Slowly but surely spring vegetables are coming in, and some of those veggies are new to growers and not so new to others.
Two All-America Selections from the National Garden Bureau are new to me. I am not the gardener in my family, but I enjoy the benefits. I do want my daughter to try the 2017 award-winning Candle Fire okra and the 2016 Candyland Red tomatoes.
Candle Fire okra is just like a fire, it is red, as are the Candyland Red tomatoes. This okra variety is brighter red than the reddish burgundy okras currently available, according to Diane Blaze of the National Garden Bureau. The pods are round and not ribbed.
The tomato variety is a “pop-in-your-mouth” dark red, sweet flavored fruit that can be enjoyed through the season.
My daughter and I both like okra and tomatoes, and she loves fried okra; me, not so much. I always ate okra in gumbo, but never would eat it any other way until I married my husband. His mom’s okra and tomatoes were always spicy good. I learned to make okra and tomatoes from her.
For my okra and tomatoes and for gumbo, I always sauté the okra a little to de-slime the vegetable.
Chef Jonathan Bardzik created an okra and tomato dish in which the okra is not slimy at all. His trick? He roasts it.
The National Garden Bureau is a nonprofit organization that offers basic growing instructions to backyard gardeners and those who want to garden that will inspire folks to spend more time outdoors.
I love this time of year. Fresh veggies and fresh fruits. I purchased green tomatoes and Ruby Red Texas grapefruits this week, and I can’t wait to cook them. I enjoy the sweet grapefruit just cut in half for a healthy breakfast, but I also liked them broiled for a dessert.
When I was a child, my grandmother would section the grapefruit half and sprinkle a little sugar on top for a breakfast treat. I loved the grapefruit that way, but grapefruit brulee is a step above.
Fried green tomatoes are another favorite. My daughter, Elyssa, will eat the tomatoes by themselves as an entrée. I thinly slice the tomatoes, roll them in seasoned cornmeal and pop them in a hot skillet. I use Cajun seasoning, salt, pepper and garlic in the cornmeal. I do not like a heavy breading on fried green tomatoes; it takes away from the flavor of the tomatoes.
I do like to make a spicy remoulade sauce to serve on top, along with either shrimp or crabmeat. Now, that is an entrée fit for a king or queen.
Lonnie Bradley asked for readers’ help in finding a Coast store that is selling fruitcakes. Mager Varnado has a suggestion.
“It’s hard to find a good quality fruitcake here, regardless of the time of year, in my experience,” Varnado said. “For many years, I have ordered fruitcakes from the Collin Street Bakery. They are always top quality, and they do mostly a mail-order business worldwide.”
Collin Street Bakery is in Corsicana, Texas, and sells a good pecan fruitcake along with regular fruitcakes. Here is the link to the bakery’s website: www.collinstreet.com. They also offer a variety of spring desserts, which the bakery also ships.
“Good luck if you stay local. Bradley might find one frozen somewhere,” Varnado said.
Andrea Yeager can be reached at email@example.com and Cooks Exchange, 205 DeBuys Road, Gulfport, MS 39507.
Roasted okra and tomatoes
1/2 pound Candle Fire okra pods, harvest at 2-4 inches long
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Garam Masala
1 pint Candyland Red tomatoes
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Slice Candle Fire okra pods in half lengthwise. Toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon Garam Masala. Season with salt and pepper and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place in oven.
Toss Candyland Red tomatoes with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon Garam Masala. Season with salt and pepper.
When okra has roasted for 5 minutes, scatter tomatoes on sheet pan and cook for 7-10 minutes longer until okra is crisp. Enjoy!
Note: The final product takes on the crisp texture of potato chips. Change up the spices substituting the Indian Garam Masala blend with garlic powder or chili powder. Servings: 6.
Recipe by Chef Jonathan Bardzik, National Garden Bureau
Broiled grapefruit brulee
2 grapefruits halved crosswise
4 tablespoons raw sugar
Trim 1/4 to 1/2 inch of peel from bottom of each grapefruit half to stabilize the fruit and prevent it from rocking back and forth. Place grapefruit, cut side down on paper towels to dry for 5 minutes. Remove all seeds from grapefruit halves. Loosen the segments with a paring knife. Invert grapefruit and sprinkle 1 tablespoon sugar evenly over exposed flesh of each grapefruit half.
Using a kitchen torch, heat sugar until melted and beginning to turn dark amber.
If you don’t have a torch, simply preheat broiler. Transfer grapefruit, cut side up, to a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Broil grapefruit, watching closely to prevent burning, until the sugar is melted and beginning to turn dark amber, about 8 minutes. Let grapefruit cool before serving.
Can serve with a fan of fresh strawberry on top with a dollop of whipped cream or Cool Whip.
From www.epicurious.com and Alton Brown of Food Network