Southern Cuisine - June

 

I just saw what the inflation rate is and what the rate is expected to rise to before the year is over. I did not have to read the newspaper or watch the news to tell me that everything is getting more expensive. I went to the grocery store to buy food to buy gas. I have not received a pay raise that would cover the extra that I must shell out to make up for the additional costs. But I do have a few tips that will ease the pain of higher costs. I have mentioned it before in other articles. The first tip is to vote out everyone who is responsible for the mismanagement of the economy. So far that would mean voting out almost everyone who is running this country now. That is not a quick fix since the next election is not until November 8. So, in the meantime look at where you spend most of your money and change your buying habits.

I am a shopper. I will go up every aisle of a grocery store and compare prices. Even to the point where I will look at the weight of similar items and pull out my phone and calculate some items down to the cost per ounce. Just because you always hear that the larger packaging has the lower the cost per ounce does not always hold true. Now, just because an item comes in at a lower price per ounce, does not mean I will always buy that item. Mayonnaise is such an item. I will only buy DUKE’S, even if there is a cheaper alternative. Even though on my list of fifty ways to save money on groceries, says at number two, don’t be afraid to buy store brands.

I have also talked about my garden. An easy way to save money is to grow your own. Another cost saver is to use coupons. Lesser noticeable ways to say money is to check your receipts. Cashiers are only human and sometimes they make mistakes. Usually the mistakes I find are not the cashier’s mistake, but the cash register will ring up the wrong price. If you want to save money stock up on sale items. Just make sure you check the expiration date on some items to make sure you will not be throwing some items away sooner than you expected. I have friends that will throw away leftovers. What a waste! Use your cooking skills and figure out how to make different dishes out of your leftovers. Shop at your local farmers market for the freshest and most abundant items to cook from scratch. The less an item is handled at the store or in a factory, the less you must pay for the extra labor to package the item. If you want to save gas, plan your shopping and try to make the most of your trip to town.

Just because some items seem pricey, they may not be healthier for you than other items. I had cut back on my purchases of avocados for that reason. I though they were too expensive until I realized that I was losing out of my bodies need for potassium. I cut back on chocolate, not realizing that the cheap chocolate was full of sugar and lacked iron and magnesium. Did I mention that eggs are not based on how good they are for you because of color? In most people eggs do not negatively affect your cholesterol. Just because the egg is brown does not mean it is better for you.

The following recipes were prepared for my birthday. The items listed for my birthday dinner are some of my favorite for a birthday meal. I have been a fan of orzo ever since I worked as a Banquet Chef. It was colorful, easy to cook and was easy to serve and could replace any type of pasta you wanted to change. The next recipe is my favorite pasta salad. Colorful and easily adapted to what ever salad ingredients you had on hand.

INGREDIENTS:

Dressing:

2 tsp lemon zest (1 lemon)

6 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 to 3 lemons)

1 medium clove garlic, grated

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

2 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Salad:

1 lg red, yellow or orange bell pepper, diced

½ lg seedless English cucumber, watery pulp scooped out & discarded, diced (about 1½ cups)

½ medium red onion, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)

1 (15.5-oz) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed & drained

1 cup pitted & halved Kalamata olives

1 cup roughly chopped walnuts

¼ cup finely chopped fresh mint

3 Tbsp finely chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley

3 Tbsp kosher salt

1 lb dried orzo

6 ozs brine-packed Greek feta, crumbled (optional)

METHOD:

To make the dressing, in a small mixing bowl, whisk together the lemon zest and juice, garlic, 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of pepper. Set the dressing aside.

To make the salad, combine the bell pepper, cucumber, onion, chickpeas, olives, walnuts, mint and parsley in a large mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Stir in 3 Tbsp of salt and a small splash of olive oil.

Add the orzo and cook for 7 to 9 minutes, or according to the directions on the package.

Drain the orzo in a colander, and then add it to the vegetable mixture while the orzo is still hot.

Immediately pour the dressing onto the orzo and vegetables, and stir to combine. The hot orzo will readily absorb the dressing. Add a splash more olive oil if the salad seems too dry.

Allow the salad to cool to room temperature, and add the feta, if desired. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.

I love seafood. My favorite response for answering a question about what I want to eat is Lobster. But I have been spoiled having visited Maine during the summer and having the rule that you have to eat lobster everyday. But shrimp and scallops are always good substitutes. And if they are in a creamy casserole, I will have better luck having someone share the meal with me.

INGREDIENTS:

½ lb shrimp raw, peeled, and deveined

½ lb sea scallops

1 cup spinach fresh

½ shallot finely diced

3 garlic cloves finely minced

1 cup heavy cream

2 Tbsp sun-dried tomatoes

2 Tbsp parmesan cheese freshly grated

1 tbsp butter

Red crushed pepper to taste optional

Salt and pepper to taste

Oil

METHOD:

Season the shrimp and scallops on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat some oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

Cook the scallops for 2-3 minutes on each side, and then remove them from the skillet. Add some butter and shallots to the skillet and cook for 1 minute.

Stir in the spinach and red crushed pepper, season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 1-2 minutes.

Stir in the fresh garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the heavy cream and parmesan cheese. Once the sauce thickens slightly, add the shrimp and cover. Cook the shrimp for 1-2 minutes or until the shrimp is cooked through. Be careful not to overcook the shrimp or the shrimp will get chewy.

Place the scallops back into the skillet and cook for an additional 10-20 seconds.

Serve on rice.

Next is my favorite birthday cake. It is actually the only cake I want for my birthday. I have this same cake every year and have had it ever since I can remember. I am not a fan of vanilla but I love the smell and taste of coffee. I always wanted an icing that had a taste of coffee. I never cared about the shape of the cake, either a loaf or round, just the taste of the coffee.

INGREDIENTS:

METHOD for Cake:

Preheat the oven to 325°. In a standing electric mixer, beat the egg whites at medium speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and salt and beat until stiff peaks form. Beat in 2 1/2 cups of the sugar, a few Tbsp at a time, until smooth and glossy, about 4 minutes.

Transfer the egg whites to a large, wide bowl. Using a fine sieve, gradually sift the flour over the egg whites, gently folding in the flour with a spatula. Fold in the vanilla and almond extracts. Scrape the cake batter into a 10-inch angel food cake pan. Using a table knife, slice through the cake batter several times to release any air bubbles. Tap the cake pan once or twice on a flat surface.

Bake the cake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 350° and bake the cake for about 35 minutes longer, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Invert the pan onto the neck of a wine bottle and let the cake cool completely.

To loosen the cake, run a thin-bladed knife around the side and tube of the pan. Unmold the cake and transfer to a platter.

METHOD for Mocha Buttercream Icing:

In the bowl of your mixer beat the butter on medium speed until nice and creamy.

Turn the mixer down to the lowest setting and slowly incorporate the powdered sugar and cocoa powder into the butter.

Once you have added all the sugar to the mix add the heavy cream with instant coffee, vanilla, and salt.

Turn the mixer up to medium-high speed and continue mixing for 10 minutes until light and fluffy.

Cover the cake and enjoy. Candles are optional.

 

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