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My Recipes-of-the-Week are featured here on my Home page. You can find 2000 of my kitchen-tested recipes using the Recipes tab, watch over 125 Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV segments using the TV Videos tab, join the discussion about all of my creations using the Facebook tab, or Email your questions and comments directly to me--none go unanswered. "We are all in this food world together." ~Melanie

10/12/2021

~Chutney -- A Spicy Condiment and Sandwich Topper~

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c90c8338970bHaving its origin in India, the name for this condiment comes from the East Indian word chatni, which means to entice the appetite. Indian chutneys were and are commonly made daily and eaten the same day -- originally prepared using a stone mortar and pestle, nowadays an electric food processor is often used.  Just like our common American condiments, they can be found on the table for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner -- they are a part of the daily culinary routine.  

Chutney was imported from India to Western Europe in the early 17th century.  European renditions were generically referred to as "mango'd fruit", because the most common fruit used to make chutney in Indian kitchens at the time was the mango.  Europeans simply substituted apples, peaches, pineapples, plums, or rhubarb in place of mangos, and, they prepared them similar to preserves so they would have a shelf life long to last through the harsh Winter months. 

IMG_3119The chutneys most of us Americans are familiar with today are on the shelves of most supermarkets and they're a preserved sweet and savory fruit-based condiment containing fresh and/or dried fruit, ginger root, vinegar, sugar and an array of aromatic spices.  Similar to its next of kin (jam, relish and salsa), at the discretion of the cook, chutney ranges in texture from chunky to smooth and in degree of spiciness from mild to hot. Like its next of kin, chutney is simmered low and slow for a lengthy time to reach the desired consistency.

There's more.  In India, many chutneys are vegetable- rather than fruit-based and contain a wider array of ingredients (like mint or cilantro, onion and/or garlic, fresh or canned tomatoes, yogurt or coconut milk and/or various nuts or seeds). These chutneys are typically served as a side-dish/accompaniment to Indian-style curries or meat dishes, and sometimes they are stirred into rice.  It's worth mention that even in India, chutneys are very diverse because Indian food varies greatly from region to region and is dependent upon local ingredients common to the region.

Try rhubarb-ginger chutney on a ham or turkey sandwich:

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09afc99e970d"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti 

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2021)

10/09/2021

~ Pucker Up For Tart Green or Red Stalked Rhubarb ~

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d296c756970cThis quick post, hopefully once and for all, will answer this question:  Is there a difference between green and red stalked rhubarb?   The answer is no.  They are both perfectly ripe and they are both ready to be cooked.  Period.  End of discussion.  Me personally, I love the pucker-up experience that rhubarb provides, and, while I understand why people often pair it with strawberries (they do playwell together), in my opinion, like the tart apple or the sour cherry, rhubarb requires no distractions.  I prefer my rhubarb unadulterated.  That said, there are a few things us rhubarb aficionados do know about this too often maligned vegetable.   

Sometimes referred as "the pie vegetable, the color of rhubarb is in no way related to its suitability for cooking, however, the red rhubarb sold in the grocery store, unless marked "locally grown" is always grown in hot houses.  I find this type of rhubarb to be a bit dryer in texture and a bit subdued in flavor.  Outdoor-grown varietes vary in color from red, speckled with red, light pink or simply green (like mine).  Green stalked rhubarb is more robust (pucker up tart) and produces a higher yield, but, red is sure more popular with consumers -- simply because they prefer ruby red color to celery green color.  I grew up eating green rhubarb and didn't realize it came in red until I was old enough to do my mom's grocery shopping for her.  The rhubarb we grow in our Happy Valley vegetable garden was transplanted from my father's garden, which was transplanted from his father's garden in Eastern Pennsylvania, which makes it an heirloom rhubarb plant.

Try my recipe for Sweet, Savory & Spicy Rhubarb-Ginger Chutney:

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d296d73d970cAnd my recipe for Pucker Up for Straight-Up Rhubarb Streusel Pie:

6a0120a8551282970b01a3fd1e24a1970b"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2021)

10/06/2021

~ The History of Salad Olivier: Russian Potato Salad ~

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09883658970dTraditionally, this salat, the Russian word for salad, was reserved for large gatherings: religious or national holidays, special community events and/or family celebrations, and, it was served all year long.  With or without meat or poultry added to it, it was served as an hors d'oeuvre atop toast points, by itself as a light lunch or snack, or, as a starter-course or side-dish to a hearty meal.  For the most part, I associate it with Spring (because my grandmother always made it for or after the Easter holiday), so, I like to serve this pretty-to-look-at salad as a side-dish on my Easter buffet table, then, as a main-dish the next day -- by adding cubes of  leftover holiday ham to it.  It's equally delicious served after the Thanksgiving holiday with cubed turkey added to it.  All that said, this salad is best prepared a day or two ahead, to give time for the potatoes to soak up the flavor of the dressing and time for all the other flavors to marry too -- time well spent.

Known in Eastern European circles as "Salad Olivier" or "Salad Olivye", and, "Russian Salad", there are as many variations of this refreshing side-dish or main-dish salad as there are cooks who are willing to take the time to do a precise job of uniformly cubing, dicing and properly cooking the components.  What this salad looks like is as important as how it tastes.  For young Eastern European girls, who were almost always required to assist their mother and grandmother in the family kitchen, it was how they honed their knife skills for later in life in their own kitchens (while the menfolk were out and about teaching their boys how to fish, hunt, gather and farm).

A melange of perfectly-cooked, precisely chopped ingredients:

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8e52364970b 2

In its basic form, this salad consists of a fork-friendly melange of cubed and cooked potatoes, carrots, peas and eggs -- all of the ingredients are previously cooked.  The creamy dressing, which is mayonnaise-based, contains finely-diced sweet or dill pickles or capers -- previously-cooked ingredients.  Occasionally an herb common to the Eastern European climate is added to it too (dill, chives, parsley).  All the ingredients were and still are inexpensive items found in Eastern Europe's rural farm communities. Because meat was and still is expensive, it is common for vintage recipes for this salad that contain protein to include wild game or game birds -- which they hunted in the countryside.  There's more.  For those lucky enough to raise cows, sheep or pigs, farm-raised meat or cured meats and sausages were and are commonly added as well.

A look back in this famous potato salad's history:

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8e4f1d9970bThe original salad was invented in the 1860s by Lucien Olivier, the chef of the Hermitage, one of Moscow's most prestigious restaurants.  The regular clientele's love for his salad caused it to become the Heritage's signature dish, and, before long, renditions were being prepared in kitchens all across Russia.  The recipe for his "Provençal dressing" (the mayo concoction), a  well guarded secret, has never been revealed, although it is believed to have been made with French wine vinegar and Dijon mustard, as cooking in the style of France was trendy during that period.

At the turn of the 20th century, one of Olivier's sous-chefs, Ivan Ivanov, attempted to steal the recipe.  Olivier was suddenly called away from the kitchen, which gave Ivanov the opportunity to take a look at the prepped ingredients (mise en place) and deduce with reasonable certainty, what to put in the famous dressing.  Shortly thereafter, Ivanov went to work as the chef at Moskva -- a restaurant of somewhat lesser prestige.  There, Ivanov started selling his version, "Russian Salad", then, sold his recipe for publication, which made "Russian Salad" a household term.   

The Hermitage restaurant closed in 1905, and the Olivier family left Russia, returning to Lucien's homeland of Belgium.  One of the first printed recipes for Olivier salad, appearing in 1894, called for half a poached grouse, two potatoes, one large cornichon, 1 teaspoon capers, 3-4 olives, 1/4 cup cubed aspic, and, 1 1/2 tablespoon Provençal dressing (the mayonnaise concoction), and, 3-4 lettuce leaves.  Because these ingredients were hard-to-come-by, expensive and seasonal, ordinary home cooks gradually replaced them with cheaper and more readily available ones.

My Eastern European family's recipe for Russian Potato Salad:

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8e4ec5c970b"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2021)