Hush Puppies

Depending on where you are in the world I believe there is some variation of hush puppies or cornballs cooked in every culture, either savory or sweet - such as the falafel, sorullitos and festivals. Typically you may think of hush puppies as a BBQ or seafood side dish; originating in the southern region of the USA - tasty comfort food. Yes, I included my own version of it in my Know Your Fire Cookbook. Perfect to serve along with fish and shellfish, such as my ultimate Seafood Chowder from George Hirsch Lifestyle TV series. 

Where the name HushPuppies came from:

The name "hushpuppies" is often attributed to southern cooks who would fry some basic cornmeal mixture (possibly that they had been bread-coating or battering their own food with) and feed it to their dogs to "hush the puppies" during cook-outs or fish-fries.

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Hush Puppies 

chefgeorgehirsch.com |  Know Your Fire cookbook | George Hirsch Lifestyle

1 cup cornmeal

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup milk

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 Tablespoons melted butter

1 Tablespoon fine chopped parsley

Vegetable oil for frying

* optional suggestions: onions, hot pepper, crisp cooked bacon, finely chopped ham or crab meat

Combine cornmeal, baking powder, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add the milk, add egg and beat with a whisk or fork until the batter is smooth and no lumps remain. Stir in the butter, parsley and set the batter aside for 15 to 20 minutes. 

Fill a deep saucepan or deep-fat fryer with 2 to 3 inches of vegetable oil and heat to 360 degree F. Scoop up a scant tablespoon of batter off the spoon into the hot fat and when the hush puppies rise to the top in about 1 minute, turn them over and cook until evenly brown, about 2 minutes total. Remove and drain on paper towels. Hush Puppies should always be served piping hot.

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Pasture Awareness

The Bottom Line: Poultry and eggs pasture raised taste better than those raised in confinement. 

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Pastured poultry (not referring to pasteurization process, that's for foods such as milk, cheese and beer) is a technique used for raising chickens or other poultry right on green pastures. The birds are always kept on fresh pasture by systematically moving them around every few days, which allows the birds to be raised in a cleaner, healthier environment. And fed the old fashioned way- on fresh green pasture grass and with wholesome grain. 

'Pastured living' is not only good for the chickens- but chickens managed correctly, are good for the pasture. Hens are brillant at finding and eating small seeds, insects, and tender grass and leaves. Their manure leaves behind a healthy shot of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. The trick is to move the hens before the pasture has been pecked and scratched to death.

Although there is nothing new here, since farmers have been raising poultry on pastures for centuries in this manner. In fact, most domesticated poultry was raised outdoors until the 1950s when large confinement egg and poultry operations found they could mass produce product confined in restricted conditions. Even though the majority of poultry is now produced in high-density factory farms, the good news is a rising number of growers have chosen to raise their poultry in outdoor free range pastures instead of indoor confinement to produce a high quality, farm-fresh, all-natural product. Which brings us back to quality, quality, quality. That's good stuff.

The pastured poultry movement has found great support among consumers, chefs and restaurateurs because of the high quality and unsurpassed flavor of such products. And so, local farmers continue to see growth with demand for premium-priced pasture-raised poultry and eggs. 

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Nutritional Benefit: Deep-yellow-yolked eggs, the sign of natural chock full of beneficial Omega 3 fatty acids.

In Season: Pastured eggs are seasonal, hens lay less as the days get shorter. In industrial confined egg operations they use artificial lights. However, while the ladies are resting and not earning their keep, they are eating even more expensive grain because of shorter daylight and colder days. Just one of the reasons why pastured eggs will cost more.

Inspiration: See what hard work, dedication, and pride in what the natural earth creates. Chris and Holly of Browder's Birds Mattituck, on the North Fork LI are career changers who run Long Islands's only organic & pastured poultry farm. On the west coast Soul Food Farm owners Alexis and Eric Koefoed raise pastured chickens for both eggs and meat. They turn sunlight, grass, bugs, and high-quality domestic feed into animals that live a healthy and humane life --free to roam in fresh air and peck and take dust baths — and then into delicious and healthy food. They are driven by the belief that "You are what you eat, and what you eat, eats." Soul Food Farm, Vacaville, CA.

Resources: For more information on where to find pasture eggs near you:

American Pastured Poultry Producers Association

Rodale Institute

When eggs are this good they need to take center stage, or center of the plate. So here's my Eggs Benedict Recipe, taken from Know Your Fire cookbook by George Hirsch with Marie Bianco.

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Know Your Fire cookbook by George Hirsch with Marie Bianco

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Spanakopita

Spanakopita is a kind of börek, aka burek; a savory pastry filled with spinach, feta cheese, onions and egg. No matter where in world it's from or what you call it, this appetizer or hors d'oeuvre is always a winner. And yes, go ahead, eat it with your fingers.

About Filo: excerpt from Know Your Fire cookbook by George Hirsch with Marie Bianco 

Filo or phyllo dough is comprised of tissue-thin layers of pastry especially popular in Greek cuisine. They can be used for both sweet and savory dishes. Filo is especially delicate, and once it dries out it becomes brittle and cannot be used. Work with a small portion of filo at a time and keep the rest under a damp paper towel or plastic wrap to keep it moist. 

Rarely is a single layer of filo used. As each sheet is brushed with butter, it’s usually sprinkled with fine breadcrumbs or nuts to keep the layers slightly separated. 

Filo is sold in Greek markets and in the freezer section of most supermarkets. If you buy frozen filo, it should be defrosted in the refrigerator and used within 2 to 3 days.

image credit, George Hirsch

Spanakopita is a great make ahead savory. If consumed the same day, cover well and refrigerate until baking - just before serving. If making a couple days ahead, freeze unbaked until before serving. No need to defrost, just increase oven temperature to 400 degrees F. and bake direct from frozen. 

Spanakopita

recipe by George Hirsch | Makes 12 

12 sheets filo
1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed & drain well*
1/2 cup sweet onion, chopped fine
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon each dried oregano, basil, thyme
1 large egg, beaten
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablesooon fresh mint, chopped
juice from 1/2 fresh lemon 
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup fresh or dried bread crumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup sweet butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

*Place spinach in a wire-mesh strainer or fine colander and squeeze the excess water out of the spinach.

Place egg in a medium bowl. Add sea salt, pepper, oregano, basil, and thyme. Mix in fresh mint, olive oil and lemon juice. Add onion, feta cheese, spinach and mix well until combine. Set aside.

Unwrap the filo dough and cover sheets with plastic wrap while preparing to keep from drying out. 

Lay one sheet of filo on a large cutting board and gently brush with melted butter. Sprinkle a small amount of breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese between layers. Place a second filo sheet on top of the first and brush with butter. Repeat breadcrumbs and cheese. Repeat one more time until you have a stack of three filo sheets with butter brushed between the layers.

Using a sharp knife or pastry wheel cutter, cut filo sheets lengthwise into three strips. Place approximately two tablespoons of the spinach filling one inch from the bottom end of each strip.

Take the bottom right corner of the strip between your thumb and finger and fold over spinach filling to the left to make a triangle. Gently pull up the bottom left corner and fold up to make a second triangle. Continue folding until you reach the top. Place the triangle, seam-side down, on baking sheet. Brush the completed triangle lightly with melted butter.

Repeat with the remaining strips of filo sheets until the entire filling used.

Place triangles two inches apart on baking sheet. 

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.