About Me

I have been cooking my way through life for over 50 years, beginning with mud pies as a child. I've turned a corner now and feel a Renaissance in my life. Recipes and Random Thoughts is my personal spin in a blog about how to prepare good food and how it prepares you for life. I want to share with you, honest to goodness food punctuated with perspective from the special memories and moments that have marked my journey.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

They where just some leftover tomatoes from my last blog post.  Not the luscious summer beauties but nice cooking substitutes probably grown in a hot house.  Not good enough for my salads, so I decided to use a simple technique to turn them into something extraordinary.  Oven roasting at 200 degrees  for  6 hours on parchment paper with just salt, pepper and a drizzle of Georgia olive oil produced an intense sweetness I never suspected from these rather bland tomatoes. After taking them out of the oven I sprinkled them with a little grated Parmesan for a delicious finish.  They are good enough to stand on their own on any plate or garnish a salad.  Wrapped in prosciutto they make a great little pick up bite.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Shrimp Gumbo Alfresco

The weather has moderated from the muggy buggy days of August when "sauna" is the right word to describe our climate.  A far cry from our vacation in Alaska. Suddenly, the skies are clear and the humidity is low. We have a reprieve from the mosquitoes so its time to eat outdoors again.  I'm inspired by the fresh white Georgia shrimp I spy in the store, tomatoes are prime and okra's still available.  Gumbo!!  If you don't know what file is, it comes from sassafrass.  Look for it in spices.

4 tbls flour
4 tbls butter
2 tbls butter
3 cups sweet onion diced
1+ cup green pepper diced
5 garlic cloves minced
1 smoked ham hock
1 lb andouie sausage
12 okra pods, cut in piece
2 tsp Creole Seasoning
2 bay leaves
2 tbls chopped parsley
2-3 lbs tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped
1/2 tsp pepper, 1 tbls Kosher salt (more to taste)
1 tbls file
2 lbs peeled and deveined shrimp
1 quart fish stock*
2 tbls Worcestershire sauce

In a large heavy dutch oven melt the butter over medium low heat then add the flour.  Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the roux turns dark red. Immediately remove from the heat.  If the roux burns, you must start over.  In a separate large pot, melt the other 2 tbls butter and saute the onion and green pepper until they are soft, 3-4 mins. Add the okra, thyme, bay leaves, garlic, tomatoes, ham hock and stocks.  Reduce heat and simmer 15 mins.  Add entire mixture to the roux.  Add the sausage, combine and bring to a boil.  Season with Worcestershire, salt & pepper and file.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour. Adjust seasoning and add Tabasco (it's up to you) and shrimp. Remove ham hock. Cook shrimp in gumbo 3-4 minutes until just pink.  Serve in bowls with a scoop of white rice and bottle of Tabasco on the side. Even better made a day in advance.

* 1 fish frame, such as snapper (head & tail, ask the fish monger to put one aside for you),  shrimp shells from the peeled shrimp, 1 leek, white & light green part only,
celery leaves, 1 onion sliced, 1 garlic clove, 4 pepper corns, 1 bay leaf,   3 parsley sprigs, 2 thyme sprigs., 3 quarts water. Cook until reduced to 2 quarts. Strain twice through a colander lined with cheese cloth and then a fine mesh strainer.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Strawberry Fig Jam

I love fresh figs, it doesn't matter which kind.  Mission, Kadota or Brown Turkey are what shows up this time of year in my grocery store and I'm more than happy to sample each variety, but when it comes to making jam, I like the Brown Turkey and decided to pair them this year with some nice rosey strawberries sitting in the frig.  A rich and delightful marriage of end of the summer fruits which goes will with goat cheese or your English muffin.

16 oz. fresh strawberries, trimmed, hulled and quartered
16 oz. Brown Turkey figs, trimmed and quartered
2 cups sugar
A strip of lemon peel

Rinse and prepare the fruit. Combine with the sugar in a 2 quart nonreactive sauce pan. Mix the sugar, fruit and lemon peel and let sit for an hour or longer.  Turn heat on low and cook stirring often for 1 hour or until a medium syrup forms.  Skim off any foam as it forms. Remove the lemon peel then pour into a 1 quart jar. Keeps well for about 2 weeks.  You can use a canning method for longer shelf life.