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Appetizers, Farmers Markets, Hors d'oeuvres, Local

Need a stress-free hors d’oeuvre? A cheese board is the answer.

October 22, 2015

For a fast hors d’oeuvre, nothing is tastier, easier or prettier than a cheese board assembled from a few great cheeses, some fresh bread and seasonal garnishes.

Recently, I wrote an article for 225 Magazine on “Goat Lady” Wanda Barras, the farmstead cheese maker from St. Martinville, Louisiana, who sells her award-winning Belle Ecorce goat’s milk cheeses at the Red Stick Farmers Market in Baton Rouge. Barras’ cheeses are officially “farmstead,” as opposed to “artisan,” because she uses milk from her resident herd of Nubian and La Mancha goats instead of milk purchased from an outside source. Her cheeses are absolutely delicious. I picked some up this past weekend after doing a cooking demo at the Saturday market.

Recently, Barras added a few Jersey cows to the mix, and now she’s also producing delicious aged cow’s milk cheeses. She has at least three regular varieties of bleu and the Camembert (pictured here), which is vibrant and punchy. Its flavor profile and texture is so much more complex than the garden variety Camemberts in the supermarket. I’ve also got a few of her flavored chevres here, including the cracked pepper and red pepper-topped Parisian. They’re creamy and sublime.

I like to serve cheese with toasted slices of a fresh whole grain baguette, and I love to throw in some quince paste (membrillo), which goes nicely with a salty cheese like Manchego, its traditional mate, or even good Parmesan.

Don’t sweat the food styling. Thankfully, expectations for arranging a cheese board have become increasingly relaxed. Over-the-top Martha Stewart is out. The more natural and loose the platter looks, the better.

Enjoy!CheeseBoard

Boudin, Cajun, Hungry for Louisiana, Local, Louisiana, Southern

Gameday boudin balls

September 14, 2015

Boudin links are great. We all know that. But boudin balls are better, because as we also know, what pork and rice really need is to be deep-fried.

This weekend, as LSU fans across the state prepare for the game against Auburn, many of them will stock up on Cajun charcuterie’s greatest guilty pleasure. Whether you tote your boudin balls to a tailgate party in a grease-stained paper bag, or on a behemoth disposable platter gilded with parsley, boudin balls are the pinnacle of gameday finger food.

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Crab, Local, Louisiana, Seafood

Succulent, classic Crab Louie salad is fast and easy

September 8, 2015
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A friend sent us this picture from a crab boil underway over Labor Day weekend! He picked up fresh crabs from Hammond, Louisiana, and boiled them during a beach weekend in Destin, Florida.

The blue crab harvest is fully underway here in South Louisiana, and many friends I talked to over the weekend were planning Labor Day crab boils. Yum! As much as I love crawfish, shrimp and oysters, crab — I have to admit — is my all time favorite local seafood. It would be on my desert island list, and my death row last supper.

After our daughter’s cross country meet Saturday morning, we picked up a couple dozen boiled crabs over from Tony’s Seafood for our family of five, and they couldn’t have been tastier. Traditionalists say if you harvest crabs after a full moon, they’re at their fullest, so I guess we were still benefiting from the full moon a week earlier.

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Cajun, Crawfish, Hungry for Louisiana, Local, Louisiana, Southern, Weeknight

A weeknight saved by crawfish tails

September 3, 2015

Here it is early September in South Louisiana, and crawfish season seems like a thing of the past. Backyard boils, Sunday etouffée and rural crawfish festivals are fixtures of spring, not fall. But let’s not be too hasty. One-pound packages of Louisiana crawfish tails are still available in many independent grocery stores in South Louisiana, and they should be around for another few weeks, says my friend Blaise Calandro III of Calandro’s Supermarkets here in Baton Rouge. In fact, it’s only between November and February when local tails are not commercially available.

So stock up for yourself Louisiana peeps, and freeze some for your out-of-state friends, because in addition to being full of flavor, crawfish tails are one of easiest and most convenient ingredients around, especially if you’re a working parent. I can attest. Earlier this week, I found myself trying to pull together dinner at the absolute last minute, and a pound of frozen crawfish tails saved me.

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Farmers Markets, Local, Louisiana, Okra, Southern, Summer Produce, Uncategorized, Vegetables

Roasted okra will win you over

August 4, 2015

When you start seeing okra in local groceries or farmers markets here in South Louisiana, you know the summer harvest is petering out. Only the hardiest crops – okra, eggplant and peppers – hang around in Louisiana’s unique brand of oppressive August heat. Okra, in particular, seems to close out the summer, the last blast of freshness until the fall harvest emerges.

So how to put okra to good use? Sure, fried is classic and absolutely delicious. Stewed down with tomatoes is an essential part of the Louisiana culinary roster. Pickled appeals to the masses and is perfect with charcuterie or a Bloody Mary. But for everyday enjoyment, there is no tastier, healthier, faster or easier way to prepare okra than by roasting it in a hot oven. Thanks to my pal, the author and radio host, Poppy Tooker, for recommending this to me a few years ago over lunch.

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Eggplant, Farmers Markets, Local, Louisiana, Southern, Summer Produce, Vegetables

Sicilian caponata a perfect use for summer eggplant

August 4, 2015

Sicily has long influenced South Louisiana cuisine, a trend that started when large waves of immigrants sailed from Palermo to New Orleans throughout the late 19th Century. Settling in the Crescent City, as well as communities like Independence and Baton Rouge, those Sicilian immigrants (many of them becoming grocers) forever impacted the way we eat here in the Bayou State. Ahhh…muffalettos. St. Joseph’s altars draped in fig cookies. Red gravies simmering endlessly at family stoves. The Sicilian specialty caponata, while not as high profile, is also a dish that was prepared in Louisiana with ease. Trendier today than ever, it’s a perfect use for that late-summer local beauty, eggplant.

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