Braised Lamb Shanks and Veggies

The colder weather outside and the chill inside our condo inspire me to cook dishes low and slow adding warmth and aroma to our home. One of my favorite meals to prepare is braised lamb shanks with vegetables. Sometimes I make them with simple ingredients; white potatoes, carrots, and peas flavored with onions, garlic, salt and pepper.

Braised lamb shanks with potatoes, carrots, and peas.

When I want to revisit a dining experience I had in Morocco, I add Ras El Hanout , a Moroccan spice mixture with the addition of dried fruit (prunes, raisins, or dried apricots).

Braised Lamb Shank – Morocco
Braised lamb shank with peanut butter, okra, tomatoes, and mixed vegetables

 

 

 

 

 

 

And sometimes I take it to west Africa and do a twist on groundnut (peanuts) stew by adding peanut butter to my braising liquid. Either way this recipe is guaranteed to make falling off the bone, tender lamb shanks.

 

 

 

 

Continue reading “Braised Lamb Shanks and Veggies”

Moroccan Merguez Sausage

Lamb sausage with merguez spice mix.

Moroccan reggada freestyle dance Waydi Wayde 🔥🔥😍🇲🇦🇲🇦🇲🇦

This is one of the easiest sausages you can make. If you decide to make your own spice mixes (Merguez and Harissa), it will take you a little longer. Both are readily available in any well stocked spice shop. But if you make your own, you can adjust the spices to suit your taste and you’ll have a better understanding of the cuisine. Moroccan Merguez Sausages will allow you to experience one of the most popular taste profiles of Morocco. Bring a little of Morocco into your kitchen.

Continue reading “Moroccan Merguez Sausage”

The Simplicity of Butter Beans

Butter Beans

I’m back in Ridgeland, South Carolina sort of on a retreat after my whirlwind spring and summer attending the Chicago Community Kitchens’ culinary boot camp program, completing my internship, and working a temp assignment at the Carole Robertson Center for Learning as a food service worker.

When I came to visit in February one of my most memorable dishes was butter beans at Dye’s Gullah Fixin’s on Main St. here in Ridgeland. If you’ve read anything about my background on my website, you’ll know that I grew-up in Pittsburgh, PA in a family with a long Pennsylvania food history. My grandmother fixed lima beans with ham and lots of sugar. Never even heard of butter beans until late in life and had never prepared them.

I called my friend Sandra yesterday to chat and just before I got off the phone with her I asked if she ever made butter beans. She’s from Virginia and is well versed in southern cuisine. “Sure” she said. Okay, so how do you fix them?, I asked. Well, you put some salt pork in some water, simmer it for a while until you get a nice flavorful broth, add your butter beans and keep simmering until they’re nice and tender and melt in your mouth like butter. That’s all?, I asked. Yep. And they’re the best when you can get them fresh, in season. Nothing else?  Maybe some black pepper, but that’s it.”

I followed her directions and sure enough I had the flavorful, melt in your mouth butter beans I had experienced in February. But I was sure I could kick them up a notch if I added some onion and garlic. So I made another batch with my additions. Nope. The first batch with nothing but salt pork and a little black pepper at the end were the best and tasted like what I remembered at Dye’s Gullah Fixin’s.

Simplicity at it’s best!

 

Butter beans with a glass of pinot grigio.

 

 

 

Rice and Beans, Comfort Food To Many

Red Beans with Plantain and Olives.
White fish in sofrito and tomato sauce.

Years ago, the church I was attending, participated in an organized system of helping El Salvadoran refugees get to Canada to escape a brutal civil war occurring in their country. Our government’s position was if they were caught in the U.S. they would be deported. So some churches created and cooperated to form the “Overground Railroad”.

As a member of the hospitality committee, I was asked to feed visiting guests from time to time. When the church decided to participate in the “Overground Railroad”, the decision was made to send them to Denise’s house for her Rice and Beans.  

I never had such a fulfilling experience of hosting guests as I did feeding those men coming through our country in secret to get to Canada. When they came to my house and smelled familiar aromas of food cooked with sofrito*, big pots of rice and beans with fried plantain and white fish in sofrito and tomato sauce, some of them got teary-eyed.

I recently cooked rice and beans with white fish in a sofrito* and tomato sauce and it brought back the memory of feeding those brothers from El Salvador. Following are the recipes.

Continue reading “Rice and Beans, Comfort Food To Many”

Enjoying Summer’s Bounty – Gumbo Z’Herbes

One joy of summer is the many farmer’s markets that appear throughout the city. Seeing so many varieties of fresh, green produce, I was inspired to make a dish found in one of my favorite cookbooks, “Iron Pots and Wooden Spoons”, by Jessica Harris called Gumbo Z’Herbes.

Summer’s Bounty

I love to read cookbooks. Particularly those focused on a specific place or ethnic group. “Iron Pots and Wooden Spoons” is one of the early cookbooks by Jessica Harris and is the quintessential cookbook covering the African Diaspora.

Gumbo Z’Herbes is a combination of a “mess of greens” cooked the “old school” way, low and slow. In her cookbook, Ms Harris introduces this dish as a New Orleans specialty, with many variations based on who’s cooking it and what greens are available.  Following is my version, Chicago style.

Continue reading “Enjoying Summer’s Bounty – Gumbo Z’Herbes”

MOFONGO: The Beloved Puerto Rican Mash with Deep Ties to Africa

Last fall I wrote a short post about my appreciation for many of the food names throughout 
the Caribbean, central and south America.  I named Mondongo, Mofongo, and Sancocho as 
examples of names of dishes that have a definite connection with Africa. 

Click here for previous post   Mondongo, Mofongo, Sancocho. Fufu, Cou Cou, and Tum Tum

Today I stumbled across an article about Mofongo, a very popular dish in Puerto Rico, Dominican 
Republic and Cuba. While I knew in my gut there was a definite connection with African languages 
and food ways, this article provides interesting historical background for this dish.

Continue reading “MOFONGO: The Beloved Puerto Rican Mash with Deep Ties to Africa”

Achieving a Dream

For the past 12 weeks I’ve attended a culinary boot camp offered by the Greater Chicago’s Food Depository. The name of the program is Chicago’s Community Kitchens.  A job training program, it prepares individuals to enter the food industry at the entry level within 12 weeks of training and provides a 2 week internship at a participating food industry employer.  Professional knife skills, exposure to and daily cooking on commercial equipment, recipe scaling, sanitation, kitchen safety and life skills are all taught within 14 weeks.

A friend sent me a flyer describing the the program and the details of how to apply.  Initially I was intimidated by the physical demands (one must have the ability to stay on one’s feet for 8 hours with only a 30 minute break). I am a grandmother of 7 after all. The oldest 19 and the youngest not yet 2.  So without giving my age, you can see why I was worried. But I decided I needed my sanitation license to utilize commercial kitchen space to grow my food business and I needed to overcome my inexperience in utilizing professional, commercial-sized equipment.

My time at Chicago’s Community Kitchens has been invaluable. The dedicated staff and chefs as well as the friends I’ve made through this program will always be with me. I’m leaving with my ServSafe Managers Certification, new skills, techniques and knowledge all at no cost.  My payment and any participant’s is the willingness to show up everyday on time, work hard, have a positive attitude and accept criticism without getting angry or becoming discouraged.

Thank you Chicago Community Kitchens and Chicago Greater Food Depository for providing the opportunity to achieve a dream I first attempted 21 years ago.

Fine Tuning My Jambalaya

Street musicians on Jackson Square.

I had the opportunity to visit New Orleans earlier this month. A city with a fascinating history, culture, and steeped in rich food traditions. A friend had to attend a series of planning meetings for a conference and she invited me to tag along. The first thing I thought was here’s a chance to work on my Jambalaya.

NOLA’s City Park.

Several years ago I was unable to attend a family member’s wedding in Louisiana. They brought back an ice cooler filled with Jambalaya.  It was different from the Jambalaya I’d had in the past and I hadn’t had any that tasted that good.  Every time I asked for the recipe, they’d say, “Oh we just had this old Cajun guy make it for us. He makes the best.”

Well, I’ve researched recipes, and watched many demonstrations and couldn’t come up with a dish that came anywhere close to that “Old Cajun’s” — until now. Before flying to New Orleans I signed up online for a cooking demonstration at the New Orleans School of Cooking.  The chef, Chef Michael, demonstrated Gumbo, Jambalaya, and Pralines, a Creole sugar confection. His recipe and technique for Jambalaya produced the flavor, color, and texture reminiscent of the Jambalaya made by that “Old Cajun” guy!

Continue reading “Fine Tuning My Jambalaya”

Ridgeland, SC, One Of Many Doorsways to Gullah/Geechee Food & Culture

Bar-B-Que Ribs, Collard Greens, Potato Salad, and Roasted Cauliflower. Potluck feast at Liz & Gary’s home. Ridgeland, SC.

Ridgeland, South Carolina is a small town full of big tastes and proximity to great destinations. Located south of Charleston, a little north of Savannah, Hilton Head, Bluffton, and any number of coastal sea islands, It’s a great location to go out and explore historical locations, restaurants, discover and experience Galluh/Geechee culture, and enjoy scenic beaches.

I had the privilege to visit in February for one week and I came back a few pounds heavier. Upon arrival I was met with the hospitality of friends, Liz and Gary. True “foodies”, they not only know where to go for a great meal, but can throw down themselves.

Continue reading “Ridgeland, SC, One Of Many Doorsways to Gullah/Geechee Food & Culture”

Roast Pork Tenderloin Medallions w/ Grill Spice Rub

Spice Rubbed Pork Tender Loin Medallions

A good spice rub for grilling or roasting meats makes a huge difference in the success of any gathering. I use my spice rub on beef brisket, pork tenderloin, pork shoulder, whole chickens, etc.

Beef Brisket with Spice Rub

The star of this tenderloin recipe is the spice rub. I settled on this combination of spices after preparing and testing several different recipes.  My first use was on a 10 lb. beef brisket. Excellent!

Continue reading “Roast Pork Tenderloin Medallions w/ Grill Spice Rub”