Alabama Gazette - The people's voice of reason

Southern Cuisine - May

 

Will the world ever get back to normal? Everyone is saying there will be a new normal. But then doesn’t that become the norm? How many new ‘normals’ are we going to have? Confusing isn’t it? Even though there is much sadness in the world, we must look for what good may come from this. Look for and on the bright side. We are spending more time with our families or at least communicating with them. My family is having group video-conferences. We at least get to look at some familiar faces and everyone gets updated on what the other family members are doing. Talking to a face is more enjoyable than talking to a phone.

In addition, we as a nation are showing our appreciation for others that keep us safe and healthy. There are stories about special events held by groups of people to honor another group for the sacrifices they are making on our behalf. Humans are respecting others personal space. Keeping six feet away is more for self-defense but it is a start. As a chef, I am happy to see more people paying attention to personal hygiene. Covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Washing your hands has been preached by health professionals for years. It is a small act that has great consequences if not practiced. Maybe this time the practice will take hold.

I have written before about the importance of family in Southern cooking. With the closing of restaurants, restriction on travel, the importance of staying at home, temporary lack of items in the stores and the need to feed everyone at home three meals a day, planning the family meals becomes very important. What are you going to eat and who is going to fix it are questions needing answers! Pre-planning meals for the week and setting aside a day and time to shop for those ingredients so you have them on hand is one of the most helpful things one can do to. Many grocery stores now offer pickup options, which you can take advantage of to limit person-to-person contact. Take advantage of the slow cooker, which allows you to assemble meal ingredients in the morning and let them cook all day so they’re ready just in time for dinner.

I am sure you have heard me harp about this topic before, but is your pantry stocked to help you get through this? There are articles online about setting up a “pandemic pantry.” I am going to believe your pantry is stocked. This is the time when you can check expiration dates and best-by dates of items in your fridge. This is also a time to experiment with new recipes and try new ingredients to keep things interesting.

The next question is who is going to fix the meals? If you have children at home, you have sous-chefs. If you let your sous-chefs cook along side of you, soon you will have young chefs preparing your meals. Friends of mine in Texas, would post a calendar on the icebox door. Each day was marked with who was going to prepare that night’s meal. That was normal practice. That was before a pandemic!

When any of my five grandchildren visit, it is a sure bet that they will spend time in the kitchen. The younger ones practicing baking and pastry. The older ones are up to making complete meals. Soon after they go back to their homes, my wife and I will receive pictures of meals and dishes they are enthusiastically making at home. The last was from my oldest granddaughter. She made and served breakfast that made me proud. This not an easy recipe because of all the steps involved and the batter is a several step process and must not be over mixed. The Food Network kitchen rates this recipe as an Intermediate Skill Level. And instead of serving with just maple syrup and melted butter, she made a Berry Puree. She said the puree is also great with vanilla Greek yogurt and granola.

But she did not use the ring molds. She said it worked great and made them look a little more “rustic and fun.”

With all this time on hand and you can’t go anywhere, and you can clean out your closets, rearrange your furniture and watch Netflix just so many times, you might as well experiment in the kitchen. Watching TV for hours at a time leads to over consumption of the high sodium, high fat, and relatively expensive snack foods. If you make your own snacks, you can make healthier and less expensive ones. Popcorn gets boring and, besides, it only tastes good with lots of butter. I like it with soy sauce, too much sodium, or with curry powder, but that needs butter, too. Open your pantry and try this recipe or try your redemption.

Fluffy Japanese Pancakes with a Berry Puree (Yield 8 Pancakes)

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons confectioners sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/4 cups milk

4 tablespoons unsalted butter melted and cooled, plus more for serving

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 large egg yolk plus 3 large egg whites

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Nonstick cooking spray

METHOD:

1. Special equipment: (4) 3-inch-wide-by 2 1/2-inch-high ring molds

2. Whisk together the flour, confectioners sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

3. Whisk together the milk, melted butter, vanilla and egg yolk in a medium bowl until combined.

4. Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar in another large bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes.

5. Stir the milk mixture into the flour mixture until just combined (it's OK if there are a few lumps).

6. Stir one-third of the beaten egg whites into the flour-milk mixture.

7. Then gently fold in the remaining egg whites until just combined (take care not to over mix).

8. Lightly spray the inside of four 3-inch-wide-by-2 1/2-inch-high ring molds with nonstick cooking spray

9. Coat a large nonstick skillet with nonstick cooking spray and heat over medium low heat. Put the prepared ring molds in the middle of the skillet and fill each with 1/2 cup of batter (it should fill each ring mold about halfway).

10. Cover the skillet with the lid and cook until the batter rises to the tops of the ring molds and is golden on the bottom, about 5 minutes.

11. Release the bottom of the pancakes with a spatula.

12. Grasp the sides of the ring molds with tongs to stabilize them and then carefully flip. Cover and cook until golden on the other side, about 5 minutes more.

13. Transfer to a plate and remove the mold. Serve with butter and maple syrup. The pancakes should be served and eaten while still warm before they deflate.

14. Lightly spray the ring molds and coat the skillet with nonstick cooking spray and repeat the cooking method with the remaining batter. calls for. Thinly slice the sun-dried tomatoes in strips and add a third cup of a cup at the most, a quarter cup will do.

Berry Puree

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups cleaned strawberries

1-pint blackberries

Juice of half a lemon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup sugar

METHOD:

Blend in a food processer of blender until smooth.

Store in fridge until ready to serve.

Roasted Chickpeas

INGREDIENTS:

1 (12 ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained

2 tablespoons olive oil

Spices to taste: salt, garlic salt, oregano & cayenne pepper

METHOD:

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).

2. Blot chickpeas with a paper towel to dry them.

3. In a bowl, toss chickpeas with olive oil, and season to taste with salt, garlic salt, and cayenne pepper, if using.

4. Spread on a baking sheet, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until browned and crunchy.

5. Watch carefully the last few minutes to avoid burning.

Serve with your gourmet popcorn, celery sticks, and baby carrots and if you had enough garbanzo beans left over, try homemade hummus.

Crab Deviled Eggs

INGREDIENTS:

8 large eggs

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons yellow mustard

2 tablespoons dill pickle relish

2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3/4 cup crabmeat picked clean of shell bits

Fresh chopped chives, for serving

METHOD:

1. In medium saucepan, arrange eggs in a single layer & cover with cold water by one inch. Bring water to a boil, then immediately remove from heat.

2. Let eggs sit in hot water for 8 minutes, then transfer to bowl of ice water. Let cool for 5 minutes, then peel & discard shells.

3. Cut eggs in half, lengthwise & carefully scoop out yolks. Save whites for serving.

4. In food processor, combine mayonnaise, mustard, relish, Old Bay, black pepper, cayenne, 2 Tbsp crabmeat & yolks. Process until mixture is completely smooth, about 1 minute.

5. Transfer to medium bowl & fold in 1/2 cup more crabmeat.

6. Season to taste with additional Old Bay.

7. Transfer filling to zipper-lock bag or piping bag fitted with plain tip. If using a bag, cut off one bottom corner. Pipe filling into empty egg whites.

8. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until ready to serve.

9. Top eggs with remaining crabmeat & sprinkle with chives. ¬

 

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