Monday, December 19, 2011

Hello to all,  I know I have neglected this blog lately, but, in my defense I have been preoccupied with school.  Most of my time has gone into preparing for Graduation.  Yes, that's right, I have graduated and I am on to a new chapter in my life.  Enough about me and on to my next blog post.

Passion, Creativity, Visionary, Taste, Driven, Attention to Detail 

To me these are powerful words that describe a chef; a top chief.  These people have a vision and to them Good is not good enough.  In a chef's mind 'it can always be better'.

You ask, "Where have I seen such a person?" (besides on T.V.) As luck would have it - I know someone that fits this description perfectly.  This person is my son Matthew.  He started his cooking journey at the age of 14. 

Upon finishing high school he traveled to Hyde Park, New York and the Culinary Institute of America.  It was at the CIA that he was classically trained in the skills to becoming a Chef. 

From the CIA he went on to work at the Greenbriar Resort in West Virginia, Kyma in Atlanta, Georgia (part of the Buckhead Life group) and at the present he is at the Ritz Carlton in West Palm Beach where he is the 'Chef de Cuisine' at the Temple Orange. 
It was at the Greenbriar that I had the privilege of working for Chef Matt.  It was a special event and they needed volunteers.  Everyday for eight days, 16 to 18 hours a day we cooked, chopped, garnished, and plated food.  I gained a new respect for my son that week.  It was hot grueling work and I would do it all over again given the chance.

He then moved on from the Greenbriar to the Ritz-Carlton in West Palm Beach. Recently I went for a visit and he allowed me to take a few photos back in the kitchen. . . .

So, next time you are dining out and reading over the menu think about the Creative, Driven, Visionary behind the cuisine 'the Chef'.

I will leave you with the words of a great Chef my son admires:

When you acknowledge, as you must
that there is no such thing
as perfect food, only the idea of it, 
the real purpose of striving toward perfection
is clear:  to make people happy,
that is what cooking is all about.

Thomas Keller (The French Laundry Cookbook)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers . . . .

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers . . .everyone knows that old Nursery Rhythm.
This rhythm definitely relates to me and my gardening abilities.  Every January and February I very excitedly thumb through the seed catalogs that arrive in the mail.  I map out a plan of how I want to arrange my tomatoes, bell peppers and hot, peas, beans, grape tomatoes, and herbs. Then when the time comes I start some plants from seed and others I purchase when they arrive at my favorite garden supply store.

When April comes round then it is time to plant and to dream.  Dream of the tomatoes I will can; the beans I will freeze; the herbs I will dry, and the list goes on.  But, in reality this is what really happens - I get enough beans for 2 or 3 meals; a few tomatoes and then I have to protect them from the squirrels; my herbs, bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes thrive.  And the one thing, the one thing that will grow and grow and grow are my jalapeno peppers.  I must have all the right conditions for this One plant.

This plant(s), the jalapeno, starts out slow with just a few peppers.  Then the yield increases to where I start drying them; and then there are more, so I start giving them away.  I can't dry, eat, or give them away fast enough (and I cannot throw them out; then I would have guilt and another story).  Well, this growing season I have come up with a new plan; pickled jalapenos and hot pepper jelly.  Surprisingly these canned items are quite good and their shelf-life is considerably longer (if you keep them refrigerated after opening) than the freshly picked variety; and put a cute tag on the jar you have yourself a nice little gift. 
Now, with all that said I have included photos of the pickled jalapeno process, the two recipes, and the hot pepper jelly photos will follow.  I hope you enjoy the recipes and if you love gardening - don't get discouraged and keep on growing.

Pickled Jalapenos
1 lb jalapeno chili peppers
1/3 cup olive oil
2-3 medium white or yellow onions, thickly sliced
2-3 medium carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
1 head garlic, separate cloves
4 cups apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp Kosher salt or sea salt
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
4 sprigs of fresh marjoram or 1/4 teaspoon dried
4 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1Tbsp sugar

1. Wash the chiles, leaving the stems intact.  Cut a cross in the tip end of each chile so that the vinegar will be able to penetrate the chile.
2. heat oil in a large, deep skillet.  Add the chiles, onions, carrots, and garlic.  Fry over medium heat for about 10 minutes, turning them over occasionally.
3. Add the vinegar, salt, herbs, and sugar nad bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.  make sure the chiles are entriely cooked through before canning.
4. Pack 4 pint-sized sterilized jars with the chiles and vegetables.  Top with the vinegar and seal.  Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. 

Once opened, they can be kept in the refrigerator for one to two months.

Hot Pepper Jelly
1 red pepper , cut into wedges
2/3 cups jalapeno peppers, chopped (seeds removed)
1-1/2 cup white vinegar
6 cups sugar, divided
2 3-oz. pkgs. liquid pectin
6 to 8 1/2-pint canning jars and lids (sterilized)

Place peppers and vinegar in a blender; cover and puree.  Add 2 cups sugar; blend well.
Pour into a large saucepan.  Stir in remaining sugar;  bring to a boil.  Lightly strain mixture, discarding liquid, and return to pan.  Stir in pectin.  Return to a rolling boil over high heat.  Boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.  Remove from heat; skim off foam.  Pour into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 -inch head-space.  Wipe rims; secure with lids and rings.  Process for 5 minutes in a boiling water bath.  Set jars on a towel to cool;  check for seals.  Makes 6 to 8 jars.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Local Farmers, General Stores, Farmers Markets

There are so many things I love about summer, but at the top of the list is visiting local farmers markets, general stores, or roadside stands.  The above photographs are of a roadside market in Canton, Georgia.
The owners have taken an old home and turned it into a wonderful store.  This little market has fresh produce, fresh eggs, butter, canned goods, all the old-time soda brands you can think of, and local folk art.  Oh, and if you want to practice your own gardening abilities they have beautiful plants from which to choose.  What is so great about these markets you ask?  Well, just about everything: the fruits and vegetables came from a local garden (this means it is fresh, not refrigerated, and if you are from the south you know what a refrigerator does to a fresh picked tomato), less gas was used to transport the items to the store, and the satisfaction of the person that has done the work (this is just from my personal experience).

Last week I stopped at a nearby stand that seemed very popular.  The man had beautiful tomatoes, squash, peppers, and cantaloupe. As I was standing in line waiting my turn I listened to the conversations; apparently this farmer had a heart attack last year and all of the the regulars to  his stand were worried that he might not be able to come back and his reply was “I will always be back until I have gone to meet my Lord.  My garden and my family are what keeps me going.”  This seemed to be the best reasons of all the buy local.

Happy Thanksgiving

  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Many Blessings and Love to All