What's Cooking in Carolina?

Mainly creative menus and recipes (usually healthy) and always from scratch with tips for party planning, theme parties, weddings and decorating tips so you can give swank parties or dinners to delight your guests from a part time caterer, owner/operator of a coming soon Entree Vous, but mainly a cook and eater who grows much of her own food and loves to laugh.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Chicken Cacciatore (or How Many Ways Can You Cook Chicken)

In my humble opinion, chicken is the most versatile of all meats. There are so many
different recipes and ways to cook it to get significantly different tastes and flavors. Roast chicken is so simple to make and such a comfort food and the leftovers can make a wonderful stock for a huge array of soups or stews. If you think about how many ways there are to cook chicken, it is mind boggling. There is fried chicken, buffalo wings, chicken cordon blue (or saltimbocca), chicken tetrazzini, jerk chicken, cacciatore, chicken fingers, chicken tacos, burritos or enchiladas, chicken gyros, chicken noodle (or rice) soup, coq au vin, chicken fricassé, chicken and dumplings, gumbo with chicken, chicken pot pie, chicken ala king, chicken teriyaki, chicken cutlets, chicken tenders and chicken parmesan. You can cook chicken by different every method: braised, sautéed, baked, roasted, grilled, stewed, etc. You can barbeque chicken, grill it whole or in pieces, marinated, bricked, on a beer can. You can make chicken salad. or have chicken on a salad. How about in Chinese stir fries, Greek marinated, Japanese-style or Mexican? You can cook it with 40 cloves of garlic, chicken satays or pound out some breasts and do a quick fry. Chicken Divan. Chicken fried rice. Chicken Kiev, chicken casserole, creole, stew, hash, paprika or a good old grilled chicken sandwich, breaded and fried or grilled, spiced or not. I particularly like the chicken sautés in From Julia Child's Kitchen, like Poulet sauté bonne femme (Chicken sautéd with potatoes, salt pork and onions). You know, there's not one here that here I haven't tried. Mind-boggling, isn't it.

So what's cooking in Carolina? The other night we had Chicken Cacciatore, also called Hunter's Chicken or Chicken Chasseur. Why you ask? I had several multi-colored peppers that needed to be used or they were going to go bad and I had a few big plum tomatoes from Costco. It had been a few years since I made it so there you have it. The recipe is on our web-site. Swank Recipes The picture is above. I left out the mushrooms (to save a trip to the store) and served over pasta. It was great! Life is good!

Caio or Chow (as we say in the South)!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Eggplant and Lamb

Maybe it is the possibility of spring that has me on a tear cooking new things. We had lamb ravioli with mint, yogurt and garlic. It was very different.

On the American Iron Chef on the food channel, they had an eggplant competition. It looked so good, it inspired me to cook eggplant. I started with an Armenian eggplant jam (a lot of these are from Joanne Weir's From Tapas to Meze.). It was a great condiment and one that I will start playing with. It is also something that looks great to can so when I am getting an abundance of eggplant from the garden, it is something to use it up for eating in the off season. I don't know why I never thought of canning eggplant. We eat Baba Ganoush when eggplant is in season and you can buy that in jars so now I have made the connection and I'll have more to can.

While shopping at Harris Teeter (not even Whole Foods), I came across the Thai eggplants I had seen them use on the eggplant Iron Chef. So I made a chicken curry with eggplant. It was really very easy, since I already had some ready-made Thai red curry paste. I took a can of coconut milk and added the red curry paste and chicken thighs. You could use any part of a chicken, including breast skinned, boned and diced. I used thighs because they are tender and juicy and cheap! I cooked the chicken in the cocnut curry a good while, maybe 45 minutes or an hour. I added the small green eggplants in the last 10 minutes and finished it with a lime, juiced and coriander chopped.
Now here is what we thought. We were not impressed with the eggplant. For being so small, they were full of seeds, way more than the big eggplants and they were a bit herbacious as well. Everything else was wonderful. We served it on Jasmine rice and we would definitely make it again. On the other had, I would replace the Thai eggplant with Asian ones.

We also tried Turkish Spiced Lamb "Pizza" from the Weir book. Great with added crushed pepper.

In the meantime, we'll go back to pruning. And when we get a spare minute or two, we'll plant the seeds for the summer garden. We have most of them, but I still need to order a few heirloom tomatoes. The grape seeds are coming up in the new seedling growing area fast and furious, way faster with the heat, light and watering controls. Hopefully, it is home to the perfect seedless muscadine, if it is not already in the vineyard. You'll be the first to know!

Try the best eggplant recipe in the world: the recipe is in on our website!
Swank Recipes

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Basteeya (Chicken Pie in Phyllo)

Too much fast food! We've been out and about and even a few days of running around and stopping to pick up a bite along the way is too much fast food for me. I whole heartedly support the Slow Food movement, particularly because I sincerely appreciate fresh, local ingredients and hope to be an active part of it but having a product, like the muscadine fruit leathers we are working on, or I might even get involved in a related franchise operation.

Anyway, on the slow food topic, I made Basteeya this week for the first time in years. It is one of the best dishes out of Morocco, a wonderful chicken pie.
The first time I made it was with my sister-in-law, Tooie, when she lived in Conn. It must have been more than 12 years ago. The recipe we used was from Claudia Roden's The Book of Middle Eastern Food. When I saw the recipe in From Tapas to Meze (by Joanne Weir), I remembered cooking it with Tooie, gave her a ring (now in MD) to tell her I was trying it again, after all these years. She remembered it too, in fact, she said "remember the cinnamon and powered sugar and what a wonderful complexity it adds too the dish?" She asked who I was having over to dinner (no one but us) because of how long it takes to make.

Anyway, you cook chicken pieces with onions and spices until it is well cooked (kind of poached), cool it, removing the skin and bones, cutting the chicken in small pieces. You add beat up eggs to the remaining broth, cooking until most of the liquid is absorbed. You add this to the chicken with cilantro and it becomes the base for a pie that is made here (US) with phyllo. After you layer the bottom of the pie with phyllo and add the chicken and egg mixture, you add almonds (poached then roasted and bathed with a mixture of cinnamon and almonds) then top with more phyllo and bake. It is served with a dusting of powdered sugar and cinnamon and it is too die for! It is very, very good, even though the prep takes awhile. And it is beautiful as well. Definitely something you could serve at a dinner party. We'll just have to have it for lunch! Definitely a better lunch than you can get out, don't you know?

You'll definitely have to try it sometime. It is quite a treat. Check out our website for more recipes: More Swank Recipes

Friday, March 10, 2006

Preserved Meyer Lemons

I am so lucky to have been raised by MY parents, who garden, fish and hunt, eating the best of what is in season and in the off season, eat what was canned and frozen, something I must have in my genes and must continue. I like it. Now it is wonderful to have access to wonderful markets in addition to the garden, pantry and freezer and be inspired to try new things.

I buy cookbooks (duh!) and subscribe to food magazines and read them over and over. Some things are tucked away in my memory so when I see an ingredient, even though I may not know what I will use it for, I buy it.

In Whole Foods, I came across Meyer lemons. I have a new cookbook, recently updated and re-released, From Tapas to Meze, by Joanne Weir. It came highly recommended from my friend Leslie, a wonderful cook in Memphis. It has several recipes for preserved lemons. I already had out several appetizer cookbooks including another Tapas cookbook because I am planning a wine and Tapas tasting. On top of that, our wonderful cookin' neighbor and friend, Marne, gave another 'cooking' neighbor and I a cooking class at A Southern Season (thank you Marne!). A Southern Season is another wonderful store close by that carries a huge array of hard-to-find ingredients. In fact, you should check out their website, A Southern Season because they mail order. It is the first cooking lesson I have had outside of my mother and grandmother's kitchen. Everything I have ever cooked was by experimenting with by myself or with friends, cookbooks, or TV, starting with Julia Child, The Galloping Gourmet and James Beard, moving into the current luxury of the Food Network. We give cooking lessons but taking one was fun, I have to tell you. The class was "A Classic Persian Feast" and was taught by a local celebrity chef, Farah Hadjitaghi. It is really a demo, but the kitchen is well done, the interaction is good and you get to taste everything.

The Menu: Marinated Olives with Walnuts, Pomegranate Juice and Herbs; Green Bean Salad with Yellow Potatoes, Garlic and Lemon; Lamb Shanks with Lentil Rice, Raisins, Walnuts and Dates; Celery Stew with Chicken, Mint, Parsley, Caramelized Onion and Tumeric; Roasted Chickpea Flour Cookies with Cardamon and Pistachio Nuts; Mulberry shaped Almond Paste with Pistachios and Rose Water.

I liked everything that was served, but my absolute favorite was the marinated olives. I have made both the olive and the lentil rice. I served the lentil rice
ith Chicken Marinated with Lemon, Mint and Tumeric.

In the class, she mentioned preserved lemons. I have already been reading recipes including preserved lemons and I see Meyer Lemons in the store! So now I have preserved lemons in the works. It'll take a few weeks for them to be ready, in time for the Tapas party. In the meantime, the recipe is on our website Swank Recipes and the picture below is what they looked like right after they were jarred. I will take a picture of them later, if they change sustantially. I can't wait the weeks required. I will post recipes using them in a few weeks.

Enough for now for I need to get back to pruning.

Eat well. Laugh often. Call or write if you have something to say or want us to cook for you!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Homemade Ricotta, Ravioli with Ricotta, Ricotta Fritters

While watching the Olympics and flipping through food magazines, I found a recipe for making your own ricotta cheese. Included was several recipes utilizing ricotta. The most appealing to me was a ricotta filled ravioli with poppy seed brown butter sauce topped with asparagus and ricotta salata. After watching the Olympics and all of the information on Italy, I wanted to eat something Italian and doesn't this just sound yummy? They also had a recipe for stuffing chicken breasts with a ricotta and spinach mixture, which I have made something very similar to and it was very good. So it's off to the grocery store to get the milk and buttermilk to make ricotta. That ought to be fun. I'll let you know how it goes and what I end up making with it.

I'm back. The ricotta cheese was quite easy to make. It probably only took less than an hour from start to finish. You take 1 gallon of milk (I used skim) and 5 cups buttermilk (I used low fat) and cook, stirring, until it reaches 170.
Then you quit stirring (important) until it reaches 190. Strain in 5 layers of moistened cheese cloth over a colander (over a bowl if you want to save the whey). After about 5 minutes, you take the cheese cloth and tie it in a knot and hang it over the sink to drain another 15 minutes.
Take it out of the cheesecloth, you put it in a lidded storage container with a bit of salt added and use within about 4 days.

The texture of the ricotta is competely different that that which you buy in tubs at
the grocery store. It is less moist. You have to flake it with a fork. We liked it though.

I tried the recipe for the ravioli mentioned above and pictured here.
It was very good, yet I can imagine how much richer it would have been had I used more fatty
ingredients. It was yummy; one of those dished where you can keep eating and eating
until you are stuffed. I took some of the remaining ricotta and make
ricotta fritters. We'll have them tonight and I'll add a picture, if I get a decent one. Here it is:

That's it for now. Try more recipes from our recipes of the week Swank Recipes and send us a note, we would love to hear from you!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Hot and Soup Soup and Egg Roll Recipe

For someone that loves to cook as much as we do, it is a great joy to go to the
market and find an ingredient that you have never seen fresh before. We are so lucky to have Whole Foods Markets so close by. I found fresh wood ear mushrooms which I have only ever seen, so I had to buy them. They were $9.99 a pound, which is a lot but they are so light weight that getting a few cups of them weighed so little they only cost a few dollars. So I also picked up some fresh shitake mushrooms and some of their made-on-the-premises sausage and knew I was going home to make hot and sour soup and egg rolls. For my homemade egg rolls, I take loose sausage that is spicy hot and crumble it and sauté it with minced onion, garlic and ginger. More traditionalists would make it with ground pork or shrimp, but I like it with the spices in a hot country sausage. I add shredded cabbage and whatever else I have around. Just kidding in a way, but not really. I might add shredded carrot. I always add mung bean sprouts. Because I was making hot and sour soup and had partial jars of bamboo shoots and water chestnuts, I added some of them too as well as some of the shitake mushrooms that I didn't need for the soup. I season with some soy sauce. Then I roll them and deep fry and they are ready to go. I get a question every now and then about how to roll egg rolls so I have put together a little picture so you can see, if you haven't tried it before. The real trick is to try to roll it tight so there isn't any air it is (to puff up when you fry) and to make sure you seal it with water when you roll it to keep it from leaking. It is much better to have smaller ones than big ones that leak when fried.

It was great because I had egg roll skins enough left over to make those little fried crunchies that they always serve you with soup in Chinese restaurants. Did you know that's what they are? I just cut the egg roll wrappers or won ton skins with scissors into pieces about 1/4" x 1" and deep fry them. I like to salt them a little right out of the fryer. Not the lowest fat dinner, but you control the ingredients and the temperature of the oil so they aren't greasy. They are fresh and yummy.

As far as the soup, the recipe I devised with the fresh mushrooms is in our recipes of the week this week. Swank Catering Recipes I had stir fried pork with green beans earlier in the week so I had enough pork left over to shred up for the soup but it would have been just as good without it. I made enough to have several meals out of them. The hot and sour soup was some of the best I have made.

I hope you'll try the soup and the egg rolls and make them to your taste. It is really not at all as complicated as it sounds and they are very good. You can make a ton of egg rolls, partially fry them, cool freeze and freeze them and have them to cook on the spur of the moment.

Eat well, sleep well, laugh a lot and give us a try!

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