There Really Is Only This [poem; passion; Suburban Pastorals]


THERE REALLY IS ONLY THIS
Roaming, running errands in the grey winter afternoon,
thinking of better moments, of more loving faces
than all the frowns in the cars around me.
And the radio plays “It’s A Beautiful Day” and I sing along,
ah yes, it is a beautiful day in it’s own way…..
but it could be better still, and my memories tumble,
roll and materialize with images of heaven, of all beloved.

Warm daylight, she moves across the room
with a bounce in her step,
and her loose black robe falls back an inch
to show her perfect firm tan and welcoming breast,
she turns her head and smiles,
and as she turns her mass of black hair follows,
and cape like it wraps around her shoulders
and rests on her right arm, and she brushes it back.
And me, I sit and idolize her.
And all the lands and loves and places of my past
dissappear in an instant as I see that she is all there is.

I jump to follow her, to hold her in my arms,
to breath her in, to taste the sweat on her neck and cheeks.
And my head fills with the smells of crushed allspice and lemon,
of salt and the aromas of sea winds at night.
In this moment lingering, in this eternity before we kiss
I see the flashing lights behind my eyelids,
and as I open them to see if this is real, if this is true,
I look into her deep sensual, almond brown eyes,
and slowly merge into her vision, into her body.

Soft caress of lips, a touch of our teeth,
and I feel what can only be called an elegance,
an elegant curl of her tongue around mine.
And as we hold and explore, pass our hands over each
others body, press harder and harder our mouths together,
I move her away, so slight and dear,
and with three fingers lift the edge of her gown
to move it down and around her curving waist,
shifting her weight, dropping her arms,
her clothing drifts like feathers to the floor around her feet.

Thin, long and silky, she stands amid the crumpled cotton
around her ankles and folds her arms around my head
to grasp the hair at the back of my neck,
she bends her own head back, and as I twine her around
my wrist she leans into me and nibbles on my Adams apple,
with tiny snapping, and then quick breathing in my ears,
she leads me as she kisses me into the gauze lighted
and intoxicated atmospheres of our bed room.
And as I disrobe with her hands guiding mine
I feel this way, this way of so long ago when love was new,
and the body was unknown, I shiver and tremble
just a little bit, and press her into the mass of blankets
on our unmade bed, press her into the pillows with a force
that exposes my lust and love for her,
and as she lays back and looks up at me, I see her as laughing,
sexy, inviting, mysterious and sensual all at once,
I see her with all my body and spirit,
and her touch, her smells, her tastes and hugs and kisses
rush in and shake me from the foundation up into my heart.
And I think, so this is love, this is really love,
and I feel this is the body this i s the only body,
the only love for me from this day forward for all my life.

Not enough, no it’s never enough, we wrestle and we melt,
and she rolls over to show me the watery curves of her thighs
and hips as they effortlessly flow upwards into her back.
She tosses her head and catches me adoring her,
she catches me smiling at her grace and her beauty,
at her slim hips, at her tight skinned ginger hot flesh
that I so love and that I so cherish with abandon,
and as I lower my head between her legs and kiss her vagina,
and inhale the sweetness of her from all over,
she hums, she quietly giggles, and she fills the room
with a beauty only captured in the lights of the Milky Way,
with a beauty only seen in the form of the mythic Helen,
and so drunk on her flesh, so high on her spirit,
I rise up on my knees and enter her moist world of love and sex.
And as we move I have this feeling that I never want to come,
that I want to be inside her forever, that I just want to feel
her for this moment as a divine moment held in time,
in this place in this green room in this womans grasp,
and she rears up and bounces like a wild mare on the plains,
and I lose myself inside her, inside her where I belong,
where I long to be……………..shoutin

g, heavy breath,
I charge into her, I leap into her, and she just opens and lets
me in, and as I relax and once again press my self onto her,
she exhales, she laughs, she touches me so tender,
my shining loving Taiwaness, and we roll over
into each others arms and hold like there really is no tomorrow,
like there really is no other place to be.
And you know, there isn’t.
There is no place to be but in her arms, her in mine.

And I drive on home from the grocery store,
smiling at the other cars passing around me.
I don’t give a damn. My spirit is full with this woman
of the Song of Songs with this woman of my life.

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Fried Mango Chevre With Basil Poblano Vinaigrette [food, article, Lily And Sweet Fire]


FRIED CHEVRE AND BASIL POBLANO VINAIGRETTE

MANGO CHEVRE
4 ounces cream cheese
4 ounces montrachet goat cheese
½ mango peeled and pureed=3 tablespoons puree
Mix it by hand until smooth. Don’t over mix, stop when smooth and light yellow. Refrigerate for one hour. Pat into 8, one ounce little cakes.
The next stage is flour, eggwash and roll in breadcrumbs. Use the dry hand-wet hand method when breading. One hand for dry ingredients and one hand for wet ingredients, this way you never cross over from batter to flour and your hands aren’t caked up with the breading.
In three separate pans:
1/3 cup all purpose flour
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon water, whisked into egg
½ cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
Cover with flour and then place into the egg wash pan. Coat with egg and then roll cakes in the breadcrumbs, then egg and breadcrumb them again to make sure they are completely encrusted with the breading.

FRY
1 cup corn or peanut oil
Heat to 350 degrees in iron skillet. Fry for 90 seconds per side. Turn again and remove when crust begins to brown.

BASIL POBLANO VINAIGRETTE
1 poblano pepper
1 ounce fresh basil
1 tablespoon grain mustard
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup corn oil
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 teaspoon ground black pepper
Roast the peppers until the skin blisters and turns black. Wrap and chill. Peel them in cold water and remove seeds. Use the flesh for the vinaigrette. This is also how you roast red bell peppers to get that smooth sweet and slight heat from them.
In food processor: peppers, basil, mustard. Slowly add olive oil, corn oil, vinegar, sugar, and then salt and pepper. Chill.

H Lamar Thomas, Executive Chef
East West Bistro
This recipe is for the restaurant section of the August Southern Distinction magazine. If you use it just remember where it came from and give me a kind word. Food is for everyone, there are no boundaries or limits to what can happen when science and love combine!

In Every Way [poem; passion; Suburban Pastorals]


IN EVERY WAY
Behind the hedges in the backyard
We kissed.
In the kitchen by the stove we kissed.
After work in the grocery store
We lingered by the boxes
Of ripening guava.
Thick tropical scent griped us,
And yes, we kissed.
What else are we here for?
It seemed the fruit was turning to wine.
I remember every place we’ve been
By the times we touched,
By the love when you pressed your
Hand into mine,
By the meals we prepared;
By the idle moments sitting.
The months and years shine
When we are together.
It’s too sweet, I know,
But I really don’t care
Life tastes better with this to share:
A simple kiss for you: my love.
My beloved.

Cooking Mussels in the Shell [article, food, Ginger]


THERE ARE THINGS WE CANNOT TELL,
BUT WE ARE COOKING MUSSELS IN THE SHELL
Discovering love in the cold months takes a little imagination. The use of aphrodisiacal foods helps. A Puccini opera and an open fire can’t hurt either. Romance and love are two different things, related, but different. Mediterranean and Pan Asian may seem as distant as planets, but this is one earth and many seas, seas that were traveled in the 15th and 16th centuries by Spanish and Portuguese sailing ships. They landed and made their imprint from St. Augustine, Florida to Argentina, Hawaii to Singapore and back again. We will experience this connection by cooking fresh black mussels and the frozen New Zealand green lipped mussel.
Black mussels simmered in coconut water with cilantro, ginger, bird chili peppers, seafood broth, lime and glass noodle is our Pan Asian dish. Steamed with tomato, lemon, garlic, scallions, Pinot Noir and oregano with a garnish of fried shoestring sized potatoes is our Western recipe. Green lipped mussels baked with crabmeat and mascarpone cheese, topped with panko breadcrumbs and baked is our third and last recipe. You can accompany these dishes with rice, couscous, linguini, quinoa and any variety of french fry potatoes.
The Latin influence not only touched the architecture, language and culture but the food and romance as well. When we see similarities between the foods of different cultures we experience also the Romantic nature of the human spirit. Food crosses barriers first; language and romance then follow in like kind. This is why we always seem to set the stage for romantic love with exquisite foods. Love, as in the deeper sense of romance and friendship, needs a little help from time to time to find its way back into the heart. Food is the bridge. Mussels are our way across that bridge today.
When we watch travel cooking shows it is always through the food that the culture speaks. The narrator will give an American perspective first and then taste the food as a native to that country. “Tasting as” is the key. Put yourself into their perspective and then fully entertain the flavors. Experience new foods and cultures as prejudice free as you can. This culture speaks similarity and vast difference.
We will explore this duality by cooking black mussels two different ways and then baking the green lipped mussels. I’ve never seen fresh green mussels in America. In restaurants we use farmed Prince Edward Island mussels (PEI mussels) or white water mussels, which are wild, saltier and larger than PEI mussels. The wild are often called Mediterranean mussels. It is easier to find frozen green than fresh PEI in regular grocery stores. Call to various Farmer’s Markets and specialty grocers to see if they have what you need before planning or setting a date for your dinner.
ALIVE: check to see that your mussels are alive by gently tapping the base on a cutting board. The base is the smaller section where each shell meets. Mussels are “bivalves”, two shells. If they do not close then they are dead. Throw the dead ones away. Rinse them under very cold water and then put in a slotted colander. Cover with ice cubes and then refrigerate until time to cook. Don’t take them out ahead of time and DO NOT put a tight lid over the container, as they will die if deprived of oxygen. They will keep for 14 days from the date that they are harvested. You can plan on keeping them for 2 to 3 days.
Besides being food mussels purify the water. Cleaning the water is the function of bivalves as they clutch to rocks, boats, piers and the bottom of the sea; they purify the water. Most all seafood falls into the category of aphrodisiacs. For the mussel it is because of their shape, and the fact that they are all protein. Mussels have been found, along with shrimp, crab and sea worms alongside deep water volcanoes and chimneys. The temperatures here are over 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Something with that kind of versatility has to be an aphrodisiac.
BLACK MUSSELS VIA SHANGHAI
As the title suggests these are mussels as I had them in a Cantonese restaurant in an ancient, multicultural and sleepless city on the river. Infused with British, Japanese, Shanghainese, Sichuan, Cantonese and Han/Mandarin Chinese, and then Dutch and Swiss influences it is no surprise that some restaurants will have several different takes on a dish. Shanghai has it all. When I first had this one the broth included chopped duck tongue with a bit of beak in for good measure. I just ate away at it crunching from spoonful to spoonful.
Saving the gentle cook from Sichuan specialties like duck tongue and chili pepper tapanade we will forego the genuine for the restrained. Adding it to a mussels and glass noodle dish is purely modern Shanghai; the only thing missing was a dumpling in the dish. You won’t find this in The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook.
I have an option of wheat free or aged tamari for this recipe. If you are on a gluten free diet then use the wheat free tamari. Aged tamari will give you a deeper soy flavor with a hint of oak.

36 mussels, rinsed, cold and alive
1.5 ounces cilantro, leaves, stalk and roots, chopped
1 ounce ginger, shaved thin
4 Thai bird chili peppers or serrano
6 ounces young coconut juice with pulp
4 ounces clam juice
1 lime, juiced and zest
1 ounce Sake
1 ounce wheat free tamari sauce or aged tamari
6 ounces (wet) glass/cellophane/mung bean noodles
soaked in the clam juice

Use a large wok or clay Dutch oven. Put everything except the mussels into the pot and bring to a boil. Keep it boiling for two minutes. Add the mussels and put a cover over the pot/wok/dutch oven. Let it cook for three minutes at a boil. Turn it off. Let it set for two minutes with the lid on.
Divide the mussels between two large serving bowls and then spoon the noodles and broth over the mussels. This is very country style that is very enjoyable with sour dough bread, sesame bread or french bread.
MUSSELS GEORGE GORE
I call these “Mussels George Gore” out of respect for a man whose palate and leadership helped to place Atlanta on the culinary map. He was General Manager for the Abbey and Mansion, two of Atlanta’s premier restaurants along with The Midnight Sun, La Versailles, Pano and Paul’s, and Nikolai’s Roof, which was at one time THE best restaurant in Atlanta. They were devoted to Russian style service that is the basis for Michelin stars. It was all before the next generation of chefs and their restaurants: Gunter Seegar, Linton Hopkins, Michael Touhy, Shaun Doty, David Larksworthy, Hector Santiago, Richard Blaise, Muss and Turner, Nicholas Bour, Scott Peacock, Kevin Rathbun and not so great, myself. That is a strong group of Chefs and they took Atlanta the rest of the way to becoming the expanse culinary landmark that it is today. George Gore sounded like James Earl Jones; he had that forceful presence and always seemed to stand taller than anyone in the room. All were humble before him, really. George loved to charm people and that is the stuff that makes for a superior restaurateur. And his daughter is a UGA graduate.
George was the man behind the helicopters bringing in first vintage Beaujolais from France for banquets celebrating this great wine. He fronted many a Chaines de Rotisseire banquet, the reception for Ronald Reagan’s second term in office and innumerable culinary functions in Atlanta. He really and truly was one of the most influential people in my career. Mussels were a favorite of his.
He commanded a restaurant with an enviable ease and yet could turn around and send the mightiest chef quivering to the kitchen battery. His wine lists are legendary. He was the force that for twenty years kept The Abbey and The Mansion at the top any list. He once told me that when he retired all he wanted to do was be a gentle maitre d’ for a country French restaurant. He has now simply retired but his stamp upon the food industry in Georgia will always be present. I can only hope that this recipe makes it way to him so that he fully understands the beauty of his way with wine and food. Louis Osteen was the inspiration to my career but it was George Gore that made me respect what is at the heart of cuisine and service. (The Mansion property is now the site of luxury condos and the Abbey has been turned back into a church.)
36 mussels, rinsed, chilled
4 ounces Pinot noir
12 stamens saffron, simmered in the wine
½ cup tomato, chopped and seeded
2 lemon, juice and zest
10 scallions, chopped white to light green only
24 fresh oregano, leaves only
4 cloves garlic, slices as thin as possible
Combine all of the above and bring to boil. Cover and simmer for five minutes
Divide into serving bowls and spray with the vodka:
½ ounce Peppercorn vodka in spray bottle
FRITES
1 pound russet potato cut into very thin strips
1 cup peanut oil, heat to 350 degrees
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seafood seasoning
Fry the shoestring cut potatoes to crispy, drain and sprinkle with the Old Bay. Set fries on top of the mussels.
1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated fine
Sprinkle over the mussels and frites.

NEW ZEALAND GREEN LIPPED MUSSELS EAST WEST
The New Zealand green lipped mussel is a major export. The green lipped mussel is so called because the shell is green and there is a green tinge around the edge of the inner shell. It has only one section so when you hold it up the meat does not open slightly like black mussels. I love these things and used to have them on the menu waaaaaayyyy back in 1995-98. Only reason I took them off was because the black mussels were coming in as a better overall fresh product. The only frozen these days are calamari and some of the shrimp. There is nothing wrong with the green lipped frozen product. It is plump, full flavor of the clean waters and easy to manage.
They are so high in antioxidants that green lipped mussel extract and powder is used for arthritis pain. The naturally occurring anti-inflammatory lipids make this a valuable tidal crop. Imagine that, all the reasons you are told that seafood is good for you are true. Of course we are here to enjoy their flavor, the energy that they produce and for the exalted joy of sharing a romantic meal.
2 ounces backfin crabmeat
2 ounces crab claw meat
2 ounces mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon madras curry powder
4 ounces panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
Gently combine and set aside.
16 green lipped mussels, thawed in the refrigerator
Put teaspoon of the mix on top of each mussel. Set mussels on baking pan.
Turn oven onto 450 degrees, or cook them on the grill with light smoke like apple wood. Cook 10 minutes. Remove from pan using a pair tongs because they will be hot.

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Between The Sea And The Sweat [poem, Later Coyote]


BETWEEN THE SEA AND THE SWEAT

In another summer with another sweating night,
my Georgia steams and I steam along also from
too much coffee and too many Camels, and my life tries
to rise, tries to hover above the wilting mimosa.
And I daydream away into August fogs on Manchester Beach,
feel my shoes start to sink in the stones and ice plants
of the Mendocino coast, and it’s so seductive now,
like a curved finger calling me over,
over to vistas of two story waves and whale spout fountains,
scenes of a sparkling sea of St. John’s fire racing
on the limbs of midnight tossed runaway redwoods,
these great ancients dare another rampage,
another cut of the saw, another rogue current…
And I start to feel the memories rocking, rocking,
rising with white flash of moon on the ridge,
on tide heavy winds that smell of evolution and urchin.
The far Pacific in my opium years of mist and storm
is always captured in these dreams, in these green house days.
Shaking my head, salt crusts on my lips,
and I walk out into the bamboo woods behind my broken,
depression era home, smell the Broad River,
cherokee rose and honeysuckle, slap a mosquito,
a gnat and a sweat bee, watch the slow crawl
of grass thick humidity slide up the spine
of thirsting pecan and cracked bull pine.
And I walk with the woman of black halters
and ginger scented skin, and she touches my arm
and asks where I am…and I don’t know how to say
I am between the sea and the sweat,
so I tell her I am here dreaming this and that,
this and that more now than ever before in my life.

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Mustard? In the Kitchen with a Pastry Knife [article, food, Sweet Fire]


MUSTARD? THE COLONEL OR THE MEAN MISTER?
A QUESTION OF DOUBT, EXPRIENCE AND ULTIMATELY OF PLEASURE.
Beloved and I went to IKEA this week. I just have to get that out there because if I seem distracted, well, it is because my wife and I went to IKEA this week! Go figure, I guess I really do need a new kitchen. OK, onward to the wicked ways of that delightful worldly tart burn known as mustard. I will put forth Inglehoffer prepared grain mustard for a sauce, French’s yellow mustard in American potato salad, Gulden’s spicy brown mustard for pork, how to make your own mustard from Coleman’s fine powder mustard and a vinaigrette. Oh yes, and don’t forget that rascally unmentionable, prepared wasabi which we will use for the vinaigrette. Just for the record, horseradish, mustard and wasabi are members of the cabbage family.
Used in Western, Mid Eastern, European and Chinese cuisine mustard is a universal taste that bridges sour and hot. Yet diner, beware for these members of the cabbage family are mostly known for their ability to cause pain. The pain creates pleasure. Even at room temperature these guys can cause problems and tears, then laughter. I know this because of the many times processing fresh horseradish and wasabi, as the aroma mists the kitchen it starts burning into the nostrils of the cooks and servers.
Mustard emerges as an ingredient whose power is recognized by the way it accents, it bonds with fatty and salty foods to create an after taste that hints at sweet. Pungent is the magic word when discussing members of the cabbage, mustard families. When you get too much just breath in through the nose and out through the mouth. Remember that. What a heady rush mustard, wasabi and horseradish can give you! This tingly sensation is an attribute not an aberration and this is how we know by experience that they are related. Mustard greens are eaten raw or cooked with kale and collards for Sunday supper. If you want evidence for the nose on how mustard relates to cabbage then open a bottle of Gulden’s and inhale just ever so slightly. Smell the cabbage? The way that relations are understood sometimes requires physical evidence on top of the scientific classifications of flora and fauna. After all, an almond is a rose.
From the tiniest seed to the mightiest tree is a misunderstood and difficult parable since mustard in Israel/Jordan is a bush. The parable refers to the monstrosity that can become of the Church in the hands of the wicked, which in turn were the birds referred to in an earlier part of Matthew. Birds don’t really live in small bushes. The question this puzzling parable puts forth is answered by what we see today in the greed and proliferation of war and hate among certain religious sects. The rabbi knew that there was the chance his works would be used for illicit gain. The tiniest seed can become something good or bad, the quality lies in the works of those putting it to use. For us then the mustard is a good thing. And that’s my hermeneutic for the month.

The mustard seed has always been with us in the cuisines of the world going back to B.C. times. There are existent recipes from the Romans in the 1st century. I have no way of tracing the first appearances in Chinese and Indian cuisine where no doubt it was used centuries before the Gauls, Saxons, Francs and Armenians ground it with their nut and wheat flours. Ground mustard binds in the way that various wheat, rice and tapioca flours bind. Mustard flour is used in making sausage (as I do for my house sausage at work) and for mayonnaise and various dressings and vinaigrettes where the stickiness (mucilage) acts as a stabilizer. The addition of mustard and egg white to an aioli is what makes for mayonnaise. So when you see aioli on a menu, think mayo hold the mustard.
Our neighbors to the West, the Carolinians or Scots-Germans of the South developed a way of the BBQ that involves mustard. Spicy, vinegary with a slight aroma of the earth followed by a sweet burning in the nasal cavities is what you get with Carolina BBQ sauce. Love this way of accenting the pork. Mustard seed and apple cider vinegar combine to make a good marinade. After that the flavor is all up to how one likes their pork. Some of us are more prone to the ketchup and bourbon sweetness and others of the Southeast go for the more tart kind of sauce.
Plochmann’s is my favorite yellow/American mustard but French’s is our nation’s standard of what yellow mustard is. Yellow mustard is made by adding turmeric to bring out that electric yellow color. The rest of the ingredients are vinegar, salt, brown mustard powder and paprika. This bright zingy flavor is synonymous with hot dogs and potato salad. It just makes that fatty and relish covered ball park, holiday and childhood junk food taste better. A big kosher hot dog with yellow mustard just makes you smile. You know it is the mystery of pleasure and pain in the way that the enzymes in mustard tingle in your head and sinuses.
AMERICAN POTATO SALAD
OK, so I copped out and decided to go old family style here instead of bringing up an obscure, nouveau or personally developed recipe. New/Red potatoes taste the best for this purpose. Cut them with a serrated knife after boiling when they are still warm but not hot. Moisten the knife with hot water after every couple of potatoes to keep clean cuts that do not tear the tender potato skin. These instructions are specific so do not vary. To do otherwise means that they will not absorb as much flavor and that the skin will tear and peel off as you slice the potato. Cook them whole, cooking them diced or sliced just means that they can become waterlogged and grainy. Chopping while still warm allows the spices to soak into the potato.
1 pound new potatoes, washed clean
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1 clove garlic, microplane/grate
1 tablespoon balsamic or red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
2 eggs, hard boiled, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 tablespoons vidalia or bermuda onion, diced
1/3 cup pickle relish or diced sweet pickle
1/3 cup Dukes or Kewpie Mayonnaise (Hellmann’s if you must)
1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, chopped

No need to season the water, as it will not affect the flavor and you will season when the time comes, not before. The starchy potatoes like Yukon gold and russets tend to fall apart after boiling, even when slightly undercooked they still do not hold as well as a red potato.
Boil in water just covering the potatoes. After you boil the potato, drain and let them cool slightly, then chop them into just under an inch pieces. Season with the spices and vinegar then cover and refrigerate. After they have cooled add the mustard, onions, pickles and rest of ingredients. Serve. And you know what goes with potato salad, hot dogs, hamburgers or those Carolina ribs.
GRAIN MUSTARD CHICKEN VELOUTE ON HANGAR STEAKS
A veloute is a light sauce that is basically non-flour thickened stock, in this case chicken stock. Veloute is one of the five basic sauces: veloute, brown, tomato, egg and béchamel. We will add Inglehoffer Stone Ground Mustard to enrich it with that vinegary and rainy mountain flavor of Northern Europe. Sauce like this needs a hardy mate in the form of hangar steak. Hangar steak is also known as diaphragm and hanging tender. This is one of my favorite cuts because it has a slight organ flavor with the fatty, deep taste of roast beef. The mustard sauce just lifts it off of the plate. Mahler’s 3rd Symphony comes to mind. Really. It is that complexly Teutonic and full of flavors covering the classical palate of Escoffier and Thomas Keller. The change, I couldn’t resist you know, is that we are using star anise and Chinese cooking wine whose flavors create a warmth and airiness to this old school standard to all kitchens.

OUR CHICKEN VELOUTE
1 whole chicken, chopped up, rub with lemon
1 gallon water
10 bay leaves
1 teaspoon thyme
1 star anise
1 tablespoon parsley, stems and leaves
1 onion, chopped, skin and all
1 cup Chinese cooking wine or vermouth
1/4 cup corn oil
Set aside for the sauce (reserved ingredients):
2 tablespoons grain mustard
1 teaspoon tapioca starch or corn starch
1/4th cup cold water to combine with starch to make thickener
1 tablespoons dark brown sugar or date palm sugar
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
Combine water, bay leaves and thyme in large pot and bring to boil. While the water is heating brown the chicken pieces, onion and star anise together in the corn oil in another large pot. When it has browned add the parsley and cooking oil. Scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any parts that stuck to the pan. Pour off the oil. Add the cooking wine. Slowly add the boiling water to the pan. Simmer for four hours. Do not boil! It is simmered so that the flavors have depth for this is a rich, golden veloute. Strain into a large container and set aside. You only need a cup for our sauce, the rest is there for you to freeze or store in the refrigerator. It is good to have homemade chicken stock on hand for day to day cooking. If you freeze it in ice trays then it is already portioned for you. Once you get used to having a stock like this on hand you will never go back to the factory chicken stocks.
To make the sauce for our steak bring one cup veloute to a boil and add the reserved ingredients. Simmer for 10 minutes. It will be smooth texture, just barely thickened, sweet and sour.
Sear 4, seven ounce hangar steaks to medium rare. Set on plate with sauce. Now this is one of those meals that is good with creamed spinach and orange glazed carrots, or for the Pan Asian side of things use roasted king mushrooms and steamed bok choy.
DIJON HONEY MUSTARD PORK LOIN STEAKS
What is it about honey mustard that we are crazy about it? Sweet, tart, salty and just hot enough to open our nostrils to breath in the delicate flavors of chicken, pork or fresh water fish. It is also a nice side dipping sauce for just about any root vegetable, fried anything and as a glaze to chicken breasts.
1 cup dijon mustard
3 tablespoons wild flower honey
Stir and reserve in refrigerator until ready for use. If you are making a dressing out of it then here are a few ways:
½ cup honey mustard
¼ cup Mirin Japanese vinegar or persimmon vinegar (tangy)
1 cup mango puree
Add to blender and puree to smooth. To make it lighter add 3 ounces olive oil while it blends.
4, 6 ounce pork loin steaks
4, strips apple smoked bacon
4 ounces gouda cheese
Cut a small pocket into each steak. Fill each one with one ounce gouda. Wrap a piece of bacon around each steak. Pierce with bamboo skewer to keep bacon in place. Grill over apple wood chips until cooked to 150 degrees internal temperature. Glaze with a tablespoon honey mustard per steak. Finish under broiler or with grill up to high heat (Big Green Egg or Weber Kettle grill, Brinkman smoker grill). Serve with jasmine rice and black beans with mango salsa on the side (This salsa was in the May Southern Distinction).
MAKING YOUR OWN SIGNATURE MUSTARD
This is easy. Buy a can of Coleman’s Mustard. Coleman’s was the first commercial mustard, a family affair. Jar mustards are made from mustard powder as a base. If you enjoy making things the way you want them rather than as a mass produced set of flavors and condiments then this is the thing for you. You can make it per dish or meal, and you can make a cup and keep it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for weeks.
POMEGRANATE VINEGAR MUSTARD
1 tablespoon dry mustard
4 tablespoons pomegranate vinegar
1/2 teaspoon light brown sugar
1/3 teaspoon granulated salt
1/3 teaspoon paprika
Combine and mix to smooth. For the best whisk this for a couple of minutes to fully combine all of the ingredients. To make your own just substitute any vinegar, and you can add different spirits as well to send the flavor to match more particular dinners or sandwiches. Making sandwiches? Make mustard to match the meat. Say you are making honey baked ham and cheddar on sour dough. Here’s the mustard:
GRAIN MUSTARD
1 teaspoon dry mustard
¼ teaspoon crushed mustard seed
1 teaspoon honey
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/3 teaspoon salt
½ clove garlic, very fine grated
1/3 teaspoon turmeric
1/3 teaspoon paprika
Combine and thoroughly whisk together all ingredients. Taste. May need a touch of light brown sugar to sweeten a bit more.

WASABI, WHAT THE HECK DO WE DO WITH THIS?
OK, so we know that wasabi is a member of the same family, cabbage, as mustard and horseradish. I am only including this because powder and jar wasabi is usually mustard based or have mustard as a component. You want to make your own spicy vinaigrette for a special New World dinner. This dinner could very well be a celebration of mustards or as several courses connected by the cabbage family, and all you have to do is cook small portions of everything here in this column with the addition of a salad. Thing is our salad will have seared yellow fin tuna, hamachi or trevally jack. You could even use bay scallops and crisped Italian speck to dot a spinach salad.
1 teaspoon Inglehoffer Wasabi horseradish
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup corn oil
½ cup white balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup pineapple juice
1 tablespoon shallot
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon date palm sugar
Combine ingredients in a blender and blend to smooth. Use fresh beets, tender bibb lettuce leaves, minced fresh pineapple, candied lemon peel and the seared seafood of your choice. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the greens.
Keep in mind that most all powder wasabi is made with dry mustard, dry horseradish, green dye and various sugars, salts and emulsifiers. Powder wasabi is not wasabi; it should not even have the name at the top of the bag. It is imitation wasabi, or spicy green mustard. Real wasabi is a taste of such delight that one smooth grated teaspoon spread on a plate of sashimi will change the way you envision this root.
So you see that mustard is not just a yellow condiment or grainy device to make a meal seem French in nature. Thank you all for letting me write these columns for you, I learn so much more about my craft each time I work on one. It is a joy and a pleasure.
Peace out and happy cooking y’all.

DAYS LIKE LOVE
Stuck in the heat doing erosion control
In a dry creek bed
Close by my house,
Clearing out English and poison ivy,
Choked on pollen and red clay sand storms
My throat and eyes close,
My cheeks burn and the tears begin to form,
And then there it comes,
A swarm of yellow jackets
In one huge buzz popping up out
Of a tulip maple tree,
Up jumped the Devil
And I was tossed five yards away,
Running and stung,
High tailing to the house,
I make it inside just moments before
Gangs of hornets join the fray.
What does this mean?
Briar torn and sun burned,
Ivy rash and bee stung,
What does this all mean?
All I wanted was to do the land
A favor and give the water a chance to flow,
At least once inside there was my love,
With king mushrooms and roasted clams,
With a big smile and a
“What did you do this time?” laugh,
Once inside there was my love
Reassuring me that even days like this
Had something of a desire,
Had something to hold that was good.
And yes, on days like this and every
Other day she is good, she is my love.

IMG_5917

Chocolate, The Sweet And Spicy Of All Things Love [food, article, Sweet Fire]


CHOCOLATE
THE SWEET AND SPICY OF ALL THINGS LOVE

When chocolate comes in the room all other sweets stand back and wait. There is nothing quiet or sublime about chocolate, it sits and melts and charges the senses with everything that is good about the pleasure of the plate. When unsweetened chocolate hits a sauce of tomatoes and peppers it lifts the veil of hot fruit tastes and forces the flavors into a poetic of taste that is elegant, seductive and smooth. In the darkest months we seek the grandest celebrations of self, society, body and soul. What better food than chocolate to fuel them all?
A cup of hot chocolate with browned marshmallows and a dash of cinnamon warms. A plate of chocolate covered strawberries and cherries charms. White chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, palm sugar, a plate of sliced fruits, all melting together under the blue broiler flames delight. Classic South American mole sauce, a small bowl, deep burgundy seared big eye tuna, just a touch, a spot of sauce on this perfect fish hypnotizes. Dusting a plate of Cajun blackened beef with powdered chocolate ignites. Chocolate and rosemary brushed over roasting beef ribs just before pulling them away from the fire seduces. In high gravity beers chocolate bubbles inside the bite of coffee, hops and yeast and soothes.
You really can’t eat pure chocolate, as the bitterness would turn your mouth inside out like eating a lemon, or worse. For the native Mayan and Incas of Central and South America cacao beans were a form of currency, and yes, chocolate is in a sense American since it is from the southern part of our hemisphere. We owe much more to native Central and South American cuisine than is readily acknowledged especially when it comes to things like grains and chocolate. Originally chocolate was just a drink. The French perfected the liquid nature chocolate by having chocolate houses like coffee houses, you know places to drink and talk. The Swiss perfected the confectionery uses of chocolate.

There are the familiar names of Ghirardelli, Godiva, Sharffen Berger, Lindt, Cadbury, Valhrona, Callebaut, Nestle, Hershey’s and Ambrosia. Ghirardelli, Godiva, Nestle and Hershey’s are the likely suspects in the American pantry and these are the chocolatiers to whom I will refer when discussing American made chocolate. Any of these companies make a good chocolate. The overall best are from Godiva, Valhrona, Sharffen Berger and Lindt. Ghirardelli is best right out of the shop in San Francisco. The rest are good for moles and sauces. In the name of research I sit here with fresh bars and bags of semi-sweet, 100% cacao unsweetened, 62% bittersweet, 58% dark chocolate pistoles, white chocolate bar, bakers powdered chocolate, and Nestle and Hershey’s milk chocolate chips. It’s a hard life. I know. Cacao is pronounced “ka-KOW”.
Ghirardelli chocolate bars have instructions on the inside of the foil package that it is wrapped in. Open carefully. There are melting instructions as well as recipes.

The percentages indicate chocolate to sugar and soy lecithin content. More chocolate means deeper, almost bitter taste, whereas the less chocolate means that it will be sweeter. More or less percentage chocolate is neither a good nor a bad thing. The percentage use all depends on what you are making. Bittersweet is more for baking. Sweeter is for direct eating and for candies. Chocolate for coating fruits needs to have more fat and milk solids so if using a bitter chocolate you will need to temper it with a little cream or half and half. Some baking requires milk or powdered milk to make it smoother. Chocolate is not just a Hershey bar.
Cacao beans grow inside pods on cacao trees, the beans are about 8 inches long and three inches wide. They are red, yellow, green and orange. They grow close to the Equator. Harvested October through May, and since they do not ripen much when taken from the tree it may be two to three weeks before the beans are processed with no loss of quality to the bean. There are three kinds of cocoa trees, they are Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario. Criollo chocolate will be light in color and slightly fruity with complex background flavors. Today, most are grown in Madagascar and Venezuela. Forastero is very hearty and disease resistant as opposed to the more fragile Criollo. Forastero produce 90% of the commercial cocoa, are intense in flavor, and are very good for bittersweet baking bars. A blight in the 18th century almost destroyed the Criollo trees in Latin America. A blend was necessary to save the tree. The Trinitario is a hybrid of Criollo and Forastero, so the finished product of this bean is somewhat complex and fruity with the depth of cocoa flavor evident in Forastero beans. As the name indicates it is primarily grown in Trinidad.
Does chocolate make everything better? Yes. Does freshness matter with chocolate after it has been processed? Yes. The fresher the better with chocolate is always the case. You can taste the difference between chocolate that has been stored for a long period in the refrigerator or opened on the shelf, and that of fresh from the factory or fresh from the sealed package. Dark chocolate will last 18 months on the shelf. When you see the slight grey haze or spots on chocolate this does not mean that it has spoiled, it just means that it has either experienced warm temperatures or been exposed to moisture, you can still cook with it. Dark chocolate does have caffeine whereas white chocolate does not because of the water method of extracting the cocoa butter from the cacao nibs. The butter and fat is cocoa, and the bean is cacao. The beans are roasted to acquire different levels of intensity in flavor, and to separate the pod from the nib.
Dutch chocolate means that it has been chemically treated to reduce the harshness or bitterness in chocolate powder. Dutched chocolate powder is dark. Natural chocolate powder is reddish is made from high quality chocolate nibs. Lesser quality chocolate is used for Dutch chocolate. It does not mean that it from the Netherlands. Since the alkaline is reduced in Dutch chocolate it is sometimes better for baked goods than ‘natural’. If you are substituting Dutch for ‘natural’ you will need to increase baking powder or soda to compensate for the difference in taste. Dutched is what we usually have in chocolate powder for mixing with powder sugar in dusting, drinks and to smooth out the flavor in chocolate cakes.
What it white chocolate? White chocolate is made from the fat that remains after pressing cacao beans to make cocoa powder. The processor mixes the cocoa butter with milk solids, sugar and vanilla to make the solid white chocolate. The best white chocolate is made only with cocoa butter, sugar, soy lecithin and pure vanilla extract. The vanilla can be either Madagascar or Tahitian. White chocolate may also have coconut butter mixed in to add texture.
We sometimes add coconut oil to white chocolate for melting and coating chocolate on cakes and candies.
Chocolate was the bounty of the Aztec empire taken back to Europe and perfected in the 1700’s when milk chocolate was first made. Cocoa beans were currency for the Aztecs and also used as barter for sexual affections, which extends to the tradition of giving chocolates as a symbol of courtship today.

The endorphin change that gives the sense of love from eating chocolate is a great and interesting thing too as it is a real chemical change and not the imagined effect of sugar. So yes, cacao was originally Latin American. So yes, cacao does fill one with the sense of love and well being.

TEMPERING CHOCOLATE
What does it mean to ‘temper’ chocolate? Tempering is when chocolate is slowly cooked and stirred in a double boiler or microwave to a temperature between 88 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Chocolate for candies and for dipping and coating have to be tempered. If a chocolate is not tempered then the result will be soft and sweaty with a grayish tinge to the color. Tempering is easy. It will be glossy, no sweat marks, will “Crack” when you bite into it after dipping fruit, and will form nicely into shapes for chocolate confections.
The first step is breaking the chocolate into pieces. If you are using chips or pistoles then you don’t need to chop it up. For chocolate bars just lay it flat on the cutting board and tap with the back of a broad 8 inch chef knife. Put the chocolate into a mixing bowl. Set the mixing bowl on top of a pot of water that is at 130~. Melt the chocolate in the mixing bowl over the water. The bottom of the bowl should touch just the top of the water. Use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon in a gentle sweeping motion to stir the chocolate continually until about 2/3 of the chunks become liquid and about 1/3 are in soft lumps. The temperature of the liquid chocolate at this point will be about 95°F. At this point move the mixing bowl to a cool part of the kitchen and keep stirring until it is completely smooth and is 89~. It will be 87°F for milk chocolate. At this point the chocolate should be tempered and ready to use.
Check it by dripping a little chocolate on parchment paper. Let it set for two to three minutes, if it is smooth and will crack when you bend the paper then you are there. If it just smoothes out into a dull dark mass and bends rather than cracks then it is not ready. If it is not ready then just keep warming and stirring for a few more minutes and then try again.
You can do it in the microwave at half power at 30 second intervals stirring each time you check it. The tempered temperature will be 100~ when it is tempered in the microwave.

STRAWBERRIES DIPPED IN CHOCOLATE
Let’s say you have tempered 8 ounces of 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate. Set this in a deep pan. Wash and dry two dozen strawberries. Set a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan next to the dipping chocolate. Hold the strawberry by the stem and dip into the chocolate. Set it on the parchment. Do this until you have coated all of the strawberries. Let cool in an area that is close to 70~ and has good air circulation. This will cool without chilling and allow any moisture to evaporate from the surface of the chocolate. They will be glossy and have a nice snap or crunch when you bite into them. You can do this with any fruit. If you put them in the refrigerator before the chocolate has properly set then it will be dull, have sweat spots and will be soft to the bite.
TRUFFLE CAKE
Feeling frisky? Want to make a great chocolate cake, no flour? Ok. This will make one 12 inch cake. Use a spring form pan for this version. This particular recipe is from my pastry chef, Kathy High.
12 ounces heavy cream 12 ounces 64% chocolate
1 ounce butter, ½ for cake, ½ for for buttering pan 4 eggs 3/4 ounce Tuaca or Kahlua Preheat convection oven to 260 degrees F – this cake needs to cook at a low temperature so check the thermometer inside the oven. Prep the springform pan. First butter the pan, then line the bottom and sides with parchment. Make sure the parchment is taller than the sides of the pan as the cake will rise up while cooking. Place prepared pan on the sheet pan. Melt the chocolate and butter together over a water bath. While chocolate is melting whip the cream to just barely a soft peak stage. Then, in a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and coffee liqueur. When chocolate is completely melted whisk the egg mixture and warm chocolate to form an emulsion. Fold in the whipped cream with the spatula, until just combined and batter has the texture of a fine mousse. Pour batter in prepared springform pan, and place with the half sheet pan in the middle of the oven, on the lower rack. Cook for an hour. After one hour, insert thermometer into center of cake. If the temperature reads 176 degrees Farenhiet, the cake is done. If it hasn’t reached this temperature, return to the oven. When the cake is finished it will still appear very loose in the center. Let cool completely in pan on wire rack. The cake will fall while cooling, so don’t worry as this is natural. Refrigerate for half an hour. The hardest thing to do sometimes is just let the food be the food, so when you see it is runny and loose in the center this is good, resist the temptation to cook it dry or firm.
Remove cake from pan and invert on larger plate. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least over night before slicing Slice with a hot, wet knife. Garnish with raspberry puree and lightly whipped cream.
CHOCOLATE COCONUT AND CHERRY BAR
16 ounces semi sweet dark chocolate
3 ounces Cabernet Sauvignon
1 ounce Cherry liquor
2 tablespoons coconut, toasted, shredded
12 cherries, stemmed and pitted
3 ounces almonds
Combine and chop coconut and almonds. They should be almost diced size, not minced and not chunky. Set aside.
Mix chocolate, wine and liquor together in plastic microwave safe dish. The dish needs to be about an inch and a half deep and six inches long. Melt in microwave in four thirty second intervals. Stir between sessions. It will be a little chunky when you take it out of the microwave, if it is still coarse after stirring it then return and melt for thirty seconds. Do not over cook as it will become too grainy and won’t work properly for a smooth and delicious dessert.
Quickly fold the coconut and almond mix into the chocolate. Sprinkle 2 twelve inch sheets of plastic wrap with confectioner’s sugar and divide the chocolate between the two sheets into two eight inch long sections. Press the cherries into the mix. Roll into a cylinder shape. Set in flat pan and let cool in 70~ area for at least two hours. Slice into little bites and set on serving tray. Dust with powdered chocolate and slivered mint leaves.
Want to make the current popular molten chocolate cake? Make a conventional chocolate cake. Cook in soufflé dishes. Fill dish half full with mix, ladle an ounce of melted chocolate, fill rest of dish with cake mix. Take out of oven ten minutes before it is done as you would know chocolate cake or a souflee to be done.

HOT CHOCOLATE WITH MARSHMALLOWS
As I write this I am drinking one of the most delicious and frothy cups of hot chocolate I have ever made.
8 ounces milk
4 ounces heavy cream
4 ounces milk chocolate chips
5 marshmallows
Heat the milk and heavy cream to just under 210 degrees, don’t let it boil. Stir as it heats. Put the chocolate chips into a blender. Pour the milk into the blender. Cover. Let it set for thirty seconds. Puree for 45 seconds. Pour into two cups. If the drink is not hot enough, then microwave on high for a few seconds. Put marshmallows on top of hot chocolate. Using a home kitchen torch toast the top of them marshmallows.
Want to jazz it up? Add a dash of vanilla or ground cinnamon. After that it’s up to you and your chocolate favorites to season this delightful and warming cup of hot chocolate.
TUNA MOLE (MO-LAY)
Ok, here’s the wild card. You think that chocolate is a limited ingredient. You believe it is all about desserts and drinks. You’ve heard of Central American dishes that are baked in clay pots with a mix of peppers, tomato and chocolate, and may have even made moles before. I have presented mole recipes in past articles but always with chicken, duck or some other kind of game bird. Today we go where no mole has gone before, East by Southwest where the sun always shines and the fish is always fresh.
EAST BY SOUTHWEST MOLE
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoons poblano, diced
1 tablespoon wasabi powder
1 tablespoon onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
½ cup raspberry or peach puree
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 teaspoons Chinese 5 Spice Powder
½ teaspoon coriander
¼ cup fresh Cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup unsweetened Chocolate, melted
½ cup apple juice or sake
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon sea salt
Combine all of the ingredients and puree. Pour into large sauce pot and simmer for one hour. If it starts to reduce too much just add a little water to thin it out. Set aside and let cool. If it gets too pasty then thin again, but this time with sake or apple juice.
Sear an eight ounce big eye or yellow fin tuna steak just to crisp the outside. Try not to cook it inside at all, this is what it is to sear tuna, i.e. Tataki. Cut into squares. Arrange on serving plate with basil leaves, pickled ginger, cashews, shizu leaves (if you have access), and seaweed salad. Put just a small dot of this unique mole on top of each square of tuna tataki. Eat a tuna square, eat a cashew, drink, have a small bite of pickled ginger and wakamai (seaweed salad) and then the tuna again.

HOT CHOCOLATE
Dark
Rich,
Sweet,
Exotic,
Creamy,
Sensual,
Mysterious,
Intoxicating
Filling me with love
With hope and expectation
Charming me in every moment.
That’s the way it is when I am with
You my Beloved, warm my life,
My best of all in anything everlasting
Ever-beautiful bride, ever my love,
Like kisses and chocolate you make
These days so cherished and bright
So complete, so much alive.

Afternoon Meadow; Rain Kiss (May Awakes); It Was Cold Before You [poems, Suburban Pastorals]


AFTERNOON MEADOW

Van Gogh’s crows perched all over this town,
stuck in the updrafts, riding the fog’s hard edge,
doe carcass, possum body, urinary rivers
and the rancher’s overflow all feeding the flying herds
of these great black caretakers.
Defiant on the roadside, jay hunted in the low sky,
yet climbing in from the distance
on a rapid shadow bullet flight, these birds ascend
and dive, rise and hold, and there,
in the hunting climb where meadow, sky and tree
blend yellow, blue and thick green, then the black,
the blue background yellow bottomed canvas comes alive
with the specter’s held in eternal flight…
yeah, that’s it,
the picture holds,
and it’s Van Gogh’s crows all over town.

RAIN KISS (MAY AWAKES)

Rain? Are you touching me now?
I thought I felt rain on my shoulder.
The smell of mushrooms bursting,
thin skinned puff balls blowing
grey smoke in the dry afternoon.
The acrid smell of Comet cleanser and baking soda.
She promises rain, but tastes like perspiration.
I kissed her fingers. Khaki tan and soft.
And it seemed the sun exploded in my eyes.
Turn this over in your heart she says,
and she says there is no price on dusk today.
Down, damned and drained I tease each
lowering cloud with lidded glances
and an Elvis Presley snarl.
Brown needles drop off the sargeant juniper.
Starving bonsai: what is your peace now?
Giving up, I don’t even cut back the bamboo anymore.
And the arid heat is murder here, here on
the banks of the slow Oconee,
here we all sing “summertime….”
She cat licks my left ear lobe.
Breathes into the soft lymphatic skin.
And the vibrations curl, shimmy and shag.
Are you touching me now?
And the cumulus thunder shouts,
pregnant black clouds roll over and foal.
And suddenly, as parched as I was one second before,
here I am, drenched and laughing,
finally, finally my Georgia sky became itself again,
and the late spring rain storms came as promised.
She holds me close, asks if I can smell the grass
turning green again, if I can feel the branches
gathering up all the water they can….
and I just say yes, yes I can.

IT WAS COLD BEFORE YOU

Looking up into what was October
when the frosted winds came,
and November stepped across the river.
Inside, the house grew frigid
in it’s emptiness.
Then there you were,
as if with me for all time,
beside me here in the living room,
open arms wide in the quilted easy chair,
yes, there you were,
shining like a forever summer.
My warm love,
my smile in darkness.
Today I was up early,
rubbing the Laughing Buddha
on his lucky little belly,
thinking and thankful,
I know no matter what
there are those few things
that are so good, so giving,
even in times that say
compassion is a joke,
and peace of heart is a myth,
and I think, yeah,
sometimes the love stories
must be lived,
like the one that says that I am
glad I’m living this life of mine.

A Kind Of Passion (food, poem) GRITS AND POLENTA A TALE OF TWO MILLIINGS (food article)


A KIND OF PASSION

Small waves, ripples, a steel basin shines,
a soft sun colored stock clinks clam and oyster
shells, calamari swarm like drunken clouds,
and the kitchen becomes a haven of lost spices
and aromatics, and me, dizzy with the fumes
of roasting garlic and steaming fronds of saffron
and bay, it pulls me in, and I cross the line, drifting,
I reach over and show her the wonders of what
it is that makes me smile.
She smiles, and yeah this is a slice of life.
And I reach into the bowl of mussels, slowly,
ice melting around the shells,
sleek, black ships waiting smell of the sands
and tides of far harbors and straits…
And she turns from the mounds of chopped tomato
and vidalia to the stalks of lemon grass
and deep green Thai basil, and I show her
the way: “Come here, peel away the skin
from the base like this,”
and the room filled with the fragrance
of crushed tangerine and lemon leaves
from the single bulb of lemon grass.
And if I didn’t know better I would swear
I was standing in the groves of the Indian River,
but I wasn’t, it’s just us in the kitchen
with the greens of Mandalay,
with mussels from the heart of Hudson’s Bay.
It’s just us living the great poem of the world,
where expressing love is expressing god,
turning labor into passion, turning work into love,
and it’s really even more than this, this she and me,
it’s the way we bring to the table the East and West.
Giving to the guest what the world gave to us.



GRITS AND POLENTA
A TALE OF TWO MILLINGS

Corn, maize, ground corn, fructose, Karo corn syrup, grits, hominy/posole, self rising yellow cornmeal, yellow cornmeal/polenta, white cornmeal/polenta, alcohol, modified maize starches, corn starch, corn on the cob, niblets, creamed corn, and then there is the just plain corny, all of which shows us that corn is a miracle grain (like all grains, actually) that permeates our world from the cars we drive to the food we eat. Today we will explore what makes polenta and grits a cultural treasure where the bowl served says welcome home. Yes, grits or polenta, each signify that warming place, a food friendly home. Being from corn we know that corn/maize originated with the Native Americans of North and South America.
Our dishes are polenta with mushrooms and pancetta, and one with cheese and herbs as a baked dish. The grits recipe is shrimp (any fish) and grits, and sweet style grits.
I will concentrate on the dishes following the War Between the States in 1864, and in Italy after WWII. The Italians used barley and chestnut flour before corn was introduced. There is a library of philosophy and history around each dish, so if you have the time and pleasure, do read up on grits and polenta and enter a world of slow food and slow dinners, a world before this fast food chain frenzy we are in now. And never ever speak of instant grits, polenta or oatmeal.

The line between polenta and grits is a thin one often defined by culture but really is based upon the way it is milled. Yellow and white corn is used for both dishes. White hominy for grits is soaked in a lye solution (releases niacin for the healthy side), allowed to puff to double it’s original size, dried and milled by either stone or steel. Straight corn grits are from white corn, air dried kernels and then milled into a fine white meal. Polenta style is milled from dried corn either between stones or steel. It is the soaking that makes the big difference, and in the end it is the way it is prepared and served that shows the larger cultural definition.
Fine ground corn is generally for cornmeal used for baking cornbread, hush puppies, dusting fish and even for egg rolls. We use white and yellow coarse, flaked and semi-fine for polenta and grits. Polenta tends to be a finer grind than what is used in Georgia for our coarse ground grits. I have cooked the same dish using grits and polenta where the flavor and texture differences are sublime and yet minute. This is where the beauty of living to eat and love our foods surpasses the mere eating to live. We truly do live in a gifted community when it is possible to enjoy the little things to such a high degree.
Polenta is used in two ways, as loose as mashed potatoes and as a firm cake. After the polenta is cooked you pour it out onto a pan and let it set/chill, then cut into cakes. When you are ready to eat heat them and top with the entrée or a sauce. The bible of Italian cookery, The Silver Spoon, has 31 recipes for polenta, each a winner. I will show how the creamy can be shaped and cooled to use as a starch for a dinner dish.
Grits in the South are creamy and sometimes a bit thick, they can be either savory or sweet. However it is to be noted that sweet is called “Yankee grits”. I find nothing wrong with a bowl of honeyed grits with dried and fresh fruits, nuts and butter as an after dinner snack. Savory grits are accompanied by red eye gravy, breakfast, seafood, and even with sausages or beef dishes. The most famous grit dish these days is shrimp and grits, and they are everywhere, fun to eat from place to place just to taste the different techniques. My grandmother made her own grits by soaking and hand rubbing the hominy, today we have Logan Turnpike (I am using these for our recipes), Red Mule, Anson Mills, Falls Creek and many other Georgia or Carolina grits to choose from, and each is delicious.
Grits get dressed up every few years or so. I remember in the early 80s they started making grit balls and frying them up in Boston. It was then that the Southern grits meal became national, and that’s OK. Immigrants to the South love picking up on these wonderful milled grains and taking on the many flavors that can be built from the humble hominy. My ancestors would say to leave them alone, that grits are perfect with butter and salt, but as a grain they take so well to so many flavors and ingredients that it’s a sometimes a shame to leave them alone, it really is fun to dress them up for dinner or even to risk being called a Yankee for mixing in sweet things and fruits. Grits are fun, let yourself go and enjoy all that they have to offer as a base, side dish or centerpiece to your meals.
Grits and polenta are not just breakfast foods or supplements to “fill up” on. They have their place as cultural icons for both the South and for Italy. Thankfully, both have risen from being the source of malnutrition as a poor peoples dish and into the lexicon as being a source for cultural identity. Why so much about culture here? Because grits and polenta kept generations alive and working when there was little else to supplement their diets. As dietary science and knowledge progressed we learned to use these foods as additions, not as sole content to our meals. Northern Italy and the American South are both built upon “puts meat on your bones” ideologies in regards to ground corn meal.
Remember: The longer you cook cornmeal dishes the easier they are to digest. A long simmered polenta is superior in all ways to a quick dish recipe. You can make polenta a day ahead for cakes, but for creamy add water to the pan and then the leftovers, stir and cook as you would for fresh. This holds for grits as well (corn pone anyone?). If you are to be away from the stove you can put the thick polenta in a pot with a little extra water, cover it and bake 250 degrees, stirring occasionally until it is cooked (time varies on how much and how thick).
POLENTA WITH PANCETTA AND WILD MUSHROOMS
The polenta that I am using is La Polenta del Mulino di Pova, a white cornmeal. You can also use Red Mule polenta milled corn. Our mushroom dish is creamy, not thick for cakes. Stir polenta every ten minutes for a minute during a 45 minute cook time. Keep heat on low. Use a heavy bottomed stainless steel pot or a copper pot for your polenta. Place a top on the pan with about a fifth uncovered to keep it from over steaming. Use the best and freshest “wild” mushrooms available. If no chanterelles, cepes, porcini, morels or hen of the woods are available use portabella, shiitake, maitake, or crimini. The pork product is pancetta, a kind of Italian bacon, if you can’t find it a thick smoked bacon or Canadian bacon will do very well. If you have access to stores with a variety of cured Spanish and Italian meats then try out ones that interest you or the butcher recommends.
Basic polenta:
1/2 cup polenta
3 cups water or chicken stock
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/3 teaspoon crushed red pepper
After it has cooked to creamy texture. You may need to add a little water along the way, don’t worry, go ahead and add in one ounce increments.
And there you have a basic polenta. To build upon this all purpose dish
stir in the following:
1 ounces extra virgin olive oil (after it has cooked)
3 ounces fresh mozzarella
Use a one quart sauce pot. Add the water and seasonings then turn heat on high. Slowly stir in the polenta. When it boils turn it down to low. Partially cover the pot and stir every ten minutes for the full cook time.
1 ounce Extra virgin olive oil, a slightly fruity one
6 ounces pancetta, diced
6 ounces wild mushrooms, sliced
1/3 cup leeks, washed and sliced
3 cloves garlic, shaved
1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves
In a large skillet on medium heat cook the pancetta, as it crisps add the other ingredients and cook for ten minutes. Keep warm.
Divide polenta between four small bowls and spoon the pancetta-mushroom mixture over the polenta. Garnish with roasted red bell peppers and olives. If they are available use black truffle shavings in this version, or just sprinkle truffle salt over the final dish. It is delicious and with the truffle perhaps one of the best polenta dishes I have ever had the pleasure to prepare and eat.
POLENTA WITH FONTINA AND FRIED EGG
Make the basic polenta but don’t add extra water. Then add:
2 ounces grated fontina cheese
1 ounce gorgonzola cheese
3 ounces butter
1 ounce extra virgin olive oil
Combine over heat so that it all melts. Pour into roasting pan and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove and cut into circles or squares from large to small so that you have four sets of three each.
4 eggs, fried sunny side up
4 ounces fontina, grated
6 leaves fresh basil cut in strips
Arrange polenta cakes on each plates into a rectangle pattern, melt fontina over the polenta cakes. Put an egg on top of each and then the basil. Serve warm.
Polenta cakes are fun and the variations are as limitless as your imagination. Tomato sauces, cheese sauces, olive oil emulsions and really just about anything you would do to a pizza you can do with polenta cakes. Also, you can use various stocks and even dairy creams for your cooking liquid.
GRITS AND SHRIMP
I am using Georgia grits, RED MULE GRITS, that are stone ground for this recipe. Once you do this you will never go back to the instant powders. Slow food is good food. Just remember that and you will be fine! Slow food does not necessarily mean slow cooked either, it means heritage and heirloom, local farming, slow growth stock for your meats and an attention to the freshest herbs and ingredients. When they are available use the Georgia coast white shrimp or Carolina coast. If fresh shrimp are not around then use the freshest fish that you can find. I have cooked it with wahoo, mahi mahi, tilapia/perch, mangrove snapper, catfish and striped bass each to fine results. There is no mystery to grits, just a good local mill and slow cook time; that is the key to great grits.
SAVORY GRITS
1 cup grits, soak in water and scoop off what floats to the top before cooking, then pour off water.
3 cups water or chicken stock
½ cup milk
4 ounces sweet cream butter
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/3 teaspoon black pepper

Cook the grits with all ingredients on low heat. Careful not to burn the bottom so after it comes to first boil turn it down to low and stir often. Cook from 30 to 45 minutes. If necessary add a little water as it cooks to keep it from becoming too thick, you do want them to be a bit runny. If you want to make cheese grits just add cheddar cheese during the last three minutes cook time.
SHRIMP
2 ounces butter
2 dozen large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 each red and green pepper cut into 24 strips
1 Vidalia onion, thin sliced
2 cloves garlic, shaved
1 local cucumber, pickle sized, firm
1 lime
1 ounce Worcestershire sauce, Lea & Perrins
1 ounce Pickapeppa Sauce
Sautee onions, peppers and garlic, on high heat until they just begin to crisp. Add shrimp and cucumber and sauté until shrimp turns white, add sauces and lime, and cook another two minutes, stirring often.
Divide grits between four plates. Divide shrimp dish over the grits. Squeeze a little more lime and sprinkle with Mexican fresh cheese.
If you want to spice it up more with sauces just make a basic gravy and spoon over the shrimp. If you are using other fish for this then dust the fish with tapioca starch and sweet potato starch before sautéing to give it a sweeter flavor and crisper texture.
DESSERT GRITS
½ cup grits
3 cups water
½ cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon salt
Cook the grits by the long cook method. This will yield 3 cups cooked grits.
Then add:
4 tablespoons butter
¼ cup dried fruit i.e. raisins, cranberries, figs, plums or apple
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
¼ cup honey
Cook on low heat until the sugars have dissolved. Add a little more cream if necessary. Divide between four bowls. Top with crystallized ginger and fresh fruit. This is the dessert style. For breakfast Yankee grits just add a tablespoon butter and a teaspoon sugar, then a little jelly and stir it together next to your bacon and eggs.
October really does
Bring everything together
In my world of love, work and words.
Like the cool winds weaving
And bright leaves lingering,
My love herself just seems
Ever more beautiful,
The language and spirit
Of the table is stronger,
More flavorful, and then
I walk more briskly,
Talk smoothly of rhymes
And memorable poems,
Speak softly of dreams
And the harvest moon…
Yea, any month, what a month,
What a beautiful place to be.

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When We Were Young Cities In The Skin (two poems on time and romance)


WHEN WE WERE YOUNG
Childhood and the road,
we were packed inside a long blue Chevy,
driving North on the highways of 1967,
We counted chimneys, cows, red barns…tombstones,
chirping and chanting “See See See Rock City”.
The smell of Lucky Tiger hair tonic, peach moonshine,
and Winston cigarettes coming in off the giant
manipulating the steering wheel. Red headed, laughing,
he was Daddy, yeah Daddy…and he was big,
6 foot 4, two hundred and thirty pounds of smiles.
The one Mother spoke of caverns, of mountains, of gnomes
and what we’d see…we’d See Rock City.
There we walked across the gorge
on a wobbly, steel and wood suspension bridge.
Rode a cold elevator down, down past the painted
stone gnomes and dark rainbows of rock and coal.
Stalagmites and stalactites, big room and a lecture.
I drank hot tea for the first time, with milk.
She frowned and said it was very ‘British’.
Later, battle grounds and Brownie photographs
of Mother and Sister on a canon. All grins and waves.
Back through the Smokies, white fog and green hills.
Home through Chattanooga, home to Tucker,
home through the young Atlanta Mother helped rebuild,
to our ancient turf where the family was born
as Finn in the time of Ogelthorpe,
and it was all innocence and romance,
the whole world of my South was bright
innocence and romance, gothic and legendary.
Later, seeped with mysteries of the American tragic,
my home, my family, my milk and honey…
well, it was washed in the truths of alcohol and divorce,
but when I want to sing and laugh,
when I want to remember, to grasp and cherish,
there is one scene I memorialize:
See See See Rock City,
and the beauty gives itself over to today: See….See…See…

“…my South was bright…”

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CITIES IN THE SKIN

She stared me down
and mapped cities around
my cheeks and eyes,
trying figure out how old
I was. Thinking I must
be older than I am,
she didn’t understand
the truth of skin and sun,
of smile lines and laughter,
of how sadness too
draws its history
in creased figures on even lips,
and I feel embarrassed,
I wish I had Prince Charming skin,
always smooth, always reflecting,
but I don’t, I wear my life
and can’t hide a thing,
not even the moments
of fear and desire,
of summer days and winter lights,
the times I smoked,
drank, burned every candle
for a hundred miles,
of the tears for death, for birth,
and then more for love and kindness,
all there, just there,
giving more than I deserve,
showing wisdom and time
on a soul that’s much too young,
but it’s enough, she just stares
and wonders and decides
I’m must be old, just an artifact,
and says bye bye.
Yeah, a coyote artifact.
Set loose again upon the hills.

Fly fishing towards open ocean..