Not to point fingers or anything, but there are a lot of people who think Southern food is just about eating pig and frying things. Not that there is anything wrong with some pulled pork or an occasional piece of fried chicken, but I think that it’s the side dishes that make the Southern table different. And no matter what Food Network might be showing you, most Southerners do not just eat deep-fried macaroni & cheese for dinner. We are blessed with a very long growing season, so we have access to lots of great vegetables most of the year. Most Southern cooks know how to cook veggies – green beans, cream corn and squash casserole, etc. One vegetable dinner I make in the summer is a Southern summer vegetable succotash. It’s a great way to use up all those veggies in your CSA box this week.
My family loves blackberry season. We can’t wait for the blackberries to come in every July so we can start our month-long ritual of berry picking and blackberry jam and cobbler-making. After three bug-bit, thorn-scratched excursions this weekend, we have already picked two gallons of wild blackberries. It’s not really a problem, but the berries are starting to get backed up in my fridge. It’s time to get serious about jam making. So, this week, I’m pulling my canning jars out of the closet and I’ll put up my first batch of low sugar blackberry jam for the summer.
In honor of Andy Murray finally winning the Wimbledon trophy for the Brits this week, I’m making the official cocktail of Wimbledon, the quintessential English summer cocktail – The Pimm’s Cup. The Pimm’s Cup is a classic English “fruit cup”… a cool, refreshing long drink made of Pimm’s No. 1 tonic and a lemony or gingery soda and slices of lemon, orange and cucumber.
Besides the tomato, is there any vegetable that announces the height of the summer garden more than the zucchini? At a certain point each summer, I start to see it everywhere…at the local Farmer’s Market, in my CSA box, in bags of garden produce from neighbors left on my front porch. It’s like people can’t get rid of their summer squash fast enough. Since I don’t grow it in my own garden, I’m always too happy to take bags of squash from anyone who wants to give it to me. So when yellow squash and zucchini are this plentiful, I have a handful of recipes that I make to attack that pile of vegetables in my kitchen. One of my family’s favorites is zucchini pancakes for dinner.
In Old Havana, Cuba, there is a bar called El Floridita. In 1917, a Catalan bartender named Constantino Ribalaigua Vert began working there and was soon known for the quality of his cocktails. Even if he was an expert mixologist with rum and various fruit juices, he will always be known for his invention of La Floridita Daiquiri.
If you subscribe to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) each summer, you know the secret thrill that comes from opening your box each week and seeing your farm fresh treasures. Unfortunately, there is often the “what tha’…” moment when you get a vegetable that looks like nothing you’ve ever seen before, let alone know how to cook. This week’s WTH vegetable was the kohlrabi. I’ve cooked kohlrabi before, mostly in a stir fries, but it’s not ever on my shopping list. I got a text from one of my friends who got the same thing in her box asking “how do I cook this?”. This became another CSA box challenge. I decided to do some research on how to use kohlrabi.
Happy Summer Solstice! Today is the first day of summer and it calls for a cocktail that will be great for those hot days spent with friends by the pool. A Watermelon Vodka cooler, perhaps?
Maybe when you were younger, in college say, did you ever take a watermelon, cut a hole in the top, then proceed to upturn a whole bottle of vodka into that hole? Once that bottle of vodka had emptied itself into the watermelon, you plugged it back up then put it in the fridge for a couple of days. When your 20 or 30 friends showed up at your pool a few day later, everyone got to enjoy slices of boozy, cold fruit. Because it was so fruity and refreshing, those slices went down fast and lethal. Now that I’m a grown woman, I like to think that I have moved beyond those years and can drink with a little bit more sophistication. Now, I blend the watermelon and vodka and put it in a glass. See the difference?
Last month, my sister-in-laws came for a visit and brought with them 5 pounds of beautiful, jumbo shrimp, fresh off the boat in Ocean Springs, Mississippi that morning. Squeee! What a treat! To do justice to that treat, we decided to get out the turkey fryer and do a little cooking outside – a Carolina-style Low Country Shrimp Boil!
I don’t know how it came up in conversation, but my good friend Carolyn was telling me about drinking tomato beer during her summers in Savannah. My first thought about combining beer with tomato juice was “Yuck. That cannot be good”. The idea of it stuck in my head, though. After our first week of sweltering heat, I was ready for a summer cocktail that was thirst quenching and different. A beer cocktail started to sound like it might hit the spot. A quick internet search showed, to my surprise, that beer and tomato juice is a pretty common combination. It also turns out, that beer and tomato juice cocktails aren’t just found in pockets of the Southern U.S., they have been around a long time in Mexico, where they are known as Micheladas.
I made a couple for me and the hubby and they were good. REALLY good! So good, that I think they might be my new favorite summer drink.
Grilled fish is one of our favorite summer dinners, but not all fish do well cooked over a dry heat. Some fish do better poached or steamed. One way to prepare them is by cooking fish in parchment paper, or “en papillote” which is French for “in paper”. En Papillote is a simple technique where you put a fish fillet, some vegetables, some aromatics (such as herbs or garlic) and a bit of liquid & oil into a pouch made of parchment paper, then roast it quickly at a high temperature, steaming the fish in it’s own juice. This method seals in the flavors of the fish and veggies, while keeping them very moist. And the best part is when you bring the parchment pouches to the table and everyone gets a peek inside. It’s like opening a present… a delicious present.