It’s one of the easiest dinners I’ve prepared this spring – a time when easy is essential. My three kids, one each in elementary, middle and high school, are in the thick of homework, school projects, swim practice, track meets, community plays and charity work, and they all come with their own mom-involved to do list. A simple dinner is key to survival, and I’m here to tell you that Grill Night checks that box and whole bunch more.
One of the best ways to treat tougher cuts of pork is to cook them low and slow, and this rule applies to the stove as much it does the grill. In this yummy, hearty-but-healthy spring stew, we’re braising cubes of pork loin roast (not tenderloin), and adding lots of vegetables, earthy spices and fresh tomatillos.
Here’s what’s interesting about Vermont. Farmers markets and farmstands are out in the middle of nowhere sporting the most centerfold-worthy produce you’ve ever seen. There they are, situated along rural roads and byways with no trace of other retail around them holding fruits and veggies so lovely they look like they never wore dirt. Vermont’s farmstands I find particularly intriguing because they’re quiet little gourmet markets at the edge of functioning farms, and God bless ’em, they’re often open seven days a week, (a completely different arrangement than the weekly farmers market many of us enjoy). Here are a few glimpses of Crossroad Farm, a 30-year operation in Post Mills, Vermont. It was a favorite spot of my grandmother’s, who spent her summers in the area. My family and I love visiting here.
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.
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.