How I Learned to Cook Soul Food

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How I Learned to Cook Soul Food

 

 

As a “Northerner,” I have always been intrigued about (and drawn to) the food of the South – Creole cooking in particular. I acquired a taste for “pot likker” (the residual broth leftover from making greens) years before I knew what it was called. Perhaps this was because my body needed nutrients from the mineral-rich broth, and I instinctively sought it out. Or, perhaps it was the deep spiritual connection that I felt with the poverty-based “cuisine of survival” that drew me in – as I had been a child who suffered from hunger.

 

I studied the art of soul food cooking via books, primarily. I somehow acquired enough information over the years, to pass muster at an audition to cook for the artist Prince, where I prepared a huge spread of what I called “Minnesota Soul.”  And years later, I was called upon to surprise the entourage of Eddie Murphy with a soul food banquet.  I observed several of the guests scratching their heads in disbelief; they weren’t expecting a white woman – especially a Jewish woman – to serve up the kind of cooking one would expect from a real Southern mama.

 

To be honest, however, my study of soul food cook books only took me so far.  It wasn’t until I met my mentor (and partner-in-catering), Mabel , that I began to develop a true understanding of this style of cooking. Mabel, the daughter of a sharecropper family from Arkansas, migrated to Los Angeles at the age of 17 – on her own – to pursue a better life.  Meeting Mabel was a life-changing experience for me in so many ways.  She not only taught me the complex subtleties of soul food cooking – she also taught me the meaning and philosophy behind it, in ways that no book could hope to do.

 

I came to know Mable through a series of unlikely circumstances.   Early in my career as a private chef/caterer I was given the opportunity to cater a casual birthday dinner for a billionaire’s wife. Since it was a simple casual dinner party for ten guests I bid low in an effort to “get in the door.” 

 

When I arrived at the site, I learned that the party of ten had grown to fifteen.  I next discovered that all of the guests were going to be dressed in formal attire.  Then, I was informed that I would be working with the house manager along with two women - the house manager’s girlfriend (who had never worked in a kitchen before) and Mable Wittemore . I noticed that Mable was quietly observing me while giving me the much needed space as I was confronted with the new circumstances.  I immediately realized that I would need to convert my casual menu “on the fly” – to a more formal presentation – without being able to shop for added provisions.

 

As I was struggling to adjust to the sudden change, I could feel the hostile stares of the house manager and his girlfriend behind me;  I could sense that they seemed to enjoy seeing me squirm.  There was little time to plan, as dinner was to commence in one hour.  My original “casual” menu consisted of a “Country Tomato” salad, a main course of grilled baby lamb chops served with Gnocchi a la Romana and grilled vegetables, and a simple chocolate soufflé.  The entire menu needed to be upgraded – and quickly! 

 

So…how was I going to accomplish this effectively, with so little time available?  Creating something flavorful and satiating from scant ingredients is at the heart of soul food cooking.  I took a few lamb chops off the racks that I was roasting, to render into a beautiful sauce, adding a gourmet touch to the simple roasted entrée. I also “stretched” the meal by baking a fresh made bread to accommodate the quantity of food  needed to meet the larger guest count. 

 

As I was in the process of re-designing the dinner, the client strolled into the kitchen and exclaimed in a condescending tone, “I will be pouring a very expensive Bordeaux this evening…do you think that your food will match up to its quality?” After recovering from the shock of being spoken to in such a manner, I managed to blurt out, “Yes – if you leave a bottle for me in the kitchen so that I can taste it while I am cooking!”  To my surprise, the client returned to the kitchen with a rare vintage of Cheval Blanc!  The mean-spirited house manager and his girlfriend looked on in disbelief, jaws dropping, as I added the expensive wine to the sauce pot, reserving a portion for my own consumption at the end of the night.

 

By this point in time, my blood had climbed to near boiling point – the client increased the size of the party without contacting me; I had quoted a price below the going rate; the meal was changed without notice to a formal setting (contrary to what I had initially been told); and he had just made a condescending remark before tasting any of the food. 

 

The first course went out and was well received. All of the plates came back clean.  It was just about time to serve the entrée which was resting in a low oven, ready to plate. As the house manager his girlfriend hovered over me, trays-in-hand, I was startled by the sound of a loud buzzer.  The house manager informed me that the client was buzzing for the next course – he had a button installed underneath the dining table!  It felt as though I was being treated like a servant – not a chef.  I looked over at Mable, who had a knowing look in her eyes.  The buzzer kept on sounding, over and over again, for what seemed like an eternity.  I decided – right then and there – that I was not about to respond to a buzzer.  In fact, I was just about ready to walk off the job!

 

Eventually, the client entered the kitchen.  “What’s the problem?  Are you ready to serve the food?”  I reluctantly decided to stay the course, knowing that I wouldn’t want to gain a reputation as an “uppity” chef.

 

I somehow made it through the rest of the night.  The only bright spot that evening was the sight of Mable standing away from the action, observing and smiling in a knowing way, as I handled the situation.  By the end of the night, Mable and I had developed a friendship – and wound up working together for more than twenty years, until the day she retired.  As we worked together in the kitchen, Mable shared her wisdom with me, along with many moving and instructive stories about the adventurous chapters in her life.  She was a sharecropper’s daughter – one of fifteen children.  Every day, her mother would bake dozens of biscuits or spoon bread , starting her day at 4:00 a.m.  The family would then begin a long day of work in the fields.  Mabel remembered the family pig (named “Scraps”), who was fed table scraps, grew to a gigantic size, and was eventually stolen for food.  Mabel described her first job in a “house” and how she learned to be “transparent” at all times.  Mabel learned to deal with racism early on in her career.  She taught me to count the silverware at the end of the night and to place it in view, all counted and accounted for.  She explained to me that I must never enter any area of the house outside of the kitchen.  Mabel showed me how to practice frugality in the kitchen, utilizing safe food preservation techniques, as well as re-purposing ingredients and equipment.

 

I remember one particular episode that epitomized Mable’s thoughtfulness and penchant for careful planning.  It was the morning after a huge catering job that we had worked on together.  I began to despair as I realized that I had depleted my entire supply of coffee at home.  Something caused me to check my tool kit from the night before – to this day I have no idea why I did so.  I was happily surprised to discover a little wrapped container of fresh coffee beans – which had obviously been placed there lovingly by Mable.

 

Mabel taught me how to avoid any waste of resources – especially food – something that she had been doing her entire life.  She invited me, regularly, to her home for a dinner of catfish, greens and cornbread – often after she had finished catering brunch for bridge-playing ladies in Bel Air.  I remember the two of us standing over a steaming pot of turnip greens (my favorite choice) and discussing the art of cooking greens. Mabel told me to never add sugar to the greens and to use turnip greens over collard greens. A ham hock, vinegar and a scotch bonnet pepper that you carefully remove before serving with a stove top spoon bread .

 

Mable was the first person to teach me about folk medicine. She lovingly cooked up a concoction of onions, lemons, honey, and bourbon to clear a nasty cold one day and taught me the meaning of cooking food for the less fortunate and the grieving. I stayed up many a night with her, cooking for a family in grief.

 

Soul food as a cuisine comes from a place of poverty, strife and struggle, of reaping nourishment from the earth, to preserve survival.  It requires careful preparation of edibles that are generally discarded by thoughtless over consumers. These low edibles are transformed by the power of love to provide nourishment for the body and soul, hence the name “soul food”

 

Above and beyond all of the lessons in the kitchen, the most important lessons that she taught me is tolerance in the face of intolerance and grace (extending kindness to one who doesn’t deserve it) Whenever she was verbally assaulted or treated poorly by a client or guest my first instincts were to defend her. As a dignified and noble woman, she would pull me aside and tell me to “let it go” She would always take the higher road.

 

To this day, I aspire to emulate her.

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2017 Good Food Day LA- Certificate of Recognition

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2017 Good Food Day LA- Certificate of Recognition

Thank you to the City of L.A. and Councilmember 4th District, David E.Ryu for the Certificate of Recognition for my work with Purple Earth Cuisine, a project that may be a small contribution to the good food movement, but will, hopefully, make a large impression and impact on our community. As Frieda's Specialty Produce Co. would say, #Purplepowertothepeople. 

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Affordable Self-Care Act

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Affordable Self-Care Act

Take Control Over Your Own Health......Because no one is going to do it for you.

When you can't trust the system and you aren't sure what type of care will be available if and when you need it, then it is time to start seriously thinking about preventative self-care. We know that many of the chronic illnesses that we are falling victim to, such as diabetes 2, heart disease and certain cancers, often take many years to develop, and are directly related to our lifestyle diets, which is more than likely the SAD ( or Standard American Diet) of processed foods, factory-farmed meat and dairy, toxic oils, heavily salted foods, and soda, both sugared and chemically sweetened sugar-free. if many of these diseases are "slow moving" perhaps we can "fast track" our way to a better outcome by changing our daily eating habits.

Here are simple ways to put the SAD diet in reverse, while improving your own health. Don't let the Industrial Food Complex take control over your health destiny!

1. Find the cleanest source of water that you can afford. Mineral water is my choice for drinking and filtered water for cooking. Drink it straight as much as possible,  and mixed with juice, in tea or tisane's (herb tea) and coffee. Water is the most important ingredient for detoxing your system plus to replace lost minerals.

2. Reduce sugar intake as much as possible bylimiting organic cane sugar consumption, switching over to low glycemic index natural sweeteners such as coconut palm sugar, wherever possible, and safe alternatives such as erythritol, stevia , or Luo Han Guo for beverages or desserts.  A "sweet tooth" can be nipped in the bud with a few frozen dates (tastes like caramel) or a square of 72% dark chocolate, or better yet, strawberries dipped in the melted 72% chocolate.

3. Adopt a Mediterranean -style diet, which is the gold standard for longevity. Moderate animal protein, Omega 3's-rich fatty fish such as cod, and salmon, shellfish , healthy fats such as cold-pressed olive oil, and a large portion of your intake(75%) as plant-based choices. An example of a plant-based dish would be a whole grain or gluten-free pasta (25%) with (75%) vegetables, and a small topping of a quality aged cheese such as an aged Pecorino (sheep's milk) cheese. Aged cheese is low in lactose and high in Vitamin-K, great for bone health.

4.. Chose whole foods in season. Visit a farmer's market and take in the local bounty. Visit a neighborhood garden and connect with the growers. You can find resources for some pretty amazing vegetables and fruits through the local growers, and often the price is right, sometimes even free .In cities, such as Los Angeles , there is a program called "Market Match" that will match your purchasing dollars at a local farmer's market .Info at hungeractionla.org. 

5.Consider your home kitchen to be a personal "health kitchen". Plan your basic menu for the week a day before your work week begins, shop for the needed ingredients and prepare some of the dishes in bulk ahead of time, so that you can access them during the week. Yes, it takes time and effort but if you don't take the time for your health now, you will need to take the time for illness, later.

6. Eat more purple! Adding purple antioxidants to your menus will not only increase the power of your new way of eating for health ,they are, also, beautiful to look at.

To get started, try adding any of the following ingredients on a daily basis. Purple onion is probably the simplest choice :

Purple Onion, Purple Garlic, Purple Shallot, Purple Cabbage, Purple Asparagus, Purple Kale, Radicchio, Purple Bell Peppers, Purple Carrots ,Purple Potatoes, Eggplant, Black Beans (actually purple) Black Olives, Black Lentils, Red Leaf Lettuce, Purple Basil, Red Livermore Walnuts, Black Walnuts, Guava, Purple Rice, Black Forbidden Rice, Purple Barley, Blueberries, Blackberries, Black Currants, Raisins,  Black Grapes, Cherries, and last but not lease, dark chocolate!

 

 

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Purple Earth Cuisine

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Purple Earth Cuisine

Due to its perceived rarity in nature, the color purple has always been considered to be a high energy color that has been coveted by royalty, the wealthy and the spiritual. Purple represents a higher consciousness in many cultures and religions.

According to the Purple Earth Hypothesis, an astrobiological hypothesis, when the Earth was first formed, all plant-life reflected the color purple. Eventually, through the power of the sun and the process of photosynthesis, green plants engulfed the planet. However, if you look closely, today you will still find many survivors of the First Earth purple, in nature.

Did you know that our early ancestors, revered purple plants and wrote about them in their sacred texts? It is only recently that 300 year old science has started to catch up with 5000 thousand year old wisdom. Science is finally figuring out that purple plants (with their unique phytochemicals) are a beneficial adjunct to your health.

"The role of purple plants as a medicinal agent has been rooted in ancient tradition-throughout the world. It wasn’t until recently that science is recognizing the potential for disease prevention provided by the powerful antioxidants purple plants are comprised of, called anthocyanins. When digested in a whole foods form, these anthocyanins interact communally, with other phytochemicals present in the plant, to potentiate their synergistic healing capacity.  We are finding that there is great potential for purple plants to intervene in the course of chronic disease. From black currants, to purple corn, we have expanding evidence that purple plant foods (especially as an adjunct to the anti-inflammatory Mediterranean Diet) can help to inhibit weight gain and adipose tissue, decrease blood sugar levels, prevent free radicals, prevent age-related declines in neural function, decrease lipid peroxidation , and, possibly, effective against various stages of carcinogenesis"

M. Monica Giusti , PhD, Professor and Graduate Studies Chair of the Food Science and Technology Department at the Ohio State University, says that anthocyanins constitute the largest and probably the most important group of water soluble natural pigmented antioxidants that can explain most of the health-promoting effects of consuming fruits and vegetables.

Purple Earth Cuisine, is the vision of the author who has spent her entire life’s work in the holistic culinary arts, which addresses health issues through the healing power of food. With this forthcoming cookbook, she takes you on a revolutionary, evolutionary journey beyond the industrial food complex gate, to a secret garden of high energy “Purple Earth” delights, that are not just visually inspiring, along with alluring recipes, but will introduce new, authentic earthy flavors to the their palate, transcending the readers consciousness to an elevated way of looking at the food they purchase and eat. Equipped with new cooking techniques and ingredients the recipes will empower the reader to transcend their health and longevity with the help of peer-reviewed cutting edge medical nutrition combined with a mindfulness and creative consciousness around the preparation and healing purpose of our food

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The Secret Power of Purple

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The Secret Power of Purple

In the movie "The Color Purple" Alice Walker used purple as a symbol of God's love for mankind. Purple plants were a gift.

Celia, the main character, was so dead emotionally and only surviving with an oppressive husband. 

With the help of her friend,  Shugs , eventually Celia learned how to love life and as a result she started to decorate her home in hues of red and purple!

Purple represents sacredness and bravery.

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My Interview to Cook For Prince

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My Interview to Cook For Prince

My Interview to Cook for Prince

Interviewing to cook for Prince was a very memorable experience. I first, attended an interview that was conducted by his recording studio executives, in Los Angeles. I didn’t know what to expect as I rode the elevator up to the top floor of the unassuming West Los Angeles building. I entered an elaborate boardroom that had several executives waiting for my arrival. I was just a little nervous.

I sat down, very composed, and responded to a long line of questions. The first question was “Can you cooksoul Food?” which, since I am a Northerner, is not an unusual question to ask. My first response was “Well, I have learned quite a bit in my travels throughout the South, however, Prince is from Minnesota and if there is such a thing as Minnesota Soul Food, I’ll need some time to do the research. 

That must have been the answer that they were looking for, because they picked me out of 100 applicants and gave me a month to study up on "Minnesota Soul".

During this period of study I learned about the many variances of a cuisine, that are endless. I am still learning recipes, mainly, handed down from one generation to the next. Soul Food is truly a cuisine of the soul and probably the most comforting., sustainable, mineral-rich to the point of medicinal, cuisines on the planet, contrary to popular belief.

After one month, I prepared the “trial “dinner spread at his manager's home in the Beverly Hills “flats” and was hired!.

www.junepaganchef.com

june.pagan@verizon.net

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       Recipe for disaster     Ingredients:   Pesticides / Glyphosate Preservatives Toxins Viruses Overuse of Antibiotics GMO’s Environmental Contaminants Soil Depletion Factory Farming Preservatives    Yield:  Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies, Omega 3 Fatty Acid Depletion,Chronic Inflammation and Dis-ease   A Recipe for Change     Ingredients   Value Added Clean Proteins “Strong Stock” Chicken Broth Healthy Fats and Oils and Proper Use Whole Food Polyphenols and Antioxidants Natural Statins Prebiotic/Probiotic foods/Natural antibiotics Resistant Starch Essential Faaty Acids/ Flaxmeal and Marine sourced Fermented Foods/Vitamin K-2 Chlorophyll foods and the Power of the Sun Hydration Medicinal mushrooms/ Super Foods    Yield;     putting nutrition back into food and strengthening your immune system      

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Recipe for disaster

Ingredients:
Pesticides / Glyphosate
Preservatives
Toxins
Viruses
Overuse of Antibiotics
GMO’s
Environmental Contaminants
Soil Depletion
Factory Farming
Preservatives

Yield:Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies, Omega 3 Fatty Acid Depletion,Chronic Inflammation and Dis-ease

A Recipe for Change

Ingredients
Value Added Clean Proteins
“Strong Stock” Chicken Broth
Healthy Fats and Oils and Proper Use
Whole Food Polyphenols and Antioxidants
Natural Statins
Prebiotic/Probiotic foods/Natural antibiotics
Resistant Starch
Essential Faaty Acids/ Flaxmeal and Marine sourced
Fermented Foods/Vitamin K-2
Chlorophyll foods and the Power of the Sun
Hydration
Medicinal mushrooms/ Super Foods

Yield; putting nutrition back into food and strengthening your immune system

 

 

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Easy Access to Citrus Pectin

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Easy Access to Citrus Pectin

Caramelized Organic Orange Slices

The next time that you eat an orange and decide to toss the peel in the trash, think about preparing caramelized orange slices, instead. The tasty snack will provide you with a "free" and tasty source of citrus pectin, a functional fiber that will help with digestion ,chronic constipation, symptoms of diverticulosis, and possibly IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), according to the British Journal of Nutrition, March 2001. Pectin also has a prebiotic effect which helps to lower cholesterol and glucose levels. 

Many holistic practitioners recommend taking citrus pectin for detoxification purposes. Citrus peel is just one of the best fibers that you can eat for this purpose. 

Instead of buying a citrus pectin supplement, make you own by caramelizing thin slices of organic oranges.I used two oranges for the yield shown in the image attached. I ,generally, eat a few at a time but they are addictive, so expect them to be gone quickly.

To prepare Caramelized Organic Seedless Orange Slices, simply wash,dry and thinly slice two oranges, and place them onto a Silpat or parchment paper- lined sheet pan. Coat with a thin to medium layer of fine organic cane sugar, to coat evenly. You don't need to coat both sides as the sugar will caramelize the entire slice. Bake at 335 Degrees F, for approximately 20-25 minutes.This process will work with erythritol ,also, due to its caramelizing capability.

Some of the slices will become very brown and some may actually blacken. Once this starts happening it is time to remove the pan from the oven .Some of the slices may seem to be too moist ,however, once they cool down, the sugar will set up and act as a preservative. Store the slices in a dry container lined with parchment or wax paper. They will keep for ten days or more, that is if you can resist eating them right away.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caramelized Blood Orange Slices have High Anthocyanins

Caramelized Blood Orange Slices have High Anthocyanins

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How I learned to Cook Soul Food

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How I learned to Cook Soul Food

As a “Northerner,” I have always been intrigued about (and drawn to) the food of the South – Creole cooking in particular. I acquired a taste for “pot likker” (the residual broth leftover from making greens) years before I knew what it was called. Perhaps this was because my body needed nutrients from the mineral-rich broth, and I instinctively sought it out. Or, perhaps it was the deep spiritual connection that I felt with the poverty-based “cuisine of survival” that drew me in – as I had been a child who suffered from hunger.

I studied the art of soul food cooking via books, primarily. I somehow acquired enough information over the years, to pass muster at an audition to cook for the artist Prince, where I prepared a huge spread of what I called “Minnesota Soul.”  And years later, I was called upon to surprise the entourage of Eddie Murphy with a soul food banquet.  I observed several of the guests scratching their heads in disbelief; they weren’t expecting a white woman – especially a Jewish woman – to serve up the kind of cooking one would expect from a real Southern mama. 

To be honest, however, my study of soul food cook books only took me so far.  It wasn’t until I met my mentor (and partner-in-catering), Mable Wittemore , that I began to develop a true understanding of this style of cooking. Mable, the daughter of a sharecropper family from Arkansas, migrated to Los Angeles at the age of 17 – on her own – to pursue a better life.  Meeting Mable was a life-changing experience for me in so many ways.  She not only taught me the complex subtleties of soul food cooking – she also taught me the meaning and philosophy behind it, in ways that no book could hope to do. 

I came to know Mable through a series of unlikely circumstances.   Early in my career as a private chef/caterer I was given the opportunity to cater a casual birthday dinner for a billionaire’s wife. Since it was a simple casual dinner party for ten guests I bid low in an effort to “get in the door.”  

When I arrived at the site, I learned that the party of ten had grown to fifteen.  I next discovered that all of the guests were going to be dressed in formal attire.  Then, I was informed that I would be working with the house manager along with two women - the house manager’s girlfriend (who had never worked in a kitchen before) and Mable Wittemore . I noticed that Mable was quietly observing me while giving me the much needed space as I was confronted with the new circumstances.  I immediately realized that I would need to convert my casual menu “on the fly” – to a more formal presentation – without being able to shop for added provisions. 

As I was struggling to adjust to the sudden change, I could feel the hostile stares of the house manager and his girlfriend behind me;  I could sense that they seemed to enjoy seeing me squirm.  There was little time to plan, as dinner was to commence in one hour.  My original “casual” menu consisted of a “Country Tomato” salad, a main course of grilled baby lamb chops served with Gnocchi a la Romana and grilled vegetables, and a simple chocolate soufflé.  The entire menu needed to be upgraded – and quickly!  

So…how was I going to accomplish this effectively, with so little time available?  Creating something flavorful and satiating from scant ingredients is at the heart of soul food cooking.  I took a few lamb chops off the racks that I was roasting, to render into a beautiful sauce, adding a gourmet touch to the simple roasted entrée. I also “stretched” the meal by baking a fresh made bread to accommodate the quantity of food  needed to meet the larger guest count.  

As I was in the process of re-designing the dinner, the client strolled into the kitchen and exclaimed in a condescending tone, “I will be pouring a very expensive Bordeaux this evening…do you think that your food will match up to its quality?” After recovering from the shock of being spoken to in such a manner, I managed to blurt out, “Yes – if you leave a bottle for me in the kitchen so that I can taste it while I am cooking!”  To my surprise, the client returned to the kitchen with a rare vintage of Cheval Blanc!  The mean-spirited house manager and his girlfriend looked on in disbelief, jaws dropping, as I added the expensive wine to the sauce pot, reserving a portion for my own consumption at the end of the night. 

By this point in time, my blood had climbed to near boiling point – the client increased the size of the party without contacting me; I had quoted a price below the going rate; the meal was changed without notice to a formal setting (contrary to what I had initially been told); and he had just made a condescending remark before tasting any of the food.  

The first course went out and was well received. All of the plates came back clean.  It was just about time to serve the entrée which was resting in a low oven, ready to plate. As the house manager his girlfriend hovered over me, trays-in-hand, I was startled by the sound of a loud buzzer.  The house manager informed me that the client was buzzing for the next course – he had a button installed underneath the dining table!  It felt as though I was being treated like a servant – not a chef.  I looked over at Mable, who had a knowing look in her eyes.  The buzzer kept on sounding, over and over again, for what seemed like an eternity.  I decided – right then and there – that I was not about to respond to a buzzer.  In fact, I was just about ready to walk off the job!

Eventually, the client entered the kitchen.  “What’s the problem?  Are you ready to serve the food?”  I reluctantly decided to stay the course, knowing that I wouldn’t want to gain a reputation as an “uppity” chef.

I somehow made it through the rest of the night.  The only bright spot that evening was the sight of Mable standing away from the action, observing and smiling in a knowing way, as I handled the situation.  By the end of the night, Mable and I had developed a friendship – and wound up working together for more than twenty years, until the day she retired.  As we worked together in the kitchen, Mable shared her wisdom with me, along with many moving and instructive stories about the adventurous chapters in her life.  She was a sharecropper’s daughter – one of fifteen children.  Every day, her mother would bake dozens of biscuits or spoon bread , starting her day at 4:00 a.m.  The family would then begin a long day of work in the fields.  Mable remembered the family pig (named “Scraps”), who was fed table scraps, grew to a gigantic size, and was eventually stolen for food.  Mabel described her first job in a “house” and how she learned to be “transparent” at all times.  Mabel learned to deal with racism early on in her career.  She taught me to count the silverware at the end of the night and to place it in view, all counted and accounted for.  She explained to me that I must never enter any area of the house outside of the kitchen.  Mabel showed me how to practice frugality in the kitchen, utilizing safe food preservation techniques, as well as re-purposing ingredients and equipment. 

I remember one particular episode that epitomized Mable’s thoughtfulness and penchant for careful planning.  It was the morning after a huge catering job that we had worked on together.  I began to despair as I realized that I had depleted my entire supply of coffee at home.  Something caused me to check my tool kit from the night before – to this day I have no idea why I did so.  I was happily surprised to discover a little wrapped container of fresh coffee beans – which had obviously been placed there lovingly by Mable.

Mable taught me how to avoid any waste of resources – especially food – something that she had been doing her entire life.  She invited me, regularly, to her home for a dinner of catfish, greens and cornbread – often after she had finished catering brunch for bridge-playing ladies in Bel Air.  I remember the two of us standing over a steaming pot of turnip greens (my favorite choice) and discussing the art of cooking greens. Mable told me to never add sugar to the greens and to use turnip greens over collard greens. A ham hock, vinegar and a scotch bonnet pepper that you carefully remove before serving with a stove top spoon bread .

Mable was the first person to teach me about folk medicine. She lovingly cooked up a concoction of onions, lemons, honey, and bourbon to clear a nasty cold one day and taught me the meaning of cooking food for the less fortunate and the grieving. I stayed up many a night with her, cooking for a family in grief.

Soul food as a cuisine comes from a place of poverty, strife and struggle, of reaping nourishment from the earth, to preserve survival.  It requires careful preparation of edibles that are generally discarded by thoughtless over consumers. These low edibles are transformed by the power of love to provide nourishment for the body and soul, hence the name “soul food”

Above and beyond all of the lessons in the kitchen, the most important lessons that Mable taught me is tolerance in the face of intolerance and grace (extending kindness to one who doesn’t deserve it) Whenever she was verbally assaulted or treated poorly by a client or guest my first instincts were to defend her. As a dignified and noble woman, she would pull me aside and tell me to “let it go” She would always take the higher road.

To this day, I aspire to emulate her.

 

Image is Anson Mill Purple Grits with Wild Mushrooms and local Tutti Frutti Farms Tomato Bruschetta, my idea of soul food.

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Chicken From China

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Chicken From China

Made in the USA, Know the Point of Origin of Your Food.

I was thinking about Foster Farms, recently, and their numerous offenses against their customers by continuing to put them at risk due to their poor processing practices and sanitation offenses. There have been numerous salmonella outbreaks from their poultry and yet they did not voluntarily recall their chicken from the marketplace, instead they pumped up their marketing/pr campaign to assure the customer that the product is safe to eat. Foster Farms thinks that the customer should be responsible for cooking the chicken, to the proper degree to eliminate the risk of getting salmonella poisoning.

Part of me wonders if the CEO of Foster Farms sits around the dinner table where they are probably serving an expensive Petaluma Organic pasture-raised chicken, talking about the new USDA regulation that is allowing processed chicken from China to enter the US marketplace. Is he saying with contempt for the consumer” If they think our processing methods are dubious, let them have the Chinese method!” or is he deciding to jump on the “gravy train” by being one of China’s first customers? We, as consumers, would not necessarily know because as with GMO labeling, processed chicken from China that is cooked does not need to be labeled, as long as it is cooked. The next time you buy a frozen comfort food such as chicken pot pie, or pick up a can of chicken noodle soup for your child that is home sick with the flu, think again! Do you really want to serve your child a product that may contain chicken that was processed in a country that known to have high pollution levels of heavy metals and chemicals in their water and soil? Not to mention many outbreaks of Avian Virus?

This is how it is going to work, the chickens are raised and slaughtered here in the USA and Canada, then shipped to China, where they are processed by being cooked to 165.2 Degrees F and then used in products such as canned chicken soup, frozen chicken nuggets, after being shipped back to the US. Some of this product will be sold in products that are produced for the freezer section of your supermarket, or it may be in canned goods. These products may have labels such as “Farm Fresh or Happy Chicken” to dupe you into thinking that it came from a wholesome farm operation. Since there is no requirement to label point of origin for that single ingredient, you won’t know that the chicken is coming from a processing plant in China. Buying organic won’t help you  because the same processing can be done with organic poultry as well and still be considered “organic” by the USDA Organic Certification program.

We are getting into some seriously polluted waters, here , pardon the pun. Take for example the recent sale of Smithfield Foods (originally called Smithfield Ham) to a Chinese company,  you know the one that Paula Deen was the spokesperson for? Well,  Shanghai International {who} now owns it. This purchase of an American company came , after 11,000 dead pigs were found floating in a Chinese river, contaminating the water supply. Is our water supply next?

All of this outsourcing of food products is a sign of unrelenting greed on the part of our corporate food giants. They can outsource and prostitute themselves and sell {our} the American food supply and citizens, all the while trying to dupe their customers into thinking that they are still as American as apple pie, by their powerful PR and marketing talent.

This angers me, that the USDA will sell out our independent poultry farmers, to support the practices of inhumane producers, here in the US and then to add fuel to the fire by allowing  large, irresponsible producers to now do business with China and to continue to market those same products as ”natural” and “good for you.”

The answer to the problem is to reduce your intake of commercial poultry, and only buy product that you know is free of animal cruelty, and is organically raised. It can be costly but what is the alternative, to increase your risk of disease to satisfy your palate? There is a way to prepare a quality safe chicken that will make it affordable at the end of the day.  One is by serving a smaller portion of meat, using the bones to prepare a healthy bone broth, full of nutrients, and to prepare creative menus that embellish the clean protein that we should be grateful to still have available to us. Having a reverence for clean food should be the focus.

If you would like to read more articles like this one and enjoy delicious recipes that are Flavorful , Affordable, Clean and Eco-conscious , please support my effort to publish a cookbook based on the anti-inflammatory diet with an emphasis on clean, nutritious food.

Simply go to my blog at www.junepaganchef.com  for sample writings and images.

Thank you very much,
June Pagan

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Purple Carrot Soup

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Purple Carrot Soup

Dairy-Free Curried “Cream” of Carrot Soup

Did you know that the original wild carrot was purple? Orange carrots are higher in the natural antioxidant (carotenoids) that neutralizes free radicals and inflammation caused by exposure to UV rays.  If you burn easily in the sun – but still want to enjoy its Vitamin D benefits, then you might want to consider increasing your carrot consumption as a natural sunscreen protection. Since carrots are in the parsley family, they also provide us with chlorophyll – which is free energy from the sun.

Dairy-free alternative milk is a brilliant addition to this soup. It adds a lightness that cannot be achieved by using dairy. Don’t be sold on the ideas that dairy milk is your only choice to build strong bones and teeth. The minerals provided in almond milk take care of that. If you prefer a nut-free alternative, try rice milk.

When you add even a small amount of black pepper to a dish with turmeric, it increase the absorption of curcumin so be sure to add a pinch of black pepper to the soup. I prefer Telicherry black pepper from India..


Yield: 4 Servings

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Medium Red Onion, chopped
2 Cups Organic Carrots, peeled and cut into 1” segments
2-3 Cups Chicken or Vegetable Broth
1 Cup Coconut Milk (or alternative non-dairy milk)
1-2 tsp Fresh Turmeric, grated or 3/4-1 tsp Dried Turmeric
1/2 tsp Curry Powder
Sea Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

Method:
1.    In a 2 quart saucepan, over medium flame, add oil and onion; stir, to coat onions.
2.    Sauté “low and slow” for ten minutes; then add carrots and grated fresh turmeric or dried turmeric.
3.    Continue to sauté the onions and carrots for five minutes; then cover with broth to one inch above vegetable line.
4.    Simmer at medium-to-low heat until carrots are tender.
5.    Process in blender; then thin out with coconut milk to desired consistency.
6.    Season soup with curry powder and salt to taste.

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Dark Chocolate,especially Raw Chocolate is Actually Really Good For You.

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Dark Chocolate,especially Raw Chocolate is Actually Really Good For You.

Cocoa, also known as "Food of the Gods, is loaded with disease -resistant polyphenols (catechins and procyanidins) in higher concentrations than red wine and even broccoli.  We already know that cocoa polys help to reduce blood pressure. A portion as small as 30 mg a day may do the trick. Imagine all of the chocolate satisfaction!

Science is suggesting that  consuming a modest amount of a quality dark chocolate is helpful with the anti-inflammatory approach to eating so don't feel gulity when you have the craving, just make sure that it is a well made dark chocolate , as close to raw as possible, from a reputable company. I would recommend small batch producers such as www.cocoaplanet.com , or local to Los Angeles, www.loverrawchocolate.com.

Raw Chocolate Coconut Pudding Pots
Yield: 4-6 3 Ounce Portions

Ingredients:
4 Ounces 70% Dark Chocolate, coarse chopped
1 Can Coconut Milk
3 Tablespoons Raw Cacao Powder (I used Nativa Brand)
1 Large Egg, beaten
1 ½ Tablespoons Cornstarch Starch, preferably organic
½ teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Extra Chocolate, for grating on top(optional)

Method:
1.    Place first 5 ingredients in a baine marie (double boiler) or stainless or glass bowl set over a pan of simmering water.
2.    Stir with a whisk  over medium flame, ,until the mixture thickens, approximately .8-10 minutes
3.    Add vanilla extract and stir well. 
4.    Transfer to 4-6 individual serving containers. Espresso cups work well or “pot de crème” pots.
5.    Serve warm or cold.  Top with grated chocolate if desired, for presentation.

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Cheese,Glorious Cheese!

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Cheese,Glorious Cheese!

 

Purple Grits with Wild Mushrooms and Aged Gouda Cheese

 

Did you know that cheese has more nutritional value than beef, ounce per ounce? , and the cow gets to live!

Question, can probiotic cheese survive the fermentation process and the stomach acids and make it to the intestines? The problem with many studies and info out there is that they are supported by the food producers, INCLUDING the FDA!

We are finding out that probiotic cheese (fermented raw) can help and preserve the immune system of the elderly. A 2010 study done in Finland, that a daily “dose” of Gouda cheese showed the potential to reduce inflammation. Grass fed raw cheese, which is recommended by the holistic medical community, even in its current limited quantities, is affordable. A one ounce portion of cheese averages about 110 calories and contains on an average of 7-10 grams of protein, with parmesan being at the top of the list at 10.9 grams per ounce and cottage cheese at the bottom at 3.5 grams of protein with cheddar and Gouda hovering around 7 grams. The denser (the more aged) the cheese the higher the protein content .and so a little goes a long way contributing in a mindful way, to your daily protein needs.

Cheese is a versatile ingredient in the kitchen as it can be part of an appetizer, entrée or dessert course. It also works well as a protein boost in a snack form, in between meals .and a much better choice than a processed white flour sugar laden empty caloric pastry.

Personally, there is no better combination than well constructed bread made with fresh milled grains and a good quality cheese. This is my version of “soul food” Oh, and yes, I cannot forget the wine.

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Stoke's Purple Sweet Potato

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Stoke's Purple Sweet Potato

If you thought that the Okinawan Purple Sweet Potato was at the top of the polyphenol food chain, think again, because here comes the Stoke's Purple Sweet Potato! This potato is in the same family as the mornng glory, also, but it has a deeper colored purple skin and flesh. This non-GMO potato was started on a family farm in Stokes County, North Carolina and is now being grown in California. 

The anthocyanins in the Stokes Purple Sweet Potato is four- times greater than the Okinawan Sweet Potato so, you can probably guess what my choice is for the anti-inflammatory and disease -preventative approach  to eating.

Remember to Eat Purple Plants for Perennial Health!

Thank you, Karen Caplan, from Freida's Inc. for educating me as to the difference between the Okinawan and the Stokes Purple Sweet Potato.

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Japanese Purple Sweet Potato/ Okinawan beni imo

Not easy to find in the marketplace and rather pricey when you do, the Purple Okinawan Sweet Potato is a real treat and worth every penny. This low energy-dense food goes a long way to provide you with the taste satisfaction that you are looking for from a dessert or savory, yet due to it's high fiber (1 cup=5 grams) content, assists in regulating blood sugar unlike sugar-laden options. A little goes a long way.

 

The Vitamin A in the Okanawan Sweet Potato is over the top (1 cup=500% daily value for overall eye health) while the potassium benefit ( 1 cup=712 mg),helps to keep your blood pressure down. The added disease -preventative feature is the color which is derived from the polyphenol, anthocyanin.

Perfectly fine when simply baked at 400F for 25 minutes, and topped with a good quality butter or used as an alternative to a yam recipe,  you will find that the purple sweet is bursting with flavor.

Note: The AHA recommends 4700mg potassium, daily for heart health, although you need to watch your intake if you have elevated potassium or kidney disease.

 

 

 

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How I Created the Purple Pizza Crust

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How I Created the Purple Pizza Crust

In my quest to develop a healthier pizza ,I was inspired by the late Julia Child , who was a penpal of mine for many years, when she lived in Cambridge,Mass. Julia liked to use a small amount of cornmeal in her pizza crust, I always liked using semolina. One day, while testing out Suntava Organic non-GMO Purple corn flour, I decided to try adding the purple corn flour to my pizza crust. The first attempts were too heavily laden with corn and produced a heavy result. It took many tries to get it right. Right now, the formula is perfect in that it produces a New York-style thin crust that is rich in the earthy flavors of non-GMO wheat and purple corn. There is nothing commercial about this crust.

Nutritionally, purple corn, also known as Hopi Maize, has 20% more protein than white corn and a lower glycemic index. When the purple corn is milled, this process releases the niacin content producing a higher protein content than traditional wheat pizza. In addition to these benefits, the purple polyphenol called anthocyanins (which gives the corn it's dark purple color) adds an additional benefit for disease prevention.Science is supporting the dietary use of purple plants for improved health.

Hopi prophecy is that when purple corn arrives in the West it is a sign that positive things are happening on the planet. I believe that they are.Purple Pizza made with purple corn represents the trend for the removal of GMO's and man-made chemicals from our food supply and a return to simpler times.

 My ultimate dream would be to see a healthier pizza served to our children in  the LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District) school system and beyond.Moving away from the SAD (Standard American Diet) needs to start with our children learning to taste and feel the difference.

 

twp izzas one in Lodge cast iron. 4-6-15 jp Ac image.jpg

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Purple Cauliflower Gratin

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Purple Cauliflower Gratin

Steamed and Baked Cauliflower Gratin

This simple but functional health recipe makes a comforting side dish .
and it's PURPLE!

Ingredients:
1 Medium Cauliflower ( any color) cleaned and cut into florets
1 Cup Breadcrumbs or Ground Walnuts if you prefer gluten free
4 Tablespoons melted Unsalted Butter
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ Cup Aged Gouda or Pecorino Cheese, grated
Sea Salt and Black Pepper, to taste

Method:
Preheat oven to 375 Degrees
1. Steam cauliflower until just tender, for 4-5 minutes .Cool
2. Combine butter and oil in a sauté pan and cook the breadcrumbs or nuts until lightly browned and blended. Cool
3. Combine breadcrumbs and cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Lightly butter an 8”x8” casserole dish. Place cauliflower florets in a single layer
5. Top cauliflower with the breadcrumb and cheese mixture
6. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the top is browned. Serve hot.

Note; Aged Gouda cheese is rich in Vitamin K-2 which is important for the absorption of calcium.

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A Purple Valentine

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A Purple Valentine

I gave my sweetheart a purple gift on Valentine’s Day: a purple kale Japanese-style omelette with a light drizzle of Early Harvest California Nuvo Green Olive Juice (also known as Virgin Olive Oil). I named the oil “Spirito”, owing to its spicy dance on the palate. The rejuvenating power of this amazing dish lies in the polyphenol content.

 

Purple polyphenols are created by plants as a defense mechanism against stress; stress created by radiation from the sun, adverse climate conditions, pathogens and oxidants. These polyphenols also work in us as a defense against chronic diseases such as heart disease. Kale happens to be rich in magnesium also; magnesium is a powerful mineral that contributes to a healthy heart, according to Dr. Mark Hyman.

 

As for the Early Harvest California Nuvo Green Olive Juice:it's bright green color comes from its chlorophyll content. You can taste the vibrato of the green olive when it's cold pressed early. The result is an immediate grassy lively flavor, and then a “fucoso” expression of polyphenols. Some call this bitterness. I call it bittersweet because there's the pleasure of knowing that you have taken steps to strengthen your heart. Pair this with the high quality protein of the omelette's pasture-raised eggs; the albumin in the eggs will help with the absorption of the purple polyphenols as well.

 

An added grace note to soften the “medicinal” bitterness of the olive oil on the taste buds,would be to serve a modest note of triple-cream cheese such as Brillat-Savarin cheese with the omelet.

 

By June Pagan, Private Health Chef

 

www.junepaganchef.com

june.pagan@verizon.net

www.nuvooliveoil.com

 

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