Easy Tabbouleh (Tabouli)

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Tabouli

This is such a nutritious and delicious thing to have on hand. It can be served with grilled pita bread, rustic breads, slices of radishes, carrots or cucumbers or eaten as a salad on its own. There are a lot of recipes out there, this one is based on a Palestinian version, basically a parsley salad. Chop and stir! This keeps for about a week in the refrigerator. I used fresh and dried parsley to get different levels of flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup fine bulgur wheat, soaked for 2-4 hours in boiling water, then strained
  • 1 pound of grape tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 large shallot finely chopped
  • 4 Tbs fresh lemon juice
  • 2 large bunches fresh flat leaf parsley finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried parsley 
  • 2 large bunches mint (not peppermint) finely chopped
  • 2 Tbs Baharat seasoning (see below)
  • 1 Tbsp Sumac (more if you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper (I use a four peppercorn blend)
  • Sea salt to taste

Baharat Spice Mix

To make spice mix: Toast all but the nutmeg in a dry pan, being careful not to burn. Use a spice grinder or mortar and pestle to grind to a fine powder).  Add the nutmeg and stir. Keeps for 8-10 weeks

To make Tabbouleh:

Add all ingredients in a large bowl and stir. Taste before adding salt and pepper. Serve with additional lemon quarters.

Five Onion “French Onion Soup” ~ Best Recipe!

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French Onion Soup

This really is easy to do, it just takes about 40 minutes prep time and a couple of hours of cooking time. I always make a large pot of it. It freezes well and keeps in the refrigerator for at least a week.

Ingredients:

  • 8# of assorted onions: Red, Sweet & White, cut in half and sliced in 1/4 inch slices
  • I cup of TSTE dried Shallots (or 2# of fresh shallots coarsely chopped)
  • 4 leeks greens cut off, cut in half then sliced thinly
  • 2 tablespoons of TSTE Vik’s Garlic Fix
  • several grinds of TSTE Four Peppercorn Blend
  • 1/4 cup TSTE Sweet Onion Sugar
  • 6 stems of fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon TSTE dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil 
  • 1 bottle dry vermouth
  • 6 quarts of stock. I used duck, but chicken, beef or even vegetable stock is fine. DO get low sodium though if you buy it.
  • Splash of cognac
  • For each serving: 1/2 cup of Gruyère cheese, shredded and 1 slice of toasted baguette

Duck Stock

Method:

  • In a very large stock pot pour in the olive oil and add the onions and leeks in stages allowing the onions to caramelize a little before adding more.

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  • After all the onions are cooked deglaze pot with a bottle of vermouth. This adds immense flavor to the soup, so don’t skip this step.
  • Add seasonings, stock and the dried shallots (if you use fresh, add them with the onions).
  • Bring to a boil then allow to simmer with the lid off for about 2 hours, stirring once every 15 minutes. Liquid should reduce by about half.
  • Add the cognac to taste
  • Turn on broiler
  • Toast the baguette slices.

cheese

  • Fill oven proof crocks with soup. Place on a cookie sheet for transferring to the oven. put a baguette slice in each of the crocks. Add a tiny bit more soup on top to soften. Pile with cheese and put under the broiler till the cheese starts to brown and bubble. Remove and serve.

SO easy and so delicious!!!

Homemade Egg Rolls!

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rolls plated

There are many plays on the egg roll. This one is perhaps the “classic” to most Americans, as it is the type we grew up with. A crispy egg noodle exterior, filled with savory flavors and lots of interesting veggies. You do not have to follow an exact recipe, play around with different fillings, different herbs and all kinds of sprouts and greens. The Vietnamese make them with a rice flour wrap. Spring rolls are the same concept except uncooked, those utilize the rice flour wraps soaked in water to soften them.

OK… back to the basic egg rolls. This is so easy and everyone LOVES these! You will never buy those frozen ones again!

I like to use pork sausage, you can also chop up some cooked shrimp or chicken.

Veggies:

Finely chop some of the following (you choose the things you like):

  • Carrots (I shred mine)
  • Celery
  • Shallots
  • Garlic
  • Water chestnuts
  • Mushrooms
  • Cilantro
  • Napa cabbage
  • Red bell pepper
  • Daikon radish
  • A bit of lemongrass
  • A bit of fermented black beans (optional)

Not so chopped goodies:

  • Mung bean sprouts
  • Pea sprouts
  • Thin slices of tofu

Method:

In a hot wok or skillet brown the sausage (or other meat) once browned toss in the veggies and saute. Your mixture should be 1/2 veggies and 1/2 meat. Add some Hoisin, Fish Sauce or Oyster Sauce, just enough to moisten (I prefer the hoisin). Cool. & Chill the filling for 30 minutes.

Filling

Now comes the fun part! Let’s Roll! In four steps you roll up the egg rolls. Brush on an egg wash (1 beaten egg with 1 Tbs of water) on all seams as you fold.

Roll 1

roll 2

roll 3

roll 4

After they are rolled, place on a plate or if you are making a lot, on a tray.

rolls done

If you are frying, heat 4″ of canola or rice bran oil to 350 degrees and fry till golden brown on both sides (about 5 minutes). Drain and serve hot.

If you are baking, spray a baking sheet with oil, then place the egg rolls on the baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 375. Then bake for about 25 minutes, till golden and crispy.

For sauces, you can use many different sauces, the easiest are prepared Duck Sauce, Hoisin Sauce or Sweet Chili sauce. All are available in most any grocery stores. If you are doing the vietnamese version, it is worth it to find a recipe for Nuoc Cham. Here is my friend Andrea Nguyen’s recipe.

These are better when freshly cooked. The wraps and filling will last at least 10 days in the fridge. You can crisp up leftover cooked rolls in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. You can also make the rolls before cooking and freeze them on a baking sheet. Once frozen, just put into freezer bags and they will be ready for your next party. Fry or bake as directed.

Perfect Prime Rib and Yorkshire Pudding

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Slice of prime rib

This was our Christmas Eve dinner, but it would also make a lovely Sunday dinner or a great New Years Eve dinner. It is so much easier than many people think.

When buying your rib roast, look for choice or prime meat. You really need good quality meat for this. Buy one rib bone per person, or if you want leftover for prime rib sandwiches, then buy a little extra. I was only serving 2, so I got a three rib roast. Adjust your seasonings for a larger roast.

Standing Rib Roast

Ingredients:

Roast 1

Method:

  • Blend all together in a mortar and pestle or food processor to form a thick paste. Cover the entire roast with it and allow it to sit for one hour, placing the onions on the bottom of the roast in the roasting pan. Preheat oven to 500 degrees 
  • Pour the wine and stock in the bottom of the roasting pan
  • Once the oven has reached 500 and the roast is at room temperature put the roast in the oven.  
  • Bake for 30 minutes, then lower the temperature to 325. Check the temperature of the the roast every 20 minutes. Remove from the oven when it reaches and interior temperature of 110-120, higher if you do not like rare roast, but not too high, never more than 130.
  • Put foil over the roast and let it rest.
  • Strain off the fat and juices.

*Note: You can make a lovely sauce with fresh horseradish and cream or sour cream… easy peasy.

Meanwhile. make the Yorkshire pudding. This part must be served straight out of the oven, so have everything else ready.

Yorkshire Pudding

Yorkshire pudding

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup pan drippings from roast prime rib of beef

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. (it should only take a few minutes since you just took the roast out)
  • Sift together the flour and salt in a bowl.
  • In another bowl, beat together the eggs and milk until light and foamy.
  • Stir in the dry ingredients just until incorporated.
  • Pour the drippings into a 9-inch pie pan, cast iron skillet, or square baking dish. Put the pan in oven and get the drippings smoking hot.
  • Carefully take the pan out of the oven and pour in the batter. Put the pan back in oven and cook until puffed and dry, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately, it will deflate slightly like a souffle. 

The Best Lobster Bisque

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Bisque 2

I make this every time we get live lobsters, which is only a few times a year. Over the years I have tweaked this. I always have to buy an extra lobster or two tails to add some meat to the soup. It is the best soup I have ever tasted. While it is rich, a single bowl and some bread make a fine supper with champagne.

Lobster

Lobster Bisque 
Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 3 1- 2 pound live lobsters

For the stock:

  • Lobster shells
  • 1 onion quartered
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 cups of lobster cooking water
  • Water to cover shells

For the Bisque

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, large dice (I use a sweet onion like Vidalia)
  • 1 large celery stalk, rough chopped
  • 1 large carrot, sliced
  • 12 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 20 grape tomatoes (or one large tomato rough chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons dried tarragon
  • 2 tablespoons dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8-10 whole peppercorns
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup dry Sherry (plus more for serving)
  • 4 cups lobster stock
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Lobster Stock (about 4 cups)
  • Chives and fresh black pepper for serving

Method:

To make stock:

  • Bring large pot of water to boil.
  • Add 1/4 sea salt.
  • Add lobsters head first and boil until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Using tongs, transfer lobsters to large bowl.
  • Reserve 2 cups cooking liquid. Cool lobsters
  • Working over large bowl to catch juices, cut off lobster tails and claws. Crack tail and claw shells and remove lobster meat. Coarsely chop lobster meat; cover and chill. Coarsely chop lobster shells and bodies; transfer to medium bowl. Reserve juices from lobster in large bowl.Or you can serve the lobsters and save the shells, reserving extra meat for the bisque.
  • In a clean pot add shells, onion, carrot and reserved cooking liquid. Add enough water to cover the shells with an additional 2″ of water.
  • Cook low and slow for several hours (I have a simmer burner and let it simmer over night), until the stock has reduced to the level of the shells. Strain over a large pot.
  • You can cool and save this in the freezer or refrigerator or use straight away.
  • Discard solids

Bisque:

Bisque beginning

  • Heat olive oil in heavy large pot over high heat.
  • Add onion and next 8 ingredients. Boil until almost all liquid has evaporated, about 4 minutes. *Note, if you are using tails for the meat, put them in with veggies and cook till meat is white, about 4 minutes Use one tail per serving. 
  • Add lobster stock
  • Simmer 1 hour.
  • Remove bay leaves
  • Use a stick blender to puree
  • Strain soup through sieve set over a pot, pressing firmly on solids. Whisk tomato paste into soup. Add sherry and cognac.
  • Simmer until soup is reduced to 3 cups, about 15 minutes. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate at this point)
  • Add cream to soup and simmer 5 minutes.
  • Dissolve cornstarch in 1 tablespoon water.
  • Add to soup and boil until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. 
  • Ladle soup into bowls and top with a pile of lobster meat, some fresh chives, freshly cracked black pepper and a drizzle of sherry. 

Cook it Raw Charleston ~ Part One

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Yesterday was a culinary memory I will never forget. I was invited to be a volunteer for Cook It Raw’s finale food fest, BBQ Perspectives at Bowen’s Island representing Les Dames d’ Escoffier and The Spice and Tea Exchange.. For those of you who do not know about Cook it Raw, it is a Chef’s Only week of discovery and learning about a region and its food that involves most of the truly important culinary luminaries in the world. The word “Raw” implies on the edge, not uncooked. So, from all corners of the world, the chefs came, they learned, they tasted and then they cooked. They cooked for each other and for the first time in the history of the event, they cooked for the public. It is difficult to put the experience completely into words, but in general I would say that it was one of the supreme dining experiences of my life, and I have eaten all over the world and in much fancier places than outdoors on the river with the briny smells of the marsh and happy music playing. At every turn there was amazing interesting food created with local ingredients and using creative wood fired methods.

Sean Brock laughing

Chef Sean Brock at Cook it Raw’s BBQ Perspectives

The man at the helm of Cook it Raw Charleston was Chef Sean Brock, a true visionary when it comes to the food of the South. The local chef community who have been committed to the renaissance of Lowcountry cuisine for almost 20 years; Frank Lee – Slightly North of Broad; Mike Lata – FIG & The Ordinary; Chris Stewart and Sarah O’Kelley – The Glass Onion; Michelle Weaver – The Charleston Grill; Craig Deihl – Cypress Restaurant; Ken Vedrinski – Coda del Pesce and Trattoria Lucca; Robert Stehling – The Hominy Grill; Jeremiah Bacon – The Macintosh & The Oak Steakhouse; Jacques Larson – Wild Olive Restaurant; Bob Carter – Carter’s Kitchen and Rutledge Cab Company; Josh Keeler – Two Boroughs Larder.

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It was a smoke filled event with over 12 open wood pits and about 15 smoker “rigs” set up. The larger of the rigs belonged to South Carolina’s premiere BBQ team, Rodney Scott’s Whole Pig BBQ, which had just returned from a stint in New York City. People waited for the pig to be lifted and pulled from the bone, mixed with the sauce and served up with chitlins and white bread in traditional South Carolina style.

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“Tradition” stopped right there. Every other team created a whole new perspective.  on BBQ. While there was a lot of truly innovative and delicious food using our Low Country ingredients.

The team that totally blew my mind came from Toronto of all places. Team Canada made plates from slices of birch and from salt and hay. They made a beef tongue BBQ with sea horn berries, pecans puff grains, beans all mixed with a killer sauce. They also baked salmon in clay and made packets of grape leaves with Carolina sticky rice, quinoa, bison sausage, peanuts, maple syrup and quince. Good eh?

team canada collageTeam Canada: 

And then there was Brandon Baltzley (from Chicago) who lead the Irish Team’s concept of Low Country Boil with grilled pig heads, corn, fingerlings and head on local shrimp.

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The International Chefs came from all over the world:

More to come in part 2, like the event, there is just too much to consume at once!

 

Best Fried Green Tomatoes… Southern Bliss

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Fried Green Tomatoes

I never even thought of Fried Green Tomatoes as a recipe until a few people asked me how to make them. They are super easy and very tasty when done right. My great grandmother used to make them, though hers were made with just flour, not the combo of flour and cornmeal that I use now. This method if dredging, dipping and dredging again is the secret to fried chicken and most any coated fried food. The final dredge changes, anything from seasoned flour to panko, but the method stays the same. In the fall green tomatoes are pulled from the vines before first frost, but here in the south, people treasure them all year and green tomatoes are sold in our farmer’s markets. To keep them from ripening, store in the refrigerator till ready to use. They will keep several weeks. I never refrigerate ripe tomatoes, as that kills the sweetness.

fried green tomatoes

Set up a dredging station:

Pan 1: All Purpose flour

Pan 2 :1 cup of buttermilk 1-2 eggs whisked in

Pan 3: This is where you get a little creative:

Then slice up the green tomatoes about 1/2 inch thick. This thickness allows for a crispy crust and tender interior.

Heat canola or peanut oil to 350 degrees in a frying pan, about 1  1/2 inches deep.

Dredge the tomato slices in the flour, then the buttermilk mixture, making sure that the entire slice is covered in liquid.

Finally dredge the slices in the seasoned flour, making sure that all surfaces are covered.

Place in the frying pan, taking care not to crowd. fry till crispy and golden brown on each side and remove to a rack to drain. Repeat.

They can be served with a remoulade sauce, sweet chile sauce or put them on a BLT! They are even good cold.

Fried Green Tomatoes and Remoulade

Pineapple Cucumber Gazpacho

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pineapple 1

This is so easy and so delicious… completely refreshing.

2 cups fresh (must be fresh) cubed pineapple

2 cups chunked peeled English cucumbers (no seeds)

1 cup pineapple juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 sprigs fresh mint, torn

1 finely chopped jalapeno

3 tablespoons finely chopped onions

1/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts

Place all in a blender and pulse till well blended but still a little chunky

Serve  with additional nuts on top or a sprig of mint.

This will keep up to a week in the refrigerator.

pineapple 2

Southern Macaroni Pie

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Macaroni Pie

Macaroni…. an ubiquitous word. For hundreds of years in the south it was the word for any pasta, which was basically only spaghetti until mid 20th century.

Pie… yet another all present culinary term in the south. Many “pie” recipes here are savory, not sweet and sometimes served in a variety of casserole dishes. Generally they did start out in a pie dish, but were expanded to larger dishes to feed more people.

The inspiration recipe, from my friend Nathalie Dupree, comes from Social Circle, Georgia. Her mother in law made it and Nathalie figured it out over time. I made a smaller amount, as I was only feeding 2 (plus leftovers) and so I did make mine in a pie plate. If you get Nathalie’s book, Mastering the art of Southern Cooking  you will find the original recipe on page 268, along with the original Charleston version from 200 years of Charleston Cooking. Another friend of mine who lived in Charleston many years makes hers with sour cream. I wanted to make mine with the traditional spaghetti but I was lazy, I only had penne, so that is what I used. I also added freshly grated nutmeg, it was calling out to me. I also choose to bake this in a bain marie, as that is how I usually cook custards.

A little about Pasta in America:

Pasta first came to the U.S. via Thomas Jefferson served as minister to France from 1785 to 1789, and was introduced to pasta during a trip to Naples. He returned to the U.S. with crates of “maccheroni” and a pasta-making machine (which he proceeded to redesign). In Most sources, including the National Pasta Association, credit a Frenchman with establishing America’s first pasta factory, in Brooklyn in 1848. A flour miller from Lyon, Antoine Zerega, had a horse in his basement to turn the millstone; and like the Neapolitans, he hung his spaghetti strands on the roof to dry. Today, the fifth generation of Zeregas run the leading supplier of pasta to the foodservice industry in North America.

Spaghetti and meatballs had yet to appear. Macaroni had been brought to England earlier by the Genovese sailors, and the British baked it with cheese and cream—in essence, making macaroni and cheese, a preparation also popular in the north of Italy. They also baked pasta in sweet dessert custards, similar to German-Jewish noodle puddings. These recipes crossed the pond and were enjoyed by 19th-century Americans. According to Corby Kummer, upper-class Americans also purchased pasta imported from Sicily, which then, as today, had more cachet than the domestic product. The information in the remainder of this article comes largely from Mr. Kummer’s extensive piece, Pasta: Where It Came From And How It Got There. 

As other pasta factories sprouted up, the cost of pasta became more affordable. By the time of the Civil War (1861 to 1865), even the working classes could afford a pasta dinner. Cookbooks of the period indicate that the common way to prepare pasta was still baked with cheese and cream.

  • In the mid-1880s, according to food historian Karen Hess, cookbooks published as far west as Kansas included recipes for macaroni, some involving a tomato and meat sauce.
  • But pasta did not become the beloved dish it is today: It lost its cachet once the masses could afford it. The fashionable restaurants of New York, which served Continental cuisine, did not serve pasta or any other traditional Italian dish, even though many of these restaurants were run by Italians.

The huge wave of Italian immigration that began toward the end of the 19th century was ultimately responsible for pasta becoming an American staple.

And on on to our Macaroni Pie…

This recipe is for enough to fill a large pie dish. Feeds 4 as a main dish, 6 as a side dish

Ingredients

  • 3 cups cooked and drained spaghetti
  • 3 Tablespoons butter melted
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 a nutmeg, grated
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 1 pound sharp Cheddar or Gruyere cheese, grated

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 350.

Boil the pasta to al dente

While the pasta boils:

  • Lightly whisk the eggs with the milk
  • Add the mustard, salt, nutmeg, peppers and half the cheese
  • Cut the pasta into 3 inch pieces and toss with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter
  • place half of the pasta into a deep pie dish
  • sprinkle with cheese to cover, then ladle on 1/2 of the custard mixture
  • Add the remaining pasta
  • Ladle on the remaining custard
  • Top with cheese and remaining butter

Bake in a water bath (bain marie) for 30 minutes. check to see if it is browning, if so, loosely top with foil. Reduce heat to 325. Bake 20-30 minutes longer. Insert a knife in the center. If it comes out clean, it is ready. Allow to rest at least 10 minutes before serving.

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Carolina Peach Pie

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Peach Pie

Peach Season is here! Nothing can compare to peaches grown in South Carolina and Georgia and this is the time of year when they are at their peak. Beautiful soft orbs of sweet juicy fruit, which are naturally bright and beautiful can be utilized in many ways. I grill them, make chutney, jam them, eat in hand, freeze at least 20# to use for winter and of course make peach pies among other things. This pie is one of my favorites, the other style is a glazed peach pie, which I will be making soon. This one is so easy and delicious.

Carolina Peach Pie

1 recipe of pie dough for a double crust pie

10-12 large ripe peaches

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 cup of sugar

5 grinds of TSTE Baker’s Secret (cocoa nibs, vanilla turbinado sugar, cinnamon, maple syrup granules, ginger, nutmeg)

1/4 cup of all purpose flour

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) of butter cut into slivers

2 tablespoons of TSTE Coconut Sugar or extra fine white sugar

1 egg beaten with a teaspoon of water

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees

Peach Pie for the ready

Make an x in the bottom of the peaches, dunk in boiling water for 5 seconds and immediately plunge into ice water. Using a paring knife, pull off the skins. Cut the peaches into bite size pieces and layer with lemon juice sugar as you cut. When all of the peaches are sliced, stir and let sit for 10 minutes while you roll out the crust.

  • Using a spoon, pour off excess juice. Stir in the flour and Baker’s Secret.
  • Pile the peaches into the bottom crust so that the peaches are mounded high.
  • Add slivers of butter all around the peaches.
  • Put the top crust on.
  • Brush on the egg wash, covering the whole top crust
  • Sprinkle with Coconut Sugar
  • Make 3 slits in the top of the pie for steam to escape
  • Place on a foil lined cookie sheet
  • Make a cuff of foil to go around the edge of the pie (this prevents burning)and put into the oven on the center rack.

After the pie has baked for 30 minutes at 400, reduce the heat to 350 and bake another 30-40 minutes, until the crust is golden. Remove and cool. Allow the pie to rest for at least 40 minutes before slicing.