Alabama Gazette - The people's voice of reason

Southern Cuisine - December

 

December 1, 2020 | View PDF

Last month I said that by the time you read the November article we may or may not know who is going to be the President of the United States. It is still a matter of discussion, but it looks like we will know who it is by the time you read this article. The topic of discussion I hear mostly is that will this year never end! I think that we are ready to start a new year that is less stressful, less unknowing, and less chaotic.

If you noticed the Christmas decorations and gifts were for sell in the stores right after Halloween! It looked like Thanksgiving was going to be a bust because we were told not to be in large groups and we had to social distance. In the past we have had twenty-five to thirty friends and family come to our house for a sit-down Thanksgiving feast. This year we are down to six. And we did not cook a full-size raw turkey; we bought a spatchcocked smoked turkey. Just heat and serve!

Just like I wrote in my last article, I am still working on my 190-year-old house and yard. But with winter coming I am slowing down a bit outside and concentrating on cooking. My freezers are full and the house needs to be warmed up. With some free time, I have been watching various series and videos on Amazon Prime and Netflix. I have found a series that has really impressed me. It is a four-part mini-series on Netflix. The series is base on Michael Pollan’s book “COOKED” divided up into four parts labeled fire, water, air and earth. A review from Food and Wine Gazette states “the American dream to liberate people by allowing corporations to cook the food is creating a problem for society and one which we need to address. It should serve as wake-up call to people who might not be passionate about cooking or food. It is a call for action. Don’t miss it.”

A last comment about our food comes from a review about one of Pollan’s other books, “In the United States... we’re mostly fed by two things, corn and oil. We may not sit down to bowls of yummy petroleum, but almost everything we eat has used enormous amounts of fossil fuels to get to our tables. Oil products are part of the fertilizers that feed plants, the pesticides that keep insects away from them, the fuels used by trains and trucks that transport them across the country, and the packaging in which they’re wrapped. We are addicted to oil and we really like to eat.”

Buy local carries more weight than you think.

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If you are reading this article in December, you are thinking about the meal for Christmas Day. Like Thanksgiving, the Christmas meal is usually set by tradition. The basic core of the meal, the meat and the side do not change much from year to year. Make this year different! End 2020 with something new. Start getting ready for a new year. Start new traditions. Start a “new normal.”

In a past article, I had a recipe for a stuffed tomato that required little cooking and was to be eaten cold. That was during a warmer time of year. So here is a dish that can be served for breakfast or as a side for brunch/lunch and served hot. The other recipe is for a side and is a vegetable that I have rediscovered and it can be cooked or eaten raw. It can be a part of a cold salad or a hot side with an entrée. The first recipe is for a tomato dish and second if a radish dish.

I am not a food stylist. When I find a recipe I like for this article, I look at the picture taken of the dish. My picture comes close sometimes. I change the original recipe to try to make it easier to prepare, use local products, and in doing so my picture does not necessarily look like what you would think after reading the recipe. Except for the Lemon Pie in a Jar. We have made it so many times it will work just as the recipe is written. I have a problem with the temperature and time to cook some dishes. My oven heats high and has a cold spot. I have to watch the dish and always set the timer for less than the recipe calls for. There was no picture of the radish dish and it did not turn out like I thought it would. But I like radishes and after preparing the dish I further changed the recipe. What this does is the picture I took may not look like what you will get when you prepare it. You can change the balsamic vinegar to a white balsamic for the radish dish if it seems too dark for you. And for the egg in a tomato use a small egg so you can add more cheese and maybe put some cheese in the tomato first and then the egg with more cheese on top. Even when the recipes say they serve more than one, I prepare the dish as a single serving for the picture. And I only prepare the dish once. I have heard of food writers preparing a dish many times until it is just right for them. I think of a recipe not as a blueprint to be followed but as a rough drawing that you can change to fit your taste. Make it your recipe!

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Baked Eggs in Tomato Cups

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

8 medium tomatoes

8 large eggs

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (like parsley, thyme, rosemary, or a mixture)

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a large, oven-safe skillet with the olive oil.

2. Using a small paring knife, cut around the stems of the tomatoes and remove them. Use a spoon to scoop out all the insides of the tomatoes. Be careful not to poke a hole in the side of the tomato. Do whatever you want to the pulp you removed.

3. Arrange the tomato shells snugly in the prepared skillet. Crack an egg into each tomato. Top each egg with 1 tablespoon milk and 1 tablespoon Parmesan. Season each egg with salt and pepper.

4. Bake until the tomatoes are tender, the egg whites are set and the yolks are still a little jiggly, 15 to 17 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes and then garnish with the fresh herbs. Serve immediately.

Braised Radishes

Serves 2-4.

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon butter

2 slices of bacon, diced

2 large shallots, finely slices

1 lb. radishes, ends trimmed and radishes sliced in half

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

About a 1/2 cup of water

2/3 cup finely chopped Italian parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

1. Cook the bacon in a cast iron skillet.

2. When the bacon is cooked through and getting crispy, add the butter and place the radishes cut-side down in the pan and cook undisturbed for 2 to 3 minutes or until the bottoms begin to brown.

3. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, for another minute.

4. Add the balsamic vinegar and just enough water to come up around the sides of the radishes.

5. Cover, lower the heat, and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the radishes are tender.

6. Remove the lid and continue to simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced into a thick sauce.

7. Add the parsley and stir to wilt.

8. Season with salt and pepper and serve

I am already getting requests for this dessert. This is a dessert I introduced four years ago and still get request for. This is what I wrote in that article… “I want to introduce something new, try our favorite, Lemon Pie in a Jar! Besides the friends and family that love this, my colleagues at work are hooked! Simple to make, no baking, just the right size and easily transported. There are many recipes for pie in a jar, some you bake, some you pre-cook the ingredients. This recipe is mix, make and chill.

Lemon Pie in a Jar

Ingredients:

8-ounce package cream cheese

Can sweetened condensed milk

3 egg yolks

1 Teaspoon vanilla

1/3 to 1/2 cup lemon juice (how much lemon flavor do you want?)

Box Graham Cracker Crumbs

2 Tablespoons Brown sugar

One stick melted butter

Cool-Whip

Method:

1. Clean seven ½ pint mason jars and lids.

2. In a mixing bowl combine 2 tablespoons brown sugar to 2 cups Graham Cracker Crumbs.

3. Add melted butter (one stick) and mix well.

4. Place ¼ cup of the mixed crumbs at bottom of each jar and tamp down to make smooth bottom crust.

5. In a separate mixing bowl, place cream cheese and beat until smooth.

6. Add condensed milk and continue until well mixed.

7. Add egg yolks and continue mixing.

8. Add vanilla and lemon juice and mix until smooth.

9. Add about ½ cup of lemon mix over the crumb bottom of each jar.

10. Fill about to the bottom rind at neck.

11. Top the jars with Cool-Whip and place lid and ring on jars

12. Refrigerate at least 5 hours to set lemon filling.

13. Serve cold

Here are the final words I wrote in the article with the Lemon Pie in a Jar: This is an easy dessert to make and can be altered many ways. Instead of the lemon filling, try pre-made canned cherry pie filling with the Cool-Whip topped with granola.

Have a Merry Christmas!

 

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