"It IS all about the TASTE"
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  • Mango Chutney

    Mango_Chutney

    As with all events at the Bad Wolf Bar and Grille, Poker night would not be Poker night without food from the kitchen, and drinks from the bar.

    On one such evening, I decided on an Indian flair, and made my first attempt at Samosa’s. These were “passable”, as in passable to starving wolves, with several libations in them. The TRUE star of the snack table was a mango chutney, I had thrown together on a whim.

    Of course, having thrown this together on a whim, means no measuring, no recipe, no clue. (BAD ROGUECHEF!!!) Over the next several weeks, I made several attempts to recreate the chutney, and after many tries, and samples produced, tasted, and rejected, I managed to come very close to the original. And to make sure I DON’T have to do this again, I kept notes.

    From Wikipedia:

    Chutney is a loan word incorporated into English from Hindi-Urdu describing a pasty sauce in Indian[1] and other South Asian cuisines. It is a term for a class of spicy preparations used as an accompaniment for a main dish. Chutneys usually contain an idiosyncratic but complementary spice and vegetable mix.

    Chutneys are wet or dry, having a coarse to fine texture. The Anglo-Indian loan word refers to fresh and pickled preparations indiscriminately, with preserves often sweetened. At least several Northern Indian languages use the word for fresh preparations only. A different word achār applies to preserves that often contain oil but are rarely sweet. Vinegar or citrus juice may be added as preservatives, or fermentation in the presence of salt may be used to create acid.

    In the past, chutneys were ground with a mortar and pestle made of stone or an ammikkal (Tamil). Nowadays, electric blenders replace the stone implements. Various spices are added and ground, usually in a particular order; the wet paste thus made is sauteed in vegetable oil, usually gingelly or groundnut oil.

    American and European styled chutneys are usually fruit, vinegar and sugar, cooked down to a reduction. Flavorings are always added to the mix. These may include sugar, salt, garlic, tamarind, onion, or ginger.

  • Memorial Day Sides – Macaroni Salad

    One of the classic pasta salads, macaroni in mayonnaise dressing, with stop light peppers, celery, onion and seasonings. This is a southern dish that has global acceptance. A perfect companion for a Barbecue.

    Macaroni salad is a salad, served cold made with cooked elbow macaroni pasta and usually prepared with mayonnaise. Much like potato salad in its use, it is often served as an accompaniment to barbecue or other picnic style entrees. Like any dish, national and regional variations abound but generally it is prepared with raw diced onions and celery and seasoned with salt and pepper. Canned tuna is also a very popular ingredient.

    In Australia it is commonly known as pasta salad and is usually made with cooked shell pasta pieces and brought from supermarket delis.

    In the U.S. state of Hawaii, macaroni salad is often served with plate lunches, a local form of dining. Locals in Hawaii often refer to macaroni salad as “mac sal” or “mac salad”. The salad itself is usually just elbow macaroni and a heaping portion of mayonnaise.

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  • Meatless Monday – Fried Okra

    fokra

    In keeping with my home cooking, comfort food bend of mind, another favorite dish from you youth. Some people just rebel at the thought, but young orka, rolled in corn meal, and allowed to firm up, then deep fried is a sweet taste treat of a side dish.

    Background
    The name okra is most often used in the United States, with a variant pronunciation, English Caribbean okro. The word okra is of West African origin and is cognate with ọkwurụ in the Igbo language spoken in Nigeria. Okra is often known as “lady’s fingers” outside of the United States. In various Bantu languages, okra is called kingombo or a variant thereof, and this is the origin of its name in Portuguese (quiabo), Spanish (quimbombó or guigambó), Dutch and French, and also possibly of the name “gumbo”, used in parts of the United States and English-speaking Caribbean for either the vegetable or a stew based on it. In India and Pakistan, and often in the United Kingdom, it is called by its Hindi/Urdu name, bhindi, bhendi, bendai or “bhinda”. In Tamilnadu ,India it is called as Vendaikai.

    The products of the plant are mucilaginous, resulting in the characteristic “goo” or slime when the seed pods are cooked; the mucilage contains a usable form of soluble fiber. Some people cook okra this way, others prefer to minimize sliminess; keeping the pods intact, and brief cooking, for example stir-frying, help to achieve this. Cooking with acidic ingredients such as a few drops of lemon juice, tomatoes, or vinegar may help. Alternatively, the pods can be sliced thinly and cooked for a long time so the mucilage dissolves, as in gumbo. The cooked leaves can also be used as a powerful soup thickener. The immature pods may also be pickled.

    Okra is richer in potassium than bananas and has nearly twice as much calcium gram for gram as milk. 100g supplies a third of the recommended daily intake of magnesium (needed for energy release and healthy nerves) and more than 10 per cent of the RDA for iron. Okra is also a source of fiber – stir-fried okra contains much fiber as whole wheat bread. In addition it is quite a good source of vitamin C and the antioxidant betacarotene, which has a range of benefits, including protection against cancer and heart disease by helping to neutralise free radicals.

    Okra is one of those “binary foods” where people seem to hate it or love it, just like mushrooms, seaweed, and tofu. The hate is usually because of the gooey slime that coats the okra, but that is not a preordained fate

    Okra becomes slimy when cooked with a moist method—in a stew, curry, gumbo (in all these the sliminess helps to thicken the overall dish), or a steamer basket. Stir-frying or sauteing in hot oil, in contrast, keeps the slime within the okra pieces, or perhaps causes the moisture in the mucilage to evaporate, thus improving the pods’ texture.

    There are cooking techniques tol prevent your okra dish from being slimed. Indian food has many techniques of okra preparation, and I have three recommendations from my Indian friends.

    1. Trim just the very tip and the end of the okra and pan fry the whole okra pods until tender.
    2. Trim and round the pods then saute with onions and spices
    3. Trim SMALL okra pods, dredge in spices and corn meal / flour, and deep fry

    Note : After you wash the okra pods, wipe them dry with a paper towel. Controlling moisture is the key to controlling the slime.

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  • Baked Cheese

    On my way back from a client in Brooklyn I passed a new establishment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where I found a very nice little appetizer of baked cheese.

    The restaurant / lounge was less than packed so the owner / chef had a few minutes to chat. Of course, we all know who wheedled the recipe from him, and chatted about some possible addins..

    Consider the well seasoned 12″ cast iron skillet, black, heavy and with it’s own baked on non stick surface. Now add cubed cheese, some olive oil, (my first add / change, bacon drippings or bacon cubes browned off in the skillet), thin sliced garlic, seasonings, and of course herbage. This is then baked until the cheese melts, bubbles, and browns.

    This is then served bubbling hot, with a selection of thin slices of crusty french baguette, (Toasted and not toasted) and maybe the chunks of browned bacon on the side.

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  • Red Risotto with Peppers

    red-risotto

    Having done Chicken Cacciatore, one must serve over some form of starch. Pasta is traditional, but I do not feel like being traditional. A search for Italian rice dishes, yielded some interesting recipes for Arancini (Rice Balls), and they looked soo good, but not quite what I wanted, (but I WILL do them shortly) I found all kinds of risotto posts, but maybe, maybe not. Then I saw a post for a rice dish using red wine, and roasted red peppers. Quite an idea to play with, perhaps using my standard risotto, but red wine, and the roasted peppers.

    I have some broth / stock / almost gravy from a roast and I have a package of dried porcini, and I’ll steep them in just enough boiling water to cover for 20 minutes or until they’ve expanded. Drain them, reserving the liquid, and mince them. I’ll use the rehydrate as well. I’m looking for a lot of mushroom aroma, and the beef stock will add that umami mouth feel/taste.

    One can use a rich vegetable stock as well, for those with an aversion to meat or meat with dairy.

    Risotto is a class of Italian dishes of rice cooked in broth to a creamy consistency. The broth may be meat-, fish-, or vegetable-based. Many types of risotto contain Parmesan cheese, butter, and onion. It is one of the most common ways of cooking rice in Italy.

    Risotto is normally a primo (first course), served on its own before the main course, but risotto alla milanese, is often served together with ossobuco alla milanese.

    There are many different risotto recipes with different ingredients, but they are all based on rice of an appropriate variety cooked in a standard procedure.
    Grains of Arborio rice

    The rice is first cooked briefly in a soffritto of onion and butter or olive oil to coat each grain in a film of fat, this is called tostatura; white or red wine is added and has to be absorbed by the grains. When it has evaporated, the heat is raised to medium high and very hot stock is gradually added in small amounts while stirring gently, almost constantly: stirring loosens the starch molecules from the outside of the rice grains into the surrounding liquid, creating a smooth creamy-textured liquid. At that point it is taken off the heat for the mantecatura when diced cold butter and finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese are vigorously stirred in to make the texture as creamy and smooth as possible. It may be removed from the heat a few minutes earlier, and left to cook with its residual heat. Seafood risotti generally do not include cheese.

    Properly cooked risotto is rich and creamy but still with some resistance or bite: al dente, and with separate grains. The traditional texture is fairly fluid, or all’onda (“wavy, or flowing in waves”). It is served on flat dishes and it should easily spread out but not have excess watery liquid around the perimeter. It must be eaten at once as it continues to cook in its own heat and can become too dry with the grains too soft.

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  • Sprouts and Bacon

    Recently, I was accosted by a “Trained Food Scientist” … who it would seem, did not read the “It IS all about the TASTE! “ post, and proceeded to rip my cooking styles, menus, ingredients, into VERY small pieces, not to mention, my lack of knowledge in basic food science, poor taste, poor grammar, etc, etc, etc.

    After several minutes of this, I left… (Remind me, to IGNORE my fan club…. or maybe start carrying a shock prod)

    FLAME ON

    Let’s get one thing straight… I DO NOT GIVE A FLYING &%$%#!@ ….. about “modern nutritional science”, the folks who write / espouse that crap, also produce such healthy and wholesome items as the great American Fast food menu..

    Bluntly, good food, prepared fresh, in reasonable amounts, combined with reasonable amounts of exercise, (GET OFF YOUR FAT ASSES!!!!), will be more healthy for you than consuming the prepackaged, chemically preserved and flavored, highly salted, over processed organic material that is excreted and extruded as a wonder of “modern nutritional science.”

    To quote a friend, (MaryeAudet@Bakingdelights.com)

    It isn’t meat or butter or eggs or even sugar that are responsible for America’s obesity problem. I really believe it is dependence on foods that are full of chemicals and GMOs AND an inactive lifestyle. The combination is deadly. Problem is people decided to go low fat rather than get rid of the chemicals and move around a little. So now people ingest more chemicals, they are still fat, and they are battling diseases that are brought on by toxins in what they eat.

    FLAME OFF

    While in the green grocers, I noticed fresh Brussels sprouts. Now given the time of year, I had to ask, where they were grown, and the reply was San Mateo, Ca.. Wow… It seems they get FLOWN in… WOW!! … The price.. “UGH!”, but then again, sprouts are mild and sweet at the start of the season, especially if you toss them in hot butter or olive oil after boiling them, or shred them and stir them into hot bacon fat, with some onions and serve with a vinegar dressing.

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