Pikliz (Haitian Pickled Relish)

Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight
We knew when we decided to go to New Orleans that, at the very least, we would eat well on the trip. And, we were not disappointed. However, our favorite meal was a bit of a surprise.

Anytime I travel, I do the research on where to stay, what to see, and certainly where to eat. Eater.com is one of my favorite destinations for food info. It is where I stumbled upon a recommendation for a Haitian place in the Treme neighborhood that sounded great. And, it was certainly something new.

I, to my knowledge, had never had the opportunity to try Haitian food, so I had no expectations whatsoever. I think ultimately that is what made the meal such a revelation to both of us. It was a surprise. With the other restaurants, we kind of knew what to expect. But, at Fritai, we were in uncharted waters.

I had the pork Griyo, my husband went with the chicken creole. Both were excellent. But, what sent us thru the roof was the Pikliz that was served with all of it.

Pronounced PEE-kleez, it is essentially a Haitian coleslaw or relish…but it packs a punch. This stuff is spicy. But, it hurts so good. The heat comes from little orange scotch bonnet chilies that my husband thought were bell peppers. To be fair, there were bell peppers in the pikliz, but they weren’t the only peppers. As a lover of all things coleslaw, he took a big bite…and needed a lot of water. The problem was that it tasted so good that you could not stop eating it. We had it on grilled shrimp with avocado, the creole chicken, and, of course, the pork. Just so good.

It should come as no surprise that I now have a new obsession with Haitian cooking and have started my quest to learn how to make traditional Haitian food. Yes, cookbooks have been ordered but there are not as many out there as you might think.

Finding a Pikliz recipe was fairly easy. Now that BBQ season is in full swing, I encourage you to give this relish a try at your next backyard feast. Just make sure to warn your people that those aren’t just bell peppers!

Pikliz Recipe
Adapted from Epicurious
Yields 4 cups Read more…

Classic Vinaigrette

A jar of Classic Vinaigrette on a countertop. A Lesson In Dressing
I have been learning to cook for a very long time. And, I am still learning to cook—even though I have taken countless classes and read thousands of recipes. You never really stop learning new things in the kitchen. And, of course, it all started with my grandmother, Gam, showing me the basics in her kitchen.

I do not think it would be an exaggeration to say that I have made tens of thousands of recipes over the years. Seriously. And I am not a professional chef. Imagine how many recipes that person would produce!

Out of all those recipes I can point to exactly one that is the most important. That would be a classic French vinaigrette. And, here’s why…

The first time I made a classic vinaigrette, I was taking a six-week cooking course in San Francisco. It was a class that covered the basics of cooking, many of which I had already learned. But, it did it in a way that mirrored what you would learn if you attended culinary school. In other words, this was less Gam’s kitchen and more Cordon Bleu.

The vinaigrette we made that night totally changed my outlook on cooking. It taught me that ratios are important. It taught me that sometimes less is more. But more than anything it taught me that just because something is easier, that doesn’t make it better.

Taking five minutes to make a salad dressing from scratch versus twisting the top off of a bottle is not only healthier, but it will increase your appreciation for what food should actually taste like. And, at least for me, improve your mental well-being in much the same way that finding the perfectly ripe avocado or melon can do. But, I’m weird that way.

Classic Vinaigrette Recipe with Variations
Yields 3/4 cup

Homemade vinaigrette keeps for 1 to 2 weeks in the refrigerator, so it’s worth the 5 minutes it takes to mix it up. Then you can keep it on hand for all of your salad needs. Read more…

Roasted Tomato Ketchup

Roasted Tomato KetchupWe Should Ketchup
So, it’s now the second full week of September. And, although the weather is still hot, I have decided it’s time to pull my tomato plants. The heat is starting to take its toll. And, frankly, it’s just time. There are actually quite a few tomatoes still on the vine, so I’m going to have to do something with all that fruit. Sure, the easy answer is to make a big batch of pasta sauce, and I am planning to make at least a small batch to put in the freezer. But, now that football season has started up, my mind is in tailgating mode. In my mind, tailgating and extra tomatoes mean one thing. Ketchup.

While there is nothing wrong with the tried and true Heinz that we all grew up on, homemade ketchup can take your sausage or burger to a whole new level. Making your own ketchup isn’t complicated and it can be fun to mess around with different flavors. I add cayenne to my ketchup because I like a little kick. But, you can leave it out if you aren’t a fan of spicy. A hefty shot of Tabasco works well, too. Curry can be a great addition as can fish sauce for a little southeast Asian flair. You can experiment with the different kinds of vinegar you choose as well. Apple Cider vinegar is classic, but you can do basic distilled white or even try some balsamic for a sweeter result.

The recipe below is adapted from grill king Bobby Flay and is a good basic starting recipe. Strangely, his original version does not have any spice to it—which is his signature. I added it in. I would recommend trying the basic version first so you know what the flavors are before you go messing with it. Read more…