Southern Cuisine

 


Something A Little Different

I love watching the “Chopped” series on Food Network. How else are you going to learn to prepare an entree with a whole catfish, a bottle of cherry soda, broccoli and goat cheese? Some of the combinations the contestants make to prepare their dish at first sounds horrible. But most of the time it works. There is a time that a chef will be asked to cook from a Mystery Basket. To be successful, you need to think outside the box and be a master of the basics. Thinking out side the box is to know that a waffle is not just a breakfast food taste but also a shape. Why can’t you make a broccoli waffle? Why can’t you make a cream sauce from a cherry soda?

So, think of strange ways to combine ingredients but still be pleasing to the palate. Have you ever tried a drink made with rye, Grand Marnier, grenadine and egg whites? What’s wrong with a fried egg on top of a stack of a beef patty, jalapeno jack cheese, onions soaked in dark beer then dredged in rice flour and fried until crispy, tomato jam, and BBQ sauce between a split donut toasted on a grill? Or dipping strawberries in reduced balsamic vinegar? And why not try Kung Pao SPAM? Did you know there are cheeses that you can pan fry and will turn crispy golden brown on the outside and still have a chewy bite on the inside? And the cheeses are not cheddar or mozz.

Where is this leading, you may ask? I’m going to give you some alternatives to the usual ways to serve two southern classics. Let’s start with okra. Instead of fried and as a side with ketchup and a lot of salt put them in a taco! Warm some flour tortillas and fill them with shredded lettuce, hot fried okra and pico de gallo. And sprinkle some hot sauce on top. Fried okra is great tossed in a fresh spinach salad. According to Wikipedia, okra leaves can be eaten like dandelion leaves and the seeds can be roasted and used as a coffee extender but alas does not contain caffeine. Have you tried cutting the pods in thin strips and frying them until crispy? One of my recipes today is Okra Fritters with an unusual ingredient.

The New York Times had an article back in 2001 about natural flavor enhancers. It’s a short list of four items; bacon, dried mushrooms, anchovies and dried shrimp. Everything that has these ingredients in them tastes better. In Latin America and in Asia, dried shrimp are used as a seasoning with the aroma stronger than the flavor. In Mexico they are in tamales, soups and sauces. They can be ground or dehydrated and chopped up. The recipe today for the Okra Fritters has dehydrated and chopped dried shrimp.

Fried green tomatoes have been showing up in restaurants not looking like the round coated discs you usually see. They are showing up in Eggs Benedicts to replace the Canadian bacon. In hamburgers and in one of my favorite sandwiches Toasted English muffin with bacon and chutney. I make my own chutney. Add avocado and Bibb lettuce and it is heaven. And of course try fried green tomatoes in a BLT or in a grilled cheese sandwich. I also like them stacked and between each slice of tomato, add guacamole and pour a cheese sauce on top. Or instead of Eggplant parmesan make Fried green tomato parmesan!

Lesson for the Day.

The World Health Organization is pushing for safe food and has listed “Five Keys to safer Food.” Food borne illnesses is a world wide problem in under-developed and also in developed countries. I hear people complain about a 24 hour bug they say they caught, but I think it is usually caused by improper sanitation and improper food handling.

So before you venture forth to the kitchen, remember these keys to safer food.

Key 1. Keep clean

Key 2. Separate raw and cooked food

Key 3. Cook food thoroughly

Key 4. Keep food at safe temperature

Key 5. Use safe water and safe raw materials

Simple rules and easy to do on a daily basis. You can do an easy web search for specific temperatures for food safety.

 

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