Alabama Gazette - The people's voice of reason

Southern Cuisine - January

 

January 1, 2021 | View PDF

Hooray, the year 2020 is over! No one thought that 2020 would end up like it did. They are now looking forward to 2021. But we do not know how 2021 will turn out. No matter how 2021 progresses, we have learned a lot about

making do with a different set of circumstances, different rules, and different ways that we interact with each other.

The food industry has gone through tough times. How we obtain food, either in the grocery stores or at restaurants, has changed a great deal. We have lost the personal touch that came with someone preparing our meal in a restaurant. Inside dining has been changed to a fast food like grab and go. Restaurants that we liked not just for the food but also for the atmosphere have lost that because of limits on occupancy set by health departments. A pub that usually had 50 people enjoying a pint of bitter or two does not have the same feel when there are only 10.

As I write this article a vaccine is being distributed that may relieve some of the uncertainty we have about the future. We may now have a future where people can again be social, closer than 6 feet. A future where we can go to a restaurant and see and smell and taste how its chef interprets what he thinks is Southern Cuisine. Then we can go to a grocery store and find the ingredients we think are in that dish and we can create our version of that menu at home and invite family and friends for a repast where our only fear will be, we may eat too much.

Food writers and TV chefs for the most part have carried on creating dishes and teaching us new techniques for preparing meals. The TV chefs have already been social distancing from their restaurant or their home kitchen. The best part is you can hit the go back button and replay the part where you missed an

ingredient or a step in the recipe. Food writers give us pictures of dishes that will make you drool and rush to the store to purchase the ingredients. Some food writers scour cookbooks, binge watch TV cooking shows, subscribe to other food writer’s food web sites, and just open their refrigerator, freezer or pantry and wait for some inspiration. I scour, binge, subscribe and wait!

My latest binge watching has led to several recipes that I have modified and would describe as easy to prepare, easily obtainable ingredients and taste good. The inspiration for two of these recipes comes from Ina Garten. She fits in my scour cookbooks, binge watch and subscribe categories.

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Brown Rice Salad

INGREDIENTS:

1 pkg Uncle Ben's Long Grain & Wild Rice

2 cans of mandarin oranges

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar

1/2 cup seedless green grapes cut in half

1/2 cup pecans, toasted

1/4 cup dried cranberries (see note)

2 tablespoons scallions, white & green parts, chopped

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

METHOD:

1. Follow the directions on the packages of which ever you choose.

2. While the rice is still warm, place it in a mixing bowl.

3. Cut the orange segments in half and add the orange sections to the bowl with the rice.

4. Add the olive oil, orange juice, raspberry vinegar, grapes, pecans, cranberries, scallions, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and the pepper.

5. Allow to sit for 30 minutes for the flavors to blend.

6. Taste for seasonings and serve at room temperature.

Note: I save the packages of a cranberry & pumpkin seed blend that comes with a Sweet Kale salad mix I get from Costco or Walmart. I add the whole pack to the rice. The pumpkin seeds add a nice crunch to the salad. Another Note: The picture for this recipe has two boxes of rice, and after making it I realized that was too much rice.

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The next recipe is easy to make, easy to hold in your hand to eat, has both a sweet and tangy characteristic and looks good. What more could you want?

Fig Preserves & Goat Cheese Crostini

INGREDIENTS:

1 baguette

2 tablespoons olive oil

5 oz soft goat cheese

¼ cup fig preserves

2 tablespoons honey

10 leaves of mint

METHOD:

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Slice your baguette into 1/2″ diagonal slices. Cutting on a diagonal will give you more space for toppings and looks better. Place baguette slices on a baking sheet and either drizzle or brush olive oil on top of each one, just one side.

2. Bake the baguette slices for 5-8 minutes, until the edges are slightly crisp and the center is still soft. They will get a light brown color.

3. Whipping your goat cheese will make it creamy and easy to spread, rather than crumbly. Place your cheese into the bowl of a stand mixer or use a hand mixer to whip until creamy. About 1 minute.

4. Spread about 1 Tbsp of goat cheese onto each slice.

5. Spread about 1 Tbsp of fig preserves on top of the goat cheese.

6. Display the crostini on a large platter and drizzle a small stream of honey on top and then add the mint making sure that each piece gets some mint. Serve as an hors d'oeuvre or an appetizer. Note: I save the packages of a cranberry & pumpkin seed blend that comes with a Sweet Kale salad mix I get from Costco or Walmart. I add the whole pack to the rice. The pumpkin seeds add a nice crunch to the salad. Another Note: The picture for this recipe has two boxes of rice, and after making it I realized that was too much rice.

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Have leftover ham and turkey, cranberry sauce, eggnog and cheese? Then this is a recipe to use those leftovers in an unexpected dish. Your diners will not expect it because the Monte Cristo sandwich is not near as well-known as it once was. The only place I remember that served a Monte Cristo was IHOP. It was a toss-up when I was trying to choose what to eat there. I either ordered the Monte Cristo or their yummy Cheese Blintzes. But alas, I could not find either items on their latest on-line order guide. When you find something good to eat, the menu changes and the whole eating experience changes. I can remember the days when I could drive up to the front of my local K&N root-beer stand, order a ham burger and a root-beer and the root beer was in a frosted glass mug, all on a tray that hooked to your car window. When finished eating, I would flash my car lights and they would come and remove the tray with the mug. So here is a recipe remembering the past!

Eggnog Monte Cristo

(makes 3 whole sandwiches) – Recipe from Food Network Magazine

INGREDIENTS:

Dijon or whole grain mustard Mayonnaise (DUKE’S of course)

9 slices Sandwich Bread (I used sourdough)

6 slices Gouda cheese, or any smooth easy melting cheese

Turkey, thin deli sliced

Ham, thin deli sliced

1/2 c. Eggnog

Freshly grated nutmeg

Butter (for greasing the pan)

Cranberry sauce (for dipping)

Method:

1. Layer your sandwiches in this order: bread, mustard, mayo, cheese, turkey, ham, bread, cheese, turkey, ham, mustard, mayo, bread.

2. Wrap each sandwich tightly in plastic wrap (to keep the sandwiches compact). Refrigerate 30+ minutes.

3. Mix together eggnog and nutmeg. Dip sandwiches in eggnog, then place in skillet with melted butter. Cook over medium low heat until browned, flip and cook other side.

4. Remove from heat. Cut into a manageable size, quarters or halves.

5. Serve with cranberry sauce for dipping.

Then go on the Mediterranean diet!

 

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