Browsing Category

Louisiana

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.

Continue Reading…

Louisiana, On the Road, Southern, Travels

Spider webs and pepper mash: My trip to Avery Island

September 1, 2015

Throughout my childhood, my paternal grandmother was constantly armed with a bottle of Tabasco. Bland food was the enemy, and there was a lot of it around back then in restaurants, the occasional hospital room and church suppers. In her mind, it all needed correction. She’d reach into her purse for a standard issue 60 ml. bottle of Tabasco, and start dousing. Fast food fries would go from pale beige to orange in a matter of seconds.

That tradition stayed with me when I left Georgia at 18 for college in Washington, D.C. This was forever ago, when dining halls produced food that was crazy tasteless, and I took great pleasure in taking out my own secured bottle of Tabasco. Maybe all that Tabasco love was foreshadowing, because I ended up going to graduate school at LSU soonafter, and then finding myself never able to leave Louisiana.

But in all these years of food writing from Baton Rouge, I’d never written about Tabasco. I was thrilled a few months back when I got a magazine assignment on the McIlhenny family that granted me a behind-the-scenes tour of Avery Island and the Tabasco plant.

What an incredible institution this condiment is.

TabascoViewfromMarshHouse

Continue Reading…

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.

Continue Reading…

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.

Continue Reading…

4th of July, Corn, Farmers Markets, Fresh produce, Healthy, Herbs, Local, Louisiana, One Pot, Soups, Squash

Corn and squash soup brims with summer goodness

July 1, 2015

One of the easiest ways to use fresh summer produce is in a luscious seasonal soup. I know, it’s hot outside, but your AC is probably on full blast, and soup is an inside dish. Corn soup (…and its many versions) is a longtime favorite around South Louisiana, but adding squash to the mix creates depth and wholesome goodness. Thanks to the Red Stick Farmers Market for planting the seed with their annual Corn & Squash-tastic event last Saturday celebrating the summer bounty. The idea of combining the two got stuck in my head and led to this simple recipe, which gives me a chance to do something different with yellow squash. I admit to getting stuck sometimes on expanding my use for it.

This soup tastes rich, but it’s really pretty healthy. A portion of the corn is pureed with a little broth to create a creamy consistency without actually using cream.

Continue Reading…

4th of July, Breakfast, Celebrations, Desserts, Figs, Fresh produce, Fruit, Louisiana

Figging out: Fresh fig cake

June 29, 2015

The figs have started to ripen here in South Louisiana, and a couple of days ago, we started harvesting the sweet fat fruit from our backyard tree – braving mosquitoes and trying to beat the birds. Some days we eat every last fig over the sink within minutes of giving them a rinse. Other days I manage to set some aside and share them with my friends, especially my next-door neighbor, Martha. She paid me back for fresh figs once with a really yummy fig cake. It’s a great use of figs – super moist with a light, but sturdy texture and pleasant, subtle fig flavor. The recipe, Martha tells me, is modified from the Junior League of Monroe’s popular 1972 cookbook, The Cotton Country Collection. Tone down the sugar, and it makes a super breakfast cake. Here it is, below.

Continue Reading…