Chinese Braised Pork (“Red Cooked”) with Tofu  (Chinese from Southeast Asia)

“Red Cooking” is an old Chinese braising method for meat and poultry, practiced more at home than in restaurants. The “red” refers to the soy sauce in the broth with flavoring vegetables before adding the meat.

This recipe is based on the original method that I learned for braising chicken in Malaysia. The recipe serves six to eight, accompanied by white, unsalted rice.

2 1/2 pounds (before trimming) pork shoulder
1 tablespoon oil
1 large clove garlic or 2 medium cloves
3 medium shallots or 3 green onions
4 slices (1/8-inch) ginger, unpeeled
2 segments star anise
2-1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon black soy sauce
2 teaspoons oyster sauce
2 teaspoons rice wine or sherry
2 tablespoons regular soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 (1-pound) block firm-style tofu
Several sprigs of cilantro or thinly sliced green onion for garnish

Trim off excess fat from pork. Remove, but save, any bone, and cut meat into 1-inch pieces. Bruise garlic and shallots or green onions. Slice ginger.
Red cooked pork and tofu served in antique Chinese bowl

Heat oil in heavy pot. Briefly fry (15 seconds) bone, garlic, shallots or green onions, ginger and star anise. As soon as fragrant, add water and soy sauces, wine and oyster sauce. Bring back to boil.

Add pork pieces a few at a time, the tougher parts first, so as to keep the mixture boiling. Stir, cover and reduce heat. Stew until pork is tender, 40-50 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add sugar and salt toward the end of cooking. Liquid should be reduced somewhat but not thick. Add a little water if necessary. When meat is cooked, remove ginger, bone, and star anise pieces.

Cut drained tofu into 1/2-inch chunks. Drop these, part at a time into the simmering liquid. Gently shake and swirl pot to mix. After a minute or two, stir very carefully so as not to break tofu pieces. Simmer a total of about 4 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary.

Serve with rice. Accompany with a simple stir-fried green vegetable.


Easy: Lemon-Dill Roasted Salmon

Here is the main course I prepared for family this Christmas. Salmon, at least smoked salmon, is a traditional Christmas dish in the British Isles, Scandinavia and north-central Europe. Roasted salmon also appears, especially in Scandinavia as part of the main course at Christmas dinner. I fix salmon because I like it and, more important, because my family likes it.

A double recipe, served for our family Christmas, 2018
I learned this way of roasting salmon from a Greek Cypriot friend whose mother prepared her fish (though not salmon in those days) this way. Pani, as he was called, was one of the founders of Decatur’s Café Istanbul, along with another friend of mine, a Turkish guy named Kazim. They were at the time both married to women I worked with. The idea of a Greek and a Turk starting a joint venture seemed, well, unlikely. They did part company after a while, but it was over very different views on how to run a restaurant rather than politics or religion. But the establishment they founded has gone on to considerable popularity, though under subsequent – and primarily Turkish – ownership.  

Salmon is not traditional in the Mediterranean, but has become popular now even there as local fish has become more expensive and difficult to find. Lemon and dill are both used extensively in the Eastern Mediterranean, including with fish as a natural partner. But lemon and dill are also used with fish in Scandinavia, where salmon is common.

A crisp Sauvignon Blanc or a not-too-heavy Chardonnay go well with this. Viognier is a wine grape I’m more recently familiar with and love with salmon as well as roasted turkey or pork. Oh yes, and a lemon rice pilaf will be in the spirit of the eastern Mediterranean. (See my pilaf recipe in the 8/24/2019 blog posting, and eliminate the peppers, onions, and fruits, and simply add to the rice-cooking water 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest, and a bay leaf, broken in half.) 

The salmon recipe serves six generously.

2 pounds salmon filet in one piece, as fresh as possible, and preferably without skin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper,
1/4 cup freshly chopped dill (a weak substitute is 1-1/2 tablespoons dry dill weed)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 lemons
Extra lemon and sprigs of dill for garnish

Preheat oven to 500 degrees (very hot), and temporarily turn off the smoke alarm! 

Rinse the salmon and dry it with a paper towel. Liberally sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides and dust both sides with dill. Cut the lemons in half crosswise. Slice a very thin slice off each of the halves and reserve them.

On a large shallow-edged glass or metal pan, such as a cookie sheet with sides, spread 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over an area of the size of the fish, then squeeze two of the lemon halves over this area. Place the seasoned fish on the prepared pan. Drench the surface of the fish with the juice squeezed from the remaining lemon halves. Lay the slices of lemon up the middle of the fish, placed so that when the fish is cut into six pieces, each will have a lemon slice. Drizzle the whole surface with the remaining olive oil and lightly dust a few bits of dill on top of the lemon slices. Let the fish season for 10 to 20 minutes.

When oven is very hot, place the pan on the shelf highest in the oven. Roast the salmon for 11-12 minutes or just until the surface and edges of the fish are beginning to turn crispy and when a knife inserted into the thickest part of the fish and twisted slightly shows a pale opaque pink color. Do not overcook.

Serve hot, accompanied by lemon wedges and sprigs of dill. Alternately, this dish can be cooked ahead and served cold as a buffet dish.

The fish can be cut into six serving-sized pieces before seasoning and roasting rather than treated as an entire piece.


Minted Cream Sauce for Salmon or Lamb

This easy sauce, based on Irish cooking, is a delightful accompaniment to a roast of salmon or lamb or grilled lamb meatballs. I served it with our roasted salmon (blog post of 12/28/2019) for Christmas dinner for family this year.

The recipe makes enough for eight to ten people

1 cup heavy cream
Juice of 1 lemon, plus more as needed
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more if needed
1/2 cup mint leaves pulled off the stems, lightly packed
A few tops of sprigs of mint for garnish

In small mixing bowl, stir lemon juice into the cream, until it thickens well. If more lemon juice is needed, add it a little at a time until cream is thick. Stir in the salt.

Mince mint finely with a chef’s knife on a cutting board. Stir it into the thickened cream. Taste and add a little salt or more mint, to taste.

Serve in a small, decorative bowl. Place one or more small mint sprigs on top of sauce for garnish.


Another Easy Dip: Creamy Black Bean Dip for a Party

Here’s a different black bean dip, combined with a tomato salsa for color and contrast, which I prepared for my contribution to a Christmas Eve buffet at my daughter Lisa’s home. (The previous dip, without the tomato salsa, is in the blog posting of 9/23/19.)

Makes sufficient for a crowd as an appetizer, accompanied by tortilla chips.

2 (14-ounce) can black beans, well drained
1 large green onion, green and white part, coarsely cut
12 sprigs cilantro, leaves plus part of the stems
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 large pinch cayenne pepper or a few squirts of hot sauce
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup homemade or commercial tomato salsa, 1/2 cup for dip 1/2 cup for topping

Drain beans well.  Place beans, green onion, cilantro, seasonings, sour cream and 1/2 cup of the tomato salsa in a food processor and puree, scraping down the sides of the container several times with a spatula. Taste, and add salt and/or cayenne or hot sauce if needed, to taste.

Transfer bean dip to a serving bowl. Spoon the remaining tomato salsa into spots on top of the bean mixture. Drag a table knife through the salsa to partially distribute the red color across the top of the bean mixture.

Dip up with tortilla chips.


Northern Thai Honey-Spiced Chicken and Dipping Sauce: for Rose

My granddaughter, Christina Rose (“Rose”), visited Thailand with most of the family several years ago. In Chiang Mai, in the north where we have relatives, she had honey-barbecued chicken that she declared was her favorite dish of the trip. I sought out recipes to reproduce this variety of barbecue, but none were to be had. For many years we have made the more typical Thai barbecued chicken, Gai Yang, but that’s from the northeast, and originated with the Isaan – or Lao – ethnic group rather than Northern Thai people.

Plate: Maria Dondero, Marmalade Pottery, Athens GA
Based on what descriptions I could get from those who also tasted Rose’s favorite chicken, I sketched out a method and a dipping sauce to go with it. While I can’t vouch for my dish’s authenticity, it tastes Thai and “pretty damn good,” as we say in the restaurant kitchen. More important, it pleased Rose. I’ve made it for family gatherings and even included it on the menu of our restaurant’s Tapas evening when the theme was Thai, where it was well received.

Chicken thigh, boneless and skinless, is a lot easier to work with than a whole chicken skinned and disjointed. I think is the best way to make and grill this, and I developed the recipe for that form of chicken. The meat needs to marinate for at least a few hours before grilling, and even better is overnight marinating.

Steamed sticky rice goes with the chicken (as it would with the usual Gai Yang), but conventional white, unsalted rice, Thai jasmine rice in particular, is fine also. Offer lettuce and fresh herbs to wrap the chicken pieces in, and accompany with a dipping sauce (see recipe below).

Here’s a recipe for fixing three pounds of chicken. This is a crowd or entertainment dish, after all, not particularly something to make just for a couple.

The chicken:
3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thigh, tough parts removed and part (not all) of fat trimmed off 

Puree thoroughly in food processor:
1 small garlic clove
2 lemon grass stalks, using the lower 6 inches, thinly sliced
1 bunch cilantro, stem parts only (use leaves in sauce and other dishes)
4 tablespoons honey
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce

Transfer to a bowl and add:
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon (or more) cayenne
1 teaspoon cornstarch
6 double lime leaves, well bruised to release flavors
4 tablespoons sunflower or canola oil

Marinate chicken at least a few hours, or ideally overnight, in zip-lock plastic bag, turning and squeezing the bag occasionally to season evenly.

Grill chicken (discard marinade) over charcoal or gas grill or under broiler, turning frequently, until thoroughly done. Cut into 1/2-inch strips with the grain. Accompany with rice, lettuce leaves and cilantro (plus optional mint) sprigs to roll the chicken pieces in, and small bowls of dipping sauce.

Dipping sauce for Northern Thai grilled chicken:

2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons white vinegar
4 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce
Salt to taste, start with 1/4 teaspoon
Chili-garlic sauce, or hot pepper sauce, to taste
2 tablespoons minced cilantro leaves
1 bruised clove garlic

Mix all ingredients well together to dissolve. Taste for salt and hotness and adjust to taste. Let sit for 20 minutes or more. Remove garlic before serving.


Wasabi-Miso Crusted Chicken with Chili-Garlic Aioli

A few years ago I cooked with a student friend, Clint, who at the time carried the diagnosis of Coeliac disease (totally gluten intolerant) and had to be very careful with his eating. Both of us enjoyed cooking, and we started a food blog on international dishes that by nature did not contain gluten (dishes that traditionally were free of wheat, barley or rye) rather than substituting gluten-free ingredients into normally gluten-containing dishes. One of our creations was this Japanese-influenced wasabi-miso grilled chicken. It was to be served with rice.

But we never published it. After posting half a dozen recipes, we suddenly lost interest and purpose in our blog. Clint discovered that the clinical diagnosis he had carried for seven or eight years, including all through college, wasn’t correct. He was totally fine with wheat (pizza, pasta, bread, cakes and pies, soy sauce, hoisin sauce) as well as barley – notably beer!

Here’s a tweaked version of our working recipe that never made it into print. It serves four to six when accompanied by a rice or noodle dish.

1-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless, chicken breast
3 tablespoons non-wheat-containing miso
2 teaspoons non-wheat-containing wasabi paste
1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 green onion, thinly sliced for garnish

Trim off tough, or fatty parts from chicken.  Cut meat into 1/2 inch thick medallions. 

Mix well with remaining ingredients.  Spread chicken pieces out on large baking sheet. Roast on top shelf of pre-heated 375-degree oven for 10 minutes. Flip pieces with metal spatula.  Roast for 4-6 additional minutes, or until lightly golden. 

Serve on a generous streak of chili-garlic aioli (see below) and garnish with thinly sliced green onion.

Chili-Garlic Aioli

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon chili-garlic or Siracha sauce
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

Combine ingredients.

Apricot or Nectarine Chutney

Dried fruit is easily made into chutneys, which can be served as a condiment to a meat dish or meat sandwich. Even more usefully, especially around the holidays, top a log of goat cheese, Brie, or even a Mexican-style cheese like Queso Fresco or Cotija, for an easy appetizer for a buffet or party. Chutneys are best made ahead and stored refrigerated in order for the flavors to develop.

The recipe serves six to eight as a condiment.
1 cup dried apricots or nectarines (packed) or a combination, chopped
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated (or 1 tablespoon candied/crystalized ginger, minced)
1/2 cup water, plus more as needed
1/4 cup wine vinegar or cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard (optional)
A generous sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper
A generous pinch of cayenne

Place all ingredients in an enamel or stainless steel pan. Stir and heat, and let simmer 15-20 minutes, stirring from time to time. If the mixture is too dry (it should be moist) add a little water as needed.

Taste, to check tenderness of the fruit and the seasonings. Add a little salt, sugar, and/or vinegar to reach the desired taste.
Store in covered jar in refrigerator, ideally at least overnight up to several days before serving.

This chutney compliments a variety of cheeses on the buffet or appetizer table, accompanied by low-salt crackers, like “water crackers,” or sliced baguette.


Spiced Applesauce for Potato Pancakes or to accompany Roasted Pork

This sauce serves as a condiment, particularly for potato pancakes, or Hanukkah latkes. A variation on the applesauce theme is to add chopped dried cranberries. I taught the cranberry version to accompany Latkes in a recent cooking class on holiday foods, that featured Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year dishes.

The recipe makes sufficient condiment for a group of diners.
3 large (1-1/2 to 2 pounds) Fuji or Gala apples
2 tablespoons dried cranberries (optional)
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
4 tablespoons water
2 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Peel and quarter apples. Cut out cores. Slice apple quarters crosswise 1/2-inch thick. If using dry cranberries, chop them finely on a board with a chef’s knife.

In stainless steel or enamel pot, combine apples, cranberries if used, butter or olive oil, water, lemon juice, sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Simmer, covered, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Uncover pot, and simmer, stirring occasionally until apples are very tender and liquid is reduced. If mixture becomes dry, add a small amount of water.

When apples are very tender, remove from heat. Break apples up with a wooden spoon or potato masher. Taste and add a little sugar or salt, if desired.

Serve warm or at room temperature in a bowl, to accompany potato pancakes or roasted pork.


Easy Pork and Cabbage Goulash

With the weather now turning chilly and fully autumnal, a hearty goulash fits the season well. Here’s a relatively easy one to make for a very tasty meal. Accompany with buttered noodles, boiled or steamed potatoes, or a rice dish. A simple green salad makes a fine accompaniment.

The recipe serves six generously.

1 small onion, diced
3 tablespoons sunflower or canola oil
Dish by Maria Dondero, Marmalade Pottery, Athens, GA
1 small head cabbage, quartered, cored and thinly slices across
1 pound ground pork
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons paprika, Hungarian if possible
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon marjoram or oregano
Large pinch cayenne
1 teaspoon salt, plus more if needed
1 tablespoon tomato paste (keep the rest in a zip-lock bag in the freezer for other use)
1 cup low-salt chicken broth or water, plus more as needed
1/2 cup sour cream, plus extra for serving

Fry onion in the oil, stirring often, until softened and just beginning to turn golden. Add cabbage and fry, stirring frequently, until starting to get a little golden. Add pork and stir and fry, breaking up the lumps, until color has fully changed. Add seasonings, salt, and tomato paste. Stir and fry for one minute.

Add broth or water and mix well. Lower heat and simmer, covered but stirring from time to time, for 20 minutes. Add a little broth or water as needed to keep the mixture moist.

Stir in sour cream and bring back just to a boil. Remove from heat. Taste and add a little salt if needed. Remove bay leaves.

Serve with noodles, potatoes or a rice dish. Offer more sour cream for diners to spoon onto their goulash. Accompany with a salad.


Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Cream (or Balsamic Vinegar)

As autumn is finally here with some moderately chilly weather and dry air, autumnal dishes seem right. Here is rich-flavored European dish for a hearty cold-weather dinner.

The recipe serves four to six as a side dish.

Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Vinegar 
1 pound Brussels sprouts (smaller firm ones preferred)
2 tablespoons minced shallot or onion
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Small pinch grated nutmeg (optional)
Water as needed
Either 4 tablespoons light to heavy cream or 2 teaspoons Balsamic vinegar

Cut off bottom 1/4 inch of stem from sprouts. Slice sprouts lengthwise into 4-5 slices, about 1/8-inch thick, or put trimmed sprouts through 2-millimeter shredding blade of a food processor.

Mince shallot or onion and add them to pot with butter or olive oil. Heat over medium burner until just starting to sizzle. Add sliced sprouts, 1/2 teaspoon salt and spices. Stir frequently and fry, covered, just until beginning to turn golden, 5-6 minutes. Sprinkle with another 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Add 2 tablespoons water, and stir to moisten. Cover, and let sprouts simmer, stirring frequently, until they become tender but are still fairly green (total of 8-10 minutes cooking time from first frying).

Stir in cream or balsamic vinegar. If too dry, moisten with a little water. Bring just back to a simmer and remove from heat. Taste, and add salt if needed.


Roasted Acorn Squash – in the Microwave Oven!

With autumn finally here, we’re enjoying cold-weather produce. Baked acorn squash is a fall treat from my childhood in Connecticut, and just seems perfectly New England – which my mother symbolized. And my father, originally from New Hampshire, used to grow the squash. This fairly unique vegetable makes a great side dish for a roast or meatloaf.

Of course, in those days, my mother baked the halved acorn squash in the oven, which we would still do if there are many squash to bake. But if cooking for two people, or a very small group, baking squash (like baking potatoes and sweet potatoes) in the microwave oven is a time and energy saver.

Here’s baked acorn squash, as tasty as I remember from my childhood, but cooked in little more than ten minutes. The butter and brown sugar in the hollow of the squash still makes it a winner. A bit of spice, like cinnamon or nutmeg, could traditionally be added during the cooking, but as much as I love spices and herbs, I prefer this squash simple.

Be sure the squash are very ripe and hard – grown in the north (rather than California or Mexico) is a good start, and with a hardened stem and some orange showing on the dark green skin.

For each two diners:

1 medium-large very ripe, firm acorn squash
4 teaspoons butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Cut squash in half lengthwise with a chef’s knife on a cutting board. Scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp with a spoon. Sprinkle cavities and cut edges of the squash generously with salt. Place cut side up on a microwaveable plate.

Microwave until tender when pierced with a fork on the inside, 8-10 minutes, depending on the power of the microwave. Test after 8 minutes and if not done, microwave another two minutes, then test again.

When flesh is reasonably tender, add 2 teaspoons butter and a tablespoon of brown sugar to the cavity of each squash. The butter will melt quickly. With spoon, smear the butter-sugar mixture all around the cavity and all over the cut edges of the squash. Microwave another two minutes. Test once more with a fork to be sure the flesh is tender.

On dinner plate, scoop up the flesh with a teaspoon and eat it directly.


Sesame-Marinated Broccoli, Korean inspired

There are dozens of small savory dishes served before a Korean meal. This sesame-dressed broccoli is patterned after some of those. Broccoli is relatively new in Asia, so this specific dish would not have been traditional in Korea, but the style is. In any case, this bright, tasty dish our restaurant, Donderos’ Kitchen, is sometimes asked to make for catering. 

Makes enough for 6 servings as side dish
1-1/2 pounds broccoli crowns, about 2 medium-large crowns

Cut off all except 1 inch of stem. Cut through the stem parts then pull apart to make even-sized flowerets, each including some stem.

To a large pot of boiling water, add 2 teaspoons salt. Blanch broccoli, stirring almost constantly, until bright green and just starting to become tender, 60 seconds. Drain and cool thoroughly with running water.

In bowl, mix the marinade:
2 tablespoons white sesame seeds (toast in frying pan, shaking constantly, until golden)
1 tablespoon soy sauce, Japanese or Korean style preferred
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon canola or sunflower oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon Asian sesame oil

Toss drained broccoli with marinade, using two large spoons, being careful not to break the pieces. Toss several times over 10 minutes, then again before serving or plattering.


Green Vegetables stir-fried with Chicken and Garlic

This Chinese manner of quickly cooking leafy green vegetables until just crisp-tender, and seasoning with chicken, shredded pork or peeled shrimp, is widely popular in Southeast Asia, including in Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia. Virtually any of the leafy Asian greens or broccoli are delicious and easily prepared this way. Oyster sauce makes the dish richer. These are typically small dishes to accompany more complicated ones. They would be served with unsalted white rice.

The recipe serves six.
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thigh or breast
1 pound green leafy vegetable (baby Shanghai bok choy, nappa, or Chinese mustard -- yu choy sum)
3 large cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons canola, sunflower or other oil (not olive)
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus to taste
2 tablespoons oyster sauce (from Asian food store)
1/4 cup water

Trim excess fat off chicken. Cut it into angular chunks about an inch long and half an inch thick. Set aside.

Trim off roots and the very base of the stems from the vegetable. Rinse leaves well in water to cover to remove any sand. Let drain, and cut into 2-inch pieces.

Mince garlic.

Heat a wok or large frying pan to medium hot. Add oil and while stirring fry garlic a few seconds, until fragrant but not beginning to turn golden. Immediately add the chicken plus 1/4 teaspoon salt and stir and fry until raw color changes.

Add vegetable plus an additional 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir-fry briefly, then add 1/4 cup of water. Stir and fry until vegetable is just becoming crisp-tender and the color brightens. The cooking time will depend on the tenderness of the vegetable, some cooking very quickly. Add oyster sauce. Add a little more water if mixture is dry. Stir and fry very briefly to just heat. Remove pan from heat.

Taste a bit of the sauce and a piece of vegetable. It should taste very slightly salty (because more salt will be absorbed by the vegetable, and it will be served with unsalted rice). Sprinkle with a little salt if needed, and stir it in.

Serve on a platter, mounding it up slightly in the middle. Accompany with white unsalted rice.


Chicken Breast Medallions Dijon

Dishes labeled “Dijon,” like “devilled,” usually mean “seasoned with mustard,” since the south-eastern French city of Dijon, in the heart of Burgundy, is famous for its mustard seed and its prepared mustard. The region is also famous for its rich foods and its fine wines, notably reds made from the Pinot Noir grape and whites from Chardonnay and Aligoté grapes. This dish combines all three features of Burgundian cuisine. The recipe serves six to eight, accompanied by noodles, potatoes or rice.
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1-1/2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 tablespoons butter for frying
1 tablespoons olive or sunflower oil for frying
2/3 cup white wine, such as Chardonnay
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup sour cream or heavy cream
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Finely minced parsley for garnish

Trim away excess fat and any tough parts of chicken breasts. Cut them on a bias into medallions 1/2-inch thick by 1-1/2-inch square. Pat dry with paper towels. Mix flour with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt plus the pepper on a plate. Lightly dust chicken pieces on both sides with the mixture. If not ready to cook the chicken, refrigerate it at this point.

In a large non-stick frying pan, heat the butter and oil together over medium heat. Fry chicken pieces, part at a time, turning occasionally, until golden on both sides, about 4-5 minutes. Test chicken for doneness by sticking the end of a knife into a thick part and twisting the knife gently. No pinkness should remain in the meat or in the juices. When done, remove chicken to a bowl.

To make the sauce, add wine to deglaze the frying pan over medium heat, stirring well to get the crusty bits mixed into the wine. Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt plus the sugar. Simmer until the wine is reduced by half. Remove pan from the heat. With a whisk or fork, stir in sour cream or heavy cream plus mustard until smooth. Taste and add salt, if necessary.

Add chicken pieces back to the pan containing the sauce. Heat very briefly. Dust with a little finely minced parsley to garnish.


Red Cabbage Coleslaw

Coleslaw, seemingly an American staple salad-condiment, is actually from Holland. “Koolsla,” pronounced in Dutch exactly like coleslaw (double “o” in Dutch sounds like the long O in “rose”), is the shortened form of “koolsalade” -- cabbage salad.

Red cabbage produces a spectacular, if unorthodox, coleslaw. The dark, purplish color of the raw cabbage will brighten to deep red due to the acidity of the vinegar (the red-violet anthocyanins that give the cabbage its color are like pH indicators, changing color with acidity or alkalinity).

This dish serves well on a holiday buffet table. The recipe serves six to eight as a side dish, with easily stored left-overs.

1 medium head of red cabbage or 3/4 of a medium-large head
1 medium-large carrot
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (“real” preferred)
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
6 tablespoons white vinegar
4 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Discard any tough outer cabbage leaves. Cut off cabbage’s bottom inch. Cut the head in half through the stem and cut it again into quarters. Set a quarter on a board and cut away the core and any big ribs on the exterior.

Shred cabbage finely crosswise, either with a sharp knife on a cutting board, or with a food slicer (or in a food processor fitted with a 2-millimeter slicer blade). As you shred it, place the cabbage in a very large bowl for mixing.

Peel carrot and shred it, using the coarse side of a grater or the food processor fitted with a grater blade. Add it to the cabbage.

Add mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Mix well. It will be dry at first. Let it sit 15 or 20 minutes, mixing from time to time, until the cabbage softens and the juices increase. Taste and adjust salt, vinegar or sugar as desired.

Coleslaw is best if allowed to chill for an hour or more, or even up to several days, covered. Mix well and taste before serving and adjust salt, vinegar or sugar if needed.


Fig (or Apricot) and Feta Appetizer

Here’s a holiday appetizer combining two of my favorite foods, dried Turkish figs and feta cheese. Adding bacon makes the result even more joyous. The appetizer is great spread on non-salty breads, like water crackers or baguette slices. An alternate fruit is dried apricots.

The recipe makes enough appetizer for 8 or more people. Serve unsalted crackers or baguette slices to spread it on.

1 cup dried figs (Turkish preferred) or dried apricots
1 cup feta cheese, drained and crumbled
3 strips fried bacon (optional)
1/4 cup orange juice (or 1 tablespoon frozen orange concentrate plus 3 tablespoons water)
1/4 teaspoon salt (less if using bacon), plus more to taste – feta varies on saltiness
A pinch of cayenne

Bacon version on right
Platter by Maria Dondero, Marmalade Pottery, Athens, GA
Cut the tough stems off the figs. Slice then chop fruit finely with a chef’s knife on a board, or chop by pulsing in a food processor. (If using dried apricots, chop by either method). Crumble the feta into tiny pieces, using the back of a fork. If using bacon, crumble then chop it finely.

Combine all ingredients and mix well. If too dry and firm, add a little more orange juice or water. Let sit for a few minutes, then taste the mixture. Add a little salt, if it tastes bland.

Let sit at least half an hour before serving, or better yet, refrigerate for hours to several days.

Shape into a mound on a decorative plate or small platter. Serve with water crackers or baguette slices to spread it on.


Green Beans and Rice: It started as Red Beans and Rice

I had intended to make Red Beans and Rice, a major comfort food from Louisiana, for my wife’s staff meeting. I had already purchased the ham and seasoning vegetables plus cans of small red beans. Then my son in law, Clyde, turned up with about four quarts of delicious homegrown green beans.

There is, in fact, a Cajun green beans and rice dish, called smothered green beans, though I didn’t know it when I started making my dish. I simply made my style of red beans and rice but used cut-up green beans instead of cooked red beans. Same roux, same “holy trinity” of flavoring vegetables, same ham, same Cajun seasoning.

And here it is. It’s pretty tasty. I’ll wait a bit until the weather’s colder and make what I originally intended.

The recipe serves six to eight. Cook the rice separately (see rice cooking in my blog post of 8/8/2019).

1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 sticks celery, diced
1 Poblano pepper or green bell pepper, cored and diced
1-1/4 pound big slice of ham (such as Smithfield), fat removed, meat cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 tablespoon tomato paste or 3 tablespoons ketchup
Low-salt chicken broth or water as needed
2 quarts green beans, tips cut off, beans cut 1-inch long
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning (such as Louisiana brand or Chacheré’s) plus to taste
3 cups cooked short or medium grained rice (1 cup dry rice) for serving

In a heavy pot, cook the flour and oil together over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the roux starts darkening. Stir very frequently until roux darkens to the color of peanut butter. Add the diced vegetables, and stir and fry together for a few minutes until the vegetables start softening. Add the ham, and stir and fry several more minutes.

Add the tomato paste or ketchup, plus enough chicken broth or water to come up just below the surface of the ingredients. Simmer about ten minutes, or until the celery bits are tender. Add the green beans, and a little water, if needed, to keep it quite moist. Simmer, covered, a few minutes, then add Cajun seasoning. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender, adding a little water if becoming dry. Taste for salt, and add more Cajun seasoning as need to get the salt to the desired level.

It’s best to let the stew cool and store, refrigerated, then reheat to eat. Spoon the mixture over hot cooked rice. Offer Louisiana style hot sauce as a condiment on the side.


Sautéed Winter Squash over Jalapeño-Cheese Grits: Demonstrated at Athens Farmers Market

Here’s the dish my grandson August and I demonstrated at the Athens Farmers Market this morning, October 5th. All the vegetables we used we purchased from the local farmers’ stands at the Market.

Prepare the grits first, and keep them warm while sautéing the squash. The recipes serve six-eight people.

Jalapeño-Cheese Grits:
1 cup milk
3-1/2 cups water (or 3 cups water plus 1/2 cup white wine)
1 cup stone-ground grits (Georgia, and yellow, preferred)
1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon grated black pepper
2 tablespoons grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

In a heavy pan, bring milk and water (or water plus wine, if used) to a boil, being careful they don’t boil over. Stirring constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon, add the grits in a thin stream. Reduce heat to medium, and continue to stir frequently, scraping the bottom of the pot, as the grits begin to thicken, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the minced jalapeño, salt, and pepper. Reduce the heat to the lowest, cover the pot and simmer, stirring from time to time, until grits are becoming tender, 20 minutes or more depending on the grits used. Stir in the cheese. Taste, and add a little salt if necessary. Continue to simmer (or place the pot in a larger pan with an inch of boiling water to serve as a hot water bath as they simmer) until ready to serve, stirring from time to time and adding a little water if becoming thick. The longer the grits simmer the better. Before serving, do a final taste and adjust the salt, if necessary.

Sautéed Winter Squash or Pumpkin:
1 medium-large butternut squash or 2-pound piece of heirloom pumpkin (e.g., “Long Island Cheese” or French)
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 small-medium green bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 very large clove garlic, minced
1 small jalapeño, seeded and minced
2 large tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup water (or white wine), plus more water as needed
6 medium-large fresh basil leaves, cut in half
2 tablespoons grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
A little more grated cheese, or minced parsley, for garnish

Peel the butternut or other pumpkin/squash, cut it across into 3/4-inch slices, scooping out the seed cavity when you get to that part. Cut the flesh into 3/4-inch chunks. Fry (sauté) these gently in a large pan with the olive oil, stirring frequently. Meanwhile prepare the other vegetables as indicated, keeping the tomato separate.

A sample at the Athens Farmers' Market
When the squash is just starting to become tender (test with a toothpick), add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, and jalapeño. Add the salt and pepper, and sauté the mixture, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of the pan, until the bell pepper and onion become tender. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and sauté about 2 minutes, stirring carefully several times. Add half a cup of water and sauté briefly until the vegetables are tender. The mixture should be slightly wet. If not, add a little water to moisten. Taste several bits of vegetable and stir in a little salt, if needed. Remove from the heat, and stir in the basil and grated cheese.

To Serve
Spread a portion of grits on a plate. Spoon some of the squash mixture over it. Sprinkle with either a little grated cheese or minced parsley.

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