Archive for the Cooking Category

Sweet Pepper Salmon, by L

Posted in Cooking with tags , , , , , , , , on June 4, 2013 by experimentswithreason

I love salmon. It’s my preferred fish (I could happily be a pescetarian), and I often have it simply cooked in the oven with some olive oil, lemon juice and sea salt. Lately though, I decided to be a little more adventurous and take advantage of some cheerful- and tasty-looking sweet peppers I saw on offer. Also having a yen for something sweet and spicy (a flavor favorite of mine), this seemed the perfect time for a culinary experiment.

Although I have great pride in that my lunch partner at work loves this despite disliking salmon, the best thing about this recipe is its seasoning flexibility, in my opinion. A lot of the ingredients for the sauce can be altered or omitted – or preferred flavors added – without sacrificing the root concept of the dish. Served with some light sides, it also makes a healthier dinner/lunch option. Be sure and look at the “Let’s think about what you’re eating” section at the end of the post!

Sweet pepper salmon

You know you want it.

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Seafood Gumbo, by L

Posted in Cooking with tags , , , , on October 31, 2012 by experimentswithreason

Since the weather’s starting to cool down over here (I had to wear a scarf today – a SCARF!), I’ve started hankering after the autumnal foods of my childhood. Among them is gumbo, particularly seafood gumbo.

Now, even in the South, there are all sorts of things are sitting on menus masquerading as gumbo and I am here to tell you the truth!

… Just kidding. Actually it’s not unheard of for gumbo to comprise of whatever’s at hand. Traditionally there are two types: Cajun, which has a darker base, is spicier, and can contain fowl or sausage as well as seafood; and Creole, which typically focuses on seafood, adds tomatoes, and tends to be less spicy and lighter. Variations have sprung from there. Ultimately, though, gumbo is a  thick stew with either seafood/shellfish, ham, sausage or poultry (hardly ever any other pork or beef), and the ‘Cajun Holy Trinity’ of green bellpepper, onion, and celery (though the latter was hardly used in Creole gumbo prior to the 1950s). A sure-fire identifier is whatever forms the stew’s base and/or thickens it: file’ powder, roux (fat and flour), or okra, and sometimes combinations thereof. It is designed to feed a crowd, and thus is often served over rice.

The name ‘gumbo’ itself is a possible evolution from either the Choctaw kombo (for file’) or ki ngombo / quingombo / ochinggômbo / chinggômbô (Bantu, Umbundu and Tshiluba, respectively) for okra. Hardly surprising, considering the variety of cuisines gumbo has evolved from – elements have been brought from Spain, France and the Acadians (such as its similarity to bouillabaise), Africa, Native American, and a bit of German and Italian for good measure. Louisiana itself is a melting-pot, and gumbo typifies this culture.

My recipe was my paternal grandmother’s, given to me through my mother on one of her recipe cards. This grandmother, Marylene, is the sister of the Great-Aunt Nonie from whom came the Country Chili. Mom used to make it with real lump crabmeat sometimes, and fresh shrimp always, that she got by the pound from a man in a blue pick-up on the side of Hwy61, in front of the feed store across from the Myrtles. I remember craning my neck to see into the sink while she was cleaning and de-veining them, and finding the fact that they were gray very strange. my job was to keep shooing the cats off the counter.

We didn’t have this dish very often, but it was one that made an impression on me and was one of the first things I cooked, ever. It’s been a favorite ever since, and was one of the first meals C and I cooked together (long-distance over webcam, no less!).

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PepperPea and Shrimp Spaghetti, by L

Posted in Cooking with tags , , , , on March 24, 2011 by experimentswithreason

With a sultry Spring settling on Louisiana (and being bored with my usual go-to recipes), it was time to spice things up a little with a lighter, healthier dish.

Off-the-cuff, simple, flavorful, I think it’s going to become a new staple. Called ‘PepperPea’ because I like alliteration. Best part are the health benefits, which means a new aspect to my recipe posts – “let’s think about what you’re eating”. I will endeavor to include these in meals designed around health, as in this one.

Cayenne was the inspiration, due to my need to feel refreshed and energetic. I’d encourage others to do the same.

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Great-Aunt Nonie’s Country Chili, by L

Posted in Cooking with tags , , , on March 8, 2011 by experimentswithreason

Nonie is a deceptively sweet and somewhat whimsical shortening of ‘Anunciata’. Italian – in this case Sicilian – typically referring to the first-born daughter. Great Aunt Nonie was indeed short, but anything but sweet and whimsical, I hear tell. However, she and her sister (my paternal grandmother), were/are killer cooks. This chili is no exception, and I like to think its bite and richness, particularly after it’s sat stewing for a while, is attributed to her.

It came to me via my mother as another of the ‘recipe cards’ she made for me before she died, when I first went to college/university. It’s an easy, cheap recipe, more accurately known as chili con carne (chili pepper with meat), with very little cleanup, and is a real crowd-pleaser.  Originated in San Antonio, Texas, by Spanish Canary Islanders – it used to be left to dry in bricks to be taken on expeditions and then became a popular street food – the beef being plentiful back then in similar ‘cattle-towns’. Nowadays it typically falls in the ‘Tex-Mex’ category of cooking. I made it Sunday for the coming week, garnished with Tostito’s Fire-Roasted Chipotle Artisan Recipe chips (adds a great flavor).

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The Pomegranate Cake Slabs, Attempt One, by L

Posted in Cooking with tags , , , , on March 5, 2011 by experimentswithreason

I had two pomegranates sitting in my fridge for the longest time. A couple of weekends ago I decided to be Queen of my Kitchen and not only cook the meal for the upcoming week – the chicken tarragon that poisoned me, no less – but also attempt a pomegranate cake. To get a vague idea of component parts / see if it had been done before, I went here. Liking the simplicity of this – though I had no juice, just the fruit, and of course planned on carrying on in my whimsical way with little reference to the recipe – I decided to experiment, C on the other end of GoogleTalk.

First thing to do was to ‘peel’ the pomegranates themselves. Pomegranates are an ‘old world’ fruit indigenous to the Iran/Caucasus region but now widely cultivated in other arid, Mediterranean climes, and have a wealth of symbolic value to many cultures as far as Europe and China. They’re more familiar to the ‘new world’ for their nutritional benefits – the unsaturated oils in the seeds, the high VitC/B5 and potassium content, tannins. Most culinary uses are restricted to the juice purely for the difficulty of getting in to the darn things – the only part of them you’ll be eating are the arils (with seeds inside):

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The trouble with margarine, by L

Posted in Cooking, Products with tags , , on February 26, 2011 by experimentswithreason

…or, L’s opinion on everything in moderation. (See also: Enable your body to do its own thing.)

I’m sure many people have come across the myth that margarine was originally created as a turkey feed, and that when the turkeys didn’t fare so well, they had to come up with a solution as to what to do with the investment. Result: feed it to people, they’re stupid.

This has since been labeled as an incorrect rumor, however, the principle of the thing remains. Be careful about your alternatives – what you think may be better for you may in fact be doing you more damage in the long run.

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L keeps things in perspective, Part One – Food

Posted in Cooking with tags , , on February 26, 2011 by experimentswithreason

I like to think that I have been blessed with a certain amount of common sense and that as I’ve grown older, it’s become a knack for keeping things in perspective. Of course, I can still go disastrously wrong, and sometimes my perspective is fought off by my stubbornness in a series of late-night battles, but sometimes it goes right.

Right now, one of my latest designs on myself is keeping food in perspective. This is in light of the vast majority of my coworkers diligently going to the gym while I forgo the pleasure. Although I am mostly happy with how I look – and have been for a while – there are occasions where the self-consciousness re-emerges like a weed. I treat it as a reminder to keep myself in check. One of the ways I will try to do this is by keeping an eye on portion sizes of what I eat, because for me, it’s not so much about what I eat as how much.

The idea that the portion given to me was not necessarily the amount I should be eating occurred to me when I started thinking too hard about a chicken breast. (I know. Right now it seems like I have an obsession with chicken – I assure you I don’t.) This was your average chicken breast out of a storebought pack, ready to be prepared for some chicken tetrazini, just lying there on the chopping board.

The thought came unbidden, “That thing is about the size of half of my face. I know it shrinks a little when cooking, but…it’d be like I was eating half a face. Or, hell, that could almost be a young girl’s growing breast, much less a chicken’s, if you bunch it up a little. A young girl is not a chicken. There’s something wrong, there.”

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