have young children and don't want to use harsh cancer causing chemicals use Cinnamon Oil. Cinnamon sticks are also a good anti bacterial but you would need a lot of it to make a difference. If you want a mild disinfect, like to wash your face, then a couple of Cinnamon sticks boiled in hot water might be an idea.
  9. Food PreservativeCinnamon is effective in inhibiting bacterial growth. This maybe one reason why it is widely used in food preparation in hot Asian countries. In Sri Lanka, virtually every dish has a pinch of Cinnamon in it. In addition to great flavor, Ceylon Cinnamon in combination with other spices like Turmeric and Chili may have been an indigenous solution to preserve food without a refrigerator. This study for using Cinnamon Oil coated paper as a preservative found a 6% Cinnamon Oil solution was responsible for complete inhibition of mold in sliced bread packaging. This study listed on Feb 2013 also found cinnamon oil effective in developing insect resistant food packaging film. Cinnamon also came on top in this study, even against All spice and Clove Oil as very effective for making edible food film.
  10. Odor NeutralizerPure Cinnamon Leaf oil not only smells great but is an effective odor neutralizer as it kills bacteria that creates bad odors and not just mask odors. All you need is 2-5 drops of Cinnamon leaf oil mixed with water on a diffuser and within minutes all odors are neutralized. Alternatively spray diluted Cinnamon Leaf Oil and wipe down toilets, floors and kitchen counter tops, garbage cans and the interior of vehicles to rapidly remove foul odors. Far better than any chemical sprays. It also has the effect of improving your mood. Especially great as a cure for the winter blues.
  11. Alertness, Memory & Cognitive Development –  According to a by Dr. Bryan Raudenbush, Director of Undergraduate Research and associate professor of psychology at Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, WV. Cinnamon may keep you more alert and decrease your frustration when you are behind the wheel.

    This hard to verify German study cited in this article those taking Cinnamon improved their response times and memory recall. While not scientific, our personal experience suggests pretty good results in alertness and concentration.
  12. Anti-oxidant – With an ORAC value of 267536 μmol TE/100g (USDA 2007) cinnamon is one of the top seven anti-oxidants in the world. The suggestion is that Anti-oxidants reduce the formation of " Free Radicals " that cause cancer. A study found Cinnamon has sufficient anti-oxidant properties and makes for improved food palatability.
  13. Weight Reducer – Cinnamon apparently has the effect of thinning your blood thereby increasing blood circulation. Increased blood flow generally boosts your metabolism which is why it may be helpful in weight loss. This blood thinning property of Cinnamon also helps it in acting as an anti clotting agent especially for those suffering from heart disease. However care must be taken to NOT to take it with other blood thinning medication. The main ingredient that causes your blood to thin is Coumarin which is present in high doses in Cassia Cinnamon (4%) but not in Ceylon Cinnamon (0.04%). However Coumarin causes liver damage. So taking Cassia Cinnamon for weight loss may end up causing liver damage.
  14. Massage Therapy – Cinnamon is a well known warming agent. Combined with a carrier oil it is highly effective in relaxing and relieving muscle pain. Some put a few drops in their bath to relax and to sooth tired and aching muscles.
  15. Anti-Fungal – Got a bad case of athletes foot? Perhaps a toe nail fungus? Cinamon's powerful anti fungal properties are the perfect natural alternative to killing the athletes foot fungus. You can use Cinnamon sticks or even better a few drops of powerful Ceylon Cinnamon Leaf Oil (not to exceed 1% cinnamon oil to water) and soak your feet. Usually good results in three days with the oil. Similar results for toe tail fungus.
  16. Lowering LDL cholesterol & triglycerides – According to a Mayo clinic article the only possible way Cinnamon could lower cholesterol is indirectly via how the body processes sugar and fat. But there is no direct effect on cholesterol. Still another study in Pakistan found Cinnamon reduced triglyceride (23-30%), LDL cholesterol (7-27%), and total cholesterol (12-26%). A review in 2011 found The consumption of cinnamon is associated with a statistically significant decrease in levels of total cholesterol, LDL-C, and triglyceride levels, and an increase in HDL-C (the good cholesterol) levels, but qualified it by saying that applying it to patient care is difficult. Still, worth a try in our book.
  17. E-coli Fighter/Salmonella – One of the most effective E-coli fighters because of its anti microbial properties. Mix cinnamon oil with hydrogen peroxide and spray your cutting board and kitchen sink especially after you have cut meats. Spray it in your refrigerator. It’s safe and natural. A  concentration of 2 microl/ml from cinnamon was enough to inactivate Salmonella Enteritidis, E. coli, and L. innocua in apple and pear juices and 8 and 10 microl/ml from cinnamon for melon juice and tryptone soy broth.
  18. Tooth Decay and Gum DiseaseAgain the anti-bacterial properties of Cinnamon play a crucial role in getting rid of harmful bacteria without damaging your teeth or gums. It’s one of the reasons that Cinnamon Oil is often used in chewing gums, mouthwashes, toothpaste and breath mints.
  19. Nutrients –  One teaspoon of Cinnamon Powder (a realistic dose) has 0.33mg (16% DV) Manganese, 0.76 mg (4% DV) Iron, 24.56 mg (2% DV) Calcium.
  20. Insect Repellant – The anti microbial qualities of Cinnamon Leaf oil is often used for head lice treatment, black ant control, bed bugs, dust mites, and roaches. It is well known as a defense against mosquitoes'.
  21. Cold, Sore Throat and Cough At the first sign (within 5-10 minutes) of sniffles or an itch in your throat take some Cinnamon Tea or Cinnamon stick Tea. It is said to stop an impending illness in its tracks. Again this is related to the anti bacterial properties and warming properties of Cinnamon and its propensity to increase blood flow and thereby improve blood oxygen levels to fight illness. Chinese traditional medicine commonly recommends Cinnamon for phlegm coughs.
  22. Alzheimer’s Disease An Israeli study done at the University of Tel Aviv that found sufficient evidence to conclude that Cinnamon can delay the effects of five aggressive strains of Alzheimer's inducing genes. Another study also finds that orally administered Cinnamon extract has had good success in correcting Cognitive Impairment in Alzheimer's Disease in Animal Models.

    The latest finding indicate that two compounds found in cinnamon — cinnamaldehyde and epicatechin — may be effective in fighting Alzheimer's. According to a study by Roshni George and Donald Graves in 2013, two scientists at UC Santa Barbara, Cinnamon has been shown to prevent the development of the filamentous “tangles” found in the brain cells that characterize Alzheimer’s.
  23. PMS - Again because of the high levels of Manganese Cinnamon may be an excellent candidate to mitigate the effects of PMS. According to the University of Maryland web site women who ate 5.6 mg of manganese in their diets each day had fewer mood swings and cramps compared to those who ate only 1 mg of manganese. These results suggest that a manganese rich diet may help reduce symptoms of PMS. Another clinical study found that 46 patients with PMS had significantly lower amounts of calcium, chromium, copper, and manganese in their blood. You should not consume more than 11 mg of Manganese per day (about 12 cinnamon sticks) according NYU. FDA guidelines establishes a daily value of 2mg (about 2 Cinnamon sticks).
  24. Depression/Reduced irritability/Mood Enhancer Ancient folklore says the smell of Cinnamon is the best cure for the winter blues. The only scientific evidence we can find to support this thoery is this study by Dr. Bryan Raudenbush, Director of Undergraduate Research and associate professor of psychology at Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, WV. The study found that the scent of Cinnamon reduced driver irritability.

    But Cinnamon may be an excellent cure for depression in a more round about way. There is some evidence that certain types of gut bacteria may make you more susceptible to depression. Cinnamon as a powerful stomach anti bacterial may help you remove the bad bacteria. However since Cinnamon removes both bad and good bacteria from your stomach you would be advised to repopulate your body with good bacteria by drinking a good probiotic or eating fermented food after taking Cinnamon.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

R Kitchen-A charming Rutledge Ave. Café


What can I possibly say about  R Kitchen? It is definitely one of the new-yet undiscovered-gems, that are beginning to take over the casual food movement on the Charleston Peninsula. It is an absolutely delightful little café on Rutledge Avenue, sitting anonymously across the street from: Fuel. If you have ever been to Europe; this place has the look and feel of a small family run café somewhere out in the countryside.

When you walk in, you are struck with the coziness of the space, and how the kitchen is front-and-center. There are no tables inside, but instead two long wooden bars at which people are to perch. There are, however, a half-dozen tables outside on a back patio that is completely shaded in by massive Oak trees (can you say ROMANTIC LUNCH?!?).  My sister and I sat on the patio and ordered lunch today.

It was wonderful. Everything was expertly prepared and thoughtfully plated. We ordered a duck and brie sandwich, a baby bella and fontina sandwich, with sides of Brussels sprouts, and mac and cheese. We shared everything so we could get a good feel for the food. The only fault I can find is that they squirted a little mustard over the tops of the sandwiches,  which looked pretty, but made for a messy time trying to hold the bread. But now I know for next time to have them leave that off.
Bella and Fontana sandwich.  Yummy!

This little place, and the food they serve, took me back to a little café in Belgium of which I was super fond. I will be returning again and often. 


 


Pickled Beets

When I was growing up, I thought that all vegetables grew inside a can. Needless to say,  I loathed most vegetables as a kid. This was especially true of beets: which were not only mushy, but also tasted of the can, and always had a hint of dirt flavor as I swallowed. I would try to eat them to avoid being punished for not finishing my dinner, but I would end up gagging and crying and in a fit by the end of dinner. Needless to say; for a very long time (even as a Chef of 20+ years) I considered beets to be one of those things that grew straight up out of Hell!

Being a Chef, and always on the hunt for new ways to cook things. I came across a recipe for pickled beets that didn't look too offensive. I love pickled things: Any food doused in vinegar and salt and spices is always going to be my favorite thing on a plate.
What is Pickling, and why do we do it? Simple: Pickling is a global culinary art. If you were to go on an international food-tasting tour, you’d find pickled foods just about everywhere. You might sample kosher cucumber pickles in New York City, chutneys in India, kimchi in Korea, miso pickles in Japan, salted duck eggs in China, pickled herring in Scandinavia, corned beef in Ireland, salsas in Mexico, pickled pigs feet in the southern United States, and much, much more.

What makes a pickle a pickle? On a most general level, pickles are foods soaked in solutions that help prevent spoilage.

There are two basic categories of pickles. The first type includes pickles preserved in vinegar, a strong acid in which few bacteria can survive. Most of the bottled kosher cucumber pickles available in the supermarket are preserved in vinegar.

The other category includes pickles soaked in a salt brine to encourage frementation—the growth of "good" bacteria that make a food less vulnerable to "bad" spoilage-causing bacteria. Common examples of fermented pickles include KIMCHEE, MISO, and many vegetable pickles: Such as cabbage, cucumbers, okra, carrots, etc....

Pickling is not only an international food-preservation technique, it’s also an ancient one. For thousands of years, our ancestors have explored ways to pickle foods, following an instinct to secure surplus food supplies for long winters, famine, and other times of need. Historians know, for instance, that over two thousand years ago, workers building the Great Wall of China ate sauerkraut, a kind of fermented cabbage.

But pickling foods does much more than simply preserve them. It can also change their taste and texture in a profusion of interesting—and yummy—ways. It’s no surprise that cultures across the globe enjoy such an assortment of pickled foods, as you would discover on your international food expedition. In fact, food experts say, the evolution of diverse pickled foods in different cultures has contributed to unique cultural food preferences, such as spicy sour tastes in Southeast Asia and acidic flavors in eastern Europe.


NOW YOU KNOW! 
 
I tried the Pickled beet recipe and I ended up loving it. Pickled beets are my new favorite 'thing of the month'. The best part of this recipe is that there are onions pickled in with the beets and they are, not only, amazingly tasty, but beautifully colored from the beets. Once you have eaten all the beets and onions out of the pickling liquid, slice up a few more onions and let them rest in the beet brine for a few days and you have a second batch of delicious pickled onions. It's the gift that keeps on giving!

Pickled Beets
6 medium (or 4 large) red beets, cleaned
1 onion-peeled and quartered 
1 bunch Thyme
2 teaspoons olive oil 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In a large bowl toss all of the ingredients. Place into a foil pouch and roast in the oven for 40 minutes.
2 large Vidalia (or other white,sweet) onions-peeled and sliced into rings
3 cups red wine vinegar
2 cup water
1 Tbs. Sea salt 
1 1/4 cups sugar 
Remove the skin from the Roasted Beets and slice thinly. Arrange in 1-quart jars alternating layers with the onion. In a small pot boil the rest of the ingredients and pour over the beets. Tightly lid the jars and place in the refrigerator for 3 to 7 days before serving.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Kimchee Kale- An elegant way to make a superfood super!

Happy Thursday Fellow Foodies!

If you've been a fan of my old blog: The Enlightened Chef, www.theenlightenedchef.blogspot.com then you know that I have been on a mission to try the vegetables that I hated as a kid. I have had great success with this experiment. I have found that not only are cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and corn not offensive, but that they are actually delicious!

Today I tackled something I never had as a child, and only once as an adult-KALE...

Kale is one of those greens that is in the cabbage family.  It is very high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, and rich in calcium. Kale is a source of two carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin. Kale, as with broccoli and other brassicas, contains sulforaphane (particularly when chopped or minced), a chemical with potent anti-cancer properties. Boiling decreases the level of sulforaphane; however, steaming, microwaving, or stir frying do not result in significant loss. Along with other brassica vegetables, kale is also a source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells. Kale has been found to contain a group of resins known as bile acid sequestrants, which have been shown to lower cholesterol and decrease absorption of dietary fat. Steaming significantly increases these bile acid binding properties.

It is dark, and fibrous, and a little bitter.

For this reason I think most people in the past (and my mother-in-law in the present) boil the ever-lovin' shit outta this stuff. Thereby making the house stink to high heaven, and the kale taste like a 3 day old gym sock worn by a guy with fungal feet. JUST SAYIN'...

Kale is exceptionally healthful, as you read above, and I've wanted to try it again. So here is how I prepared it. I thought the recipe came out pretty yummy and I might even try it again soon.

Kimchee Kale


1 Tbs. veggie oil of your choosing
2 cloves of garlic-minced
1 bunch (or one bag from Trader Joe's) Tuscan kale-if you can't find Tuscan Kale, don't worry, just use regular Kale-it comes out just as yummy.
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup kimchee
1 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. pure toasted sesame oil
sesame seeds to garnish (optional)

Heat the veggie oil, to medium heat, in a large sauté pan. add the garlic and sauté for about a minute. add the kale, water, and soy sauce. Cover the pan and cook 2-3 minutes until the kale turns a bright, shiny green.

Remove the cover from the pan and allow the water to evaporate. Meanwhile slice your kimchee into thin strips.

Once the water has evaporated from the pan, add the kimchee, lemon juice and soy sauce. Toss everything together and finish with a drizzle of sesame oil. Pile high onto a few plate and garnish with sesame seeds.

* If you want to make the dish a little more exciting, add a few drops of SRIRACHA and toss before finishing with sesame oil.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Pimento Cheese Raviolis

Today I made Raviolis. Not just any raviolis though: Yesterday I made, from scratch, Pimento Cheese, thus I made pimento cheese raviolis today.

You can fill your ravis with just about anything you like. You can also "sauce" them with tomato, or Alfredo sauce, or just tossed in some butter (the possibilities are endless) you can even float them in soup. I happen to be very fond of tasso ham and collard raviolis in split pea or potato leek soup.

The filling and sauce combinations for raviolis are only limited by your own imagination and personal tastes. So here is my "Southern" take on the ravioli:

For the Dough

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
6 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 cup Pimento Cheese *RECIPE BELOW

In the bowl of your food processor combine the flour and salt and pulse 2 to 3 times. In a liquid measuring cup whisk the eggs, water and oil. While pulsing the machine pour this mixture in a continuous stream and continue running the machine until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. It will look loose and pebbly.


Empty the food processor bowl onto a clean work surface and knead the dough about 4 minutes until it is a stiff shiny ball. It should feel a bit dry and very stiff. Wrap the ball in plastic. Place in the refrigerator for 1 hour to rest.

If you are lucky enough to have a pasta roller, by all means use it, and roll your pasta to #2 thickness. If you are like me and have to use a rolling pin...then some patience will be required. Lightly flour your work surface, and with a rolling in, roll your dough to a thin 1/32 of an inch. Cut your dough in half as it will be easier for you to handle.

When you have your sheet ready to go, trim it to as even a rectangle as you can make. I fold my dough in half and use a pizza cutter to trim the edges to "match".

Cut the dough in half. Place 1 to 1-1/2 tsp. of pimento cheese about 1-1/2  inches apart on one sheet of dough.

Lightly beat an egg, and brush the egg over the second sheet of dough. Pick it up and stretch it very gently and lay it egg side down on the pasta sheet with the filling.

Starting with the ravis in the center and working outward, press the dough over the filling trying to squeeze out as much air as possible to form little pillows. You can cut them into whatever shape you like-I find using my pizza cutter to make squares or rectangles easiest. A small round or triangular cutter is nice as well if you have them.

Gently press the edges of your ravis to between your thumb and first finger to seal them tightly. Allow them to rest on a sheet of parchment or waxed paper while you proceed.

Bring a large stock pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in your ravis and allow to cook 3-4 minutes. Meanwhile in a sauté pan combine:

2 Tbs. butter (I used browned butter-but plain butter is easier-*see below)
1/2 cup pancetta cut into matchsticks

Cook over high heat until the pancetta starts to crisp, By now your ravis are done. Drain and add to the sauté pan. Toss to coat your pasta, allow the ravis to cook over high heat about a minute-just until they brown a bit (this adds textural interest), and serve garnished with Italian (flat leaf) parsley.


*Browned Butter
Heat a thick-bottomed skillet on medium heat. Add 1 to 2 sticks, sliced butter (sliced so that the butter melts more evenly) whisking frequently. Continue to cook the butter. Once melted the butter will foam up a bit, then subside. Watch carefully as lightly browned specks begin to form at the bottom of the pan. Smell the butter; it should have a nutty aroma. Remove from heat and place on a cool surface to help stop the butter from cooking further and perhaps burning. Use as you wish.

Pimento Cheese
8 oz. Shredded cheddar, 3/4 cup mayo, 4 oz. jar sliced pimentos-drained but not rinsed, 1/2 tsp. each onion powder, garlic powder and kosher salt. Mix Everything in a big bowl. Store in fridge for 24 hours before using. EASY BREEZY LEMON SQUEEZY!!!!

For traditional Ricotta filling combine 1 cup whole milk ricotta one large beaten egg and a pinch each or salt and pepper. Chill for a hour before proceeding.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Easy Sticky Buns

People in the south love sweet things. Hell...I love sweet things! Sticky Buns are one of those "church-lady" staples from time immemorial. I have eaten sticky buns at so many brunches and gatherings here in Charleston, and greater South Carolina, that I am sure my blood sugar is permanently over the moon!

The only trouble with traditional recipes is that while they are wonderful and totally worth the effort, they are labor intense and time-consuming. What to do when you wan them "on the fly"? Take the half-homemade route!

 This morning I made Half-Homemade Sticky Buns. Are they healthy? NO! Are they an amazingly delicious once-in-a-while-treat? YES...yes they are!


Here is the recipe:

Half-Homemade Sticky Buns

1 1/2 tubes Flakey Pillsbury Grands biscuits 
1/2 stick butter, melted
1/2 C Maple Syrup (please oh please use the REAL stuff!!!!!)
1/2 C Sugar 9you can use brown sugar if you like)
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
3/4 C Toasted Chopped Walnuts (or pecans)

Spray a fluted pan liberally (seriously-go to town)with non-stick spray. Combine butter, sugar, and syrup in a small sauce pan.
Bring just to a simmer and remove from the heat.

Place about 3/4 of the syrup mixture in the bottom of the pan. Then sprinkle in the nuts-reserving about 2-3 Tbs. Lay the biscuits on the bottom of the pan, overlapping to form a ring.
Top with remaining syrup and nuts. Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. 
Cool for 2 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a serving platter, eat warm.

 YUM, YUM!!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tomatilla Salsa Verde

Salsa Verde

I love Salsa Verde! Years and Years ago, before Mexican cuisine was ever popular, I found a recipe for the green, chunky stuff from heaven. This was back in the very early 90's, and tomatillos were hard to come by. I was lucky enough to have a Hispanic Market nearby, which stocked all things central American. I bought my tomatillos and headed home hopeful that what I was about to make did not suck-at the very least...It was LOVE at first bite!

The original recipe called for the tomatillos to be blanched in salted water. I found that method to create a very wet soupy salsa. So, one day I got inspired to fire roast the tomatillos on the grill. Since then I have found that I can blacken them under the broiler in my kitchen. So 90% of the time, being too lazy to fire up the ole grill, I do roast my tomatillos under the broiler.

What is a TOMATILLO YOU ASK??? Great question!

Wikipedia defines the tomatillo thusly:
The tomatillo (Physalis philadelphica) is a plant of the nightshade family, related to the cape gooseberry, bearing small, spherical and green or green-purple fruit of the same name. Tomatillos are a staple in Mexican cuisine. Tomatillos are grown as annuals throughout the Western Hemisphere. Often self-incompatible, tomatillos need a second plant to enhance pollination and guarantee fruit set.
File:Tomatillo 01 cropped.jpg
The tomatillo fruit is surrounded by an inedible, paper-like husk formed from the calyx. As the fruit matures, it fills the husk and can split it open by harvest. The husk turns brown, and the fruit can be any of a number of colors when ripe, including yellow, red, green, or even purple. Tomatillos are the key ingredient in fresh and cooked Latin American green sauces. The freshness and greenness of the husk are quality criteria. Fruit should be firm and bright green, as the green color and tart flavor are the main culinary contributions of the fruit. Purple and red-ripening cultivars often have a slight sweetness, unlike the green- and yellow-ripening cultivars, and are therefore somewhat more suitable for fruit-like uses like jams and preserves. Like their close relatives cape gooseberries, tomatillos have a high pectin content. Another characteristic is they tend to have a varying degree of a sappy sticky coating, mostly when used on the green side out of the husk.
Tomatillo plants are highly self-incompatible (two or more plants are needed for proper pollination; thus isolated tomatillo plants rarely set fruit).
Ripe tomatillos will keep in the refrigerator for about two weeks. They will keep even longer if the husks are removed and the fruits are placed in sealed plastic bags stored in the refrigerator.[1] They may also be frozen whole or sliced.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tomatillo_01_cropped.jpg

I love Wikipedia, don't you?

So here is the recipe...

Simple Tomatilla Salsa
1/2 cup chopped onion
1-2 jalapeno peppers chopped
1 bunch of cilantro
1 large clove garlic
juice of one lime
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
2Lbs. Tomatillos husks removed
Place the first 7 ingredients into your blender or food processor.

Place the tomatillos in one layer on a baking sheet. Heat the broiler to the highest setting. Place the tomatillos on the highest rack under the broiler and roast the tomatillos until just blackened on the top. Remove the pan from the oven and turn the tomatillos over. return to the oven and roast until the tomatillos are just blackened on that side as well.

 Using tongs, remove the tomatillos one by one to you food processor or blender. Secure the lid and pulse your machine on and off a few times until you get the chunky/smooth ratio you like best. Allow the salsa to cool and serve with chips.

VARIATIONS:
1. mix 1 to 1 with cream cheese for a party dip
2. mix 1 to 1 with sour cream for a creamy sauce for fish, chicken, or pork
3. use seranna chilies instead of jalapenos for a hotter salsa
4. mix 1 to 1 with chicken stock and simmer boneless chicken or pork in the mixture and fork shred for enchiladas or burritos

Monday, August 4, 2014

Spaghetti with Garlic and Olive Oil: Spaghetti con Agio e Olio D'Oliva

Happy Monday!

If you have a little kid like I do, then you know how much kids love pasta. Come to think of it, everyone I know loves pasta! The other day my daughter asked for her perennial favorite: Pasta with Garlic.

This is a deceptively simple dish, but to make it well you need a few tricks up your sleeve. Here is my version from when I worked in Dublin, Ireland years ago for an Italian Chef. It is, to this day, still my favorite version.

Spaghetti con Agio e Olio D'Oliva
12 ounces dried spaghetti
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves of garlic peeled
Salt and Pepper
2-3 Tbs. minced flat leaf parsley-optional
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese to garnish

Bring 4-6 quarts of salted water to a boil. Add a little olive oil to prevent the pasta from sticking. Add the spaghetti and cook according the package for al denté doneness.

Meanwhile, heat the 1/4 cup of olive oil in a 10 inch sauté pan. Slice one clove of garlic as thinly as possible. Add the garlic slices along with a little salt and pepper to the oil and turn the heat to low.

Fry the garlic until it just turns a golden brown color. with a slotted spoon remove the garlic from the pan and onto a paper towel, leaving behind all the oil.

Mince the remaining garlic and add to the pan. Sauté over medium heat until fragrant.

By now the pasta should be close to done. Remove 1/4 cup of the boiling liquid and set aside. Drain the spaghetti, and add it to the garlic and oil along with the parsley, and reserved pasta water.

Toss to coat the pasta with the oil and allow the water to evaporate. The starch in the water adds a silky texture to the finished dish.

Split the Spaghetti between 3 or 4 bowls, garnish with the sliced garlic, Parmesan cheese, and a little parsley.

Serve and enjoy!


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mac & Cheese: The Church-Lady Way!!!

The other day I made one of my most favorite foods on Earth: Macaroni and Cheese. It is the ultimate comfort food. Pasta, cheese, and not much of anything else. How can you not love that?!?

This mac & cheese recipe is so easy and so yummy, that I thought I'd share it with everyone. So here it is...

Chef Julie's Amazing Mac & Cheese


8 ounces elbow macaroni
6-8 strips of bacon-diced small
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon powdered mustard
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 large egg
16 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Using a cast iron skillet (or a nonstick pan if you don't own any cast iron) over medium low heat cook the bacon 12-14 minutes until all the fat is rendered out of the bacon and the little bits left are very crisp.

Drain the bacon bits on a paper towel and set aside.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Add the onions and cook at medium-low for 10-12 minutes until they are golden brown. Whisk in the flour and whisk vigorously, making sure it's free of lumps.

Stir in the milk, cream, onion, and paprika. Simmer at medium low for about ten minutes-stirring often.

Temper in the egg (see *how to temper below).

Stir in 3/4 of the cheese, and season with salt and pepper. Fold the bacon, and macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

 Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.


*To temper an egg, or multiple eggs, you need a large bowl and a whisk. Give the eggs a brief whisk in the bowl. Take your hot liquid mixture and, working with just a quarter cup at a time, pour it into the eggs as you whisk continuously. Adding the liquid slowly prevents the eggs from being cooked instantly-and thus turning into scrambled eggs-from exposure to heat. Keep adding the milk in small increments until half of it has been added. Then add the remaining liquid in a steady stream. Strain the egg mixture with a mesh strainer back into your saucepan, removing any bits of egg that might have gotten cooked, or sheels that strayed into your sauce, and proceed with your recipe as written.