Cooks Exchange

Cook's Exchange: Load table with bumper crop of veggie dishes

Herb and vegetable gardening at the Yeagers is mostly done in containers because our backyard gets little full sun.

Our daughter loves to garden; she gets this from her dad. He does the flowers; she does the herbs and veggies. Elyssa has her pots at the edge of the driveway where they do get full sun. She's determined to have better results than last year.

She's planted tomatoes, yellow squash, eggplant, rosemary, thyme, cilantro and basil. She keeps the herb garden for me because a cook is only as good as her garden. She's my gardener, and I enjoy the fruits of her labor and so does the rest of the family.

Fresh vegetables and herbs make such a difference in recipes. What we don't grow we buy from farmers' markets and local growers. One Long Beach, Miss., grower we buy from already has squash, okra and tomatoes.

Okra and tomatoes is a family favorite. Until I married my husband, I never liked that dish. My late mother-in-law gave me her recipe, and I have been making and enjoying it ever since. Yvonne Yeager was reared by a mama who hailed from Opelousas, La., and lived in Mississippi and Texas. In other words, my mother-in-law liked her spices. I'll share my version of her okra and tomatoes. What cook can resist tweaking even a good recipe?

Since okra, tomatoes, squash and other summer veggies are here or on the way, I thought I would share some different vegetable recipes, including a corn cob soup. Some of the recipes come from Mary Foreman's "Deep South Dish," others from "How To Eat Like a Southerner and Live To Tell the Tale" and from my kitchen.

Don't forget that Foreman will be back cooking and sharing her cookbook on QVC shopping channel Sunday on "In the Kitchen with David." Her book sold out in 10 minutes when she was on QVC in April.

OKRA AND TOMATOES

1 pound okra, chopped

3 cups fresh tomatoes

1 onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon or so Tony Chachere's Creole seasoning, or more if you like it spicy

Salt and pepper to taste

6-8 strips bacon, fried until not quite crispy in skillet

For extra spice, add 1 or 2 drops of hot sauce

Fry bacon in skillet, remove and drain on paper towel. Leave about 1-2 tablespoons of bacon grease in skillet. Add chopped onion and garlic and sauté until translucent. Add okra to onions and cook until tender. Add tomatoes and seasonings. I give the tomatoes 1 or 2 whirls in the food processor before adding to skillet. If you like spice, add the drops of hot sauce. Heat thoroughly.

Note: I like to serve okra and tomatoes with other vegetables such as squash or field peas and cornbread. Since the okra and tomatoes contain bacon, I don't add more meat to this meal.

SMOTHERED SUMMER SQUASH

1 tablespoon bacon drippings

3 tablespoons salted butter, divided

1 cup chopped Vidalia or other sweet onion

1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper, optional

2 pounds yellow summer squash or zucchini (4 to 6 medium), chopped or halved and sliced

Pinch of sugar

Kosher salt, black pepper and Cajun seasoning to taste

Chopped fresh herbs to taste, optional

Melt bacon drippings with 2 tablespoons butter in lidded pot or deep skillet. Add onion and bell pepper and cook on medium heat 5 minutes or until tender.

Add squash and sugar, and toss to coat; cover and cook over low heat 20-25 minutes, or until tender, stirring several times.

Taste, season as needed with salt, pepper and Cajun seasoning. Add remaining 1 tablespoon butter, and stir in fresh herbs, if desired.

Serve in small bowls, along with some of the simmering liquid.

-- Recipe from "Deep South Dish"

PURPLE HULL PEAS WITH OKRA

1 pound (about 4 cups) fresh shelled or frozen purple hull peas

4 ounces salt pork or bacon, chopped

1 cup chopped onion

2 garlic cloves, smashed

1- 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon Cajun seasoning, optional

1 teaspoon sugar

4 cups water

8 small okra pods

Rinse fresh peas well, and sort through.

In a large skillet, sauté salt pork or bacon until fat is rendered. Add onion, and cook until softened; then add garlic, cook and stir a minute.

Add seasoning, sugar, peas and water. Bring to a boil, skimming off any foam that forms. Reduce heat to low, and simmer 45-60 minutes, or longer, until peas are tender, adding okra pods the last 10 minutes of cooking time.

Serve with pickled onion and cornbread. We like to serve over a little rice here in the Deep South.

-- Recipe from "Deep South Dish"

CORN COB SOUP

10 cups Good Southern Stock (recipe follows)

12 ears of corn, kernels cut off and milk scraped from the cob (about 4 cups kernels, with 6 scraped corn cobs reserved

1 cup coarsely chopped green onions

1 large green bell pepper, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons dry roux (recipe follows)

1 large garlic clove, minced

2 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped

1- 1/2 teaspoons salt or to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the stock and the scraped corn cobs in a large kettle and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover and turn the heat to low. Cook slowly for about 1 hour, then pour the broth through a strainer, discard cobs and set broth aside to cool.

Place the green onions and pepper in the bottom of a large kettle with 1 cup broth. Cook over medium-high heat for about 25 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Stir in the roux, and slowly add the remaining stock, blending well with a wire whisk. Add the garlic, tomatoes and corn with its milk, simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Add the salt and pepper and serve hot.

DRY ROUX

(You can brown just the amount needed for a particular recipe. You can make as little as 1 tablespoon or a large batch to keep in an airtight container. When liquid is added to the browned flour, it turns the rich reddish brown of a perfect roux)

All-purpose flour

Place the flour in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Stir the flour constantly to keep it moving, so it will not burn. The flour will turn a light golden brown after about 25 minutes.

GOOD SOUTHERN STOCK

3 pounds chicken wings and backs

2 ham bones, trimmed of all fat, cracked in half

4 quarts water

3 large onions, cut in half

4 large carrots, peeled and cut into large rings

8 green onions, ragged ends chopped off

2 large turnips, cut into quarters

2 bay leaves

8 large celery ribs, broken into large pieces

1/2 teaspoon ground thyme

1/2 teaspoon ground marjoram

Salt to taste

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Place the chicken, ham bones and water in a large soup kettle and bring to the boil over high heat. Cook for about 10 minutes, then skim off the foam. Add the other ingredients and bring back to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer very slowly for about 2- 1/2 hours.

Strain the cooked stock through a damp cheesecloth-lined colander. Discard the solids, then cool and refrigerate the stock. When the fat has congealed on top, remove and discard it.

Makes 3- 1/2 to 4 quarts.

-- From "How To Cook Like a Southerner and Live To Tell The Tale"

Another corn casserole

Lula E. Griffis lost her corn casserole recipe and asked for readers' help. A reader shared a recipe last week, and here is one from my kitchen. Of course, it is a little spicy.

SPICY CORN CASSEROLE

8 ounces cream cheese, can use reduced fat

1/4 cup milk

2 tablespoon butter

1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

2 cans (16 ounces each) whole kernel corn, drained

2 cans (4 ounces each) chopped green chilies

Melt cream cheese, milk, butter and garlic salt over low heat.

Add corn and chilies.

Put in a casserole dish sprayed with nonstick spray and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.

Grilling greats

It's time to clean off the grill and get cooking.

Readers, send me your favorite grill recipes that I will share before Memorial Day. These can be meats, seafood, sauces and vegetables, whatever you like best.

For Father's Day, send me your dad's or grandfather's favorite dish to cook. We did moms and grandmothers, so it's all about the guys.

My deadlines for this column are earlier now, so send me those recipes ASAP.

Andrea Yeager, can be reached at ayeager51@cableone.net and takes requests at Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.

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