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…
Frittatas are fast, affordable, easy and the perfect vessel for leftover meats, herbs and veggies. If they’re not yet in your repertoire, it’s time to give these quick-cooking, crust-free egg tarts a try. They’re versatile in flavor and in texture, and depending on the fat content of the dairy products, they can be rich and unctuous or lean and healthful. They’re a great use of Louisiana’s year-round local produce, and they can be served hot, cold or at room temperature. And, clean up is easy since you use minimal equipment.
One of my favorite flavor combinations in a frittata is sweet potato and spinach. Here’s how to make it….
The best party dishes are ones that fit two criteria: you can make them ahead and serve them at room temperature. And marinated seafood, like classic West Indies salad and southern pickled shrimp, fits them both. Think of them as a sort of Gulf Coast ceviche, even though you’re beginning with cooked seafood.
The Mobile, Alabama favorite, West Indies Salad, is made with crabmeat, minced onions and an oil and vinegar solution, and Charleston-born pickled shrimp, involves fresh boiled shrimp riding it out in a tangy marinade for a couple of days before serving. They’re delicious crowd pleasers that offer a refreshing counterpoint to party buffets where the rest of the line-up can be heavy.
For the record, I’m a big fan of the mini-marshmallow.
One of my greatest food memories is cozying up to a marshmallow-y fruit salad — classic Southern ambrosia – that someone brought to my maternal grandfather’s after funeral gathering. I’ll never forget the way the baby marshmallows melted into the citrus juice, creating creamy goodness and a perfect comforting texture. I couldn’t stop eating it. Years later, I similarly fell in love with something called Green Stuff, a congealed cottage cheese and marshmallow fruit salad made by an old boyfriend’s mother and always served at his family’s Thanksgiving dinner. Yum. I love a bowl of trashy.
But as much as I savor marshmallows, and as much as I bow down to tradition, this year, I wanted an all-natural version of the classic holiday side….
Here’s one for my vegetarian pals, or anyone who likes to incorporate an occasional meatless main course: a veggie-centric soup-and-sandwich combo made with fresh farmers market ingredients.
A couple of weeks back, I posted on 5 fall produce soup ideas, and briefly mentioned this one: roasted butternut squash soup studded with sautéed summer squash and zucchini. It showcases the range of produce available in south Louisiana right now. We can still get a lot of summer produce alongside the inaugural harvest of fall vegetables. And with fresh tomato bruschetta on the plate, too, this dinner takes advantage of Southern vegetables that refuse to be confined to just one season.
“May I select my own?” Ignatius asked, peering down over the top of the pot. In the boiling water the frankfurters swished and lashed like artificially colored and magnified paramecia. Ignatius filled his lungs with the pungent, sour aroma. “I shall pretend that I am in a smart restaurant and that this is the lobster pond.”
– A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
Few books capture real New Orleans and its quirks like the Pulitzer Prize-winning, A Confederacy of Dunces. Set in the early 1960s, the satirical novel covers the misadventures of Ignatius J. Reilly, an overeducated bombast who can’t seem to move out of his childhood bedroom, and who writes manifestos and suffers from chronic flatulence.
I first read this book when I was considering moving to Louisiana shortly after college. At the time, I was living in Miami, and had been dating a guy who lived in Baton Rouge. Once on a visit, I found the novel on his bookshelf and gave it a whirl. It was deliciously insane, and even though I didn’t fully get the cultural references, I could not put it down.
Fast forward to this year, 2015 — the 35th anniversary of the book’s publication by the LSU Press. I had indeed moved to Baton Rouge way back when, and while that particular relationship didn’t last, I stayed. Louisiana became my home. I re-read the book this spring, and it was full-circle fun. I had a completely new appreciation for “jambalaya with shrimps” and Lucky Dogs.
One of the reasons I read it again this year was because my friend and fellow LSU Press author, Cynthia LeJeune Nobles, was finishing her A Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook (LSU Press).
I couldn’t wait to see what she came up with.
(Update: Cindy was interviewed on NPR’s Morning Edition on Dec 4. Check out the interview here.)