I’M IN A NEW ENGLAND STATE OF MIND #HAM CHOWDER WITH A CARIBBEAN/MEDITERRANAN FLAVORS

This time of the year brings on a ‘mixed-bag’ of weather patterns. The past few days have been very dark, cool, and precipitous in South Florida. The sun has disappeared for a few days and makes me feel like I’m in a Maine or New Hampshire territory.

With days like these, one can’t help but to crave warm and comforting dishes like a clam chowder. Well, I’m not a lover of clam, so my culinary mind went to the my freezer. Inside this freezer, tucked in the rear are some left-over servings of baked ham from past Christmas(have to use that up). So, instead of clam, I made yours truly ham chowder with a Caribbean and a Mediterranean twist.

The main ingredients for Ham Chowder
The main ingredients for Ham Chowder

Ingredients:

  • Left-over Ham (1/4 cup)diced
  • Crispy bacon (2 strips)
  • Irish potato (1 large) diced
  • Cauliflower (3/4 cup)
  • Celery (2 stalks) diced
  • Loose corn (1/2 cup)
  • Onion (Med.) diced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Coconut milk (1 cup)
  • Paprika (1/4 tsp)
  • Cumin (pinch)
  • Curry powder (pinch)
  • Corn starch (1 tsp)
  • Water (3 cups)
  • All spice (pimento) (1/4 tsp)
  • Thyme (1 tsp)
  • Parsley (garnish)

Method:

  1. In a sturdy stock pot, render bacon slices and set aside.
  2. Drain excess bacon fat. Add a drizzle of olive oil and add diced onions, celery,  chopped cauliflower, loose corn, etc. and slowly stir removing all the bits.
  3. Season with salt, pepper, paprika, and other seasonings along with thyme.
  4. Add Coconut milk and water.
  5. Place lid on pot and allow to simmer until tender.
  6. Mix corn starch (if needed) to provide extra thickness).
  7. Few minutes to completion of dish add diced left-over ham.
    Ham Chowder and baguette
    Ham Chowder and baguette

    Ham Chowder simmering in stock pot
    Ham Chowder simmering in stock pot

I served my Caribbean/Mediterranean ham chowder with a garnish of parsley and bacon bits along with a generous and warm piece of crusty baguette. The flavors were bold, flavorful and super delicious. I was over the moon as I watched the ducks did their dips.

What do you know? On this cool and marvelous Florida day, the sun has chosen to raise its brilliant head. Now, it’s perfect. Guys, be kind to your loved ones as well as your beautiful palates.

 

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A CAULIFLOWER DISH THAT IS THE ‘STAR’ OF THE MEAL

Who would have thought that this former forgotten veggie could be celebrated as this. Cauliflower has somewhat emerged as a bright star among its counterparts. Step back broccoli and cabbage and in enter this cruciferous member. This creamy white and  tight veggie is standing out on its own and seems to be stealing the stoplight from its family members. Well, that’s my observation.

Head of Cauliflower
Head of Cauliflower

And, the great thing is that cauliflower has numerous health benefits. Based on studies, it is excellent in preventing different cancers, like ovarian, prostate, and cervical. In addition, it is ideal for the lowering of the blood sugar in the body. It’s low in calories and as a result, it’s perfect in the area of weight management.

Chefs have created many dishes that seems to compliment this flower veggie. As a home cook, I’ve cooked cauliflower in the form of a mash, soup, roasted, and steamed. However, the last I’ve checked I realized it can be had many more ways.

One of the ways I’ve decided to cook this amazing veggie is to roast it in coconut milk. But, first I cut it in huge slices. Then, I soaked it overnight in coconut milk which was seasoned with a pinch of salt to taste along with paprika, and  black pepper. I also put a  sprinkle of cinnamon for added flavor….winner!  Nutmeg would also be perfect as well.

Cauliflower sliced
Cauliflower sliced
Cauliflower in coconut milk ready for roasting
Cauliflower in coconut milk ready for roasting

In a 400 degree oven, cauliflower pieces were roasted for approximately 45 minutes until fork tender and coconut reduced.  It was then placed under the broiler for another five minutes with shredded cheddar cheese for a quick melt and browning on top.

Final dish of cauliflower with melted cheddar cheese topping
Final cauliflower dish with melted cheddar cheese topping

Guys, this dish is excellent for a perfect side dish at your holiday meal or any meal for that matter. It’s a crowd pleaser dish and will have everyone returning for seconds.

Guys, as always, be kind to your loved ones as well as your beautiful palates.

 

CREAMY/CHEESY GRITS SIMMERED IN COCONUT CREAM TOPPED WITH EGGS/CRUMBLED BACON

Our palates have a way to communicate with us. You see, when the days get shorter and the nights become rather long, our stomachs and palates tend to crave the comforting side of things. And for me, this is the perfect time to forego the sugary cereal and rein in what’s piping hot and savory.

So, on the late morn (quite closer to the noon time), I reached for my canister of old-fashioned grits by Quaker. Oh, I love grits; both savory and sweet.  I like how it keeps me satiated for a long time. Moreover, it’s loaded with essential fibers, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that are great for the body. Thank God I still had more than enough to make yours truly a creamy and cheesy dish.

Ingredients:

  1. Grits (1 cup)
  2. Coconut milk/cream (1cup)
  3. Water (1 cup)
  4. Chicken broth (1cup)
  5. Cheese (3 tbsps)
  6. Butter (1tsp)
  7. Diced onion (2 tsps)
  8. Salt/pepper (pinch)
  9. Nutmeg (1/4 tsp)
  10. Olive oil (drizzle)
  11. Eggs
  12. Bacon (crumbled)

Method:

I get it, some enjoy their grits with plain water and whole milk; and that’s okay. However, I had to infuse a little touch of Caribbean flavors. And I did so with a cup of coconut cream/milk I had in the freezer. After I sauteed a couple teaspoons of diced onion in a drizzle of olive oil, I defrosted and unleashed the goodness and allowed it to simmer for approximately five minutes.  Oh, by the way, I call coconut milk, nature’s milk.

Because I was making a cup of grits, I added and additional two cups of liquid in the form of water and chicken broth. I made sure to season with salt and pepper to my taste. Grits was then slowly added to liquid and then whisked so as to prevent lumps. This continued to cook for approximately 20 to 25 minutes on low heat with lid on so as to prevent splattering.

After grits became smooth to my likening, I removed from heat and added a pat of butter along with shredded six cheese Italian mix. By the way, my secret ingredient was ‘a pinch of nutmeg’. Well, it’s no longer a secret.

I served my creamy/cheesy grits with a couple of fried eggs. I made sure to make my yolks a wee bit soft but not runny. I’m telling you guys, they reminded me of sunshine. Of course, because I had a little left-over crumbled bacon from a last meal, I decided to top my grits with same. Hmmm, such salty goodness. I LOVE GRITS!!

 

ANACONDA-LIKE TURKEY BALLS/CHICKPEAS SIMMERED IN A CURRY/COCONUT SAUCE

I know; I know. Clearly, these balls, (turkey balls) aren’t gigantic in size. However, they are super packed with big flavors and mouth-watering taste.

Typically, ground turkey is rather bland in taste especially if the fat content is minimal. As a result, I had to incorporate some intense flavors and spices in order to obtain a succulent finished dish. With a little aid from Caribbean, Mediterranean and Asia’s spices, I nabbed the perfect union of flavors.

Guys, I’m talking about spices and ingredients like curry power, cumin, coconut milk and chickpeas (garbanzo beans). I do think that some of these spices and ingredients are somewhat underused in many western cuisines. Perhaps, it’s because some of us aren’t familiar with the usage of them in regular everyday dishes. As a result, we sometimes buy them with the good intentions of utilizing, but, they end up in the rear of the spice rack gathering dust.

Because these spices are staples in my pantry at home and from my childhood days in Jamaica, I reckoned I could experiment with them in my turkey balls. I took the plunge and added a pinch of cumin and curry powder to my ground turkey and they made a world of difference. The flavors are pungent and bold. A pinch of each goes a far way. Overusing (especially the curry) could result in a bitter taste. However, with just the right amount, it can alter an average dish to an acme one.

So, with the infusion of these amazing spices (old world spices), they brought my turkey balls to another level. Using them will surprise the taste buds in a great way and make you wonder why you’ve not used them in past dishes.

On my recent shopping trip to my neighborhood store (Publix) I purchased three cans of 15.5 ounces chickpeas (garbanzo beans) for $2. They were on sale. So, I made a curry-based/coconut milk sauce with all the similar ingredients from the ground turkey. I then drained and immersed my garbanzo beans. I allowed them to simmer for approximately 30 minutes.

Turkey balls were drizzled with a little olive oil and were baked for 15 minutes at ( 350 degrees F). They were then placed under the broiler for another 5 minutes to acquire a brown exterior. Balls were then added to the curry/coconut chickpeas sauce in order to absorb all the exotic flavors. Dish can be served as is with a green salad or on a bed of brown rice.

Guys, with this dish, even JLo and Nicky Minaj would approve. By the way, I can’t promise that you’ll get a huge derriere, but I can guarantee you gigantic and mouthwatering flavors.

CURRIED CHICKEN WITH AN INFUSION OF COCONUT MILK

Guys, lately I’ve been feeling like an “all you can eat Chinese restaurant” where you can choose from 100 chicken dishes. You see, I’ve been consuming quite a lot of chicken in different styles. What can I say? I love the dear bird. Moreover, it’s still relatively inexpensive compared to meats.

Once again, today I made the decision of having chicken. Guys, “BINGO!” It was the correct move. I went somewhat South Asian and of course Jamaican. You see, in countries like India, the curry powder, cumin, coconut are popular spices and product in dishes. And because the Jamaican cuisine is one that is rich and consists of many influences of the past, like the Asian, these spices are widely used as well on the island.

Ingredients:

* Chicken (legs/thighs (skinless/bone-in)

* Coconut milk

* Curry powder

* Cumin

* Salt/pepper

*Ginger

* Pimento(allspice)

* Onions

* Scallion/thyme

* Scotch bonnet pepper (optional)

* Garlic

* Coconut oil

Method:

1. Chicken parts were chopped to bite-size pieces and then rinsed with cold tap water. (Make sure to sanitize cut-board and kitchen sink with a cap full of beach or any sanitizer after handling poultry)

2. Chicken was seasoned with dried spices, salt/pepper along with crushed garlic and marinated for approximately 2 hours (overnight would be perfect).

3. In a sturdy skillet, a few drops of coconut oil was heated then chicken was added.

4. Chicken was sauteed for about five minutes on medium heat. Chopped onions, bell peppers, scallion, thyme and ginger were added.

5. Coconut cream was then added along with cold tap water to cover chicken parts.

6. Chicken was simmered on low to medium heat for approximately 30 minutes or until fork tender. Chicken was stirred and turned over during cooking.

The coconut cream and other exotic spices brought my dish to another level. The marrying of the flavors heightened my taste buds in a rich and delicious way. I served my curried chicken with some left-over Jasmine rice I had in the freezer along with a medley of greens.

Guys, I hate to toot my horn, but, sometimes you got to give a shout out. MY DISH WAS A WINNER! To say that I was happy is an understatement. I was overjoyed.

Guys, as always, be kind to your loved ones as well as your beautiful palates.

ROASTED PUMPKIN (SQUASH)/CARROT SOUP WITH A HINT OF COCONUT MILK

Like most of us, I commute and work long hours. As a result, it makes it rather difficult to keep a healthy and wholesome diet. It is easy to do a ‘drive-by’ through the many fast food eateries within the neighborhood. After all, the service is quick/convenient, and the prices are relatively inexpensive. More over, let’s face it, when the hungry pangs are evident and you know that there isn’t any prepared meal at home, the smells from these eateries pull you.

Nothing is wrong in surrendering to the need once in a while. I truly believe in a fine balance. Oh, once per week, I love those crispy/hot fries from McDonalds.  However, we all know that overtime the consumption of foods loaded with excess sodium, sugar and saturated fats can eventually lead to cardiovascular, diabetes and other chronic diseases.

Not to fear, I’ve the perfect solution. On my downtime, I use the opportunity to prepare and cook soup. One week is lentil and the other week could be pumpkin. And that’s what I did on my night off from the ‘grind’. I cooked a rich pot of pumpkin/carrot soup. It was delicious and very easy to cook and prepare. This one pot wonder normally keeps me satiated for hours. Moreover, I always ensure to make extra and freeze in tupperwares for later.

Ingredients:

*Pumpkin (squash)

*Carrots

*Celery

*Onions

*Coconut milk (optional)

*Bell pepper(any color)

*Scallion

*Salt/pepper

*Thyme

*Olive/canola oil

*Chicken broth (optional)

1. Rinse and scrub carrots, and other veggies. Peel pumpkin and roughly chop carrots,pumpkin, onions, celery and bell pepper.

2. In a sturdy stock pot, over medium heat, add a few drops of oil and add veggies.

3.Keep on stirring and do a quick pan roast of veggies.

4.Season along and add salt and pepper to taste. Toss in thyme and any other herb of choice.

5.Add chicken broth and/or plain water and cover veggies and allow to simmer on low to medium heat.

6. Add coconut milk (optional) to soup half way through cooking process.

7. On completion of cooking time, cool and then puree soup to your consistency in blender or food processor.

My pumpkin/carrot soup a bit nutty and very tasty. The flavors were bold yet smooth and creamy. I  served my pureed soup with a crusty cheese sandwich. Guys, sometimes that’s what beautiful things are made, easy, quick and satisfying.

As usual, be kind to your loved ones as well as your beautiful palates.