I am currently blogging about everything. Jump in where you are and thanks for coming by!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Culinary Solidarity

A few years ago my parish sent home a Lenten calendar of recipes for the various countries that received aid from Catholic Relief Services. They were our Lenten charity that year. Most of the recipes were vegetarian (or very nearly so) and great to try on a Friday night. I like preparing different ethnic and regional cuisine, so this was right up my alley. Thinking of Haiti this week I decided to look up and prepare some traditional Haitian meals. I used my brand new handy-dandy pressure cooker to make some Red Beans and Rice or Riz et Pois. It didn't come out as well as I would have wanted, the lovely melding of flavors of good red bean and rice came to taste overwhelmingly of pepper.

Here instead is the traditional method of preparation.

Sort, rinse and soak beans. Drain beans and cook them by bringing to a boil and then reducing heat, keeping beans at a bare simmer for 1-2 hours (depending on amount you are cooking.) I like to add some chopped onion, bay leaf, chopped carrot and garlic to my beans. I add salt at the end of cooking to avoid tough beans. If your beans haven't achieved the state of soft mushy fall apart goodness, feel free to mash a few with a potato masher or fork. Do NOT blend or puree! Drain beans and reserve the cooking water (don't pour down the drain.) Melt some butter or oil in a cast iron skillet, add rice to pan and allow to cook to a golden brown. Add the amount of reserved cooking water you need to your rice (for instance making 1 C. of rice use 2 C. of water.) If you have it on hand add a bit of chopped green bell pepper to the rice. When rice is done, mix with beans and serve. For spicier beans and rice add cayenne pepper or tabasco to taste.

A few nice side dishes would be fried plaintains and maybe cornbread and salad.

Friday, January 15, 2010

What Would Ma Ingalls Do?

Besides have an irrational hatred of Native Americans and wear a hoop skirt anyway?

I have undertaken a lot of things in the last year, started teaching Sunday School, baking my own bread, cooking nearly everything from scratch (including sour mix, more on that later) and recently homeschooling. Needless to say my own lax standards of house keeping are compromised by my schedule and the daunting destructive capabilities of my toddler daughter. My seven year old doesn't help much either, but at least she stays out of my way more often than not.

So I started thinking about all the various chemicals, appliances, and modern conveniences I have and I wonder how come I can never seem to get on top of my housework? What would Ma Ingalls do? She had no running water, had to grow her own food, sew her own clothes, linens and even toys for the children and her house was always clean. Of course how much dusting could there be when she only had the one what-not and the single china shepherdess? However, my point remains the same; why does house work always take all day? Did cave women grunt, "Me need to clean cave, but exhausted from big mammoth hunt?"

Needless to say the last thing Ma Ingalls would have done was write a long blog post about it. So if you'll excuse me I am off to polish my what-not and bake some cornbread.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Winter Meals

I know, I know I live in South Florida and I don't know about cold. Yeah, can we take the Yankee smearing of my fortitude and lack of grit as read? But the truth is there are only a few weeks all year where it is cold enough here to make truly hearty winter foods and last night was one of them!

Menu: Pulled Pork, collard greens, black eyed peas, cornbread, coleslaw.

The pulled pork recipe was adapted from Paula Deen's pulled pork recipe, basically you take a a pork shoulder and rub it all over with spices and brown sugar. I use my husband's TOP SECRET no TELLIN, *ever* dry rub and some brown sugar to coat the meat. Alton Brown and Paula Deen both have excellent dry rubs that you can use, there are also commercially available dry rubs. The real "secret" is to let the rub sit on the meat for at least 2 hours if not all night. Then you add a mixture of 2 tsp. garlic powder, salt, 2 TB worcestershire, 1/2 TB of liquid smoke, 1 C of cider vinegar and 2 C of apple juice to the dutch oven or roasting pan. Add the meat to the pan. Cover the pan with heavy foil and then put the lid on that. Slow roast this in the oven for 4 hours at 325 until you are able to shred the pork with a fork. You can eat the pulled pork as is or top with barbecue sauce.

Collard greens are so simple it is embarrassing. Fry bacon in a stock pot, add some finely chopped onion if you like. Toss rinsed, chopped, de-ribbed (only the really large tough ribs) collards in the pot, stir until wilted. Top with water or stock and heat through. They sell pre-chopped collards in a bag these days which makes it even easier.

Black-eyed peas were the big experiment of the night. I had forgotten to start them earlier in the day and I was stumped till I remembered I had received a pressure cooker for Christmas. I have never used a pressure cooker before so I was a little leery. I followed the directions and assembled the cooker, added the sorted, rinsed beans, a half an onion, a chopped carrot and 4 C of water. You lock on the lid, hit high pressure, and time and let it go. The beans came out delicious, soft and flavored well in only 24 minutes!!!. I did not add salt as the beans were cooking as this can inhibit the beans from going soft, but adding salt at the end seasoned them well. A piece of ham hock or bacon would have been good, but I had used my bacon for the collards.

I took the easy way out with the coleslaw and bought a pre-shredded bag of cabbage and carrots. Let the mix stand in a colander over the sink sprinkled liberally with salt for 20 minutes. After it has released its moisture toss the mix with 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp of sugar, and a sprinkle of your dry rub. Then mix together 1/4 C of mayo with 1/4 C of Ranch dressing, pour over the mix and toss till coated. I can't stand soggy coleslaw so this may be too dry for you, adjust amounts as needed.

And now the final piece of the meal, fresh hot cornbread. I realized I was out of Jiffy corn muffin mix which is my go-to for cornbread, but I did have some cornmeal on hand. I used the recipe (more or less) on the back of the bag.

Golden Yellow Corn Bread
1 C corn meal
1 C sifted flour (I used bread flour and did not sift)
1/4 C sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 C soft shortening (I used some smart balance and some cold solidified bacon grease I had in the fridge. Yes, I did.)
1 C milk
1 egg beaten
3 tsp baking powder

Mix dry ingredients. Cut in shortening (or whatever you use.) Mix egg and milk together and add to dry ingredients with a few quick strokes. (Seriously, do not over beat corn bread batter!) Bake in a greased 9x9x2 inch pan at 425 for 20-25 minutes. (I only had an 8x8 pan and I baked it in a 350 degree oven due to the meat cooking and it came out fine.) When cornbread is brown around the edges and pulling away and a a toothpick inserted comes out clean it is done. I don't see why you couldn't have the dry ingredients for this pre-mixed and ready to go in your pantry at all times. It was lightly, lightly sweet and delicious.