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My Recipes-of-the-Week are featured here on my Home page. You can find 1000+ of my kitchen-tested recipes using the Recipes tab, watch nearly 100 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


~ Strawberry Chicken & Biscuits w/Strawberry Mayo ~

IMG_1490Over a period of five-six years, Joe and I had occasion to be in the San Diego area once or twice a year, and, on a few of those trips, we had the pleasure of spending time at the La Costa Resort & Spa.  Along with all of the amenities and services one would expect to find at a resort and a spa, they specialized in and excelled at serving lighter and healthier cuisine without being imposing.  On one visit there, I encountered a refreshingly-fruity strawberry-mayo concoction that showed up in a tossed strawberry chicken salad with bitty bits of bacon and blue cheese -- just enough salty, organic pork fat and tangy cheese to pleasure the palate, but not enough to make one feel guilty.  I had it for lunch, with a lovely glass of wine, both of the two days we were there.

IMG_1469La Costa's salad combo was delightful, but, it was the uniquely-fruity, slightly-spicy, thick, creamy mayo-based dressing that got my attention -- it was indeed a savory, rather than sweet use for strawberries that wouldn't have occurred to me on my own (even though I do use strawberries and raspberries to make vinaigrette).  That said, it works.  A tart and sweet purée of fresh strawberries stirred into some mayonnaise, along with some cracked black pepper and a pinch of salt, is simply wonderful.  FYI:  It works great with raspberries or peeled, chopped peaches too.

Turning a superb salad into a stellar sandwich.

While I never would have come up with the idea for the salad dressing on my own, it didn't take me long to come up with the idea to transition the salad into a sandwich. Served on warm, freshly-baked biscuits, I received more than a few quizzical looks when my family and tailgate friends (even the ladies) were presented with pink mayonnaise to top their sandwiches.  That said, not a one, not once, after the first few bites, expressed anything other than the desire for a second sandwich.  Live dangerously -- give this uniquely-different sandwich combination a try.

Part One:  Making the Strawberry Mayonnaise  

IMG_1437For the strawberry mayonnaise:

1  generous cup hulled and sliced strawberries

1  cup mayonnaise, your favorite brand

2  teaspoons dehydrated minced onion

1  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper

1/16  teaspoon sea salt

IMG_1441 IMG_1444 IMG_1448 IMG_1451 IMG_1457~Step 1.  Hull and slice the strawberries as directed, placing them in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with steel blade. With motor running, process to a purée, 30-45 seconds.  Add the mayonnaise, dehydrated onion, black pepper and sea salt.  With motor running, process again, until mayonnaise is thoroughly incorporated and mixture is uniform in color, 15-30 more seconds. Transfer to a food storage container, cover and refrigerate, 2 hours or overnight (overnight is best), to chill and thicken.  Keep stored in refrigerator 3-4 days.

Part Two:  Making the Strawberry Chicken & Biscuits

IMG_1477For the sandwiches:

8  biscuits, preferably freshly-baked and warm, sliced in half, or, small, soft sandwich rolls, sliced in half, your choice

12  slices crisply-fried bacon (1 1/2 slices per sandwich)

3/4  cup blue cheese crumbles (one generous tablespoon per sandwich)

3/4  cup each (all tossed together in one bowl):  shredded iceberg lettuce, diced fresh strawberries, and, diced sweet Vidalia onion (a generous 1/4 cup lettuce/strawberry and onion mixture per sandwich) 

2  roasted- or poached- chicken breast halves, pulled into bite-sized pieces

strawberry mayonnaise (from above recipe)

~ Step 1.  In the order listed, place 3 half-strips of bacon atop the bottom of each biscuit half, then scatter a generous tablespoon of blue cheese crumbles atop the bacon.  Top the blue cheese with a generous 1/4 cup of the lettuce, strawberry and onion mixture.  Heap a generous mound of pulled roasted or poached chicken atop the lettuce mix, then, top with the other half of the warm biscuit.  Serve each sandwich with additional strawberry-mayo to the side for dipping or drizzling.

IMG_1483Strawberry Chicken & Biscuits w/Strawberry Mayo:  Recipe yields 2 cups strawberry mayonnaise and instructions to make 8, 3"-round biscuit sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  strawberry huller (optional); cutting board; chef's knife; food processor or blender; rubber spatula; 2-cup food storage container w/tight-fitting lid

IMG_7872Cook's Note:  In the event you're interested in a crispy-crunchy chicken sandwich instead, feel free to skip the roasting or poaching and try my ~ Happy-Valley-Ranch Deep-Fried Chicken Sandwich ~, topped with ~ Mel's "Happy Valley" Ranch-Style Salad Dressing ~.  I guarantee, it will make you "happy".

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)


~ Spreads go Bread to Bread: Hellmann's vs Duke's ~

IMG_1418Mayonnaise.  As a gal who loves deli-, tuna- and egg-salad sandwiches, I am never too far from my mayo.  During the picnic and tailgate season, when side-dishes like macaroni salad, potato salad, cole slaw and deviled eggs reign supreme, I purchase bigger jars, in two-packs.  When our garden tomatoes are ripe, I could (and will) eat a freshly-picked sliced-tomato sandwich, on white bread, with a big slather of mayonnaise, every day.  There's more.  I can't imagine my life without mayonnaise-based tartar and remoulade sauces in it, or, oh my Thousand Islands salad dressing, and, I'm very proficient at making homemade mayonnaise ("mayo") from scratch too.

What's the difference between mayonnaise & salad dressing?

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c766995c970bLong ago (way, way back in time) I decided I liked Hellmann's mayonnaise better than Kraft's, and, I prefer mayonnaise to its cousin: salad dressing (Miracle Whip).  In it's simplest form, non-commercially made mayonnaise is a thick, rich and creamy mixture made from the emulsion of raw egg yolks, lemon juice (or vinegar) and vegetable oil. In 1756, the French, under Louis François Armand de Vignerot du Plessis, doc de Richelieu, captured Mahón on the Spanish-held island of Minorca.  In honor of the victory, the duc's chef created a new dressing for his master:  "Mahónnaise". (Above photo is indeed homemade mayonnaise, made by me, in less than 5 minutes, in the food processor.)

HellmannsIn 1903, Richard Hellmann emigrated from Germany to New York City, where in 1904 he married Margaret Vossberg, whose parents owned a delicatessen.  In 1905 he opened his own deli on Columbus Avenue, where he developed the first ready-made mayonnaise. He complimentary served his condiment,  in small amounts, to all his customers.  It became so popular so fast, he was soon selling it in bulk to other stores, while constantly improving the recipe to lengthen the shelf life (to avoid spoilage).  In 1913, he built a factory and began selling mayonnaise under the name "Hellman's Blue Ribbon Mayonnaise".  In 1920, the New York Tribune asked chefs to rate commercial "salad dressing brands" and they unanimously voted Hellmans #1, which boosted sales and made Hellman's a staple in the American kitchen.

12945457In 1933, Kraft foods, via inventor Charles Chapman, patented an emulsifying machine which allowed mayonnaise to be evenly blended with lesser expensive brands of commercial mayonnaise and more than 20 different spices, plus, sugar. The result was Miracle Whip, which made its debut at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, promising to create "salad miracles with Miracle Whip Salad Dressing".  Their "whip" was an instant success.  To make a long story short, mayonnaise is mayonnaise -- salad dressing is a blend of mayonnaise plus other things.  From a side-by-side taste test standpoint, the most obvious difference between Kraft's Miracle Whip and all commercial brands of "mayo" is its sweetness.  Both high-fructose corn syrup and sugar are the fourth and fifth ingredients, respectively, on the back of a jar of Miracle Whip.

Mr. Hellman's mayo vs Mrs. Duke's mayo.  Both rich in history.

41wLfCC6iUL._SL500_SS500_Before I delve into comparisons, which are going to leave one side or the other feeling slightly-slighted, it is worth noting that, up until recently (about three weeks recently), Duke's was not available us Yankees -- it was a "Southern thing" exclusively. That said,  I've heard enough about this iconic mayo from my Southern friends, to know enough pick up a jar the moment I came across it in one of our local grocery stores (coincidentally, shortly after Duke's started advertising on national TV -- which caught my attention and put me on the lookout for it).  I'm always open to conducting a taste test -- especially if it stands half a chance of rocking my food world.  

In 1917, Mrs. Eugenia Duke of Greenville, South Carolina, because of the need to supplement her husband's income, started selling sandwiches for ten cents a piece, slathered with her homemade mayonnaise, to soldiers at Camp Sevier (near Greenville) -- her selection included pimento cheese, egg- and chicken- salad.  By 1919 she was selling over 10,000 sandwiches a day, soldiers were writing to her asking for her recipe (so their mother's could duplicate it), and, local grocers were selling bottles of her mayonnaise on consignment.  In order to handle the volume, she moved her operation out of her kitchen into an out-building, and, bought a delivery truck.  She also set up a small shop in the Ottaray Hotel, in downtown Greenville, where she sold dainty tea sandwiches to "the upper crust".  In 1929 she sold her recipes to C.F. Bauer, who established the first Duke's mayonnaise factory and sent her product out into the world.  As Andrew Smart, the President of Duke Sandwich Co. said, "Here's a woman, in 1917, who was an entrepreneur and a business leader -- in a time when she didn't even have the right to vote."

Mayonnaise:  It's regional.  There's no right or wrong brand.

IMG_1399< The Hellmann's ingredients list is straightforward -- as straight forward as an ingredients list for mayonnaise can be.  When I make mayonnaise, I use vegetable oil, no water, egg yolks (no whites), fresh lemon juice (not concentrate), Dijon mustard (I prefer the tang of Dijon to vinegar), sugar, salt and a pinch of pepper.

IMG_1397< The Duke's ingredients list is straightforward though slightly different.  They use whole eggs (no extra egg yolks), water + two types of vinegar (no lemon juice), no sugar, and oleoresin paprika (a natural food coloring, not a flavoring, used in orange juice, snack foods, etc. -- one of the most unique uses for it is in chicken feed, in order to give the yolks in chicken eggs a darker yellow appearance).

Taste, texture & color.  Mel's conclusions revealed.

Allow me to start by saying:  I tasted both, side-by-side, before reading either ingredients labels. No surprise here:  these are two great-tasting mayonnaises.  In fact, they taste so similar, if you are adding them to a "concoction" (macaroni- potato- tuna- or egg- salads, etc.), no one could possibly detect which one is which.  While Hellman's contains sugar, it is by no means sweet or sweeter than Duke's.  In fact, the sugar enhances the lemony flavor, which appeals to me more than vinegar -- Hellman's wins on this point.  Let's talk texture.  If you're slathering them on a slice of your favorite bread, there is a luxurious creaminess to Duke's, which is more indicative of homemade hand-whisked mayonnaise, the texture of which I suspect is due to extra oil rather than protein-rich, yellow egg yolks (which I would prefer).  Hellmann's, while indeed creamy, is aerated and slightly-gelantenous (similar to a mousse in which whipped egg whites have been folded into yolks) -- Duke's wins on this point.  As for color, while Duke's palest-of-yellow color is more attractive, it is enhanced by food coloring, so, Hellman's wins by default on this last point.

Mayonnaise:  It's personal.  There's no right or wrong brand.

IMG_1428"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)


~ Sweet, Savory & Spicy: Rhubarb-Ginger Chutney ~

IMG_1392 (1)Besides a store-bought jar of the beloved Major Grey's mango chutney, which I have on hand in my refrigerator at all times, in the Fall and Winter you will find a container of my homemade apple chutney, and, in the Spring and Summer, you will find a jar of my rhubarb-ginger chutney.  I make each one, once a year, every year, and freeze it in small containers so I'm never without this very-versatile sweet, savory and slightly-spicy flavor-boosting condiment -- it is a staple in my kitchen.  

IMG_8729 IMG_7359When I first encountered chutney, I was a young adult and it was served as a spread for cheese and crackers.  I loved it, and before long, I was using it as a topping or spread  atop small slices of toasted firm-textured bread with roasted meats and hearty cheeses (crostini), and, in my  South African grilled cheese sandwiches and Jamaican curried deviled eggs.

A bit about "Chutney":   Having its origin in India, the name comes from the East Indian word "chatni".  The chutney most of us Americans are familiar with is a preserved sweet and savory condiment containing fruit and/or dried fruit, vinegar, sugar and an array of different spices. Similar to its next of kin (jam, relish and salsa), it ranges in texture from chunky to smooth and in degree of spiciness from mild to hot.  Unlike its next of kin, chutney is  simmered low and slow for a lengthier amount of time.  In India, chutneys are commonly made and eaten fresh (originally with a mortar and pestle, nowadays a food processor), many are vegetable- rather than fruit-based and contain a wider array of ingredients (like mint or cilantro, ginger, tomatoes, yogurt or coconut milk and/or peanuts), and, are typically served as a side-dish/accompaniment to Indian curried dishes.  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 locally available ingredients.

Pucker up baby:  tart rhubarb is perfect for chutney.

6a0120a8551282970b01a3fd1e256e970bIs there a difference between green & red stalked rhubarb?

The color of rhubarb is not related to its suitability for cooking, however, the red rhubarb sold in the grocery store, unless marked "locally grown" is grown in hot houses.  I find this type of rhubarb to be a bit dry and subdued in flavor.  Outdoor varietes can vary from red, speckled with red, light pink or simply green (like mine).  Green stalked rhubarb is more robust (tart) and produces a higher yield, but, red is sure more popular with consumers.  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. 

No.  They are both perfectly ripe & ready to be cooked.

IMG_13091  cup apple cider vinegar

1  pound dark brown sugar

1  teaspoon sea salt

2  tablespoons pink peppercorns, lightly crushed  (Note:  These "little peppery jewels." are not peppercorns or related to a peppercorn.  Originating in Peru, they are a dried, fragile-skinned berry that Amazon rainforest natives use to make homemade pink peppercorn beer.  Because their skin is fragile, they are easily crushed with the flat side of a chef's knife, to release their delicate, fruity, peppery flavor -- pop one into your mouth for a most enjoyable nibble.)

1  15-ounce box golden raisins

1  ounce garlic paste, or fresh garlic cloves, processed in a food processor (about 1 tablespoon paste)

8  ounces ginger paste, or fresh ginger, peeled, chopped and processed in a food processor (about 8 tablespoons paste)

4  pounds green or red stalked rhubarb, trimmed of woody ends & sliced into 1/2" pieces 

IMG_1310 IMG_1313 IMG_1317 IMG_1321 IMG_1328~Step 1.  In an 8-quart stockpot,  stir together the vinegar and brown sugar, until sugar is dissolved.  Stir in the salt and peppercorns, followed by the raisins.  Slice the rhubarb, as directed, placing it in the stockpot as you work.  If using garlic cloves and ginger root, prep them as directed, place them in the work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade, and, using a series of 30-45 rapid-on off pulses followed by the motor running for 15-30 seconds, process to a paste.  Add the garlic paste and ginger paste to the stockpot.  Slice the rhubarb, as directed, placing it in the stockpot as you work.  Using a large spoon, take a moment to give the mixture and thorough stir.  Adjust heat to medium-high.

IMG_1331 IMG_1333 IMG_1335 IMG_1338 IMG_1355~Step 2.  Stirring frequently, bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.  Adjust heat to a gentle but steady simmer.  Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until rhubarb has lost about half of its volume and mixture is thick, 30-40 minutes. Watch carefully and stir constantly during the last 10 minutes of the cooking process, as the mixture can and will scorch quickly.  Remove from heat, partially cover and set set aside to cool completely, 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally.  

Portion into 1-cup food storage containers & refrigerate...

IMG_1348... several hours or overnight, prior to serving chilled...

IMG_1366...  & freeze the balance for future chutney enjoyment:

IMG_1372Deli-ham & melted-cheese chutney-topped crostini anyone?

IMG_1384Sweet, Savory & Spicy:  Rhubarb-Ginger Chutney:  Recipe yields 10 cups. 

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; food processor (optional); 8-quart stockpot w/lid; large spoon; 10, 1-cup food storage containers w/tight fitting lids

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c906d115970bCook's Note:  There is a certain satisfaction in teaching people how to love food made from a misunderstood ingredient.  Rhubarb, sometimes called "the pie vegetable" is one such ingredient. Whether it's green or red stalked, a slice of old-fashioned rhubarb pie is a favorite of mine.  For those of you who like your rhubarb pie unadulterated (no strawberries please), and that includes not too much sugar: ~ Pucker-Up for a Straight-Up Rhubarb Streusel Pie ~. Give my very special Pennsylvania Deutsch recipe a try -- oh my pie! 

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)