Thursday, March 8, 2018

Hush Puppies

LITTLE SAVORY BALLS OF CORNMEAL BATTER, Hush Puppies are so delicious with so many meals. No Southern fish fry would be complete without them. All the barbecue joints around here serve them. I was once at a restaurant that had hush puppies with pimiento cheese as an appetizer and that was tasty!

I serve hush puppies with all sorts of foods. I especially love them with braised greens. I made these to serve with a vegetable soup. They are great with chili. Any time you think of cornbread, think hush puppies instead.

I have never posted the recipe for my hush puppies but you have probably seen them pepping around the corner in some of my photographs. My puppies are never perfect balls because I don't deep fry them, I pan fry them in my black iron skillet.

These hush puppies are fluffy and tender inside and crisp and crunchy outside. And they are delicious, even if they are misshapen.

Hush Puppies
1 cup self-rising corn meal
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup minced sweet onion
1 Tbsp. hot melted shortening

Place corn meal in a mixing bowl. Stir in well beaten egg and buttermilk. Add hot shortening and minced onion just before cooking. Drop by spoonfuls into hot oil. Cook until golden brown on each side. 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

"Homemade" Pita Chips with Sea Salt and Cracked Black Pepper

 "HOMEMADE" IS IN QUOTES because I question whether these pita chips are actually homemade. Would homemade pita chips require homemade pita bread? Is this even a recipe?

I had a partial package of whole wheat pita bread sitting around for a few days. I knew they wouldn't be fresh for sandwiches so I decided to turn them into pita chips. As I browsed ideas for doing this, I noticed a common theme. People cut the pita bread into wedges and spread onto a sheet pan. Then in a mixing bowl, combine olive oil with desired spices. Then brush the front and back of each chip with the oil mixture.

I nixed that idea. If I did want to brush each side with the oil mixture, I would do it before cutting into wedges. I couldn't see brushing each individual chip, on each side. . .we are not making fancy canapes here. 

These are crisp and delicious and so easy to make. Did I mention they are much more economical than bags of pita chips?

Taylor the spices to what the chips will be served with, garlic is always good, smoked paprika, chili powder, and more. I used sea salt and cracked black pepper.

"Homemade" Pita Chips

Stale pita bread
Olive oil
Sea salt
Cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Cut each pita into 8 wedges. Place in a bowl. Drizzle generously with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Toss together (I do this with my hands) until all wedges are coated. Spread in a single layer on a sheet pan. Bake 8 --10 minutes until golden brown.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Tofu and Vegetable Stir-Fry with Sweet and Spicy Sauce

WE HAVE BEEN ON A BIG STIR-FRY KICK for a few weeks. The frigid weather seems to have cleared out, yet I am afraid to think we are having an early spring this year, It is only February.

Stir-fries are perfect to enjoy during changing seasons--times when it is not cold enough to want a heavy soup or stew, yet not hot enough to want to eat salads for meals. Stir-fry vegetables are light and fresh and the spices of ginger and red pepper are warming.

For this stir-fry, I used onion, red bell pepper, cremini mushrooms, broccoli, Napa cabbage, and bok choi. Other vegetables that work well are snow peas, carrots, green beans, mung bean sprouts, cabbage, scallions, asparagus, zucchini, and spinach. Use a variety of vegetables like I do or stick with one or two--your choice.

I served this stir-fry with Jasmine rice but I have also used brown rice, udon noodles, and soba noodles. One of these days I might try cellophane noodles.

Tofu and Vegetable Stir-Fry with Sweet and Spicy Sauce

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup honey
2 Tbsp. fresh grated ginger
2 - 3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1/2 - 1 tsp. red pepper flakes

14 ounces extra firm tofu
1/4 cup cornstarch
Oil for frying
8 - 10 cups vegetables of choice, washed and chopped

Rinse and dry the tofu. Wrap in a couple layers of paper towels, place on a plate with another plate on top. Put a couple of cans on the top plate to press the tofu. Set aside while making the sauce and preparing the vegetables.

Whisk together all the sauce ingredients and set aside.

Unwrap the tofu and toss with the cornstarch.

Heat 1/2-inch of oil in a wok or deep skillet over medium heat. Fry the tofu in batches, until brown on all sides. Remove to paper towel lined plate to drain.

Remove all but 1 Tbsp. oil from the wok and turn the heat to medium high. Beginning with the sturdier vegetables, add them to the wok; stir and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the more delicate vegetables, stir and fry for a minute more. Add the tofu and the sauce, continuing to cook for 1 or 2 minutes more.

Remove wok from heat and serve immediately.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Braised Collard Greens

COLLARD GREENS ARE A STAPLE IN THE SOUTH.  All our barbecue restaurants offer them as a side choice. Diners with a meat-and-three type menu will have them. Our children start eating collard greens when they are still in the high chair.

Whenever we have family gatherings, I am volunteered to cook the collards. I am told mine are the best but I often wonder if it is really the fact that I am willing. They are a bit of work. It is work I enjoy; I love to cook, including washing and chopping vegetables with my good cutting board and my excellent sharp knife.

To prepare the collards for cooking, they must be washed and chopped. Some people prefer tearing them and that works just fine. I use a knife. First I cut out the tough inner stem, I stack a few leaves, roll them (a chiffonade if you  will) and slice into strips. I then put them into a sink fulll of cold water. Swish the leaves all around then let them sit for a few minutes. Feel the bottom of the sink. If you feel grit, remove the greens, drain the sink, and rinse away the sand. Refill the sink and rinse the collards again. Repeat until no more grit is detected.

I find the process to be mindful, contemplative, and relaxing.

We serve our collard greens with pepper sauce and by that I don't mean a hot sauce such as Tabasco. Pepper sauce is basically hot peppers and vinegar. If unavailable, just sit a cruet of apple cider vinegar on the table. 

Braised Collard Greens
1 1/2 pounds fresh collard greens, large stems removed, washed, and chopped
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped
3 - 4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 cups water
Salt and pepper - be generous

Using a large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped onion and saute until tender. Stir in the garlic and cook for a few seconds. Start adding the wet collard greens until the pot is full. Add the water; cover pan and simmer for a few minutes until the greens start cooking down then add the remaining greens.

Simmer until tender but not mushy, about 30 - 50 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Pineapple Puff Pastry Pinwheels With Cheese and Ham

PUFF PASTRY PINWHEELS ARE SUPER SIMPLE to make, yet look so fancy and fussy. They are perfect for parties and get togethers.

I usually buy frozen puff pastry which I find to be rather expensive, and the price kept me from using it as often as I would have liked.  Recently, I discovered a new item at my grocery store; a refrigerated puff pastry which was much more reasonably priced and didn't require thawing (aka planning ahead).

I made these pinwheels with pineapple, cheese, and ham. I have always loved the taste of pineapple and cheese together. I used to eat pineapple and cheese sandwiches as a girl. I love that glorious baked pineapple casserole.

Once I made these, I discovered the new puff pastry performed perfectly--many flaky layers and delicious taste. And oh so easy to use. It even comes with its own parchment paper for baking.

I will be making more of these pinwheels and have many ideas about how to fill them.

  • sun dried tomato cream cheese and turkey
  • cream cheese and pimiento stuffed olives
  • spinach, artichoke, and Parmesan
  • cheddar, pimiento, and pecan
  • pizza sauce, basil, and mozzarella
  • pesto, spinach, and feta
  • mango chutney and aged English cheddar

Pineapple Puff Pastry Pinwheels with Cheese and Ham

1 sheet puff pastry
1 cup fresh pineapple, finely chopped
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
8 ounces your favorite deli sliced ham, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Unroll pastry sheet on a floured surface. Spread pineapple evenly over the pastry, followed by the shredded cheese, then the chopped ham. Roll into a log started from one of the long sides. Using a serrated knife, slice into 12 pieces. Place on parchment lined sheet pan, cut side up.

Bake 20 - 30 minutes until golden.