Tag Archives: salt

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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The Missing Ingredient In Desserts……Salt!

From: Plated-The Dish
September 2015

It’s a stealth ingredient pastry chefs swear by: a smattering of salt in a dessert. The seasoning can do quiet work in the background, balancing the intense sweetness of a caramel, or the soft crunch of fleur de sel can take center stage. Bring salt out for the dessert course, and you’ll find the main course workhorse performs as it did at dinner—rounding out flavors, finishing a dish, and making tastes pop.

Salt + Chocolatesea salt brownie
Take a classic, crowd-pleasing dessert, add sea salt, and a brownie goes from after-school snack to dinner party star. Our Walnut Sea Salt Brownie, shipping this month, is dusted with delicate pyramid-shaped flakes, and they add a light, crunchy texture that shines against the backdrop of intense chocolate. The same principle works in chocolate chip cookies.
(Image: Plated)

Salt + Caramelsalted caramels Food52
An idea cooked up by the French some 400 years ago, salt in caramel is divine all on its own. But this recipe for salted pumpkin caramels is both elegant and earthy. Crisp, nutty pepitas add texture, canned pumpkin adds depth, and the entire affair manages to encompass everything we love about fall in one sweet-salty bite. If you want to take the fall vibe in a different direction, try salted caramel apples.
(Image: Food52)

Salt + Ice Cream
When you want sweet, salty and creamy all in one bite—but have a bare cupboard and no ice cream maker—whip up this three-ingredient sea salt ice cream, inspired by a charming shop on the coast of Ireland. When you’ve some more time and more ingredients on hand, salty ice cream bon bons are calling your name.

Salt + Honeysalty honey pie
Just as honey and spice work so well together
, so too do honey and salt. Here, in a salty honey pie made famous by Brooklyn’s beloved Four and Twenty Blackbirds pie shop, what could be a treacly-sweet honey custard filling gets a hit of salt…and then everything’s fine.
(Image: Hummingbird High)

TODAY.com Parenting Team FC Contributor

Lobster and Artichoke Pizza

This pizza was inspired by the Old Port Lobster Flatbread appetizer served at the  Hancock Gourmet Lobster Company in Topsham, Maine. Instead using a standard pizza dough to make the crust, I opted for a puff pastry. Pepperidge Farm’s Puff Pasty is the one I like to use, but you can use any standard commerically made products that can be found in your local supermarkets. This decadent treat  It is perfect for a Sunday afternoon lunch.

Ingredients:

For the Lemon Butter Herb Marinade:
Makes About 1 Cup

1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 Tablespoon fresh minced rosemary
1/2 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/4 Tablespoon lemon peel
1/4 cup melted butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste

Directions:
Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, salt cayenne pepper in a nonreactive (glass, ceramic, or stainless steel) bowl and whisk until the salt crystals are dissolved. Add the rosemary, parsley, garlic and lemon zest. Stir or whisk in the butter to combine. The virtue of this marinade is its freshness: Use it within 1 to 2 hours of making. Stir again before using.

For the toppings:
Ingredients:
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4  cup  Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Asiago Cheese
1/4 cup Fontina Cheese
1/2 pound lobster meat (click here for the resource)
1/2 cup  Suns of Italy Marinated Artichoke Hearts, chopped (click here for the resource)
2 Tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
Crush red pepper flakes, to taste
Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry (click here for the site)

Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 430 degrees F.

Make the marinade. Add about 1/2 cup of the marinade to a small non reactive bowl. Add the lobster meat and cover with plastic wrap and set in the refrigerator to marinade for about 20 minutes.

Roll out the puff pastry and  place on a foil-covered pizza pan. Blind bake the pastry

In a small bowl, combine olive oil and minced garlic and using a pastry brush, brush onto the dough.

Sprinkle about 1/3 cup of the cheeses on top.

Remove the lobster meat from the marinade and drain. And a layer of the lobster and artichokes on top of the pastry. Sprinkle on the parsley, the red pepper flakes, and the rest of the remaining  cheeses.

Bake at 430 degrees for about 18-22 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and crisped, to your liking.

Pickled Beet Deviled Eggs

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Let these deviled eggs take center stage at your next party. They will have your guests wanting more!

Ingredients:
6 eggs

For the Brine:
One 16 oz  can beets with liquid
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt

For the Yolk Filling:
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
3 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon light cream
Salt, to taste
White pepper, to taste
Fresh chopped chives,  for garnish

Directions:
Hard boil your eggs and remove the shells.For perfect hard boiled eggs, see  this link for the method: http://wp.me/p43Rn7-oY

Set the eggs aside.

To prepare  the brine, pour the entire can of  beets into a large mason jar or bowl. Add cider vinegar, sugar, peppercorns and salt. Stir mixture. Because beet juice will stain, carefully lower the hard boiled eggs into the brine, cover and let sit for at least 12 hours, up to two or three days. The longer the eggs stay submerged in the brine, the more sour and dark maroon they will become. If just the rim of magenta color of the egg white and a slightly pickled flavor is desired, let the eggs sit for about 13 to 16 hours.

When brining time has completed, using sharp knife dipped in hot water, cut each egg in half and carefully scoop out the yolks using a small teaspoon. Place yolks in a medium-sized bowl, along with the mustard, mayonnaise, curry, vinegar, and olive oil. Mix/mash until smooth. You can always add a little bit of light cream to the yolk filling, if it is too stiff. Add the salt and pepper to taste.

Using  small teaspoon, or a pastry bag or a plastic bag with the corner cut off,  spoon or pipe the yolk filling back into the magenta colored eggs. Sprinkle with chopped chives and arrange on a platter for serving.  If the eggs are not to be served immediately, cover the dish with plastic  wrap and place in the refrigerator until ready to be served.

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Wild Mushrooms and Cheese on Toast Points

Summertime eating is all about fresh and light fare. Here is an easy meal to prepared in less than 20 minutes and is perfect for those “Meatless Monday Meals”. Enjoy!

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PREP TIME:            5 Minutes
COOKING TIME: 10 Minutes
TOTAL TIME:        20 Minutes
Serves 6

Ingredients:
2 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
1 pound button or wild mushrooms (i.e. porcini, cremini,
Shitake and  oyster) stems removed and chopped
1/4 cup  white wine
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon  ground black pepper
24 small (1/2 inch thick) slices country style bread (i.e..
ciabatta, French, Italian, focaccia), cut into triangles, toasted
1/4 pound provolone cheese, thinly sliced into strips
1/4 pound Havarti cheese, thinly sliced into strips
2 Tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh basil, chopped
1/8 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced

Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toast the bread until golden brown and remove from the oven and set aside.

2. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat.

3. Saute onions, until translucent.

4. Add chopped mushrooms and saute 3-4 minutes.

5. Add wine and increase heat to high and cook stirring until liquid has evaporated (5 minutes).

6. Add thyme, salt and pepper.

7. Add cheese to the skillet and stir until slightly melted.

8. To serve, top each slice of bread with mushroom and cheese mixture. Sprinkle with parsley and basil.

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