Category Archives: African

Rose Petal Jelly

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From the earliest times, indeed throughout the history of civilization, people from around the world have held the rose close to their hearts.

Earliest roses are known to have flourished 35 million-years ago originating  in Asia.The earliest known gardening was the planting of roses along the most traveled routes of early nomadic humans.

In ancient Mesopotamia, Sargon I, King of the Akkadians (2684 BC — 2630 BC) brought “vines, figs and rose trees” from a military expedition beyond the River Tigris.

Rose petals were used in Ancient Egypt, and petrified rose wreaths have been unearthed from Egyptian tombs of antiquity. During the  late Ptolemic period (305 BC–30 BC), Cleopatra had her living quarters filled with the petals of roses so that when Marc Antony met her, he would long remember her for such opulence and be reminded of her every time he smelt a rose. Her scheme worked for him. Such is the power of roses.

The “rosa gallica” was already praised by the Greek poet Anacreon in the 6th century BC. Roses

It was probably brought to Gaul with the Roman conquest. The Romans cultivated a great beauty. Rose petals were also popular in Rome and Greece with the oil produced from them being used as both a medicine and as a perfume for wealthy Romans. The rose petals were used for balms and oils in the Roman society, particularly when worshiping the dead.Roman high society women used petals much like currency believing that they could banish wrinkles if used in poultices. Rose petals were often dropped in wine because it was thought that the essence of rose would stave off drunkenness and victorious armies would return to be showered with rose petals from the civilians that crowded the balconies above the streets long before the confetti and ticker tape parades welcoming events and people of note in New York City in the 20th Century. The Romans also used them as adornments at weddings where they were made into crowns to be worn by the bride and the groom.

And Even though petrified  remnants of roses wreaths have been  have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs and the evidence of rose hips having been found in Europe, the earliest record of roses being  cultivated by the Chinese  was about 5,000 years ago.

And because of trade and wars, the rose has been popular throughout the Middle East, with Iran being the center of it all.  You see, Iran, historically known as Persia, is situated on a bridge of land that connects the Middle East with the Far East. And because of Persia’s  geographic position, roses  have also been a staple in Persian cuisine for over a 3,000 years. It has a considerable place and  historical value in the evolution of the culinary arts from the Middle East to Europe, as it was right in the center of the ancient Silk Road.

The Silk Road was an ancient network of trade routes that connected the East and West. and  derives its name from the lucrative trade in silk carried out along its length, beginning in the Han Dynasty (207 BC –220 CE). Trade on the Silk Road played a significant role in the development of the civilizations of China, Korea, Japan, the Indian subcontinent, Iran/Persia, Europe, the Horn of Africa and Arabia, opening long-distance political and economic relations between the civilizations.  Though silk was the major trade item exported from China, many other goods were traded, as well as religions, syncretic philosophies, and technologies.

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Traders in antiquity along the Silk Road in include the  BactriansSogdiansSyriansJews, Arabs, Iranians, Turkmens, Chinese, Malays, Indians, Somalis, Greeks, Romans, Georgians, and Armenians (Hansen 2012). In addition to economic trade, the Silk Road was a route for cultural trade among the civilizations along its network (Bentley, 1993).   And has thus, a transitional point where  exchange of cultures and the trade of exotic products and cuisine  were passed between the West and the Orient for thousands of years.

Ancient Persians took their wares to all the corners of the world, in particular pomegranates, saffron and spinach, and the country also played host to much of the bargaining between the East and West. These bargained goods, including rice, lemons and eggplant, now feature prominently in the national Iranian dishes were traded for silk and roses.  Roses have been used in Persian cuisine for 3,000 years. In fact, the use of rose petals in Middle Eastern cooking is largely the product of Persian influence. Rose petals were adopted throughout the Middle East after the Persian Conquests which established the Achaemenid Empire (550–330 BC) and subsequently the Sasanian Empire (224–651 AD),and eventually roses were in many cuisines throughout the world including Indian and Chinese food.

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Roses often show up in Turkish delight, a Middle Eastern confection that is one of the oldest sweets in the world. Turkish delight can be made with rose petals or with rose water. They also often show up in certain blends of the Moroccan spice mix known as ras el hanout and in some sweetened rice dishes from India.

In Persian cuisine, dried rose petals have been used  in several dishes to flavor or as a garnish. Rose petals are often used to make rose water, which is a less-perishable way to get the rose flavor into baked goods like cakes and puddings. In the Persian household, rosewater is a regular pantry ingredient that is added to sweets, desserts and even coffee.

A popular dessert in  modern Iran just happens to be Bastani, a Persian rose and vanilla ice cream desert that is often garnished with cream chunks and sugar coated rose petals (For the Bastaini Recipe, follow the link to: The Persian Fusion, 2015).

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Eventually roses made their way to France. It is said that Thibaud IV, Count of Thibault_IV_Comte_de_ChampagneChampagne (1201-1253), He initiated the Barons’ Crusade in 1239 and  was famous for being a trouvère, and was the first Frenchman to rule Navarre O’Callaghan 1975). According to most historians, the Barons’ Crusade was not  a glorious campaign, but it  did led to several diplomatic successes (Richard, 1999). Souvenirs that he brought back to Europe included a piece of the true cross and the Chardonnay grape which in modern times is an important component of champagne. Thibaud also brought back a rose bush what was named “Provins” (Latin name rosa gallica ‘officinalis’, the Apothecary’s Rose) from this diplomatic expedition to Jerusalem. Though oral tradition is strong, this is not confirmed by any written chronicle, but the evidence of rose appearing in France during this time, lends credibility to the tale (Fray 2007). Thibaud’s poetic spirit was undoubtedly in awe of the beauty of the rose gardens found in the palaces of the Sultan of Damascus.It is said that Thibaud wanted to cultivate this rose on the hillsides of the Châtel in Provins. One can imagine that, from this intensive cultivation was born the link between the city and the flower, that from then on has been present in the city’s traditions: distinguished visitors, such as Kings Francis Ist, Henri IV, Louis XI, or Queen Catherine de Medicis were offered cushions of dried petals (Evergates, 2007).

Provins always had a vested interest in the cultivation of roses. Over time, these roses63654988_ce06cd1c1f have constantly evolved and wild roses started growing next to those cultivated for specific needs (Fray, 2007). This is true of the Rose of Provins, The apothecary rose, first recorded in the 13th century, and was the foundation of a large industry in growing roses that produced  jellies, powders and oils,  because this particular rose was believed to cure a multitude of illnesses. OLIVIER DE SERRES (1539-1619). French author and agricultural scientist, the father of agronomy in France, identified “several virtues to the one who distills rose water used by apothecaries of syrups and other things…” (Hoffman 1984).  And thus, products with medicinal properties where produced in the form of syrups to relieve digestive problems; as a lotion for dry skin; as products to clean and purify the skin; and made as a rock candy to soothe the throat.And these products are still being made and are still  being used in these modern times.

And since medieval times,the rose is still strongly associated with Provins’ confectionery creativity. Provins still produces all sorts of foods from roses, and its main specialties are rose petal jam, fruit jelly, rose honey, rose candy chocolate, liqueur and other delicacies. Provins is also   a large producer of wine, with the medieval methods of wine making are still being carried out by residents, and some vineyards are still being used to produce to  rose petal wine to this very day (Johnson, 1989) .

 And whether in France or in the Middle East, rose petal jam made from fresh rose petals often makes an appearance on the breakfast table to be eaten with bread and butter or clotted cream.The sophisticated floral flavor of rose petal jam truly elevates the foodie palette.

And it should be noted that the flavor of rose petals differs depending on which type of rose plant produced them. They can have a floral sweetness or a tartness similar that which comes from citrus fruit. They can also be mildly spicy. They are often intensely aromatic, which is the quality that is most valuable for cooking.

And given the rather long culinary history, how I came to adore rose petal jelly was through my Grand’s love of growing her own pink roses, not just for their beauty, but because she loved rose petal jelly too! This is her recipe that I share with you today.

Enjoy!

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Ingredients:
4 cups pink or red edible roses* (See Cook’s Notes)
6 cups water
1 lemon
6 Tablespoons Class Ball Powdered Pectin **(See Cook’s Notes)
3 cups granulated white sugar

Directions:
Measure the petals.Rinse in cold water to remove debris and small bugs, and drain using a colander. Add the petals and the water to a large saucepan . Set the saucepan on the stove and bring it to a boil. Turn the heat down and let the petals simmer for fifteen minutes.

Using a colander lined with a double layer of cheesecloth,pressing all the liquid from the petals strain the liquid into a bowl to cool slightly. Discard the petals.

Measure the liquid. There should be 4 cups. Add additional water to equal 4 cups of rose liquid, if necessary.

Juice one large lemon into the rose water.

Return the liquid to the saucepan, and add the pectin, stirring thoroughly. Place the saucepan back on the stove bring it to a boil, stirring constantly.

Once the liquid is boiling, add 3 the sugar and continue to mixture it boil for an additional two minutes.

Skim any foam that may form ontop of the jelly.

Ladle the jelly into prepared sterilized jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace and cap the jars with the lids and rims. Let the jarred jelly sit to cool and set on the counter overnight.

Jelly can be stored in the refrigerator for up to six months.

To preserve for storage at room temperature, cover jars with lids and rims, place in a hot water bath (2 -3 inches boiling water) for 15 minutes at a hard boil. However, it should be noted that the jelly must be refrigerated after opening.

Serve this versatile accompaniment with scones, crumpets, toast, croissants and other treats. The jelly also has a variety of uses, including using it as a glaze over fruit or tea cakes and even over vanilla ice cream.

Cook’s Notes:
*All edible flowers must be free of pesticides. Do not eat flowers from florists, nurseries, or garden centers. In many cases they are treated with pesticides not labeled for food crops.

Dried rose petals are great in herbal tea mixes, too. You can also mix dried rose petals, tiny rose buds and a few cardamom pods with black or green tea leaves for an exotic brew.

Dried rose petals sold in UK supermarkets and online are mostly sourced from Pakistan and are usually of rosa canina variety. They are dark pink or crimson in color. Persian dried roses are pale pink and come from damascene roses. Both are good for food decorating but  most  Persian cooks prefer dried roses, available from Middle Eastern groceries and online, for use as a spice.

After boiling, you will notice that the water becomes a dingy brown, and the petals will lose their color. Do not fret. When adding the lemon juice, the acid from the lemons, will transform the liquid into a bright pinkish red.

** One 1.75 ounce package of powered pectin can be used a reasonable substitute.

Sources:
“How to use rose petals in cooking”. (2017). The Persian Fusion. Retrieved July 1, 2018.

“Provins in the dark”. Retrieved June 23, 2018.

Digest, The Reader’s (1978). The world’s last mysteries. Montréal: Reader’s Digest. p. 303. ISBN 089577044X.

Our Rose Garden.:The History of Roses: University of Illinois Extension. (2018). Retrieved July 1, 2018. Retrieves July 1, 2018.  https://extension.illinois.edu/roses/history.cfm

Bentley, Jerry (1993). Old World Encounters: Cross-Cultural Contacts and Exchanges in Pre-Modern Times (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 32.

Boulnois, Luce (2005). Silk Road: Monks, Warriors & Merchants. Hong Kong: Odyssey Books. p. 66. ISBN 962-217-721-2.

Elisseeff, Vadime (2001). The Silk Roads: Highways of Culture and Commerce. UNESCO Publishing / Berghahn Books. ISBN 978-92-3-103652-1.

Evergates, Theodore (2007). The Aristocracy in the County of Champagne, 1100-1300. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Fray, Jean-Luc (2007). Villes et bourgs de Lorraine: réseaux urbains et centralité au Moyen Âge (in French). Presses Universitaires Blaise-Pascal.

Hansen, Valerie (2012). The Silk Road. OUP US. p. 218. ISBN 9780195159318. Archived from the original, Retrieved June 20, 2017. Jewish merchants have left only a few traces on the Silk Road.

Hoffman, Philip. (1984). “The Economic Theory of Sharecropping in Early Modern France”. The Journal of Economic History 1984, page 312.

Johnson, Hugh. (1989). Vintage: The Story of Wine pg 122. Simon and Schuster.

O’Callaghan, Joseph F. (1975). A History of Medieval Spain. Cornell University Press.

Richard, Jean (1999). The Crusades, C.1071-c.1291. Translated by Birrell, Jean. Cambridge University Press.

Tyerman, Christopher (2006). God’s War:A New History of the Crusades. Penguin Books.

Xinru, Liu, (2010). The Silk Road in World History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 11. “Republic of Korea | Silk Road”. en.unesco.org. Archived from the original. Retrieved June 25, 2018.

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Calas: A New Orleans Tradition

 

It’s Mardi Gras, and down in New Orleans, the King Cakes, beignets and other gustatory delights are flowing freely. But if you prefer your culinary temptations with a side of history, allow me to introduce you to the calas, a Creole rice fritter with a storied past.

Never heard of a calas? Most people outside of New Orleans never heard of them either.

It’s basically a rice fritter. Calas are just one of the many rice dishes that actually made the journey during the Middle Passage across the Atlantic Ocean. Calas are made of leftover rice mixed into a sugary egg batter, then deep fried and served dusted with confectioner’s sugar. 

To  me, they are kind of like beignets, only better — with a more interesting backstory. Calas were once a vital part of African-American livelihood in the New Orleans, and even helped some slaves there buy their freedom. The cala became a very important part of New Orleans’ history.

Scholars think slaves from the rice-growing regions of Africa  who were brought to the Carolinas specifically to  grow rice.  And as slavery spread down to the Gulf Coast, calas  were eventually brought to Louisiana. Some culinary historians can trace calas to Ghana, others, to Liberia and Sierra Leone. If you were to go to Africa today, to Ghana or Liberia, you would find the women in the open-air markets making calas.

330px-Le_Code_Noir_1742_edition.jpgIn 1685, during the days of French rule, New Orleans was ruled by the Le Code Noir or the “Black Codes”, a decree originally passed by France’s King Louis XIV. The Code Noir defined the conditions of slavery in the French colonial empire, restricted the activities of free Negroes, also known as free people of color,  and forbade the exercise of any religion other than Roman Catholicism, and expelled all Jews from France’s colonies.

The code has been described by Tyler Stovall as “one of the most extensive official documents on race, slavery, and freedom ever drawn up in Europe”.  The Code Noir resulted in a far higher percentage of blacks being free people of color during this period where the free color populations  was 13.2% in Louisiana compared to 0.8% in Mississippi. In by 21st Century standards, they were on average exceptionally literate and highly educated, sending their children abroad to study in some of Europe’s finest universities at the time.  Many were were doctors and lawyers, with a significant number of them owning businesses, properties and even slaves. Today, most people  are unaware that the free people of color were highly successful in the era of slavery. It was a very different climate in New Orleans than in the rest of the United States at the time.

In the Code Noir, it was stated that  all slaves were required calasby law to have at least one day a week off. The slaves’ day off usually was Sunday. Many of them would become street vendors. And so after church, African women would roam the streets of the French Quarter touting their wares with the chant, “Calas, calas! Belles calas tout chauds, madame, belles calas tout chauds!” — “Beautiful calas! Very hot!”

When the Spanish took control of Louisiana in the 1760s, they brought with them a powerful legal instrument, coartacion ,a specific type of manumission that pertained to slavery in the Hispanic Caribbean, through which slaves were allowed to purchase their freedom on a gradual basis. They were considered ‘free’ in exchange for compensation for the slave owner. In other words, coartacion  gave slaves the right to buy their freedom. For enslaved black women in the city, selling calas was a key way to earn money for these purchases. These women were able to buy freedom for their families and for themselves.

More than 1,400 New Orleans slaves bought their freedom under Spanish rule. But it’s not clear just how many did so with calas money.

African-American culinary historian Jessica B. Harris  has noted  in her writings that not all calas vendors were enslaved. And the ones who were  slaves often sold them for their mistresses. If they were lucky, they were allowed to keep a portion of the money, or perhaps have it go towards their freedom.

Americans ended the practice of coartacion soon after the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. But New Orleans remained home to thousands of free blacks – and throughout the 1800s, many of them, especially women, made their living selling calas and other street foods.

In the 20th century, these vendors slowly disappeared, until, by 1940, according to an old Works Progress Administration report, just a single calas street merchant remained.

But indoors, calas “remained popular as a home treat” among African-Americans — especially during Mardi. Friends and neighbors prepared calas for their families and for the maskers who stopped by for a little ‘recess’ from their parading.

And the fritters did survive in at least one public eating space: The Old Coffeepot Restaurant, a French Quarter breakfast joint, where they’ve been on the menu for decades.

Waitress Gaynell James serves up calas cake from the kitchen at The Old Coffeepot Restaurant in the French Quarter of New Orleans on Jan. 28, 2013.

Waitress Gaynell James Serves up calas from the kitchen at The Old Coffeepot Restaurant in the French Quarter. Gerald Herbert/AP 2013.

After chef Frank Brigsten purchased Charlie’s in 2009, he replaced hushpuppies on the menu at the longtime neighborhood seafood joint —a fixture in Harahan, outside New Orleans, since the 1950s—with a savory take on calas. They have gotten to be so  popular that the restaurant now serve shrimp calas as an appetizer.

 In recent years, calas have also made their way into a higher-profile tradition as well.2010-Calas-Lady-_vo
In 1990, New Orleans’ Haydel’s Bakery revived the old tradition of including miniature porcelain dolls in their Mardi Gras King Cakes.  The Original 1990 Frozen Charlotte Doll quickly became a collector’s item.  Since then,  Haydel’s has choosen a different porcelain figure  that celebrates one of the traditions of  the city’s beloved Mardi Gras heritage and bakes them  into  their famous King Cakes. In 2010, that figurine was in the shape of the iconic calas lady, her basket of “belle calas” balanced on her head —not forgotten. a symbol of a New Orleans long gone but, but still alive in the hearts of many.

And so the cala, a rice dish that is a part of New Orleans’ history, will be saved for future generations to come with this recipe that is presented below.

Makes About 2 Dozen

Ingredients:
2 cups cooked white rice
6 Tablespoons all purpose flour
3 heaping Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
5-6 cups vegetable oil, for frying
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Directions:

Mix the rice with flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the vanilla and mix well.

Add eggs and when thoroughly mixed, drop by tablespoonfuls into the hot oil , heated to 360 ° F. Fry until browned on both sides.

Using a spyder, remove the fritters from the oil and drain on baking sheet lined  with paper towels. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve hot with coffee or Cafe au Lait. 

 

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Jerk Chicken with Coconut Saffron Rice and Black Beans

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The best jerk recipe I have ever tasted, delighted the senses, as it was fragrant, fiery hot and smoky all at once.The original recipe was developed by Paul Chung, an adventurous self-taught cook who grew up in Jamaica and has sampled jerk from just about every corner of the island. Making a few adjustments, I added  fresh ginger, dark brown sugar and apple cider vinegar to the marinade. For best results and maximum flavor, let the chicken marinate overnight, covered, in the refrigerator.

As side dishes goes, this saffron rice recipe cooks up pretty quickly, making it a great dish if you are in a hurry. Another added bonus is that is one of those rare dishes that gluten free and vegan. However, if you are allergic to coconut milk, soy milk is a suitable substitute.

Serves 8

Ingredients:
For the Chicken:
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
3 medium scallions, chopped
2-3 Scotch bonnet chili peppers, stems removed, chopped (or Habaneros)
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon five-spice powder
1 tablespoon allspice berries, coarsely ground
1 tablespoon coarsely ground pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon white or apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Two 3 1/2- to 4-pound chickens, quartered

For the Saffron Coconut Rice and Beans:
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1 tablespoon plain water,at room temperature
2 cups uncooked white basmati rice (or any long grain rice)
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 3/4 cup coconut milk
2 cups water
1 teaspoon agave nectar, (or 1/2 teaspoon of sugar)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
a pinch of ground nutmeg
One 15-ounce can of black beans, rinsed and drained
Lime wedges, for garnish

Special Equipment:
Latex gloves for handling the chilis and massaging the marinade under the chicken skin.

Directions:
For the chicken start preparing it a day or two ahead of actual cooking.

Pat chicken dry with paper towels.In a food processor, combine the onion, scallions, chiles, ginger, garlic, five-spice powder, allspice, black pepper, thyme, nutmeg, salt and brown sugar; process to a coarse paste. With the machine on, add the the soy sauce and oil in a steady stream. Put on latex gloves and pour the marinade into a large, shallow dish. Slather the marinade all over chicken, including under skin, and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bring the chicken to room temperature before cooking and lightly sprinkle with more salt and ground allspice, before proceeding.

Prepare a charcoal grill: Clean and oil grates.Light a grill and preheat to medium heat using one chimney of charcoal. The temperature can start as high as 300°F. For best results, coals should be at least 12 inches away from chicken. If necessary, push coals to one side of grill to create indirect heat. Add two large handfuls of soaked pimento (allspice) wood sticks and chips (See Cook’s Notes) or other aromatic wood chips to coals, then close grill. When thick white smoke billows from grill, place chicken on grate, skin side up, and cover. Let cook undisturbed for 35 to 45 minutes.

Uncover the grill. The chicken will be golden and mahogany in some spots. Chicken thighs may already be cooked through. For other cuts, turn chicken over and add more wood chips, and charcoal as needed. Cover and continue cooking, checking and turning every 10 minutes. Jerk chicken is done when skin is burnished brown and chicken juices are completely clear, with no pink near the bone. For large pieces, this can take up to an hour.

While chicken is cooking, begin to prepare the rice.

In a small bowl, soak saffron threads in the water, at room temperature, for 5 minutes and set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat peanut oil over a medium heat until it begins to shimmer, about 2 minutes. Stir in chopped shallot and garlic, and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in rice, mixing with a wooden spoon until all of the grains are coated with peanut oil. Fry for 1 minute, stirring constantly.Gently stir in the coconut milk, water, saffron mixture, agave or sugar, turmeric, cumin taking care as the oil will splatter. Season with salt, and gently stir, making sure that nothing sticks to the bottom while everything comes to a boil.

Once liquid achieves a boil, reduce heat to low. Place lid on pot, slightly askew to allow some steam to escape. Stir occasionally to make sure rice does not stick to bottom of pan and the sugar in the coconut milk does not burn. Allow to simmer *very* gently for 15-20 minutes, or until rice is tender.

Stir in the black beans and cook for a few minutes more until hot. Remove from heat and cover the saucepan. Allow to stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork when you are ready to serve.

When the chicken is done, transfer to a platter.Garnish with lime wedges and serve with the rice.

Cook’s Notes:
Pimento wood sticks and chips are available at www.pimentowood.com.

Alternatively you bake the chicken in the oven if a grill is not readily available.After marinating and you are ready to cook the chicken, heat oven to 350°F and bake chicken for 45-55 minutes, until done.

Also, if time is of the essence, you can first bake the chicken at 300°F in the oven then finished off on the grill. This will result in crispy skin, with perfect texture and flavor.

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Poulet Yassa (Yassa Chicken)

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A traditional chicken dish from the Casamance region of Senegal, Poulet Yassa (Yassa Chicken ), is one of the most famous African recipes and is found in Senegalese restaurants the world over. For best results let the chicken marinate overnight; in Africa, this is essential to tenderize the sometimes tougher African fowl. It is also very good when made with fish, see: Poisson Yassa. For the simplest yassa, make the marinade from just oil, lemon juice, onions, and a little mustard.

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
1/2 cup peanut oil (or any cooking oil)
one chicken, cut into serving-sized pieces
4 to 6 onions, sliced
8 Tablespoons lemon juice
8 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 bay leaf
4 cloves minced garlic
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons Arome Maggi® sauce or soy sauce
1 chile pepper, seeded and finely chopped
Cayenne pepper, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
Kosher salt, to taste
1 small cabbage, cut into chunks
2 carrots, cut into chunks

Directions:
One day before: Cut the onions into thin slices. To make the marinade, combine onions, mustard, lemon juice, chile pepper, salt, and pepper in a  large non-metallic  bowl. Place the pieces of chicken into the marinade, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate over night for the best results.

The next day, remove the chicken  from the marinade. Reserve the marinade to make the sauce.

Cook  the chicken using on the following methods:

  • Cooking method 1: Grill chicken over a charcoal fire (or bake
    it in a hot oven preheated to 375 F) until chicken is lightly browned but not done.
  • Cooking method 2: Sauté chicken for a few minutes on each side in hot oil in a cast iron skillet.

While chicken is browning, remove onions from marinade and sauté them in a large Dutch oven until translucent. Add  the reserved marinade and the vegetables and bring to a slow boil and cook at a boil for ten minutes. Next, add the chicken  to the sauce, cover and simmer over medium heat until chicken is tender, about 30-40 minutes. Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness.

To serve, spoon the vegetables into a soup platter and top with the chicken and ladle the sauce over the chicken.

This dish is also best served with sides like  rice, couscous  or fufu. For a more authenitc meal, Yassa Chicken is also served with  ginger beer or green tea with mint with or after the meal.

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Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons and Olives

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This colorful Moroccan stew offers deep spices, but stays light and bright with tart citrus, briny green olives and fresh cilantro. For the most authentic presentation, serve it in a  tagine, atop a bed of couscous.

Serves  4

Ingredients:

1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
2 Tablespoons warm water
2 large yellow onions, chopped
1/2 cup  coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, plus  more for garnish
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley,  plus more for garnish
4 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
6 Tablespoons olive oil
6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1 1/2 cups cracked green olives
2 preserved lemons, thinly sliced
1/2 cup  chicken broth

Directions:

In a small bowl, soak the saffron in the warm water for 10 minutes.

In a food processor, combine the onions, the 1/2 cup cilantro, 1/2 cup parsley and 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice. Add the cumin, ginger, turmeric, the saffron and its soaking liquid and the salt. Process to a pulpy puree. Transfer to a large resealable plastic bag. Add the garlic and 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the chicken thighs, seal the bag and massage to coat the chicken with the mixture. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours.

Put the olives in a large, heavy fry pan and add water to cover. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer, then simmer for 5 minutes. Drain the olives and set aside. Thoroughly dry the pan.

In the same pan over medium-high heat, warm 1 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the lemon slices and sear until browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil to the pan. Remove the chicken from the marinade, shaking off the excess and reserving the marinade. Working in batches, sear the chicken, skin side down, until golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to another plate.

Pour the broth into the pan, stirring to scrape up the browned bits from the pan bottom. Stir in the reserved marinade and add the chicken and any juices. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer until the chicken is opaque throughout, about 40 minutes.

Add the olives, the reserved lemon slices and the remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice to the pan with the chicken. Cover and simmer until the chicken is falling-off-the-bone tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Garnish the stew with chopped cilantro and parsley and serve immediately.

TODAY.com Parenting Team FC Contributor

Persian Fried Chicken Smothered in Peaches with Curry CousCous

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So what happens when I didn’t make it to the grocery store before the arctic polar vortex hits,  the East Coast region? Well, I was left to forage in the nether regions of my  refrigerator, freezer and pantry with such a diverse mix of ingredients.

And what happened was the creation of dish inspired by my Grand’s kitchen; the Sunday Chicken Smothered in Peaches.

So, my version of my Grands’s beloved chicken dish  is the perfect  marriage of multicultural cuisines from the Deep American South, North Africa, The Middle East and India:Persian Fried Chicken Smothered in Peaches and Almonds on a bed of Minted Curry Couscous. I think I out did myself with  this global fusion dish!

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Enjoy!

TODAY.com Parenting Team FC Contributor

Orzo with Sauteed Collard Greens

Recipe Adapted from
Nature’s Greens, W. P. Rawl & Sons, Inc.

 

Photo Credit: Marti, 2015

Collard greens have been cooked and used for centuries. The Southern style of cooking of greens came with the arrival of African slaves to the southern colonies and the need to satisfy their hunger and provide food for their families. As the slave diet began to evolve and spread when slaves entered the plantation houses as cooks, their African dishes, using the foods available in the region in which they lived in, began to evolve into present-day Southern cooking, becoming a huge part of the Southern American culinary tradition known as “soul food”.

This recipe uses collard greens in a unique way, borrowing for the Italian culture with the use of orzo, tomatoes and dried Italian herbs, which comes together for a quick and easy meal that can be served family style for a hungry crowd, that is both healthy and tasty at the same time.

Enjoy!

Serves 6

Ingredients:
1 cup uncooked orzo
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons dried Italian herbs
4 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1 pound collard greens, washed and chopped *
Juice of 1 large lemon
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add orzo and return to boil. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until the pasta has thoroughly cooked, about 6 to 9 minutes. Drain pasta and return to the pot, add the Italian herbs and gently toss to mix. Cover and set aside.

In another large stock pot, heat on medium and  add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add garlic and tomatoes and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the garlic and tomatoes and set aside.

Add the remaining tablespoons of olive oil to the same stock pot. Add the collard greens and toss to coat. Saute the greens for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the orzo, garlic, tomatoes and lemon juice. Stir and continue cooking for an additional 5 minutes. Stir in Parmesan cheese and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve warm or at room temperature with a rustic crusty bread, if desired.

Cook’s Notes:
* If fresh collard green are not available, an excellent alternative substitute are the commercially available “Natures Green Collard Greens” which can be found in the produce section of most local supermarkets and grocery stores.

For a variation, you can add sweet Italian sausage to this dish. Pinch little pieces of the sausage from the casing and roll them into 1-inch balls. Brown them in a skillet over medium-high heat until cooked through. Remove the  sausage meatballs out of skillet and set aside.  Following the recipe, add the sausage to the stock pot when adding the orzo, tomatoes, collard greens and lemon juice. Stir to combine and proceed with the recipe.

TODAY.com Parenting Team FC Contributor