Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Fresh Chunky Basil Tomato Sauce and Announcing Black and White Wednesday #138

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This chunky slightly piquant tomato sauce is perfect served over a sturdy pasta such as a small penne or rotini. The sauce is redolent with fresh basil and enhanced with a bold red wine reminiscent of  tomato sauces enjoyed while visiting Italy. Not only can the sauce be served over pasta, but makes a delicious and quick sauce for pizza.

Although we are not first-time gardeners, this is the first year we have planted one in coastal Georgia. We are learning from our mistakes, but also enjoying the fruits of our labor. Our tomatoes have done well, especially the Cherokee Purple, its deep purple-red hue brilliant on a simple tomato sandwich. This recipe does not specify a variety of tomato, so I have used a mixture in this sauce.

Chunky Basil Tomato Sauce
Recipe Adapted From Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving

  • 8 cups, coarsely chopped peeled tomatoes, about 4 lbs/2kg
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2/3 cup red wine
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 small can (6 oz/156mL) tomato paste
  1. Combine all ingredients in a very large stainless steel or enamel saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered , for about 40 minutes or until sauce reaches desired consistency, stirring frequently. To freeze, cool sauce completely and package in freezer containers. Freeze, using within 6 months. 
  2. This sauce can also be canned. Directions for preparing jars, etc can be found on Ball Fresh Preserving. Process the tomatoes 35 minutes for pint (500mL) jars and 40 minutes for quart (1L).

Cherokee Purple Tomato
The above image is my contribution to Black and White Wednesday #138 hosted by yours truly. Rules for participation can be found here.  Looking forward to your contributions to this event! I will be accepting images up to 12 noon, New York time, on Wednesday, July 23. The roundup will be posted shortly thereafter. The image was converted to black and white using Adobe Camera Raw. 

Please do not use images or text without my permission. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Demise of the Shrimp Boat "Dammit"-Black and White Wednesday #137

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For the longest time, the shrimp boat "Dammit" along with Po Boy Too was moored in the Vernon River near the mouth of the Burnside River as one turns left on the ICW to head out to Wassau Island.  The shrimp boats were quite productive in their day, but the price of diesel fuel and the rising costs of maintaining the boats led to their demise.  The owners of these books basically abandoned them and they were left to eventually either fall apart and sink, break their moorings and randomly float with the tide until they were washed up ashore or hit a dock or purposely moved to avoid being a navigation hazard.

The Shrimp Boat "Dammit" in Better Days
 "Dammit" Vernon River-Savannah
The once proud "Dammit" Sinks During Move
Derelict Dammit
"Dammit" Vernon River

The black and white image of the shrimp boat"Dammit" is my contribution to Black and White Wednesday #137 hosted by its founder, Susan and is now managed by Cinzia

Please do not use images or text without my permission. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Tamale Pie-Cooking From the Pantry

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We all have busy lives, so I wanted to come up with an easy, yet delicious dish using food that most of us keep in our pantry, freezer and refrigerator, such as canned cream corn, cornmeal, green olives, jarred salsa and raisins, along with everyday spices and the ubiquitous boneless chicken breasts that I'm never without. 

Making proper tamales is no easy task.The tamale pie was created to have all the flavors of a real tamale, but not the work or the expense. There are a zillion recipes for tamale pies out there, meat versions, vegetarian, all with a flavorful sauce , but consistent in the dish is a cornmeal topping or crust. In my tamale pie, I first sautéed  boneless chicken breast strips seasoned with a Southwestern rub, then gently cooked them in beer. The alcohol cooks out in the process, but you prefer, you can substitute chicken broth or water. Chicken cooked this way is also delicious for tacos, enchiladas and burritos. This flavorful chicken was then combined with a jar of tomatillo salsa, whole kernel corn, chopped green olives and golden raisins. The raisins were a perfect foil to the spicy mix. A soft polenta like cornmeal topping finished it off and made it ready for the oven. There is no cheese in this tamale pie, but crumbled queso or feta can be dotted around the top after the pie comes out of the oven. For serving, sprinkle cilantro, chopped avocado and green onion over the finished pie.

For the Braised Chicken

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into pieces

Spice Rub
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon onion power
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon flour

Braising ingredients
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons butter
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 jalapeño chiles, seeded and minced
1/2-3/4 cup beer, chicken broth or water

Combine the spice rub ingredients. Rub into the chicken breast pieces. Let sit for 20 minutes. In a heavy skillet, heat the butter and the oil. Saute chicken breast pieces in batches, removing to a plate when golden brown. Drain off excess oil in pan, put the chicken breast pieces back into the pan, along with the garlic and jalapeno chiles. Add the 1/2 cup beer, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook about 15 minutes. If the broth cooks away before the chicken is done, add a tablespoon or so of the remaining beer. At then end of cooking, the chicken will be beautifully glazed. Set aside.

Tamale Pie
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 14-3/4 ounce can creamed corn
1-1/4 cups chicken broth
The braised chicken, above
1-16 ounce jar tomatillo salsa, mild or medium
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1/3 cup pimento stuffed green olives, chopped
1/3 cup golden raisins
Chopped tomatoes, cilantro, diced avocado and, sliced green onion
Crumbled queso or feta, if desired.

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Whisk in the cornmeal. reduce heat. Whisking constantly, cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the creamed corn; return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low. Cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine braised chicken, salsa, corn, olives and golden raisins. Place in a 1-1/2 quart casserole dish. Spoon the cornmeal mixture over the chicken mixture. Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes or until the pie is heated throughout. Top with garnishes above. Serves 4

Please do not use images or text without my permission. 

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Cantaloupe Rum Cocktail

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Another melon that is so good when bought in season, the cantaloupe is actually a muskmelon, its pastel colored flesh is high in vitamin A. A ripe cantaloupe has an ambrosial smell and tastes wonderful in this cocktail using rum, simple syrup and the juices and zest of a lime and an orange. If you desire a non-alcoholic drink, just omit the rum and add sparkling water after straining, however, I think the rum and cantaloupe go quite well together. Watermelon will also be delicious in this cocktail, however I don't think a honeydew melon has the depth of flavors necessary for success with this cocktail.

Cantaloupe Rum Cocktail
Makes 1 drink
  • 6 teaspoons light rum
  • 3 1/2 ounces ripe Cantaloupe melon, diced
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice, plus 1/2 teaspoon grated zest
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed orange juice, plus 1/2 teaspoon grated zest
  • dash simple syrup
  1. Process all ingredients with smashed ice in a blender and then strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with a slice of cantaloupe or thin slice of lime or orange.

Please do not use images or text without my permission. 

Monday, July 07, 2014

Watermelon Jalapeño Cooler Garnished with Candied Jalapeños

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Watermelon Jalapeño Cooler

Watermelon speaks of summer! It is de rigueur for the 4th of July, to enjoy on the beach, or on a newspaper-lined picnic table outdoors. Watermelons are available year round, but the sweetest, freshest melons are those grown locally. As a child growing up on a farm, I remember the summer my dad planted several acres of watermelon and cantaloupe not for sale, but just because he loved both. He told all the townspeople and farmers to pick whatever that wanted from this huge field of green vining plants dotted with  light and dark green striped watermelons bursting with flavor contrasted with the pastel orange, sometimes gray-green, cantaloupe.

I'll save the cantaloupe for another post. Today's speciality drink is a non-alcoholic watermelon jalapeño cooler made with fresh watermelon, jalapeño simple syrup and candied jalapeños for garnish. A refreshing libation with a touch of heat!  My garden with only a lone jalapeño plant is putting out peppers at a tremendous rate, so I have plenty with which  to experiment.

Watermelon Jalapeño Cooler

  • 5 cups chopped seeded watermelon
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2-3/4 cup Jalapeño Simple Syrup (recipe below)
  • Candied Jalapeños, for garnish
In a blender, place chopped watermelon, jalapeño simple syrup and blend until smooth. Pour over ice and garnish with a few candied jalapeños and a lime slice.

Jalapeño Simple Syrup
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, chopped (seeds and all)
In a small saucepan, combine the water, sugar and peppers and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and let steep 20 minutes.

Strain the syrup and allow to cool. Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Keeps a long time in the refrigerator. For use with cocktails, add 1 tablespoon vodka to the mixture after it cools. Then, basically, it keeps forever in the refrigerator, if you have it that long.

The black and white image above is my contribution to Black and White Wednesday #137, hosted by Simona of Briciole. BWW was created by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook and is now managed by Cinzia of Cindy Star Blog.

Please do not use images or text without my permission. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wax Bean Still Life-Black and White Wednesday #135

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A gift of green and wax beans from a neighbor's allotment at Skidaway Farms near Savannah yielded   a few leaves with beans attached. I was able to salvage a perfect leaf  and bean to photograph before it wilted. A quick handheld shot at ISO 1600 and an aperture of 4.5 gave me a perfectly exposed leaf with the yellow wax bean in the background. I loved the backlighting on the leaf highlighting the veins and the little dots of light in the glass. Simple beauty!
This is my contribution to Black and White Wednesday #135 hosted this week by Screevalli of Ammaji Kitchen. For those interested in hosting or posting to BWW, read the rules and host line-up here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Komaj-Persian Date Bread with Turmeric and Cumin

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Persian Date Bread with Turmeric and Cumin

Little is known about Komaj, a Persian date bread with turmeric and cumin only that it is a sweet bread and possibly comes from the town of Mahan in the south-east of Iran. Iran is one of the largest producers of dates in the world and although India is the top producer and consumer of cumin, it grows in profusion in the south-east region of Iran.The original recipe comes from A Chef's Journey Through Persia authored by Greg and Lucy Malouf and is adapted by Aparna (My Diverse Kitchen) for this 18th edition of We Knead to Bake, a Facebook group bread baking event.

The turmeric, most often used in curried dishes, lends a soft yellow color to the bread dough while the toasted crushed cumin seeds adds a jolt of flavor. The date filling is enhanced with cardamom, a slightly smoky spice with hints of lemon and mint. All these flavors add up to a delicious bread roll perfect with a cup of tea or sparkling water with a cucumber slice.

For the Dough

1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/8 cup warm water
3-3/4 cups bread flour, if you don't have it, all-purpose can be substituted
2-1/2 teaspoons toasted cumin seeds, lightly crushed
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2-3/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, optional
2/3 cups warm milk, plus additional for brushing dough
1-1/2 teaspoon olive oil

For the Filling
12-15 dried dates (the slight soft kind), pitted and cut into chunks
25 grams (about 2 tablespoons) butter, softened
4-5 pods (1-1/2 teaspoons)cardamom, powdered

icing sugar, optional

Below are instructions for processing the dough in a  bread machine, but if the food processor method is preferred, please refer to Aparna's post.

Combine the yeast and 1/8 cup of warm water in the pan of your bread machine. Let stand about 10 minutes until the yeast mixture has bubbled up a little. Add the remaining ingredients with 2 teaspoons of the crushed toasted cumin according to the manufacturer's instructions for your bread machine. Process on the dough cycle. When cycle has completed, remove the dough to a lightly floured surface, deflate it and shape into a round. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let rise until doubled, about an hour

Meanwhile, prepare the date filling by mixing together the chopped dates, softened butter and cardamom in a small bowl. Set aside while preparing the dough.

Divide the dough into 4 equal portions and divide again so you have a total of 8 pieces. Working with one piece at a time, roll each one out into a rectangle that is between 1/4-inch and 1/8-inch thick. Choose a cookie cutter no larger than 3-inches wide. Press down lightly on the dough to create an impression as a guide for the filling. Brush lightly with water to ensure a good seal.

Filling and Baking the Bread Rolls

Preheat oven to 400°F. 

On the rectangle of dough, place about 1 teaspoon of the filling in the center of the impression made by the cookie cutter. Fold the other half of the dough over the filling and using the same cookie cutter, cut out the bun, making sure the sides are neat and well-sealed. If the sides are not sealed, the bun will swell up and open up during the baking.

Repeat process above with the remaining portions of dough, re-rolling the scraps of dough to make around 10 buns. Place the buns on a lightly greased baking sheet leaving space for them to rise during baking. Let sit about 15 minutes.

Brush dough with a little milk or an egg wash, if you use it. Sprinkle the remaining crushed cumin seed, pressing down with your fingers. Bake about 8-10 minutes. Let cool on the rack about 5 minutes, then dust with icing sugar, if desired. Best served warm the day they are baked, but leftovers can be reheated the next day. Serve with beverage of choice. Makes 10 komaj.

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