11.20.2014

Sweet Pepper Green Beans

Sweet Pepper Green Beans

Sweet Pepper Green Beans

Sweet Pepper Green Beans

Sweet Pepper Green Beans

Let's continue with the "meat and three" dialog from last week, with one more side dish, if you don’t mind.
Onward with "string beans" .. those long green poles that are tucked away in casseroles or boiled in a stock pot full of pork bits and butter. Often leaving little yellow puddles of grease along the way. Certainly I prefer them in this manner; with the grease puddles that is.
Be that as it may, I realize that for some of those living outside of the southern-fried world that I grew up in, grease is the devil. For a southerner, the devil looks more like a jar of miracle whip, however that is a conversation for later.
My Aunt Mabel would cut a major side eye at this recipe and ask me where the hell is the pork fat that should be simmering in these greens... that would be after my grandma asked why the hell I didn't "snap'em". Once the beans were prepped, they spent hours stewing in large pots. Which produced melt in your mouth greens of glory; with odd coloring. I can recall countless times, sitting on a stool snapping the ends off of green beans. So much so that it wasn't until college at this little diner, complete with checked table clothes and crackled seat spinning counter stools, that I had a run in with a different type of green bean. In an effort to ease my pangs of homesickness and longing for greasy chicken and whipped up mashed potatoes, I ordered the "country special".
Quickly, I found solace in a plate of crispy golden friend chicken, cloudlike potatoes with a well of peppered gravy and string beans so vibrant in color I thought they may have been plastic. Not to mention they were crunchy and came with the ends that granny used to so forcefully snap off. Did I say they were damn good, that bares repeating. So good that when the waitress brought me a second helping, I timidly asked for the recipe, then found myself spellbound by a long conversation about her cousins famous pole beans and sea island red peas. Which made me completely unaware of the fact she never gave me what I'd asked for, the simple process of how one would recreate those greens. Still, it was here that I returned whenever that sense of home was missing, I could always find it somewhere on the menu. A plate of candied yams, pork chops smothered in gravy and string beans nestled together with onions and red hot peppers. As well as Ms. Kathy, the waitress originally from Greenwood South Carolina, who at times, would give me a free slice of pie when no one was looking.
So here is my best rendition of those delectable green beans, complete with sweet peppers and onions..

Sweet Pepper Green Beans

Sweet Pepper Green Beans

Sweet Pepper Green Beans
Prep Time: 20mins Cook Time: 15 mins Yields: 4 servings
Adapted from a recipe that I found in Southern Living magazine a few years back. 

Ingredients:
1 pound fresh green beans
5 sweet peppers, sliced
½ medium size sweet onion, sliced
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon peanut oil
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon salt. Add the green beans to boiling water and cook until tender; about 4-5 minutes. Drain and run under cold water to cool.
In a separate bowl stir together brown sugar, soy sauce and crushed red pepper. Set aside.
In a skillet, heat peanut oil. Add in onion and sweet pepper slices and sauté over high heat for 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat. Mix together green beans with sweet peppers and onions. Pour brown sugar/soy sauce mixture over vegetables tossing to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve immediately.

11.13.2014

Cane Syrup Roasted Sweet Potatoes…. The Southern Candied Yams

Cane Syrup Roasted Sweet Potatoes- Candied Yams 4 (1 of 1)


Cane Syrup Roasted Sweet Potatoes- Candied Yams 1 (1 of 1)

Cane Syrup Roasted Sweet Potatoes- Candied Yams 2 (1 of 1)

With the "all you can eat" holidays vastly approaching, there is an abundance of holiday recipes on the internet. To be honest, the southerner in my likes to stick to the old meat and three.
I grew up on my grandma's  "Meat N Three" cooking , so I can't help but seek them out in every city I visit, which has taught me that the entire concept is a more southern culinary tradition . Nowadays  you're more likely to get a "three + no meat" type of situation.
Which is cool, but I just have this deep affection for a heaping of fried chicken, a slice of ham, or to be more fitting with the season.. a juicy turkey wing smothered in gravy. And that meat has no business on your plate without the accompaniment of 3 sides, from mashed potatoes to collards swimming in potlikker and ham hocks.
So to prepare for the up coming holiday seasons, the time when it's ok to eat everything and then feel sorry for it later. I thought I would post a few side dish recipes; a few that I’ve easily adapted from some of my favorite "meat and three" restaurants here in the south. \
From Mary Mac's Tea Room right here in Atlanta to my Grandma's place in Chapel Hill N.C.
Sweet potatoes are more widely known as “candied yams” here in the southern states. Yes, we are fully aware that they're not “yams” but the 2 terms are commonly used synonymously as one and the same. Busy Bee cafĂ©  is probably one of the best Soul Food restaurants in Atlanta. The “cook’s” special is normally what I order. Your choice of meat from meatloaf to chicken giblets, with a side of cornbread, a tall glass of sweet tea and of course 3 sides. One side dish in particular is a little off white ceramic bowl, filled to the brim with buttery, sugary roasted sweet potatoes or better known as candied yams.. So here, I’ve made my version of their candied yams with a little cane syrup and brown sugar. 

Cane Syrup Roasted Sweet Potatoes- Candied Yams 3 (1 of 1)



Disclaimer- I don’t eat like that everyday. I would recommend that you don’t either. But like I said... the holidays call for over indulgence and I’m totally ok with that. 

Cane Syrup Roasted Sweet Potatoes 
 Prep Time 30 mins Cook Time- 35-40mins Yields- 8 servings

Ingredients:
4 Sweet Potatoes, peeled and sliced
3 teaspoons olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ stick butter, unsalted, melted
2/3 cup of cane syrup
3 tablespoons brown sugar
Few sprigs of fresh thyme

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 In large bowl, place sweet potato slices. In a separate bowl, mix the olive oil, salt, butter, brown sugar and cane syrup together to combine. Pour cane syrup mixture over the sweet potatoes, tossing to coat. Arrange sweet potato slices in a single layer of a lightly greased baking pan. (There should be excess syrup mixture in the bowl).
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Turn slices over and pour remaining syrup mixture on top. Bake for about 10-12 more minutes or until golden and tender. Transfer sweet potatoes to serving dish, then top with fresh thyme.

11.05.2014

Buttermilk Sorghum Apple Cobbler

Buttermilk Sorghum Apple Cobbler

Buttermilk Sorghum Apple Cobbler

Buttermilk Sorghum Apple Cobbler

Buttermilk Sorghum Apple Cobbler

Change..
Like the seasons seems to be inevitable.
We become comfortable in our routines and at times this change can be undesired, even when you yourself put the wheels in motion. After 5 1/2 years at the same place of employment, I felt the need for change. Something a bit more challenging. I fought an internal battle of indifference while updating my resume.
Do I really want to do this? 
In the end, the constant struggle I face to stay awake amongst what have become somewhat monotonous tasks had me on Dice.com looking for a new position.
One that came within 2 weeks.
Clearly that was my sign.
However, now I had to set forth into a new frontier, pull up my anchor and drift off with the wind. That was probably the hardest part; imagine how heavy an anchor can become when one finds comfort on the island of job security.
Ha! Job Security.. Is there really such thing?
One can become blinded and mistake longevity for security. That is, until you're being thanked for your years of hard work while subsequently being escorted out the building. After days of debating, a bit of negotiation and encouraging words from family, I decided to set sail. Hopefully the weather won't turn shaky and wash me into a cyclonic tidal wave or something more titanic, like an iceberg.
Decidedly, good news calls for cobbler.. and a ridiculous amount of bourbon to ward off the morbid thoughts of "Is this the right decision".
So with a few apples, biscuit batter like ingredients and an unhealthy amount of sugar and sorghum syrup, I made y'all some cobbler.
Buttermilk Sorghum Apple Cobbler.
Then I ate it.
My Granny used lots of Sorghum or molasses in just about every pie you can imagine.
"There ain't no need for sugar" 
 Well I have to disagree a little, for the crust needed about a cup of sugar to set it off just right. Sorghum always seemed to be a bit harder to come by than molasses, if my memory serves me correct. So anytime we came about this golden sweet syrup it was mixed into just about anything. Or poured onto a hot biscuit… better yet, a hot plate of griddle cakes. Sweet Sorghum on a hot biscuit is legendary; maybe I should've made that.


Buttermilk Sorghum Apple Cobbler


Buttermilk Sorghum Apple Cobbler


*This cobbler is quite simple. Doesn't call for a lot of ingredients, making it relatively quick to put together. It's been a big hit for decades among my family. Throw in some cranberries or slices or pears to add even more depth to the flavours.*

Buttermilk Sorghum Apple Cobbler  
Prep Time- 30 mins  Cook Time- 40mins  Yield- 6 servings 

Ingredients: 
4 tablespoons melted butter 
6 cups of apples, peeled and sliced  
1 cup sweet sorghum syrup  
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon  
1 teaspoon vanilla extract  
1/2 lemon, juiced  
2 cups self-rising flour 
1 1/2 cup sugar 
2 cups buttermilk 
1/2 teaspoon salt 

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. 
in a 13*9 baking dish, place melted butter. Set aside 
In large bowl, mix together the apples, sorghum, cinnamon, vanilla extract and lemon juice.  Pour apple mixture into baking dish.  
In separate bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, buttermilk and salt until combined.  
Now add the batter to the baking dish by pouring on top of the apples.. it's fine if you can see some of the apples peaking through. This will make for a juicy cobbler with some of the apples baking right into the crust.  
Bake at 350 for 40 minutes, or until bubbly and top begins to brown. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.  

Serve with whipped cream or ice cream 

10.01.2014

Basil Red Curry Biscuits

Herbed Red Curry Biscuits 4 (1 of 1)

Herbed Red Curry Biscuits 1 (1 of 1)

Herbed Red Curry Biscuits 5 (1 of 1)

"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as you please." - Mark Twain

 At this point in our internet relationship you’ve come to understand my obsession with biscuits. Although I must confess, my grandma would think I’m a bit off my rocker with these.
Be that as it may, I’ve gotten the facts first and now I feel the need to distort them as I please..
With Red Curry.
It’s a fact that buttermilk biscuits if not prepared right will make for better door stoppers than something right for human consumption.
I’ve created a legion of these situations..
However, IF your biscuit dough resembles that of pimento cheese, your future will be bright.
On the occasion that one may add golden crispy fried chicken to the center of said biscuits, then drizzles with cane syrup, more than greatness is undoubtedly ahead.
You’re also about to enjoy a great meal.
Fried Chicken and Biscuits would be the meal I was raised on, that and a bowl of hot grits cooked with a can of salmon Q. This was a meal that could transform from a simple Sunday supper to one’s 44th annual Southern Baptist Revival celebration. Also filling the tables of every wedding, christening, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Home Going ceremony…
So one could say I’m partial to crispy crust and flaky centers..
Meaning.. I often find myself washing flour off my hands and adding ingredients not often mixed into biscuits, like red curry paste.
Far from that of the basic biscuit variety, these are giving you that chili-lemongrass-coconut milk-cilantro- garlic tasting flavor and are leaning 100% on the savory dinner biscuit side..
A side that I'm starting to favor..

Herbed Red Curry Biscuits 2 (1 of 1)

Herbed Red Curry Biscuits 3 (1 of 1)



Basil Red Curry Biscuits

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
6 tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces, chilled
2 ½ tablespoons red curry paste
1 cup of buttermilk

Use this recipe for crispy fried chicken to add to these biscuits if desired.

Steen's Cane Syrup goes well with these when drizzle on a warm biscuit. 


Directions:
Preheat oven to 450
Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl, whisk to combine. Cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal.. (think feta).
In a separate small bowl, whisk the red chili paste with the buttermilk until well combined. Add buttermilk mixture and basil, stirring gently to combine If the dough appears on the dry side, add more buttermilk. You want the dough to be wet.  Turn dough out onto a floured surface, gently pat out until its about ½ thick. Fold the dough about 5 times and gently pat out to 1 inch thick.  
Old school trick- after turning the dough out, cut in 4 sections. Stack each section on top of each other, then gently pat into 1 inch thickness.
Using  biscuits cutters, cut into rounds.
Place the biscuits on cookie sheet, baking for about 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.

For biscuits with soft sides, putting them touching each other on the cookie sheet. Placing them 1 inch apart will give you crispy sides

9.17.2014

Muscadine Mojitos

Muscadine Mojitos 2 (1 of 1)

Muscadine Mojitos 4 (1 of 1)

Muscadine Mojitos 6 (1 of 1)

As I read things like “saying farewell to summer”, I stare at you in disbelief.
Disbelief as I wipe the sweat off my forehead, because it’s 80+ degrees today.
The joys of southern living one would say. It just makes me smile as I walk my daughter to the bus stop barefoot with a hand full of deep purple muscadines. Even as the bus pulls off I sit there on the curb, mainly because I don’t want to go to work, but more so remembering when life was slow and we weren’t so defined by the time of day or expense reports and audit findings.
And it was ok to throw grapes at each other…
Those days are long gone now, and more often than not, I find myself pouring some sort of cocktail. Ok. Just Bourbon straight is what I favor, but every now and then I get a little creative.
Like this past Sunday, I served dinner again; Just a few folks with empty stomachs and full hearts.
We talked of college football, high level colleagues whose financial compensations often far surpass their level of actual skill and argued over Obama’s foreign policy.
We also drank mojitos made of Muscadine juice and mint.

Muscadine Mojitos 1 (1 of 1)


Muscadines (or Scuppernongs) are thick skinned grapes native to my much loved South. My memories of eating these jewels that vary in color as much as they vary in taste, could fill an entire chapter of a book. From creamy vanilla flavor to something along the lines of a granny smith apple mixed with a plum, you never knew what you would get at that first bite.
They’re also quite labor intensive. One must break through the leathery outer layer that encloses the sweet nectar of this grape, being mindful of the seeds that lay in the center. As kids, this never stopped us. We often sent the seeds and the outer skin airborne, many times at each other.
Hidden in the back yard of a beautiful house that sat at the end of Granny’s street, was an arbor covered with muscadine vines that provided a shady respite to the people that lived there; And plenty of grapes to the kids brave enough to climb the fence and steal them.
So if I must truly say goodbye to summer, the only appropriate way would be some sort of toast. With a drink that reminds me of the goodness summer brings. That long awaited fruit that would hang in dark purple clusters, surrounded by serrated- edged leaves and eager hands anxious to pick them.
Won’t you join me?

Muscadine Mojitos 5 (1 of 1)



Muscadine Mojitos

Ingredients:
2 cups of muscadines (any color will do)
6 mint leaves
2 teaspoons sugar
1 lime, halved
2 oz rum

Directions:

Pour the 2 cups of muscadines in a food processor and pulsing for about 4-5 3-second pulses. Strain the grapes through a fine mesh strainer, pressing the pulp to release the juices. Divide mint leaves, lime halves and sugar between two glasses. Use a muddler to crush the mint, lime and sugar together. Fill each glass with ice.  Divide the rum and muscadine juice amoung the 2 glasses and stir to combine.
Garnish with extra mint leaves and muscadines that have been cut in half or whole ones.

Cheers!