Posts Tagged ‘vegetarian’

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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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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I know, I deserve a spanking.  Speaking of which, where is Dougray Scott when you need the little bugger.  Of course, I could be punished even more…………….. 

Photo Courtesy of:  http://stars.hitflip.de/Dougray_Scott_HF_L_2_58493_24101.gif

A special treat for those of you who didn’t know who Dougray Scott was.  I know, I should wish for a lot more than a spanking.  It’s those darn lips I tell you.  What was God thinking when he made them!  Didn’t he know women would swoon and dream of being locked in their deep embrace for days on end?  I’m sure he did.  Just one more part of our torture of living a mortal life.   I have to admit, I’m not one for a lot of temptation (I’m just not tempted by much but great spices, herbs and food), but I will say, to all the world, I’d give it up to have a go at Dougray Scott.  Sigh.  Must pull myself away from the photo and get on with my apology.

Where was I.  Oh Yes.  I am sorry for not posting for some time but life is still very busy.  As a means of apology I am offering a great Khmer recipe for Coconut Sauce.  I use it as often as I can and I love it.  Khmer cooking doesn’t shy away from Coconut sauces at all, in fact this is a commonly used sauce in deserts as well as main dishes.  All I can say is that it is simple, delicious, and well, I could do a lot with it if Dougray Scott were in the room with me now.  ; )

Khmer Coconut Sauce


2 cups coconut milk (fresh is best, but canned is fine as well)

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/2 tablespoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt


Mix all ingredients together in a small sauce pan.  Heat and allow to simmer, stirring regularly, until sauce thickens.  It’s ready to go!  Hot or Cold.  Day or Night.  I love this on vanilla ice cream, sponge cake, and it is wonderful on rice, fish, light chicken dishes, etc.  Just let your imagination roll along with this one!!!

Well, my apology should allow you to have many wonderful and flavorful meals.  Oh, and the picture of Dougray Scott should allow you many a delightful fantasy.  Eat well my friends!

Photo Courtesy of:  http://www.ruggedelegantliving.com/a/images/Dougray.Scott.Pro.BWImage.jpg

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Photo courtesy of:  http://www.paradiseinfiji.com/blogimages/Activities/Culture_Warrior005.jpg


Everyone was so pleased with my posts of Fiji, that I thought I would post another Fijian recipe that is as easy as they come and as delicious as can be.  If you like ceviche you will love this slightly spicy white fish dish.  Let’s hit it, folks!



4 White Fish fillets (I use Halibut, but for more authenticity use Mahi-Mahi)

Juice of 3 large limes or 4 small limes

1/2 tsp sea salt

3 medium tomatoes, seeds removed and diced in small cubes

1 very small green chili (Serrano works fine) minced very, very fine.  Remember, always remove seeds, stems and veins  (use less for less heat)

1 medium onion, minced

1 orange bell pepper, seeds, veins and stems removed and minced

1 cup coconut cream  (NOT coconut milk, but coconut CREAM)


Cut the fish fillets into bite size pieces and put them in a GLASS bowl with the lime juice and salt.  Do NOT put the lime juice in a metal bowl or it WILL react with the metal and ruin the flavor of your dish.  Mix the fish, lime and salt well and then cover and refrigerate overnight for no less than 12 hours. 

Remove from fridge and add coconut cream and minced onion. Stir well.  Serve immediately and sprinkle tomato and diced orange bell pepper over top.  I love serving this dish on a fresh bed of huge lettuce leaves.  I have even had folks roll the Kokoda in a lettuce leaf and eat it like a taco.  If you are really adventuresome, invite some dancers over to give a show to your family and guests.  Or, better yet, have a beach party where less clothing is more fun!  Yum is all I can say. 


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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


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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