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
  • Print

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
  • Print

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.

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
  • Print

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.

My croquette obsession and a recipe that celebrates it

SoCali Vegetable Croquettes made with collard greens and Jersey sweet potatoes

Oh the virtues of the croquette.

I absolutely love them.

Croquettes were a staple menu item when I was a child. I grew up eating mackerel croquettes – probably because salmon was a bit pricey. Mom often made them for Sunday breakfast before church and she served them with buttered white rice.  That is a memory I will never forget.

While most of the time mom made croquettes from canned mackerel, I learned that they could be made of anything from minced meat, rice, potatoes and vegetables. Mom would pan fry her croquettes in a little Crisco shortening or lard. Perhaps that’s the reason they tasted so good.

When I look back,  my fondest food memory is perching myself beside the stove top and anxiously waiting until Mom scooped a croquette out of her well-seasoned cast iron skillet with a dinner fork. Once she placed the tester on a paper towel to drain, I would barely let it cool before picking it up because I wanted to devour it before my siblings came into the kitchen. That first, hot, tasty bite was moist on the inside and crunchy on the outside. And for me, it was the perfect prelude to what was to come.

My Food Network Experience

Veronica Hendrix mixing up chicken croquettes on Food Network show “Clash of the Grandma’s.”

Late last year, you saw me make chicken croquettes on the Food Network show, Clash of the Grandma’s. And by the way, that recipe is featured in my latest cookbook.

The response from the viewers was amazing. A fried, crunchy, bite-size croquette made with chicken and vegetables made viewers drool. What viewers didn’t know at the time  was those croquettes were a composite of my childhood and family history. That’s why making them looked so effortless, and they were.

As a nod to my mom, my southern sensibilities and my love of croquettes, I developed a special croquette recipe that includes two of my favorite ingredients: collard greens and sweet potatoes. Just because it’s a vegan’s delight, completely dairy free doesn’t mean it isn’t packed with flavor and sheer satisfaction.

Carnivore, pescatarian, vegetarian or vegan? It doesn’t matter. This croquette is for you.

The croquette recipe

For this recipe, creamed corn and coconut flour are the perfect ingredients to bind it all together. The use of fresh tarragon enhances the warmth of the collard greens and Jersey sweet potato. This recipe is a tasty departure from traditional salmon, chicken or potato croquettes.  I call it “SoCali” to pay homage to my native Southern California roots and my Alabama family heritage. And one more thing –  these golden brown little beauties could be the talk of your next soirée.

Thanks to the great folks at Cut’N Clean Greens for providing the collard greens to make this recipe. I’ve said enough. The recipe is below. And as always in parting, cook fearlessly and eat well my foodie friends.

SoCali Vegetable Croquettes

  • Servings: makes 20-22 croquettes
  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print

A delicious vegan and dairy free croquette made with collard greens and Jersey sweet potatoes.


Ingredients

1~ 1 pound package Cut’N Clean collard greens
1 teaspoon garlic
1 1/2 cup chopped red onions
2 medium grated carrots
2 tablespoon fresh chopped tarragon
2/3 cup cream corn
2 cups baked Jersey Sweet Potato mash (I used the microwave in this recipe)
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black or cracked pepper
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon white sugar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons coconut flour
Corn, canola, peanut or Grapeseed oil for deep frying
Panko bread crumbs

Directions

  1. Prick Jersey sweet potatoes with a fork and bake or microwave them (which are white inside) until soft when skin is pressed. When done, remove skin and scoop out a total of two cups of Jersey Sweet potato filling. Place filling in a bowl and lightly mash, leaving lots of texture.  Note: Microwave time can vary between 7 to 15 minutes depending on size and density. Baking time is approximately 45 minutes in a 400° F  oven.
  2. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter to a large skillet set on medium heat. When oil is heated, add chopped onions and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly unit till translucent. Add garlic and Cut’N Clean collard greens. Season greens with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes and sugar.  Mix well and stir constantly over medium heat for 10-15 minutes until greens are tender and bright green.
  3. Stir in chopped tarragon and carrots. Remove from heat and cover for 15 minutes.
  4. Once greens mixture is cooled, place on cutting board and give it a rough chop, just to break up the larger cuts of greens.
  5. Add chopped greens mixture to the  mixing bowl with the Jersey Sweet potatoes. Add 2 tablespoons of coconut flour and 2/3 cups of creamed corn. Blend until mixture comes together.
  6. Using a measuring table spoon, scoop up mixture and form into round balls. Coat each ball in Panko bread coating.

Frying croquettes

If you use an electric deep fryer, follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how much oil to use. If using a sauce pan or small Dutch oven (as featured in this method) fill pan halfway with oil.

  1. Preheat your oil to somewhere between 350° F  to 375° F. Oil that’s ready for frying will bubble around the stick end of a wooden spoon when it’s inserted. If your oil begins to smoke, you know it’s too hot.
  2. With a slotted spoon or slotted spatula, carefully lower one test Panko coated croquette into the oil. Once it enters the hot oil, things happen fast.  Be sure to stir with the slotted spoon while cooking — this will fry your croquette more evenly. Use this single croquette as a test to see how much time it takes to achieve your desired brownness. Just 30 seconds may be enough or you may need up to 60 seconds.
  3. Remove the test croquette from pan when done and drain on a  plate or sheet pan lined with a paper towel.
  4. After your test croquette, lower no more than three Panko coated croquettes into the oil. Stir with the slotted spoon while frying.  After 30 seconds or more, remove from oil, drain and repeat until all are deep fried.
  5. Serve with your favorite ranch dressing. Or for a smoky and spicier dipping sauce, thoroughly blend a teaspoon of chipotle chili pepper or a tablespoon of hot sauce into a cup of ranch dressing.

TIP: Make sure to remove stems from Cut’N Clean Greens before cooking.

 

Baked Jersey Sweet potato, scooped out and ready for use.

 

Saute of red onions, garlic, collard greens seasoned with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and sugar.

 

Fresh tarragon and grated carrots are added to the greens mixture.

 

Greens mixture chopped and mixed with Jersey sweet potato, cream corn and coconut flour.

 

Croquettes formed and rolled in Panko bread coating.

 

Croquette frying in hot oil.

SoCali Vegetable Croquettes plated. Enjoy!