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Posts Tagged ‘herbs and spices’

Ah, I am back for a short post on my second Mother Sauce base, Tomato Sauce or Sauce Tomat.  The French actually developed this sauce (based upon teachings from the Italians) which uses tomatoes as a base.  Needless to say Tomato Sauce is so versatile that its variations are endless!

Make a Tomato Sauce base is quite simple.  I was taught to use fresh tomatoes, but I now often use canned whole and pureed tomatoes.  Honestly, it will be hard for most of your diners to ever know the difference.  This recipe will make around a quart and a half to two quarts.  Hold on to your hats, folks, this will be fast and furious.

Mother Sauce Number Two:  Tomato Sauce

2  oz  Salt Pork

1 medium yellow onion

1/2 tsp sugar

salt and pepper to taste

2  1/2 oz carrots, diced into 1/4 inch cubes

2  oz  real butter   

5 pounds raw tomatoes, quartered (for this recipe I use any large, ripe, red tomato)

1  qt. light chicken broth (or for more of a classic taste 1 qt. of veal broth)

2 small cloves freshly crushed garlic

2-3  oz all purpose flour

Something to remember before you begin is to choose your pot carefully.  You will need a pot that easily holds 2 quarts of hot liquid.  I’d suggest a glass pot or one that has an internal non stick surface.  I suggest this for a simple reason.  Tomatoes are extremely acidic and can readily pull the flavor and particles of aluminum and other metals (like iron) into your sauce.  Believe me, the taste will be affected by the wrong pot!

Alright then, let’s get started.  Begin by placing the salt pork into the pot and rending the fat out of the salt pork (a heavy bottomed pan works best and helps avoid burning).   Add about a tablespoon of water and cover with a lid.  Place heat on medium and check after 5 minutes.  The steam will help the fat render from the salt pork and help prevent burning of the pork fat. 

Once the salt pork is rendered, add in butter, carrots, onions and sweat them over medium heat for 5-10 minutes.  The vegetables should become tender and begin to release their aromas.  As this happens you can sprinkle the flour over the carrots and onions and continue to cook them for a few more minutes.  The flour will work with the pork fat to make a roux.  See my previous postings to learn about a roux.

Add in the tomatoes and cook them with the other ingredients until they begin to soften and release their fluids.  Immediately add in your chicken or veal stock and crushed garlic.  Cover the pot and reduce heat the simmer for about 2 hours.

Finally, cool your broth a bit and put it all through a blender until smooth.  If you want a very smooth sauce, take the blended mixture and filter it through a chinois, finish it with sale, pepper and the sugar. 

Many of you are asking, why the sugar?  Well, sugar will help balance the acidity of the tomatoes.  Try it.  A little sugar on everything is fantastic. 

Once you have you base you can add whatever spices you want to create your dream pasta sauce, soup, or meat sauce.  I highly recommend you take a joy ride into the variations of Sauce Tomat.  Recipes are available in just about every cookbook and across the net.  Enjoy.

Photo Courtesy of:  videoactive.blogspot.com/2008_08_17_archive.html

 

 Photo Courtesy of:   kitchenography.typepad.com

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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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If you remember, and I barely do, that our last post dealt with an incredible Khmer curry paste recipe, then you will also remember my promise to post an incredible Khmer Curried Chicken recipe.  Well, there it is.  You’ll want to make sure your spice paste mix is ready to go.  Just check my last couple of posts and follow the directions and your paste will be ready.  I must say this chicken recipe is so delicious that you’ll want to place a table outside in the evening, light many candles or hanging lights in the bushes and trees around you and place a delicate and soft Cambodian CD on the stereo and relax and take your time to enjoy your company and your food.  Linger, talk softy, chew as long as you can and just let your palate and your olfactory sensors baste in the pleasure of this incredible dish from a beautiful and incredible country.

Khmer Curried Chicken (Using Khmer Curry Paste)

Ingredients

3 tablespoons Unflavored oil (corn or vegetable oil will work fine here) 

1 pound chicken breasts (cut in 1/4 slices).  The easiest way to do this is place the chicken in the freezer until it begins to freeze.  When it is lightly firm, remove it and it should slice in a lovely way)

1-2 tablespoons unprocessed, cane sugar

1/2 cup coconut milk

1 carrot sliced extremely thin (I use a slicer to ensure overall slice thinness)

1 potato, chopped into 1/2″ squares

1 medium sweet potato, chopped into 1/2″ squares

1 medium onion (sliced very thin)

1 cup unseasoned chicken broth (freshly made)

Salt to taste

5 cups teamed rice

4 saffron strands

1/16 teaspoon turmeric powder

Preparation

Place enough rice and water in a steamer to make 5 cups.  Add 4 saffron strands and 1/16 turmeric tsp. turmeric powder.  Turn on steamer and let rice cook.

Heat oil in a wok until hot.  Fry , stirring constantly, 2 Tablespoons of Khmer Curry Paste for one minute.  Add sliced chicken breast.  Stir for 2 minutes.  Turn down to medium heat.  Add 1-2 tablespoons of sugar and stir well.  Cook chicken until done.  Toss in vegetables   and stir.  Stir gently for another minute and then add 1/2 cup coconut milk, salt to taste and fresh chicken broth.  Heat through.

Serve over the steamed rice and truly enjoy.

As a note I would like to add that some folks do like more curry paste in their recipe.  If you find you would enjoy more paste, add more the next time.  This is a better strategy that adding much too much spice early on and ruining a recipe.  On that note…………………………………………drift way to Cambodia.

 

Photo Courtesy of:  http://www.images-photography-pictures.net/Angkor-Wat-Cambodia-sunset-zrim.jpg

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I know.  I know.  I know.  It has been a long time since my last post.  I am trying to juggle way too many things right now, but at least I’m back for now.  The long promised Khmer Curry Paste recipe is soon to follow.  Unlike other curry mixes this one won’t be a throat burner.  Oh no, this is a subtle, delicious, can’t stay away from it curry paste.    Frankly, as you who follow know, I am addicted to everything flavorful, especially Dougray Scott.  If you don’t know who Dougray Scott is take a look on Google and be prepared to have your heart stop at the site of those luscious lips and intelligent brow.  Sigh.  Dougray Scott, Khmer Curry Paste, a private hotel room with a sauna, Lisa Gerrard on the surround sound……..  Sorry, got carried away there for a moment.  Get out your mortar and pedestal and let’s get started.  Just remember that this recipe will make around a cup of paste or about enough for one large recipe using the blend or two smaller recipes.  I always say it is easier to use less spices than to have to figure out how to blunt the flavor from overuse.  Take this for what it is…a word from the spice wise.

Photo Courtesy of:   http://www.cambodia-cooking-class.com/images/top-mortar-2.jpg

Khmer Curry Paste

Remember, if you don’t know what ingredients I am mentioning, look back at my previous posts on Cambodian spices and herbs.  Also you can get all of these ingredients in large cities or if you live in a rural area, the internet offers you many sites from which to purchase these items.

Ingredients

1/4 cup peanut oil (for those worried about fat in their diet, canola oil or extra virgin olive oil can be used)

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp black peppercorns

1/4 cup sliced turmeric

8 medium cloves skinless garlic sliced

6 fresh or dried Tai chilies

1 fresh or dried Spur Chile (I have read recipes calling for New Mexico Chili pods, but I have never tried them in this recipe) 

1/4 cup sliced and trimmed galangal root (relative of ginger–see previous post)

2-3 tsp mushroom powder

1/2 tsp shrimp paste

1 lemongrass stalk, cleaned and finely sliced

1/4 cup peeled and sliced shallots

10 kaffir lime leaves (note:  these must be finely shredded)

If you are using dried Chili pods remember to soak them in warm water for one half hour and then drain before using.  Put all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend for at least 15 minutes or until you notice the ingredients are forming a smooth paste.  Keep the edges pulled in with a spatula so all ingredients are well incorporated.  Use fresh with your recipe or store in refrigerator for no more than one week. 

How was that for simple!  And, soon to come will be an incredible recipe for you to use your spice mix with.  I can’t wait to hear about your smiles as you use your new spice blend paste!

Photo Courtesy of:  http://images.travelpod.com/users/timrie/4.1262609656.making-curry-paste.jpg

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I wish to say I am sorry that I haven’t been posting as prolifically as before, but family emergencies with my ill mother have funneled my time to where it is greatly needed.  Things are improving and  I will try to post more often.  In the meantime, I am finally changing my grouping of Etsy Sellers You Must See page.  In case you don’t know, Etsy is a handmade, on-line market that has some of the most beautiful handmade products you can imagine.  I highly recommend you visit my page and then visit Etsy at http://www.etsy.com.

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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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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

Ingredients:

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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