Posts Tagged ‘recipe 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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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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Let’s face it, since Gilles Marini came on the scene who cares about how the French cook food.  We do know that some French men, however, are really, really cooking! 

You know, I would almost give up on waking up beside Dougray Scott when I see this slice of exquisite French flesh.  Gilles Marini is hot.  More than hot, he is HOT.  But, Gilles Marini doesn’t look like he engages in over indulging.  Sigh.  What is it about me with men who have foreign accents and great lips!  Alas, I must turn to the topic at hand–French herbs and spices.

Traditional French cooking isn’t really know for an abundance of spices and herbs.  French chefs have always heavily relied on sauces.  Yes, sauces and reductions are a major way the French flavor their foods.  The French make their sauces by using beef, chicken, fish, lamb, veal, duck, (along with bones of the afore-mentioned meats) boiled in a pot along with onions, carrots, garlic, minimal spices and herbs, sea salt and leeks.  Believe it or not these sauces are often simmered for hours.  One recipe I have calls for simmering the sauce for eight hours.  Yep, eight hours.  For me that requires a lot of my short attention span.  🙂 

There are many different “stocks” made by French cooks.  Some of the most well known are:  chicken sauce, duck sauce, fish stock, lamb stock, roasted veggetable stock, veal stock, and beef stock.  Invariably these sauces have wine in them and are boiled down and ladled over vegetables, meats, fish, and potatoes.  French stocks truly were made mainstream by Julia Childs and her wonderful cookbooks.  When you really think about it sauces are an economical and ingenious way to flavor foods.

I know what you all are thinking.  So, you ask, what herbs and spices do the french use when they do use spices?  Kinda like, “How much wood does a woodchuck chuck when a woodchuck does chuck wood?”  Say those two phrases 6 times really, really fast.  Ha!

1.  Culinary Lavender.  You’ll always find this in the French versions of Herbes De Provence.  My spice company, Adult Indulgences Wickedly Delicious Custom Spice Blends, carries a wonderful lavender based Royal Herbs de Provence.  You should give it a try.  The lavender gives just the hint of bouquet and a touch of bitterness.  Ummmmmm.

2.  Thyme

3.  Tarragon

4.  Sea Salt

5.  Chervil.  Chervil may not be a common herb you have come across before.  Chervil is kind of like parsley with a bit of an anise flavor peeking through.  Delicious!

6.  Garlic

7.  Lemon peel

8.  Cubeb.  Cu… what?  Cubeb.  Cubeb came to Europe via Venetian trade with the Arab countries.  It is native to Indonesia.  It resembles the cardamom plant and smells a bit like camphor.  I find it tastes bitter and like black pepper.

9.  Angelica.  Angelica has been used throughout the ages as far back as the Nordic tribes to ward of evil and plagues.  Pagan’s have used it in their rituals as well.  Angelica is a larger plant with large leaves and celery like stalks.  It has small flower heads that eventually sport aromatic seeds.  Angelica is in the same family as fennel, parsley and chervil.  When cooking with Angelica, all the parts of the plant are used:  roots, seeds and stems.

10.  Rosemary

11.  Chives

12.  Marjoram

13.  Bay Leaves

14.   Basil

15.  Fennel

16.  Paprika

17.  Nutmeg

18.  Oregano

19.  Pepper

Whew, for a culture that doesn’t use a lot of spices in their cooking that is some list!  But, it can be deceptive, as the French tend to use “blends” of spices rather than adding individual spices to a recipe.  Stay tuned for my next post in which I will list the main French spice blends used to cook French dishes.  Now, if you’ll forgive me I’ve got pictures of Dougray Scott and Gilles Marini to view before bedtime.  Talk about DELICIOUS!

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The French spice blend, Herbes de Provence can be found at my etsy store (http://www.adultindulgences.etsy.com) under the Americanized name, Royal Herbs De Provence.  I just added my baked chicken recipe using this incredible spice blend.  I make my spice blend the way the French do, with actual lavender buds.  Incredible!  So, see my recipe page and enjoy some baked chicken.  Remember, the French are known form more than just french fries!

I have to admit that I watched Dougray Scott’s movie, The Truth About Love, again tonight.  Had to make my Dougray Scott Cheese Sticks (see recipe page) and break out the Diet Pepsi and just enjoy!  Lord, but that man’s lips and voice could melt a ton of butter.  He is so galant in this film with Jennifer Love Hewitt that I love it.  The perfect knight on a white horse that any woman would love.   Dougray Scott has just that right amount of softness and manliness that I adore.  But, I’ve read a lot about Scottish men and I would love to get to know him in person.  Not that way!  Just in a close, friendship way.  Really close! 🙂   Well, am off to bed to dream and……………………..ah, Mr. Scott.

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Good early morning for some and a very late night for others.  The last time we spoke I listed the main spices used in Indian cooking.  Various regions, I mentioned, use less, more, and added local spices.  Garam Masala is what I call a base spice mix.  You will find Garam Masala used in most Indian cooking as a base spice mix with other spices being added to the dish.  It is not that Garam Masala can not stand-alone, it does in many dishes.  But I find that used sparingly Garam Masala makes a wonderful, aromatic, warming lullaby, but adding additional spices can create an entire song.  There are even times when I use Garam Masala at the end of a dish–just sprinkled on vegetables, meats, rice, or potatoes.  Yum.

You can find Garam Masala at most larger grocery stores.  If needed, you can find it readily at most online Pakistani and Indian groceries.  Beware that commercial varieties have a number of different recipes and often cheaper ingredients are chosen (such as cumin and coriander) in place of the usual, more expensive cloves and cardamom.  The downside to these cheaper mixes is that they can leave a bitter after taste on your poor tongue.  Oh, there I go, mentioning tongue.  And, that only serves to remind me of Dougray Scott’s incredible mouth.  Speaking of yum.  Shudder, shake, and back to business! 

I always make my Garam Masala in cup quantities, but that might be a lot to use in most households that do not entertain a lot or don’t eat Indian spiced foods all that often.  So, here is a knock off of my own Oh India, Adult Indulgences Indian Spice Blend.  I have left out a few of my special differences, as my blend is proprietary.  Sigh.  However, I think you will find this mix to be incredible!  It will make around 4 tablespoons, depending on how you grind it.  Just remember to put it in a tightly sealed glass container out of the sunlight and away from heat.

Garam Masala

1/2 of a small-sized nutmeg

1 tsp. fresh cloves

1 tsp. fresh peppercorns (note these should be black peppercorns)

1 fresh, small cinnamon stick (broken into small pieces)

3/4 tablespoon cardamom seeds

1 tsp. cumin seeds

Using a counter spice grinder (or coffee bean grinder) place all ingredients in the holding cup.  Turn on the grinder for short bursts until the spices are ground into a fine powder.  Smell the wonder you have created.  Even better find a simple Indian recipe (like one of mine from my recipe page or your favorite Indian cookbook) and pour some wine, cut up some fresh mango and water melon and invite a few friends over for a night of laughing and chatting.  Enjoy!  Life is short!

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Yes!  Yes!  Yes!  Let’s finish off introduction to savory with a few words (Yeah, I know.  With me it’s rarely a few words.)  The big question is:  Will Dougray Scott stay married?  Just kidding.  The really big question today is, “Are there other herbs that are savory?”  Yes, there are.  They come with many, many names attached and each and every one of them can add to the savory flavoring of a dish.  Individually, they tend to have distinct flavors, but collectively, they mix well with other herbs and spices to infuse a dish with even more of a savory note for the tongue.  And, believe it or not, many, many herbs fit the savory category.

So, you ask, what are some savory herbs?  Well, let’s take a look, shall we?

1.  Basil.  When we think of basil many of us think of the lovely Italian, green pesto.  It is indeed lovely.  In our home we used basil on pizza, buffalo mozzarella, salads, pastas, etc.  As I have grown with my cooking I use it in steamed rice, omlettes, etc.  Basil comes in so many varieties these days, so try them all!

2.  Dill.  Growing up with my Father’s garden’s, my brother and I were tasked with weeding.  We hated weeding dill as it truly had a strong, hearty flavor that seemed to draw all sorts of ugly bugs.  All we ever thought about it then was that it smelled like a pickles.  As derogatory comments to each other we often used the term, “You’re a dill weed.”  Many people will tell you that dill seeds smell much more mellow (somewhat like caraway seeds), but I disagree.  Dill seed smells like pickles! : )  Dill, I have learned through these many years of cooking, is good for more than just pickles, it does well paired with potato soup, potato salad and some egg dishes (when lightly used). 

3.  Fines Herbs.  The French developed this little delicacy of a herb combination.  It is available at most grocery stores and is probably familiar to most of you.  Fines Herbs are fantastic for vegans as they are delicious on fresh and cooked vegetables.  I admit to using fines herbs on eggs on a couple of occasions.

4.  Oregano.  Again, even I tend to think of Oregano as an Italian seasoning and have often used it in pastas, pizza toppings, and hearty soups.  I think of Oregano now as a wonderful savory herb to mix with tomatoes in many sauces.

5.  Sage.  Sage has always been a staple in stuffings for turkey, pork, chicken, lamb, etc..  I also love to use it on vegetables with a little sweet butter.  Ummm.  Sage also pairs well with cheese and onion.  Be warned, though, sage packs a wallop of flavor so go lightly!

6.  Bay Leaves.  I’ve always loved bay leaves.  I use them in many of my middle eastern dishes where they have a chance to sit and infuse my dishes with a slightly almondy taste.  I use them in cheese dishes as well as stews.  Remember, remove the leaves before serving.

Are there other savory herbs?  Yes.  Chervil, Chives, Marjoram, Mint, Rosemary, Tarragon, and Thyme.  So, get out there, buy those spices and begin to experiment.  You can not learn without doing.  If you want to be a great cook, you definitely need to learn to work your herbs and spices to show their best sides and the best sides of what they are matched with.  Think of pairing herbs and spices and foods as looking for the best match in a marriage:  each ingredient upholds the other where it may be weak, one can outshine the other, but only when necessary, and all must embrace each other or the union will be weak!

Hey, I’m done.  Good eating and call up some friends, grab some great wine, set up the table, make some food and laugh!

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Evening all.  This beautiful night, cold but precious, we are discussing the fourth category of spice flavors–SPICY.  Spicy for me is a great Dougray Scott movie, some home-made hot garlic and cheese sticks, a warm blanket, a dark room, and a big screen T.V. (so that Dougray’s luscious lip are larger than life).  Well, at least the hot garlic cheese sticks are spicy!

Dishes with a hot zip are spicy dishes and they leave a warm to searing sensation on our palate.  Sometimes the heat hits right away, all over your mouth–in a sometimes unpleasant and frantic way.  At other times a dish has subtle heat and you really feel nothing but an after-lingering heat on the back of the tongue.  Of course, there is a range of experiences between the two.  Honestly, hot spices are one of the most well-known.

Some samples of hot spices would be:

1.  Hot Peppers.  The heat of peppers is measured on a scale.  Peppers range from mild to awful!  The kind of awful that you should be wearing a respirator.  When I grind fresh dried peppers of the medium to hot varieties I do wear goggles, gloves, a respirator, and overalls.  I try to do my grinding out-of-doors so avoid running the family out of the house for a few days.

2.  Hot Garlic.  Almost all of us are aware of the usual types of garlic we find in the grocery store.  Pungent, yes.  But, some garlic is hot.  Personally, I love hot garlic.  I get the great taste of garlic with its zippy flair and the heat of a mild pepper.  Nice.

3.  Mustard.  As we all know, mustards, powdered or wet, can be mild to hot.  There is nothing better than a hot mustard, avocado, honey-ham, tomato, and Havarti dill cheese sandwich.  Try one!

4.  Pepper.  Pepper is such a widely used spice it’s like salt–people don’t even think about its use and flavor.  Peppercorns originated in southern India and they now come in a host of varieties.

5.  Horseradish.  This spicy root was grown by my father no matter where we lived.  He loved fresh ground horseradish root on meat, potatoes, as a dipping sauce–just about everything!  I appreciate its many uses, but my favorite is in a great home-made cocktail sauce!

Well, those are my examples of the hot spice category.  Be ready for our final category in Episode VI:  Amalgamating. What?  I tell you what, you won’t find a more exciting cooking site on the entire web.  ; )  Keep an eye on my etsy page and take a look at the new promotions there.  A special gift of beauty and class awaits you all!  Also, don’t forget to glance at the recipes every so often.  My next one will be my secret (not any  more, Linda) recipe for making my Dougray Scott, Evening at Home, Spicy Cheese Sticks!

Eat on, my friends.  Eat on!

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