Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Color Purple - Jacaranda & Eggplant Hummus

Emblematic to L.A. is its grand boulevards lined with palm trees. This month a purple upstart enters the scene -- the blossoming Jacaranda Tree. Stand under its branches at full bloom and the perfume is overwhelming.

May is the month that launches millions of blossoms carpeting large swaths of sidewalk; drive along 6th Street near LACMA and it's blue for blocks. 

To keep the purple theme going I add cooked purple eggplant to a Hummus recipe. I have found roasted eggplant in oil at my local 99c only Store.

But you can roast or saute a fresh eggplant, too. Just click here to see how I do it.

Click on any photo to see larger.

My Hummus recipe is made with easy to get ingredients. I use sesame seeds instead of hard to find tahini, which is similar to peanut butter, just blander.

And cans of cooked garbanzo beans are cheap at any grocery store. Also add a little lemon juice, ground cumin, and olive oil.

It all comes together easily in a blender or food processor, just blend until creamy.

I like to serve Eggplant Hummus with triangles of pita bread. You can use a favorite cracker or fresh chopped veggies like celery, broccoli or carrot.

So watch my meditative recipe video below, to get things started I give you a tour of some favorite jacaranda tree and blossom sightings in Los Angeles then the recipe follows.

Eggplant Hummus & Jacaranda Blossoms - Video

Play it here. The video runs 2 minutes, 24 seconds.

To view or embed video from youtube click here.

  • 1 small jar marinated grilled eggplant - Okay to use fresh baked or sauteed eggplant.
  • 1 can garbanzo beans - 16 ounces, drained.
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds - or 2 tablespoons of tahini.
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic - fresh or from jar.
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice - fresh or concentrate from a 99 cent plastic lemon.
  • Pita bread slices - or favorite sliced raw veggies.
Drain can of garbanzo beans.

Add all ingredients (including oil from marinated eggplant) to blender or food processor and blend for 20 to 30 seconds until hummus is creamy.

Serve with sliced pita bread triangles and/or fresh chopped veggies (carrots, celery, red/yellow bell pepper, etc.) 99c only Stores also sell roasted red bell pepper in a jar, so try that sometime instead of eggplant.

If your local 99 cent or dollar store is out of bottled roasted veggies make a plain one with the above-mentioned ingredients and the addition of a 1/4 cup of 99 cent olive oil blend.

I use sesame seeds in this Hummus recipe. Usually, a paste called tahini is used, if you can find it then use it - about a tablespoon or two. Tahani tastes like bland peanut butter, so if you can't find sesame seeds or tahini then add a teaspoon of peanut butter.

I also have a recipe for Baba Gnoush that uses roasted eggplant. Just click here if you want to use fresh roasted eggplant, or if you can't find cheap marinated eggplant in oil. One eggplant should be plenty for this recipe. Eggplants are sometimes sold large-sized, but they shrink a lot when baked or sauteed.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Louisiana Vacation - Photos & Video

It's always a good time when I fly into Louisiana and visit my Cajun family.

As soon as I get to Mom's, our first Cajun meal is usually fried seafood like catfish, green beans and loaded potato salad from Cajun Catch in Gonzales, Louisiana.

Click on any photo to see larger. 

Along with a bag of Zapp's Potato Chips. They have almost have a dozen flavors now. My latest fave is Cajun Dill Gator-Tators, followed by Voodoo Heat...oh boy!

There's the usual cast of characters who swing by Mom's house including sisters Denise and Brenda, various nieces and nephews and I can't forget my high school buddy Marvin, plus the latest addition to the family, the Swamp Chef.

Speaking of a sibling born on the bayou, for the first adventure the Swamp Chef tagged along to the New Orleans Audubon Zoo with the kids of my niece Candyse and nephews Jason and Matt. Audubon Zoo is very kid and granny friendly with small cho-cho train rides and benches at every animal exhibit.

Kade with peacock

Adalyn & Ava

Lunch Break: Miles, Swampy, Adalyn & Kade.

The Swamp Chef's never meet an alligator he couldn't tame!

The next day my high school buddy Marvin swung by and took Swampy & I to his house and barn at his lake in nearby Mississippi, barely a couple hours drive along backroads.

Of course, we stopped along the way for a few photo ops.

In Prairieville, Louisiana we stopped at Hole N' Da Wall Seafood, where you can buy 30 to 40 pound bags of live crawfish for a backyard Crawfish Boil. Normally you factor about 10 pounds of crawfish per person to consume -- you only eat crawfish tail meat. Click here to see a video of how I eat a crawfish.

They say if a boiled crawfish has a straight tail, don't eat! Something about bacteria that can't be eliminated once shellfish dies and sets around too long.

Once we got to Mississippi, Marvin insisted we have lunch at a local dining destination called The Dinner Bell located in the small town of McComb. 

And boy did it ring my bell! It's a lunch-only restaurant with the most unusual tables that are giant lazy susans, seating about a dozen diners per table. You just spin the table and reach for the most heavenly Southern-style veggies, and divine fried chicken, catfish and eggplant.

Next stop was Camp Hawleywood, Marvin's lakeside home. It's quite the spread, big enough to handle his extended family including grandkids.

With a stocked pond loaded with bass and it didn't take long for the Swamp Chef to get his plastic worm wet!

It was a chill way to spend the day -- drinking a couple beers and fishing -- now that's a vacation.

But it's mainly about hanging out with Mom and doing small chores: changing light bulbs, mowing the lawn, and after several attempts, fixing her washing machine.

Oh, and doing my food blogging and video making while babysitting Ava, my niece's 5-year-old. And there are always more drop-ins and home cooking.

I guess the plate above says it all about my family these days:Texas Toast, Denise's Slaw and Cajun Crawfish Etouffee, Brenda's Vegan Mexican-style Pinto Beans -- that is, Texans, eat-anything-Cajuns, Vegans, and Mexican half-breeds. 

 Sisters Denise & Brenda

Nephews Jason & Zak

Mom & Candyse

Lacee & Mom 

Zak, Lacee, Miles & Matt

Zak at skatepark

My nieces Candyse and Maranda are always on the go, so it's nice when they drop by.

Maranda & Candyse 

Yoga with Candyse & Ava

And no vacation's complete without coming up with a recipe video. Swamp Chef Cajun Nachos anyone?

Here's a sneak peek of the recipe video intro, "Chef Zak Meets The Swamp Chef"...there's more to come!

My friend Marvin came through again by taking me to New Orleans Airport for my flight back to Los Angeles. Since it was approaching rush hour we took the old Airline Highway, instead of the 10 Interstate freeway - and I'm glad we did! On the way, we stopped at the Zapp's Potato Chips factory and for a final meal at Port Side Restaurant. What a way to go!

99 thanks to all my Cajun family and friends!

Friday, May 10, 2019

🌹Mother's Day Recipe Videos - 84 & Still Cooking 💖

I owe it all to Mom, at least where I get my cooking chops (and any good sense I have.) Just check out our cooking videos below to see what I mean.

She grew up in Texas on the Gulf Coast, in a small shrimping and fishing town called Port O'Connor. There, I learned to love seafood.

Her father was a shrimp boat captain. So, while we couldn't afford steak, we had all the fresh caught seafood Big Daddy would skim off the top of the catch. Shrimp season was short, but crab and oyster season soon followed. And you could always cast a line into the warm Gulf waters for bountiful fishing.

Big Daddy & Big Mama

The following recipe comes from her parent's kitchen, Shrimp and Rice. It uses locally caught shrimp, cheap canned tomato paste and rice. We always had creamy pinto beans, and flour tortillas to scoop up all the deliciousness. Our family seldom had steak as it was too expensive, but we had all the Gulf seafood we could eat. Looking back I didn't realize how good we had it !

Mom's Shrimp & Rice - VIDEO
Mom had movie star looks (like a young Elizabeth Taylor) and smarts, and a scholarship to college if she wanted it, but had no encouragement from her parents.

So after high school graduation, she was soon married and I arrived on the scene, followed by my brother and sister.

Billy, Berry and Brenda

My Dad was in the military so we moved around. Mom and us kids eventually settled back in Port O'Connor, after a divorce. Dad was quite a character and the life of the party, but he was also a little too profligate in the alcohol consumption department.

Billy Doyle Robinson

Mom went back to work as a waitress, so I learned how to literally pinch pennies when she poured handfuls of customer tips on the kitchen table for us kids to separate and count.

Mom got back on her feet and found love again with this shuffleboard-playing fellow below, Ken.

After a couple years, Mom married Ken and a final sister was born (catch up with youngest sister Denise's Eggplant Recipe, video here.)

We moved to neighboring Louisiana the year I enrolled in Junior High School. There she picked up a whole other way of cooking, Cajun-style.

My high school daze were spent in Gonzales, Louisiana, the self-professed Jambalaya Capital of the World. So you know this town is serious about chow. Click here to see a culinary video tour of some local Cajun cuisine at the weekend Flea Market, including: Crawfish PieBoudin Balls and, of course, Jambalaya.

And here's our first video we made together in my Los Angeles kitchen - and my late wife, Amy, even makes an appearance at the very end of the video. You'll get a kick out of Mom rockin' the cast iron kettle. I make her Cajun Jambalaya more than any other recipe - it's simply delicious.

Cherry Pie - Recipe Video

Here is a link to her Jambalaya recipe with text and yummy photos.

Mom was always popular with my high school buddies, especially during lunch or dinner time. She brought her Tex-Mex Enchiladas to Cajun Country, and my Louisiana friend Marvin ate them up!

Me, Marvin & Dennis

During a recent Louisiana visit, I had him over when I filmed Mom making Tex-Mex Enchilidas. Marvin liked the Enchiladas so much, he had a flashback to our high school daze.

Make sure to watch my wacky recipe video to the end, that's when our flashback hijinx really gets smoking (wink, nudge.)

Mom's Chili Cheese Enchiladas - Recipe Video

Mom takes a star turn with her next video recipe, her popular Chicken and Sausage Gumbo.

It's a traditional Southern dish and its cheap, too. Just chicken, sausage and the Cajun veggie trinity of bell pepper, celery and onion. What gives Gumbo it's unique taste is a dark brown roux, which is flour cooked in oil until chocolate brown.

Just check out the video below - Mom will take you through the steps. And, as an added bonus, my oldest sister Brenda makes a nagging appearance a few minutes in.

Gumbo - Recipe Video

Click here to read all about making Mom's homemade Gumbo, from roux to rice!

My Mom's Cajun Potato Salad is the perfect side to her Gumbo and Jambalaya. When she visited me in Los Angeles I got her to do it on camera. I couldn't help but give her a hard time about the recipe. I called it Cajun Mashed Potatoes and she called it Cajun Potato Salad - well, I guess you'll have to watch the video below to see who wins that argument!

Mom's Cajun Potato Salad - Recipe Video

I satiate my sweet tooth during visits with Mom. And the best of her pastry delights are Mini-Pecan Pies. If I couldn't make it for the Christmas holiday, then she would send a shoe-boxed size package with a dozen of these tasty pies.

Mom attracts a kitchen-full of hungry relatives when these pies come hot out of the oven. And it's a miracle they were done right because this Chef de Shutterbug was shoving a camera in her face (and a hot oven) during the whole procedure. We butted heads a few times, but fortunately, it all turned out fine.

I even came up with a way to dodge the high prices for pecans - so check out the video below to learn my budget secrets.

Cherry Pie - Recipe Video

And click here to see Mom's Mini-Pecan Pies recipe with text and tasty photos.

Mom has lived half her life in Gonzales, Louisiana. One of my visits there fell on Christmas, and she pulled out all the stops with a huge holiday spread, that included Pumpkin Pie. I got her on video making it, and it turned out perfect, as you will see below.

The recipe is a traditional one made with simple ingredients. The pumpkin came from a can, but the crust was handmade with wheat flour.

Pumpkin Pie - Recipe Video

All the easy to follow steps are written out here, and with delish photos, too.

Now, Mom is no angel -- hey, who is? Recently my brother from another daddy, the Swamp Chef, with his Spanish moss and all.

When I asked Mom: "Who's the Swamp Chef's daddy?" Her reply was: "That's a very good question!" I guess Mom will spill the beans one day, until then, check out the video below for a dessert good enough to cajole the Swamp Chef out of the bayou!

Cherry Pie - Recipe Video

Happy Mother's Day to all you lovely ladies, and especially to my Mom - I love you!

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