Alabama Gazette - The people's voice of reason

Southern Cuisine for October

 

October 1, 2017

It came to me while watching the news coverage of residents of Florida preparing for Irma. Of the homeowners that were staying and working to protect their homes from the wind and flooding, few mentioned that they had plenty of food and water to ride out the storm. Knowing that there would be no electricity and no water; did they think it out as much as they were concerned about the sand bags and plywood?

Some locations in Florida may be without electricity for a week or longer. There will be no refrigeration for food and the water may not be safe to drink if the treatment plants were flooded and without electricity. How do you prepare for an event such as Harvey or Irma? There are books and manuals that have details that I do not have space for, but sources such as the library, internet searches, social media, your County Extension Service, and neighbors, who have been through it, will have the information.

I will leave you with this starting point.

Keep foods that:

Have a long storage life.

Require little or no cooking, water, or refrigeration, in case utilities are disrupted.

Meet the needs of babies or other family members who are on special diets.

Meet pets' needs.

Are not very salty or spicy, as these foods increase the need for drinking water, which may be in short supply.

I know that tailgating is serious business in the South but tailgating recipes have not been high on my list of topics for this article. Since the name of this article is Southern Cuisine, I figured its time I start adding my two bits to the food to eat at a tailgate. The usual chips, queso, hamburgers, hotdogs, onion dip, wings, chili, nachos, sliders, potato salad, and baked beans are usually served. Not that I would refuse to eat any of these.

My chore is to up-grade the common tailgate food. At least add a few new wrinkles to the standard recipes. My first up-grade is the lowly pimiento cheese sandwich, usually made with a slather of pimiento cheese between two slices of white bread.

The trick is to make as much as possible ahead of time and then at the last minute or even when asked for, make the sandwich. Make the pimiento cheese ahead using your favorite recipe and you only have five ingredients to assemble. I also recommend trying PALMETTO CHEESE SPREAD, "the pimiento cheese with soul". I am including another recipe for the cheese spread and if you decide to make it from scratch, I recommend making it at home.

Pimiento BLT

Ingredients

Serves 12

1 pound thick-cut bacon Cooked crisp and cut in half

For pimiento cheese recipe:

6 ounces sharp cheddar, grated (about 2 cups)

½-cup Duke's mayonnaise

3 tablespoons chopped roasted red pepper from a jar

2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapeños

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

24 slices French baguette, cut on diagonal about 1/2 inch thick, toasted at home or on the grill at tail gate if available

Three plum tomatoes, sliced ¼" thick

3 cups mixed greens or trimmed arugula

3-4 avocados thin sliced, moistened with lemon water to retain color

Preparation

Spread half of bread slices with pimiento cheese. Build sandwiches with bacon, tomatoes, mixed greens, avocado slices, and remaining bread slices.

DO AHEAD: Pimiento cheese can be made 2 days ahead; cover and chill. Sandwiches should be assembled as ordered to keep avocado from turning brown.

Since a salad at a tailgate party will ease your conscience for eating all the fried, cheese covered greasy morsels that are the hits of every party, I will include one does include the grill in it preparation.

If you can find some just ripe and good-looking avocados, you can make a roasted corn and avocado salad. There are two ways preparing this salad. If you want to keep the avocados in chunks, you will need to keep them from discoloring. The juice from the limes in the recipe will suffice. If you plan to mash the avocados, add some Greek yogurt. Roasting the corn over an open grill adds a smoky edge to the salad. Prepare at home and choose your favorite.

Roasted Corn and Avocado Salad

Ingredients

kosher salt

Four ears grilled corn, recipe follows

2 tablespoons canola oil

3 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and diced

1 plum tomato, seeded and diced

2 green onions, chopped

One clove garlic, minced

1 serrano chile, finely diced

One small red onion finely diced

1 lime, juiced

1/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt

1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Blue, yellow, and white corn chips, as accompaniment

Grilled Corn:

Heat the grill to high. Remove the husks from the grilled corn and discard. Brush the ears of corn with 2 tablespoons of the canola oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the ears until the kernels are lightly golden brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove the kernels from the ears.

Place the avocado in a medium bowl and yogurt and mash slightly with a fork. Add the corn, serrano, tomato, onions, lime juice, garlic, cilantro and salt and pepper and gently stir to combine.

Serve with fried corn chips or warm flour tortillas.

I was doing my usual internet search, reading food blogs, scouring food companies' websites and Pinterest, when this tidbit of information struck me as something I will try.

If it is late in the season for tomatoes and the store bought fare are the same old factory raised tasteless poor excuse for a sandwich ingredient, get yourself some local offerings from the best source you can find and roast them in a low oven to concentrate their sweetness to at least a suggestion of summer's best. Roast slices, seasoned with salt, pepper and a smidgen of good olive oil, at 200°F for about 3 hours. You do not want to dry them like a sun-dried tomato, just concentrate the flavor.

Since I am talking about tomatoes, I found this recipe for a salad that travels well and should please every family member's taste. Just use the best tomatoes you can find. From any source, any store, any garden. Spare no expense, up to a point. You still have to make it through the coming winter. Find some heirlooms, different color cherry tomatoes, like the ones sold at COSTCO. In addition, use up all that pasta you have stored in the pantry waiting for an excuse to cook it. The focal point of this salad is the tomatoes, do not be chintzy.

TOMATO AND PASTA SALAD

1/4 pound kale, loosely chopped or baby kale

8 ounces dried short pasta

2 pounds of tomatoes, halved or quartered

lots of fresh basil, torn or thinly sliced

Arrange the kale in a large serving bowl. Cook the pasta in salted water per the package instructions, drain, and shake off any additional water.

Make the dressing:

1-teaspoon Dijon mustard

1-tablespoon wine vinegar

1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

pinch salt

few grinds pepper

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard and vinegar.

2. Slowly pour in the olive oil with one hand while whisking with the other.

3. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Just before serving, pour 1/3 of the dressing over the kale and toss well. Add the pasta, another third of the dressing, and toss again. Arrange the tomatoes, and basil on top of the kale-pasta, and give the gentlest toss, being extra nice to the tomatoes. Drizzle with the remaining dressing, and top with any of the suggestion extra toppings.

Additional toppings could be any or all of the following: chopped green olives, chopped toasted almonds, cold cooked black beans or lentils

Enjoy!

Serves 6-8.

As I have said in the past, I do research on the internet and in my library of cookbooks. When I am searching through my books, I make the mistake of not remembering what book I saw this great recipe in and I have to go through the table of contents of all the books I looked at that day, if I can even remember which cookbooks I looked at.

When I am searching the internet, I often forget which website I was visiting. It is easier to get back on track because of one feature. GOOGLE remembers! Last week, I was searching hasselback potatoes and where did the word hasselback come from. I was searching new ideas concerning sous vide cooking and making sauerkraut and other fermented foods. I did not need to remember any site that I visited because there is a history embedded into the browser that has all the sites, with what day and time I visited. I wrote about this before; Google has a widget on my homepage called Culinary inspiration. It tells me where I was looking and it has new recipe recommendations related to the articles I have viewed. There is a section of Cooking utilities, such as "set a timer", convert weights and volume, useful when I search foreign websites and recipes.

Someone once told me that it is scary that GOOGLE knows so much about you. It is no scarier than WALMART knows, that in case of a disaster such as a hurricane, that there will be spike in the sales of Strawberry Pop Tarts. Remember, "Information is Power!"

For grins, I decided to ask GOOGLE what was my favorite food. A test popped up at the first line of web sites. I took the test and it guessed correctly that my favorite was Mexican food. It is actually a fusion of all the different cuisines from the Southwest and Southeast United States all the way down to Argentina. For good measure, throw in Korean, Indian, and Mediterranean. If it were not for the internet and GOOGLE, I and many other people would have little knowledge to the lives and customs of other people of the world. It has been exciting just learning of the people and the traditions of the cuisine of the South. There are stories rich in tradition waiting to be told and dishes waiting to be eaten.

 

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