Thursday, July 25, 2013

Southern Crab, Avocado and Basil Green Goddess Rice Salad, Summer just got better.

OK I know I know stop posting about rice Forrest! First it's that risotto dish that from the hits is not doing well in the readership polls....sorry? But now a rice salad, I mean come on this is 2013 we don't eat rice salad in the hallowed halls of foodie America anymore or the carb conscious society we live in. Well then hold on my foodie friends cause I have a whole new twist on bringing back a little life to an overlooked starch. And carbs aren't bad they just need to be eaten in moderation.

Now when I was growing up in the USA we as a country ate a lot of white rice. Probably still do. But in my house it did not make major appearances on the dinner table unless we were having Chinese food or a specific dish that screamed for it. The reason was my father had eaten so much rice growing up he never wanted to eat it that often. So other starches graced our dinner table and rice was a reserved treat.

However, generally in the South rice is something that regionally is either very widely eaten or not really eaten at all. Coastal areas in the Carolinas and Virginia as well as the Gulf states and New Orleans in particular are bastions of rice culinary prowess. I mean Mondays are red beans and rice day in New Orleans and what Carolina seafood buffet would not be graced with some flavored or dirty rice. And of course tex-mex cuisine is full of red rice dishes.

But white rice as we eat it mostly in the USA is a buttered side dish best enjoyed with salt and pepper or smothered in some kind of gravy and served along with a protein. Chicken and rice comes to mind as does  Pork Chops and onions. ( Remember the Brady Bunch and Peter's "Pork chops....and Applesauce".  Well either way it's sort of a filling side with a rather bland flavor profile.

Another somewhat forgotten way of serving rice comes from the finest luncheon parties of the ladies of the American South. Yes in the 20's 30's and up through the 1970's rice salads were a major player on menus offered during ladies auxiliary meetings all over the South. In the low country of South Carolina rice salads featuring seafoods were very prevalent. Usually lightly flavored rice with a delicate flavor was mounded on a bed of tender lettuces and topped with a choice of seafoods or shellfish and finished off with something like canned or poached asparagus or fresh tomatoes and maybe a hard boiled egg.

Well I was entertaining a few ladies the other day and decided that I would take this idea and turn it around in a modern way. So to make my rice salad I thought about flavoring the rice more and adding the seafood ( I chose to use crab) directly into the mixture.

Now also in keeping with my love of green summery foods I thought I would try and flavor the rice with a herbal dressing. But I didn't stop there, I also added something I knew would add to the creaminess of the rice with out adding oil or mayonnaise, avocado! Yes avocado and rice actually go quite well together and it certainly goes with crab.

Then instead of serving it on a bed of lettuce I thought about turning it on it's head and topping it off with some greens, fancy tomatoes and a touch of goat cheese. All in all it turned out pretty darned good. And it looked like this.

Fancy huh? Well it's actually super easy and quick. It made for a delicious warm evening dinner and had everyone very happy. So give it a try and give your dinner time a little southern seafood magic. Enjoy ya'll.

Southern Crab and Avocado and Basil Green Goddess Rice Salad

1 1/2 cups jasmine rice
3 cups either water or seafood stock flavored with some garlic powder and salt
1 can of jumbo lump crab drained
2 med avocados
about 1 1/2 cup packed basil leaves
3 garlic cloves crushed
4 tablespoons lemon juice
snow peas cut both into small pieces and longwise in half
4 green onions sliced on the bias separate the whites and greens
1/4 cup good quality olive oil
1/4 cup of water
salt and pepper
small yellow or red tomatoes sliced in half
1 cup baby arugula
crumbled goat cheese such as Cherve
Note* ( you could add finely chopped red pepper as well that would bump up the color and goes well with the crab but I didn't have any)


Rinse the rice a couple of times in a strainer under cold water to remove starch ( helps rice not stick)
Add the stock or water, the garlic powder and big pinch of salt and the rice to a pot
Bring to boil and let cook about 13 to 15 mins till done remove from heat and fluff with fork.
While the rice is cooking peel and chop the avocado and place it, the basil, the green onion whites, the garlic, lemon juice into a blender
Start to blend and slowly and add olive oil in a drizzle till it becomes rich and creamy and about the consistency of sour cream. If too thick thin using the water a little at a time until you get to where you want it to be. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Add to the rice and combine. Stir in the greens of the green onion and the snow peas
Taste and season to taste
Stir in the crab gently
Check again for seasoning.

To serve use a mold and place in the center of the plate and carefully un-mold on the plate
Then top with the arugula, tomato pieces goat cheese crumbles season with maldon and drizzle a little olive and balsamic vinegar over the greens and around the plate as garnish.

Serve immediately. ( You could make the "timbals" ahead of time and using a spatula place them on the plate when ready to serve ), Enjoy Ya'll.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Summer Risotto with Shrimp, Asparagus, and Spinach and Summer Truffle

Now Risotto is one of my favorite things to make for a dinner party because it is so easy to prep, par cook, and then finish at the last minute before serving. It is a dish which conjours up rib sticking wintery foods for when the weather outside is cold and the body needs warming.

Risotto is far from a winter dish. It can be laden with earthy flavors like mushrooms and squash and meats and root vegetables.  It is however a delightful summery meal when paired with fresh seasonal ingredients like shellfish and fresh vegetables available from the farmers market during the summer months.

I chose to make this risotto in order to have something hearty to serve at a dinner party recently it was sort of a take on shrimp and rice salad which in Charleston is popular amongst my mother's set. Rice salads were an old school way of feeding a lot of people in the heat and could be served room temperature and be plated elegantly. I like a rice salad but today with air conditioning one can indulge in a little warm food in the Summertime heat.

Rice is a huge part of the low country's history. Rice was one of the first and the last crops which were farmed and traded. It was part of the famous triangle trade ( Molasses to Rum to Slaves, thank you "1776", the Musical ) however indigo and cotton and rice were in there too. And Charleston got very rich on it. The problem was that the agriculture in the low country was only possible due to cheap human labor ( aka. slavery). The topography was such that the very water which helped to grow the crops also made it almost impossible to use heavy machinery. So as soon as slavery ended the plantation owners were done in by the very land they had fought to protect. Tractors and such were impossible to use and rice farming and cotton farming in the low country all but disappeared.

Then in the 1980's a couple of guys got together and decided to try and retry planting a heritage rice in the soil of the Charleston low country. That rice known today as Carolina Gold rice is the heritage of the rice planters from bygone days. It is a nutty, rich and hearty rice with great flavor and texture and is now available for sale everywhere gourmet rice is sold. Sounds like an ad no? I should have done advertising!

So for my summer risotto I included many flavors I enjoy. Combined them all together and created a really nice summer dish that is both easy and elegant. I suppose you could eat this any time of year but Summer seemed to be the right time to make this. Give it a try. Enjoy Ya'll

Shrimp Risotto with Asparagus, Spinach and Summer Truffles

serves 4 to 6


1 1/4 cups Arborio Rice
oilve oil
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup white wine
1 yellow onion diced
2 cloves garlic finely minced
1 pound shrimp deveined and tails removed cut into 3 pieces
1 bunch asparagus cut into small diced discs and cooked for 2 mins in microwave
2 cups packed baby spinach
1 cup parmesan cheese grated
1/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
white truffle oil
chopped parsley about 1/4 cup


Heat 4 tablespoons oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large pan
add onion and saute to 1 minute add garlic saute one minute more
add rice and cook until a little toasted about 4 mins
Add salt and pepper
Add wine and slowly cook until absorbed
Then add the broth one cup at a time slowly stirring until each cup is absorbed them adding the next
This will take about 20 to 25 minutes
When still slightly wet add the asparagus and then the spinach
Once Spinach is wilted add the shrimp
Stir in Shrimp and cook till they turn pale pink
Immediately add the milk, butter, cheese and truffle oil to taste ( I'd use about 2 to 3 tablespoons )
Check for seasoning add salt if needed
Stir in together and add the parsley just before serving

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Kale Salad with Red Onion, Pan Roasted Mushrooms and Garlicky Parmesan Mustard Dressing

Kale, Collards, Swiss Chard, Rainbow Chard, Mustard Greens, these are all superfoods and things we should all have in our diets way more than we do normally. These leafy greens are full of goodness and all the things that do a body good. But eating them...well...actually enjoying eating them, well that's another story.

When I was a kid leafy greens made it onto my plate via two sources. The first was of course my southern background. Cooked greens, I mean VERY cooked greens, collards in particular but also spinach were readily prepared and available at suppertime. They were normally cooked down to a green mush and were flavored with ham, bacon or vinegar ( which explains my penchant to this day for salty greens ) and served warm on the dinner plate.

The other source was the industrialized food machine which grew larger while I was a kid making canned and frozen vegetables available every night for the home cook, without much thought or prep. I mean there is some truth to the adage "just open a can!" Greens were certainly one of those vegetables and my Mother and Grandmother did their share of serving us prepped foods for dinner. For one thing it was cheaper. Navy families in the 1970's didn't make a lot of money. And secondly fresh fresh produce was not always easy to come by.

And while growing up we ate a salad with every meal, I don't think the general home cooks ever thought of using such raw ingredients as Kale in a salad. That's a pretty new thing outside of vegan and vegetarian cookery and the foodie kitchens of the west coast. But the age of the super green is upon us and with it the introduction of Kale salad to the masses.

Kale is the truly the new superfood these days and why not. Loaded with fiber, vitamins and antioxidants it is a great food to have in one's diet. But let's face it, it's also tough, bitter and kinda tastes like dirt. Pardon me for thinking this way but salads are only great because of the things in them or on them that make them taste good. And lets face it, most of that taste comes from the dressing. So that's where I started with any salad let alone a Kale salad.

Now I have had a lot of Kale salads in the last two years. Here in New York it is all the rage. Everyone loves a Kale salad up here, says the New York Times, proclaiming it the salad dejour and offering articles on recipes and restaurants all celebrating this green as a salad component. I mean let's face it, every foodie, chef driven restaurant  in the city ( especially Brooklyn) has two things on the menu, Pork Belly in some form, and a Kale salad.

So about two years ago I became interested in Kale salad. Even my favorite chain restaurant Hillstone   ( aka. Houston's in some places) got into the act and put a Kale salad on their menu. So I started with other folks Kale salads when I wanted to make mine. I had seen several dining out and also at work ( I work for a caterer) and then came up with my first version. And I have to say it's rich and it's really good. It's all in the very different ingredient mix and dressing.

So when I posted my original Kale Salad recipe it was picked up on the net by two different people. One person Pinned it on their page which drew attention to it. And another blogger and life coach Dawn Greaney it up, actually tried it and then put it up on her blog for folks to see! That was kinda cool. I mean sometimes it does feel like I am writing all these things to an audience I never see or talk to or even know exists. So feedback like that is really awesome.

So I told Dawn at the time that I would be working up another kale salad recipe and this is it. This one unlike the other recipe bears no resemblance to the Houston's or Hillstone Kale salad. And while the other one is similar I cannot say it is actually the same recipe or even came from there. This recipe is similar to the first ( showing my love of parmesan cheese) but way, way, way more savory and meaty. I mean it is a mouthful of lovely flavors. It is sort of a caesar salad and sort of not. It's base is a caesar-like flavor profile but when mixed with the mushrooms and kale it is really not a caesar.

So since the dressing as I have said is the most important thing I started there in making this salad. Last time I used my love of peanuts and cheese to flavor the salad. And as dressings for Kale salads go I have noticed many chefs mine at work included had a based their dressing on some version of lemon vinaigrette. I wanted something more rounded and fatty. So I chose roasted garlic and Dijon as the answer.

I added mushrooms because I saw it on a Kale salad at work as a garnish. But then I thought of using them to replace any meat that one might add to a salad and give it real body. By adding them in quantity it really changes the salad.

Everything else is from my love of caesar salads as an entree salad. I mean in my mind caesar is hard to beat. It's rich and crunchy and cheesy and delish!

So here is my unoriginal original Kale salad with my touch. I hope someone actually makes this one too and gets back to me. Enjoy Ya'll!

Kale Salad with Pan Roasted Mushrooms, Red Onion and Garlicky Parmesan Mustard Dressing


1 bag or small bunch of chopped Tuscan Kale stems removed then chopped into ribbons or small pieces
10 oz baby bella sliced mushrooms (sauted with very little oil in a hot pan till lightly browned but not over cooked)
1/2 a package Trader Joe's Parmesan Bread crisps crushed ( or any parmesan bread crisps crushed if you want to make this salad gluten free substitute slivered almonds for bread crumbs)
1/2 small red onion diced finely
1/2 cup grated or freshly shredded parmesan cheese ( reserve a few tablespoons for garnish)

1 cup ( or a little less) Garlicky Dressing ( recipe follows )


Add all ingredients to a bowl and toss making sure that salad is dressed liberally
Wait 20 mins before serving
garnish with extra cheese

Garlicky Parmesan Mustard Dressing

4 Anchovies
3 heaping tablespoons Dijon Mustard
1/4 cup lemon juice ( I used the green bottle shame on me )
2 tablespoon Apple cider  vinegar
1 cup grated parmesan cheese from the refrigerator case ( it processes better)
1 small head or about 8 large cloves roasted garlic ( easy: Garlic cloves baked in oil in the oven in a small ramekin for about an hour at 300 till brown sweet and soft)
1 tablespoon ground pepper
1 to 1 and 1/2 cups of good olive oil


In a food processor add everything but the oil and pulse till combined
Then add oil little by little with the machine running till the dressing comes together and you get a thick yellow dressing you may not use all the oil. Done! Will keep in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.