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I joined a CSA this year and have really enjoyed it. Lately there have been a lot of garlic scapes, arugula, TONS of lettuce (not to mention the lettuce that we have growing in our garden…lots of salad lately), radishes, turnips, bok choy and spinach. But yesterday there was a new addition: tot soi. I have no idea what to do with this. I’m guessing you treat it like bok choy or any other green leafy veggie, right? Could I sautee it with the bok choy? I just don’t really know where to go with all these green things I have in my fridge right now. It’s a bit overwhelming.

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My in-laws arrived in town last weekend with an SUV packed to the gills with stuff from Mississippi. Along with some rugs and furniture they brought two boxes of my grandmother’s cookbooks.

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I was a bit overwhelmed by the amount of books; I didn’t realize there would be so many! She says she has more, but they couldn’t fit them in the car. So, I’ll just start with this. They’ll keep me busy. It’s probably half community cookbooks, half more popular, “classic” books, like Simca’s Cuisine, Joy of Cooking, Beard on Food, etc. Looking through these cookbooks made me realize that food really does go through fads; just like fashion. And unlike fashion, it’s not really easy to get nostalgic about them. Some of the stuff in these books makes me feel kind of gross. Among the recipes you’ll see a great many that call for tuna, cottage cheese, cream of mushroom soup, mayonnaise, and Worcestershire sauce. Many of them are then formed into a ring. Although I scoff at some of these recipes you have to admire the hard work that went into putting them together. I love this one, that has an introduction by the author. Like any good Southern cookbook, the lion’s share of recipes are for sweet things, cakes, cookies, frostings, and pies. Entrees are shoved in the middle almost as an afterthought, and Vegetables and Salads are tacked onto the end after “This and That.”

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My friend Jen loves cooking and we have decided we are going to make some of these recipes. One of the first ones we’ll try, although we haven’t worked up the courage yet, is the Vegetable Jello Salad. You never know, maybe we’ll love it! The recipe comes from Jen’s favorite of the bunch: The American Oil Chemists’ Society Cookbook, 1977.

Vegetable Jello Salad

1 package lemon Jello
1 c. hot water
1 lb. cottage cheese (small curd)
3 medium sized carrots (grated)
1 tbsp. minced onion (grated) how do you grate an already minced onion?
1 tbsp. green pepper chopped fine
1/2 c. salad dressing does this mean Miracle Whip? or vinaigrette?
1/2 c. cream or dream whip (whipped)

Dissolve Jello in hot water. Let cool to the setting point. Mix whipped cream with salad dressing and combine with Jello then with cottage cheese, grated carrots, onion and green pepper. Pour into mold and chill until firm.

If you decide to try this before us PLEASE let me know how it goes. I know you can’t wait!

Happy Thanksgiving!

I didn’t want to continue my Mississippi report by skipping over Thanksgiving, and since I’m busy cooking I don’t have too much time to write. So, for those of you last minute types who are looking for a way to cook those sweet potatoes (or yams), here’s a recipe from my grandmother. I haven’t tried it yet, but plan to do some version of it tonight.

Fried Boiled Yams

4 lg. sw. potatoes or yams
8 tbsp. butter
1 c. sugar

Wash fresh sweet potatoes. Place in a pot with enough water to cover. Simmer until tender. Drain, cool, and peel. Slice lengthwise, set aside. Saute sliced potatoes in butter letting the edges brown. Sprinkle over with sugar. Serve warm as an accompanying dish. Serves 8.

In case you were wondering, it’s 12:30 and I’ve already made biscuits, bacon & eggs for breakfast, pear custard bars, and buttermilk bacon pralines from Screen Doors and Sweet Tea. I was inspired by Kim at Yankee in a Southern Kitchen, who made them a couple of weeks ago. I’ve already tasted one and they are crazy good. Martha Hall Foose describes them as “ridiculous” in her cookbook, and I have to say that’s the right word. Up here in Mass. they would say “wicked good.”

We’re only going to have 3 1/2 (3 adults and a toddler) tonight so I’m not cooking a turkey. Instead we’re having chicken & dumplings, sweet potatoes (see above), green beans, and cornbread dressing. We’ll be eating leftovers forever, I’m sure, but that’s what Thanksgiving is all about.

Whether you are cooking or eating out I hope you have a great day!

On Wednesday I head back down South for twelve whole days. I’ll be sure to keep you updated as I eat my way through Mississippi. I’ll be traveling all over the state to see family and am sure to eat some good food along the way. If you have any special requests for food you’d like to eat vicariously, please let me know. I plan to visit the fish camp in Whynot, MS where they serve each meal with a big bowl of cole slaw and probably consider hush puppies to be a vegetable. I’d love to try to find Jean’s Red Door BBQ in Meehan (or Savoy?). Where else…I don’t know, but I’ll also be going to Brookhaven, Jackson, Birmingham, Louisville, and finishing up in Oxford where we’ll tailgate with all the crazy Ole Miss fans. That’s a tradition that’s worth writing about. If I pick up any fun recipes I’ll be sure to share them with you.

I was going to post about caramel cake again, but I really messed up the icing this time. I think I over cooked it and it ended up as hard as a rock. I’ll keep trying. I made a pretty good potato kale soup the other day from Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food. I still have some kale in the garden, and had bought a ten pound bag of potatoes last week (for some unknown reason…I really don’t eat that many potatoes). It turned out well, but could’ve used more salt. I made the chicken broth with some chicken parts I had in the freezer and I think the recipe is written for store-bought broth. Also, I browned some turkey andouille and it went really well with it. You can add it in with the kale or keep it separate as I did so some people can eat vegetarian. I didn’t get a picture because I didn’t think I’d blog about it, but when the caramel cupcakes fell through I figured I’d better post something. Cook this and go vote.

Curly Kale and Potato Soup (From Alice Waters)

Remove the tough stems from the leaves of:
1 large bunch of kale, curly or Russian
Wash, drain well, and coarsely chop.
Heat in a heavy soup pot:
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
Add:
2 onions, sliced thin
Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until soft, tender, and slightly browned, about 2 minutes. While the onions are cooking, peel, cut in half, and cut 1/2 inch-thick slices:
1 lb. potatoes (Yellow Finn or Yukon Gold)
When the onions are cooked, stir in:
4 garlic cloves, chopped
Cook the garlic for a couple of minutes, then add the potatoes and chopped kale. Stir, then add:
A large pinch of salt
Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Pour in:
6 c. chicken broth
Raise the heat, bring to a boil, then iimmediately reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, or until the kale and potatoes are tender. Tast the soup and add more salt if necessary.

Ok, so this recipe isn’t Southern at all. It’s so good though I feel obligated to share it. I don’t really know why, but winter squash is not something that is typically associated with the South. We didn’t eat it much growing up and I don’t really remember seeing it on any buffets or pot luck suppers. Well, it’s very good for you and very popular up here in New England. Everywhere you go you see squash and pumpkins for sale.

A couple of weeks ago I was at the farmer’s market and ran into my friend Shira, who is apparently a squash aficionado. I was there looking for some to fix for my one-year-old daughter, but I’m not really a squash person myself. I mean, I like it, but butternut is about as exotic as I ever get. Anyway, there I was lost among the gourds when Shira came to my rescue. Her eyes lit up when I told her that I was charmed but confused by all the different kinds of squash. She relished the opportunity to tell me the virtues of each variety; when she got to delicata all she had to say is, “this one is really deliciously sweet,” and I was sold. Before moving on she told me about this cooking method, which makes wonderfully crispy sweet rings of squash. Let me tell ya, they are really really good. You can eat the skin, or you can peel it off pretty easily just before you eat it. I think the skin adds a nice aesthetic.

Crispy Delicata Squash Rings

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Slice one delicata squash into rings. With a spoon scoop out the seeds. Drizzle with olive oil and salt and roast for 10-15 minutes. Flip and cook for a few more minutes if needed.

Fall is officially here; the weather is getting cooler and I finally went out and ripped up most of the dead plants in the garden. There were still a ton of green tomatoes though, so I picked them and created a meal around them. As you know, I love fried green tomatoes, but don’t really enjoy frying things that much, and can really only eat so many of them. So, I decided to make a green tomato casserole. This robust side dish needed an entree that wouldn’t be overshadowed by the zing of the tomatoes so I decided to make my grandmother’s “hot Italian roast beef” with some rice. It was a perfect meal for a cool autumn evening, and we’re still eating the roast on sandwiches.

Green Tomato Casserole

5-6 medium sized green tomatoes (or more)
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. pepper
bread crumbs
1 cup cheddar cheese with some extra for sprinkling
1 tbsp. butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Slice tomatoes about 1/4″ thick and line the bottom of an 8×8″ casserole dish. Mix salt, sugar, and pepper together in a bowl and sprinkle over tomato slices. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and half of cheese. Place another layer of tomatoes, seasoning, bread crumbs and cheese. End with a layer of tomatoes, seasoning, and bread crumbs. Dot with butter and bake for 1 hour. Once casserole is bubbly and brown around the edges sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake until melted.

Hot Italian Roast Beef

1 tbsp. butter
1 5 lb. beef roast (I think I used top round roast)
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
1/3 c. water
2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 tsp. salt

In a Dutch oven melt butter over medium heat. Brown roast on all sides. Add remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer until roast is tender (about 3.5 – 4 hours). Remove meat from broth and make gravy by thickening broth slightly. When ready to serve slice meat and reheat in gravy. This makes very good hot roast beef sandwiches.
I found that the roast was pretty charred on the bottom by the end of the braising…next time I’ll turn it occasionally. This could also be made in the slow cooker after the meat has been browned.

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 mediumĀ  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.

We’ve had tomatoes for a little while; at least the farmer’s market has had them, but I haven’t really let myself enjoy them because I was waiting for our plants start producing. Slowly but surely we’ve been harvesting tomatoes, which is quite exciting. There is nothing like eating fruits and vegetables you grew yourself.

Last weekend during the birthday celebration I made a salad which was so easy it almost seems ridiculous to write it as a recipe, but here it is.

Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad

Cut up a bunch of yummy tomatoes of different varieties. If you can get your hands on some heirloom tomatoes great; go for different colors and shapes. If not, this salad is just as good with regular red homegrown varieties. Chop the tomatoes and put them on a plate or in a casserole dish. Slice some fresh mozzarella and put this over the tomatoes. Cut some fresh basil into a chiffonade and sprinkle over tomatoes and cheese. Drizzle with some high quality olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Voila!

I promise that if you go to the extra trouble to use top of the line ingredients you will be rewarded with this recipe.

Lastly,

I couldn’t resist posting about tomato sandwiches. I can’t tell you how much I love these. When I eat one I breath a sigh of relief because I know that summer is complete. To make a tomato sandwich really perfect the tomatoes have to be super ripe. Toast some bread (white is best but all I had was whole wheat – it’s better for you anyway), spread mayonnaise on both slices, add enough tomato to cover one slice (don’t add too much tomato though or you’ll overdo it). Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Eat this over the sink because it’ll be juicy and delicious!


Maque Choux is a Cajun dish. Although I grew up in Mississippi, my dad grew up in Abbeville, Louisiana; which for those of you who don’t know, is deep in Cajun country. Although we didn’t eat Cajun food all the time growing up, my dad made a point to teach me how to cook Cajun dishes like gumbo and crawfish stew the way his mother and grandmother taught him.

Since it’s too hot for gumbo right now, I thought I’d make something more summery. As the title says, maque choux (pronounced mock shoe) it’s really just corn stewed with tomatoes, with some onion and bell pepper mixed in. It’s absolutely delicious with a roast. The following recipe is verbatim from Talk About Good, the cookbook from the Junior League of Lafayette, LA. I love community cookbooks and the way the recipes are written.

Maque Choux

8 ears of cleaned corn (I used 6 – this is a very forgiving recipe)
1/2 c. onion
1/4 chopped bell pepper
1/2 c. peeled and chopped tomato (I used canned diced since that’s all I had and it worked well)
1 tsp. sugar
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c. grease (I only used 1 tbsp. of bacon grease and 1 tbsp of veg. oil)

Clean corn thoroughly and cut lengthwise 1/4 inch from top and scrape corn with side of blade of knife to get juice. Mix all ingredients except grease, season and pour in hot grease — reduce fire to low. Cook 3/4 hour, covered. Sir occasionally. Serves 4 to 6.

Mrs. P.J. Blanchet, Jr.

Grilled smokey chicken with fried okra and fried green corn

I guess my trip to Atlanta got me in the mood for fried food. I really don’t fry things often, but sometimes it just has to be done. Take okra, for instance. Now I love some okra. Stewed okra and tomatoes is one of my favorite summer dishes; in fact, I plan to make that soon, so stay tuned. But, most people prefer it fried. I have to admit, there’s nothing like fried okra. Okra has a bit of “slime” to it, a characteristic that many would argue is one of its main attributes. It’s because of that “slime” that it works so well stewed, and is often added to soups as a thickening agent. Frying okra “de-slimes” it and makes nice crunchy little nuggets that are wonderfully addictive. This time of year down South the okra is growing tall and prolific. Here in New England it’s difficult to find and expensive. I won’t tell you how much I paid for it, but I was so excited that I bought a pound. I used the recipe in Southern Sideboards, which doesn’t call for using an egg wash, but I think I’ll try that next time. My husband used to work at Ajax restaurant in Oxford, MS and he said they used an egg wash and the breading adhered to the okra really well (I can attest to that; their fried okra is good).

Fried Okra (from Southern Sideboards)
Wash 1 lb. fresh okra and slice into 1/2 inch rounds or thaw 1 10 oz. package cut okra. Toss okra in plastic bag with 1/2 c. white corn meal seasoned with salt and pepper. Fry in hot oil in skillet, turning often and sprinkling with salt and pepper as needed. When lightly browned, remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Fried Green Corn (from Edna Lewis’s The Taste of Country Cooking)
My visit to Watershed prompted me to get out Edna Lewis’s cookbook, which by coincidence I just ordered a month or so ago. There are some great old fashioned recipes in this book. “Green” doesn’t mean that the corn is the color green; it means that it’s fresh (same goes with “green” peanuts, FYI).
6 ears of corn
2 tbs. fresh bacon fat or butter
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Slice the corn from the cob*. Scrape the cob downward to get any remaining corn left near the cob. Heat a 9 in. skillet and add the fat. When hot, spoon in the corn and cook for 15 to 20 min., stirring often. While cooking, sprinkle in salt, sugar, and pepper. Serve piping hot.

*I use my bundt pan to do this. Put the stalk side down into the opening of the bundt pan and hold the top of the ear. Use a chef’s knife or some kind of large-ish knife to slice down the cob. The corn kernels and juices should just fall right into the pan without much mess.

Grilled smokey chicken
I’m calling this “grilled smokey chicken” because although I cooked it at a pretty low heat, I wasn’t consistent about it and I think if I were to truly smoke chicken I would brine it beforehand and cook it for several hours at a steady low heat. Instead, I skipped the brine and let the temperature fluctuate between 250-350 (controlling heat is sometimes tough on a charcoal grill). Also, as an experiment I decided not to brown the skin this time (as you can also see in the picture), but I think I will next time. It does add a lot of flavor and nice texture. Nevertheless, it turned out good enough to recommend to you. If you have suggestions on improvement I’d love to hear them!

1 cut up chicken
seasoning of your preference: bbq rub, Tony Chachere’s, etc.
vinegar (any kind)

Sprinkle vinegar over chicken and then sprinkle seasoning. Rub into skin on both sides and let sit for a few hours (or however much time you have). Soak some hickory chips in water and let sit for an hour or so. Set up grill for indirect heat. Once the fire is ready brown the chicken over the fire to get a nice crust. Then move it to the other side of the grill (you should have a pan beneath the chicken to catch the drippings) and take the heat down to about 300. Add the hickory chips or chunks (hickory is actually a pretty dry wood and the chunks produce a lot of smoke without having to be soaked, FYI). Cook for 30-45 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees and/or juices run clear.