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Southern

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.

BoudinBalls2

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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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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

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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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Desserts, Fresh produce, Fruit, Peaches, Southern

Best homemade ice cream flavor in summer? Answer: peach.

July 20, 2015

Homemade peach ice cream is a tradition across the South, and it’s an incredible treat to savor before the peach season fully slips away. Growing up in Georgia, I have a soft spot for peaches and lots of memories of fresh, churned ice cream with peaches front and center. This was THE flavor ice cream to make in the summer, and I know plenty of people for whom this is still an important seasonal ritual.

As as kid, I didn’t fully appreciate it. In fact, I remember preferring flavors like Rocky Road or “Chocolate Ripple” or something studded with cookie dough or Snickers bars. Peach ice cream was boring and for grown-ups. I’ve come full circle, and thank God my kids have better taste than I did.

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