All posts by 7722ph

Pineapple

How do you pick a pineapple in a store?  I always pluck out a center leaf – if it comes out quite easily the pineapple is ripe.  Now that I’ve let the cat out of the bag, though, I guess everyone else will do the same and when I get there, maybe that’s not such a good test anymore!!  So, I’ll smell it at the stem end.  The stronger and sweeter it smells (it should REALLY reek of pineapple), the riper it is.  If you really need a pineapple and they are all giving off only faint smells, buy it and let it sit on the counter for a couple of days till the aroma develops.  Then slice into that juicy bad boy!!  – Lula

Yummy, Dirty Leeks

Leeks are grown in sandy soil.  Most tutorials talk about slicing a leek lengthwise, removing the root and dark green portions, and rinsing the exposed portion under water.  This is appropriate if you’re grilling or roasting the halved leek as a dish in and of itself, but a much CLEANER and very easy way to clean leeks if they are an ingredient is to fill a bowl with cold water, slice off the root and dark green, cut the leak in half lengthwise, then lay the cut sides down on a cutting board and slice through the leeks at 1/4 to 1/2 inch intervals.  Dump the slices into the water and swoosh around with your hands, let them sit and settle, then gently lift out the floating leeks and see all of the dirt at the bottom of the bowl!    If you’re sauteeing you can just lay them on a towel or paper towels to drain; if they’re going into a soup or stew just dump them right in – the extra moisture won’t harm a thing.  Here’s to “clean eating”!  For more tips and tidbits you can subscribe to Lula’s blog here.

Chill Out This Father’s Day!

I grew up in Columbia, South Carolina.  On any given day from the first of May through the end of October Columbia is the Devil’s Armpit – but with record high’s the past few years and 100+ degrees in MAY, my father is spending a lot of time indoors.  Nothing says “Father’s Day” like a big fat juicy steak for daddy – but this year I”m thinking maybe we could chill out with some variations on our traditional meat and potatoes.  How about some Chilled Zucchini Cilantro Soup with Shrimp Garnish, a Black ‘n Bleu Steak Salad and a Loaded Baked Potato Salad to fill you up, and a cooling piece of Strawberry-Pistachio Trifle to end things?  Even if it IS 100 degrees this menu is sure to fill your heart and soul and cool you off!

A Note From Chef Lori

Our kitchen will be closed for Father’s Day as I will be actually VISITING my daddy in the Devil’s Armpit before I head to Atlanta for a training session taping – also called Hell’s Kitchen – LITERALLY!!!  PS…Ain’t this Loaded Baked Potato Salad PURTY?!?

Click here to visit our website!  Lots of different Summer Salads to choose from!

The Value of Saffron

 macrosaffron_flower

By weight, saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, and more expensive than many precious metals…this is due to the fact that saffron must be hand harvested from a special fall crocus flower.  Each crocus flower only produces 3 stigmas (strands of saffron), and it takes over a quarter million strands to produce a pound!

Saffron has been around multi-tasking since about 1000 BC – as I wrote in a previous post – it used to be scattered on the floor of gathering halls and theatres in Greece and Rome to help cover the “scent” of humans :).  Other uses are medicinal – as with most yellow and red foods, it’s really good for you!

As far as food goes…saffron is prized for its honey-hay like flavor and aroma, and of course, the golden yellow color it produces with just a pinch into any sauce, rice, soup, etc.  Buy your saffron in tiny amounts in whole stamen form.  The ground stuff isn’t nearly as good as it has more stuff from the flower to make it weigh more.  If you just can’t bring yourself to spend the $$ when a recipe calls for saffron, try substituting turmeric (VERY good for you).

Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering uses saffron in bread, soups, stews, risottos like our Saffron and Orchid Petal Risotto, and even desserts!  Have you tried saffron in a dish?  Tell us how you liked it here !

White Chocolate – the Impersonator

Dessert White Chocolate Cheesecake

White chocolate isn’t chocolate according to our government.  Thats right – there are different definitions of chocolate all over the world.  In OUR little corner of the world, the US, chocolate is only “real” when it contains only cocoa butter as its fat (except for up to 5% dairy butter to aid in emulsification).  White “chocolate” contains vegetable fat, milk solids, sugar, and vanilla.  Some of the finer labels contain some cocoa butter, but no cocoa solids at all.

The good news?  White chocolate sets faster than dark.  White chocolate also remains soft at room temperature.  This makes it ideal for cakes and buttercreams.  Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering uses white chocolate in some of our desserts – like our White Chocolate Cheesecake.  In what recipe do YOU use white chocolate?  Let us know at http://www.lulasforlunch.com/blog !

Awful Offal (NOT!)

App Brandied Poulet Pate on Slate

Do you like Pate?  Bologna? LIverwurst? Hot Dogs? Chances are you like offal, you just don’t know it.  How about “Sweetbreads with Mignonette Sauce”?

In the United States we tend to squeal a bit when we hear “offal”, but the “parts of an animal that fall off during slaughtering ‘off fall’ ”  are enjoyed and respected the world over.  Eating not only the working muscle of an animal but all parts is the best respect you can show the life that feeds you (you’ve heard me talk about “nose to tail” before…).  Enjoying these variety meats also helps to keep the price of the more expensive cuts controlled.

Ever had oxtail stew?  Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering’s Oxtail Stew is the BEST!!!

 

Happy Mother’s Day! Memories of Mom and Food

Happy Mother’s Day to all of my maternal peeps – whether your charge has a tail, or fur, or is destined to become President – I’ll just bet memories of YOU contain a bunch of food.  On this, the 2nd mother’s day for me without my mom, I’d like to remember mom’s WEIRD relationship with food, which she mostly didn’t even like, except, well, potato sticks.  Remember potato sticks that came (come) in a can?  They can still be found in strange corners of strange stores…this was more often than not mom’s lunch – at 11:30 sharp, she sat at the kitchen table with her Tab and the can of sticks.  Not surprising, since she ate dirt as a child!  Sticks and dirt – no wonder she didn’t like to eat!  If you know where to source Potato Sticks let me know – I love them too (in moderation, of course!).

Mom thought some things just tasted better if you stole them. Let me be clear: my mother did NOT consider it stealing.  She was “performing a service” – the pears were obviously going to rot and the pecans were going to get stolen by the squirrels.   My poor brother and sister (somehow I escaped this embarrassment) were hauled each summer and fall to farms that ran alongside the road with their pecan and pear trees hanging heavy, and spent the day picking, plucking, hiding and dodging.  These pears, along with all of the other vegetables that were grown in our garden, were put up for use all winter long (which in SC lasts less than 4 months – the rest of the year the garden yielded).  I never really cared for pear sauce, but it adorned the oatmeal I truly hated many mornings before school. Yum.  Not.  Never did I taste a canned vegetable until I went away to college.  Even our okra (yuck) was frozen.  To this day one can attend Irmo SC’s Annual Okra Strut.

More momentous for me was The Chitlin Strut – held annually (still) in Salley SC.  Man, we South Carolinians know how to party.  Salley has (had?) fabulous clothing outlets so the 1 hour drive was filled with anticipation for me as a teenager.  The chitlins did not fill me at all, ever.

Speaking of offal, my mother had a (let’s put this kindly) mischievous streak.   Once when in Italy, we were with a small group of 7 and dinner was cafeteria style.  Items were labeled and one tray, labeled “Trippa” looked enticing to American eyes as it was laced with a fabulous marinara and provolone.  Our companion was on mother’s last nerve so she elbowed me and winked, while (let’s call her Debra) oohed and aahed over the “Trippa” and asked mom what it was.  Mother said “Tripe!  It’s beef! It’s delicious!  Try some!”  So Debra did.  I didn’t know what the joke was as I had yet to be introduced to offal of any kind other than the cow’s liver that my grandfather loved, my grandmother served, and made something else for me and herself.    Turns out Debra thoroughly enjoyed the tripe until she was finished and my mother made sure to finish the explanation.  Tripe is the stomach lining of the cow, and sometimes sheep.

Mom did love two things edible: fish and vegetables.  We had a boat and daddy fluctuated between salt water and fresh water fish – almost always caught by daddy.   A consequence of this was fish for breakfast.  Not really so unusual down south – but most everybody I tell think it’s weird.  To this day I eat fish for breakfast sometimes.  Yum (for real this time!).   Mom also loved shellfish – she loved to crab and did not mind (too much) the picking of the crabs, mostly because daddy was such a big help, which is a messy business.  Every time we went near the beach we would haul back fresh shrimp and cleaning them mom DID mind.  She would place newspapers on the floor between our breakfast room and the den where she could see the TV and watch her “stories”, and sit there and cuss (she was a champion) while she shelled and deveined what seemed like ENDLESS shrimp.

Thanks for allowing me this trip down mom’s food memory lane.  It was fun! Click here to visit our website and check out our Mother’s Day Menu!

Make your own Herbed Vinegar!

app Baba Lula Ganoush

Wanna be fancy?  Wanna “look” fancy at your next get together?  Pick your vinegar:  Apple Cider, White, Wine, or Rice …let’s stop there and keep it simple.  Add 3 tablespoons fresh herb or mixture of herbs of your choice (mix a couple and make it a “house” vinegar”) for every quart of vinegar.

Don’t use ground herbs or spices because the vinegar will get cloudy.  Store it at room temperature, with a lid on, making sure your herbs are covered in the vinegar.  It will be ready in 24 hours, and after you use some, you can top it off again with the same original vinegar.  Just make sure your herbs stay covered.  If you’d like, you can remove the herbs after a couple of days.  Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering uses our Tarragon Vinegar to make pickles that we put in several recipes ( see pic of our Baba Lula Ganoush garnished with them!)

Vinegar is a preservative, but it does have its limits.  The word itself is derived from the French “vin aigre” meaning  “sour wine”.  Don’t use more than around 3 tablespoons of your herb mix per quart because too much foreign “matter” can result in food poisoning.  Happy Creating!

Let’s Go on a Caper with Capers

MM Veal Piccata

You’re dying to know..you can’t fool Lula.  What in the world ARE capers?  Answer – capers, sometimes called caperberries, are the unopened, pickled flower buds of the trailing Capparis spinosa shrub that grows in desert regions.  Most of these shrubs grow in the Sahara and surrounding regions.  They can be found, however, in various climates that are dry and arid – southern France, for example, and any other place (Texas comes to mind) with similar climate.

There are 170 or so species, and we know they’ve been used in cuisine since around 600 BC.  The younger the caper, the better.  In France, gourmets pick the berries every two days off of the shrubs to ensure the best flavor.  Capers are one of the primary ingredients in any “piccata” dish.   Lula’s for Lunch..and More! Catering uses capers in our Chicken, Veal (it goes without saying free range!), Pork, and Salmon Piccatas, as well as in our Tuna Tapenade Salad and our Nicoise creations.  You can find these selections at our Lula’s for Lunch website and order them any time – because capers come pickled they are not “seasonal” – though people tend to prefer light, refreshing piccatas throughout spring and summer.   Which is happening now.  Put a little piquancy in your life!  Enjoy!

Easter Traditions: Lamb, Eggs, and Ham (Green or Not!)

 

Lula’s Deconstructed Truffled Deviled Eggs

Ever wonder why Easter Eggs are “Easter” eggs?  For anyone marginally schooled in Christianity lamb is a given, borrowed from the Jewish Passover tradition (sacrifical lamb, Lamb of God, etc.), but spring lamb, ham, and eggs far predate Christianity.

Spring lamb is just coming to market at Easter and has been a celebratory menu item for eons across the world symbolizing new beginnings and rebirth.  The pig  was considered a symbol of luck in pre-Christian Europe and, hence, the bringing of ham to the table in springtime.

Pagan rites of spring brought the egg to the table.  The egg is a symbol of rebirth, rejuvenation, and immortality.  The early Christian calendar forbade the ingestion of eggs during lent, so everyone was really excited to eat them again when lent was over (Easter).  Egg decorating has been around for thousands of years.  Particularly intricate and beautiful designs come from central Europe.

Egg breads, particularly the hot cross bun, are very popular at Easter.  Archeological evidence however, proves that the hot cross bun has been around since 79 C.E. at the ancient site of Herculaneum.

Whatever you bring to your Easter table, enjoy with family and friends and celebrate rebirth of all kinds!