Category Archives: Food

Caramelized Onion, Cheese and Phyllo Tart

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Tart on plate

This tart is so easy to make and it is scrumptious. Since I made it for two of us, I halved the recipe that I usually make for parties etc. When serving many people I cut it into one inch squares and place in cupcake papers. This full recipe is made in a half sheet pan. I use a quarter sheet pan for the half recipe.Line either size with parchment paper.

Ingredients:

  • Half a package of phyllo, thawed.
  • 6 onions
  • 4 tablespoons Sweet Onion Sugar (optional)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 box (5.2 oz) Boursin Cheese
  • 2 cups arugula
  • juice & zest of one lemon (Meyer if you can get it)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Splash of olive oil

Method:

Heat oven to 400 degrees

  • Make caramelized onions by sauteeing the sliced onions in a little olive oil. Add the sweet onion sugar. cook down on low for an hour, stirring frequently. Allow to cool slightly,
  • Lay out the Phyllo dough, cover with plastic wrap and top with a wet kitchen towel.
  • Lay out two sheets of phyllo on to the baking sheet, then brush with olive oil and continue the process until all of the sheets have been laid out. Keep replacing the plastic and towel in between layers. Some of the phyllo should hang over the edge. Brush a layer of oil on the top sheet.
  • Spread the onions out evenly on the phyllo
  • Crumble the cheese over the onions
  • Add salt and pepper to taste
  • Bake for 20 minutes
  • Toss the arugula with the lemon juice and olive oil, then top the tart with it.
  • Lay the tart out on a cutting board (just pull the paper out onto the board) and cut with a pizza cutter.

This can be served warm or room temperature. It keeps for a week in an air tight container.

Belgian Beer Braised Short Ribs IP

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Ecstatic Meaty Velvet…. that is how I describe the end result of this dish. Short ribs are covered with spices and then seared, then the vegetables are caressed by the fire and finally the braising liquid of tomatoes, porcini mushroom broth and Belgian Ale are married to the pot. In go the short ribs and they braise for 3.5 hours (or just 40 minutes in the IP) while the sauce concentrates as the veggies become succulent. I served them this time over grits, sometimes I elect mashed potatoes. This is the kind of meal that ends with pristinely clean plates, except for those bones which gave up their marrow in the dish.  A sacrifice well appreciated.

short ribs raw

Here is how you do it, feel free to exchange out the spices to your personal palate, this is just what works for me. You will need 6-8 meaty English Cut short ribs to feed two. This recipe can be doubled, but when you brown the ribs, do it in batches.

spice blend

Spice Blend: 

The smoked paprika is essential,  find it!

  • 1/4  cup of brown sugar (I use TSTE’s sweet onion sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of sweet smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons of garlic salt
  • 1 tablespoon of dry mustard
  • 4 tablespoons of porcini powder (optional but rich!)

 

short ribs veggies en place

Sofrito: 

 

4 medium leeks chopped (pale white part only)

4 tablespoons of home rendered lard or olive oil

4 carrots chopped into medium sized pieces

3 celery ribs chopped into medium sized pieces

2 bay leaves (4 if using fresh)

10 cloves garlic, chopped

1 cup of dried porcini mushrooms re-hydrated and then strained, reserving liquid

For even more mushroom flavor, add fresh shitakes

1 440 mil can of Belgian ale or Guiness

1 28 ounce can of chopped tomatoes with the liquid

1/4 cup home rendered lard.

Method:

Preheat oven to 375 (I use convection roast setting). Be sure that you will have room for the lidded pot or dutch oven to fit on the rack on the lower third of the oven.

short ribs seasoned

Blend the spice mix and generously coat the ribs with it on all sides. There will be some leftover, reserve it.

Heat the lard or oil in a large deep pan or dutch oven. Saute setting on the IP. Brown the ribs taking care not to crowd them, do them in batches if your pan is not large enough. This should take about 1 minute per side.

short ribs browning

Transfer meat back to a plate or sheet pan and ad the shallots, carrots, celery and bay leaves to the pot and cook over moderate low heat, stirring occasionally until vegetables begin to soften (about 3 minutes), clear a hot spot and add garlic. Cook for 1 more minute. Stir in mushrooms.

Add broth, beer and tomatoes with their juice, then add the ribs and any remaining spices and spoon the sauce over the ribs. Bring to a boil uncovered

short ribs ready for oven

For the IP secure cover and cook on the meat setting for 40 minutes. Or, cover and place in the oven and braise for 3 hours, checking after about 1.5 hours to see if more liquid is needed, if so add beer, stock or water.

short ribs in oven

Remove from oven and allow to rest for about 10 minutes. Serve over mashed potatoes, grits or polenta. Click here for the perfect grits/polenta recipe.

short ribs close up

I doubt that there will be any meat left, but if there is it makes amazing tacos. Any veggies/sauce left are great for a soup, just add more liquid and puree.

If you liked this, you might also enjoy Smoked and Braised Pork Shoulder Latin Style.

Best Banana Bread!

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This banana bread is my great grandmother’s recipe except for a single addition, a little trick I learned in Hawaii. It has Cocoa Nibs added. They are pure chocolate which does not have any sugar or butterfat added. They do not melt, but remain crunchy and full of chocolate flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 2 cups self rising flour, plus more for pan
  • 4-5 medium very ripe bananas peeled and mashed
  • 1/2 cup full fat yogurt or sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
  • 1/2 cup cocoa nibs

Method:

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  • Heat oven to 350 degrees
  • Mash bananas and stir in the yogurt/sour cream and vanilla
  • Using a mixer beat the butter, add eggs one at a time, beating till fluffy.
  • Blend remaining ingredients in a bowl and using the mixer beat in a little at a time till fully blended.
  • Place in a buttered and floured bread pan.
  • Bake for 70 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Allow to cool slightly, then serve with sweet butter!

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Persian Saffron Rice in a Rice Cooker or Pressure Cooker

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Persian Saffron Rice in a Rice Cooker or Pressure Cooker

pomegranate chicken with saffron rice

This is lovely perfumed rice that has a crunchy bottom and a pillowy soft center. You can also do this on the stove, but it works best if you use a non stick pan to make it in.

I did this in my digital pressure cooker which has a rice cooker setting. You can halve this recipe if you want, but it is great for leftovers. I used leftovers of this rice in my Avgolemono Soup here.

I serve this with lots of things, but most recently made it with this amazing Pomegranate and Pistachio Chicken. 

Ingredients: 

  • 3 cups long grain basmati rice
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 1  Tablespoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter). If you don’t have that, vegetable oil is OK, but not as good!
  • 1/4 tablespoon ground saffron threads dissolved i 1 tablespoon hot water. (use a sugar cube or a teaspoon of Sugar in the Raw in a mortar and pestle to grind up the saffron threads. You can store Saffron water in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks.
  • 3 TBS full fat yogurt. I buy mine at the Indian Grocery. I think it has the best texture and flavor, but as long as you get full fat you will be fine.
  • In the pressure cooker on saute or in a small pan, add the ghee, yogurt, and 1 cup of the rice. Brown and stir till the rice is golden. Put it in the bottom of your cooker.
  • In a separate bowl mix remaining rice, water, salt and saffron threads. Stir well then add to the cooker.
  • Cook on brown rice setting. Or if using a pot, about an hour covered. Put a tea towel between the lid and the pot if using a pot.
  • Allow rice to cool for ten minutes.
  • Turn out on a platter or large bowl, the crust should be on top.

Amazing Chicken with Pomegranate and Pistachio on Persian Saffron Rice

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pomegranate chicken

The flavors of this dish were swimming around in my mind for a few days. Finally, I took the leap and made it. I used my pressure cooker to do the Persian Saffron Rice and it turned out fabulously. There was plenty left over for some more meals. The savory, sweet, sour and crunchy elements in this dish really sang to me. I think that they will to you.

The Chicken

Ingredients:

1 pound of chicken thighs, skin removed.

1 cup of Olive Oil

3 tablespoons hot smoked paprika

5 tablespoons Vik’s Garlic Fix (or your favorite garlic salt blend)

I sweet onion minced

4 garlic cloves minced

1 Tbs cinnamon

1 Tbs ground cardamon

1/4 cup golden raisins, plumped in hot water and strained

2 TBS corn starch dissolved in 3 TBS water

1/2 cup of pomegranate syrup or molasses

1/2 cup maple syrup

Zest and juice of one lemon

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup pistachios roughly chopped and toasted

fresh pomegranate arils and cilantro for garnish

Method:

Sprinkle the chicken with the garlic salt and the smoked paprika. Allow to sit for at least 1 hour or up to 12 hours.

Add the oil to a saute pan and brown each of the chicken pieces. Place into an oven proof dish while browning the other pieces then put into a 300 degree oven.

Remove all but 3 TBS of the oil from the pan.

For the sauce saute the onion and garlic in olive oil.

Add the pomegranate molasses, raisins, the lemon juice, maple syrup and zest and juice of the lemon, the water, the cardamom, cinnamon and the cornstarch slurry. bring to a high simmer and whisk while the liquid thickens.

Return the chicken to the pan, including juices and bring back to a full simmer. Continue to cook for about 30 minutes or until the chicken is tender. While simmering, continue to spoon the sauce over the chicken.

To serve, plate with saffron rice and top with the pistachios, cilantro and pomegranates

My Best Shrimp and Grits Recipe

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grits close up

Living in the Low Country where the best shrimp in the world is harvested, one is soon drawn to a variety of shrimp recipes and there is one dish that is so classically Charleston which always comes to the forefront. This was and still is a great breakfast recipe, but I love it for dinner. There are as many Shrimp and Grits recipes here as there are Charleston kitchens. I play around with the elements, sometimes adding cheese to the grits and sometimes adding chiles or okra to the shrimp element. I always use tomatoes, small shrimp and really good grits.

Grits

Let’s talk about grits for a moment. This dish would be seriously compromised by anything other than the very best stone ground grits you can find. I prefer mixed grits, a combination of yellow and white grits. If you live in Europe, you can use coarse polenta. Polenta is always made with yellow corn. Whereas southern grits are available in yellow and while as well as mixed (my favorite). Speckled grits mean that they leave the hull of the corn on (also my favorite).  I do like polenta for some things, it is not the same as good southern stone ground grits. At the bottom of this post I am adding a few links to what I consider the best online sources for the best grits. I am lucky that I can buy mine from Celeste Albers at the Charleston Farmer’s Market. But you can buy really great grits online now.

shrimp boat

Now, let’s talk shrimp. Buy wild caught when you can. For this recipe I really like small shrimp. Not the tiny ones for salads, but about an inch or two long. Buy them with the shells on and peel just before cooking. If you freeze shrimp, put them in a zip lock bag and fill with water, making an ice block.  There will be no freezer burn. I am lucky to be able to go to the docks and get shrimp caught that day here. You may not be so lucky. Our shrimp season is from June-December give a week or two. This is to promote sustainable fisheries. Our shrimp are born early in the year and grow in our incredible estuaries (a series of creeks, marshes and rivers) and then swim to the sea in late May.

On to the recipe! This is one of my favorites, but I play around with it all of the time.

Shrimp and Grits Sassy Spoon Style

My grits recipe is done in a rice cooker, but if you do not have one, follow instructions on the bag. Here is a link to my recipe: https://sassy-spoon.com/2012/07/19/grits-in-a-rice-cooker-perfection/

Mise en place

Ingredients:

  • One recipe of grits for four, cooked
  • 3/4 pound small shell on shrimp, shelled
  • 1/2 cup of butter &/or olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves finely chopp
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup of sliced okra (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chives
  • 2 cups tomatoes chopped
  • Pork in one way or another. In this recipe I used a Chinese sausage. You can also add cooked bacon or andouille sausage.
  • Your favorite hot sauce
  • Sea salt and lots of fresh ground black pepper

Method:

  • If using sausage or bacon, brown slightly in a skillet, remove and reserve
  • Put the butter/oil in the skillet
  • Add onion and saute till the onion just starts to turn golden.
  • Add garlic and saute another minute
  • Add tomatoes, herbs, hot sauce and seasonings, cook for 10 minutes on simmer
  • Add shrimp and stir. It will be ready when the shrimp starts to turn pink.
  • Scoop out the grits and top with the shrimp mixture
  • Garnish with chives or parsley

Here are some sources for great stone ground grits.

Authentic Mapo Dofu (Tofu) Recipe, a Szechuan delight!

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Authentic Mapo Dofu (Tofu) Recipe, a Szechuan delight!

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One of my favorite Szechuan foods is Mapo Dofu. It is a peasant dish with tons of flavor and textures.It is spicy, slightly crunchy and yet cooling and smooth at the same time.  I make mine with ground pork, but you can also use beef. If you get all of your ingredients together mise en place, this cooks quickly. Start the rice cooker before you do anything. Note, there is one ingredient that you may have a hard time finding, it is fermented broad bean sauce. It is available on Amazon.com. 

There are several stories about the naming of  Mapo Tofu, but the commonly accepted myth is that this dish was created by a pock-faced old woman. She was cast out of the Sichuan capital of Chengdu due to her disfigurement. One day, a weary trader happened upon her shack and she was so delighted by the company that she scraped together her meager provisions to create this dish.

broad bean

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons Szechuan peppercorns, divided
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons cold water
  • 1 1/2 pounds silken tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 pound ground lean pork
  • 6 garlic cloves grated on a microplane grater
  • 2 inches of fresh ginger grated on a microplane grater
  • 2 tablespoons fermented broad bean paste
  • 4 tablespoons Xiaoxing wine or sherry
  • 1 tablespoon sweet soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup chicken  or beef stock
  • 1/4 cup roasted chili oil 
  • 1/4 cup finely sliced scallion greens
Mise en place

Mise en place

Method

  1. Heat half of sichuan peppercorns in a large wok over high heat until lightly smoking. Transfer to a mortar and pestle. Pound until finely ground and set aside.

  2. Add remaining sichuan peppercorns and vegetable oil to wok. Heat over medium high heat until lightly sizzling, about 1 1/2 minutes. Pick up peppercorns with a wire mesh skimmer and discard, leaving oil in pan.

  3. Combine corn starch and cold water in a small bowl and mix with a fork until homogenous. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over high heat and add tofu. Cook for 1 minute. Drain in a colander, being careful not to break up the tofu.
  4. Heat oil in wok over high heat until smoking. Add beef and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add chili-bean paste, wine, soy sauce, and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Pour in corn starch mixture and cook for 30 seconds until thickened. Add tofu and carefully fold in, being careful not to break it up too much. Stir in chili oil and half of scallions and simmer for 30 seconds longer. Transfer immediately to a serving bowl and sprinkle with remaining scallions and toasted ground Sichuan pepper. Serve immediately with white rice.

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