Posts Tagged ‘herb blog’

I’m here, but for how long I’m not sure.  First craft fair of the season and it was slowwwwwww.  Ah, but there are more to come!  It always looks up the closer to Christmas we get.  I just love this time of year.  Enough of this for now, let’s head to my favorite sauce–Bechamel!  Oh, excuse you!

Start by making a White Roux.  Now, this is not book learning you will be getting from me, but experience.  I DO use butter as my fat source–REAL BUTTER folks.  I take a pan, put in about 4-5 tablespoons of butter and heat it up on medium high heat.  When fat thins I add 6-7 tablespoons of flour and whisk briskly until the mixture begins to thin and bubble.  I then turn the heat to low and reduce the amount of whisking I do until I smell a toasty aroma arising from the roux. I usually let it cook for about 1-2 minutes more (don’t let it brown) and then remove it and set it aside.  For what follows you will need 4-6 tablespoons of this roux.

In a separate pot, heat up about one quart of milk (I use whole milk to get the smoothest blend) until it is SIMMERING.  Add the roux to the milk and whisk until the two come together smoothly, simmering while doing so.  Add salt to taste and two pinches of nutmeg.  I don’t like to taste the nutmeg as an “ingredient,” I just use it to add depth of flavor.  I also add a pinch of powdered white pepper and 1/4 of a yellow onion, peeled and sliced (not to small–what you want is the flavor).  I will sometimes also add a bay leaf and bit of vanilla bean, etc, depending on what I’m using the sauce for.  For now, just add the onion and one bay leaf (along with the nutmeg).  Simmer for about 20 minutes, adding more whole milk if the sauce thickens to quickly.  When done pour through a sieve and viola–BECHAMEL!  

Although this is a very BASIC Bechamel Sauce, you can do a lot with it. 

1.  You can throw in some Parmesan, Romano or both (grated please, 6-8 oz. please) into the sauce, melt it and pour it over some pasta.  Delicious. 

2.  You can make it into a heavy cream sauce by adding about 4-8 ounces of heated, heavy cream along with your favorite spices from Adult Indulgences, Wickedly Delicious Custom Spice Blends (http://www.adultindulgences.etsy.com), such as Tuscan Sun, Sicilian Prince, or even Oh India!  Again, great on pasta, baked chicken, etc.

3.  You can stir in 4 ounces of Gruyère (an incredible cheese indeed) and 2 oz. of Parmesan (grated) until melted.  Then remove from heat and add in 2 oz. of butter.  Stir well.  Again, this goes well with pasta, chicken, etc.  This is known in the field as a Mornay Sauce.

4.  And, you can make my husband’s favorite….Cheddar Cheese Sauce.  Add 8-9 oz. of cheddar cheese (grated please), 1/2 tsp of dry mustard, and two tbls of Worcestershire sauce.  Place all ingredients into warm Bechamel and heat until melted.  Pour over pasta and just die!

Really, you can put just about anything into a Bechamel sauce.  That is what makes it so very cool.  An easy way to make a fantastic sauce that you can use for virtually everything!  It can be dainty or robust.  You choose!  But, I make my Bechamel Sauces just how I like my men….robust and naughty!

Photo Courtesy of:  http://www.independent.co.uk/multimedia/archive/00284/Mr_January__Peter_L_284932t.jpg


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Hey, I know I used a couple of terms in my last post that may leave some of you rubbing your head, but don’t be afraid of the four letter word roux or its much longer cousin…emulsions.  You need to master a roux and an emulsion before you can be successful at composing fine “Mother Sauces.”  So, let’s get to it.

A roux is a mixture of ingredients used to thicken sauces so they aren’t runny like water.  The way to make a roux will leave you open-mouthed by its simplicity.  You must use an equal amount of flour and fat (traditionally clarified butter and/or animal fats) mixed in a saucepan and cooked over medium heat.  That sounds simple enough, but for how long do I cook it.  Well, here’s the rub….how long you cook it depends on what type of roux you want.  Unfortunately, no matter how long you cook it you won’t get a kangaroo!  Couldn’t resist.  Seriously, here’s how it works.

There are three generally accepted types of roux.

1.  White Roux.  Really, this should be named a yellowish roux, because that’s its true color, but who’s questioning history, eh?  You will mix an equal amount of flour and clarified butter (if you are a purist) in a sauce pan and cook over medium head for just a few minutes until the fat and flour are well mixed and begin to get a little frothy.  Don’t just pull the roux off the stove at this point, as you WANT to cook out the flour flavor.  Also, you don’t want to leave it on so long that it turns a darker color, or you off and running into another type of roux.  So, be careful how long you cook the White Roux.  White Rouxs are used primarily for bechamel and alfredo sauces (in other words, sauces using bases such as milk and cream).

2.  Blond Roux.  Yep, Blond Roux.  I can imagine a few of you “man cooks” out there hurrying to make a blond roux in hopes that she’ll be a dream come true.  Well, she may be beautiful and slightly blond and she may make you happy, but she won’t last.  Blond roux is cooked a bit longer than your White Roux.  Cook it until it begins to turn a bit darker than the Yellow/White Roux.  Blong  Rouxs and used for stock based white sauces such as veloutes.

3.  Brown Roux.  You guessed it, a brown roux is a blond roux taken several steps further in the cooking process.  The key to a perfect brown roux is to lower the heat and cook it over low heat (once it has combined and is frothy) until it browns evenly.  Note, I said browns evenly, not burns or scorches.  Interestingly enough, a brown roux cooked correctly will have a slightly nutty flavor and smell and taste quite rich.  Yummmmm.  You will use a brown route to thicken brown sauces like gravies.

Now for some tips for a great roux:

1.  Never, never, never burn or scorch your roux.

2.  A great roux is paste like and not runny or stew-like.  Roux should not pour like liquid.

3.  Cake flour makes by far the best roux.

4.  Try not to use shortening as your fat.  It add little flavor, tastes terrible and leaves  a after greasing on your tongue.

5.  Try to use clarified butter or another animal fat.

6.  Make sure to use the correct amount of roux to complement the amount of liquids you have.  I did some research of this one and here’s what the experts say.  Personally, I just keep adding until I get the thickness I desire.

3 ounces of roux per quart of liquid will thicken into a thin consistency

4 ounces of roux per quart of liquid will thicken into a medium consistency

5 ounces of roux per quart of liquid will thicken into a thick sauce

6 ounces of roux per quart of liquid will thicken into a heavy gravy

So, how does one incorporate a roux?  Well, again, it is really quite simple.  A roux can be added to a liquid mixture when the mixture is warm to hot, but avoid early boiling, as clumps can form.  Once the roux is added to the mixture you wish to thicken, make sure you whisk furiously until the liquid incorporates the roux (smooth and without any lumps).  Next, bring the sauce to a simmer and continue to simmer and stir for 20 minutes or so.  During this time the starchy flavor of the flour will further dissipate and your liquid will proceed to thicken.  If you happen to have added to much animal fat, make sure you skim it off the surface.

Well, this had been good for me I hope it has been good for roux…………………….

Photo Courtesy of:  http://www.meninaprons.net/images/bech.jpg

Our next post will be about emulsification.  No, not mumification….emulsification!!!!

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Oh, yes!  This is one Cambodian (Khmer) sauce you won’t be able to live without.  I kid you not!!!  I love a great, flaky white fish, broiled and placed on top of a bed of aromatic Jasmine rice.  Here is the best part, I don’t dip… I pour a line of Ginger sauce down the middle of it all, sit back in the silence broken only by the melody of the aromas and delicately roll my meal in my mouth–bite per bite.  Ummmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Photo courtesy of:  http://www.khatiya-korner.com/images/food/fishsauce_dipping.jpg


Ginger Fish Dipping Sauce


1-3 hot chili peppers, finely minced.  Remember, heat is optional!  Use none or a little or all three.  It is up to you. 

2  1/2 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced

1/3 cup fresh ginger, finely grated

1/4 cup raw cane sugar, powdered

1/4 cup fish sauce (make your own or commercial is fine)

1/4 cup hot water

2 fresh limes, juiced (about 1/4 cup fresh lime juice)


Place all ingredients in a small, glass sauce pan.  I ALWAYS let this recipe sit in the fridge for 24 hours before using.  I remove it from the fridge and heat it gently and serve.  You may be asking why I use a glass sauce pan.  Well, it is simply this:  lime juice and ginger can be quite acidic and I never place acidic elements (tomato, lime, lemon, etc.) in a metal pan.  Believe it or not the metal can be corroded quickly and spoil the fresh taste of whatever you are cooking!

Hope all of you have enjoyed a brief visit to Khmer cooking.  I just want to tease you all a bit with what will be coming soon…..MOTHER SAUCES.   With a limited number of base sauces you can create endless and wondrous sauces for any and every dish.  It’s time to get creative with Mother Sauces.  And, a big thank you to the wonderful reader who recommended lessons on Mother Sauces two months ago.  Finally, I can meet your desires.  Stay tuned……..



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Photo Courtesy of:   www.paradiseinfiji.com/blog/tag/fiji/

Good morning spice mix enthusiasts!  Yes, a Fijian spice blend that you can store and use in your favorite recipe.  What you say?  You don’t know of any Fijian recipes?  Well, not to worry once you have this spice mix made I’ll be posting a wonderful and simple Fiji Chicken Curry dish.  In fact, this spice mix recipe is so aromatic and delicious you’ll want to use it as a body rub. 

Most of the ingredients will be available at any larger grocery store.  If you can’t find a spice, the internet spice market is HUGE and you should have no problem finding the ingredients.  If something can be left out I will indicate so in the mix recipe.  Ummmmmmm.  Let’s get going!  Oh, if you want more than one batch just double or triple the ingredients so you can make more than one dish before having to mix another batch.

Fijian Indian Curry Powder Spice Mix Recipe

1/2 tsp ginger powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp cummin seeds

1/2 tsp mustard seeds

1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds

1 small cinnamon stick

5 cloves

4 whole cardamom

6 dried curry leaves

1/4 tsp coriander

2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp chili

 1 tsp amchoor powder  – Remember Amchoor powder is powdered mango that hasn’t ripened yet.  It has a tart flavor a lot like lime.

3 black peppercorns

1 bay leaf

Take all ingredients and place in large skillet on medium heat.  Dry roast the ingredients until they become aromatic.  DO NOT BURN or OVER ROAST!  Place all ingredients in coffee bean grinder or spice grinder and pulse grinder until spices are a fine powder.  Put blend in a glass jar and cap tightly.  As with all spice blends, but in a dry, cool  place away from sunlight. 

Hey, that was easy, huh?  Now all you have to do is get a great recipe, use your Fijian Curry Spice Blend, and invite great friends and family.   I know, you’re thinking how am I going to find that recipe?  Don’t worry, as I mentioned above, I’ll soon be posting a Fijian Curry Chicken Recipe.  Hang in there and you, your food and your new spice blend will soon be united and become fast friends!

Happy spice mixing!

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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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Hello spice and cooking lovers around the world.  It is finally time for my Paella recipe.  Remember that the post yesterday contains all the spice mixture you will need to make this wonderful dish from Spain.  I have people ask me all the time if they need a Paella pan to make Paella.  No, you don’t.  A large, heavy skillet will do the trick nicely.  Many people wonder if they can make Paella on an electric stove.  Yes, you can.  I know a lot is made of cooking Paella out-of-doors  in smokey clay like oven.  There is some argument for even heating of larger pans and there is a lot of argument for cooking over coal generated heat such as the essence of the cooking and ingredients marry.  Sure, it would be ideal to use a Paella pan in the out-of-doors on a coal laden cooker, but, hey, nothing is perfect.  I do have a friend that utilizes an old pot belly barbeque as her cooking base.  All I know is that her Paella is the best I have ever had.  I use gas heat, but any heat source should work.

I was also asked in my “comments” section about using other than seafood.  I can’t imagine why not.  In fact, after very little research I came up with numerous Paella recipes from the interior regions of Spain for Paella made with various sausages, rabbit, chicken, etc.  So, yes, you don’t have to use strictly fare from the sea for Paella.  If you are interested in one of these seafood-less recipes just Google “Paella Recipes” and there will be many.

Photo Courtesy of:  http://img4.cookinglight.com/i/2005/07/0507p137-tapas_table-l.jpg


1 3/4 cups extra virgin olive oil (Spanish Olive oil is a must)

9 pieces of chicken

11 fresh, large shrimp (deveined and cleaned)

meat of two crabs

2 lobster tails

8 red pimento (canned is fine)

8 2/3 cups long grain rice (Do Not use instant rice or oriental rice)

2 lemons

1/3 cup thinly sliced red bell peppers

1/3 cup thinly sliced yellow bell peppers

1/2 cup thinly sliced onions

1 cup artichoke hearts (not pickled but canned in water)

15 muscles or clams

1 1/4 cups cubed halibut

1 can diced tomatoes (regular sized can)

1 small pkg. frozen peas

approximately 11 cups of water

Make sure before you begin cooking you hang a picture of Antonio Bandera over your stove/cooking surface for inspiration.  Pour yourself your favorite drink and take a deep breath! 

Begin by placing the olive oil in the Paella pan and then heat the pan over medium to medium high heat.  Fry the chicken pieces.  When nearly browned add tomato sauce and keep cooking.  The meat needs to be done.

Add some salt and cut up the Halibut into smaller pieces.  Add the Halibut to the fried chicken pieces in the Paella pan.  Cook.

When chicken and fish are done add the vegetables and stir a few times.  After a couple of minutes add water and Paella spices (see Paella spice blend recipe on last post)

Let the mixture boil on medium high for 25 to 30 minutes.  Taste to see if salt is adequate.  If not, add some.  

You are ready for the rice.  Add rice and stir.  Now you want to add the lobster in pieces, crab pieces, shrimp and clams/muscles.  Please make sure clams/muscles and shrimp are fresh!  Lower the heat to simmer and let cook for another 20 minutes, watching the rice, heat and water carefully so that the rice does not burn.  If rice is not quite ready, add a bit more water until rice is ready.  Make sure the heat is not to high or to low.  Cooking will generally take 20 minutes with most long grain rice types.

When rice is ready and fluid is nearly gone throw in the peas and turn off the heat.  Take the red pimento and slice them into a cute arrangement on the top of the Paella.  Make the decoration “cute” if you must.

Cover the Paella pan and let rest 5-10 minutes before serving.  While Paella is resting, cut the lemons into 8 to 10 pieces.  Place a serving of Paella with a lemon slice on each plate and serve immediately.  Ummmmmm.   Your guests will love this dish, especially if it is served with a large wine glass filled with your favorite dry, white wine.

Make sure you have a Spanish soundtrack playing in the background while you eat and get drunk.  ENJOY!

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Hey herb (no, not that type of herb), spice and cooking fans.  How many of you wish you could pull off a great tasting Paella for friends and family.  Hey, how about a Paella party where everyone brings a different Spanish wine to share.  LOVE IT!   If you live near a beach, make it a beach party.  YEAH.  Imagine.

  Photo complements of:  http://www.pxleyes.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/top_11_computer_generated_landscapes/9.jpg

Well, hold onto your horse as you race along that beach because here is the simple spice mix recipe for use with Paella.  Some of you may think I am putting the cart before the horse, and perhaps I am — as I often do — but the mix will come before the actual Paella recipe.  By the time I post my Paella recipe you will be drooling all over the keys on your computer and the spice mix will be ready to go!


1 tsp crushed Rosemary

3  tsp salt

2 1/2 tsp Sweet Spanish Paprika

1 tsp ground garlic

2 tsp raw cane sugar

2 tsp Spanish Saffron

Really, reader, the most important ingredient here is the Saffron!  Make sure it is Spanish and fresh.  By the way, the same should be said for your men! 

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and place in a tight jar.  I recommend you use this mix immediately on the Paella recipe that I will soon be posting.  You will need to use all the spice mix with the recipe.  So, it is just a one time use blend.  But, well worth it if you like the real thing!  And, as with most cooking around the world, there are many, many different recipes for Paella and many different amounts of spices used in each recipe.  I find this one meets my needs best.  I hope you enjoy it as much as you will the Paella recipe that will follow shortly (a couple of days).  In the meantime, let me leave you with this:


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