Thursday, February 17, 2005

I just stumbled on this site, which lists some 500 French Cheeses with descriptions, region of origin, what to drink with them and their best seasons. It lists the cheeses alphabetically so it is easy to find what you want to know about. Take a look!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Well, what was I thinking? You can check the Penzey's online store to see all the herbs, spices and blends at Penzeys Spices Products. Check it out!
Just a quick note...I finally got to the Penzey's store that opened recently in East Memphis. As you all know, I try to keep on top of what is available in the local market so I can direct folks to things I don't have.

Well, what a treat! To begin with, just walking in the door...the aromas of the spices and herbs make you want to buy one of everything and go home to cook. And every spice, herb or blend has a little jar that allows you to sniff. They had no less than four kinds of cinnamon, and it was interesting sniffing at each. There was a definite difference!

They also had a lot of dried peppers, more than just the normal chipotle and ancho. Lots of curry blends, lots of herb blends, lots of salad blends, and then just lots of great fresh-looking herbs and spices!

Most are available in small or large jars, and in plastic bags to refill the jars when you use them up. What an ecologically sound idea!

The store is in the Carrefour at Kirby Woods, on the southeast corner of Poplar and Kirby. Check it out!

Thursday, February 10, 2005

I admit to being an incurable cookbook addict. I have been for years. I have hundreds of them. I still cannot possibly go to a bookstore and walk past the bargain book table without perusing the available cookbooks. Some are hopeless, but I figure that if I can find a book with a good recipe or two for a couple of bucks, it is money well spent.

Recently I happened across one of these, titled "Two Dollar Dinners," by Paul Gayler, (Artus Books, London, 1996). It had a bargain book sticker on it that indicates that I had paid a mere $2.98 for it. I hadn’t picked it up for quite a while, and rifled through it to see what I might want to try. There were a number of recipes that I just don’t think we’re going to talk about: Hot Dog Fusilli, Tian of Sardines, French Onion Soup with Herring Crostini, or Cabbage, Turnip and Blood Sausage Soup.

However, the book fell open to a sure sign of a couple of recipes I had liked: dirty, splashed pages. One was for a green tomato gazpacho and another for Shanghai fishburgers with cumin and ginger ketchup. A great meal, I thought, for a casual weekend supper. I made a few changes to accommodate my taste, including changing the fishburger title to one more appealing. And voilĂ !

Here’s the menu: Green tomato gazpacho, seafood croquettes with cumin-ginger aioli, roasted potatoes and for dessert, wine-poached plums. Most of the work can be done ahead. Make the gazpacho the night before, or early in the morning. Make the croquette mixture and aioli and refrigerate. Cut red-skinned potatoes into good-sized chunks and toss to coat with olive oil and a little minced garlic. Poach halved seeded plums in red wine with a little sugar and the juice and zest of an orange.

When you’re almost ready for dinner, roast the potatoes for about 45 minutes at 350F. Form the croquettes. Serve the soup, and as you are clearing the soup bowls, cook the croquettes. The plums can be served warm or cool, with vanilla ice cream if you like. How easy could it be?

Green Tomato Gazpacho
2 slices firm white bread, crusts removed
1 lb green tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
1 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1/2 cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 medium onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp ground coriander seed
6 tbsp olive oil
5 tbsp white wine vinegar
Salt, pepper and sugar to taste
Sour cream and basil for garnish
Put the bread in a bowl and pour a cup of water over it. Put the tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumber, onion, garlic and coriander in a blender or food processor and purée. Pour into a large glass or ceramic bowl. Put the bread in the processor, turn it on and drizzle in the olive oil, then the vinegar, then about a half-cup of the tomato mixture. Blend for another 30 seconds. Whisk this into the tomato mixture in the bowl. Taste and add salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. Chill well before serving with a dollop of sour cream mixed with minced basil. Serves four.

Seafood Croquettes with Cumin-Ginger Aioli
1 lb boneless filet of white fish: cod, tilapia, or catfish
1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and very finely chopped
3 green onions, minced, using 1" of the green part
1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 eggs, beaten
1 tbsp cornstarch
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying
Lettuce leaves, for garnish
For the aioli:
1/2 cup real mayonnaise
1 tbsp catsup
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and very finely chopped
In a food processor, pulse the fish several times, or until just finely minced, not pureed. (Or you can do this by hand.) Transfer to a bowl and add the ginger, onion, cilantro, pepper flakes, soy sauce, eggs and cornstarch. Season lightly with salt and pepper and refrigerate at least an hour, and up to 8 hours.
Mix together all the ingredients for the aioli and refrigerate.
Shape the fish mixture into 8 small croquettes. Heat the oil in a skillet and sauté over medium heat until golden, 3-4 minutes per side. Drain briefly on paper towels. Serve atop a leaf of lettuce with a dollop of aioli on each one. Serves four.

Friday, February 04, 2005

It’s not like Carolynn and Lewis Clark don’t have anything else to do. As the owners of Lewis Clark/Advertising Design, a graphic design company, they both run full speed most of the time, including weekends, to meet the various deadlines of their clients. And then there are their two college-age daughters who get plenty of attention as well. But they still find time to gather together a group of friends and plan a great dinner. Just recently, after a ten-day marathon trip to Oregon, to finalize printing of an annual catalog, they planned a casual Saturday evening supper featuring gumbo. As natives of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, both their families are used to plenty of fresh seafood, which is something they miss. However, they say, with their family gumbo recipe even "store-bought" seafood will taste great.
It was a cooperative dinner: their daughter made stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer, accompanied by a festive Creole champagne punch with pineapple and strawberries floating on top. Then Carolynn’s sister’s contribution was a wonderful seared scallop salad with a sherry vinegar reduction dressing that she had found in a recent edition of Bon Appetit magazine. But the centerpiece of the menu was definitely the gumbo. Rich with a perfect roux and brimming with shrimp, crab and sausage, it was perfect, needing only the touch from the Tobasco bottle that is compulsory on any Creole table!
Realizing that her guests would have plenty to eat, rather than making one of her famous desserts, Carolynn brought in several pints of yummy sorbets and gelati from a local gourmet grocery. Everyone just dug in and scooped what they wanted onto their dishes.
If you’ve ever made gumbo, you know the secret is a good dark roux. Bacon fat makes a great one, but you could easily substitute vegetable oil. But here’s the catch: the recipe is right in that you can’t stop stirring, even for a second. And you can’t hurry it along. If you see little black flecks that resemble ground pepper, don’t think you can save it; it’s burnt. Toss it out and start over! Having the "trinity" of onion, pepper and celery at hand, to be tossed in just when the roux is perfect, will stop the cooking and keep it from burning. I am not going to claim that this is a fast and easy recipe, but well worth your time, and your friends will thank you!

Dorothy Clark’s Great Gumbo
Âľ cup bacon drippings
½ cup all purpose flour
1 cup diced smoked ham
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 quarts water
3 beef bouillon cubes
4 bay leaves
2 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves, or ½ tsp dried leaf thyme
1 can (15 oz) stewed tomatoes
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
1 tbsp sugar
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 packages (10 oz each) frozen sliced okra, thawed
1/3 cup additional bacon drippings
1 pound claw crabmeat
2-1/2 lb peeled and deveined small shrimp
3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Cooked white rice, and minced parsley to serve

In a heavy 12-inch deep-sided skillet over medium heat, melt bacon drippings. Add flour all at once, stirring to blend well. Cook, whisking constantly, until a dark mahogany-colored roux is formed, about 30 minutes. DO NOT STOP STIRRING, even for a second or the roux will burn and must be discarded! Add the ham, onion, bell pepper and garlic. Cook, stirring often until vegetables are wilted, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile in a Dutch oven, bring water to a full boil and add bouillon cubes. Stir to dissolve. Add the roux-vegetable mix to the boiling broth all at once and stir well. Lower heat to a simmer and add bay leaves, thyme, tomatoes and their liquid, tomato sauce, sugar salt and pepper. Stir well and simmer for one hour.
Meanwhile, melt additional bacon drippings in the 12" skillet over medium heat and cook the okra, stirring often, for 15 minutes. Drain off the fat and set okra aside.
Add crabmeat, shrimp and cooked okra to the gumbo, stirring to blend well. Simmer uncovered for 30minutes. Add Worcestershire sauce and cook an additional 10 minutes. Serve over hot rice and sprinkle with minced parsley. Serves 10-12.

NOTE: Carolyn also adds "whatever is in the fridge…" which might include sliced sausage or left over chicken, roast pork or pot roast, finely minced and added with the shrimp.