Mmm….homemade syrup made from fresh local strawberries — how great does that sound drizzled over ice cream or poured over waffles or pancakes? It’s easy to make, is preservative-free and is a super use of fresh Louisiana strawberries.
Earlier this month, the LSU Houston Alumni Association held an event that speaks volumes about the long arm of Louisiana’s culinary culture. The group met at the Firehouse Saloon to savor 3,100 pounds of boiled crawfish provided by the Boil House at what has become a major fundraiser for LSU. It’s the chapter’s biggest gathering of the year, says President Lisa Bunch, a Slidell native (BS, Psychology) who moved to Houston for work in 1998.
With about 650 members, LSU Houston is one of the most active alumni chapters across the country. As part of my interview series with Louisiana expats, I checked in with Lisa about the Bayou State’s gravitational pull — a theme in my book, Hungry for Louisiana, An Omnivore’s Journey. We talked about what it means when members of Tiger Nation get together to carry out the rituals of home, whether it’s to watch a game or belly up to a pile of crawfish.
Immediately following the 2015 Masters golf tournament, the Los Angeles-based business radio show Marketplace reported how far your dollar goes at August National when it comes to concessions. Turns out, it goes a long way at the elite country club due in part to signature pimento cheese sandwiches that fetch all of $1.50 a pop. This prompted an interesting response from host Kai Ryssdal.
“Pimen-toe cheese sandwiches,” he said slowly, adding under his breath, “whatever they are…”
You could feel the collective cringe of Southerners stung by Ryssdal’s culinary high-hat, and more than that, by what seemed an apparent lack of interest in the beloved regional dish.
I live with four people who love gooey, chocolate-y, creamy desserts, dense cookies and brownies and oversized bowls of ice cream. No shortage of SweetTooths in this house. But I admit to preferring the palate cleanser, something cool, light and nuanced that rounds out a meal without making me lose consciousness. And as the weather has started to warm up, I’m thinking sorbet is the thing.
I’m a huge fan of salsa. I love a green salsa with tangy tomatillos. Gimme fresh tomato salsa, heavy on the cilantro and garlic. And I’ve always loved fruit salsas. Mango is the workhorse and is one of my favorite toppers for cedar-roasted fish. Pineapple salsa also works great on grilled fish, pork and fowl. And now with strawberries in full seasonal swing in Louisiana and elsewhere, it’s a great time for strawberry salsa.
This past weekend, I had a chance to sample fresh strawberry salsa made with local berries at a pop-up event held outside Alexander’s Highland Market, a gourmet grocer here in Baton Rouge. World renowned obesity and nutrition research center, Pennington Biomedical Research Center (PBRC), also located in Baton Rouge, had a booth at the pop-up along with several local food entrepreneurs. I was there signing copies of Hungry for Louisiana. PBRC Communications Director Alisha Prather and respected research pathologist Jennifer Rood were handing out samples of this healthy fruit salsa, which you can also make with fresh blueberries. It’s light, flavorful and versatile and was developed in-house at Pennington.
Louisiana Spring Salsa
Makes 2 cups
1 pint strawberries, washed and diced, or ½ pint blueberries, washed and sliced in half
¼ of 1 medium red onion, finely diced (I used ¼ cup)
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro
Juice from ½ lime (about 1 tbsp.)
Combine all ingredients and serve on salads, fish, chicken, chips or cheese and crackers. Use within a day.
Nutrition facts per ½ cup serving
Protein: 0.5 g
Carbohydrates: 8 g
Fat: 0.5 g
Fiber: 2 g
Maggie’s variation with avocado and jalapeño
Being an avocado junkie and a fan of heat, I added the following to Pennington’s recipe.
Half of 1 ripe avocado, diced
1 tbsp. chopped fresh jalapeno pepper
Juice from remaining half lime
For additional healthy recipes developed by Pennington, click here.
It’s étouffée season up in here!
After a cold and wet spring 2015 in South Louisiana, crawfish are now in great supply, and are on the table in many forms. I love to spot those familiar one-pound packages of tail meat sitting in jumbles of ice in local grocery stores. Impossible to resist, because they’re only around this time of year. Time to get your étouffée on.
My étouffée recipe, which I include at the end of the crawfish chapter in Hungry for Louisiana, is super decadent not because it calls for over-the-top amounts of butter, but because it uses double the amount of crawfish tails than most. I know, indulgent. But so good. Sooo good! And it’s really pretty quick to prepare, making it weeknight-worthy for busy families. This week, we 5 nearly polished off an entire recipe with just a little leftover. And that brings me to this post…what better way to use up a small amount of something yummy than to stuff it inside a wonton.