French Vichyssoise a’ la Summer

This is an old classic dish, originally a peasant dish from France which was served cold. My mother brought the recipe with her from Nice, where she lived many years ago. I stick to the basic recipe but over the years have made some minor changes and serve it hot. This is comfort food for a blustery cold winter day.

6 to 7 large potatoes peeled and chopped into medium chunks or quarters.
3 to 4 large leeks, rinsed very well, trim the ends, slice lengthwise and apply a medium chop.
1/4 stick of butter, more or less. I like more.
6 cups of chicken stock,(you may use chicken bullion or paste, just reduce or omit salt later).
Fresh cracked black pepper to taste.
Fresh ground coarse salt to taste.
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg.
1/2 pint of heavy cream.
1/4 cup of Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry.

Saute’ the chopped leeks, in a cast iron skillet preferably, in the butter until wilted and very tender.
Boil the potatoes in the chicken stock until fork tender.
When potatoes are done cooking, lightly mash them in the broth, leaving small, medium and large chunks of potato.A fork will generally suffice.
(I don’t blend or puree the potatoes but the recipe often calls that you do. You choose what texture you prefer).
Add the cooked leeks to the potato and chicken broth mixture. Add cracked pepper, and salt ( if using fresh broth not bullion) and the nutmeg. Simmer slowly for an hour with the lid on.

Add heavy cream and then slowly add cream sherry. Simmer another 5 to 10 minutes or until the alcohol has completely cooked off.

I serve this with a fresh salad:
In a chilled bowl add baby green mesclun salad mix, sliced strawberries, mandarin oranges, candied pecans, baby goat cheese or bleu cheese crumbled, thinly sliced English cucumbers. Toss lightly. Finish with a strawberry vinaigrette.

Strawberry Vinaigrette:
In a blender place fresh strawberries, 1/4 cup organic honey, fresh cracked pepper, 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar and a pinch of cinnamon. Blend on pulse. With blender on, slowly drizzle extra virgin olive oil into mixture until well blended.

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Creole Jambalaya by Summer

Tonight I made supper for three starving guys. I’m not an Americana foodie by any stretch. I create dishes from around the world, like French, Mediterranean, Indian, Cuban, Italian etc., but tonight I went for my favorite which is Cajun low country. That’s about as Americana as I ever get. The guys liked it a lot too. Here  goes:

Virgin olive oil
3 large cloves of garlic minced
The Trinity:
1 large green bell pepper chopped
4-5 large celery stalks chopped
1 large Vidalia onion chopped

1 lb. sweet Italian sausage
1 lb loin pork cut in chunks
1 lb jumbo shrimp

1 can Italian peeled plum tomatoes
1/2 fresh okra cleaned and cut up
1 tsbp fresh Italian flat leaf parsley finely minced
Creole seasoning:
Fresh black pepper, 1 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 tsp chilli powder, 1 tbsp sugar, 1 tbsp paprika or just get Zatarain’s creole seasoning mix. It’s wonderful!

Heat about 1/4 cup of virgin olive oil in a good sized Dutch oven on the lowest setting. Mince the garlic and saute on low, or “sweat” until soft. Do not brown!
Add chopped green pepper, celery and onion. Sweat with the lid on on medium heat until wilted.
Add spices. Saute until flavors combine and the room starts to smell good. About 20 to 30 minutes.
Add tomatoes and diced pork. Simmer with the lid on.
Slice sausage into pieces and simmer in boiling water until the fat rises to the top, about 5 minutes then add sausage to mixture.
Clean thorough and cut up okra into bits. Add to mixture.
Allow the mixture to simmer for about an hour. You may add more spice if you like. I heavily season all of my dishes.
Dirty Rice:
Boil 2 1/2 cups of water with a tsp of olive oil and once boiling, add one package of Zatarains dirty rice mixture. It usually calls for you to brown ground beef, but you won’t need to do that since your Jambalaya is already chock full of vegetables and meats.
After about an hour and a half, have your shrimp clean and ready. They go in at the very end and are done when they turn pink. Serve over dirty rice with some ice cold beers!

Bon Apetit!

Summer Savory Salad

This is not just a summer salad. It is an any season salad. It is a salad that is a meal in itself though. But it is a Summer salad. I’m leaving out the amounts because it’s not hard to figure out how to feed 1, 2, 4 or 20+ people. Adjust as needed. 😉

Ingredients:

Spring Mix, Baby Greens or Mesclun.

English cucumber, another burpless variety or a regular cuke, sliced, seeded and chopped.

Grape tomatoes.

A small bunch of  whole fresh basil leaves.

Cooked baby ears of corn.

3 or 4 bean salad: (kidney, green and wax beans and chickpeas).

Dry oil cured olives.

Cooked artichoke hearts.

Hearts of palm.

Stone crab claw meat cut into chunks, (this is a Florida seasonal delicacy,substitute lump crab meat if need be) lobster tail meat cut into chunks, cooked peeled whole shrimp and squid, (cephalopod) rings.

2  or 3 fresh mangoes cut into chunks.

Several (5 or 6) large fresh strawberries quartered.

In a large bowl, (I like to use a big pewter one I have shaped like a cabbage leaf that stays nice and cool in the fridge until served), gently place all of your salad ingredients.

**Leave some of the mango chunks, strawberries and seafood to garnish the top**

Dressing:

1/4 to 1/2 half cup of Apple cider vinegar

1/8 to 1/4 cup of raw honey.

2 tablespoons juice from fresh squeezed orange.

Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste.

A good pinch (1/2 teaspoon) of Summer savory.

2 sprigs of fresh finely chopped mint.

Extra virgin olive oil.

In a small mixing bowl whisk together the apple cider vinegar, honey, seasonings and fresh herbs. It should thicken up a bit. While whisking, stream the virgin olive oil into the bowl continuously. Continue whisking until the dressing has a medium consistency, not runny but not thick either. Somewhat syrupy.

Serve salad in large salad bowls and drizzle dressing lightly over top.

Bon Appetit!

Summer’s Mediterranean Lamb, Polenta and white bean salad

Tonites meal was lamb. Growing up in the Mediterranean, I developed a preference for lamb over beef. Some people don’t like lamb but I think that’s because it wasn’t prepared correctly. So I’m giving you my recipe.
Loin lamb chops. 2 per person should be enough of the nice thick ones.
Marinate the lamb in a mixture of virgin olive oil, 1 garlic clove minced, a few pinches of coarse salt, fresh cracked black pepper and fresh rosemary.
Get your grill hot or you can broil them in a gas oven with the rack set close to the flame.
Lamb should be seared quickly. It intensifies the flavor, seals it in and the inside should be medium rare to Pittsburgh. The outside develops a juicy crunchy crust, leaving the meat tender and pink inside. About 6 minutes on each side does the trick.
While the lamb cooks prepare your sides. I do a white cannelini bean salad and polenta with black quinoa.
For the polenta: sauté finely minced onion and garlic in either virgin olive oil which I prefer or safflower oil and crumble the polenta into the pan once the garlic and onion have turned translucent and begin to carmelize. Sauté until well heated through.

Cannelini bean salad: Cooked and chilled cannelini beans,1 to 2 cans drained or made fresh. 2 or 3 finely chopped stalks of celery, (use some celery leaves too), 1 can of hearts of palm diced and drained, chopped marinated artichoke hearts, minced garlic to taste and a few sprigs chopped fresh mint. Drizzle with virgin olive oil and the juice of 1 lemon. Salt and pepper to taste. To the mix add 1 to 2 cups of cooked, drained and chilled dittalini pasta. Mix well and serve cold.
This is a highly flavorful meal with the lemon, mint and garlic and the lamb is quite nice with mint sauce. I use Cross and Blackwell available at a British grocer.

Buon Apetito!

Summer’s Yellow Eyed Snapper

No, this is not a perverted joke. My friend Tiff has a dirty mind. This is another one of my fish recipes…

2 or 3 fillets of fresh caught yellow eyed snapper. Or grouper or Mahi if you have that.

Place the fillets in a bowl and lightly coat with extra virgin olive oil, juice from 1 fresh squeezed lime, a pinch of red pepper flakes, a pinch of sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. Let this sit for a bit.

Finely mince one red onion, one green bell pepper, one mango, fresh mint and lime juice and place in a bowl and keep chilled.

Wrap the fish in a piece of tin foil or if you have it, and I do because it grows right outside, wrap it in a large banana leaf and gently tie it off with bakers twine.

Place on a very hot grill and turn the fish after 4 to 5 minutes on each side.

Open the banana leaf and place the leaf with the fillets on a platter and spoon the mango confit over the fish. I like to add a sliced banana to the mixture as well at the end. Don’t worry, the banana won’t brown because of the citric acid in the lime juice.

I generally pair this with jasmine rice, which the confit goes nicely with as well and a salad of baby mesclun, strawberries, pecans and baby goat cheese with a balsamic vinaigratte I make from scratch.

Bon Appetit!

Summer’s Blackened Mahi

Today was incredible. Let me start by saying that watching the sunrise was spectacular on my beach and it made my morning coffee that much better. By 9:30 am I saw the first pod of dolphins. By 10:30 a manatee approached me at low tide, again. They must really like me because its happened frequently to me. By 4 we returned back to the beach and saw a huge Manta Ray, 2 enormous Parrot Fishes and 2 enormous Queen Angelfish. The colors are breathtaking on these 2 species. And for some reason I particularly like the parrot fishes buck teeth. They look so humorous and so beautiful both simultaneously. Parrot fish bang those buck teeth into the coral and eat the polyps inside spitting out the coral particles. It is what makes sand here in south florida. Then I made dinner and I would like to share my recipe for fresh caught blackened Mahi here:

Lightly coat the Mahi in olive oil, a pinch of sea salt and fresh ground black pepper and a few pinches, or to your specific taste, of Indian curry. Grate some fresh ginger root onto the fish and crush and finely mince some fresh mint. Mine grows outside my kitchen door. Thoroughly toss the fish into this mixture and let this sit for a while.

In a cast iron skillet heat about 1/8 cup of olive oil and 2 pats of sweet butter. I clarify the butter first, but it’s not necessary. While your pan heats up, start preparing your sides.

I pared the fish with minted baby peas, which I add a teaspoon of sugar to and spanish rice and cornbread with creamed corn mixed in with gruyere cheese melted on top. You can use Jalapeno Jack cheese as well. I also made a fresh mango, (from off my tree) and ginger mint sauce in the blender to spoon on the fish.

Once the pan is piping hot, at about 3/4 to full on flame, place the Mahi into the skillet and let it sizzle up for about 3 minutes. Gently turn it and repeat the blackening on the opposite side. Voila! A meal fit for kings and queens and better than any trendy restaurant could possibly serve up.

Bon Apetit!