“Grits And Greens”

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Maybe you’ve decided you want some comfort food tonight. If you’ve never tried cooking “Soul-Foodor, Southern-Food, one thing to remember first off, is that like all regions, and cuisines, recipes differ from area to area, as everyone has their personal way of doing things.

Cooking styles across the southern U.S. can be as diverse as any other part of the country. In fact, in many cases, what may be revered as a “Southern Staple Dish” on some Michelin-3- star rated menu-anywhere USA, many southern expert-seasoned-grandmother-chefs ( like mine for instance) quite possibly never heard of.

This probably isn’t news to some of you, but for everyone else, when you consider the different cooking styles in northern Italy, to those in the southern parts of Italy — You get my point.

I said all that to give you a heads up on the fact that, though my southern roots, and innate cooking styles began in the kitchen, and at the table of my mother, and or grandmother many of the dishes I love to cook today, I’ve developed by combining classic French cooking styles with those down home favorites Mama, and Granny used to cook. ( And Mama Still Does!)

Like my Mother, and Granny, however, much of what goes into my dishes comes from instinct, as far as what will, and will not work together.

I’m sure the same can be said for most of you who do a lot of cooking. In other words, mama and granny never followed any “Classic Cuisine” guidelines, or began their delicious sauces, or gravies, from one of the 5 mother sauces used in classic circles of cuisine—they just cooked instinctively, and deliciously.

On the other hand, being one of my personal life long interest, and having worked under a few respected Chefs, in some pretty darn good restaurants, I do occasionally use some of the classic sauces, and dishes to combine with my inherent cooking skills, and dishes.

collardgreensingarden[1]To cook greens for “Grits and Greens” as an example, I begin with what I remember being done every Sunday, or Holiday, in Mama, or Grannies, kitchen. We use collards, or, at least— I do for “Grits and Greens.”

First we wash the collards. These are from the first batch picked from my farmer neighbor’s winter crop, and what they lacked in the looks department, they greatly made up for in taste…  you’ll just have to take my word for it.

I don’t usually add sugar to my collards, as many southern cooks do, and in this case… I was glad I didn’t as these have a wonderfully mild natural sweetness of their own.

I’ll give a general recipe break-down of ingredients I used, although…it’s all up to your personal taste. I didn’t use exact measurements, as I rarely do-and don’t have many people to cook for these days, so the quantity is much less than one might need for their own family meal.

So, for serving  10 to 12 people, or 6 with left-overs… the volumes would be as follows for the Collard Greens, which you will need to cook first:

(This is totally less involved and time-consuming than it looks)

8-12 hickory smoked bacon slices. (or as few as desired)

1- large Onion, chopped as you prefer

2- bone in ham-hocks, or, 1/4 pound country ham diced.

4-cloves garlic finely chopped (optional)

32- ounces water, or, chicken broth.

3 pounds collard greens, washed and trimmed –                                                     – Cut or Strip largest stems from center of leaves.

1/3 cup red-wine vinegar.(optional)

1- tablespoon Red Pepper Flakes (optional)

1-teaspoon sugar (optional)

1-teaspoon salt-(to taste)

3/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Cook bacon over medium heat in a 10 quart stock-pot for 10 minutes, or until nearly crisp. (seer ham-hocks, if using- in bacon grease before adding other ingredients) Add onions- sauté  5 minutes more-add  chopped ham-     garlic- and cook 1 more minute. (Do not burn Garlic)

Add liquid-bring to a boil-( if using ham-hocks cover and simmer 30 minutes) place collards on top of liquid-(Much of it will be over the top of the pot-which is fine-as the steam will wilt the greens into the pot)-carefully toss, and flip till all greens are saturated-turn stove top to medium low… cook covered for 30 minutes up to 2 hours-depending on desired tenderness. Sappier ( darker ) greens will take longer to cook than lighter colored greens.

And be sure to save the “Pot-Liquor” left-over broth in the pot after draining, or removing collards to use in other dishes at a later time. It’s great to pull from the freezer to use as a stock for soups, or other recipes. Not to mention that half of the nutrients from the greens are in the stock.

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You can start the grits at anytime after this, as they take less time to cook. But, the slower, and longer, they are simmered the better. I cook grits at different levels of thickness, or consistencies, depending on the dish, and these are smothered in a Mornay sauce, so they’ll need to be thicker than the norm. You will be adding Milk a little-at-a-time… as the thicker the better.

Here again-personal taste is the deciding factor in choosing the liquid to cook grits in. I begin with water only, and slowly add milk as I go along. Some cooks, especially when preparing grits to use in “dinner” dishes, prefer to use chicken broth. Some concoct 1-part-half and half, to 1-part-heavy cream mixtures. If you prefer using heavy cream, I recommend adding only a little toward the end of the finished product cooking time for smoothness and taste, as heavy cream has less liquid for the grits to absorb. Liquid absorption improves starch extraction, and therefore increases flavor melding.

There again, as with all dishes, ones personal taste is what is important. If one likes a meal enough to cook it more than once—and I’m certain this is one of those— you will experiment, and develop your personal taste, and recipe over time.

The type of grits one chooses can make a lot of difference also. There are yellow grits, white grits, corn grits, and hominy grits.

Not to worry though, as most grocery stores only carry a few brands, and types. Quaker brand, white hominy grits are a good choice-although, if you have access to local grist-mills, or specialty shops that sell fresh ground grits, they are —delectable — even though they take longer to cook. I used Quaker white hominy grits for this recipe as follows:

2 -1/2 cups water-

1- cup milk

1-1/4 cup Quick Grits/Not Instant

1/2- teaspoon salt

1/4 -cup butter

1/4- teaspoon cracked black pepper

Salt water in a small pot, and bring to a boil-

Slowly whisk in grits-and bring to another boil-

Turn burner down, while constantly stirring, or

whisking. ( Whisking is always better with grits)

Cover and let cook 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally

start adding milk a little at a time, while whisking  5 more

minutes-Stir in butter, and or, heavy cream if desired.

As earlier stated, we are topping these particular

grits with a Mornay sauce… so, we want them thick.

If they turn out a little runny, just cook uncovered

a while longer.

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Now it’s time for the real star of the show… the Mornay sauce.

To compliment the “Maize” or, hominy flavor of the grits, I add a small amount of corn to the Mornay in this recipe.

Classic Mornay

3-Tablespoons butter

3- Tablespoons APF

2-cups warm milk

1/4-teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper-or, black pepper

1-pinch nutmeg-(optional)

2-ounces white cheese of choice, or-

1- ounce Gruyere-

1-ounce Parmesan-

One ear fresh cooked corn cut from the cob -or, 1- half of a  6 ounce can of green giant nibblets.

First we make a blonde roux, which is simply equal parts all purpose flour, and oil/fat—I used butter for the fat here and sautéd in the corn  —whisked together over medium heat until it is pale yellowish, or blond-ish in color.  – (About a minute-Do not brown!)

Slowly add milk, while whisking till sauce thickens, and comes to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer for 2 minutes while stirring in nutmeg, salt, and pepper-    ( This is now a  “Bechamel” one of the French classic mother sauces.)

Stir in cheese-and Voilà — Mornay-Sauce

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Plate dish by putting a serving of grits into a medium Remington, or a small plate—

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Now ladle a small amount of Mornay – or, a sonsothunder size serving over grits—

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Next place greens on top… and serve with candied yams, and corn bread- or,  just have at it…

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Collard- Plant -Image by TylaMac visit her work on photobucket here:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pizza Pizza – Its What’s For Dinner

I was famished when I threw this one together, so, its by far not the best looking, or, tasting pizza I’ve ever made for sure – but, its quick and easy to make, as both my pizza dough, and sauce recipes reveal. I didn’t make my sauce this time though, as I picked up a ready-made jar at the market: (Wal-Mart’s Great Value ) earlier. (a brand I now “Strongly” suggest “NOT” to use. Toppings are a personal preference, or, in my case what one has on hand. I used peppers, onions, ground beef, pepperoni, salami, and a Mexican blended cheese for this one. Use own recipe, and topping choices-but:  Pizza Pizza!   
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Pizza Dough: = 1 cup bread flour, & 1 cup all-purpose flour: (APF)
1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon kosher salt (optional)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 package dry yeast: ( or 2 and 1/4 teaspoons )
1/3 cup hot tap water (no more than 110 degrees Fahrenheit)
(I added thyme, garlic powder, and fennel seeds to this particular dough, also optional of course)
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( One method of making the dough is to add yeast to water and oil first, lightly stirring till milky before adding dry ingredients.) Otherwise:= Combine flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in a bowl and mix well. Slowly add water and olive oil while folding. Gently knead into a ball, (if too sticky add more flour a teaspoon full at a time/if too dry, add a little olive oil)… cover in a lightly oiled bowl and let sit in a warm area of the kitchen for at least one hour. Ball should double in size… roll out on lightly floured paper, or board, and, or just press out on a lightly oiled pizza pan.
As I stated earlier.. I was hungry… so unfortunately, I DIDN’T let this one sit to proof long enough) It was still good to me though.
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Just as with the dough, one can get creative with ingredients with the sauce, and of course if you use canned tomato sauce, the more you simmer it the more the flavor comes out.. but for a quick, fresher version… this doesn’t have to be pre-cooked.
(optional) 1 can (14 oz., or 1 3/4 cups) chopped or diced tomatoes (including juices) – ( Or,  1- 14 ounce can of tomato sauce simmered in pizza sauce.)
1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic
salt to taste ( optional)
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar ( optional)
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Sriracha and red pepper flakes, with graded Parmesan Cheese on finished product is also optional… but delicious.

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WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE : INDULGE

Sacri-French-Licious, Rum-FreeBananas Foster (Mother Post)

Recipe @ Link Above

Freezing and Roasting Turnips

Keeping fresh, delicious winter produce for a nice change of pace in the summer months is easy as 1-2-3.  In this case, Turnips. Turnips are high in fiber, riboflavin, and other nutrients like vitamins C, E, B6,  folic, and pantothenic acids, as well as copper. Indeed they are a starchy food, as they are a ground root, but contain less than 1/3 the calories as an equal amount of potatoes. They are also a great source of potassium, thiamin, magnesium, and niacin. So, how do you keep a mess of fresh, tasty Turnip roots until next years winter garden begins  putting them on the table? Continue reading

Hotel Canuuk-I-warnedya,Eh? “For The Hook”

As Our Story Begins, we find our mild mannered Captain Bell-Hook assisting   hotel guest as they arrive at the front desk. He politely spiels to the arrivals, a congenial run down of the hotels lay-out, dinner menus, and basic orientation.

As most any day at hotel Canuukiwarned-ya, while there are  a “Few”cheerful paying customers at the desk, the usual heel-hounds  scurry about, sniffing out ways to stiff the hired help, thereby saving themselves a few dollars out of pocket change. Apparently, when some folks decide to stay in a ritzy, better than average hotel spending more on a room for a night than last months rent, they think everything else should be included in the bill.

So, as Captain Bell-Hook seemingly appears preoccupied assisting other guest, little “Chip-Off-The-Old-Skin-Flint” pulls the “make eye contact with mommie dearest” diversion, as dad makes off with the luggage cart  in attempt to save himself $3.00 bucks.

This being the oldest trick in the Gratuity Gangster Game, ole dad chuckles, thinking lil flint slips the bags unnoticed right under Captain Bell-Hook, and the entire hotel staff’s noses.

As the morning progress’s,

the same old shell-games pass numerously, erroneously believed shielded just beneath the staff’s line of vision daily, and all goes on as planned. Just another beautiful morning for the Bellmen, whom we all know would rather be at work, waiting on visiting yuppy, tight wadded transients and their families, than to be at home serving their own.

Around 10:30 A.M. while the hotel lobby thinned out a bit from the hustling crowd, the phone buzzes for service from a room on the ground floor.    Bzzzzz!!!

“Front desk, Hotel Canuukiwarned-ya, Hook speaking, how may I help you”?

A squeaky elderly female voice on the other end squelches out the words: “Young man, I need you to come and repair my microwave oven”. “Okay ma’am; What seems to be the trouble with it”“Well”.   She retorts, “If I knew that I wouldn’t need you to come and fix it”. “Now would I”?  “Ah, no ma’am, I suppose you wouldn’t”. ”I’ll be right there ma’am”.

Just as Captain Bell-Hook hangs up the phone, this little aberration appears in front of the desk, as the sound of giggles, and occasional squeak of a luggage dolly is heard down the left corridor. “Are you gentlemen doing any hiring today”? Little miss bell-booby asked. Bell-Hook, knowing this was just an apparition conjured up via the evil-spirit, ”Red-Herrinnymphus”  by another team of gratuity gluttons, left the desk manager to deal with it, and headed down the right corridor toward the old lady with the microwave issue, purposely choosing not to look left, not wanting to see the inevitable escaping caddy-cart.

As the lady shut the door after inviting Bell-Hook in to take a look at her microwave, the Hook turns and informs the lady; “Ma’am, I’m sorry, but, this is not a kitchenette room, and I will have to take your microwave back to the front desk with me”.  After years of pursuing his career as a professional service person, Bell-Hook thought he had heard every slandering stream of belligerent, belittlement’s known to man…

But, he was wrong.

As he made off down the hall with granny fiery-dart’s flash cooker, he turned to let her know she could pick it up at the desk upon checkout. Unfortunately, he turned just in time to see her fling her evil toaster towards his head with the force of a forward motioned wrecking ball, and never got the words out of his mouth before being eaten alive.

The toaster rolled down the hall end over end at  breakneck speed, before finally coming to rest at the lobby entrance, and spit the Bell-Hook out all warm and toasty.

I said the toaster spit him out all warm and toasty..

I said the toaster spit him out…

well, okay,.. maybe it didn’t spit him out after all,  which means of course, the story now must take a turn in the …

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Oh, there he is;

As Captain Bell-Hook’s assistant, “Big Bell-O-Mac”, saw what was taking place he quickly grabbed the phone to call police for obvious needed assistance, as by now little old microwave lady’s granddaughter had arrived at the scene, quite livid at Bell-Hook for taking grannies microwave. Big Bell-O-Mac had barely gotten the word; “Hello” into the phone, when the granddaughter gouged a 10 inch syringe into his leg, pumping in 800 units of green pectin, instantly turning him into a huge pile of mindless jello.

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Needless to say, this was about as much as Bell-Hook could take. Still steaming from the toaster oven, he thought better of popping-off and blowing his top all over the place. Instead, as if delivered by some unseen force, a plan to calm everyone down, and get things back on an even keel instantly came to his mind. He remembers thinking to himself; ” I  couldn’t have come up with a better plan if it were written specifically to me on the back of a Crunch Berry box”. While scooping up the plate of lime-jello, that was once his friend, and co-worker, and placing it gently into the mini-fridge behind the front desk, he tells the granddaughter of the oven smuggler she could take the microwave back up to her room.

Once the young lady left, he immediately began tracking the room numbers of all the tip- stiffing, cart stealing, appliance poaching, skin flint guest that had crossed his path since he arrived earlier that morning. He then called them all one by one, informing them it was now 11:45, and seeing as they had been such affable, gracious paying customers, the hotel was treating them to a special “Free-Lunch”  in the restaurant on the second floor.

Never being ones to miss out on a free-lunch, everyone was in the lobby, and ready to go upstairs before the clock chimed high-noon. Exuberantly giddy, in expectation of a free meal, Captain Bell-Hook had little trouble getting them all to pack into the same elevator, ready to ship off in minutes.

“Going Up”?

No sooner than the doors of the elevator closed, Hook was in and out of the phone booth, faster than a silver bullet can kill a vampire, completely transformed from the lowly, mild- mannered Bellman, everyone knew and loved, into  “Captain, You’ve Been Warned,”!!! slammed the joy stick that released the trap-door- floor of the elevator open, sending all aboard plummeting rapidly into the abyss.  A place that no one knows, not I,  not the Hook, not “Captain You’ve Been Warned”, or even the hotel establishment…No one knows where…this place is not even…

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...Okay, it's somewhere in Siberia...…Okay, it’s …somewhere in Siberia…

All seemed to be going well the rest of the afternoon, till suddenly, both front glass doors of the hotel were blown in through the lobby at the speed of light. The sudden explosive sound of shattering glass sent patrons fraying across one another, sprawling to the floor, just in time to keep from being ripped, tattered, and torn by millions of lightning speed shards of sparkling glass. To the Hook, who was now peering out from his crouched position, behind the front desk, it looked like some sort of diamonds storm- shot out from a massive cannon.  What was to come through the door next, however,was even more bone chillingly frightening to the Hook, as it was none other than Arch- Nemesis of Captain You’ve Been Warned, herself,              “Paula Deen”!!!

Hook was shaken even more upon learning from the blood curdling question the low country cook screeched, that the little old microwave lady was apparently Paula Deans granny too…

“Where’s my little microwave cooking granny y’aaaall…wut heff  y’all done withh har”? 

Looking over at the Hook, and realizing he was actually Captain “You’ve Been Warned” in a Bell Hop uniform, she screamed; “Why you yellow belly grandma hatein, non-donut eatin scandrawl you, when I git my hands own y’aaall I’m a – gonna sop you up with some maple sir-rip, and eat you alive mister”!!!

By now the news of Paula Deen’s arrival, and intentions to devour the Hook, had reached Mrs. Hook, otherwise known as “Vampire Lover”,  who spread her wings and flew in like an F-22, Stealth Raptor, in hopes to help her husband. She knew even with the assisted super powers of  “Captain You’ve Been Warned” the Hook was no match for the Krispe-Kreme-Burger-Queen by himself.

Swooping in, The Vampire Lover took hold of the Apple – butter, lard Queen , latching onto her neck, and with just one bite collapsed to the floor, an apparent victim of  instant diabetic comma.

The Hook went completely ballistic…  Reaching behind him with both arms, and swinging back around in one fluid motion, letting go of the object he’d grabbed with such a force it took out two stress bearing columns from beneath the ceiling before slamming into Deen, the Low Country Brawler Queen. Suddenly there was a massive explosion, as the entire ground floor of the hotel was coated and filled from ceiling to floor with oozing green slime. In through the holes where the two glass doors once stood, the wind blew fiercely, forming an air pocket. The green slime began to harden, as  squishy, gurgley, popping sounds came from smaller bubbles lining its walls as they burst. Suddenly, one of the smaller bubbles popped sending something flying across the hotel and slamming into the far wall which had already hardened its green slime covering into something the consistency of Super-Ball rubber. The thing shot from the bubble bounced at a high rate of speed from wall to wall, back and forth across the entire span of the hotel lobby at least 20 times like a pin- ball in a rubber room. Suddenly, sticking straight out like an arrow shot from Robin Hoods bow, it came to a vibrating stop, when it stuck into the left

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butt cheek of Paula Deen, who in turn fell across the Vampire lover with such a crushing impact that all the air came rushing out of the Vampire Lover, kick starting her breathing again.

As the slime hardened into a buoyant, bouncy, rubbery, cocoon, kids, and adults alike poured into the lobby from all directions, jumping up and down, whooping and laughing, and bouncing around like they were in some sort of a kids inflatable moon-walk castle or something.

Just then, as the Hook cleansed the remaining slime off the thing shot out of the bubble, enough to realize it was his buddy, and co-worker, Big Bell-O-Mac, Paula Deen turned and said;

“Hey, Wut wus that thang you stuck in my laft butt cheek”?

A little reluctant, Big Bell-O-Mac, shrugged, and said…“Erm, it was this 10 inch syringe that crazy niece of yours stuck me with earlier”.

“Hum”.    Deen said.  “I don’t thank I’ve felt this good in three yee-ahs, Ya’ll”.

By now the place had filled with emergency crews, paramedics, firemen, policemen, and even a doctor or two.

“Mrs. Deen, I was a guest on your show a while back”. “Here, let me have a look at you, make sure you’re okay”.  A thin, pale looking lady said.

“Oh, I’m fine Dr. Wilma “.  Deen Said. “Other than the diabeatus thang, I thank I feel better than I have in yee-ahs”. “And by the way, fancy a meetin you here.”

“Yes”. The young lady doctor said. “It is quite the coincidence”. ” Now, let me drawl a little blood from you, and see what effect that stuff  in the syringe may have had “.

“Hmm, Mrs. Deen”. The doctor said after examining the blood on a few strips of Litmus paper, and running it through a hand held meter a few times. “I don’t see any sign of your diabetes, I think you’ve been completely healed”.

“Hehehehe!!! Did Ya’ll hear thaet”? Dean exclaimed. “I’m heaaaald”!!!

“Ya’ll need to bottle that stuff up and sell it as a meeracull quewer or something, ya’ll, in fact…I’m takin a buh-ckit of it home with me and bake me some green cakes, heheheee.”

So, along that time the Hook looks up at the clock on the wall and says to Mrs. Hook. ” Well, babe…it’s quitting time. Time for the shift change. Let’s go home”.

As they strolled arm in arm toward what used to be the front door of the hotel, Hook stops in his tracks upon hearing the chime of the elevator just as it comes to a stop in the lobby. The doors open, and inside stood eight, familiar looking, dirty, half frozen, faces gazing furiously back at him. “What now”? Asked the Vampire Lover. Hook looked at his wife through eyes half glazed over from fright and surprise, and half squinted from holding back the urge of bursting out laughing and says:                                                               

                                        ….>>>”RUN”!!!>>>

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                                   Now back to my favorite pass-time:


Braised Country Style Ribs

Nothing beats a slow cooked piece of pork on a cool October day.

Oh well, with the temperature outside still @ 87 degrees Fahrenheit at 5 o’clock in the evening in mid October…I guess one out of two ain’t bad.

UPDATE:

I actually started this post back in October, ( just before as some of you may remember my computer crashed ) and saved the draft with just this one searing of the meat photo.

That really burns my Veloute…But, The show must go on!!!

So, I have no further imagery of this delectable dish on the current computer, however, I did thankfully add the beginning stage photo before hitting “Save Draft”..And, quite frankly I felt the need to make a quick post tonight, so, thank God for  “Small Miracles”. They usually are the best blessings of all, though I sadly over-look, or forget them all too often and just as quick.

So anyway. As memory serves, I seared these chubby chops slowly in a garlic/rosemary infused extra virgin olive oil, (after lightly dusting them with a mixture of  2 parts all-purpose flour,  1 part Italian bread crumbs, and  1 part instant mashed potatoes ).

I know it seems all I cook is pork, as it has been two months since I started this post, but, believe me…I cooked a chicken or two since then. Also a few Rib-Eye Steaks, but to be honest I probably lived mostly from breakfast food  (My Favorite) or pastrami and rye, or some Reuben, or Reuben Burger combinations, my second favorite by the way, (one day maybe I’ll disclose my personal recipe for the best Reuben Cole Slaw this side of Moscow)…But, NOT TODAY!!!

Oh man…I need a photo image here…I’m JONESING for my lost photos of this meal!!!

But, since a picture speaks a 1000 words, there’s really no reason for me to drag this out all night trying to – with a mere 120 characters…So, I’ll borrow someone Else’s picture to show you what I felt like my dish turned out to look and taste like..Yeah, that’s the ticket…

Follow The Star In You (Human Beings Are, they don’t wait to be)

Lot’s of work this life. Especially when one chooses work over life.

Lot’s of choices. The ones that count for us are the ones God planned ahead of time…And not the ones others choose for us.

When we follow what others choose, it’s because we haven’t made a choice.

How tiring life is when we are following someone else’s dream and not our own.

Where are you headed ? Where do you want to be? From experience, I suggest being there now…and not make it a destination to meet…

Live your dream. Plant both feet.

Life is short…live it now.

Are you a musician at heart? Sing. Are you a Chef? Cook.

Are you a human being?

Humans are…they don’t wait to be…

Go,.. Be now. Be at peace,..Cause work unto the Lord…

Is not a 4 letter word…

It’s peace.

Be!!!

And be at peace.