Posts Tagged ‘cooking blog’

Do not, and I mean DO NOT believe people when they tell you oil and water do not mix.  Yes, they do.  Under the perfect set of circumstances they can produce a beautiful, viscus sauce that coats your mouth with flavor and never leaves a slimy, clingy after coating on your tongue.  In simple language an emulsion is a combination of oil and water along with additions that create the unique flavor of whatever emulsion you are creating. 

Most of you know that to thicken a sauce the most common technique is to add a starch (flour, cornstarch, arrowroot) and let the liquid surrounding it swell the molecules, thus increasing the viscosity of the fluid.  When you make an emulsification, you don’t use starch but instead you bond little droplets of oil and water molecules.  This “bonding” process makes it difficult for the water to move away from the oil and, thus, a thick, creamy consistency results.  The most fun emulsification I like to make is a combination of Balsamic Vinegar, Honey, Jack Daniels Honey Dijon Mustard, and Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  I beat my ingredients to death with a whisk and all of a sudden the mixture begins to cling to itself and thicken.  Within 3 to 5 minutes I have a spectacular emulsified salad dressing that is sweet, sour, salty and above all else creamy and thick. 

The key to mixing an emulsification until well bonded is technically known as shearing.  In my case, I often use a whisk.  This takes a lot of “sheer” muscle power and time, but works great.  Modern cooks are lucky to have mixers that do the work for them.  For those of you who make your own mayo you know how handy a metal bowl with whisk mixer can be!!  You may wonder why having an electric whisking device is better than hand whisking an emulsification.  The answer is simple enough:  shear power.  With greater shearing power the better the bond you are creating between the molecules and the less chance you will have of your emulsification separating.

Finally, always remember that shearing power isn’t the end all beat all to a great emulsification….oh  no, you need a great emulsifier to get a stable emulsification.  Emulsifiers are those “bonding” agents that allow oil and water to mix properly.  Soy bean sauces, cream, and egg yolks are all great emulsifiers.  In the big world of chef’s emulsifiers will always include food grade gums such as Xanthan.  I’ve never used the stuff and have no idea how to.  This should make a good study for those of you curious about emulsification with Xanthan.

There we go…..Emulsification 101. 


Photo of  Home Made Mayonnaise Courtesy of:  http://whatscookingamerica.net/Sauces_Condiments/Mayonnaise.jpg 


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My apologies, again, for being absent.  Let’s continue where we left off some time ago, shall we?  As I was mentioning, an avid reader wanted a lesson in “Mother Sauces”.  Naturally, I aim to please (most of the time, anyway).  Some of you may be asking, “What the heck are Mother Sauces?  Well, simply put, they are the base sauces for most any sauce you can think of or create. 

The Mother Sauces are:  Tomato Sauce (or Sauce Tomat), White Sauce (or Sauce Bechamel), Brown Sauce (or Sauce Espagnole), White Stock Sauce (or Sauce Veloute) and finally, Hollandaise Sauce.  I’m sure most of these sound familiar to a lot of you who like to cook.  So, let’s take a better look at each, shall we? 

1.  Sauce Bechamel.  This delicious base sauce is usually made with whole milk and thickened with a white roux (to be explained later…if you are wondering what a roux is).  Bechamel sauce is often flavored with white onion, bay leave, salt, nutmeg and white and black pepper.  Bechamel is served most often with pastas, eggs, poultry and veal.

2.  Sauce Tomat.  How can we forget this lovely sauce made from a base of tomatoes, whether raw, pureed, stewed or in a paste form).  We are most familiar with this sauce and its use in pastas.  But it is often found fish, vegetables, polenta, veal, poultry, breads and gnocchi.  Thickening of a Sauce Tomat often occurs with purees, reductions and even a roux.

3.  Sauce Espagnole.  Brown Sauce is a must if you are aiming for truly classic cooking.  It is thickened with a roux and is made from a base of veal, beef or chicken stock.  It is most often served over roasted meats such as veal, lamb, beef and even poultry. 

4.  Sauce Veloute.  As a white sauce Sauce Veloute is made with chicken, light meats and often fish.  We find it used with eggs, fish, pastas and veal.  Sauce Veloute is commonly flavored with various wines and thickened with a roux.

5.  Hollandaise Sauce.  My favorite!  Clarified butter and egg yolks make this sauce truly unforgettable.  It is thickened through emulsification (to be defined later) and often paired with seasonings such a black pepper, white wine, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, and salt.  I love Hollandaise over asparagus!  It is also often used with vegetables, light poultry dishes, fish, beef, and eggs!

Such a tantalizing group of “Mother Sauces” from which can come an infinite number of possibilities.  Your imagination and palate will be your only boundaries!

Photo Courtesy of:   http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/uimages/kitchen/2008_03_25_MotherSauce.jpg

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Hello everyone.  I had a request a month or so ago (could have been longer, my mind has been wasting a lot of time contemplating Dougray Scott’s lips) for a brief introduction to Mother Sauces.  While I don’t consider Mother Sauces spices exactly, there is A LOT that can be done with spices and Mother Sauces.  So, lets get started, shall we?

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Ah, yes.  This is a quote from The Truman Show (1998).  No doubt you are wondering what the heck this has to do with my blog.  Well, not much–or a lot–depending on how your brain works.  Mine works on a wide plain of abstractions and strange zig zags of connections, so it makes perfect sense to use this quote as a segway into my new post on Fijian Cuisine.  Yes, we’re still near the ocean for this post.  Not the roiling, surging, dark and frightening ocean some of us live near, but the soft, blue-green, warm, foaming, see till the end of the earth Ocean of the Fijian Islands. 


If this picture from the Fijian Tourist Bureau doesn’t grab you, then nothing will.  Ah, Fiji.  Just a grouping of about 300 islands laying in a beautiful nest of liquid pleasure.  Do we ever hear of Fiji.  Not really.  But it has had two military coups, believe it or not.  And, there are some relatively famous folks from Fiji.  Who you ask, your head turning sideways as you look at your computer screen in doubt.    Vija Singh for one.  Who?  Vija Singh, the world-class golfer.  Any other guesses?  No, well there is Jimmy Snuka a.k.a. “Superfly” the former WWF wrestler.  And, lest you think there are only two famous folks from Fiji, what about Anand Satyanand?  Umm humm.  The Governor General of New Zealand is from Fiji.  Sigh.  Just think of the minutia you have learned from reading this simple spice and herb blog!

The cuisine and spices of Fiji, which is really our topic today, is a melting pot of various cultures that have infiltrated the Islands.  Fijian cooking has been influenced by Polynesians, Indians, Chinese, Dutch and other Europeans, Africans, and even Melanesians.  Fijian cuisine is a lovely mixture of many different cultures all adapted to fit local tastes and Island living.  As such, it takes a deft hand to create the subtle tastes  of modern Fijian cuisine. 

The Fijian Islands provide ample perfect weather and growing conditions for many spices and herbs.  Some are indigenous to Fiji and others were brought to Fiji and cultivated.  But, the list is so varied and beautiful that what else but subtle perfection can be expected of Fijian dishes.  So, let’s begin by listing the most common spices used in Fijian cooking.

1.  Vanilla

2.  Pepper

3.  Nutmeg

4.  Cinnamon

5.  Tumeric

6.  Ginger

7.  Cardamom

8.  Coriander

9.  Cumin

10.  Chilies

11.  Fenugreek

12.  Sea Salt

From this list, it is easy to see the outside influences on Fijian cuisine.  Imagine the magical dance of these spices combined with seafood, pork, chicken, goat (yes, they eat goat in Fiji), breadfruit, yam, cassava, taro root, limes, lemons, guava, mango, bananas, pineapple and the ever present and abundantly used coconut milk and flakes.  Can’t you just feel the burst of flavor on your tongue?  Feel the salivation start?   Hang onto your hats kids, and with the next post we will explore some common Fijian dishes that will leave you and your guests yearning for sun, waves, color and relaxation. 

For now, goodnight fine friends and I leave you with this…………………………………

Photo courtesy of:  http://www.paulsmedia.co.nz/images/gallery/fiji_sunset_02.jpg

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Yeah.  A beautiful day here at home and there is obviously a lot of interest out there about Cuban cooking.  O.K., then.  Many of you noted you wanted more recipes.  Well, I am here to please (within limits).  I decided to give up my simple Chicken with Rice dish recipe.  Easy, quick and peasant style Cuban cooking. 

Photo Courtesy of:  http://www.frenchcreoles.com/cuba3.jpg


Just had to share that artwork with you all.  Lovely, isn’t it?  Anyhoo, let’s get to it fellow cooks and spice lovers.

Chicken with Rice Cuban Peasant Style


1 whole chicken, cut into pieces

4 ripe tomatoes, chopped (I remove seeds before chopping)

1 1/2 cups warm water

8 minced, fresh garlic cloves

2 1/2 large, red, finely chopped onions

1 bay laurel leaf

2 medium green bell peppers, finely chopped and seeds removed

1 medium red bell pepper, finely chopped and seeds removed

9 green pimento olives, finely chopped

3 tsp. juice from olive jar

One large lemon

1/4 tsp. cummin

Olive Oil (Extra Virgin is best)

1/4 cup raisins

1 tsp. salt


The chicken needs to be marinated for at least 14 hours (overnight is best) in the juice of the whole, large lemon and the cummin.  Make sure you add salt to the marinade.  Coat the chicken well and put into fridge.  I like to shake my chicken in the marinade every couple of hours to ensure even seasoning.

Once you have marinated the chicken, get out a larger frying pan and add some olive oil.  Brown the chicken pieces on all sides!  Once browning is complete, place the chicken in a large pot.

Add a little bit more olive oil to the frying pan (not the pot) and add in the onions and peppers until carmelized.  Add in the garlic and bay leaf and stir.  Let cook no longer than one minute before adding the water (this keeps the flavor of the garlic fresh and pungent).  Stir again.  Add this mixture to the browned chicken in the pot.  Cover and make sure you simmer for at least 30 minutes.  Remove bay leaf.

Immediately serve over plain white rice.   Enjoy!

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Happy Mom’s Day to all who celebrate it.  And, we all should since without Mom’s there would be no us!  My Mother has always provided me with mentoring that has made me the person I am today.  Literally, everything good that I am I have gotten from her.  Her heart is spiritual, loving, accepting, non judgemental, caring, artistic, appreciative, soulful, fun-loving, nurturing and well–just all around perfect!  She has battled cancer for 12 years and now is suffering from all the chemotherapy and medications she takes.  She nearly died six weeks ago and yet on she goes, helping others and shouldering her pain and discomfort.  I love her more each and every day I am with her.  Caring for her is a blessing and a gift!  I love you Mom!

Today, we delve into that wonderful Cuban Spice Mix that I told you about on my last post.  This will be a bit of a different preparation than we usually talk about.  This will be made fresh, on the go, and put immediately into a great Cuban dish:  Black Beans and Rice.  You get a lot of arguments about whether Cuban black beans and rice should be “yellow” or not.  According the lady I was taught by, “real” Cuban black beans and rice (as the peasants make it) does not have a yellow color to it.  Now, my teacher indicated that through the years Saffron made its mark in Cuban rice and beans and that some families use saffron as a spice to both flavor and color rice and beans.  Additionally, she informed us that there is a Caribbean spice blend available (for many years) called (and I hope I get this right) Sazon Goya that many modern Cuban cooks use in rice and beans and many other dishes. 

I looked up Sazon Goya on the net and, yes indeed, a spice packet is sold by this name (as are some others by the same company).  It turns the rice and beans a lovely color and contains a number of spices that are now used in Cuban cooking.  If you are interested, just type in Sazon Goya on the web and you will find resellers of this blend.  Our teacher told us that in very poor homes where saffron and spice mixes can not be afforded, yellow food coloring is sometimes added to rice and beans to give them a beautiful saffron color. 

For our purposes here today, we will use the five main ingredients of basic Sofrito. You will receive arguments on what belongs in Sofrito.  I was taught that Sofrito for beans and rice should be garlic, cummin, green peppers, onions, saffron (optional and not used in this recipe), Sazon Goya (optional and not used in this recipe), and bay laurel leaves.  Hold onto your hats, here we go!

Peasant Black Beans and Rice


2 cups black beans (we are making a quick recipe and won’t be using dried beans in this recipe)

1 large yellow onion

Olive oil

2 cups chicken broth

3 large, minced garlic cloves

3 tbsp tomato paste

1 cup long grain white rice

1/2 cup minced green pepper

3 1/4 tsp powdered cummin

1 bay leaf

Once all ingredients are handy, you want to begin by draining the water from the beans and setting them aside in a small bowl. 

In a large cooking pot that has a cover, you will now want to begin to saute your chopped onion, garlic, green pepper, and bay leaf in olive oil until they appear opaque and are tender.

Next, add the tomato paste, black beans, cummin and chicken broth.  Stir and let gently warm. 

Add the rice and cover.  Cook over low heat until rice is completely cooked.  This can take anywhere from 20 to 35 minutes. 

Bingo, you are ready to go.  You should add salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.  Yum!

So, you ask, what if you want to used dried black beans.  Well, that is easily enough done.  You will need one pound of black beans.  To prepare them you would put them in a pot and make sure they are well covered with water.  Bring them to a boil, remove them from the heat, and let them stand at least one hour.  Drain them and continue to use them as the recipe above states.

If you want to pour in some Sazon Goya, please do and you can add a bit of Saffron as well to come up with that beautiful yellow color and that just right flowery flavor that only Saffron can bring to a dish.  But, for Peasant Cuban rice and beans, just stick to the recipe above.

You can see that Sofrito is a blend of vegetables, herbs and spices that is not stored, but created just before it is used to flavor many different Cuban dishes.  I encourage you all to explore Cuban cooking as it is wonderful in all its varieties!

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Good evening or good morning to all!  Today I decided that I wanted to delve into the cuisine/seasonings of Cuba.  My most favorite spice of Cuba is, of course, Andy Garcia.  Lord, but that man gets better with time.  Andy Garcia is the picture of masculinity and I’d love to pour my Cuban cooking all over his body.  The next part belongs in some other, more spicy, blog.  Sigh.

Photo Courtesy of:  http://www.librarising.com/astrology/celebs/images2/A/andygarcia.jpg

Let’s get one thing straight  from the beginning, shall we?  Cuban cooking is not known for his heavy, hot spices.  More people want to assume that Cuban cooking takes on lots of heat, when in fact, it doesn’t.  Cuban cooking began and has continued to be peasant type cooking.  Rib sticking basics, seasoned slightly, but well.  The history of Cuba can be seen in the influences to its cuisine.  The Spanish, French, Portuguese and African (others as well) influences can be seen today in Cuban cuisine.  Few spice blends are seen in daily Cuban cooking.  The most common blend is called a sofrito.  The sofrito usually contains some garlic, onion, oregano, green pepper, and ground pepper.  This  blend is used in most dishes, including meat dishes, tomato-based sauces, cooked beans,  and poultry stews.

The basic spices used in Cuban cooking are simple indeed:

1.  Bay Laurel Leaves

2.  Garlic

3.  Oregano

4.  Cumin

We have to understand the Cuba is and was quite a poor country and costly spices were a luxury.  Many dishes of today still include daily rice and bean dishes.  We have seen an explosion in the “New” Cuban cooking revolution, where chef’s are using unique and different herbs and spices to marry Cuba with the Caribbean and other countries.  When I traveled last year to Florida I was lucky enough to sample a number of these new restaurants and loved every dish I tried.  I’ve always been a fan of black beans and rice and you will find this on many Cuban menus.  I’m not really a fan of fried plantains or yucca, but I can swallow it if I try.  Flan has always been a favorite desert and I haven’t been disappointed with it in any Cuban restaurant.

This short excerpt may lead many to believe that Cuban cooking is bland.  Far from it; traditional Cuban cooking is subtle, delicious, homey, and a gift to anyone who eats it.

Now, back to spicy Andy Garcia.  He does get better with age, as do we all!  Must be all of that delicious Cuban cooking that keeps him looking so young.  So, stay tuned and I will ply you all into loving Cuban Cuisine with a Sofrito spice blend recipe you can make at home.  I’ll also be posting some fantastic Cuban recipes for everyone to try!


Photo Courtesy of:  http://screencrave.frsucrave.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/andygarcia09-2-06.png

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