Move Over Texas Caviar, time to get “Cali-fied”

Photo credit: Montie Stamps. Cali-fied Caviar suited up with vegetable croquettes on the set of California Cooking as part of my upcoming, taped appearance on the show. Will keep you posted on air date.

I have a lot of love for the great state of Texas.

You see the Lone Star state is the birthplace of Texas Caviar, according to documented accounts and urban legend.

Yes, I am a big fan of the black-eyed pea salad that doubles as a side dish and appetizer.

Distinguished beginnings

This humble dish has distinguished beginnings. New York native and Texas transplant Helen Corbitt first featured the dish at a New Year’s Eve event hosted at a Houston, Texas country club nearly 80 years ago.

Photo credit: Amazon. Helen Corbitt was a dietitian, who later became the Director of Food Services for Neiman-Marcus and authored many cookbooks.

One can only imagine the wonder, amazement and perhaps wrinkled noses of  guests as they gazed upon this gussied-up offering of black-eyed peas presented as part of their menu to usher in the new year.  The time honored tradition of eating a bowl of the pale little legumes – often slowed cooked in some kind of animal fat – is surrounded in the folklore that they bring about prosperity and good luck for the new year. But Corbitt’s lucky peas were a whimsical and unexpected way to celebrate the hope and aspiration for a prosperous and happy new year.

Doing it Cali style

Texas does things in a big way. Corbitt’s Texas Caviar and the many variations derived from it, deliver big flavor. I have been a big fan of what some call the “salsa/salad hybrid” for longer than I can remember. But –  and you knew there was a but coming – as a California native with Southern sensibilities, I had to “Cali-fi” it because we do things in a big way here too. And you know what they say, “As California goes, so goes the nation.”

Fresh mint and radishes are cutting board ready.

That is exactly my intent with my “Cali-fied” Caviar recipe. Peeled radishes are used in my recipe to give it texture and depth. Fresh mint and a simple lemon vinaigrette dressing made with a hint of sesame seed oil marry the ingredients and take this salad to that umami zone. If you like Texas Caviar, you will love this version straight from my little California kitchen to yours.

Oh, and you don’t have to wait for the arrival of a shiny new year to make this recipe. No sir, no ma’am, you can make it today, tomorrow or anytime you want to  get a little”Cali-fied.”

Happy cooking and I send you good luck and prosperity all year long.

Cali-fied Caviar

  • Servings: 6 to 8
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Cali-fied Caviar is a fresh new take on Texas Caviar, California style.

Ingredients

1 15.5 ounce can Black eye peas, drained and rinsed
2-3 medium sized Roma tomatoes, halved, seeded and chopped
½ cup green bell pepper chopped
6 radishes, peeled and diced
1/3 cup green onions, sliced
¼ cup red onion, chopped
1 ear corn, grilled and removed from cob
1 heaping tablespoon fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, halved, seeded and chopped
Grapeseed oil for grilling corn on stove top

Vinaigrette Dressing
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
Red pepper flakes
Crackled pepper
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
¼ teaspoon sesame seed oil

Directions

1. Add 1 tablespoon of grapeseed oil to a nonstick skillet set on medium heat.
2. Add corn to skillet and cook, turning frequently, until brown on all sides.
3. Remove from heat. Let cool and cut corn kernels from the cob. Set aside. Drain and rinse black-eyed peas. Add to a large mixing bowl
4. Add all remaining to the black-eyed peas including cut corn.
5. In a separate bowl, add lemon juice, olive oil, salt, chopped garlic and sesame seed oil. Whisk well with a metal whisk.
6. Pour vinaigrette over black eye-peas and chopped vegetables and mix well. Add red pepper flakes, cracked pepper and salt to taste.
7. Serve as a side salad or as appetizer with tortilla chips. Recipe can easily be doubled.

A tasty, home-style, Mothers’ Day “gift experience”

Spinach and Turkey Sausage Lasagne served with fresh, oven-roasted broccoli.

Social activist Anna Jarvis is credited with creating Mother’s Day back in 1908 as a way of honoring the passing of her mother and the sacrifices that all mothers make for their children. History records that Jarvis later denounced the holiday because it became so commercialized. She subsequently spent the later years of her life trying to undo her efforts which led to it being recognized as a national holiday.

Mother’s Day spending

Her efforts failed and the commercialization of Mother’s’ Day grew exponentially year after year. Fast forward to 2018, Mother’s Day spending is expected to total “a near-record $23.1 billion this year,” according to the annual survey released by the National Retail Federation (NRF), with Americans spending an average of $180 on mom to celebrate her.

The NRF survey also revealed another interesting fact: 29% or 3 out of 10 moms would love to receive a “gift of experience” such as a gym membership, spa day, paint and sip outing, gourmet cooking class – you get the ideal.

A heartfelt gift of experience

About 70% of us will book a reservation at a restaurant and take mom out to eat.  That is a lovely experience. While I absolutely appreciate the ritual of dining out on Mother’s Day, I have to admit I equally appreciate the effort of having a lovely home cooked meal thoughtfully prepared, beautifully plated and cheerfully served to me.  And sometimes, avoiding the crowds, long wait times and skipping the hustle and bustle at restaurants is just what I need.

What is more loving and nurturing than having someone you love make dinner as way of honoring you? That is a not only a wonderful experience, it is a most memorable one.

A Mother’s Day recipe

A Mother’s Day recipe she will not forget.

If you are thinking about dining home this Mother’s Day and you are searching for a recipe to wow and honor your mom or the woman who has played a significant role in nurturing you, look no further.

My Mother’s Day Spinach and Turkey Sausage Lasagne recipe is  hearty, satisfying, scrumptious and beautiful. It uses fresh spinach and a homemade sauce made with fire roasted tomatoes. One word of caution: this recipe takes time to prepare, so carve out some time and take your time. It is not to be rushed. And after you taste that first bite, it will be your favorite lasagne, rivaling any restaurant recipe.

I hope you and your family enjoy this recipe and that you have a beautiful Mother’s Day.

Oh, and the gifts of experience the NRF mentioned that moms would love to have for Mother’s Day,  add at least one of them too – in addition to making her dinner. After all,  she deserves it.

Cooks note: I did sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese over each layer of mozzarella cheese to boost the flavor. This is completely optional.  

Mother’s Day Spinach and Turkey Sausage Lasagne

  • Servings: 8 to 12
  • Difficulty: intermediate
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This will be your favorite lasagne, rivaling any restaurant recipe.

Ingredients


1 immersion blender (or blender if you must)
2 pounds Italian sausage, casings removed
3 cups grated Mozzarella cheese
1 box no boil lasagne noodles (Barilla featured here)
4 cans simple truth fire roasted tomatoes
1 medium bell pepper
½  cup chopped red onion
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 tablespoon dry Italian seasoning
3 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup chopped Kalamata olives
1~ 5 ounce package fresh spinach
16 ounces ricotta cheese
Salt, pepper

Directions

  1. To a large mixing bowl, add 4 cans of fire roasted tomatoes.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a skillet set on medium heat. Add chopped bell pepper and cook for two minutes, stirring frequently. Add chopped onion and stirring another two 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add chopped garlic and stir another 30 seconds, until garlic is fragrant.
  3. Add sauté vegetables to bowl of tomatoes.  With an immersion blender, blend until semi smooth, about 40 to 50 pulses.( If you don’t have an immersion blender, and you should, place contents into a stand up blender, and pulse until semi smooth.)
  4. Add blended tomatoes and sautéed vegetables to a large sauce pan. Add 1 tablespoon Italian season, 3 teaspoons sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoon finely grated Parmesan cheese and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Blend well. Set heat at medium, once sauce is heated, turn down heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat once done and set aside.
  5. While sauce is simmering, to that same skillet set on medium heat add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Once heated, add 5 ounce package of fresh spinach. Sprinkle with a little salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until all the spinach is wilted.  Remove spinach from the skillet and scoop into heat resistant dish. Once cooled, you will chop it.
  6. To that same skillet, add Italian sausage (casing removed). Break up the meat with a wooden spoon once in pan. Cook on medium to medium high heat until lightly browned. Drain off excess fat.
  7. To a large bowl, add ricotta cheese, ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1/3 cup chopped Kalamata olives, chopped spinach. Blend well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Make sure to taste it to ensure it has enough flavor.

To assemble

  1. Spray the bottom of a large 9 x 13 casserole dish with non-stick spray.  Spread 1 cup of sauce on the bottom of the baking dish.
  2. Using 4 sheet of pasta, form two rows across the length of the dish. The noodles will overlap in the center. Leave a little space between the rolls as the pasta will cook and expand.
  3. Take half of the ricotta cheese mixture and spread over both rolls of pasta.
  4. Take half of the cooked Italian sausage and spread it evenly over the casserole dish.
  5. Scoop out 2 generous cups of sauce and spread over the meat in the casserole dish.
  6. Cover sauce with 1 cup of cheese.
  7. Repeat, using 4 more pasta sheets to form second layer.
  8. For the final layer, top with 4 more pasta sheets. Add remaining sauce and spread evenly over sheet pasta. Spread 1 cup of cheese over the top.
  9. Tightly cover with foil sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
  10. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 15 minutes until browned and bubbly.
  11. Let stand 30 minutes before serving.

Happy New Year, happy new food

Resolute.

You just gotta be in 2018.

I am not talking about your list of practical and lofty resolutions.

In all honesty, you probably need to anchor your resolve to straighten up your act in a myriad of areas.  Skip the resolutions. You know what you need to do, so get busy and handle your business, be your best self and live your best life as a 2018 commitment to yourself (in my Oprah voice).

That pot of black-eyed peas is certainly an obligatory tradition  some believe is a lucky charm for each shiny new year. I would never, ever advocate that you toss tradition to the wind. That would be unthinkable. In fact, I subscribe to this annual rite of passage into the New Year and trust me, I did partake and they were – in a word – so good. Ok, that’s two words.  Get my recipe here.

Lucky black-eyed peas

No luck needed

Luck is great,  but it abdicates your participation. I want you to be more resolute about your food choices this year.

Yes its cliché – you are what you eat. And the often unspoken part of that adage is you are how much you eat too. (Ok I made that up, but the point has to be driven home).

If you don’t set your intentions to make better food choices in 2018, when will you?

I love food anthologist, activist and journalist Michael Pollan. In The Pollan Table Family Cookbook, Pollan makes many salient points in the introduction of this beautiful cookbook.

Pollan connects the increase in obesity to the advent and rise of the fast food industry. Pollan also reminds us that humans cook food; corporations manufacture it.

That’s worth a pause. Take a moment to digest that.

Let me cut to the quick and bottom line my intentions for you:

  • You need to take control of your food choices.
  • You need to be mindful about the food you allow in your everyday life and the life of your family.
  • You need to reduce your portion sizes; they are overall just too large.
  • You need to cut back on the number of meals you get passed to you from a drive through window and pick-up counter – yeah you do.

For heavens sake, for your own sake, get back to cooking your own food. I know it sounds so complex, time consuming and mind bending. But it doesn’t have to be. You can do it. Your health and the health of your family depends on this.

Keep it simple dear heart and:

  1. Use fresh ingredients when possible; they provide more nutrients.
  2. Bake, broil, and grill more often than not; take a break from fried foods.
  3. Add flavor with spices and herbs; cut back on added salt and fat.
  4. Read labels and understand typical serving sizes; portion control is not a myth.
  5. Cut back on carbs; you don’t have to have them every meal.
  6. Learn a few easy food preparation techniques and get inspired.

Follow me

If you follow me on Instagram @collardgreenscaviar (and you really should), you will quickly learn that I am a big home cooking advocate. I have put in a lot of sweat equity over a stove top, about 35 years contiguous if I dare do the math.

I am a journalist and food writer first and foremost. Writing about the significant role and value food plays in our lives has been my focus and my passion.

However, I do  post a lot of food pictures on Instagram,  many of which I prepare and actually eat at home. I am not perfect when it comes to what I eat, but I know perfectly well that I when I prepare my own meals more often than not, I make better choices.

Pan grilled chicken and roasted Brussels sprouts

In this post I feature one of my most requested Instagram recipes, well its not really a recipe but a method I use to prepare chicken breast. I make this often, especially after a workout. Its fast and easy to make, in just under 30 minutes. Its delicious, healthy and beautiful to look at.

The chicken breast is seasoned with a spice rub, then pan grilled and finished in the oven. And you probably noticed there are no carbs. Yup. I often skip them at dinner time and opt for pan roasted vegetables like Brussels sprouts or brocolli. But if you need or want carbs, I suggest serving this with a baked yam or confetti brown rice chalk full of your favorite sautéed vegetables.

Happy New Year! Bon Appétit.  Chin-chin. Salud.

I predict new food is in your future. Now get cooking.

Chicken so most, tender and flavorful.


Ingredients

2 boneless chicken breasts
Spice rub mix (Red Velvet Gourmet Spice Rub featured here)
Grapeseed oil

Directions

  1. Wash and pat dry chicken breast.
  2. Place on cutting board and slice in half.
  3. Rub a little Grapeseed oil on both sides of sliced breast and then generally season with spice rub.
  4. Pour about two tablespoon of Grapeseed oil in a grill pan set at medium heat.
  5. Once oil is heated, place breasts  in pan and cook on each side for about 2-3 minutes until medium brown in color.
  6. Remove from pan and place on a baking sheet.
  7. Cook remaining breasts and place in 400 degrees Fahrenheit oven for 10 minutes.
  8. Remove and let rest 10 minutes before slicing.

Wash and pat dry chicken breasts.

Place on cutting board and slice each breast in half.

Rub a little Grapeseed oil on both sides of sliced breast and then generally season with spice rub.

Add chicken breast to grill pan and cook about two minutes on each side.

Remove from pan, place on a baking sheet and place in 400 degrees Fahrenheit oven for 10minutes.

Let rest 10 minutes before slicing.

Let there be potato salad

Barbecue chicken and baked beans are lonely without potato salad.

Memorial Day.  4th of July. Labor Day.  Outdoor picnics.

For these occasions,  there will be potato salad on the table.

Potato salad is just not salad.

It’s a rite of summer passage, an American tradition, the obligatory side chick, and the expected accompaniment.

And to be honest, in some circles it’s just plain sacrilegious if it’s not on the summer picnic table.

Potato salad be free

When it comes to potatoes, there are many choices.

A lot of liberty can be taken in making potato salad.

I’ve had it hot, cold, made with bacon, bleu cheese, oven roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes,  dill pickles, olive oil vinaigrette, chunky, mashed and I can go on.

The bland tators – whether white, red, russet, sweet, gold, purple, sweet or Jersey – are the perfect blank canvas to express your potato proclivities.   And frankly, there really are “no rules” when making potato salad, no matter what your Nana or Uncle Bubba might say

My potato salad

What potato salad will be on my Labor Day table?

So glad you asked.

It’s absent of eggs and pickles, because they are not my fave, and it has my beloved fresh tarragon and a lovely, smoky light dressing.

So, without any addition fanfare or narrative, the recipe is below. Thanks to the folks at Goya Foods for providing some of the ingredients used in this recipe. Have a wonderful Labor Day!

Potato Salad CGC (Collard Greens and Style)

  • Servings: 4 to 6
  • Difficulty: intermediate
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No eggs or pickles here, but add them if you must!


Ingredients

2 pounds red potatoes, peeled and cut in 1/2-inch cubes
½ cup chopped green bell pepper
½ cup chopped red onion
2 tablespoon chopped Katamala olives
1 ½ cups garlic flavored mayonnaise (Best Foods or Hellmann’s)
1 heaping tablespoon mustard (Dijon, brown deli, spicy, Cajun or whatever you like)
3 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon sesame seed oil
1 tablespoon fresh chopped tarragon
1 tablespoon fresh chopped dill
1/8 teaspoon celery seed
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Goya Adobo All Purpose Light Seasoning
1/8 teaspoon liquid smoke flavor

Directions

  1. Place the peeled and cut potatoes and 1 tablespoon of salt in a large pot of water. Boil the potatoes in for 15 minutes or until tender when pierced with a knife. Drain the potatoes thoroughly, and transfer them to a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
  2.  In a small bowl make the dressing by whisking together the garlic mayonnaise, mustard, olive oil, sesame seed oil, liquid smoke flavor, salt, celery seed and Goya Adobo All Purpose Light Seasoning.
  3.  Add the chopped bell pepper, red onion, chopped olives, tarragon and dill to potatoes in the mixing bowl. Add mayonnaise dressing and gently fold it in to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

A close up to make you hungry.