Monday, September 30, 2013

Easy Crock Pot Recipe: Zesty Pot Roast Barbecue

Beef pot roast barbecueIf you're a purist, you will object to my calling this "barbecue."

Normally I'm in agreement: Proper barbecue requires slow-cooking for hours in a smoker or BBQ pit. And if you're a North Carolina native, it ain't barbecue if it ain't pork.

But if you insist on either of those positions, you're missing out on some good eats.

As Texans know, beef can make some mighty fine barbecue.

And sometimes using a smoker simply isn't practical, such as during gale-force winds or when you don't even own a smoker.

This recipe is for those times, and for any other time you're craving BBQ but want the convenience and ease of cooking barbecue (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) in a crock pot or slow-cooker.

Admittedly, a crock pot won't give you that genuine smoke flavor that's only possible from real wood. But you'll still have mouthwatering, juicy, fall-apart tender meat to serve on a bun or plate. And it's hard to get simpler than this recipe, which you can even start the night before.

cooking BBQ in a crock pot
Ready to cook
1 2-lb beef roast*
1/2 medium onion, halved & thinly sliced (2-3oz)
4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 12-oz bottle or can of beer**
1 bottle of thick barbecue sauce, e.g., Stubb's BBQ Sauce, Hank Williams Jr. BBQ Sauce

*I used a very lean grass-fed sirloin tip roast that weighed 2 lbs. I'm sure you can use other types and sizes of roasts, but the larger the roast, the longer it will take to cook so plan accordingly.

**Use a beer you enjoy drinking but that's not too expensive. It's used as the cooking liquid to tenderize and lightly flavor the roast, and you'll end up pouring it off before "pulling" the meat. I used a bottle of Carolina Brewing Oktoberfest.

Crock pot beef BBQ
Ready to serve
Place the onions and garlic in the bottom of your crock pot and place the roast on top. Pour in the beer, cover and cook on Low for at least 12 hours or on Alternating Hi/Low for about 10 hrs (I assume it will take about 8 hours on High but don't know for sure). The roast needs to cook until it pulls apart easily with two forks.

When the roast is pull-apart tender, transfer it to a large plate and drain off the beer into a colander over your sink -- yes, you're discarding the "used" beer and saving the cooked onions & garlic. Use two forks to pull apart the meat, discarding any pieces of fat or gristle and returning the meat to the crock pot along with the onions and garlic. Pour about 1 1/2 cups of barbecue sauce over the pulled meat, stir to combine, cover and cook on low until ready to serve. The meat should be saucy but not "drowned" in sauce. Serve on buns or plates with additional sauce poured on top if desired. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Zestfully yours,

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Baked Acorn Squash with Roasted Garlic & Herb Filling

Acorn squash with roasted garlic & herb filling
This savory acorn squash recipe evokes the harvest and Thanksgiving with herbs like sage and thyme, which often are associated with stuffing (or dressing, if you prefer to call it that).

You can roast the garlic and onions and add the dry seasonings to the filling the day before, then cover and refrigerate until you're ready to make dinner the next day. Plan on one squash half per person as a side dish, and you can multiply the recipe to serve more people. You can also adjust the filling's ingredient amounts to better suit your tastes.

This recipe is vegetarian AND vegan. But I won't complain if you want to add some crumbled bacon to the filling. If you want to add meatless crunch, simply top with some chopped walnuts or pecans, preferably toasted for richer flavor.

1 acorn squash
1/2 of a medium onion, diced
1 1/2 Tbs raw minced garlic*
Olive Oil (you'll use 3 to 4 Tbs)
1/2 tsp rubbed sage
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp Kosher salt or sea salt (or regular table salt)
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1 Tbs chopped fresh parsley

*Although already-minced garlic is commercially available in jars, I recommend chopping up raw garlic cloves for roasting. If you end up with extra minced garlic, simply refrigerate in a small plastic baggie or lidded container, or freeze in a baggie with all the air squeezed out.

Preheat oven to 400°F and lightly oil a baking pan or sheet. Add 1 Tablespoon of olive oil to a small shallow baking dish or pan, tilting the dish so that the oil spreads out to evenly cover the bottom. Spread the onion and garlic in a single layer in the dish, drizzle with another Tablespoon of olive oil, stir to coat all then spread out again in a single layer. Place dish in oven and roast until the onions and garlic are a deep golden brown, stirring every 15 to 20 minutes or so (this can take 60 to 75 minutes). While that's roasting, cut the acorn squash in half lengthwise (from stem to tip), scoop out the seeds, and place cut-side down on a separate, lightly oiled baking sheet or pan. Place in oven and roast alongside the other dish until the flesh is becoming tender, being careful not to overcook -- normally I bake the squash at 350°F for 30 to 40 minutes, so it takes only 20 minutes or so at the higher temperature. You don't want to fully cook the squash because you'll finish baking it with the filling. When it is partly tender (you can stick a fork into the flesh on the cut side and it penetrates about halfway towards the shell), remove squash halves from oven and set aside.

baked acorn squash
Filled & ready to bake
After the onion & garlic has roasted to a deep golden brown, remove from oven and stir in the sage, thyme, salt & pepper, adding a little olive oil if it appears too dry. At this point you can either save this mixture (cover and refrigerate) until you are ready to stuff the squash halves, OR you can continue with the recipe.

Before filling the squash halves, stir the chopped parsley into the seasoned onion & garlic mixture and add a little more olive oil to make it moist but not swimming in the oil. Preheat oven to 375°F. spoon the filling into each squash half dividing it equally between them. Place the filled halves (cut side up, of course) on a lightly oiled baking sheet or pan and bake at 375°F until the squash is fully cooked and fork-tender all the way through, about 20 minutes. If desired, you can sprinkle additional fresh-chopped parsley over the squash halves when serving.

Zestfully yours,

Saturday, September 28, 2013

NEW Collegiate Hot Sauces: Baylor, UMass, Purdue, Louisiana & West Virginia

Baylor Bears Hot Sauce
For some time now, we've offered dozens of Collegiate hot sauces labeled with the officially-licensed colors and logos of different NCAA universities and colleges.

These products are especially popular for the college football tailgating season, before and during the college basketball season (and especially for March Madness game-watching get-togethers), and as hot sauce gifts for Christmas or Hanukkah, Father's Day, birthdays, graduation and other special occasions.

We get a lot of requests for additional collegiate hot sauces, and thus we're constantly looking to add more schools to our selection.

UMass Minutemen Hot SauceToday I have good news for alumni, students and their parents, staff, professors and fans of five more colleges and universities in the NCAA: The Carolina Sauces online store now carries the officially-licensed collegiate hot sauces for YOUR school!

Here are the new college and university hot sauces now available:

Baylor University Hot Sauce, proudly displaying the official BU logo on the label and sporting the green and gold colors of the Baylor Bears. This eye-catching Baylor Bears Hot Sauce is a must-have for gameday parties and tailgating.

Purdue Boilermakers Hot Sauce
UMass Minutemen hot sauce, bearing the image of the University of Massachusetts' mascot in the school's official colors of maroon and white, on a maroon label  -- this hot sauce from the University of Massachusetts is quite the attention-getter!

Purdue Boilermakers Hot Sauce, with the famous Purdue University logo on the old gold and black label (those colors happen to be used by my own undergraduate alma mater, dear old Wake Forest University -- but to my knowledge they don't have an officially licensed hot sauce at this time).

Louisiana Ragin' Cajun Hot Sauce
Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns Hot Sauce from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette comes with a brightly colored vermilion and Evangeline white label emblazoned with the school's fleur de lis logo. It's only natural that a university representing the land of cayenne peppers would have a cayenne hot sauce of its own, especially since the school's mascot is a cayenne pepper!

West Virginia Mountaineers Hot Sauce features a bold blue and old-gold label with the graphic "WV" logo prominently displayed for maximum impact. If your allegiance is with West Virginia University and you root for the Mountaineers, this is the hot sauce for you.

West Virginia Mountaineers Hot Sauce
All five of the above hot sauces are made from all-natural ingredients including red cayenne peppers, vinegar and salt for a classic all-purpose tangy-savory flavor and medium heat that will complement anything except dessert or other sweet stuff.

Whether you're making hot wings or grilling burgers, concocting a homemade BBQ sauce for ribs or marinating chicken for the grill, cooking a batch of chili or serving up nachos, or just need a crowd-pleasing versatile hot sauce to splash on fried chicken or spice up a dip or add to a game day recipe, all of these hot sauces are up for the task.

Buy collegiate hot sauces online while we have them on sale, or click here to search for your school's hot sauce.

Zestfully yours,

Friday, September 27, 2013

North Indian Eggplant with Onions

North Indian Eggplant with Onions
North Indian Eggplant with Onions, served over rice
Don't judge this recipe by its looks. As with a book, what really matters is what's inside: The sumptuously buttery, velvety eggplant and meltingly tender onions, the seductively mysterious aroma that evokes a distant land, the exotic yet alluring flavors that dance on your tongue with an enticing tang and vibrant spiciness....

I wish I could take credit for this recipe, but it is not my own creation. The original is found on p. 25 of Madhur Jaffrey's World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking. Based on my taste preferences and what I had on hand, I modified the ingredients slightly and adjusted the amounts so as to make 2 servings. Because both Greg and I enjoy spicy foods, my version definitely has a spicy kick, more so than her original recipe. If you are used to eating authentic Indian food or other ethnic cuisines known for their peppery heat, you'd probably consider my version of North Indian Eggplant with Onions to be no hotter than a "medium" -- but if your version of hot & spicy food ventures no hotter than a few splashes of Texas Pete or Tabasco sauce, you'll probably consider this dish to be solidly hot but nevertheless edible.  If you fall into that latter category, it's probably a good idea to use only a pinch or two of cayenne pepper when making this recipe, because you can always add more (but you can't subtract) when you taste for balance before serving.

Flickr photo by Robert.BlueSky
Ghee is a clarified butter sold at Indian and Pakistani markets as well as at Whole Foods and other similar specialty or natural food stores. You can also order ghee online through one of our trusted partners when you click here. Ghee has a wonderfully nutty flavor, deep yellow color and very high smoke point because the fat solids are removed during clarification. It's used extensively in Indian cooking and I also use it like regular butter, even on toast etc. If you're vegan or cannot find ghee, any kind of mild oil will work (I don't recommend olive oil because of its distinctive flavor).

Amchoor is a grayish powdered spice made from tart, unripe mangoes. It's found in the same sorts of markets and stores that sell ghee. The cookbook recommends substituting an equal amount of lemon juice (fresh-squeezed) if you cannot find amchoor.

Salting the eggplant draws out its liquid and keeps it from absorbing excess fat as it cooks. Otherwise the eggplant will thirstily sponge up all the ghee shortly after being added to the pot, along with any more you add (it's really quite remarkable how much fat raw eggplant can absorb as it cooks unless it's salted and squeezed prior to cooking). Don't worry, much of the salt is squeezed out along with the liquid and you will not end up with a salty dish merely by salting the eggplant as described.

amchoor powder
Flickr photo by tiny banquet committee
1 eggplant, approx. 1 lb
1 to 2 tsp salt
2 Tbs ghee (or a mild oil like vegetable or canola)
1/2 tsp whole fennel seeds
1/4 plus a pinch whole fenugreek seeds
1 medium onion
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp and 1/4 tsp amchoor powder
1/8 tsp (or to taste) ground Indian chili powder OR cayenne pepper
1 cup water
Salt to taste

Cut stem top off eggplant, peel and cut into 1" cubes. Place in a colander, sprinkle with salt while tossing gently to cover all sides with salt. Place colander in sink or over a bowl and let sit for 1 hour. In the meantime, trim and peel the onion, then chop into small pieces and set aside. This is also when I gather together all my spices and measuring spoons so that everything is on hand when needed (mise en place, if you will). When the eggplant has sat for an hour, gently squeeze out as much liquid as possible and blot with paper towels to remove salt & liquid, then set eggplant aside.

Ready to serve
Heat the ghee in a deep, large, heavy frying pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the fennel & fenugreek seeds -- they'll sizzle a bit if the ghee is hot enough -- and cook until they start getting darker (this should happen in less than 30 seconds). Stir in the onion & eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes to soften the vegetables. Be careful not to scorch the eggplant and reduce the heat a little if necessary.

Add the coriander, cumin, 1/2 tsp amchoor and red pepper, then cook while stirring for 1 minute until the spices are evenly dispersed throughout the vegetables.  Add the water, bring to a simmer, cover & reduce heat. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring once or twice, and cook until the eggplant is very tender and thoroughly cooked. Taste for balance and add salt to taste if desired (I added just under 1/2 tsp) and the rest of the amchoor if you want a more tangy flavor. Serve hot or cold, or even at room temperature, on its own or with Naan (or other Indian bread) or over cooked Basmati rice.

Zestfully yours,
Carolina Sauce Company

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Fifty Shades of... Hot Sauce??

Fifty Shades of Red Hot Sauce
If you enjoy hot sauce and are one of the millions of readers out there who couldn't get enough of Fifty Shades of Gray -- or if you know someone who meets that description -- this announcement is for you:

The Carolina Sauce Company is now your source for Fifty Shades of Red Hot Sauce, inspired by the blockbuster novel!

It was only a matter of time before some enterprising hot sauce manufacturer would capitalize on the "50 Shades" craze along with the popular belief that hot peppers can inflame the passions. And when we discovered that someone had indeed done so, we jumped on the bandwagon and added these new hot sauces to our online store.

Fifty Shades of Red Cayenne Pepper Hot Sauce is a passionately irresistible combination of peppery pleasure and pain. Its suggestive label and the sauce's blood-red color will get your heart beating faster while your mouth waters in anticipation of that first taste. Direct and to the point, Fifty Shades of Red is not shy about giving you what you want when you're craving real cayenne pepper flavor and fire. Use it every day -- heck, indulge in it several times a day! -- whether in the kitchen, on the table, at the stove, in the dining room, even outside when the neighbors are watching (i.e., when grilling or dining on your deck). And don't worry if you're a hot sauce virgin or relatively new to chili adventures: This hot sauce will show you the ropes without hurting you (too much). Whether your idea of foreplay begins with a gourmet dinner served on china under candlelight, or centers around delivery pizza (and the delivery boy/girl?) and a six-pack in front of the TV, this all-natural hot sauce is up for any occasion.

Fifty Shades Hotter Habanero Sauce
Are you experienced? I'm talking about super-hot sauces that dare to go where few will venture. If you answered yes, then you're ready to graduate to Fifty Shades Hotter Habanero Hot Sauce. With every bite or lick, intense and unrelenting flames will lash at your tongue, sending shockwaves rippling through you until your eyes well up with tears, your body trembles, and you're left gasping for mercy yet unable to stop begging for more. Yes, it will dominate you, as the label brashly proclaims. And you need to sign a liability waiver before you can get your hands on this dangerous hot sauce. There's nothing fake or phony about it, either: No added capsaicin extract -- to me that's the equivalent of Viagra for hot sauces that otherwise fall short -- and there are no artificial ingredients. This one's the real deal: Uninhibited, unadulterated, unbridled habanero firepower that's not for the timid or uninitiated.

Intrigued? Titillated? Or simply rolling your eyes at my sorry attempt at writing hot sauce "soft porn?" Fine, I'll cut to the chase: Buy Fifty Shades hot sauces online from the Carolina Sauces online store, while they're on sale.

Zestfully yours,

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Zesty Roasted Garlic & Cilantro Salsa

roasted garlic cilantro salsa
Here is a very simple recipe for salsa that's just as good with tortilla chips or your favorite Mexican foods as it is a fresh, low-calorie, low carb and fat-free accompaniment for fish (use instead of tartar or cocktail sauce).  In fact, it was the perfect topping for Mexican-spiced grilled tilapia, as shown in the photo below on the right.

Don't let all those healthy attributes keep you away from my roasted garlic & cilantro salsa: This good-for-you recipe is bursting with zesty flavor, and you can make it as mild or fiery as you'd like.

Best of all, it takes merely minutes to make -- although I do recommend refrigerating for at least an hour to allow the flavors to meld and the cilantro to mellow.

2 large tomatoes, finely chopped
8 to 10 cloves of roasted garlic, minced
1 to 2 jalapenos or other hot peppers, seeded & minced
1 1/2 to 2 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro (including tender stems)
Salt to taste

Mexican grilled tilapia with salsa
Combine everything except the salt in a bowl. Taste for balance and add salt to taste. You can also add a little more cilantro, hot pepper or roasted garlic for zestier flavor -- or if the flavor is too strong, just chop up another tomato and add some or all of it to the mix. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and stir before serving.

Zestfully yours,

PS:  Don't have time to make salsa, even when it's this easy? No problem! The Carolina Sauces online store has a tremendous variety of salsas to choose from, ranging from mild to insanely hot, and including fruit salsa, black bean salsa, crab salsa made with real Maryland crabmeat, and other tasty varieties in addition to traditional tomato salsa. Browse our Salsa page to see everything we have to offer.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

New Flavors of Salvation Sauce are Here, Mini-Bibles Included

Salvation Sauce Caribbean Lime Hot SauceSalvation Sauce was born in a church kitchen over 10 years ago. Since then, it's grown to become Colorado's most popular hot sauce brand, helping to fund and support a soup kitchen in Denver, numerous mission trips, church youth groups and charitable programs that help families in need.

For some time now, the Carolina Sauces online store has carried the original Salvation Hot Sauce flavors, complete with the mini-Bible keychain attached to the bottle neck.

Today I'm pleased to announce that the Carolina Sauce Company has added three more flavors of this big-hearted and big-flavored hot sauce, and they're all on sale when you order online!

The first new flavor is Salvation Sauce Caribbean Lime Hot Sauce, a jaunty blend of tart limes and just the right amount of searing serrano chilies for a refreshing, spicy flavor that complements fish and seafood, chicken dishes, rice and your favorite vegetable recipes. Surprisingly light but with a perky peppery bite, it adds just enough citrus and heat to wake up your taste buds without burning them out or overwhelming your food. Try a splash on seared scallops or with oysters on the half-shell to delight in an earthly pleasure without risking your eternal soul.

Salvation Sauce Mango Pineapple Hot SauceAlso new is Salvation Sauce Mango Pineapple Hot Sauce, a pairing of tropical flavors and fire that's so sublime it must have been divinely inspired. Succulent, ripe mangoes provide a lush natural sweetness that's balanced by the bright tang of juicy pineapples, with fiery red habanero peppers added to remind us of hell's fury if we overindulge. If you like to live and eat on the edge, this temptingly devilish hot sauce is for you. Pair it with chicken, seafood, pork and stir-fry recipes. Splash it on burgers, grilled shrimp or vegetables, all sorts of kabobs, and even with fried fish, breaded chicken wings, French fries, onion rings, tater tots and other finger food.

Salvation Sauce Chipotle Hot SauceFinally, if you've been searching in vain for a chipotle hot sauce that's not your ordinary run-of-the-mill supermarket sauce, Salvation Chipotle Hot Sauce is here to save you from despair. Smoky chipotles bring their rich earthiness and dark undertones while red cayennes and habaneros contribute their sharp high notes for a symphony of flavors that chiliheads will deem angelic in nature. Consider this an everyday go-to hot sauce for the table and in recipes, assuming you have the fortitude to handle the heat -- it compares to any good Mexican restaurant's house-made chipotle sauce.

Like the original flavors, all three new flavors of Salvation Sauce come with a miniature Holy Bible key chain attached to the neck of the bottle and proudly display a radiant cross on the label.

Buy Salvation Sauce online and help this grassroots small business continue to do good while you eat well.

Zestfully yours,

PS: If you're a socially conscious consumer or hot sauce connoisseur who wants to support good causes by buying products from companies that donate to various charities and non-profits, be sure to visit our Sauce for a Cause page where you can buy hot sauce and BBQ sauce from companies who do just that!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Baked Garlic-Cheese Stuffed Peppers

This recipe was born out of necessity. The original plan was for Greg to grill the stuffed peppers, but a lengthy and torrential downpour made outdoor cooking untenable. I therefore fired up the oven and prayed for edible results (given the cranky nature of my oven and my lack of experience cooking cheese-stuffed peppers, my expectations were low).

Much to our delight, the oven-baked cheese-stuffed peppers were a smashing and zesty success, and far easier to make than grilled ones because there was no risk of flare-ups. Although the baked peppers didn't develop the subtle smokiness or caramelized charring that grilling makes possible, baking provided a magnificently mellow, roasted flavor with hints of natural sweetness that was equally satisfying in its own way. There was no problem with cheese oozing out of the peppers, and the filling was nicely golden on the surface and perfectly melty-hot inside. Needless to say, we plan on cooking cheese-stuffed peppers in the oven again.

The quantities in the following recipe is completely adaptable to your tastes and how many peppers (and their sizes) you have on hand. We had a quart of mixed mild smallish peppers (9 total) and ended up with about 1/4 cup leftover cheese filling, which we refrigerated for later use as a spread for a bagel or crackers, or perhaps with raw celery and carrot sticks. In the past Greg even has used leftover cheese filling in omelets. So if you have a lot of peppers to stuff, be sure to err on the side of making too much filling rather than not enough because it won't go to waste.

1 Quart small to medium peppers, either mild/sweet or hot (or a mix)
1 8oz block of cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese*, softened at room temperature
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 1/2 to 2 Tbs (to taste) chopped roasted garlic cloves**
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano

Roasted garlic, feta & cream cheese
*If calories and/or fat are a concern, I recommend using Neufchatel cheese rather than fat-free cream cheese because the latter won't melt as well.

**You can buy containers of already-roasted garlic in the deli or produce section of better supermarkets if you don't have time to roast the garlic yourself. I usually buy fresh raw peeled garlic cloves to roast in my oven or for my time-saving stove-top "roasted" garlic recipe.

Preheat oven to 425°F and line a baking sheet or shallow pan with parchment paper or foil (I like parchment paper better for evenness of cooking and no sticking). Remove stems and seeds from peppers, and any ribs that are too big. For round or squat peppers that can sit upright, I cut the top off around the stem to create pepper "cups." For long peppers like Anaheims, poblanos, jalapenos or mini-sweets, I slice in half lengthwise.

Ready to bake
Combine the remaining ingredients in a small bowl -- I use a fork to "mash" everything together. Spoon this filling into the peppers, place the peppers on the lined sheet or pan and bake at 425°F until the cheese is golden on top and the peppers are soft, about 15 minutes (keep an eye on them after about 13 minutes, especially if your oven is quirky like  mine).

What's your favorite filling for stuffed peppers? Tell us in a comment below.

Zestfully yours,

PS: If you are addicted to hot & spicy foods and are brave enough to eat the hottest peppers on the planet, I recommend Dave's Gourmet Whole Ghost Peppers, on sale now at the Carolina Sauces online store. You can chop or slice them like you would jarred jalapenos or other such peppers: For topping nachos, adding to sandwiches or salads, stirring into dips or salsas, and using in chili and other recipes.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Panamanian-Style Hot Sauces from Howler Monkey have Arrived!

Howler Monkey Original Hot Sauce
Howler Monkey hot sauces were created by two buddies who grew up in Panama and missed the distinctively delicious flavor and heat of their homeland's hot sauces made with the local aji chombo pepper (a native variety of scotch bonnet pepper).

Reminiscent of West Indian style hot sauces but not as heavy on the mustard, Panamanian-style hot sauces are used in cooking as well as on served food at the table, and you'll find bottled aji chombo salsa (the Spanish name) on restaurant tables throughout the country.

Vinegar-based and tangy, the heat of these Panamanian sauces is comparable to that of Caribbean and West Indian scotch bonnet hot sauces, perhaps just a touch milder, and with an agreeably savory (not sweet) flavor that complements any kind of food except dessert.

Howler Monkey Panama Style Hot Sauce
Howler Monkey Original Hot Sauce is made from the traditional classic aji chombo Panama hot sauce recipe, but perhaps a tad less hot than what you'll find in Panama. The pepper's flavor, however, is just as present, making it an excellent introduction to this style of hot sauce as well as a good choice when serving a crowd with varying heat preferences. You can use Howler Monkey Original as you would any other all-purpose, medium-heat hot sauce, whether in recipes or at the table. You could even use it in your recipe for homemade buffalo wing sauce for a tropical change of pace that's spicier than your usual cayenne pepper hot sauce.

If your preference is for a hotter sauce with a more intense burn, then Howler Monkey Hot Panamanian-Style Hot Sauce is the one for you. This is as close as you can get to the authentic "in-country" experience without leaving your own home. Red habaneros are added to the original recipe for a more pronounced and more intense heat level, and yet the overall flavor remains well-balanced and food-friendly. This one will satisfy fans of real heat coupled with genuine native flavor. Once again this is an all-purpose hot sauce, but because it's definitely hot and not "merely" a medium in terms of heat level, it's probably best to reserve it for heartier fare rather than seafood, steamed or other gently-prepared vegetables, or other less robust dishes.

Howler Monkey Amarillo Hot Sauce
When your tastebuds call for a zesty mustard hot sauce that packs a tart and tangy heat, use Howler Monkey Amarillo Hot Sauce. Amarillo means yellow in Spanish, and that's the color of this bright and sunny hot sauce made from yellow scotch bonnet peppers, mustard and cumin added to the original Howler Monkey recipe. This one calls out for pork in all forms, and it's also a superb condiment with hot dogs, sausages of all types, hamburgers, cold cut sandwiches and anything else you'd enjoy with mustard. In terms of heat, it's a bit more powerful than the Original version but not as fiery as the Hot. If you're a fan of Matouk's hot sauces and other similar mustard-based hot sauces from the West Indies, Trinidad & Tobago, Antigua (e.g., Susie's Hot Sauce) and the like, it's a safe bet that you'll enjoy this Panama-Style Amarillo sauce as a change of pace.

Howler Monkey Verde Hot Sauce
Green habaneros, green bell peppers and cilantro endow Howler Monkey Verde Hot Sauce with its vibrant, verdant hue and bright, crisp flavor that hints at natural bell-pepper sweetness but with that unmistakeably sharp habanero bite. Superb with steak and other types of beef, this green hot sauce is mellow enough to use on fish and seafod, rice dishes, vegetables prepared pretty much any way, and even on nachos and other Mexican fare. Don't be fooled by the color: Howler Monkey Verde is not a tomatillo sauce -- so if you've been searching for a green hot sauce that doesn't rely on artificial colors and/or doesn't taste like tomatillos, here is the answer to your search.

All flavors and varieties of Howler Monkey Hot Sauce are all-natural and made from the finest ingredients, including select peppers lovingly grown and picked at their peak for the specific flavor profile desired for each particular sauce recipe. You can now buy Howler Monkey sauces online and on sale from Carolina Sauces.

Zestfully yours,

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Spaghetti Squash with 3-Tomato Sauce & Crispy Hog Jowls

Spaghetti squash 3-tomato sauce pork cheeks
I came up with the following recipe after returning from the farmer's market with green (unripe) tomatoes as well as ripe ones, and discovering that I also had sun-dried tomatoes in my pantry. On a whim I also purchased a package of what looked like fatty bacon but was labeled "Hog Jowls." And spaghetti squash makes regular appearances on our dinner table as a low-carb, low-calorie alternative to traditional spaghetti made from wheat flour.

Now back to the hog jowls, which probably drew you to this recipe in the first place....

Traditionally used in the South to season black-eyed peas or greens when bacon was unaffordable and historically looked down upon by many as "poor folk's food," hipster foodies and popular chefs recently have elevated the lowly hog jowl to trendy gourmet status by renaming it "pork cheeks" and also calling hog jowls by their Italian name, guanciale.

Regardless of which name you prefer, hog jowls are often sold smoked and sliced like bacon, and look like very fatty bacon. Not surprisingly, they're similar to bacon in flavor and while fattier than bacon, pork cheeks are leaner than fatback. Because of their high fat-to-meat ratio, hog jowls are best used as a seasoning ingredient in recipes rather than a star.

Hog jowls pork cheeks
Frying hog jowls aka pork cheeks
If you can't find hog jowls, pork cheeks or guanciale at your local butcher, farmer's market or specialty store, simply substitute bacon when you make this spaghetti squash recipe. If after frying the bacon you don't end up with enough bacon fat to saute the ingredients for the tomato sauce, simply add a little bit of olive oil.

1 spaghetti squash (mine was 1 1/2 lbs)
3-4 slices pork cheeks (smoked hog jowls, guanciale) or bacon
1 small onion, chopped (approx. 4 oz)
1 small bell pepper, chopped (approx. 4 oz)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 lb green tomatoes, chopped
1/4 lb ripe tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup dry-packed sundried tomatoes (not the ones in oil), snipped into small pieces
1/2 tsp each of the following dried herbs: Rosemary, Oregano, Thyme, & Basil
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/2 cup + 1/4 cup red wine
1/2 tsp salt (to taste)
Optional toppings: shredded or grated parmigiano cheese, chopped fresh parsley, red pepper flakes

three-tomato sauce
Cooking 3-tomato sauce
Cook the spaghetti squash until tender and you can pull the inside into strands: I cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds, then place cut-side down in a glass baking dish with 1/2" water and cook in my microwave oven until soft, about 15 minutes (you can also boil or bake the squash instead - just pierce a few times with a fork if cooking whole). While the squash cooks and then cools to the touch, you can make the sauce as described below. Once the squash is cool enough to handle, use a fork to scoop the insides out into a bowl, separating into spaghetti-like strands (discard the shells). Set the squash aside until sauce is ready.

For the sauce: Fry the hog jowls or bacon slices in a large, deep skillet or heavy-bottomed pot until crisp. Transfer to paper towels, reserving the rendered fat in the skillet (you'll want about 2 Tbs total; pour off any excess, or add a little olive oil if there's not enough fat). Saute the onions in the fat until soft, then add bell pepper & garlic and saute until soft. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring regularly, until tomatoes begin to soften. Add the herbs & ground pepper, pour in 1/2 cup wine and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer and cook until the tomatoes are breaking down and much of the liquid has evaporated (about 15 minutes), stirring from time to time and lowering the heat if needed so as to not scorch the sauce. Slowly pour in the remaining 1/4 cup of wine while stirring to deglaze the pan, scraping up any caramelized bits that may have stuck to the surface of the skillet. Continue cooking until most of the liquid has evaporated and you have a chunky, thick sauce. Crumble in the cooked pork cheeks or bacon, stir and taste for balance, adding salt as desired.

Two options for serving:

(1) Transfer the cooked spaghetti squash strands into the skillet with the sauce and gently stir until thoroughly combined, then serve with your choice of toppings if any. That's how I served it in the photos here, only to realize that it's rather dreary in color and not exactly attractive despite being quite pleasing to the palate (proving once again that ugly food can be "good eats").

For a prettier presentation with better colors, serve this way:

(2) Transfer the spaghetti squash strands onto a serving platter or individual plates, spoon the sauce over the squash, then finish with any of the optional toppings if desired. You'll have a cheery yellow base of spaghetti squash contrasted with and complemented by the dark reddish brown of the three-tomato sauce, and accented with the colors of any of the toppings. Add to the visual impact by serving on black or other deeply-hued single-color plates.

Tahiti Joe's Tropi-Garlic Italian Heat Hot SauceZestfully yours,

PS:  If you like hot & spicy foods and want to jazz up this recipe by adding some heat, I recommend splashing on a complementary hot sauce at the table. One good choice would be the Italian-inspired Tahiti Joe's Italian Heat Tropi-Garlic Hot Sauce, currently on sale at the Carolina Sauces online store. And if you'd like a special coupon code for an additional 5% off this hot sauce or any other Carolina Sauces products, simply leave a comment or send a PM (private message) on the Carolina Sauce Facebook page requesting the coupon and I'll send it to you (coupon is good thru midnight EDT on 9/30/13).

Friday, September 20, 2013

Our September VIP Coupon Sale Ends at Midnight Tonight

Carolina Sauce VIP Club
Time is running out to save 7% off your product total at the Carolina Sauces online store!

Our September VIP coupon sale ends at midnight EDT tonight, when the coupon code is set to expire.

If you haven't yet used your VIP coupon, what are you waiting for? We have many new products to try, as well as your favorite barbecue sauces from eastern AND western NC, Texas, Kansas City, Memphis and other parts of the U.S. famous for their regional BBQ style. And don't forget the hot sauces, ranging from mild to WILD on the heat scale and spanning the globe in terms of countries of origin. Plus zesty mustards & gourmet ketchups, a variety of salsas, plenty of dry rubs and seasonings for indoor and outdoor cooking, and a wide selection of themed sauce gifts (Christmas will be here sooner than you realize).

Your VIP coupon code is reusable AND transferable, which means you can share it with friends or use it on multiple orders before it expires.

Didn't get a VIP coupon code but want to save when you shop online today?

Simply email me as soon as possible, and I'll send you our September coupon and add you to our VIP club so you don't miss out next month.

Zestfully yours,

PS: We hate Spam at least as much as you do, and we're privacy nuts, too. Thus, we fully comply with CAN-SPAM and will never send you unsolicited email or share your email address with anyone. As a VIP Club member, you will receive only one email a month (the newsletter) and that's it, unless we have to contact you about an order you placed or we're replying to an email you sent us. You can unsubscribe anytime and we honor all unsubscribe requests. Any questions? Please email me.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Lexington BBQ Slaw: Western NC's Famous Red Slaw

Lexington western NC barbecue with BBQ slaw
Chopped BBQ plate, Mr. Barbecue in Winston-Salem, NC
Red slaw, aka BBQ slaw, is a type of chopped cabbage slaw that's peculiar to the Piedmont area of North Carolina, where Lexington style (aka western NC style) barbecue is king.

Unless you grew up eating BBQ slaw, you might think its tangy-spicy-sweet flavor is somewhat peculiar, too. But if you don't have a sworn allegiance to creamy mayonnaise-based cole slaw or to eastern NC tart vinegar slaw, I suggest you give red BBQ slaw a chance. Try a taste of BBQ slaw the next time you see it on the menu at a North Carolina barbecue joint. To me, it's the best-tasting slaw for serving with genuine Lexington style chopped or sliced pork barbecue. In fact, when given the chance I'll eat it with pretty much with any style of NC barbecue or other grilled or smoked fare normally served with slaw.

If you're already a fan of red slaw and want to enjoy it anytime at home, or if you're open-minded and want to give it a try but don't live anywhere near central or western North Carolina, here is my version of Lexington BBQ red slaw. Although you'll find other recipes out there that list a bunch of ingredients, my version is far simpler and faster. Those longer, more-involved recipes have you mix up what's essentially a western NC barbecue sauce that you use to dress the chopped cabbage. In contrast, my BBQ slaw recipe saves you time and effort by simply using a good-quality bottled western NC barbecue sauce such as Bone Suckin' Sauce. After adding the sauce to the cabbage, all you have to do is taste for balance and adjust the flavor to suit your personal preference for sweetness, tang and spice.

Red slaw tastes best if you make it the night before serving and let it sit in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to develop and meld. You could also make it in the morning before work and refrigerate until ready to serve in the evening with dinner. After you've made this recipe once, you'll get a sense of how to multiply it to make larger quantities for a cookout, party, potluck or other get-together.

Lexington NC barbecue tray with hush puppies & BBQ slaw
Chopped BBQ Tray, Little Richard's in Winston-Salem NC
1 small head of cabbage, approx. 1 1/2 lbs
3/4 cup western NC BBQ sauce, e.g., Bone Suckin' Sauce or Jim's Own Homestyle BBQ Sauce
2 Tbs ketchup (use a spicy ketchup if you want slaw with a kick)
1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
Optional: Sugar, salt, ground pepper, hot sauce
Trim and core the cabbage, cut into wedges then chunks, and either chop manually (which can take a long time) or chop in a food processor (my preferred method -- very fast!) until pretty finely chopped. Place chopped cabbage in a large, non-metal bowl.

Whisk together the barbecue sauce, ketchup and cider vinegar, then pour over the cabbage and stir until thoroughly combined. Taste for balance and if desired, add a little more BBQ sauce, ketchup (for a mellower, slightly sweeter flavor), or vinegar (for more tang). If you feel it's necessary, add any of the optional ingredients a little at a time, stirring well and tasting after each addition. Remember that the flavors will come together and develop after refrigerating for a few hours or overnight.

BBQ tray at Lexington BBQ Festival, NC
Cover and refrigerate the prepared slaw until ready to serve, and give it a good stir and one last taste for balance before serving. Because this slaw does not contain mayonnaise, it will keep several days in your fridge.

Zestfully yours,

PS:  If you want to learn how to make genuine North Carolina barbecue at home on your smoker, read this post.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Lawyer's Breath & Other "Legal" Hot Sauces Discontinued

Lawyer's Hot Sauce Gift
Bad news for fans of the "Judicial Flavors" line of lawyer-themed hot sauces:

According to our warehouse partner, the manufacturer has discontinued production and the hot sauces are no longer available. 

This is indeed sad news, especially since Lawyer's Breath Hot Sauce had been one of the longest-lived -- and better-tasting -- hot sauces on the market.

Lawyer's Breath, along with So Sue Me, Contempt of Court and Under the Influence hot sauces, were very popular among legal professionals including attorneys, paralegals, judges, law students, law school professors and legal staff. In addition to being sold separately, all four Judicial Flavors sauces could be purchased together as our Lawyer's Gift Set, which historically had been one of the best-selling hot sauce gifts at the Carolina Sauce Company for years.

So it is with a heavy heart that we bid farewell to these well-made hot sauces, created by a lawyer with a good sense of humor and an even better palate.

If you are looking for a replacement sauce for one or more of these lawyer hot sauces and aren't sure what to try, please don't hesitate to email me to ask for a recommendation. I'm always happy to help, and although we don't have any other legal-themed hot sauces at this time, I'm confident that I can recommend a similar-tasting substitute for any of these discontinued sauces.

Zestfully yours,

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tahini Dressing & Dipping Sauce

Israeli kabobs with tahini dressing
The following recipe is based on the Tahini Dressing recipe found on p. 68 of Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant, an excellent cookbook by The Moosewood Collective containing hundreds of ethnic and regional recipes from around the world. I've modified the original ingredients slightly to suit my preferences for a zestier dressing and sauce with a bit more peppery zip and a greater garlic presence.

This recipe makes about 3 1/2 cups of tahini sauce and dressing, just like the original. I store it in a quart mason jar in my refrigerator, where it will keep for weeks because there's no dairy in the recipe. Tahini sauce is a ubiquitous condiment throughout the Middle East, whether drizzled over kabobs, shawarma, gyros or falafel in pitas or salads, or served as a dipping sauce. In the photo on the left I drizzled the tahini dressing over ktzitzot, which are Israeli meat patties popular in Jewish (and specifically Sephardic) cuisine. I also enjoy this zesty, dairy-free tahini dressing over a green salad with a little bit of freshly-squeezed lime juice and a sprinkling of chopped parsley.

1 cup tahini (ground sesame seed paste)
1/2 cup canola oil (I use organic to avoid GMOs)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (I used 1 large Meyer lemon)
6 to 8 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt (I use Kosher or sea salt)
Heaping 1/4 tsp ground cayenne or red pepper
1 cup water

Place all ingredients except the water in a blender and begin blending at a low setting, pausing as necessary if the blender is working too hard. Once that mixture is combined, slowly pour in the water while continuing to blend -- you can increase the speed as the dressing becomes thinner. Continue to blend until you've added all the water -- the dressing will be pourable yet somewhat thick with a creamy consistency. Pour into a large, tightly lidded jar (I use a narrow spatula to scrape out all the dressing from the inside of the blender) and store in refrigerator. Stir well before using.

Zestfully yours,

Monday, September 16, 2013

Three Stooges Hot Sauces for Moe, Larry & Curly Fans

3 Stooges Larry's Lightning Hot Sauce
Attention all Three Stooges fans:

The Carolina Sauce Company now has Three Stooges Hot Sauces, featuring Moe, Larry and Curly on the labels!

Larry's Lightning Hot Sauce, made with aged red peppers, is a versatile all-purpose hot sauce reminiscent of those Louisiana hot sauces found on the table or countertop at your favorite sandwich shop, family-friendly breakfast cafe, "N'Awleans" style Cajun restaurant or old-fashioned barbecue joint. Just like the classic Three Stooges television show show, this straightforward vinegar-pepper sauce doesn't need anything fancy to get top ratings: No distracting spices or additives, no sugary sweetness, no exotic chilies, no trendy excessive heat; just reliably satisfying red pepper flavor.  In short, this deceptively simple hot sauce is great for anyone who wants to add a touch of peppery zip. Larry's Lightning will spice up anything from scrambled eggs and hash browns at breakfast to anything savory that you serve for lunch or dinner. It's also ideal for homemade Buffalo wings. And don't forget to keep a bottle on hand at the stove or barbecue grill whenever you're cooking because it's perfect for delivering a little kick to your food without making it too hot to handle.

3 Stooges Moe Hotta Hot Sauce
Moe Hotta! Three Stooges Hot Sauce is exactly that, "mo' hotta" than Larry's Lightning. Fresh, fiery habanero peppers are the stars in this zesty Caribbean-style hot sauce that's made with a traditional savory blend of carrots, onions and garlic in a tangy vinegar-lime juice base. Moe Hotta Hot Sauce has honest habanero flavor with the requisite hot burn that fiery-foods fans appreciate and expect in a quality habanero pepper sauce -- and won't find in some watered-down, overly vinegary supermarket "hot" sauce. Whether you're cooking Mexican favorites, simmering a pot of hearty chili, spicing up your pizza or nachos, or concocting your own spicy-hot signature barbecue sauce -- or simply wanting to perk up some boring leftovers or adding sass to takeout when you're too tired or busy to cook -- Moe Hotta is guaranteed to win over even the toughest audience and make a jaded culinary critic crack a smile of approval.

3 Stooges Curly's Knockout! Hot SauceDo you prefer a powerful peppery punch? Can you handle heat that would make chili wimps cry as if they'd been poked in the eye?  Then get ready to experience Curly's Knockout! Hot Sauce. This is the hottest of the Three Stooges Hot Sauces, delivering fiery aged red habanero peppers in a savory-tangy base that's reminiscent of the potent red hot sauces you'll find at Mexican restaurants and authentic taquerias. Solidly hot but not insanely so, Curly's Knockout may be too much to handle if you never venture outside of the Texas Pete and Tabasco Sauce heat level. But if you enjoy hot salsa and the occasional habanero or two in your condiments or recipes, you can take on this hot sauce (and don't worry, it's nowhere near the super-hot, ultra-hot or extract-enhanced hot sauces that only the addicts crave). You can use it on all the same foods and recipes as the other two sauces in the Three Stooges family, as long as you respect its more intense heat level.

All three varieties of Three Stooges Hot Sauce are made with all-natural ingredients, and they're currently on sale at the Carolina Sauces online store. And if you want to save an additional 7% off the already-reduced sale price, simply email me with the subject heading "Make me a VIP" and I'll send you our current VIP coupon code and add you to our VIP Club so that you don't miss out on our monthly VIP coupons.

Zestfully yours,

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Green Tomato, Okra & Bacon Stew

Green tomato okra & bacon stew
This "throw cooking" recipe is a great way to enjoy green tomatoes without having to fry them. It's the result of improvisation one evening when I was not in the mood for cooking but had a bounty of vegetables from an earlier trip to the farmer's market.

If you usually steer away from okra, rest assured that it is not slimy in this recipe. Perhaps the acidity from the green tomatoes counteracts okra's notorious sliminess?

To be perfectly honest, I did not measure the fresh thyme when making this stew -- but the other ingredients were measured and/or weighed, and accurately documented. Feel free to adjust or substitute herbs, including dried for fresh and vice versa, to suit your tastes and what's on hand.

I cooked this late-summer stew in a large enamel-clad Dutch oven, but it should also work in a heavy soup pot. I don't recommend using "bare" cast iron because of the acidity of the tomatoes.

Finally, if you are a fan of hot and spicy food, feel free to add a chopped jalapeno or other hot chili along with the bell pepper. You can also spice up my green tomato okra & bacon stew with a few splashes of hot sauce at the table, and for that I would recommend any good Louisiana hot sauce.

3 thick slices of bacon
1 bay leaf
1 cup chopped onion
4 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup white wine, preferably a dry crisp one (I used sauvignon blanc)
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
1 lb green tomatoes, chopped
Fresh thyme: Approx. 1/2 tsp (just the leaves from several large sprigs)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 lb fresh okra, trimmed and cut into 1/2" thick slices
1 cup chicken stock
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

green tomato okra stew
Fry the bacon until crisp in a large, heavy pot or an enamel-clad Dutch oven. Transfer bacon onto paper towels to blot excess grease and set aside; reserve the rendered bacon fat in the pot. Add the bay leaf, onion & garlic to the pot and cook until lightly caramelized (I recommend medium-low heat to keep the bacon fat from smoking). Pour in the wine and stir to deglaze the pot, gently scraping up any bits of onion or bacon that might remain on the bottom. Cook for a few minutes, stirring regularly, until wine has reduced a little bit. Add remaining ingredients, stir and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and let cook 20 minutes at a low simmer. Uncover, stir and check for doneness: the green tomatoes should be very tender. If  not yet done, cover and continue to simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes. When everything is tender to your liking, crumble in the bacon and stir, taste for balance, and add more salt or herbs if desired. Serve hot in bowls, either "as is" for a low-carb stew or over cooked rice (quinoa, couscous and other cooked grains can also be used as a base).

Zestfully yours,

Friday, September 13, 2013

Tasty Tailgating Apps & 7% Off Coupon for Carolina Sauces

Grilled stuffed peppers
Are you looking for a crowd-pleasing appetizer for your next pre-game tailgate or friendly football-watching get-together?

Do you proudly display your allegiance to your collegiate alma mater any way you can?

Would you like to save 7% off your product total at the Carolina Sauces online store?

If you answered "YES!" to any of these questions, then I hope you're a Carolina Sauce VIP.

Our September VIP Newsletter, emailed yesterday to all our VIP Club members, includes great ideas and tips for making cheese-stuffed peppers on your smoker and grill. We also have dozens of NCAA collegiate hot sauces on sale, plus NCAA collegiate BBQ Sauce & Hot Sauce gift boxes that are ideal for tailgating. And best of all, the newsletter includes a VIP-only coupon for 7% off when you shop online with us!

If you did not receive your VIP newsletter, or if you're not yet a VIP Club member and would like to join, simply email me and I'll forward a copy of this month's newsletter and get you signed up (it's free).  Or, you can click here to join our VIP Club.

Any questions? Just leave a comment below or email me and I'll be happy to help.

Zestfully yours,

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Fizzy Green Tea, Berry & Ginger Cooler

Iced Green Tea, Berry & Ginger Cooler
This refreshing drink is a great way to cool off during the final hot days of summer. It's also a delightful and easy-to-make energizing alternative to iced coffee or plain iced tea, plus you get all the benefits of green tea and cinnamon.

You can multiply the ingredient amounts to make enough for a family or a party, and you can brew it ahead of time and store in the refrigerator before combining with the ginger ale. Its peach-blush color is quite lovely when served in clear glasses or a clear pitcher.

4 bags of green tea
1 bag of berry herbal tea
1 stick cinnamon
4 cups boiling water
Ginger ale (I use diet but you can use regular)

Place the tea bags and cinnamon in a large, heat-safe bowl (preferably glass) or a 4-cup Pyrex glass measuring cup. Pour in the boiling water, cover, and allow to steep for at least 30 minutes, or longer for a stronger, more concentrated tea.

When ready to serve, remove the tea bags and gently squeeze into the bowl to extract more flavor before discarding the bags. Also remove the cinnamon stick. Fill pitcher or individual drinking glasses with ice, pour about half-way to 2/3 full with the tea, then finish filling with ginger ale. Enjoy!

Zestfully yours,
Carolina Sauce Company

PS:  I haven't tried this yet but if you're planning a large gathering I bet you could make a double or triple batch of the tea, chill for a few hours or overnight, then when it's time for your party simply pour the tea into a punch bowl and add almost as much ginger ale.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Remembering the Fallen

Flickr photo by Twilight Taggers
NY... DC... PA... Benghazi...

We pause today to remember those who lost their lives on 9/11, their friends and families, the first responders and all other selfless individuals who served those in need, and everyone whose life was irrevocably altered by the tragic events of twelve years ago and just one year ago.

May we never forget, may we never give in to evil, and may we never give up the fight for freedom and justice in a peaceful world.


Monday, September 9, 2013

Grilled Sumac Chicken

grilled sumac chicken with onions
This is the first time I've ever cooked with sumac, a popular spice in the Middle East and Mediterranean region. In those parts of the world, tart red sumac berries are dried and ground into a fragrant, burgundy-colored coarse powder with a distinctively bright and lemony flavor. Sumac is used to season chicken and fish before cooking, stirred into rice and salad recipes, and sprinkled over hummus and warm pita bread  that's first brushed with olive oil. In addition to its culinary applications, sumac is also used in tanning leather and dyeing fabrics.  **Note: Edible sumac is a different plant from poison sumac and does NOT contain the toxin found in poison sumac. You can buy ground sumac online or at Middle Eastern and specialty markets.

Recipes for sumac chicken are common in Lebanese, Moroccan, Persian, Palestinian and other Middle Eastern and Arab cuisinse. Traditionally, the chicken is coated with ground sumac and baked or roasted over sliced onions layered on top of pita bread rounds.  As the chicken cooks, its juices are soaked up by the pita bread, making for quite the delicious, if not exactly low-carb or low-fat, meal.  For a healthier dish that's very low carb (as well as gluten-free) and lower in fat, I adapted the traditional recipe for the grill and omitted the pita bread altogether. If carbohydrates or gluten aren't a concern, you can serve my grilled sumac chicken with or over pita bread, rice or couscous.

Click here to buy sumac online
Approx. 3 lbs cut chicken (I used leg quarters & removed most of the skin)
1 onion, sliced thinly
1/2 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon (approx. 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice)
1/4 cup ground sumac
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp coarsely ground peppercorns (I crush them using a mortar & pestle)
Optional garnish: Chopped parsley

Combine all ingredients except the garnish in a resealable 1-gallon plastic bag. Squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing. Shake and knead the bag to combine thoroughly and coat the chicken evenly with the marinade. Place in refrigerator to marinate several hours or overnight, turning and gently shaking the bag once or twice during that time to ensure even distribution of the marinade. When ready to grill, remove chicken from bag and place on grill grate over indirect medium heat, and transfer the onions into a grill wok or basket also over indirect medium heat. Pour any remaining marinade over the chicken at the beginning of the cooking time, then discard bag (do NOT baste during cooking with any used marinade).

Grilling sumac chicken with onions

Cook until the onions are golden and the chicken is fully done (the internal temperature reaches 165°F), turning the chicken once or twice and stirring the onions a few times. The chicken should be done in about 30 minutes and the onions in about 15 minutes so be prepared to remove the onions from the grill first.

checking the temperature of grilled chicken

Serve the chicken with the onions -- you can serve with or over couscous, rice or pita bread if you wish -- and garnish with chopped parsley or a light sprinkling of ground sumac if desired. Makes 4-5 servings.

Zestfully yours,