Alabama Gazette - The people's voice of reason

Southern Cuisine - July

 

Our economy depends on cash flow. Our farmers, ranchers and other small businesses need as much help as we can afford. Buy local and help your fellow Alabamians. Also, don’t forget to donate to your local food bank whenever possible!

This was my opening for last month’s article, “Here we are, still not knowing what is going to happen next. As I said in my last article, let’s look positively; let’s look at the bright side. Hopefully by the time you read this, people will be out and about, even if they are leery of what lurks ahead.” Things haven’t changed much since then. Ree Drummond has a line she quotes at the beginning of each episode of her show, The Pioneer Woman: “Here’s what’s happening on the ranch.” I am not going to tell you what’s happening in the world, but I will share some of the things that are happening at The Cottage.

My goal every month is to inform you about food. How to prepare it, how to serve it, and where to find the ingredients you need for the meals. I will throw in some tips and hints, and items you need to help you be a better cook. I use my collection of about 500 to 600 cookbooks, thousands of digital and printed recipes and (what was missing at the start of my career) the Internet at my fingertips, to find recipes that are pertinent to the topic of my articles. My profession as a chef started in Texas and I retired here in Alabama. These two states influenced me and drew me to the type of recipes and styles of cooking of the Southwest and the South. The differences between the two have kind of blurred, with each one adding to the other’s style. Living in Europe and Asia from the first grade to the ninth grade also influenced what I like to cook and eat.

A topic that is timely this month has to do with what is plentiful from home gardens and from farmer’s markets. I also found the best recipes for fresh produce from Cook’s Country. Tomatoes are taking up most of my time in the garden. I can pick about twenty-five cherry tomatoes everyday. I have seen unshucked corn in the stores. Though it is not a common item in home gardens, there are a few homes near me that have large enough gardens for corn.

A relative in Childersburg has a large garden and has produced potatoes and corn. I vacuum-packed the corn and canned the potatoes, which lasted me for over a year. Cucumbers are plentiful, but the best ones, Hot House cucumbers, are a bit pricey. Zucchini is another home garden favorite. At least to some home gardeners! It is so easy to grow that I read somewhere that August 8th is Sneak Some Zucchini onto your Neighbor’s Porch Day. I think it come from The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

So in this month’s recipes, I will use produce from my garden and from my front porch!

I tried a new recipe for zucchini last week. The picture I saw made me want to try it. This was only the second meal my wife and I threw away. I looked for other zucchini recipes, but I did not want rosemary or sage in the recipe. I wanted to taste the zucchini. I also did not want to bake it. My kitchen is hot enough without the oven on. I found many recipes using cherry tomatoes and zucchini, where the only difference was the method. I settled on using the recipe from Cook’s Country because the zucchini tasted like zucchini and was not overcooked and mushy. I did add a few more cherry tomatoes than called for; I had to use them somewhere!

Braised Zucchini

Yield: 4 Servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 zucchini ( ≈ 8 oz ea), qrtrd

lengthwise & cut crosswise into

2-in pieces (see notes)

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup water

2 sprigs of fresh basil

2 garlic cloves, sliced thin

Salt & pepper

¼ tsp red pepper flakes

3 oz (¼ cup) cherry tomatoes, halved

Lemon wedges

METHOD:

1. Bring zucchini, oil, water, basil, garlic, 1 tsp salt, ¼ tsp pepper & the pepper flakes to boil in 12-in nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Then reduce heat to medium, cover & simmer until zucchini is fork-tender ≈ 8 min. Stir mixture w/rubber spatula every 2 min.

2. Gently stir in tomatoes & cook uncovered until tomatoes are just softened, ≈ 2 min. Discard basil sprigs. Transfer to serving platter & serve w/lemon wedges.

Notes: Larger zucchini will be less flavorful and mealy. Do not cut too small or in chunks or they will overcook.

The next recipe gives you two options on how to prep the corn for a corn-and-cucumber salad. You can take whole ears of corn and grill them until you have some tasty char on the corn, and then cut it off the cob or cut the fresh corn from the cob and cook it in a skillet at medium-high heat with a little olive oil and salt until kernels are browned and soft. I prefer the grill method. Higher heat than a pan and it is easier to turn the cobs than to make sure all the corn in the pan is browned and not overcooked. You also have two options with the cucumbers. An English (or Hot House cucumber), which has small seeds, less water or an American cucumber, which is seedy and thick,-skinned and usually coated with wax. There is also a big difference in price, with the American cucumber being cheaper. This recipe will use the grilled corn method but the American cucumbers.

I introduced a recipe for Hasselback Sweet Potatoes a while back. Now with so many tomatoes why not try Hasselback Tomatoes. The trick is to cut a slice off of the long side of the tomato. Not a thick slice, but enough so when you turn the tomato on that cut, the tomato will not roll. Also remove the core where the tomato was connected to the plant. The easiest way is with a "tomato shark", you know, it looks like a small spoon with teeth. If you don't have one, get one. In the mean time use a paring knife and try not to cut yourself. This recipe works if you have plum or Italian tomatoes, not round tomatoes.

Roasted Corn & Tomato Cucumber Salad

Yield: 4 Servings

INGREDIENTS:

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 ears of corn on cob until grilled

5 Tbsp lime juice (2-3 limes)

¼ cup sour cream

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

½ red onion, thinly sliced

1 American cucumber, peeled, then halved lengthwise & seeds scooped out then sliced thin. (English cucumbers just halve lengthwise & slice thin)

¼ cup feta cheese crumbles

Choice: Either ¼ cup fresh basil leaves torn, or one jalapeno, stemmed, halved, seeded & sliced thin with cilantro leaves.

METHOD:

1. Heat an outdoor grill to med heat. To roast corn, rub shucked ears with ½ tsp olive oil, reserving remaining oil to dress salad. Place corn on grill & cook, turning often, until corn is slightly charred & still crisp, 8 to 10 min. Remove from heat & cool briefly.

2. Cut kernels off cob & place in large bowl. (Two cobs of corn should yield 1½ to 2 cups of kernels.)

3. Combine oil, lime juice & sour cream, add to corn then add cucumber, tomatoes & red onion, then jalapeno or basil. Toss, transfer to serving platter & top w/feta.

The next recipe gives you two options on how to prep the corn for a corn-and-cucumber salad. You can take whole ears of corn and grill them until you have some tasty char on the corn, and then cut it off the cob or cut the fresh corn from the cob and cook it in a skillet at medium-high heat with a little olive oil and salt until kernels are browned and soft. I prefer the grill method. Higher heat than a pan and it is easier to turn the cobs than to make sure all the corn in the pan is browned and not overcooked. You also have two options with the cucumbers. An English (or Hot House cucumber), which has small seeds, less water or an American cucumber, which is seedy and thick,-skinned and usually coated with wax. There is also a big difference in price, with the American

cucumber being cheaper. This recipe will use the grilled corn method but the American cucumbers.

I introduced a recipe for Hasselback Sweet Potatoes a while back. Now with so many tomatoes why not try Hasselback Tomatoes. The trick is to cut a slice off of the long side of the tomato. Not a thick slice, but enough so when you turn the tomato on that cut, the tomato will not roll. Also remove the core where the tomato was connected to the plant. The easiest way is with a "tomato shark", you know, it looks like a small spoon with teeth. If you don't have one, get one. In the mean time use a paring knife and try not to cut yourself. This recipe works if you have plum or Italian tomatoes, not round tomatoes.

Hasselback Tomatoes

Yield: 4-8 Servings

INGREDIENTS:

8 large plum tomatoes

1/3 pound shredded Italian cheese blend, your choice (a blend of hard cheeses could take longer to melt. See note in preparation.

2 oz basil pesto

1/3 cup pure olive oil

½ cup Panko bread crumbs

3 Tbsp butter, melted

1 tsp minced garlic

To taste salt and pepper (tomatoes require a fair amount of salt)

METHOD:

1. Preheat broiler, making sure rack is at least 3 inches from heat source.

2. Slice each tomato very thinly on one side so it’s able to sit up on wire rack on foil-lined baking pan without rolling. Now thinly slice each tomato crosswise w/serrated knife into ¼-in slices without cutting all the way down. Leave 1/3 inch of the bottom intact.

3. Add cheeses, pesto, olive oil, and salt and pepper in a bowl and mix thoroughly. While separating each slice, carefully stuff w/equal amounts of cheese mixture.

4. In small bowl, mix Panko w/melted butter & garlic. Sprinkle over each stuffed tomato.

5. Place tomatoes on broiler rack & cook for about 3 min, checking often, or until top is nicely browned. Turn off broiler & allow tomatoes to continue cooking in residual heat in oven from broiler for at least 5 min, or until hot throughout, not allowing tomatoes to get too soft.

Notes: After trying this recipe I feel the tomatoes should be in the oven first then under the broiler. The oven doesn’t have enough residual heat to melt the cheese. Cook in the oven first at about 325° for maybe 10 minutes. This will heat the cheeses. Check the Panko & when it is starting to brown you can put the tomatoes under the broiler for further browning if desired.

6. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

A vegetable garden in the beginning looks so promising and then little by little it grows nothing but vegetables; nothing, nothing but vegetables!

Enjoy!

 

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