Alabama Gazette - The people's voice of reason

Southern Cuisine for September

 

September 1, 2018 | View PDF

I just read an article where a food writer discovered the Peanut Butter and Mayonnaise Sandwich! This writer must not read my article nor get around much. Even Garden and Gun has featured this sandwich, with the history of the sandwich dating back to the 1930's. The writer had a picture showing the ingredients: organic peanut butter and Hellmann's mayonnaise. Then commented, "To my surprise---it wasn't awful". If the sandwich is made with Duke's mayonnaise and Smucker's Natural Creamy peanut butter, the sandwich would be great. The writer probably puts their groceries in a cart and not a buggy, thinks that "Bless your heart" is a compliment, and asks if "you guys" want some sugar and gives them a 5-pound bag of sugar instead of a kiss.

So much for my rant of the day.

I have some observations, tips, and recipes to help make your life in the kitchen rewarding and easier. First, some buying tips. Buy honey in glass jars not cute bear shaped plastic. After a year in plastic, the honey will change color and taste. Look at the label of the honey in the big box stores and make sure that just because it says honey on the front of the jar does it say that honey is the only ingredient on the back of the jar. Buy your honey at a farmer's market and talk to the seller about the honey, where does it come from, is it processed, what flowers are the main source of the honey. Like different grapes have a different taste when made into wine, the honey tastes different from different flowering plants. Clover, lavender, rosemary, and dandelion honey will have subtle taste differences.

Once you have decided on the honey to purchase, the next thing to do is to make it spicy, right? Well, if you like spicy foods, why not. Adding hot peppers to the honey gives it uses that you would never think of. Drizzle hot (spicy) honey over your sweet potatoes or use it as a glaze for vegetables. First, make your hot honey.

HOT HONEY

Ingredients

1 cup honey

3 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes

Instructions

1. Put honey and pepper flakes in a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup. Then place it in a small saucepan of boiling water.

2. Stir the honey and pepper flakes for several minutes until the honey loosens up and easier to stir. Do not heat it too long because you do not want to destroy the beneficial enzymes that are found in honey. Turn off the heat and let steep for about ten minutes.

3. While the honey is still warm, strain it into a large clean jar.

Makes one cup

The first dish to try your hot honey can be a vegetable side dish using some green beans and radishes from the same farmer's market you purchased your honey.

HOT HONEY GLAZED GREEN BEANS and RADISHES

Ingredients

1 pound green beans, trimmed

¼ cup olive oil

½ pound radishes, trimmed and quartered

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon chile honey

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Instructions

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch green beans until crisp-tender, 3-4 minutes.

2. Scoop green beans from hot water and quickly drop into a large bowl of ice water. Once cooled, drain.

3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add green beans, radishes, and garlic and cook until the veggies are just soft, about 5 minutes.

4. Add honey, season with salt and pepper and continue cooking until the veggies are beginning to caramelize, about another 2 minutes.

5. Transfer everything to a large bowl. Set aside and let cool.

Serve at room temperature.

Serves Four

After you succeeded in the preparation of the last dish, reflect on what you accomplished. I read an article at Bustle.com that there are emotional benefits of cooking. Programs around the world help people with mood disorders and other issues and the kitchen is part of the treatment. It is called, therapeutic cooking. In the kitchen, you can be creative and channel energy, master a skill and cooking for others enhances the therapeutic effects.

In New Mexico, it is Hatch chile season. Besides the obvious reason to eat Hatch chile peppers, one fresh medium size green chili pod has as much vitamin C as six oranges, one teaspoon of dried red chili powder has the daily requirement of vitamin A, and the color extracted from very red chile pepper pods, oleoresin, is used in everything from lipstick to processed meats. There are Hatch chili gas fired roasters in the parking lots of grocery stores, restaurants, and every other business that wants to attract customers. Stores will have strings of dried red peppers hanging everywhere. People buy them fresh by the bushel. A fresh picked Hatch chile only lasts a couple of days unless kept very cool and wet while in transit. You can find them canned and you can find them frozen in a few stores in central Alabama,. If you would like to expand your pepper recipes, from the common jalapeno, try Hatch peppers.

School has started and the added activities for the children include weekday practices and meetings. This affects the usual eating times for evening meals. This means less time afforded for the preparation of the meals. Which also means you need to have a larger than usual pantry and that means that what you do have in the pantry, cold and dry, has to stay fresh.

We begin with your fresh pantry items. The vegetables, dairy, and fresh herbs needed for your menu of the week. You do plan and have a weekly menu? Yes, and you just came home with the fresh herbs needed for the week's meals. First, remember the grocery sprays and mists the produce. Once they are in the produce bags and placed in your icebox, the produce with start to rot. To help them last for the week, dry the produce, cut off the bad spots, and wrap them in paper towels and then place in plastic bags. They stay cold, dry, and fresh.

It has not happened to me with much frequency, but there is at least one egg that does not look right, smell right and I do not want it in my omelet, cake, or waffle (yes, you can have waffles for dinner). You have cracked three eggs into a bowl and the fourth one has seen better days. Now it is in the bowl with the other good eggs. Solution, crack each egg separately into a small bowl and then add to the mixing bowl. Takes longer but you only have to experience it once and you will always check your eggs this way.

Do you know that not all measuring cups are for measuring everything? Flat-rimmed measuring cups are for dry ingredients. Baking depends on correct measurements, using the wrong cups will give you the wrong results.

When using a hand-held box grater, hold the ingredient lengthwise or at a slight angle, so more of the surface is grated with each swipe. This technique helps you grate more at once making the chore go faster, besides making longer and prettier shavings.

Slicing soft cheeses or meats will be easier if they are placed in the freezer for about 20 minutes to firm up the edges.

Salt as you go. While cooking, taste the food. You can always add salt but if you just add once, it could be too much.

Cook a few batches of whole grains, such as brown rice or quinoa, cool it in the fridge, and then divide the grains into meal-size portions to freeze. When ready to reheat, you have your own healthy "minute" rice!

Many fresh herbs love the refrigerator, but basil is not one of them. It turns black and wilts quickly at low temperatures, which is why it is best stored on the countertop. Keep the stems intact and place the bunch in a cup of water or wrapped in a wet paper towel.

Next is a simple quick dinner that goes well with the green bean and radish side you are going to prepare.

HONEY PECAN PORK CHOPS

Just cook the cutlets in butter, and then heat honey and pecans in the

drippings to make the sauce.

Ingredients

1 1/4 pounds boneless pork loin chops (3-4 chops)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour for coating

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup honey (chili honey if desired)

1/4 cup chopped pecans

Instructions

1. In a shallow dish, mix together flour, salt, and pepper. Dredge pork cutlets in the flour mixture.

2. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat.

3. Add chops, cook until medium well and both sides are browned.

4. Transfer to a warm plate.

5. Mix honey and pecans into the pan drippings.

6. Heat through, stirring constantly. Pour sauce over cutlets.

Remember to get your children involved to the menu planning and even the preparation of the meals. Since you should be eating together, why not cook together. Depending on the ages, pick the proper utensils and cooking vessel for the kids. For additional information, I recommend the web site cookingwithkids.org. It has videos, recipes, tips for families and tools for teachers. And of course to help reach money for their endeavor, they sell a cookbook.

 

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