Sassy Southern Cooking with a French Twist

Recipes from My Kitchen

Recipes from my kitchen – either from my cookbooks or recipes tested for events or for upcoming books I’m working on.

Summertime and the Chili is Easy

Lest you fear I’ve completely lost my marbles, I’m aware it’s not summer yet. However, here in balmy Charleston, spring is well past her fullest bloom, though still lovely. The official first waves of feels-like-summer-heat will arrive in a few weeks with the arrival of the Spoletians; invariably the two go together year after year.

So,  I’m a little ahead of myself seasonally, a sensation that started, ironically when I went to the first Charleston farmers’ market of the season a Saturday ago. Sifting through luscious strawberries, long spears of asparagus, and pungent sweet onions, I was giddy with the fruits of spring. Yet, the grass fed beef and pork sausage I purchased from one of my favorite vendors jump-started my culinary mind to summer. Specifically, peppers, tomatoes, and their culinary bedfellow, chili.

Even in the doggiest days of August heat, I can’t resist making the stuff. So utterly wholesome, I load it up with colorful, peppery heat and plenty of grass-fed beef and beans. I usually finish it with some dark chocolate and a dab of local honey for sweetness, and it’s utterly delicious and very nutritious.

Though it’s a bit early for the season, that’s what I found myself doing once again yesterday, and loving every minute of it. The fragrance of making chili is at least half the fun and my dog, Tann Mann,  makes a virtual dance out of it the process that makes me smile.

This time, and in keeping with the true spring season, I decided to add some color and fiber in the form of Swiss chard. It’s a mild, tender green, and just needs a few minutes of cooking to wilt, soften and heat through at the very end of the cooking process. Think parsley on steroids! Be sure to wash the chard thoroughly, break off and discard the tough stems, and dry well.  I cut them into thin strips, or a chiffonade. This is easily done by stacking the leaves, rolling them into a bundle, and  cut into thin strips, horizontally across the bundle.

A chiffonade of Swiss chard.

Another nice thing about this recipe, is that you can store it in the refrigerator for a couple days, where the flavors will continue to develop. Re-heat it in the batch sizes you need only, as you want to avoid over-cooking the Swiss chard, which will make it soggy and more grey than green.

To keep the fat content very low and the flavor high, I used sausage, too, but drained it very well after the browning process to remove almost all but a few tablespoons of the fat. This is why it’s important to add the majority of the spices after the browning and draining process, otherwise they will end up down your sink or in your garbage disposal, instead of in your chili. Feel free to lighten up on the heat if you have a tender palate. As always, be sure to taste and modify salt and pepper quantities to suit your taste. Happy cooking!

Chunky Spunky Farmers’ Market Chili

(Makes 10 – 12 portions)

Chunky Spunky Farmers' Market Chili

 

One Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 pound grass fed beef (or substitute organic or ground beef)

1 pound sweet sausage (casings removed if applicable)

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 Tbs roasted ground cumin

1/2 tsp red chili pepper flakes

generous dash paprika

pinch ground cloves

1 Tbs Mexican oregano

1 Tbs thyme leaves

1 medium Bermuda onion, finely chopped (about 2 cups)

2 stalks celery, finely chopped

1 red bell pepper,  halved, seeds removed, and finely chopped

1 poblano pepper, halved, seeds removed, and finely chopped

2 habenero chiles, halved, seeds removed, and minced (Note: wear protective gloves if your hands are sensitive to the heat from the chile oil)

1 jalapeno pepper, halved, seeds removed, and finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped

1  1/2 cups medium bodied, good quality red wine (such as Pinot Noir)

2 cups quartered rainbow Heirloom cherry or grape tomatoes

One 15.5  ounce can black beans

One 15.5 can Great Northern beans

1 1/2 cups beef stock (or water)

1 square (about 1 Tbs, chopped) dark chocolate, at least 70% cacao

1 Tbs honey

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Garnish: Sour Cream

In a large soup pot or Dutch Oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the beef and the sausage, crumbling into small chunks as you’re adding. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Stir, occasionally, continuing to break the meat into small, uniform pieces. Cook until browned, about five minutes. Drain off all but 2 tablespoons of the rendered fat, discarding. Return the meat to the pan.

Over medium heat, add the cumin, red chile pepper flakes, paprika, cloves, Mexican oregano, and thyme. Stir to combine. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, poblano, habenero, jalapeno and garlic. Continue to cook over medium to medium low heat, stirring, until all of the vegetables have just softened, about five minutes.

Increase the heat to high. Add the wine and continue to cook until it has reduced by half.  Reduce the heat to medium. Add the tomatoes, black beans, Great Northern beans (both with their liquor – it contains nutrients and fiber), and beef stock. Increase heat and bring up to a low simmer. Stir in the chocolate and the honey. Taste and add salt and pepper lightly as needed.

Cook on a low simmer, uncovered for about 30 minutes. Serve very hot in shallow bowls with a generous dollop of sour cream. (Note: Left-overs can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. The chili also freezes very well for up to 3 months).

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Elegant Shrimp Salad Boats Set Sail For Seamless Entertaining

The last year and a half has been so crazy busy in my world, I’ve rarely had time to settle into one of my favorite things in the world to do, simple, joyful cooking. The only thing that has that beat, is cooking for friends, which is something I enjoyed doing this weekend. Planning the menu, doing the prep, setting the table, and all the things that go into making a successful meal, set the groove for a happy mood and an enjoyable meal.

Appetizers are the starting point for any meal, and as such, are perhaps one of the most crucial components to set a successful, tasty entertaining stage. I came across some beautiful, fresh local shrimp at the market, and decided to put them to use in appetizers. I liked the idea of shrimp salad – a Southern staple after all – but wanted to keep it super light and sophisticated. So, the mayo and calorie count is really low, and the flavor comes mostly from fresh lime juice and zest, and oodles of finely chopped fresh chives. Instead of bread, I decided to use delicate, crunchy endive leaves to “wrap” the salad into individual bites. It works nicely, but bread will do just fine, too.

For this salad, I roasted the shrimp, a trick I picked up from The Barefoot Contessa’s Ina Garten. Roasting at a high heat takes just minutes and really helps preserve the flavor and the nutrients of the shrimp. The best part about all of this? You can prep the salad the day ahead and scoop the salad into the boats as your guests are arriving, which is exactly how it played out at my house on Sunday night.

These would look beautiful on your Easter or any spring holiday table. Happy holidays and happy cooking!

Elegant Shrimp Salad Boats

 

Elegant Shrimp Salad Boats

(Makes about 12 appetizer servings)

3/4 of a pound fresh, shelled shrimp, de-veined and rinsed

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

Generous dash Tabasco Sauce

1 shallot, finely chopped

Zest of 1 lime, finely chopped

Juice of 1/2 lime

3 tablespoons finely chopped chives

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 – 2 Belgian endive lettuce heads, trimmed, rinsed, separated and patted dry.

Preheat oven to 425F.  Arrange the shrimp on a roasting sheet and toss to coat with the olive oil. Season lightly with salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast for 3 minutes, or until just opaque and lightly pink. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Once cool enough to handle, chop the shrimp very finely (see picture). Place the chopped shrimp in a medium bowl and combine with the mayonnaise, Tabasco, chopped shallot, lime zest, lime juice, and chopped chives. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. (Note: This can be prepared up to one day in advance and stored, covered, in the refrigerator).

To prep the endives, trim a bit from their root base and remove any tattered, browned outer leaves. The leaves that are inside are a bit sturdier and best for the boats in this recipe. They can also be prepped ahead, but store them in the fridge wrapped in a damp towel. They should not be exposed to open air or they may discolor.

To finish the boats, simply scoop a rounding, heaping tablespoon into the center of each boat. Top with a drizzle of fresh chives, if desired. Arrange prettily on an attractive service plate.

 

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Announcing Recipes from My Kitchen

As 2012 begins to pick up steam and I begin to outline my professional plans for the new year, I’ve decided to add a “recipe file” of new recipes I develop in my kitchen towards new book and writing projects and, in some cases, from cookbooks I’ve previously published. Such is the case in this post, which re-visits one of my favorite recipes from Southern Farmers Market Cookbook.

Super Food Time!

The Super Bowl demands foods that will satisfy big appetites and this Sweet River Run Farms Grass-Fed Meat Loaf from Summer Farmers Market Cookbook is guaranteed to do just that. Chunky, moist and full of flavor, it could also be formed into meatballs, browned and then baked off. I like it best in loaf form. Over chunky mashed potatoes or even grits, it is a sure winner.

Grass-fed beef makes a big difference in flavor and texture. Try and get your hands on some. I usually score at the farmers’ market at the Sweet River Run Farms booth at the Charleston Farmers’ Market when it’s in season (c’mon April!), but it can also usually be found at higher-end grocery stores, specialty shops, and often, at Costco, of all places.

The content and recipe that follows is adapted from Southern Farmers Market Cookbook (Gibbs Smith, June 2009) by Holly Herrick.

Chunky, moist and delicious meat loaf. Photograph by Rick McKee.

Grass-fed beef tastes completely unlike the corn-fed, mass-produced, commercial variety found on grocery store shelves across the country. When cooking, the aromas of the sweet farm grasses upon which the cattle grazed during their gentle, low-stress, antibiotic and hormone-free lives fills your home. It tastes exactly like it smells: clean, pure, grassy, and even a little nutty. The texture is firmer and more elastic than corn-fed beef, too. Because it has a lower fat content, grass-fed beef typically cooks more quickly. Be careful not to overcook it or it will become dry.

Sweet River Run Farms Grass-Fed Beef Meat Loaf

(Serves eight)

2 pounds (4 cups) grass-fed ground beef

1 cup whole wheat panko (or substitute other unseasoned fresh breadcrumbs)

1 cup skim milk

1 large egg

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 dashes Tabasco or preferred hot sauce brand

2 tablespoons ketchup

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon barbecue sauce

3 cloves garlic, smashed into a rough puree

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt

4 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Combine all of the ingredients except the butter in a large bowl and, using your hands, blend thoroughly. Press firmly into a 9-inch terrine mold or regular loaf pan, shaping to round the top slightly, like a traditional meat loaf. Cut the butter into several small squares and evenly dot the top of the meat loaf with the butter, pressing lightly with fingertips to embed. Bake on center rack until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes (or 45 minutes in a traditional loaf pan). Remove, and allow to rest about 15 minutes. Drain off any excess fat and turn out the loaf. Slice into 2″-thick slices and serve immediately.

Where’s the Beef?

If it’s grass-fed cattle, it’s grazing lazily in an open field of waving green grass, the way cows were meant to do.

Cows are healthier eating grass because that’s what their stomachs are designed to process, not the corn and soybean diets fed to commercial cattle. Grass-fed beef is healthier for the consumer because it has a healthy ratio of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids, is lower in fat and calories than corn-fed beef, and has high levels of CLA, or conjugated linoleic acid, another good fat that’s been shown to prevent cancer.

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_13?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=southern+farmers+market+cookbook&sprefix=southern+farm%2Caps%2C158

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