" ALL OUR FOOD IS SEASONED. CUZ WE'RE IN THE SOUTH AND WE LIKE IT THAT WAY."
Sign in a restaurant. I don't know where except I bet below the Mason Dixon Line. It reads,
“ ALL OUR FOOD IS SEASONED. CUZ WE'RE IN THE SOUTH AND WE LIKE IT THAT WAY.”
I admit that I'm a hot sauce-aholic. I put hot sauce on almost everything. I don't use hot sauce because I think the food tastes bland or under-seasoned. I just like that extra kick. As some chefs say, “that extra dimension to the flavors.” What ever that means.
There seems to be a general increase in the “heat” that is put in food recently. Really not just a general increase, actually an all out assault. Burger chains are trying to out do the competition with the addition of chipotle sauces, jalapenos and now the ghost pepper. If it keeps up, you will be required to eat your burger wearing rubber gloves. Sriracha sauce is one of my favorites and TABASCO has their own sriracha sauce now.
Like the sign says, food in the south is seasoned and seasoned well. Some foods require some seasoning, like grits. If you don't add some salt to the water, the grits just don't taste good. I read some comical instructions on how to cook grits and it said that you should stop adding butter when it looks like your kids yellow rain slicker.
The same goes to adding salt when you are boiling potatoes, for potato salad or mashed potatoes. One of the chefs I worked under told me the water to boil potatoes in should smell like the ocean. Oh! You say, too much salt is not healthy. If you only eat home-cooked unprocessed foods, you have complete control on your salt intake. Hint, Hint.
But beyond salt, there are vinegars, peppers, and many herbs and spices that are used to compliment everything from fruits and vegetables and meats and seafood.
And I know that you have started your garden already and there are all types of herbs growing that you can use in your meals. Another, hint, hint.
I went to Fairhope for a conference last month and marveled on how green and beautiful everything was. Flowers blooming, gardens being tended to, and everyone out shopping, getting their supplies for spring. It is picnic and outdoor eating time. The days are still mild so you can eat outside and enjoy the first crops of spring. And the Farmers Market looked like the parking lot at the Iron Bowl. The early crops, the young vegetables and tender herbs were plentiful and make for a delicious light spring meal.
The problem with young fresh herbs, is storing them to maximize the fresh flavor. If you were growing rosemary, sage, marjoram, or oregano, you can dry them to use later and they do hold up to freezing. Other herbs as basil, savory and cilantro will live longer if the flowers are kept pinched off. This is to keep the leaves from becoming bitter.
After picking the leaves, rinse them in cool salted water. There's that salt again. The salt will chase away the bugs and not harm the plants. About a tablespoon of salt for a large bowl of water. Then the salad spinner works well and paper towels. Then store in a plastic container with paper towels between layers of herbs. Helps with air flow. For lesser amounts, plastic bags will work, but I still put paper towels in with the herbs.
Southern cuisine has spread the world over! Proof! I read a blog from a foodie in Hong Kong. He posted pictures at a restaurant of fried chicken, gator nuggets, lobster poutine and pork ribs with jambalaya rice.
But I digress.
The temperature is still bearable, the mosquitoes are still small, the humidity is less the thick fog and the vegetables are still young and tender. Time to eat outdoors.
First a salad that looks hard but just simple steps that are easy to follow. You can do this!! First read the recipe and organize yourself. It should not take 35 minutes to put this salad together. And there is only one item that requires cooking. This is a salad that is perfect for Spring. Tangy citrus and fresh herbs
SHRIMP SALAD WITH GRAPEFRUIT & MINT
2 tbls freshly squeezed lime juice (1 medium lime)
2 tbls freshly squeezed grapefruit juice (1/2 small grapefruit)
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tbls fish sauce
1 tsp sriracha sauce
⅛ tsp salt, plus extra for salting the grapefruit
1 tsp sugar
½ pound cooked and peeled pink shrimp. Buy the shrimp already cooked and frozen, or cook your own with some Old Bay Seasoning to give the salad an extra punch.
¼ cup grated carrot
¼ cup chopped cilantro
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and cut into medium dice
1 tbls vegetable oil
⅓ cup thinly sliced shallots
1 pink grapefruit
butter lettuce leaves (anything but iceberg lettuce)
¼ cup roughly chopped dry-roasted, salted peanuts, for garnish
¼ cup fresh mint leaves, cut into thin ribbons, for garnish
1. Some parts of this recipe can be made ahead of time:
2. In a small jar, prepare the marinade by mixing the lime juice, grapefruit juice, soy sauce, fish sauce, sriracha sauce, salt and sugar. Store in the fridge.
3. Chop the shallots, saute them in the oil in a medium saute pan over medium-high heat until caramelized, about 10 minutes. Let them cool and set aside.
4. Cut the peel off the grapefruit, remove any white pith and slice horizontally into ½ inch rounds. Then slice into ½ inch wide strips, and then into medium cubes. Salt them lightly and store in the fridge.
5. Wash and dry enough lettuce leaves for four servings.
6. Grate the carrot and refrigerate.
7. Just before serving, chop the cilantro and avocado.
8. Rinse the shrimp and pat dry. Put the shrimp in a large bowl and add the carrots, cilantro, avocado and shallots. Add the marinade mixture and toss. Let the shrimp marinate for 20 minutes in the refrigerator.
9. Tear the lettuce leaves into bite-sized pieces and portion into four serving dishes. Spoon the grapefruit cubes and then the shrimp mixture on top, drizzling with a little of the excess marinade.
10. Garnish with chopped peanuts and mint and serve.
Next recipe is prefect for Spring also. Once you prepped the vegetables the meal is almost done. You have some leeway with the vegetables you want to use and the cheese. Experiment, make it your recipe!
FARMER'S MARKET VEGETARIAN QUESADILLAS
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped zucchini
1/2 cup chopped yellow squash
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
Add the following to add a little zest to the veggies 2 tbls of chopped jalapenos (seeds removed)
1 tablespoon olive oil cooking spray
6 (9 inch) whole wheat tortillas
1 1/4 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1. In a large nonstick pan, cook red pepper, zucchini, yellow squash, onion, and mushrooms and jalapenos in olive oil over medium to medium-high heat for about 7 minutes, or until just tender. Remove vegetables from pan.
2. Coat the same pan with cooking spray, and place one tortilla in pan. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of cheese evenly over tortilla, and layer 3/4 cup of the vegetable mixture over the cheese. Sprinkle another 1/8 cup of cheese on the vegetables, and top with a second tortilla. Cook until golden on both sides, for approximately 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove quesadilla from pan with large spatula, and repeat with remaining ingredients. Cut each quesadilla into 8 triangles with a pizza cutter. Serve hot.
3. Add your favorite salsa, or make some guacamole, or add sour cream as a topping.
Enjoy your Spring. Spring is Nature's way in saying, “Let's Party”
SERVES 3 to 6