Post Roast and Yeast Rolls Rambling in October


AUTUMN OVENS AND A STYLE OF ROLLS
Rains in the early morning have a kind of gastronomic compass quick at work. It’s like a persuasion of sorts, this rain. I can practically see the colors change across the hardwood tree canopy in this last bastion of woods in Clarke County. Turning over and looking at a lone rose in my backyard, a rabidly budding rose hips bush gives it’s wild best to keep me in citrus-y tea all winter.
But that’s just the start of a great morning. The flavors of a classic Sunday beef pot roast and yeast rolls shakes me out of bed. You and I both know it builds a pretty strong case to get in the kitchen early.
The cut of beef is the rump roast which is above the round on the haunches of beef cattle. It is a tough cut of meat that tenderizes in the Dutch oven as it roasts with the vegetables, stock, seasonings and vinegar or wine. You can use an iron Dutch oven or clay. I like both but am using the cast iron version as it is closest to what my Mother used to make hers, and I am personally more comfortable with iron. Giving the secret to her recipe was part of my brother’s requirement for my sister in law when he married. He loves it that much, we all do, actually. Fresh pearl onions are key. This is not her exact recipe.
The yeast rolls were intoxicating. They would sit in front of heater vents with cheese cloth laid over the top like a blanket of mist. The timing for the rise perfectly matched our return from Church. Come home, change cloths, wait for Mamaw and any other guests to arrive, then it was time for pot roast, gravy, mashed potatoes, English peas, yeast rolls and sweet tea. This was Sunday in Autumn. This is a purely American meal with nods to the West African and French culinary sources that permeated the South during her formative years.

Depending on the corn, peas or beans in season we would shuck them all week off and on while sitting on the front porch, waving at neighbors, my buddies on their 3 speed bikes with banana seats and butterfly handlebars, watching my sister’s boyfriends drive by and give a honk of any number of Mustang Fastback, Camero, Firebird, Cutlass 396, Shelby Cobra, Ford Torino Cobra, Mercury Montego MX, Buick GSX, Dodge Super Bee, ‘66 Corvette, Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda, Pontiac GTO, or Dodge Challenger, muscle car set of wheels that would make any kid drool with excitement over these gas guzzling wonders of the back roads, Plymouth Road Runners spinning out doing doughnuts at the ball park, her eventual husband driving up in a Oldsmobile 442 ragtop, my brother running off to pitching practice, me just running off, our crazy beagle/fox terrier dog Bob chasing every single car that turned onto our street, Mother talking about her sisters and the history of our town. “Just what is the other side of the tracks?” Yeah, this was sitting on the front porch as it was meant to be, shelling peas for supper and watching the coolest cars in Tucker stream on by through the warm autumn afternoons. Slow Food? We lived it then and we can live it today. The easiest place to start is with local produce, the flavors will send most memories into family meals and occasions free of discord or time. That was our home during the twilight of sleepy neighborhoods, scenes that we alone have the power to continue and evolve.

SOUTHERN POT ROAST (because I just cannot call it Yankee)
Use a 3 pound round, chuck or rump roast for this dish. Cooking time is approximately 2 ½ hours start to finish. Cook in 300 degree oven, allowing 12 minutes per pound. Start on stove top. You can use either iron or clay Dutch Oven, this recipe is for cast iron. If you cannot find pearl onions then use cipollini onions which are flatter than round. They are perfect for roasting and I like them both equally but have used the cipollini more professionally than the pearl variety.
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, high quality here
5 strips Bacon or guanciale (smoked/cured jowl)
3 to 4 pound Boneless round
12 Black peppercorns
24 Pearl onions, peeled, whole
2 Bell peppers, seeded, diced
1 1/2 cups Butternut squash, peeled, 1 inch dice
1 1/2 cups Pumpkin, peeled, 1 inch dice
2 cups Red potatoes, 1 inch dice
4 large Tomatoes, chopped
1 pint Beef stock
1 cup Burgundy or balsamic/red vinegar blend
1/3 cup Dale’s Marinade
1 tablespoon Rosemary, fresh
1 ½ teaspoon Thyme, dried
5 Bay leaves
6 cloves Garlic, smashed
3 tablespoons Leaf parsley, chopped, washed
3 tablespoons Cane or Date molasses
3 ounces European Butter

Everything takes place in the Dutch oven.
Heat the olive oil and bacon together over medium high heat. When the bacon is rendered remove it from the pan and add the beef. Brown it on all sides.
Add the potatoes, pumpkin and bell peppers, cook two minutes. Add squash, onion and tomatoes, cook three minutes and then add rest of ingredients except the butter. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. This will be roughly 20 minutes on the stove top. Baste the roast before putting in oven. Put bacon on top of roast. Cover and cook for 60 minutes at 300 degrees. Remove. Keep covered for 10 minutes. Check tenderness and temperature. This will not be rare or even medium rare, it is a pot roast which means it will be cooked completely in the juices and vegetables held in by the design of the Dutch oven.
Remove meat and vegetables. Skim fat. Add butter and stir into the liquids. Stir in 1 tablespoon flour to thicken into consistency of a gravy. Serve in gravy boat at the table during supper.
YEAST ROLLS
Yeast rolls are exactly what they sound like, rolls made with yeast as the ingredient to give it rise and body. Biscuits use baking soda and baking powder for this effect but is not as light or flaky as can be found in yeast rolls. Yeast rolls take time, a bit of work and an accurate oven. There are dozens of recipes and techniques. I am using a recipe that best approximates that of my youth.
A few words on yeast: we have dry active, fast active, compressed fresh yeast cakes, and brewers yeast. Yeast dies over 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Brewers yeast is used for the nutritive benefits as ingredient, gravy and for brewing beer. Dry yeast keeps a long time in the pantry and requires about 20 minutes to foam and rise in warm water. Fast acting dry yeast has very small grains, can be added to flour when warm water is later added to mix or will rise within minutes when mixed into warm water. Yeast is a living thing. Salt inhibits yeast. High heat kills yeast after it has risen and holds the flours in tight or big bubbles for rolls, pizza and various bread doughs. When making basic yeast breads you need to have your yeast mixed into 80 to 100 degree Fahrenheit water for 15 minutes or until it has doubled, even tripled in size but not much more than that as it will become too loose and will not have enough binding molecules.
Yeast is a single cell organism. A pound of yeast has 32, 000,000,000 cells of fermented sugar cells known as yeast. Yeast requires bread so it is not gluten free. Recall that the glutens given to intolerance in some individuals are wheat, barley and malt. Some people are sensitive to oats as well but in general oats are safe for those who are gluten intolerant.
Makes 20+/- rolls. Use a 9 x 13 pan. 375 degree oven, cook 15 minutes.
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar/baking stevia
2 eggs (large)
1 teaspoon salt
4 cup bread flour (finer and higher gluten content than all purpose style)
2 1/4 teaspoon yeast
Warm the milk to between 90 and 110 degrees F.

Mix all of the ingredients either with electric mixer dough hook or by hand.
If it is dry add a tablespoon of warm water or warm milk.

Knead until it is smooth and pliable, elastic and not sticking to your hands.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled metal bowl, cover with a damp towel and place in a warm area to rise for an hour or so.Butter the pan.
Split the dough in half, then into 4 equal parts. Divide again, then divide into 3 balls. Cut into 24 pieces. To form rolls, hold a small dough ball inside both hands, cup with opening between index finger and thumb, squeeze into a ball as it emerges from your hands. Sort of like playing but with great results. You are making little balls with just enough air introduced by the gentle squeeze so that they will rise into smooth rolls. Line them up in the greased casserole or baking pan so that they are barely touching, at best not at all. Cover with warm, damp towel. Dough will rise by half before they are ready to bake.
Remove cloth, bake 15 minutes. Very light tan. Brush with softened butter. Serve warm.
Morning rain on the gutters,
Poplars and elm, waterfall
Rattling attic fans and me.
Morning rain rumbles cloud-side down,
Each drop chasing the other,
Faster and faster into lawn and waterway,
Into deep aquifers and the starving Oconee,
A thunder clap snaps Polaroids
Of me awake into one dream in the 8 a.m.
World alive, there is more than this.
Red Mule grits swimming on the stove,
Pale white Vesuvius ready to blow.
The smell of turkey sausage
And French red hen eggs,
A touch of curry
And I’m ready to go….
Go where? Go here?
Already now the day is clearing,
Footfall in the pines so light and steady,
Rosehips, acorns, mushrooms
And sweet peas line the trail,
Trails down river where darters and perch
Fight for water time with catfish
And snapping turtles.
This is morning. My morning here.
A beautiful Georgia morning
In the land of the Creek and Cherokee.

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Slow Food Greater Athens dinner at Harry’s Pig Shop


Tonight we had a very, Very good Slow Food Greater Athens dinner at Harrys Pig Shop here in Athens. Except for the grapeseed oil and sherry vinegar on the salad, salt and black pepper, everything was either grown or raised within 20 miles of Athens or close, but most certainly Georgia born and raised.
I forgot to take home a menu so this is from memory:
It was wonderfully family style starting with red Turkish style peppers fried in olive oil with kosher salt, beautiful leafy greens salad with radishes and peppers, field peas cooked traditional Southern style, yellow and green beans with the “snap” still happening, purple and creamer mashed potatoes, braised pork shoulder with hot vinegar & Berkshire roast sliced and perfectly tender and juicy.

Following up a dinner at the Branded Butcher is no easy feat and the folks with Lee Epting Catering and Harry’s Pig Shop met the challenge head on. Things are becoming exciting for Slow Food Greater Athens and local foods as whole as we continue to promote, advertise, shop, dine, form friendships, salvage our heritage fruits, vegetables, grass fed beef, Berkshire and red hogs raised outside of the cesspools that are factory animal farms. The more you know the more you learn to avoid the bad stuff and gravitate to the foods that not only taste far superior but are far healthier for us and for the local economies. Want to support local economy? Support local, independent restaurants, local farms, ranches and the people who work them all.

The worst thing (I am prejudiced) Ivy League economists stated at the beginning of the Recession in 2007 was to slack off of dining out and to pinch pennies on food. OK, so what is completely wrong about that cynical approach to our home state, or any home state? It undercut and nearly crippled the second largest employer in the Nation and then gave Monsanto free reign to get guys like our Senators Broun, Issakson and Chambliss to cozy up to the factory farms while making it harder for true organic farms to operate. After that it influenced the poor health of our country. How? By foods that were lacking in actual nutritional value, to state it lightly. Bad food, bad health, bad brain and what do you get? A mess of back peddling and blame on everyone except the true culprits.

Food is as political as it gets. I just wish that a watermelon radish, French red hen, brook trout, butterbean or Cherokee purple tomato could speak. But that begs a pretty cool question, which is, “If a chicken spoke could we understand it?” Put Harry’s Pig Shop in your dining rotation here and you will be happy. Please, join Slow Food Greater Athens and help contribute a small part to what makes living here so absolutely sublime. When I talk to people from some of the American major food cities they openly tell me that they simply do not have the access to fast and fresh, organic and clean foods and meats as we do here. The only other place I have lived where it was comparable was Mendocino, CA. I am sure there are others, but for now, our Athens is at the top of the heap.

We dine at a different restaurant every month. The Chefs and restaurants have all been happy to work with us for our dinners, to serve family style, to show off and of course to keep it local. We are having a membership drive this month. Regularly check our Slow Food site for ongoing information for events Farmers Market at Bishop Park and Downtown at the Courthouse, a membership meet and greet at Farm 255 and to add even more good things we will be screening the movie “Greenhorns” at Cine in November. Greenhorns is coproduced by the folks at Farm 255 and is about farms across America, small farms, people doing the right thing for each other while still supporting local economies! Now, who can argue with that? Great food and keeping the money close to home is the stuff of a strong community. See you soon.

Mark these dates on your calender for Slow Food events:
Slow Food Harvest Fest, October 13th, 1 to 4 pm at Farm 255
This is our membership drive and there will be music by Adam Klein, New Belgium beer keg, snacks courtesy Farm 255, and just a nice day in October.

The 2nd Annual Harvest Feast is on October 14th, 4-7pm at The Hill which is a dinner benefit for Wholesome Wave.
So far The National, Farm 255, Branded Butcher, Gymnopedie, Harry’s Pig Shop, Athens Chefs Association and a couple of others yet to
be announced will be featuring their take on current cusines. The price is $60 and WINE is included.

Food Day in Georgia is October 24th and Slow Food will have a table that day at the Farmer’s Market Courthouse event. Food Day! What could be better than that other than Sweet Tea and Fried Chicken Day in Georgia?

Taste Your Market on October 27th, 8 to 12 pm, Farmer’s Market we will have a table cooking whatever is looking the best from our diligent and dedicated local farmers. Chef Walt Light and Chef H Lamar Thomas (me) will be cooking.

The movie “Greenhorns”, November 13, either at Cine or the Tate Center, early evening, $10 per person. There will be discussions concerning small farms, restaurants and what you can do to help things along for the cause of clean, fresh foods.

Summertime in the South…or What’s In The Box?


WHAT’S IN THE BOX?
Travel food and box lunches work within a delicate boundary between tasty, safe and easy to eat. A road trip with soggy sandwiches? Fast food? Health safety fried foods and meats? Gummy starches and carbohydrates? There is a way to have the best of all worlds with proper preparation of key ingredients, observation of temperature and time sensitive holding. I am concentrating on starches and side dishes.
Always look to the hottest regions of the world when putting together a box lunch. Humidity has a huge effect on picnic foods. Keep in mind basic terms for your meal: Does it need to be kept cold? Will it hold well? Can it be assembled when you are ready to eat or will it be a completed dish? Can it withstand heat for long? Will you eat it with your fingers or are dishes, chopsticks, knives or forks necessary?
We are making barley with lemon, sumac and cilantro; cold sesame lo mein pasta; and Japanese sweet potato salad with spiced ham and roasted sweet peppers. These are easy to make, filling, full of good vitamins and amino acid. Barley is much more than a beer ingredient, soup or breakfast. Only the sweet potato salad is gluten free this month.
A good substitute for hulled and/or pearl barley is spelt. Though spelt does have gluten it has been found to be tolerated. I like using spelt, when I can find it. Spelt looks like giant barley and is based in Mediterranean and Near Eastern regions. They are both high in good cholesterol, magnesium and phosphorus. It is a popular grain today but is still scarce in some areas, hence, barley, pearl barley in particular, is our grain for this rich salad. Hulled barley is more nutritious than pearled or polished. Barley, malt and wheat gluten are the primary grains responsible for gluten intolerance.
It’s funny how pulses and grams that became animal and bird food in the last century have now made it back to the daily table as delicious and enriching starches. This change is a great thing. Imagine a life without quinoa, amaranth, barley, lentils, millet and spelt? Some may still live without these amazing grains. The loss was all mine, and many others, up until the mid 1990s when quinoa and amaranth, the super grains of the Americas came to prominence. They are perfect for our beautiful South.
Lo mein/Canton noodles are wheat, water, salt and egg. They are available flat for sauté/stir fry and round for soups. Shanghai noodles are the larger, round style, which is what many American diners are used to in American-Chinese restaurants as lo mein. You can also use ramen pasta for cold dishes. This is not the instant, which is a college staple and easy lunch dish. The Japanese ramen interpretation of lo mein that has less fat content than Chinese lo mein. My friend Karen at Fooks Grocery suggested using ramen and it was a great addition alternate recipes for cold sesame noodles. You can use dry or fresh for the cold pasta dish, Sesame noodles. This particular dish shows up as a late night take out dish in movies all the time. Sesame noodles can be addictive. If you are using up pasta in your pantry then spaghetti and linguine are both good substitutes for Canton/lo mein pasta.
Sweet potatoes are grown all over Asia. There are around 70 varieties from purple to tan. The one we are using, the Japanese sweet potato, has a thin skin and is pale yellow, not deep orange which is the more common variety here in the South and in China. It is less sweet but as high in nutrients as any other sweet potato variety. They hold well for tempura frying, chips and as a diced salad style. Japanese sweet potato starch is used along with lime starch in making gluten free shiriitake noodles. Because of their versatility and health benefits sweet potatoes are amazing in any and all preparations, and yes, it is also used for making spirits (booze!) in Africa and Asia. Imagine a friend saying they had a sweet potato hang over.
Barley With Sumac and Cilantro
There are 250 kinds of sumac. The one we use for cooking is an Arabic sumac that is red and has a lemony flavor perfect for fish, lamb and grain dishes. It is not “poison” sumac we find here in our easements and woods. You can find sumac in the Athens area at Taj Mahal on Baxter Street. There are limitless ingredients of the subcontinent here so ask questions in the store. I go there specifically to buy sumac, starches, spices, fenugreek leaves and curry leaves. Our barley today is pearl barley. Puffed and ready to eat hot in 20 minutes. For our purpose you will cook the barley the night before and then add seasonings the next day. I am using the puffed so that it is similar in appearance to spelt/farro.
You can add things like chevre and ground lamb/turkey in grape leaves, various sliced olives, almonds, kim chee, seaweed salad and just about anything that complements grains.
1 cup pearl barley
2 cups water
½ teaspoon kosher sea salt (sea salt has no ammonia or bleach)
Bring salted water to a boil. Stir in barley. Reduce heat to simmer. Stir. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
24 leaves sliced fresh cilantro
1 ounce roasted red peppers, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4th teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon sumac
Stir ingredients and cover. Let rest 10 minutes. Chill. Garnish with chopped almonds.

Sesame Noodles
You can use fresh or dried Chinese noodles for this dish. Always check the labels on Asian noodles/pasta and you will notice at least one key ingredient: wheat flour, rice flour, a bean flour or potato and tapioca flour. Western pasta is basically wheat flour. The different flours used in Asian pastas is what gives each one a distinctive flavor and texture.
Making cold or hot sesame noodles is easier and faster than most any other pasta. It took me 20 minutes to prepare this recipe. I cooked ramen and lo mein pastas to compare and found the lo mein to be better for the cold and ramen for hot/warm. Notice that the final sauce is not thick. If you make it too thick then it will become gummy upon refrigeration. Combine pasta and sauce while warm.
If you have trouble with peanut butter then use almond or cashew butter.
8 ounces lo mein
2 quarts boiling water
1/3 teaspoon kosher sea salt
Cook noodles. Drain and rinse under cold water.
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
3 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped into a paste
1/3rd teaspoon Indian red chili
½ teaspoon sambal oelek (Vietnamese Chili Garlic paste)
2 tablespoons brown sugar or date palm molasses
½ cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons peanut oil or coconut oil or corn oil
1/3 cup vegetable stock
3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
4 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon toasted white sesame seeds
3 stalks green onion, chopped
Cook brown sugar and peanut butter in the oil until it is warm throughout, add garlic, ginger and chili. Heat on medium for five minutes. Stir so that it does not stick to bottom of the pan. Stir in vegetable stock, soy and vinegar and continue to cook and stir for ten minutes on medium low.
Add noodles to sauce and cook for two minutes so that the noodles are coated and there is a light sauce. Add toasted sesame seeds.
Other garnishes can be sliced pickle, cabbage, cucumbers, cilantro, green onions, chopped nuts or zucchini cut into thin strips to resemble pasta using a microplane vegetable slicer.
Sweet Potato Salad
Potato salads have been lunchbox, picnic and travel favorites for generations and there is no reason to stop now. What we can do is expand on the many kinds of potato. We are using Japanese yam for this particular recipe but sweet potatoes are just as perfect. Be careful on how long you cook the diced potatoes as they go from gently firm to very soft in seconds. Frequently check for firmness as they boil.
The addition of honey and molasses was a last minute idea when I was cooking a test batch. You can experiment with various honeys from local uncooked which is the healthiest to any number of honey from around the country and globe. The same holds for different kinds of molasses when you start comparing grape, date, sorghum and cane. Unsulphured Blackstrap molasses is truly healthy, in fact it is the only processed sugar that is considered to posses healthy nutrients iron, calcium, magnesium, trace minerals, B and E vitamins. It has more calcium than milk.
2 tablespoons corn oil, coconut oil or grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
10 ounces Sweet potato, peeled and cut into small cubes
8 ounces Ham, cut into small cubes
1/4th ounce dried mango, minced
1/3 cup yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, small dice
2 Parsnips, small dice
1/3 cup chicken stock
3 tablespoons Chinese cooking wine
1/3rd cup Cashews
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses
1 tablespoon Roasted Italian herbs: thyme, oregano, basil
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tablespoons European butter like Kerrygold Irish, Plugra or local dairy
5 ounces Irish gouda or young swiss cheese, small cubes
Saute potato, ham, mango, onion, celery and parsnips in oil on medium high heat for five minutes. Add chicken stock and cooking wine, cook until liquid dissolves. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the cheese, and cook on medium low for five minutes. Remove from heat and add cheese. Refrigerate. You can also add any other fresh or dried fruits such as cherries, pineapple, pears, apples or grapes.
Of course any bread, cheese and cured meat is excellent for picnic, lunchbox or travel. Whether you are at home, school, on the back porch, in the mountains, by a stream or on the sea there is always a place for the new and unique plays on old standards for the picnic basket. The most important thing is to look to those close or far away and offer your peace and friendship. Any good Food can be sustainable, local and universal.

Dried flowers, a dusty letter,
Japanese figurines, yellow light
on the brick mantel shines,
wipe your eyes, look again,
and still it shines a cracked
and dingy pastel,
the morning itself seems like a postcard,
a loved memento of the life you’ve had.
But waking always brings this pause,
this gaze into the past…
You wish it was easier
to shake away the dreams,
just set them on the shelf
beside the light,
turn around and go your way,
To find something that will last.
And today these wishes
Do come true,
Today I woke and saw you.

Shirred Eggs and Liquor recipes


EGGSEPTIONAL AND EGGSTRAVAGENT SUMMER BRUNCH

Brunch is an affair that always brings to mind extravagant egg dishes, Belgian waffles, out of the ordinary sandwiches and fun drinks, either alcohol or non alcohol. This is a relaxing time where it is either a moment for lovers or for large groups. Happiness is the theme, and anytime there is good food and close friends then joy is surely expressed. Some of my fondest brunch memories are of dim sum restaurants, Southern fare and of coveted long afternoons on the Mendocino Coast watching the whales and tourists flow along with the fog.
We will be making one egg dish and several liquors and drink bases. The brunch table is a place of flowers, fresh cut fruits, rich muffins and biscuits, it is where you want to shine your best, but to also give airs of relaxation. Setting the table with carafes of drink bases, sparkling water, chilled espresso and teas adds to the sense of celebration. Any day with your beloved friends is a day to celebrate, actually.
Georgia just gets too hot too soon now so our egg is a baked dish, also called shirred eggs. I have been making various baked/shirred eggs for over 20 years. There are as many variations are imaginable. Shirred eggs tend to be British Isles, French and Scandinavian inspired dishes. The one today is Scandinavian and uses the last of the root vegetables of the season along with sausage style ground turkey. It is parsnips, carrots, onions, turnip, sweet potato, turkey sausage and farm eggs baked in an iron skillet with chicken stock, truffles and rosemary.
Do not be daunted by the prospect of making your own liquors, ginger ale and chai. We are making Kahlua, Irish cream, Beautiful and Green tea liquors. The recipes are for a quart of each. They keep indefinitely and nothing is wasted.
BRUNCH COFFEE AND ICED LIQUORS
For many people brunch means Bloody Mary and mimosa style drinks. They are mainstays for very good reasons of being both delicious and recognizable the world over as drinks that define a weekend brunch. Everyone has their own best Bloody Mary recipe. How about if we build our own liquor recipes?
Ginger ale syrup is an excellent addition to the grand old Sazerac and various bourbon cocktails. Peach bitters should have a place next to classic Angostura bitters on your bar shelf.
GINGER ALE
1lb ginger, unpeeled, cut into dice
2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and roughly chopped
2 small fresh chilies, stems removed
1.5 cups sugar
1 quart water
Combine ginger, lemongrass, and chilies in processor and mince, stop and scrape down as necessary.
Place puree in saucepan with the sugar and one quart of water, bring to boil, reduce to medium and simmer about 15 minutes. turn off heat, cool, strain, chill. This can be kept for several weeks refrigerated.
To serve, place about 1/4 cup syrup in glass full of ice. Top with soda water. Makes about 8-10 glasses. This is good with the green tea or beautiful liquors as well as an amazing ingredient to Sazerac.
A Sazerac is basically rye whiskey, and bitters. Peach Bitters works best. Muddle a sugar cube and the bitters with crushed ice. Pour the whiskey over the bitters and ice. Pour a dash of anise flavored liquor and a dash of ginger ale base into an Old Fashioned glass and roll it around the glass so that the inside is coated. Pour out the excess liquor. Strain the muddled whiskey into the glass.
CHAI LATTE
The word ‘chai’ translates as black tea.
1 cup Milk
2 cups Black tea, strong
1 Cinnamon bark
¼ teaspoon Ginger
1/6 teaspoon Cardamom
1 tablespoon Sugar or brown sugar

Combine and keep warm. Strain. Pour the liquid into cups or reserve in a sealed container in your refrigerator. You can make as much as you will drink within a couple of days.
If you are drinking it right away then steep and strain. In a separate container froth 4 ounces of milk or cream. Milk frothers are cheap and well worth owning. Add coffee liquor or Irish liquor to chai, spoon froth on top and sprinkle with fresh grated cinnamon.
KAHLUA
Makes 1 quart
1 1/2 cups espresso, cold
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4th cup molasses
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 quart vodka
Combine espresso, sugars, molasses and vanilla in a large sauce pot and bring to a boil. When it hits a boil turn heat down to a simmer and let cook for about 20 minutes. Refrigerate 12 hours. Add vodka. Cover and let stand again overnight in refrigerator. That’s it, easy kahlua and half the price. You can vary the flavors with different coffees and with alternate extracts such as a touch of almond extract. And we all know what we get when we start mixing vanilla and almond…. Irish Cream!

IRISH CREAM
This is one of the most delicious and rich liquors around. You can make it as thick as you like with the condensed milk and chocolate.
1 cup heavy cream
1 pint sweetened condensed milk
1 quart Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey
1 1/2 cups espresso, cold
1/2 cup chocolate syrup
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon dark vanilla extract
Mix it all together and then mix again in bar blender at high speed for about a minute so that it is completely blended. This will keep forever and a day in the refrigerator.
And you know what happens when you have your own homemade Irish Cream in the house? Chocolate martinis. Blend with vodka and a touch of orange liquor and swirl chocolate sauce around the top of the drink. Irish cream liquor is extremely versatile so be adventurous and see what you do with it in cocktails, cooking and as a topping for ice cream and cake desserts.
BEAUTIFUL
This is called Beautiful for the reason that it seems to make people feel that way, beautiful. This a strong liquor so use sparingly until you are used to the intensity.
1/2 cup Cointreau
1 cup Grand Marnier or Napoleon Mandarin Liquor
1 pint Brandy
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup cran-raspberry juice
1 cup orange juice

Make a syrup by heating the orange and cranberry-raspberry juices and sugar together just below a boil for 20 minutes, simmer. Remove from heat and add alcohols. You can substitute pomegranate juice and it will still be delicious. This also a great place to use the berry-vinegar drink base we made here a few months ago. Cover and refrigerate for several days before serving. This is best in a cordial glass or over ice. For fun you can serve it warm and float a tablespoon of cognac on the top and light it, when the flame dies, drink. Beautiful has many variations.
GREEN TEA LIQUOR
24 ounces strong green tea, brewed
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 ½ cups water
1 pint sake, good grade
1 cup vodka
1/2 cup orange blossom honey
1/2 cup chopped peaches

Make the tea and set aside. Combine sugar and water. Make simple syrup by bringing it to a boil and then simmering for 15 minutes. Pour into the tea and honey. Chill. After it is cold add peaches and sake, blend in drink blender. Strain into glass or plastic container and cover. Set aside in a glass or plastic sealed container in a dark, cool place for at least a week.
Green tea liquor is good with sparkling water over ice, as a martini base, with sushi, as a summer sipping liquor or with fruit juice and soda water for a brunch cocktail.
SHIRRED EGGS
For a rich European or Northern California style brunch egg there is nothing better than shirred eggs. Oven baked eggs also reduce the amount heat distributed in your kitchen during our hot months here in the South. Be careful not to over cook them, and believe me, this is easy to do. Check your dish five minutes into cooking to see if the eggs are cooking at a good pace.
You can use individual small iron skillets person or cook it all in one big iron skillet for this particular dish. Many shirred egg dishes are cooked in ramekins and even as a brunch pizza with spinach, fresh mozzarella and garlic.
3 ounces parsnips, peeled and diced
3 ounces carrots, peeled and diced
3 ounces turnips, peeled and diced
2 ounces onion, diced
3 ounces sweet potato, peeled and diced
3/4 cup chicken stock
¼ teaspoon ground thyme
¼ teaspoon basil leaves
1 teaspoon rosemary, minced
1/3 teaspoon paprika
1/3 teaspoon Indian red pepper, ground
1 teaspoon ground sea salt (sea salt because it is not bleached)
6 ounces ground turkey
2 ounces extra virgin olive oil
1 ounce butter
1 shaving of truffle for each egg. If no truffles then use rehydrated dried Chinese mushrooms or cepes.
Sauté the turkey and spices in olive oil and butter on low heat. When it is cooked add the vegetables one group at a time, pour off excess oils and then put in 375 degree oven. Cook for 15 minutes. Add chicken stock. Gently crack 4 to 6 eggs, depending how hungry you are, at compass points in the skillet. Keep the yolk and white as close together as you can by forming a well in the vegetables when you add them.
Bake for 10 minutes. Put one truffle shaving on top of each egg. If you must have cheese just grate Swiss or mozzarella over the pan and let it melt from the heat of the vegetables. Serve your friends and beloved with happiness and open conversations. The best things begin around a lively table.

Everything flowering
Everything alive
Turn anywhere
In an afternoon drive
Here and there
Trees are blooming
Roses reach out
Towards every passer by
They seem to shout
“Look at me, won’t you please?”
And in the kitchens
The cooking smells cry
“It’s time to gather here”,
And so we do,
We gather and we love,
We see all things in Spring
Are in and of God,
So we turn and say Hello,
Shake hands and smile,
Knowing all the while
This life is as good
As we make it,
We do as we should
As we would wish
Were done for us,
Fresh flowers,
Fresh foods,
True friends,
What is common
Is uncommon
And never simply
Sentimental
When done with heart
With purity and peace.

PANKO: THE OTHER WHITE BREAD CRUMB


PANKO: THE OTHER WHITE BREAD CRUMB
Modern American and Japanese food, art and medicine have an ever widening audience in both cultures. This exchange is not one sided. Our relationship is one of progress and growth. For every bite of wonderful, salt water expression in sushi, buttery Kobe beef, crisp tempura and gluten free pastas that we experience here, there is an equal reaction to hamburgers, Southern fried chicken and American-Italian foods in Japan.
This month we are exploring the uses of the coarse, white panko breadcrumb. Panko has been present in restaurants for a few decades but is fairly recent as a common grocery store product.
We import healthy foods and we export the fast food side of our culture. It would be amazing if our modern Southern, Northern California, New York and New Orleans food culture were more energetically marketed. They do appear in hotel restaurants around the world so that is a good start. Panko is one of those ingredients that make this expansion possible. We will be cooking fried panko pickles and baby bok choi; sautéed daikon (large white radish) pancakes with chili garlic sauce; and oven roasted panko salmon with orange sweet soy sauce Yes, Pacific salmon season has started!

Japanese holistic approaches to health have entered American homes with a positive integration of food, décor, mind and body. Modern American poetry has had an interesting and personal impact in Japan. Two scholastic literary collections that include things I have written have shown a great deal of interest in Japan. “American Diaspora”, a text book on the sense of geographic and cultural place for American poets; and “Last Call: The Bukowski Legacy Continues” which is a text of poetry and prose following the styles of Poet/Novelist Charles Bukowski. For every tanka and haiku that we all wrote as undergraduates, there is a contemporary American poetic form taken on in Japan and Asia. This is what makes all things “world” so beautiful, the exchange of culture through health, Art and cuisine.

Other dishes that make world foods possible are fried foods, pickles, pancakes/crepes, rice and pastas. How we prepare them is what defines recipe origins. Something as old as breadcrumbs has taken on vastly diverse manufacture and use. Some of us grew up knowing only Italian seasoned and plain breadcrumbs. Progress changes things. Japan found a way to toast bread from the inside out using electric probes in the bread dough. This way of bread baking made it possible for a whole new kind of breadcrumb, the white panko breadcrumb. It is cooked crispy from the inside out so that there is no crust and the texture is uniform throughout the bread.
Panko is coarse, white and allows for fast and crispy cooking. Progressive Chefs have found hundreds of ways of using panko throughout American and World cuisines. You can find panko in almost any grocery store. Some still keep it only in the Asian section, but most will have it alongside Western style breadcrumbs.
Bok choi or bok choy is a member of a family of Chinese cabbages. I have heard the word choi used to describe leafy vegetables in general. Bok choi has no cholesterol or fat, and is high in vitamins C and A. Raw, it has a crisp and clean flavor. I think all chois taste great, think of a marriage between baby lettuces and cucumber and you have a sense of the flavor. They are highly adaptable from raw to fried. Sesame oil, soy sauce, oyster sauce and fermented black bean (soy beans) and garlic each are compliments to bok choi. The bright flavor and crisp characteristics of bok choi is a perfect match for panko fried pickles.
The first time I saw fried pickles as a beer food was in Sausalito, CA. A table of Japanese men were eating fried pickles and drinking draft beer. I thought it was pretty cool because fried pickles are Southern and Japanese, with each culture thinking it is their own creation. That scene was in 1980. Thing is that open fires and boiling oil tend to encourage cooks to put anything to the test. Salty, sweet and sour, fried pickles take on a vibrant flavor that begs you to eat more. They are good as bar food or as an appetizer. Pilsner is the perfect beer for these crispy bar snacks. Salty and sour makes you thirsty, hence they are primary flavors in bar food.
FRIED PANKO PICKLES AND BOK CHOI
The dipping sauce is mayonnaise based. I recently bought two different kinds of Philippine vinegar bbq sauces at Fooks Grocery and in three days one is half full. They are that good. The brand is Kuratsoy from Isabel Village in the Philippines. It is a blend of coconut vinegar, “spices” and soy.
The world of vinegars is populated with white, apple cider, sorghum, cane, balsamic, pomegranate, red wine, sherry and champagne to the complex Japanese brown rice and deep, bitter Chinese black vinegar. Vinegars, alcohol, stocks, fruit and vegetable juices are all important for deglazing hot woks and sautéed dishes as well as important ingredients to our sauces and marinades. Never underestimate the quality of a vinegar, it’s all a happiness.
Isabel Village Mayonnaise
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons Dukes mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Kuratsoy extra hot thin bbq vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/6 teaspoon thyme
1/6 teaspoon basil
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
Combine well and refrigerate. Tightly covered, this will keep for several weeks.
Bok Choi
3 bok choi, washed, thick slice
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Slice and toss with oil. Refrigerate until ready to eat.
Pickles
10 dill pickles, 5 cut in spears and 5 cut in thick oblong slices
¼ cup milk
¼ cup Greek yogurt (plain)
Combine milk and yogurt, stir and add pickles. Refrigerate for two hours.
1/3 teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground Indian chili or ground red chili pepper
1/3 cup unbleached white flour or brown rice flour
1 cup panko
Mix dry ingredients.
1 quart corn oil heated to 350 degrees

Remove pickles from marinade and drain. Put the dry ingredients in a plastic bag. Add the pickles to the bag. Shake. Take pickles out of bag, shake off excess starch and fry for 2 minutes. Using a spider or slotted spoon lift pickles out of oil and drain.
Scatter the bok choi over a serving platter, spoon Isabel Village Mayonnaise in the center of the plate and around the edges. Stack pickles on the bok choi. Garnish with chopped Chinese parsley/cilantro and very small amount of coarse sea salt and crushed dried pepper. Dried jalapeno is very good pepper choice for this dish. It can be found in the Latin section of the grocery store along with several other kinds of dried pepper. At one time or another, try them all, learn how each has an important flavor.
DAIKON PANCAKES WITH CHILI GARLIC SAUCE
This is comfort food at it’s finest. My favorite is Hong Kong style but there are Korean, Taiwanese, Beijing, Vietnamese and of course Japanese styles as well. Our chili garlic sauce is simply, Srirracha. Srirracha was made by a Vietnamese immigrant in Los Angeles back in the 1970s because he was trying to recall his grandmother’s home cooking. “Rooster sauce” became an international hit.
Daikon is a mild white radish. They look like huge white parsnips. They are good raw or cooked. Daikon is used a lot in sushi restaurants. It is great cold to mild weather food. One of my fondest food memories is that of eating radish cakes hot off the stove, it was snowing and we were in comfort food heaven inside looking out at late winter. Radish cakes are popular at dim sum restaurants.
1 ½ cups daikon, peeled and shredded
2 cups cold water
Soak in cold water 30 minutes. Drain.
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 clove garlic, crushed and minced
½ onion, minced
1 egg, beaten
½ cup panko
1 teaspoon Five Spice Powder
1 teaspoon paprika
4 ounces corn oil for frying

Combine. Add daikon to mix and mash it all together. Shape eight pancakes. Heat oil in large iron skillet and pan fry until crisp outside, hot inside. Serve with Srirracha and chopped cherries for a complete set of flavors. Srirracha is also good mixed with mayonnaise.
PANKO SALMON
Panko is the star today but with salmon season beginning it is a tough call as to what is our feature today. Pacific salmon are: Chinook, chum/keta, sockeye, coho/silver and pink. Stick to this set of salmon and you will never go wrong.. What does this mean? Buy Alaskan to Washington Pacific salmon in season, your body, taste buds and the fisheries will thank you. Do this, pretend that Atlantic Salmon has never been farmed in the Pacific Ocean. See how plentiful and untarnished the waters can be?
SALMON
2, 7 ounce salmon fillets, skin on (crispy skin is tasty!)
1 teaspoon pink sea salt
1 tablespoon sweet rice vinegar
Mix vinegar and salt. Rub on flesh and skin.
1 cup panko
Dredge flesh side of salmon in panko. Press it into the meat so it holds.
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon olive oil

Heat iron skillet with butter and oil. Put salmon in flesh side down. Cook three minutes. Use a fish spatula and turn. Cook two minutes and then finish in 450 degree oven for five minutes.
4 ounces Pearl River dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons date palm sugar or date molasses, or brown sugar/molasses
4 tablespoons fresh orange juice
Combine and heat over low heat until thickened. Stir as it cooks.

Set salmon on plate, drizzle sauce over salmon. Shredded carrots and zucchini, Indo-Asian pesto, and Japanese pasta is very good with salmon, and of course a side of wasabi is always welcome.
April is a big, breezy, blossoming, farmers market ready, food crazy, happy, pollinating month of rebirth and hope. Spread the love. There’s always love to spare.

For every passion
There is compassion,
With a prayer to peace,
To faith and hope,
This is our life alive
At the start of each day.
In each sunrise, sunset,
A thousand possibilities
Are cast into the world.
From the farmers we see
Heirloom seeds,
Heritage crops,
Climbing vines
Of wild sweet peas,
Peppers, peppers, peppers,
All fill the carts
Of our local markets.
And then,
Winds crash down
From the Nantahala range,
Carrying rain clouds
And the thrill
Of June tomatoes,
Silver Queen corn,
Buckets of squashes
And piles of potatoes,
This is Georgia
At the beginning of Spring,
When our hearts
Reach as high
As Jack’s beanstalk
And our spirit
Dares to touch
The heavens above.

Condiments


WHERE SWEET TURNS TO SOUR AND THE HOT REMAINS THE SAME

(The where and how of condiments)

            Wherever you are in the world it is easy to see that condiments become you. Every plate has a garnish, an extra, a special something that elevates and creates a wholly new flavor. This “something” is where condiments make a play on the plate, and in turn influence the way you experience the dish itself. Think of these examples: ketchup, mustard, chow-chow, pickles, relish, kim chee, hot sauces, soy, horseradish, Worcestershire. The scene is set for the plate by how we see fit to accompany the entrée (centerpiece). The recipes this month are sautéed chicken breast with black mustard seed-agave sweetened mustard; and iron skillet grilled firm tofu with blackberry-peach tamarind sauce.

In dining around the world there is always something that offers a sense of home. The way to understand these foods is to remember your history and experience the way in which food has relations around the globe. In turn, the way to find greatest pleasure in world cuisines is to forget your history and enjoy the food for what it is in and of itself. I particularly enjoy tasting something for the first time, something that is so indigenous and locked into a place that it is impossible to ever have this same experience any other scene in the world. The same theory applies to any set of experiences in travel, the Arts, relationships and dining.

Variations in world cuisines that were once scoffed at by stuffed shirts and xenophobes become avenues of exploration once prejudice is removed. The examples are legion. Condiments often pave the way for such culinary discovery. Chow-chow relish is a great example of confusion and discovery. It may historically be French, German, Hungarian, British, India, and Chinese. “Chou” is French for cabbage, and  “kouchumber” is a Chinese condiment. Hindi, Korean and Chinese cuisines have many hot condiments made with cabbage. A Hungarian Chef, Charles Thoth, that I trained under swore it was Polish-Hungarian in origin. This is a relish whose home may be the entire globe and not the property of any one culture. Lets look at sour cream, cucumber and onion which indicates Central Europe. Yogurt (unsweetened/plain/Greek/Indian), cucumber and onion indicates Punjab Province of India and of Greece. They taste almost the same. All “own” the dish as a signature of their cuisines. There is a lot of freedom in understanding our culinary history.

All of my food columns contain a condiment recipe, this is  how important condiments are to any dish. I try to make the unfamiliar, familiar. By doing so you are able to find ingredients and utensils that are close to home. The reason I developed a blackberry-peach Worcestershire was that I wanted to give the sauce flavors of Georgia. The mustard and Worcestershire is made so that it is friendly to all tastes and dietary requirements from gluten free to sugar free. Mustard is known the world over. Mustard is a member of the cabbage family.

In January I had a balsamic-lime mustard recipe. The reason I am reprising a mustard is to further explore just how easy it is build beyond classic yellow, brown and coarse mustards. Coarse mustards are the ones where the mustard seeds are dominant and often includes a wine or whiskey. Our black and blue mustard is all new just for you. If you start using the balsamic mustard and the black & blue mustard you will taste how versatile mustards really are in the modern kitchen. And yes, even on hot dogs and corn beef sandwiches these mustards will still have that sinus opening flavor that situates mustard in the pantheon of condiments.

Tamarind is essential to Worcestershire, as in no tamarind then no Worcestershire. Tamarind is a tree, we use the flavor from pulp of the tamarind seed. It has a slightly sour flavor and is also the source for many candies in Southeast Asia. Tamarind is one of the most versatile ingredients in world cuisines with uses from sauces to primary ingredient, to candy and hot weather drinks. Once you have tamarind extract in your kitchen start using it by the quarter teaspoon in dishes where lemon or lime are required. Using it in small amounts in Asian, South American and American recipes will get you used to how it interacts and creates new flavors. The sauce originated in Thailand and Burma.

Black & Blue Mustard

            This is a sugar free, gluten free and corn free all purpose mustard. It is good with stir fry, pork, duck, turkey, chicken and of course hot dogs, dips, hamburgers and corned beef sandwiches. You will notice that I always specify sea salt. The reason for this is because it is not bleached with any kind of chemicals to maintain white color. Salt is historically our primary method of preserving foods prior to pre 20th century refrigeration. It was not chemically enhanced. Chemical enhancing has repercussions upon the body. Remember the old commercials about how “It’s not good to fool Mother Nature”? Well, it’s not, so avoid foods that do.

4 tablespoons            Coleman’s Dry Mustard

1/2 teaspoon              black mustard seeds

1/3rd cup                    cold water

1/3rd cup                    sorghum vinegar (or cane vinegar)

2 tablespoons            lemon juice or tamarind extract

3 tablespoons            Blue agave syrup (amber)

½ teaspoon                paprika

½ teaspoon                cumin

1 teaspoon                   sea salt

Combine ingredients. Transfer to sauce pan and cook over low heat for five minutes. Gently stir for the entire time it cooks.

CHICKEN WITH THAI RED RICE

2, 7 ounce                    chicken breasts

1/4th teaspoon           ground white pepper

1/3rd teaspoon           kosher sea salt

1/3rd cup                     flour or tapioca starch

1 ounce                         corn oil

½ ounce                      olive oil

Season, flour and sauté the chicken on medium high heat for 3 minutes per side. Turn twice. Finish in 400 degree oven for 16 minutes. Set aside.

Cook Thai red rice the same way you would cook any brown rice. Red rice contains the same nutrients with a more intense flavor. It has become my favorite rice over the past few months. Just use a little salt, a star anise pod and two bay leaves when you cook this rice.

BLACKBERRY PEACH TAMARIND

You will need to buy tamarind extract at any Asian or Latin grocer. A little goes a long way. The flavor is classic British occupation Worcestershire with the best of Georgia peaches and blackberries. In the winter it is fine to use frozen fruit. I cannot recommend canned. This is good on any foods where you would use Worcestershire.

5 tablespoons            tamarind extract

4 ounces                     blackberries

2 ounces                     peaches

2 cloves                       garlic

1/4th cup                    onion, minced

1 teaspoon                   sea salt

1/2 teaspoon               fine black pepper

1/4th teaspoon            ground allspice

1/4th teaspoon            ground cloves

1                                      bay leaf

1/3rd cup                       soda water

1/3rd cup                       brown rice vinegar

Combine. Cook on stove to boil for three minutes. Puree in food processor. Strain. Set aside. This will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator. If you want a different flavor you can substitute Dr. Pepper or Coke for the liquids.

We are using extra firm tofu. To prepare tofu for cooking remove from water pack and drain. Place on plate between paper towels and gently press to remove all water from the tofu. Put in small container. Pour one cup of green salsa (salsa verde) over the tofu. Refrigerate over night.

Remove and cook either on the grill or in an iron skillet with raised grates for stove top grilling. Cook 2 minutes per side, turn twice, and finish in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.

This is good with any greens or as a classic entrée with steamed vegetables and Red Mule grits.

Knowing these two sauces is a way of welcoming the world into your Southern kitchen. My peace be with you, spread the love and open your hearths to the fires and spices of the lands outside.

Mustard seeds and you to feed

With chicken tops and tofu bottoms

Hold the ketchup toss the bottle

I’ve things to say and yous to do

With a side of this and glop like a hat

We’ll find fine trees of tamarind

Set a corn oil boil in black iron vat

Battered birds, foody words, I’m not a nerd,

Soy blocks raging and fashion designer

Everything is finer with condiment beside her

Let loose the hounds of chow town

Pluck sweet cucumbers put the bottle down

Will you eat pickles on a train in the plain?

Will you fill a bowl of tickles on a moving car

That’s here before you’ve gone too far?

Powders and chowders and marshmallow stars?

So tell the man behind a bad plan

That tradition is one thing but stale is another.

Chocolate, Maple, Sweet Almond And You


CHOCOLATE, MAPLE, SWEET ALMOND
AND YOU

Things about February: Celebrations of Saint Valentine and Love, Black History, Presidents Day, Cherry, Strawberry, Sweet Potato, the birth of James Joyce, Babe Ruth, Jules Verne, Thomas Edison, James Lowell, Winslow Homer, Victor Hugo, H W Longfellow are all part of this chilly little month, and then to top it off, February First is Baked Alaska Day. The Arts, Music, Food and Love, what can be better? Every month is a good month for food, but Love is the sole child of February. Let’s add maple syrup, pork loin and petite desserts to this Art filled month of challenge and change.
When our descriptions of favorite flavors and recipes goes beyond the senses of sight, smell, taste and feel there is only one thing left, and that thing is sound, the first Muse, Aiode: song and music. Why isn’t there a Muse of Food? Food is a long poem, a song of necessity and of romance. I’ve always seen my muse of food to be beloved friends.
A meal can be a symphony, an elaborate chocolate dessert is rhapsodic, when our table is beautiful it sets the tone. The Arts are present all around us. The Arts are what drives our minds to develop and grasp concepts and histories, the dasein of an age is seen in popular music, sculpture, philosophy, literature and paintings. This being there (dasein) is what states “I was and am here” and this is what makes things like Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Modern ages present to our understanding. A meal for one’s beloved must be a symphony of sight and flavors. This meal states that you are there for her.
Our recipes are pork with guajilla peppers, almonds, red wine vinegar and maple-tamarind glaze; and for dessert we have Date, fig and banana crepes with pomegranate molasses and honey. Make these two dishes as small bites so that you can have a fuller Valentine’s Night or soiree. There is a little bit of chocolate in each dish. Making several small tapas/bites/appetizers that can be prepared ahead and set out as part of a long night o f romance, conversation and pleasurable company gives you more time to simply be present to your companion(s).
Wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives/olive oil, honey, lentils, & almonds are the nine major food characters highlighted in the Bible. Sadly our modern grain modifications have made wheat and barley almost inedible by a significant portion of the worlds population (gluten intolerance). Happily, I am using almonds, figs, pomegranate, olive oil and honey in today’s recipes.
Maple syrup is a perfect sweetener, others are honey, blackstrap molasses, date molasses, grape molasses, extracts from the stevia plant and agave syrup. Maple syrup is graded from the best, AA through B. AA is pure, mild, light amber, it gets darker the lesser the grade which is why most of what you see in the store is dark amber Grade B. A fine point about maple syrup is that it does not freeze, so if you want to keep it indefinitely then after opening store it in the freezer. Maple syrup lasts two years unopened on the shelf, one year opened in the refrigerator and forever in the freezer. How’s that for a fantastic natural sweet flavor? Maple acts as a complement not as a puddle of syrup for our pork. All too often an inexperienced cook will overuse maple syrup (four times sweeter than sugar) on salmon and wild game dishes and then it literally leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
If you do not have maple syrup and want to make your own pancake syrup then follow this recipe for one cup of syrup:

MOCK MAPLE
½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla or maple extract

Caramelize the white sugar. Color will be tan. Heat the brown sugar water to a boil, do not stir. Add the caramelized sugar to the brown sugar water and stir/whisk until it thickens. Turn off the heat and stir in the extracts and butter.
PORK
The preferred way to cook this dish is in an iron skillet and to build the sauce with the pork as it cooks. Do not cook the pork over medium, after that it becomes dry, leathery, tasteless and inedible. Guajilla pepper is a mild, slightly fruity New Mexico pepper. We are using the dried version. Find them in any Mercado, Mexican and South Western section of the grocery store. Tamarind extract can also be found in any Mercado, Asian and Indian grocer. Tamarind is the central ingredient to all Worcestershire sauce and is widely used throughout one fourth of the worlds cuisines.
4, 2 ounce filets pork
¼ teaspoon coarse salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons potato starch, or cornstarch
2 tablespoons rice flour or wheat flour
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
10 slices white onion, thin
12 almond halves
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon tamarind
1 teaspoon Grade A or B maple syrup
Salt and pepper the 4 filets, these are also called tournedos in classic cuisine signifying thin center cuts from the tenderloin. Heat the oil and butter on medium high till it bubbles. Dust the pork in the starch/flours. Add the meat and cook one minute, turn and add the almonds, peppers and onions. Cook one minute. Turn and add the vinegar, tamarind and maple in that order. Cook one minute and then remove pork from the skillet. Swirl the sauce so that it combines and then pour over the meat.
Spinach and rose petal salad is a perfect complement to this classic dish.
CREPES
Date, fig and banana crepes with pomegranate molasses and honey. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Even better is that our crepe recipe is gluten free. Learning to use alternate flours where once wheat/barley/malt were the primary sources not only lessens our use of intensely genetic modified foods it opens us up to a new set of flavors. Like any cook I love the taste of wheat and how easily it adapts to any form of cooking. But it does not mean everything must be wheat, it’s like the bacon thing, sure it’s good but this is not sufficient reason for them to be present in every meal.
The almond bark used in the recipe is also good for making coatings for cookies and fruits. You can find this in the bakery section of the grocery store right next to the white chocolate and chocolate bark.
Except for the banana use dried fruit for this recipe. If you have fresh cherries then by all means add them to the mix. This recipe will make 14 crepes. Freeze what you do not use. Place plastic wrap between each crepe to keep them from sticking together.
First, our gluten free flour base. The recipe is enough for four batches of crepes. This is also a base for cookies. I have found this combination to be the most versatile. To increase the wheat flavor add a tablespoon each of amaranth and sorghum flour.
FLOUR
2 cups brown rice flour
2/3 cup potato starch (must be starch not flour)
1/3 cup tapioca starch
Combine and store in air tight plastic or ceramic containers.
CREPES
½ cup flour mix
1 tablespoon sugar or 2 teaspoons Splenda
¼ teaspoon fine salt
½ cup whole milk
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon rum extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Set aside:
2 tablespoons butter, melted for brushing on pan
Combine to smooth mixture in blender.
On medium, heat a 7 inch crepe pan or skillet. Brush with butter.
Pour 3 tablespoons batter into pan. Swirl so that the batter evenly coats the pan.
Do this until you have used all the batter. Put plastic wrap between each crepe as you stack them.
FRUITS
5 Dates, thin sliced
8 Figs, thin sliced
2 Bananas, chopped
2 tablespoons pistachios, crushed
2 tablespoons almond bark chocolate, grated
Combine.
SYRUP
The syrup will be dark, sweet and sour. Pomegranate molasses is very thick and slightly bitter, hence the addition of honey.
5 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
5 tablespoons local honey
Stir together till smooth and fully blended.

Roll 1 1/2 tablespoons of the fruit mix in each crepe. Set on plates. Drizzle small amount of syrup over the crepes. Dust with powdered sugar.
Happy Valentine’s Day, share your love with all your heart.

A VALENTINE
Doors open to the world,
To the heart and soul.
Open to all,
With no flag
And no demand,
Food for us all,
A world alive,
Rich and never filling,
And as I set the flowers
You stood next to me.
By the table we kissed.
Scent of dawn and guava,
Ripening and rich,
There’s not much more
I could ask,
Just to stand here,
To be here
Next to you,
With you.
Too sweet?
I don’t care,
By the kitchen we kissed.
I held your hand
And knew that by loving
You I was drawn closer
To the perpetual banquet.

RINGS AND WINGS


A SONG OF PEPPERS AND A SEA OF RINGS
WITH SUPER BOWLS AND CHICKEN WINGS

January rides in on icy rains and fog drenched midnights. January is a continuation of the parties, of giant meals and bottomless feasts of Football snacks and family meals. Planning is the key to easy times. Preparation is your best friend. “Thanks” and “More” is the response we always look for… so to the pepper patch and onion fields we go, to the seafood section and chix wing ranch. That’s right, baskets of chicken wings and shrimp rings. From Thanksgiving to Valentine’s it seems like every day is a holiday so avoiding repetition for the table is not as easy as it seems.
There are libraries full of recipes for Southern, Northern, Midwest, Rockies and West Coast winter easy foods. We have black eyed pea salsa, mustard greens and brussel sprout kimchee, Greek yogurt and peach milkshakes, pecan rice cooked with hog jowl bacon, pork ribs smoked with garam masala, lime and cayenne popcorn (in a pop corn popper or iron pot and never microwave), black bean and roasted pepper brushetta, Indian red chili spiced chocolate cookies, and the list goes on of all the wonderful worldly & creative bowls of holiday foods.
We are making jalapenos wings and seafood batter onion rings. Sometimes winter needs spicy and easy. How do we make the ordinary extraordinary? How do we resist the wings in a bag? We make the best that we can, that’s how. How do we move away from the elegance of a perfect fried onion ring without ruining the integrity of onion and the sea? By careful attention to detail, that’s how. The wings are baked and of course the rings are fried.

Normally, there is a recipe for every part of a dish but in favor to making things a bit easier we’ll skip blackening seasoning and tempura batter recipes. I apologize for the omission, yet I also trust you have favorites of both.
PICKLES, SAUCES AND DIPS

Sweet And Sour Pickled Peppers

These great Southern style pickles are perfect for adding to the bowls of rings and wings. The peppers used are fresh.
This recipe is more than you will need here but they are pickles and they will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator.
Peppers
4 ounces banana peppers, cut in rings
2 ounces jalapeno peppers, cut in rings
1 ounce serrano peppers, cut in rings (or any favorite pepper)

Make sure you slice these as thinly as possible. You can use any kind of
fresh pepper.
Blanch the peppers in 1 quart of water. Cook 3 minutes. Drain. Put the peppers into the containers you will be using for the final mix. Set aside. I use mason jars or Ziploc plastic containers.

Pickle Juice
2 ounces yellow onion, minced
2 1/2 cups rice vinegar
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed (yep, with the flat side of a knife)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons dried oregano
¼ teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Bring Pickle Juice to a boil. Cook 5 minutes. Pour over the peppers, cover and seal tight. Let stand for 2 hours at room temperature. Put into refrigerator and chill minimum 10 hours.

SPICY KETCHUP
1 cup Heinz ketchup
2 tablespoons Sweet Chili Sauce (Thai bird peppers, sugar, vinegar)
1 teaspoon Cholula Hot Sauce or Tabasco Jalapeno Sauce
1 teaspoon lemon juice
¼th teaspoon salt

Combine and refrigerate overnight. It gets better over time.
LIME MUSTARD
1/2 cup Coleman’s Dry Mustard
½ teaspoon Curry powder
1 cup cold water
½ cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons lime juice (2 limes)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon salt
Combine ingredients.
1 egg, extra large
Stir into the mix.
Heat in small pan on low heat. Stir constantly. If necessary use a double boiler to avoid lumping or scalding. Cook for five minutes. Remove and store in plastic container. Refrigerate overnight. This will keep for a month.
BLEU CHEESE DIP
4 ounces bleu cheese crumbles or gorgonzola
2 ounces sour cream
3 ounces mayonnaise
6 ounces buttermilk
1 teaspoon truffle salt or truffle oil
¼ teaspoon each oregano and basil, chopped
1 teaspoon parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, smashed and minced
2 stalks green onions, chopped
1 stalk celery with leaves, minced
Combine and refrigerate overnight. This will keep for a couple of weeks.

SHRIMP FRIED ONION RINGS

If you have calamari, crab meat or crawfish tails add small amounts to the batter for more complex flavors. We are using only shrimp for this recipe. Add beer for the liquid to the tempura when you are ready to fry the rings. Count on at least seven onion rings per person. If no beer then use carbonated/soda water.
A mix of peanut and corn oil will give you perfect balance. Peanut is high in cholesterol, but hey, it is the end of the party holiday season and why not use ingredients of the highest quality. If you don’t want to use peanut oil then use only corn oil. Vegetable oil blends are not so good for the taste or the health. Olive oil cannot handle the sustained high heat (fire hazard).
BATTER
1 1/2 cups flour
½ cup cornstarch
6 ounces shrimp, coarse ground/chopped in food processor
1 tablespoon blacken seasoning, Bay or Tony Chechere.
Add to tempura batter. Stir.
GLUTEN FREE BATTER (preferred for flavor)
Gluten free is very easy once you get used to it and when you have the various flours in your kitchen. I prefer the gluten free flavor and texture over the flour based for this recipe. Remember than gluten intolerance is generally confined to the gluten in wheat, barley and malt. Not all glutens are alike.
½ cup potato starch
1 tablespoon sweet potato starch
½ cup white rice flour
1/4th teaspoon xanthan gum (xanthan is a bush)
½ teaspoon baking powder
Combine so that xanthan is evenly distributed.
1 extra large egg, beaten
1 cup beer, very cold
Whisk all ingredients together just until it has combined. If you over blend it will become too thick and act more like a pancake batter than tempura. If 2 cups of batter is not enough just double the batch. Do not save remainder.
ONION RINGS
28 onion rings, cut thick
1 cup all purpose unbleached flour
Dust the onion rings in flour and shake off excess.

FRY OIL
1 cup peanut oil
2 cups corn oil

Dust onion rings in flour, then into the batter. Use a deep iron fry pan or home fryer. Slowly add rings to 350 degree oil. Fry three minutes to crisp. Shake off grease. Dump rings on paper towels and then into bowls. Garnish with your home made sweet and sour pickles.
Serve rings and spicy ketchup in bowls or on large platter. Serve ketchup and mustard in a bowl for each guest.
CHICKEN WINGS
This is a take on the late 20th century classic “buffalo chicken wings”. The advent of this product alone sent the once cheap drumettes and wings into a high cost snack. For wing lovers the world over, this increase was not a problem. If you want to be overwhelmed with recipes just type in “chicken wings” and see what happens! There is a recipe for every taste in Super Bowl or simply super bowls, so here is another for the record.
All hot wings seem to call for bleu cheese and celery so we are making a dip to accommodate this great garnish. If you do not have truffle salt that is OK. Buy an ounce dry mushrooms. Grate very fine with “Microplane” or basic box grater. Mix with teaspoon mushroom powder with teaspoon kosher salt. Kosher salt is for preparation and cooking, regular grind salt is for table seasoning. This is an important and necessary distinction often overlooked in recipes. If you do not have truffle oil you can use hazelnut oil which is readily available at most grocery stores.
WINGS
Buy fresh wings at the grocery store. Separate drumette and wing joint with a knife. Wash in cold water. Pat dry. Keep wings cold during prep time.
You can substitute “chicken seasoning” for the thyme, oregano and coriander.
3 pounds wings, fresh
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon coriander
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon jalapeno, minced
1 teaspoon roasted red chili paste

Thoroughly mix the seasonings and then coat the wings. Store in large Ziploc bag or plastic container overnight.
Remove from refrigerator and arrange on baking pan. Bake 450 degrees for 20 minutes, turn wings over and bake another 20 minutes.
Put in big bowl or on a platter with the dip in individual bowls for each person.
Super Bowls are a lot of fun. They tend to be easy to prepare and you can serve a lot of people from one big container.  You cannot go wrong as there is always an audience for big bowls and big love!

A new year speaks in smiles and hugs,
In the toasts, in the promises kept,
In the foods and open hearths
Where all our loves are all our lives,
And all our friends are all our loves.
I believe in the honesty implied,
In the trust not forsaken,
In the way we care for each other
And not in how some lie or slander.
Knives are best on cutting boards
And never used in the figurative back.
Being honest is not merely
Pretending so or as something
Twisted in business deals.
A world at war is born in ways
From the smallest detail
To governments and power,
To control and use force on the weakest.
What is done to one is done to the many.
We are here to honor and share,
To seek love, to bond friendships,
Trust between friends is to learn
Trust for the ones we do not know,
A cynic finds ways around all loves,
But for a beautiful, ideal reason,
For the world that is made real
We can choose who are our friends,
And by doing so we express love,
Expressing love is expressing God.
Hold this close for all in our lives,
Cherish the great truth
And say it again,
Expressing God is expressing Love.
Things feel better now, don’t they?
Hello 2012, an open hand
And an open heart is the best
Of all ways to say Happy New Year!

Grill, Smoke And Pekin Duck


SMOKY DELIGHT AND COVERED PITS,
GRILLING IS SLOW AND DUCK JUST MAKES IT BETTER

Barbecue: Noun, verb and adjective? All three. It is considered an outdoor cooking event, as in “going to a barbecue”. It is the covered grill/pit we cook on/in, as in hole in the ground, grate over coals, Brinkman, Weber or Big Green Egg. It is the food itself as in bbq pork, beef, lamb, duck, quail, pheasant, chicken and of course any shell fish and fish.
There are several kinds of wood used for barbecue where each has a specific purpose for seasoning the meat with smoke and heat. Bbq is cooking with heat and smoke, not fire. If you are cooking over fire then it is grilling, and even then you really only want the heat, not the flames. If any pork or beef states that it is “flame kissed” it means that the flesh is scorched, which leads us to understand that burned is not barbecue, no, no, no, burn and scorch ruins the meat. Any discussion of barbecue will bring out regional arguments as to which it is that has the best method, and what constitutes barbecue meat. Anything can be barbecued, but for Georgians a barbecue is pork. We use beef and chicken only under duress to satisfy Texas and Midwestern cattlemen, and to use the bird for something other than grilling or frying. Heat and smoke only, no flame.
The debate about which wood is best for any particular kind of barbecued meat depends a lot on personal choice, but there are ideals or forms of charcoal wood to which we appeal and they are:
Alder very nice for fish, pork and poultry.
Apple, great with pork and poultry, and I almost always use this for pork. I don’t use it with beef but some do.
Cherry is a good general wood for anything you’re smoking.
Coconut burns very hot with little ash and a nice clean taste. I have always been happy with coconut charcoal.
Hickory simply is what makes beef taste more like good pork and is THE wood for most barbecues.
Maple, good with pork and poultry.
Mesquite, strong smoke/high heat, used a lot but for some the taste is too strong. I rarely use mesquite.
Oak, great with red meat, game and firm fish.
Jack Daniels Oak Barrel, now this lump charcoal is the guilty pleasure in that it imparts the sour mash flavor in addition to the power of oak.
Pecan, a good general wood that imparts a special nutty but not overpowering smokes to the food. The smoke matters a lot in barbecue, as it is what keeps the sauce from overpowering the meat. Wood chunks is best for slow smoke, the chips are best for adding smoke and flavor during the last quarter of cooking time. When you are doing a slow smoke keep the temperature under 190 degrees. If you are baking breads or pies then have the temperature at 450 to 500 degrees.
I use Red Oak or Big Green Egg Lump to get the wood chunks going strong. Red Oak and BGE lump is the same. Wicked Charcoal and Cowboy Charcoal are both top of the line lump charcoal. Do not use seasoned briquettes in a Big Green Egg, Primo or Komodo ceramic as the lighter fuel in the products ruins the ceramic and imparts a near eternal nasty gasoline flavor. Stay away from the matchless briquettes or lump precisely for this reason of bad flavor. Electric inserts work the best for guaranteed fire.
One of the little recognized American masters of barbeque is Bobby Seale, of the Civil Rights movement, Black Panthers and Chicago 8 infamy. Somehow he found a way to relate the American struggle to barbecue! Barbecue is what he talked about most during the time between trials. Food is culture and we know our culture by our food. Why bring a 1960’s radical and intellectual into a conversation about BBQ? I mention him because we all come together at the barbecue. He even wrote a cookbook called “Barbeque’n With Bobby”, and it’s actually very good. There are millions of Barbecue books, speaking of “Bobby” even Bobby Flay has a great bbq book. Is there such a thing as a bad BBQ book? All people are equal over the pits and smoke of a well seasoned and rubbed rump, shoulder or back rib. We are one by the fire.
Barbecue speaks to the power of marinades and searing, of hickory and oak, of basting, and of keeping sugar off the meat. For some there is no barbecue without hickory, but then again, there’s this need to seek out other flavors, other smokes and heat that are available today.
Pit masters demand hickory because hickory is what is the overall best for slow smoke and heat. Mesquite is too hot and too much for pork and beef, but is perfect for oily fish. In Georgia we grow up with pecan, peach, apple, plum, poplar, oak and hickory. We use more hickory, oak, pecan and maple because that is what has always been around in the Georgia woods.
We know barbecue when we go out to eat because there is that unmistakable taste of real smoke throughout the meat. Smoke and heat. Anywhere in the world where there is slow cooked meat over seasoned charcoal smoke you know that something good is waiting. You have to be able to taste the meat all the way to the bone, throughout the meat, it must be tender, otherwise it was either not smoked in a covered state or worse, an imitation with smoke seasoning. Liquid smoke products should be outlawed.
Purity of the pit is what makes barbecue philosophers such great thinkers, whether radical to the left or radical to the right, barbecue philosophy is about one thing, and that thing is heat, smoke, meat and togetherness at the pit, the barbecue pit, togetherness. But there is something about barbecue that brings out the extremist in many of us. Why is that? Think of it as maintaining the integrity of something, something dear to the red hot center of a passionate heart.

Now a pit can be a hole in the ground, a kettle, a bullet shaped tube, a pile of bricks and stones, and even an egg shaped ceramic beast. What makes the pit important beyond the smoke is the baste. Barbecue baste is not barbecue sauce. Barbecue sauce is something done after the fact of being barbecued. Basting is what we do to the meat during the marinade and during the cooking. No sugars during the cooking process. None. Chinese bbq is done with smoke and heat, marinades and rubs, and then of course the sauce that comes after it has cooked, if a sauce is needed at all. Hawaiian pit barbecue is right on the target, bury the pig over hot coconut coals, and then cover it with banana leaves and wait. I highly recommend banana leaves over the meat for slow cookers. I really don’t know what they do in the North and Northeast.
Tomato, hoisin and soy, mustard or vinegar does not have an emotional context to me, but to some it is sign of a possible fight. I like all types of smoke and baste, and even sauce. My Mother and my Aunt both refused to eat a slow smoked pig because it had vinegar baste and not a dry rub hence the smoke was hidden. I didn’t hear much of the reasoning; I was buried ear deep into a side of delicious smoky and vinegary country leg. Does it mean I’ll eat any barbeque? Yes. Just that some true barbecue is better than others because that is what we are familiar with. I prefer Georgia tomato and Chinese soy based sauces for my barbecue. I will never turn down a pig because of vinegar or mustard, though I will refuse based on being too full.
Prejudice aside, lamb, beef, chicken, pork, duck, salmon, game, tofu, bread and all beans can be cooked on a high quality smoker. Baste/marinade, heat/smoke type and sauce are what characterize barbecue. Any of the listed woods will give you a good smoke, a sacred pit of fire.
Smoked Duck is always welcome. It is one of my favorites. Thaw in the refrigerator. Marinade for 24 hours. Smoke for 6 hours at 175 degrees. Once it is in the smoker do not lift the lid until after 3 hours. White Pekin or Long Island Duck (spelling is correct as the name of the duck breed is PEKIN) is the one we use the most for smoking. The other kinds of duck farmed in America are Muscovy (cross of pekin and moulard), Moulard and Mallard (the original farmed duck in America. All domestic descend from Mallard except muscovy). Use hickory, apple and Jack Daniels wood for the grill.
MARINADE
1 White Pekin Duck, rinse cold water
10 ounces Blueberry-Pomegranate juice
4 ounces Dark soy sauce
6 ounces Sorghum or Sugar Vinegar
2 ounces Ginger, thin sliced
4 cloves Garlic, mashed
1 teaspoon Allspice
1 teaspoon Black Pepper, coarse grind

SAUCE
10 ounces Marinade
2 ounces Black Strap Molasses
1 ounce Dark Brown Sugar
½ ounce Mint, stems and leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon Roasted Thai Chili peppers
3 ounces Sour Mash Whiskey
1 tablespoon Cornstarch
3 ounces Cold Water
Combine all except cornstarch and water. Bring to boil, turn down to simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Combine cornstarch and water. Stir into sauce. Heat for 10 more minutes.

Combine. Using a tea pitcher or a deep container submerge the duck in the marinade. After minimum 24 hours, maximum 3 days, prepare your smoker/grill with hickory and apple wood. Adjust baffles so that the temperature is 175 degrees. Place the duck back side down. Smoke 3 hours. Turn it over. Baste. Smoke 3 hours. Paint with sauce. Cook 1 hour.
At service you can slice it up and garnish with sliced green onions, mint and chopped pineapple and pear. Chinese pancakes/crepes are wonderful for wrapping the sliced duck and garnishes. Merry Christmas and may all your loves and friendships be blessed with purity of intention, unconditional heart and full of conversation, understanding and warmth.
We gather around the fire
And tell stories of life
As it was, now and yet to be,
Feel the chill evening
Warm up rich with smoke
And the smell of spice,
A handful of water soaked
Pecan shells ready
To be nestled under the grates,
A book full of loves gone
And treasured, a love now
Held high into the stars,
Trailing along in wisps
Of steam, like a happy comet
Sailing into the December sky,
Christmas songs and prayers
Offered and shared,
Smiles and hugs,
Our eyes sparkling
Reflections of Yule lights.
Our hearts pure
Our passions real
From Advent to New Years
Every day is sacred
Every night together
Is like the first,
All wish is for Peace
For a world that learns
To love and to cherish
One another.
Learns to love all Life,
Just like this,
This moment here
When we touch and are alive.

GLUTEN AND CORN FREE COOKIES, BISCUITS AND FRUITED VINEGAR DRINK


YOU AND ME BABY, WE STICK LIKE GLUE(TEN)
(WHEAT AND ALCOHOL FREE, A TREAT FOR ALL SEASONS)

There’s a change in the weather and there’s a change in the way we eat today. Our column this month casts a sieve and a whisk into the world of gluten free dining. Celiac intolerance is an inability to digest wheat, barley or malt in any form. Our recipes today are small, intense portions. We will be making a sweet and tart mixed fruit “soda”, buttermilk biscuits and chocolate-almond cookies. This way we have delicious alcohol free and wheat free additions. It is the holiday season. You do want everyone to enjoy the feasts, including the delightful bites of sweet treats and beverages.
First, a few paragraphs on what is gluten and gluten intolerance. It is not an allergy, it is an intolerance. What is gluten? Think of gluten like this: GLUE-Ten, glue. Makes “sticks to your ribs” a truth rather than just a folk saying. Why one cannot eat wheat, barley or malt, i.e. celiac, or it is a choice is not the concern of the cook, the concern is that we meet expectations and rise to the occasion. The host(ess) is here to serve. Chefs of all degree have had to learn how to accommodate gluten intolerance. It is not an allergy. It is not a fad. It is not a super diet. It is not a choice. It is a reaction to the increased gluten, a protein, content of wheat, barley and malt since the mid 1960s. Some bodies just are not built to withstand the way that fats and other food particles simply cling to the intestines and are not digested.
The wheat of today is over 100% more gluten rich than the wheat of our grandparents. This is the result of genetically modified seeds (GMO) used to increase the weed and insect resistance, increase gluten protein and to be drought resistant. In many ways these are good things but on the other hand remember that you are what you eat eats. Extreme question: Are you really prepared to have a weed resistant body? Direct Question: Do you or do you know someone who is intolerant? Ask them about the symptoms and what their doctor had to say on the topic. Our bodies are not yet developed in ways to digest these certain things.
Many seeds have been FDA approved without proper long term testing. If we knew a significant number of our populace were gluten intolerant then these super seeds would not have been OK’d for use. A strong food regulation board would have thoroughly tested the results over time. One out of one hundred and thirty three people are gluten intolerant. It is not an allergy, it is intolerance to wheat, barley and malt in any degree. Even if something is fried in the same oil it can cause a severe reaction. Caveat Emptor! Wikipedia users as it does not always tell the full truth. Research Celiac and gluten free sites for exact discussions on what works.
I started working on gluten free recipes about six years ago when the situation began to regularly appear in my customer requests. I researched the topic. I wanted everyone to enjoy the “good stuff”, thus my foray into wheat free began. I was fortunate to cook with Dr. Sanjay Gupta for a Celiac Awareness demonstration at CNN (He is as nice a person as he appears on screen.).
The alternate flours used are easy to find. The measurements must be exact. We do not roll out the biscuit or cookie dough, the gluten free pastry doughs are lightly kneaded, cook times and temperatures are different, the dough is often wetter than is common to White Lily or King Arthur flours. I wish White Lily and King Arthur would enter the gluten free market. Once you learn how to cook without wheat you learn that it is more the flavor rather than gluten of wheat that is hard to replicate. Admit it, the flavor is nice. It took me a while to stick to the exact recipes for basic flour mixes but once I did the results were delicious.
Walmart has brown rice flour, rice flour and xanthan, Publix has xanthan, Fooks (Asian Markets)has rice, sweet rice, potato, sweet potato and tapioca starches and Taj Mahal (Indian markets) has sorghum and many others like amaranth, lentil, rice and millet flour. For gluten free baking you will need to make master flour mixes. Add the xanthan at the time of baking, not as part of the mix. Keep moisture free as these fine flours will go Elmer’s Glue on you in a quick minute. The different flavors and textures are amazing. For those who know me they’ll get a laugh to find that there are 16 different flours and starches on my shelves!
Research requires thorough testing for best results. Anyone can read false reports on Wiki, but trust a Chef for trial and error. Subscribe to Cook’s magazine for complete discussions on anything food related. As an aside, I like regular soft winter wheat White Lily flour and King Arthur/Lancelot because the gluten content of their various flours work perfectly for mainstream baking. They are easy to work with and have guaranteed results. The gluten and the quality of the flavor is precise. Getting the gluten free flours to reach this stage of perfection is the task for us all. If you follow the recipes you will have this guarantee.
Yes, experiments are not always a big hurrah. You will benefit from our mistakes and successes. Chefs are here to pave the way for cooks to follow, let the pioneers get the arrows…Ouch! My big flop was a batch of biscuits when I mistakenly added twice the amount of xanthan gum. Xanthan gum is a powder made from a bush. It creates the elasticity same as gluten without gumming up your digestive tract. They were perfect outside and gummy inside. Lesson: Level off the measuring spoons and cups with a knife drawn across the top of the receptacle. When a cook speaks of the tip of the spoon it is both literal and metaphor. Xanthan, guar and modified tapioca starch are the natural wheat gluten replacements. If you are adverse to reading books, which seems a terrible malaise in itself, then here is a link to a valued and frequently fact checked site for Celiac Awareness: http://www.celiaccentral.org/ There are an amazing number of books on gluten free cooking. You have to read and find which ones speak directly to your own cooking skills and flavor preferences.
Now, about alcohol free drinks, it does not have to be super sugared sodas, fruit drinks or the sole domain of teas and coffees. We have learned that a little vinegar every day keeps you healthy in several ways, from respiratory to digestion it is a good thing. The Southern palate is drawn to sweet so my recipe here is sweeter than that in Japan or in Japanese sushi bars. I make a persimmon and apple cider vinegar with sugar for a tablespoon every day now. My deeply Southern Mother swears by a shot (1 ½ ounces) of apple cider vinegar every day for good health. She is healthy.
Making fruited vinegar drinks is millennia old for Japan and China. The sweet and sour in addition to the health benefits stand as reasons why it has been used for so long. After all, at the end of the season what do we do with the stone fruits and berries from the last harvest? We freeze, make pies or make drinks. My recipe here is comprised of three different fruits but you can use any single berry or stone fruit that you have in abundance. I make my own fig balsamic by adding dried figs to regular balsamic and letting it steep for a month. Food is this easy. For the best foods all you have to have is the information and the desire to make your own. If you are making it then you know for sure that it is pure and as local as possible. Remember that if you are cooking for someone who is gluten intolerant then your cooking area must be completely wheat free for the duration of the preparation. A mere puff of wheat dust can set off reactions from debilitating to extreme discomfort.
Also you will notice that corn starch is absent. Corn has seen dramatic changes in composition over the past 30 years and reactions are showing up more and more. Except for organic and small farms ALL corn, soy, peanuts in Georgia are GMO. Nationally, almost all wheat is GMO. If the pollen from GMO plants blow over into organic farms then the organic becomes infected with whatever is implanted into the genetic structure of the host plant. Round Up, the weed killer, is in ALL (Monsanto is “the” supplier) GMO wheat, peanut, barley, soy, corn and most other vegetable seeds. How did this happen? Shortcuts around long term testing is how it happened. India, Africa and Europe have shown that it is possible to farm without GMO seeds. GMO has to be marked as such in the grocery stores in Europe. There are restrictions on what produce can be imported from the US into Europe because of our forced use of GMO seeds. GMO seeds are infertile. Yes, every discussion of gluten and corn has a bit of preaching.

ALL PURPOSE BROWN RICE FLOUR MIX & CHOCOLATE COOKIES
Note that I add sorghum, amaranth and millet flour depending on what I am baking. For example, I add 1/5th part sorghum to my cookies to increase the ability to balance the sugars. I add two tablespoons to amaranth to basic biscuit mix (2 cups flours) so that the wheat flavor is increased. Millet is used in savory pastry dough to help it stand up to salty and meat flavors. All of these flours are from wheat and peanut free processing plants.
You can use either Crisco (all Crisco is now nontrans fat) if they are vegan, or a balance of butter and cream cheese. Egg can be replaced by “Ener-G”; a mashed up half banana; ½ cup apple sauce; 1/4th cup whipped firm tofu; nutritional yeast and in some cases adding coconut powder with the banana, and apple or tofu increases the delicious factor.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease two baking pans.
MASTER MIX
2 cups Brown rice flour, fine grind
2/3rd cup Potato starch (not flour)
1/3rd cup Tapioca starch
1 teaspoon Sweet rice flour

CHOCOLATE ALMOND COOKIE
At time of baking add:
1/4th cup Amaranth flour (optional but tasty)
1 ½ teaspoons Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Xanthan gum
1/4th teaspoon Ground cloves
1/4th teaspoon Allspice
½ teaspoon Fresh ground cardamom, preferably black pods
Add to dry mix.
½ cup Semi Sweet Chocolate chips
½ cup Almonds
Crush chocolate and nuts together to coarse texture and set aside.
2 large Eggs
1 teaspoon Dark vanilla extract
6 ounces Butter
2 ounces Cream cheese
1 cup granulated sugar or Splenda for baking
½ cup light brown sugar or Splenda Baking Brown Sugar

Whip fats and sugars together with electric whisk on medium until it is creamy. Add egg and vanilla, whip on medium until fluffy or 2 minutes.
Whip dry flour mix into the sugar. When it is combined add the chocolate and almond. It will be pretty thick so do not over mix. At this point mix so that it is pliable. Finish by squeezing the batter with your hands a couple of times.
Spoon dough onto pans and shape into small 1 ½ ounce rounds. Keep them 2 inches apart. Bake 10 minutes. Cool on cookie racks.
You can add coconut or any dried fruits instead of chocolate or almonds. The master batter is reliable. Almond flour is a leap forward but is expensive. If using almond flour then make it 1 cup almond flour and 1 cup brown rice flour.
BROWN RICE AND SORGHUM FLOUR BISCUIT MIX
If your guests are vegan then you can use Ener-G or nutritional yeast.

MASTER BISCUIT MIX
1 cup Brown rice flour, fine grind
2 cups Tapioca starch
½ cup Sorghum flour
STAGE 2
At time of baking add:
2 teaspoons Baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons Baking soda
2 teaspoons Salt
1 teaspoon Sugar
2 teaspoons Xanthan gum
Thoroughly combine.
STAGE 3
½ cup Butter, grated and frozen
2 cups Buttermilk, cold (can sub Almond, soy or rice milk)
1 tablespoon Apple cider vinegar, cold
1 large Egg, beaten
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix dry ingredients. By hand mix in the butter so that the batter resembles oatmeal in texture. Add buttermilk, vinegar and egg. Combine by hand or with sturdy spoon. It is a bit loose, right? That is the way it is supposed to look. Do not knead or roll out with rolling pin. You will spoon it onto the pan.
Lightly grease sheet pan. Cookie pan is too thin, use classic thicker style. Spoon the dough out into 16 t0 20 dough balls. If you want more circular form then wet your hands and gently shape them.
Bake 15 to 18 minutes until golden brown.
(optional: 2 tablespoons Amaranth Flour for whole wheat flavor)

SWEET AND SOUR BERRY SODA
This is definitely at the top of the list of easy and delicious. The only difficulty is letting it sit, tightly covered and air free in a plastic container or mason jar for 4 days. Since it is a fruit and vinegar concoction if you taste it before the cooking with sugars then you will pucker up same as any taste of vinegar. The beauty of this drink is that it is pure health wrapped in low cost and sweet carbonated glory. It is Japanese in origin. You can use any kind of sweetener for this drink, from white sugar to palm and jaggery, and if you are cutting out sugars then use Splenda, Stevia or unfiltered brown/amber Agave syrup.
Macerate and cure for 4 days:
2 ½ cups peaches, peeled and sliced
2 ½ cups blackberries
2 ½ cups blueberries
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon ginger, finely minced
Combine and cook:
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup distilled water
Bring everything to a boil. Turn down to simmer and let it cook for 30 minutes. If it is too thick add a little more water and sugar. Frequently stir.
Strain, mash the fruit as much as you can so that it releases all the good flavor. After straining you can certainly add a little more vinegar and cook the fruits until they are broken down as far as they can go.
At service you will fill a pint glass with ice and add 3 tablespoons of the berry vinegar. Finish by filling the glass with sparkling (carbonated, soda) water.
As you have learned grocery stores are always overcharging for things that are “free”. By adding a few important flour mixes and fruit drinks to your home cooking time you find that making it yourself is both economical and better for you. Fresh is always best. Local and fresh makes it perfect. Peace.
Filling clay urns,
Lighting candles to the night,
Standing on the roadside,
mountainside,
Fast, rocky creek splashing
over moss and fern,
A wind stirs up cloudbanks
on the other side,
Year long drought
giving up the silence,
The rains come.
Gauguin bright leaves
Flurry, stir, rush up
and then down the hills,
Deep orange full moon shines
hard on the carnival of color and shadow,
Illuminated, we turn to face the summit,
The smell of turned earth, the desire
Inside the heart of every season
Reveals itself as a charm of the senses,
And all my senses now sing praise
Of the Holy and our Love.