29 May 2013

Smoke & Pickles

Since I have been having a terrible month, my FFF (faithful foodie friend) Anne, sent me a cookbook.   It was the highpoint of my month!   She sent me a copy of Smoke & Pickles by Edward Lee.  I must admit that Edward Lee is not a chef that I have ever been really fired up about.  This book might have just changed that.   While Southern food is defined by a bunch of different ingredients, one thing that people often leave out of the equation is the story. 

A big bowl of collard greens is just that.  But tell me who made the bowl, how they were cooked, which family member cooked them in which pot, where they were picked, who owned the land during the War Between the States, and you have yourself a big bowl of Southern collards.

So what is a Korean boy from New York City doing running a Southern restaurant in Kentucky?  That is a story.  The story begins like most cooking stories do, in a kitchen with a mother or grandmother.   Then there was tossing out Korean barbecue to make some extra money, but when a noted chef walked in and the food was sub par, Lee had to rethink the whole thing.  Then there was a fluke call from a friend who said come on down for the Derby.  They always need cooks and you can watch the race.  He went and stayed.

For a boy who grew up in a Brooklyn tenement, he sure can tell a good story.  His love of the land is positively palpable and his respect for the things that grow and roam that land are evident.  He has managed to keep all the things his grandmother taught him while expanding the culinary framework of old southern tradition.  He does it beautifully.  And the boy knows his bourbon! 

Jalapeño-Spiked Bourbon Julep

4 to 6 fresh mint leaves, plus a sprig for garnish
1 ounce Jalapeño Simple Syrup (recipe follows)
Crushed ice
2½ ounces bourbon
Splash of club soda
A jalapeño slice for garnish

Place the mint leaves in the bottom of a julep cup, add the simple syrup, and gently bruise the leaves with a wooden muddler or a wooden spoon. Add enough crushed ice to fill the cup almost two-thirds of the way. Add the bourbon and stir gently, then fill the cup almost full with more crushed ice. Top with a splash of club soda. Garnish with the mint sprig and slice of jalapeño and serve immediately.

Jalapeño Simple Syrup

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 jalapeño peppers, chopped (seeds and all)

1. In a small saucepan, combine the water, sugar, and peppers and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Turn off the heat and let steep for 20 minutes.

2. Strain the syrup and allow to cool. Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Next time you throw a party, break out this recipe and nice jar of kimchi!  

20 May 2013

Kitchen Memories

On of my favorite places on earth is Petershams Nursery.   It is outside of London. One takes a bus out to Richmond, then walks till the nursery sign painted on the side of a building becomes visible.  Follow the arrow down the alleyway and then walk toward an open field.  Their is a wide drive filled with various farm vehicles and finally the gates open to Petershams.  Inside are glass housed filled with plants, and enormous garden center with the glorious and the mundane.  In the very back is an old greenhouse and when the sun hits the glass panes, there old loamy funk of a greenhouse seeps in. 

In that old greenhouse are tables and chairs and some really wonderful food.  The chef who got the ball rolling at Petershams was Skye Gyngell.  At the beginning, she brought her own pots and pans every day.  Soon a tiny kitchen was added in an old brick room behind the greenhouse and before long, the nursery was a dinning destination.  Alas, with all this fame came what every chef wants, a Micheline star, but the star proved to be the demise of Gyngell.   Some diners felt the star meant valet parking, white tablecloths and well, a floor.   Sadly, she left and new chef came.

Back in London, n the same vein of glorious simple cooking, Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray presided over The River Cafe, another food destination and starting point for many an illustrious English cooking career.  Which brings us to today's cookbook, Kitchen Memories, by Lucy Boyd.  Lucy Boyd is Rose Gray's daughter.  After spending many years in the kitchen at The River Cafe, and many more at home cooking with her mother and family, Boyd went on to become the gardener at Petershams Nursery, growing the vegetables that graced Skye Gyngell's menus.   If Gyngell wanted to try something, Boyd grew it for her.  This wasn't farm-to-table eating this was literally table-IN-the farm eating and it couldn't be better.

It is clear that Boyd did not fall far from the tree.  Her recipes are inviting, simple and about all else delicious.   This simple chicken dish will leave you wanting more.
Lemony Chicken with Fresh Coriander

20g fresh root ginger, peeled and chopped into small chunks
3 cloves of garlic, peeled ¼ tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 medium-size chicken, jointed into its various parts (the butcher will do this for you)
3 tbsp olive oil
juice of 1½ lemons
1 fresh green chilli, stalk removed, then finely chopped (deseed if you prefer it less hot)
1 small bunch of fresh coriander, leaves picked from their stems, washed, dried and finely chopped
sea salt and black pepper

Put the ginger in the food processor with two to three tablespoons of water and blend to a paste.

Put the garlic, turmeric, coriander, cumin and cayenne pepper in a pestle and mortar and pound together.

Season the chicken pieces well all over with salt and pepper.

Heat a drizzle of the olive oil in a shallow, heavy-based pan, add the chicken pieces and brown them on all sides -- it may be easier to brown them in batches if your pan is too small to to fit them without overlapping.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a bowl.

Put the garlic and spice mixture into the still-hot pan (you may need to add a little more oil) and stir to release their flavours. Add the ginger and chopped chilli and stir-fry for a minute or so. Add the chicken pieces and any juices that have been released, then add 8 tablespoons of water and the lemon juice. Stir, then turn up the heat and bring to a boil, cover with a tight-fitting lid and turn the heat right down to a gentle simmer.  Cook for 15 minutes until the chicken is tender and cooked through. Remove the lid and scatter the chopped coriander over the top. Serve with spiced basmati rice. 

You may not have a gardener or a greenhouse, but get yourself a nice pot of coriander (or cilantro as we Yanks call it) and set it in the window.  Then you will be ready for this lemony chicken.

14 May 2013

The Tammy Wynette Southern Cookbook

The death of George Jones made us troll our collection to find this gem, The Tammy Wynette Southern Cookbook.  Now Tammy penned this little cookbook after she and George had long split, but one simply can't think of George without a passing thought of Tammy.  

"As many of you know already, I was born on a sharecropper farm in Itawamba County,Mississippi.  We had no running water, no indoor plumbing, and no stove.  We cooked over an open fireplace with water drawn and handcarried from a nearby spring.... In the years that have passed since then, I've preformed on every continent, in hundreds of cities, and in nearly every state in the U.S. ...I've entertained in the White House numerous times, and before other heads of state, in addition to preforming in some of the most famous concert halls in the world.  Yet, despite all these honors, my roots are pure rural Mississippi."

While she admits to gathering many of her recipes from her grandmother, she is not adverse to a bit of 1950's kitchen helpers.  There are Ritz crackers, cake mix, tons of canned soup and even some canned asparagus.  A good third of the book is dedicated to dessert.  There are chocolate pies, chess pies and cobbler, with eggs if times are good and it plain ol' berries when they are not.   

There is not a lot of exposition to these recipes.  Either you have it or you don't.  This cake was passed on to her by some friends.  

Jell-O Cake

1 box cake mix (yellow or white)
3/4 cup Wesson oil
4 eggs
1 small box of Jell-O (any flavor)
3/4 cup milk

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes in tube pan.

We believe that the ingredients should be thoroughly mixed before dumping into the tube pan.  And the tube pan should probably be oiled and lightly floured.   Simply close your eyes and think of the possibilities with all those Jell-o flavors.   Close your eyes and see Tammy waiting for George at the Pearly Gates, Jell-o Cake in hand.

06 May 2013

Mastering The Art of Southern Cooking

This weekend, Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart won the James Beard Award for American Cooking  with their behemoth Mastering The Art of Southern Cooking.  Not only is it a cookbook, but it makes a great DIY project.  Just add four rather sturdy  legs and you have a lovely martini table ( or should we say mint julep table?) to sit beside your settee.  It has been said that about 300 pages was cut from the manuscript which now stands at over 700 pages.

There are those that have taken offense with the "Mastering The Art" title, and while it might cause one to think of the legendary Julia Child, there are nearly a thousand books featuring those words in the title, so you need to get over it.  Dupree worked for two years when Graubart signed on to assist and then the pair worked another four years to bring the book to fruition. In the midst if the process they published  Southern Biscuits in 2011.  In researching Mastering The Art of Southern Cooking, they had already amassed 35 biscuit recipes!

Needless to say, there is not much of anything left out.  There are some things in the cookbook that don't really strike me as totally "Southern" like Yorkshire Pudding Popovers, but then there is Okra Pilau.  There are lots of grits, plenty of pork and enough desserts to send you into a coma.  When we wanted to pull out a recipe, we felt the same kind of overwhelmed that Dupree felt in the early stages of research.  What to do??  Well this is an old, new Southern favorite.

Mississippi Caviar

3 (16 ounce) cans black-eyed peas, drained
1/2 cup finely chopped green pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped red pepper
3/4 cup finely chopped hot peppers
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup drained, chopped pimento
1 garlic cloves, chopped
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Hot sauce

In a large mixing bowl, combine peas, bell peppers, hot peppers, onion, pimento and garlic.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil and mustard and pour over the bean mixture; mix well. Season to taste with salt and hot sauce. 

With a wooden spoon or potato masher, mash the bean mixture slightly. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Drain the caviar well before serving.

 If you want to totally immerse someone in Southern cooking, this book is the best place to start.   Congratulations on the James Beard Award.

01 May 2013


 In recent years, Spanish food has been all the rage.  It is the other Mediterranean food. Hop a boat to North Africa and you get a whole new spin on Mediterranean.  While elBulli was the moon for molecular gastronaughts, Spaniards have been eating food for quite some time.  

So how does one find out how to cook, simple, delicious Spanish food.  Let's start with simple delicious Italian food.  The River Cafe in London is one of the world's best restaurants.  It offers up, simple, clean, seasonal Italian food.  It has also offered up a slew of fabulous cooks.   If you are a famous chef in London, there is a good chance you once worked at The River Cafe.

That was the case for Sam and Sam Clark.  One is Samantha and the other Samuel but which is which?  After working at The River Cafe and honeymooning in Morocco, the duo decided to open a cafe that would spotlight the flavors of the Mediterranean from a Spanish point of view and in the late 1990's they opened Moro.  It quickly became THE place to eat in London.  In 2001, Sam and Sam published their cookbook which was an instant hit.

Unlike Italian food which now has a stronghold in even the tiniest towns in America, Spanish cooking hasn't exactly permeated the country.  That means there are some spices and condiments that require a bit of shopping.  But once you find a supplier, you are golden.

At Moro they are very fond of harissa.  Harissa is one of those condiment used with the same ubiquitous flare that Americans use mayo.   Those this one is hot and red!   More an more, one can find harissa in larger supermarkets, but Moro makes their own.   Once you try this, store bought will never be OK.   Many harissa recipes call for dried peppers but Moro's spin it to use fresh peppers along side the canned piquillos.


250 g long fresh red chiles
4 garlic cloves
Sea salt
3 heaped teaspoons coarsely ground caraway seeds
3 heaped teaspoons coarsely ground cumin seeds
1 level teaspoon ground black cumin seeds (optional)
100 g jarred piquillo peppers, or 1 large red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, and seeded
1 dessertspoon tomato purée or tomato paste blended with a little water
1 dessertspoon red-wine vinegar
2 level teaspoons sweet smoked Spanish paprika
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1. It is advisable to wear rubber gloves when preparing the chiles. Slice the chiles in half lengthwise. Lay each chile, cut side up, on a cutting board, cut side up and gently scrape away the seeds and fleshy veins, discarding them. Roughly chop the chiles and transfer to a food processor. Add the garlic, a pinch of salt, and half of each the spices; process until smooth. Add the piquillos and process. It’s important that the paste is as smooth as possible.

2. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Now add the remaining ingredients—the rest of the spices, tomato purée, vinegar, paprika, and olive oil. Taste and season with more salt to balance out the vinegar. Harissa keeps well in the fridge, but be sure to cover it with a little olive oil to seal it from the air.

Now that you have it made, what to do with it???

At Moro, they bath a nice plump chicken in the paste and roast it.  Couldn't be better!
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