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It’s that time of year, I guess. Depression starts setting in and I start to realize that summer is ending. I do like Fall, don’t get me wrong. when the leaves start to change (this is already happening) and the air conditioners come out of the windows (this hasn’t happened yet) and I’ve started wearing sweaters and boots, well then I can embrace the cool weather and enjoy cooking stews, soups, gumbo, pies, etc. But, I’m in seasonal purgatory right now, wishing it were still summer, looking at the tiny cantelopes on my plant that probably won’t have a chance.

This is the time for green tomatoes. I haven’t picked them all yet, and still have some turning red, but I have to keep an eye out for that first frost forecast so that I can gather up all the green tomatoes and do something yummy with them. Preferably fry them.

I don’t know if this is an old Southern recipe, but it certainly had a revival after the book and movie Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. I never really ate them before that book came out, but that doesn’t really mean anything. I eat them now. They are deelish. I told my neighbor about them and she said that now her husband is absolutely addicted. They have a pick-your-own CSA, so she just goes into the field and picks green tomatoes. She says they make them all the time!

Fried Green Tomatoes

Take some green tomatoes (they have to be very green, if they are even a little bit red then they will have too much moisture; they will be soggy and might even cause some splattering in the pan) and slice them into about 1/2 inch slices. Pour about 2 inches of oil into a cast iron skillet; I use half bacon grease and half oil. Take two bowls; fill one with cornmeal and spices (I use Tony Chachere’s and salt & pepper), and fill the other with a couple of beaten eggs. Heat the oil over medium  high heat. When it’s good and hot dip the tomato slices in the egg bath and then in the corn meal, tapping the slice so that the extra cornmeal falls off. Slip the slices into the oil and brown. They should brown relatively quickly. Gently turn them over and let the other side brown nicely. Remove to a plate with a paper towel on top and enjoy!

Don’t let these sit around too long b/c they’ll get soggy.

Yum.

My dad forwarded me a link to folo, a news-following blog that posted a “Southern 100 Foods-To-Eat” list. I couldn’t resist taking part in this.

The items in bold are those that I’ve tried, and my comments are in italics. In his original post he mentions that he left off a few things and I have to agree that tomato sandwiches should have been included, as well as caramel cake, banana pudding, cheese grits, Community coffee, Steen’s syrup, and cheese straws, just to name a few off the top of my head. I could also add stuffed shrimp, fried shrimp and oyster po-boys, and Abita beer.

Fun! What would you add or subtract from this list?

1.  Appalachicola oysters
I don’t know if I’ve had Appalachicola oysters, but I’ve sure eaten a lot of Gulf oysters.
2.  souse
3.  A sazarac
4.  moonshine
5.  A Ramos gin fiz
6.  single-barrel bourbon
7.  Jack Daniels and coca cola
8.  a moon pie
9.  sweet tea
10. a pimento burger

11. whole hog barbecue
12. one of the “freak” bbq dishes (bbq sundae, bbq spagetti, etc.).
Does bbq pizza count?
13. pork shoulder in Memphis
14. dry ribs
15. wet ribs
16. a hot dog at the Varsity in Atlanta
17. a muffelata
18. what your waiter thinks you should have tonight at Gallatoire’s

Gallatoires, *sigh*, one of my favorite restaurants…
19. frogmore stew
20. fried catfish
21. she-crab soup
22. Boiled crawfish at a roadhouse in Louisiana (e.g. the Guiding Star in New Iberia)

Roadhouse? Is Richard’s in Abbeville a “roadhouse”? Anyway, I’ve eaten my fair share of boiled crawfish, I can tell you that.
23. bbq with Carolina mustard sauce
24. insanely hot chicken in Nashville
25. bbq mutton (Kentucky)
Is Kentucky the South? This is debatable.
25. burgoo (Kentucky)
26. brunswick stew
27. bbq chicken with “white sauce”  (North Alabama)
28. shrimp and grits
29. a lucky dog
30. seafood gumbo
31. chicken and sausage gumbo
32. fried okra

33. chitterlings
34. greens cooked with a ham hock
35. yellow squash casserole
36. deviled eggs
37. kumback sauce

I’ve never seen it spelled this way; I always thought it was “comeback”
38. Delta tamales
39. a steak at Does
40. red beans and rice
41. fried pie
42. Natchitoches meat pie
43. maquechoux
44. fried chicken, milk gravy, and rice
45. alligator

46. deep fried turkey
47. bread and butter pickles
48. blackberries just after they are picked
49. blackberry cobbler
50. pecan pie
51. extract pound cake

“extract”?
52. tea cookies
Does he mean tea cakes?
53. a breakfast of country ham, fried eggs, grits, biscuits, red eye gravy
54. a glazed and baked Tennessee or Kentucky country ham
55. hickory smoked sausage in a canvas poke

56. a Greek hot dog with meat sauce in Birmingham
57. pimento cheese sandwich
58. A fried fish plate from a fish shack anywhere along the Gulf or Atlantic coasts

“fish shack” I don’t know…I’ve certainly eaten my fair share of fried fish plates from dives along the coast and inland.
59. a mint julep
60. boiled peanuts

61. peanut soup
62. sweet potato pie
63. sorghum molasses
64. Chesapeake bay softshell crabs

65. Maryland crab cakes
66. Stuffed ham (Maryland or Virginia)
68. cornbread
69. cornbread stuffing
70. andouille
71. boudin
72. jambalaya
73. gumbo z’herbes
74. crawfish etouffee
75. sugar cane
76. wild duck gumbo
77. shrimp remoulade
78. bread pudding with whiskey sauce
79. barbecued shrimp

80. A New Orleans creole Italian salad
81. field peas
82. okra and tomatoes
83. skillet corn
84. a “meat and three” plate lunch in mid-to-late summer

85. a revolving tables-style boarding house meal
86. red velvet cake
87. fried buffalo fish
88. ramps
89. yellow meat watermelon
90. Food and drink at an SEC football game tailgating
91. venison
92. turtle soup

93. quail for breakfast
94. pickled egg
95. Barqs root beer
96. A home or house-made cream pie with meringue on it
97. A country church “dinner on the grounds”

98. squirrel and dumplings
99. beaten biscuits
100. hoop cheese and saltines in a country store

Red Velvet Cake

Red Velvet Cake

Dru’s favorite cake is red velvet cake. Every year I make it for him for his birthday. This sounds sweet until you realize that until very recently I didn’t really know how to bake at all. One year I didn’t let the cake cool down enough so the frosting just melted off of it. The next year I tried to use “all natural” food coloring and it had a weird brown/pink color. I also used all-purpose instead of cake flour and the crumb just wasn’t right. This year I wised up and used Louise’s recipe. Louise is a friend of my mother-in-law’s who makes us these amazing cakes every year at Christmas. Her cakes are HUGE; she must triple the recipe or something because I’m telling you these cakes could feed a family of four for a month and probably have.

So thanks to Louise this year’s cake turned out really good. The only problem was that the layers were a little misshapen; I don’t know what I did but somehow I didn’t get them into or out of the pan quite right. It wasn’t anything I couldn’t cover up with some frosting, but I definitely have to work on my technique.

For those of you who don’t know, red velvet cake is a favored cake in the South; fit for anything from a funeral to a festival. Of course, it was made famous by Steel Magnolias when Ouiser wacks off the tail of the groom’s armadillo cake. The bloody inside is, of course, red velvet cake.

I warn you, this cake is messy to make! Especially when you crank that mixer up to setting #8. My kitchen looked a scene from Dexter when it was all over. The picture above doesn’t really do it justice; this cake is red. If you’d rather not use the food coloring you can of course leave it out or try the natural food coloring (but it won’t be the same).

Louise’s Red Velvet Cake

1/2-3/4 c. shortening (I used half shortening, half butter)
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 oz. red food coloring
2 tbsp. cocoa
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
2 1/4 c. cake flour
1 c. buttermilk
1 tsp. baking soda
1-2 tsp. vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Cream shortening and sugar. Add eggs. In a small bowl combine food color and cocoa, add vanilla and mix. Stir into shortening/sugar/egg mixture. In another bowl combine salt and flour. In a mixing bowl, alternate salt/flour mixture with buttermilk. Combine soda and vinegar and add to cream mixture. Let it beat for a while (setting 8). Pour into two 9″ cake pans and bake for 30-35 min., or until cake springs back to the touch. Ice with cream cheese icing and top with chopped pecans if desired.

Cream Cheese Icing
4 oz. stick of butter
8 oz. cream cheese
1 box confectioner’s sugar (sifted)
1 tsp. vanilla

Beat in a mixer until combined.

My husband Dru and I just got back from a terrific trip to San Francisco. I had to go for a business conference and I decided early on that I would take him and make the trip half business, half pleasure. I grew up in Mississippi, lived in North Carolina for a stint and then moved to Massachusetts. Aside from a four-week roadtrip when I was in college and a trip or two to Washington state, I’d never really explored the West coast too much. The Bay Area is so vastly different than what I’m used to; the landscape reminded me a lot of the Mediterranean, the weather was fantastic (I know that we lucked out on this one), people were laid back, and there were bookstores everywhere. It’s really ridiculous how many books we bought while we were there. I’d been on the lookout for some M.F.K. Fisher for a while now and haven’t been able to find any of her books here in the environs of Boston. But, we went to City Lights and of course they had everything she’d ever written (not really, but close). I got Serve it Forth and How to Cook a Wolf. I also got Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient by Jennifer McLagan; a great cookbook which has inspired me to render my own lard. A topic for another post.

Scott Peacock

Slow Food '08 Victory Garden

Coincidentally we were there during Slow Food Nation ’08. We didn’t get to participate too much due to our flight arrangements, but we did go to the marketplace at the Civic Center Plaza. It was like I’d died and gone to heaven. It was a huge farmer’s market with amazing produce, rice, nuts, cheese, olive oil, and on and on. All of it grown locally and most of it grown organically. I bought some peaches and plums for us to eat right then and there, some almonds, rice, wheat berries, and pistachios. I wanted to buy everything in sight but knew I couldn’t fit it all in my luggage. Right in the middle of the plaza they’d installed a “victory garden” which they will harvest for the San Francisco food bank. It was an amazing garden and I was totally jealous. On the other side of the garden were vendors selling small meals. I was pleasantly surprised to find my favorite chef Scott Peacock cooking ham biscuits with jam. I stood there like a fool and watched him make biscuits. He clearly used lard and cut it right into the flour with his hands. He was making way more than I usually make, of course, but I think I’ll try that next time instead of the pastry cutter; they are biscuits after all and not a delicate flaky pie crust. There was a line, but once I got some of those biscuits I ate them pretty fast. I have to say it was incredible being surrounded by people who were as excited about local food as I am. I get a small taste of that when I go to the farmer’s market around here, but that’s not on such a grand scale.

A happy girl

What else did we eat you might be wondering? Well, I ate the hottest pepper I’d ever eaten in the Mission District. It was hidden in the “hot” salsa on this plate of Carne Asada:

I’ve gotten way too used to ordering the hottest thing on the menu here in New England. The hottest dish is never hot enough for me; if the menu has three chili peppers and warns in big letters “WARNING: This dish is very spicy,” I order it and find it just right. I have a friend whose head sweats when he eats something spicy; it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen and I always take the opportunity to make fun of him. Well, that’s here in New England where people like their dinners boiled and their food bland, thank you very much. Not a Latino neighborhood where people can actually handle a little bit of spiciness in their food. WOOWEE! I tell ya, that pepper was a-spicy. An hour later I could still feel it on my lips. Luckily I’d ordered an horchata, which cut through the spice; water would have just made it worse. The food was really good; this was at La Cumbre, supposedly the oldest taqueria in San Francisco. The Mission District is so interesting; it is definitely a place of extremes, on one block I felt like we were in a rough part of Mexico City and then the next block felt a little more like a hip street in Brooklyn somewhere. It’s definitely a neighborhood on the edge of two extremes; gentrification on one side and poverty on the other.

The last day we were there we went to Berkeley and made the pilgrimage to Chez Panisse. It was an absolute necessity for me to go to this restaurant; I couldn’t be that close and not go. So, a month ago I called to make a reservation; even then they could only fit us in for 5:30, but of course we took it. Needless to say the meal was amazing. We decided to go to the cafe instead of the restaurant. In the restaurant the meal is much pricier; like $95 for prix fixe. In the cafe it is more like $23 for an entree; still pricey for us. We started with Pizzeta with Tomales Bay clams (picture above). It had a really yummy creamy sauce on it and the clams were teensy, especially compared to the Ipswich clams I’m used to. Then I had Wood oven-roasted squid and pimientos with romesco sauce and Dru had Hand-cut rosemary pasta with Devil’s Gulch Ranch rabbit ragu. We were both happy with what we ordered; I have to say I would never  have ordered the squid, but the waiter insisted it was good. Of course he was right. It wasn’t tough at all and the flavor was incredible. For desert I had Meyer lemon sorbet with fresh berries and Dru had Affogato, which apparently means warm espresso over vanilla ice cream. What a perfect way to end a perfect trip!

Meyer lemon sorbet with summer berries

Affogato

Affogato