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.

India part 2, Paneer


BELOVED, THE WHEYS OF MILK AND ROSES

Homemade cheese or paneer is daunting for a novice. We will take it a step further into making our own cheese curd. Dairy is very prominent in Indian cuisines. Making the curd evolved from the very simple technique of stirring lemon juice into boiling milk. India, Bengal/Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, South Asian, Latin, Germanic and Mediterranean all make cheese curd. We are most familiar with fresh mozzarella, dry feta and Mexican queso fresco, i.e. fresh cheese. So, paneer in rose/orange blossom water for sweet or as savory cheese with salt and herbs, either way it is a pleasure.

I always bought the curd for buffalo mozzarella (moist, soft) and burrata, a mozzarella with cream center then folded in wheat grass, lotus leaf or banana leaf. For mozzarella cook the curd in 180 degree salted water and then quickly fold it into SOFT not chewy balls or logs and then cool. This method of making fresh mozzarella is a process taught in the early years of a true apprenticeship to become a Chef. Being a Chef is a lifestyle and profession. What one learns in the Classic style of apprenticeship requires 6 to 10 years of full time devotion to learning at least five cuisines and mastering one.. Speaking the language of the kitchen and knowing recipes is just the tip of the spoon. Learning, absorbing and applying is what separates dogma from beautiful actuality. Here, we seek the perfection of homemade. Not all learn how to make their own curd.

I dedicate today to my life long inspiration, friend and beloved, Melanie Paulk. She frequently travels to India, is a yoga instructor and has a yoga studio retreat in Utah. Our march into the world of spices, pulses, breads and heat is a search as ancient as the Silk Road and near as the travels of Columbus. As example, Pulse is a word in Escoffier’s La Culinaire as well as post-British occupied India. It refers to dried beans or legumes including fava, mung beans, chick peas, pigeon peas, split peas, black eyed peas, lima beans, crowder peas, cranberry beans, navy beans, red beans, etc. Learn the language of the Indian kitchen, then learn the dishes. In research and travel we find there are things quite similar between culinary cultures. Then there are those things that seem like they are from another world, which in some cases is close to social fact.

 

The only time I have seen fresh cheese curd made in TV-land (a place where few beyond Alton Brown and Mario Batali tell the truth.) was on Japanese Iron Chef. The Chef  was the inimitable Chen Kenichi of Sichuan fame. He separated the curds and whey, drained, wrapped in four folded cheese cloth and worked it into a viable soft crumble cheese. I was intrigued.

Making paneer required several readings in 7 different books. Days in the kitchen. Preparing “instant” (hah!) from the package, dining out, eating ready made styles and going it alone prepared me to stand as a chef of ancient kitchens. Yogurt cheese, dehin, is made by combining Greek yogurt with sea salt, wrapping in cheesecloth, draining for an hour and sealing in an airtight container overnight in the refrigerator. These are on a level with Neufchatel and cream cheese.

In Athens we have Taj Mahal and Fooks, both on Baxter Street, offering everything and more of Indian and Asian ingredients. Buying Asian, Indian and Latin ingredients is very easy today. Purchase what you need in small quantities for exactly what you need in any individual dish. Karen at Fooks will answer all questions, plus she carries my cookbook (A Romance With Food: Ginger, Lily & Sweet Fire).

Things like asafoetida, mango powder, pomegranate seeds and black cardamom pods for the next column sound like they are impossible, but on the contrary they were only 15 minutes away. As example, asafoetida made me shut a cookbook once and walk away. It is made by powdering the gum of a plant also known as giant fennel and has the slight flavor of leeks. When combined with gum Arabic (A powder made from a scrub brush grown in desert regions, is also used in Altoids.) is used in baking and making savory fresh cheese. It is also good for digestion and is prominent in Hindustan foods. Do not be afraid of what is new to you. Worcestershire is made from Asian fruit tree pod, tamarind. “New” is just a word away from the familiar. It is easier to say “you are what you eat” than it is to understand that “you are what you eat, eats” and their origins. I am sure the hunter gatherers made fun of the first farmers (An age old conflict).

Madhur Jaffery’s books are excellent introductions to Indian cuisines. “The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking” by Yamuna Devi is indispensible, and is perhaps the most definitive of vegetarian cooking. “Cooking At Home With Pedathia” on Andhra style South Indian cooking is a graceful look into home cooking. “Bengali Cooking” by Chitrita Banerji opened gates to the river kingdom. One of the books on Punjab cooking that was easy for me was “Menus and Memories From Punjab” by Veronica Rani Sidhu. She married a Punjab doctor that she met while in college in Michigan. He thought that the Hungarian meal of cucumber in sour cream and chicken paprikosh that her Mother made was a Punjab style meal to impress him! She never told him otherwise.  The world of love and cuisine uniting cultures is not just anecdotal , it is a reality.

 

PANEER

Time to make the cheese! Prep time is in two 15 minute sections, setting time is 3 hours and resting time is 8 hours. You will need a deep, stainless steel 6 to 8 quart pot, cheesecloth (a must for any kitchen) or damp handkerchief, yarn, slotted spoon, broad kitchen spoon, colander or strainer, milk and lemon juice. Seriously, the first stage is that minimalist. Follow directions exactly, the research is done so now for the easy part. Use the curd for the cheese, the whey is the liquid part of the dairy. You can keep reusing the whey each time you make cheese by adding the reserved whey to each preparation.  Fresh cheese is very easy, BUT you must be completely sanitary and precise. It may seem detailed but in reality it is simply a set of precise motions that become second nature, like making Southern biscuits, yeast rolls and cinnamon buns. 32 ounces milk ($2)makes 8 ounces fresh cheese ($12 in store). Use ONLY whole milk, skim and low fat will not make proper curd.

 MAKING THE CHEESE CURD

8 cups whole milk, anything less will not work

1 1/2 tablespoons each lemon juice, lime juice

In deep, heavy bottomed pot heat milk on medium to scald temperature or of 180 degrees. Slowly move the large spoon back and forth in the pot. As milk begins to foam add the juice one tablespoon at a time (10 minutes). Immediately remove from the heat and continue to move the spoon. You will see the curds and whey separate. The whey is watery and greenish yellow. Cover and let cool for 10 minutes.

The separation will be noticeable. Fold the cheesecloth into four layers and set it inside of the colander. Leave enough room to tie the cloth around the curd. Use a flat spider spoon or slotted spoon and lift the curd out of the pan. Place curd in cheesecloth. Save the whey for next time to use as the active acid solution.

Hold the curd bundle under warm water for 10 seconds to rinse off any whey. Gently squeeze the cloth around the curd to release any remaining liquid/moisture.

Drain for ten minutes. Place curd bundle on cutting board and roll it around to shape into a block or cylinder shape. Roll into shape in cloth. Drain for 3 hours.

After 3 hours unwrap the cheese and set on cutting board. Line plastic wrap with paper towels and roll the cheese into a cylinder shape. Refrigerate overnight.

SAVORY

Combine cheese curd with ½ teaspoon salt and 8th teaspoon rice vinegar. Press cheese over and over until it is soft and smooth. Shape into small discs.

SAUTE

1 tablespoon clarified butter or ghee

Heat on very low for 30 seconds each side. Remove and drain. Use for bruschetta, tomato sandwiches, for spicy bean dishes, light snack.

SWEET

1 tablespoon orange blossom water

3 tablespoons jaggery, date palm sugar, turbinado or light bright sugar

8 ounces water

If you want to color the cheese mix food color in bowl and hand press dye and cheese until soft and consistent. Shape cheese into small balls. Poach temperature is 150 degrees. Remove, drain and arrange on plates or serving trays. Sprinkle powdered sugar, cinnamon, allspice or cardamom for extra flavor.

Fresh cheese can also be used for dip, sandwiches, bruschetta and for adding to cooked pulses/beans/dhal. Eat with assorted breads, fruits, cured meats, olive oil and fruit vinegars. That was fun, wasn’t it? Please give fresh cheese making a go of it, you will be amazed and surprised at how much you can do with either paneer or dehin. Fresh cheese is for all cultures. Be warm, kind and loving.

Waking up from late summer hibernation,

Smile, she moves a little closer,

Seems the leaves have all dried up

And the yard is covered in sweet gum grenades,

Too hot to barbecue, fish or garden.

Song choices on the stereo are Blues fixed

And full of Southern hollers, songs of

No work dustbowl days in the 1930s.

Doc Boggs: “used to be a rambler,

Courting Pretty Polly, her beauty

Never been found…there she stands,

So come take a walk with me.”

And I feel the same way, we have our own

Burning long dog days, looking for my

Pretty Polly and sweet cornbread, ha!

A plate to fill and a life to sing,

Looking for a way to make the nights cooler,

To fill them all with food, art

And this world that I call love.

proletaria

politics philosophy phenomena

Poems for Warriors

"But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain..." 1 Cor. 15:10

LUNA

Pen to paper

Dirty Sci-Fi Buddha

Musings and books from a grunty overthinker

Sircharlesthepoet

Poetry by Charles Joseph

susansflowers

garden ponderings

𝓡. 𝓐. 𝓓𝓸𝓾𝓰𝓵𝓪𝓼

𝙳𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚖 𝚋𝚒𝚐! 𝙻𝚒𝚟𝚎 𝚋𝚒𝚐𝚐𝚎𝚛!

Flutter of Dreams

Dreaming in Music and Writing by Mel Gutiér

RhYmOpeDia

Immature poet imitate...but the mature one steal from the depth of the heart

hotfox63

IN MEMORY EVERYTHING SEEMS TO HAPPEN TO MUSIC -Tennessee Williams

My Cynical Heart

Welcome to my world.

Discobar Bizar

Welkom op de blog van Discobar Bizar. Druk gerust wat op de andere knoppen ook, of lees het aangrijpende verhaal van Harry nu je hier bent. Welcome to the Discobar Bizar blog, feel free to push some of the other buttons, or to read the gripping story of Harry whilst you are here!

the poet's billow

a resource for moving poetry

MY TROUBLED MIND

confessions are self-serving

proletaria

politics philosophy phenomena

Poems for Warriors

"But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain..." 1 Cor. 15:10

LUNA

Pen to paper

Dirty Sci-Fi Buddha

Musings and books from a grunty overthinker

Sircharlesthepoet

Poetry by Charles Joseph

susansflowers

garden ponderings

𝓡. 𝓐. 𝓓𝓸𝓾𝓰𝓵𝓪𝓼

𝙳𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚖 𝚋𝚒𝚐! 𝙻𝚒𝚟𝚎 𝚋𝚒𝚐𝚐𝚎𝚛!

Flutter of Dreams

Dreaming in Music and Writing by Mel Gutiér

RhYmOpeDia

Immature poet imitate...but the mature one steal from the depth of the heart

hotfox63

IN MEMORY EVERYTHING SEEMS TO HAPPEN TO MUSIC -Tennessee Williams

My Cynical Heart

Welcome to my world.

Discobar Bizar

Welkom op de blog van Discobar Bizar. Druk gerust wat op de andere knoppen ook, of lees het aangrijpende verhaal van Harry nu je hier bent. Welcome to the Discobar Bizar blog, feel free to push some of the other buttons, or to read the gripping story of Harry whilst you are here!

the poet's billow

a resource for moving poetry

MY TROUBLED MIND

confessions are self-serving

proletaria

politics philosophy phenomena

Poems for Warriors

"But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain..." 1 Cor. 15:10

LUNA

Pen to paper

Dirty Sci-Fi Buddha

Musings and books from a grunty overthinker

Sircharlesthepoet

Poetry by Charles Joseph

susansflowers

garden ponderings

𝓡. 𝓐. 𝓓𝓸𝓾𝓰𝓵𝓪𝓼

𝙳𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚖 𝚋𝚒𝚐! 𝙻𝚒𝚟𝚎 𝚋𝚒𝚐𝚐𝚎𝚛!

Flutter of Dreams

Dreaming in Music and Writing by Mel Gutiér

RhYmOpeDia

Immature poet imitate...but the mature one steal from the depth of the heart

hotfox63

IN MEMORY EVERYTHING SEEMS TO HAPPEN TO MUSIC -Tennessee Williams

My Cynical Heart

Welcome to my world.

Discobar Bizar

Welkom op de blog van Discobar Bizar. Druk gerust wat op de andere knoppen ook, of lees het aangrijpende verhaal van Harry nu je hier bent. Welcome to the Discobar Bizar blog, feel free to push some of the other buttons, or to read the gripping story of Harry whilst you are here!

the poet's billow

a resource for moving poetry

MY TROUBLED MIND

confessions are self-serving

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