You know those food memories that swirl deep in your brain? I’ve got one for ambrosia. My grandparents used to make it every Christmas, a stripped-down version that included fresh orange and grapefruit sections, sliced bananas, shredded coconut and maraschino cherries. They left out marshmallows – I happily discovered that creamy version years later – and if nuts were included, I emphatically directed my spoon around them. In fact, I tended to avoid the grapefruit, too, in favor of the sweeter oranges, mild bananas and gaudy cherries. The way those flavors mixed with tropical coconut was a transformative diversion for picky kid weary of casseroles.
Baton Rouge hasn’t had the easiest 2016. The Alton Sterling shooting, followed by the shooting of three law enforcement officers, followed by an epic flood. The somber mood has made us cleave to what really matters – friends and family. Weekends have many of us huddled up watching football (another letdown lately if you’re an LSU fan) stuffing our faces with gameday eats. That part isn’t so bad.
The weekday breakfast is like your taxes – required, but a big pain to get over the finish line. Despite what we’re told about its nutritional and social importance, it’s often a fleeting and unsatisfying moment in which food is unceremonious forced onto the plates (or into the hands) of young people as their parents suck down coffee and shoo everyone out the door. And now, here across south Louisiana, the daily sprint is further compounded by a post-flood reality with epic traffic, upended schedules and temporary housing. There’s a lot of stress out there.
So this week, I’m offering four easy breakfast dishes that are intended to provide some inspired calm. Yummy and healthy, they intentionally use minimal ingredients, and part or all of them can be put together the night before.
No surprise, food quickly became a centerpiece of our collective response to the epic flooding that began here in the greater Baton Rouge area on August 12. Chefs and home cooks in a position to help sprang into action, furiously preparing meals for family, friends and strangers who were leveled by a weather event that seemed to have come out of nowhere. In those first few days of the catastrophe, with many roads closed, businesses shuttered, and homes swallowed up by water, restaurateurs who didn’t flood cooked thousands of meals they brought to shelters and to affected neighborhoods. There was no great plan — just urgent, heartfelt action. Continue Reading…
I’m not a vegetarian, but I make it a point to go meatless at least one night a week. It’s a great way to force yourself out of that confining protein-starch-veggie template that lords over the dinner menu and probably has us eating more than our fair share of meat. It also guarantees you enjoy new flavor combinations since vegetarian cooking so often relies on fresh herbs and aromatic vegetables to impart that umami punch.
One of my favorite veg-centric dishes is a savory vegetable gratin, a layered ‘veggie bake’ if you will that’s also referred to as a tian. While it’s packed with healthy fresh vegetables, it’s got a gooey layer of melted Gruyere on top, and a layer of tender potatoes and onions on the bottom, both of which give it main course heft. Yum.
If you have an abundance of summer produce, but the thought of traditional canning sounds daunting, this recipe is the answer. Quick pickles are an easy and flavorful use of a variety of seasonal vegetables, but they work especially well with items that are in full swing right now: cucumbers, squash and zucchini. Throw in sliced onion and peeled garlic cloves for extra flavor and hot peppers for added punch.
The method couldn’t be easier. You’re simply creating a straightforward brine with vinegar, water, sugar and salt on the stovetop, turning off the heat and adding thinly sliced vegetables. Transfer everything into an airtight container in the fridge for a couple of hours and you’ve got an incredible bread-and-butter pickle that will enhance a range of dishes.