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After the new year, I got a hankering to make a lobster bisque which is something I have never tackled before. The extent of my lobster experience (other than eating it) has been my grandfather’s annual “Lobster Fest” birthday celebration.  The tradition, started by our New Englander Uncle Bob, began with a birthday dinner one year for granddaddy who loved his “lobsta” so much that it became an annual family tradition. Aunt Mary Anne and Uncle Bob hosted dozens of guests, bringing in live lobsters and clams from Maine. The precious seafood was served up hot and fresh on top of newspapers with plenty of warm, drawn lemon butter.

Maine Lobster

I looked to the beloved Julia Child for a lobster bisque recipe and unfortunately, couldn’t find it in my cookbook.  I did, however, find a simple and elegant lobster stew recipe.  Oh such richness!  If you are like me and don’t like to spend Valentine’s Day out in restaurants fighting crowds for bad service and mediocre food, this could be a great entrée to make at home.

Lobster Stew
Adapted from Julia Child’s “The Way to Cook”
2 cooked 2-pound lobsters, females if possible, with their tomalley and roe (about 2 cups of lobster meat)
12 Tbs butter
1 ½ Tbs minced shallots or scallions
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
A big pinch of fresh, chopped tarragon
½ to 2/3 cup or more of heavy cream
1 tsp or so of tomato paste (if needed for color)
5 ½ cups half-and-half or light cream

Julia gives a couple of helpful tips about lobsters.  First, she recommends female lobsters so that you can make use of the roe for coloring and flavor.  It’s the roe that provides the pinkish color in soups and stews.  Second, Julia says that steaming lobsters is better than boiling.  She recommends steaming the lobsters for about 10 minutes or so.  A good test to check for doneness is to grab a small leg and taste the meat.  If the leg meat is done, the lobster is done.  Take the lobsters out and let them cool. Shell them, and cut 6 thin slices of tail or claw, cover, and refrigerate for final decoration.  Cut the remaining meat into bite-size pieces, and set aside.  Push the roe, if you have it, and the tomalley (the green stuff) through a sieve, and reserve

Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in the frying pan, stir in the sieved tomalley and roe, and sauté slowly over moderately low heat for 5 minutes – it will turn a beige-pink; beige only if you have no roe.

Fold in the lobster meat and shallots or scallions, season lightly with salt, pepper, and tarragon, and fold in the remaining tablespoons of butter.  Continue the slow sauté another 5 minutes or so, gently folding the lobster in the butter as the roe gradually turns the meat a salmony pink.  Let this cool to tepid.

Meanwhile, heat the cream to tepid – the same temperature as the lobster meat.  Then, by small dribbles as though making mayonnaise, begin ladling the cream into the lobster meat, folding gently and continually while the cream absorbs the butter and takes on a pale lobster hue.  (You should blend in a little tomato paste here if needed for color – i.e., if you do not have female lobsters.) Season to taste with salt and pepper, and let cool, then cover and refrigerate.

Julia says to refrigerate since she recommends making this soup a day or 2 in advance so that the flavor has time to set in.

Serving: Folding gently, bring the stew slowly to below the simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.  (Meanwhile gently warm the reserved pieces of lobster meat in butter.) Taste the stew again for seasoning, and ladle the stew into hot soup cups or plates.  Rapidly float on each serving a slice of chilled butter on which you place a piece of lobster tail or claw.  Accompany with warm toast or English muffins. In the picture below, I actually finished the soup with fennel fronds.

Soup finished with fennel fronds

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New Year’s Resolution

It is our 2012 New Year’s resolution to resurrect the blog!

Let me catch you up: I moved to Denver and got married (no biggie).  Jenny moved across the country and got a new job (as did her hubby).  So, between those life changing events and a family emergency or two, we were busy little bees this year! But enough excuses – let’s talk about the thing that is so near and dear to everyone’s heart – food.

We last left you with a post about the 1st Annual Drogue Holiday party.  I am proud to report that our 2nd annual Drogue Holiday party was also a success.  And since we left you last year at Christmas time, it’s fitting that we pick up where we left off – at New Year’s.

Every New Year’s day, Mimi opened her home to anyone who was interested in some simple “good luck” black eyed peas.  According to my Mary Mac’s Tea Room cookbook (thanks, Dad!,) this Southern tradition dates back to the Civil War.   Apparently Union troops would strip the land of all stored food and destroy whatever they couldn’t carry with them.  The  Northern soldiers didn’t consider “field peas” a suitable source of food.  So these “field peas” became known for good luck!

Seasoned with salt pork and hog jowls or pork hocks, Mimi served her peas over white rice, and topped them with stewed tomatoes.  The goal is to eat at least 12 peas (one for luck during each month in the year).  Happily, this goal isn’t hard to attain.  Mimi also served her famous cornbread as a sopping accessory (with jalapeno or strawberry jam) as well as fresh scallions to gnaw on/freshen your breath.

So this year, we will carry on the tradition.

 

Black-Eyed Peas
Adapted From Mary Mac’s Tea Room

1 small smoked ham hock
5 ounces of fatback (salt pork)
1 small yellow onion, diced
4 cups dried black-eyed peas
1/2 teaspoon of white pepper

Bring a stockpot two-thirds full with water to a boil over medium-high heat.  Add the ham hock, fatback, and onion and return to a rolling boil.  Add the black-eyed peas and let cook, uncovered for approximately 1 hour, or until the black-eyed peas are tender.  Add salt and pepper if desired.  Serve with slotted spoon over white rice, and top with stewed tomatoes.  See below for recipe.

Mom and I have debated about whether Mimi used canned tomatoes or whether she blanched tomatoes and stewed them fresh.  I can specifically remember Mimi teaching me to blanch tomatoes. I can’t imagine why she would have been doing that except for a recipe that called for stewed tomatoes.  We came to the conclusion that Mimi used canned tomatoes (sometimes her own and sometimes store-bought) just because it would be tough to find good tomatoes in December.  So, the choice is yours.

In case you need a quick 101 on blanching: bring some water to a boil, add the tomatoes for a minute or 2, remove and immediately submerge in cold water.  This makes the tomatoes really easy to peel, core, and seed.

Dried black eyed peas

Salt pork and pork hock

 

Stewed Tomatoes
2-3 cans of diced tomatoes, or 8-10 whole tomatoes, blanched and diced
1 onion – diced
Dash of white vinegar
A few pinches of sugar
1/2 stick of butter
tomato paste (optional)

Cook the diced onions in butter for quite some time.  You want the onions to begin to brown so that they take on that really sweet buttery flavor.  Add the tomatoes and stew for a while.  You may want to add a spoonful of tomato paste depending on the thickness.  Add vinegar and sugar to taste.  The tomatoes should take on a tangy taste.  Stew for 30-40 minutes.  This can be done ahead of time.

Happy 2012!

Happy 2012!!!

Practice Makes Perfect

Mike just celebrated his company’s second birthday this year.  In fact, we just realized that the official birthday of Drogue Medical is the same day as our (upcoming) wedding day: October 2.  Although Drogue just turned two, we held the company’s first annual holiday party on Friday.

 

I decided that I wanted to make one of Mike’s very favorite dishes, osso bucco.  This is no small feat especially given that I had  never made it on my own before.  And, instead of making traditional osso bucco out of veal shanks, we decided to serve pork shanks.  This was inspired by a meal we enjoyed at Ristorante Arivederci, while visiting with my sister and bro-in-law in San Diego.  There were many firsts for me on this trip: first time I had osso bucco with pork shank, first time visiting my sister since she moved to L.A., first time staying at the Del Coronado.  And the first – and last – time I bought a wedding dress!

After diligently scouring all of my cookbooks and even looking through one of my mother’s cook books from Italy, the osso bucco recipe that I decided to use (and modify) was from Epicurious.

But rather than trying to make osso bucco for the first time at Drogue’s first holiday party, I decided to practice – first on girlfriends, then on Mom.

And after all of that practice, I’ve decided that the key to this dish is to cook it long enough.  The magic number for attempt number three?  Seven hours.  That’s right, I cooked it for three hours on Thursday night and four hours on Friday.  Thank goodness for delayed start on my oven.

There were three major differences between what I cooked and what the recipe called for.  I used turnip roots in addition to the other veggies, inspired by another version of the recipe that I’d uncovered in my research.  I also didn’t use the gremmolata – for no other reason than I just didn’t want to.  And lastly, I preferred to keep some of the veggies rather than completely discard them once the dish was cooked.   I served them in a mash form (pureed) on top of and around the shank.  So, here’s my recipe for what Mike calls Porko Bucco.

Osso Bucco
Adapted from Epicurious.com

8 to 10 large 2 1/2-inch-thick pork shanks, each patted dry and tied securely with kitchen string to keep the meat attached to the bone
All-purpose flour for dredging the veal shanks
7  tbs. unsalted butter (plus additional if necessary)
3 tbs. olive oil (plus additional if necessary)
1 1/2 c. dry white wine
1 1/2 c. finely chopped onion (use a food processor to almost puree)
3/4 c. finely chopped carrots (use a food processor to almost puree)
3/4 c. finely chopped celery (use a food processor to almost puree)
4 turnip roots, peeled and finely chopped (use a food processor to almost puree)
1 tsp. minced garlic
3 to 4 c. chicken or beef broth
1 1/2 c. peeled, seeded, and chopped tomato or 1 1/2 cups drained canned plum tomatoes, chopped
1 cheesecloth bag containing 6 fresh parsley sprigs, 4 fresh thyme sprigs, and 1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. salt

Season the veal shanks with salt and pepper and dredge them in the flour, shaking off the excess. In a heavy skillet heat 3 tablespoons of the butter and 3 tablespoons of the oil over moderately high heat until the foam subsides. In the butter, brown the pork shanks in batches, adding some of the additional butter and oil as necessary and transferring the shanks as they are browned to a platter. Add the wine to the skillet, boil the mixture, scraping up the brown bits clinging to the bottom and sides of the skillet, until the liquid is reduced to about 1/2 cup, and reserve the wine mixture in a small bowl.

In a flameproof casserole just large enough to hold the veal shanks cook in one layer the pureed onion, carrots, celery, garlic and turnips in the remaining 4 tablespoons butter over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened.   Add the pork shanks with any juices that have accumulated on the platter, the reserved wine mixture, and enough of the broth to almost cover the shanks (about 1/2-3/4). Spread the tomatoes over the shanks, add the cheesecloth bag, the salt, and pepper to taste, and bring the liquid to a simmer over moderately high heat. Braise the mixture, covered, in the middle of a preheated 325°F. oven for 7 hours, or until the pork is tender. Transfer the shanks with a slotted spoon to an ovenproof serving dish, discard the strings, and keep the shanks warm. Strain the pan juices into a saucepan, pressing hard on the solids to squeeze any liquid from them, and skim the fat. Boil the juices for 15 minutes, or until they are reduced to about 3 cups, baste the shanks with some of the reduced juices, and bake them, basting them 3 or 4 times with some of the remaining juices, for 10 minutes more, or until they are glazed.

I make a risotto with shallots and serve it with a red wine/mushroom reduction sauce.  Then I place the shanks on top of the risotto and top it off with the basting sauce and mashed/pureed veggie mix which makes for a grand presentation.  Served with a nice arugula salad – this meal is divine!

The Mimi Project: Year One

About a year ago, I mused about my favorite foods from growing up in the South – and specifically those recipes prepared by my (and Rachael’s) grandmother, Mimi.  There were recipes from our Granddaddy, Great Uncle Doe, and Great Aunt NoNo, too.  (All of these people have “normal” names, by the way – respectively, they are Mary Lea and Tom Humphress and Gordon and Lynnora Wheeler, if you were curious.)  When Rachael and I started The Mimi Project, Mimi was still with us.  She died last Christmas, but the Mimi Project has continued with her passing – and I’d argue that our urge to revisit these foods and their associated memories has grown even stronger.

Mimi and Granddaddy, aka Mary Lea and Tom Humphress

Our original list of Mimi Project recipes included the following:

  • Mimi’s Birthday Cake
  • Mimi’s Ice-box Cookies
  • NoNo’s Divinity
  • Mimi’s Cornbread Sticks
  • Mimi’s Chicken and Dumplings
  • Mimi’s Cornbread Stuffing with Giblet Gravy
  • Mimi’s Chicken Salad
  • Mimi’s Black Bean Soup
  • Mimi’s Vegetable Soup
  • Mimi’s Crab Dip
  • Granddaddy’s Pepper Vinegar
  • Mimi’s Cake with Lemon Cheese (Nick’s birthday cake)
  • Mimi’s Macaroni and Cheese
  • Mimi’s Home-Grown-and-Canned Green Bean Salad with Purple Onion and Italian Dressing
  • Granddaddy’s Cheese Crackers
  • Granddaddy’s Pecans
  • Granddaddy’s Chicken with Lemon, Butter and Worcestershire
  • Mimi’s Pimiento Cheese
  • NoNo’s Blackberry (or Quince or Grape) Jelly
  • Doe’s Fried Eggplant
  • Doe’s (and Grandmother Wheeler’s) Thin Cornbread

We’ve tackled the recipes in bold, and I’ve linked to those we’ve actually written up here on the blog.  Those that haven’t been blogged will be – we’re just perfecting the technique, or waiting to take nice photos.  Of course it stands to reason that the list of recipes would grow – especially once Rachael and I inherited Mimi’s coveted recipe box.  Here are some that we’ve enjoyed that weren’t on the original list:

What else would I add now that time has passed?  I’d like to see some of Mimi’s “congealed salads” – as she called them – on the list.  I know many people think of the bad old days of neon-colored Jell-o, studded with unidentifiable floating chunks, left uneaten on the cafeteria line.  But having had a sort of “gazpacho essence” aspic prepared by Anne Quatrano, one of Atlanta’s premier chefs, at a local farmer’s market one hot morning, I think there is hope for congealed salads.  I remember cucumbers and cottage cheese in one of Mimi’s many versions, and grapefruit and nuts in another – I think I can make Jell-o worth your while.  Really!

Here’s something fun that reminded me of eating at Mimi’s house, too – a “recipe” for Crisp Caramelized Doughnuts.  Mimi would buy a box of Krispy Kremes and re-heat them in the microwave for 10 seconds.  They became other-worldly with their crisped coating of sugar glaze and warm, collapsing dough… but caramelizing them over a flame?  That’s the slightly grown-up version of this childhood treat.

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve been here!  What is it about the fall…?  I remember posting this time last year after a too-long blog-hiatus, sharing the highlights of my busy-ness and the cooking and eating that accompanied it.  But this fall is something else altogether.  It had to happen that after I publicly delighted in living in one place for a whole year (long enough to start a little teensy tiny garden, the inspiration of this post) that we would move again.  And not just any move: we have relocated from Atlanta to Los Angeles.  It doesn’t get much further without moving to another country!

Dan got a great new job here and we had less than two months to sell or pack our stuff, find a new place, and make our way – with Piggy the cat and Sweet Pea the dog – cross-country.  We arrived, amazingly, with our relationship, our sanity and our stuff in tact and settled into our new (rental) home in the Highland Park neighborhood of L.A.  Because packing, moving, leaving our jobs, Dan starting a new job, me searching for a job, unpacking, and all the attendant concerns hadn’t been quite exciting enough, I had to go and have emergency surgery a few days after we landed in L.A.  Sigh.

Luckily, we had tons of support from our families, friends and Dan’s new workplace – I am now fully recovered and the house is even starting to come together.  Check out this harvest from our grapefruit tree, a gem that I didn’t even notice when we first saw this house on our whirlwind house-hunting trip:

They are sweet and so good.

Speaking of sweet and good, there’s this recipe.  Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good.  Have you heard of it?  It was featured on NPR about 10 days ago, in an interview with Dorie Greenspan about her new cookbook.  At the farmer’s market the next day (Oh, the farmer’s markets in California! I am sure I will be devoting post after post to them in future…absolutely amazing!), all around me I heard whispers and far-away utterances: “Pumpkin…stuffed…with everything good.”  I wasn’t the only one who had been captivated by the NPR piece, coming to the market with dreams of soft, roasted winter squash, oozing  a warm stuffing of  breadcrumbs, cream, cheese, and herbs.

One of the most delightful moments of Dorie Greenspan’s telling of the story behind this recipe – and you really should listen to the whole thing yourself – is her description of her friend’s garden, where the family grew their own pumpkins for this dish.  Parents and children selected their own pumpkins when they were small on the vine, and each carved his or her name into the squash.  As the pumpkin grew, so did their carved names, and each knew exactly which steaming gourd of goodness was theirs when it finally came to the table.

It is too soon to start hoping that I’ll live in one place long enough to have another little garden, where I too might carve names – or drawings, or poems, or hieroglyphics – into my very own pumpkins?  I certainly hope not.

Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good
Adapted from Epicurious.com

1 pumpkin, about 4 pounds
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 pound stale bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 pound cheese (I used Gruyère), cut into 1/2-inch chunks
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
4 slices bacon, cooked until crisp, drained, and chopped
1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
1/4 cup sliced scallions
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
About 1/2 cup whole milk

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.

Begin by opening your pumpkin as for a jack-o-lantern – cut a circle around the stem to create a kind of “lid” that you can pull off.  Scrape out the insides of the pumpkin and discard (or, even better, save your seeds and roast them separately).  Generously salt and pepper the inside of the pumpkin.

Mix together all the remaining ingredients except for milk, season with salt and pepper, and stuff into the pumpkin.  Pour the milk over the top – you want the filling to be nice and moist, but not swimming in liquid, although I think it really is hard to do wrong here.  Replace the “lid” and place the pumpkin onto or into the baking dish of your choice, either well-buttered or using a silicone baking mat.   (I used a silicone mat on a rimmed cookie sheet, which was perfect.)  Bake for about 2 hours.  Remove from oven and let cool a few minutes.  Slice into quarters and serve.

A few notes: Dorie Greenspan’s recipe calls for cream, not milk, and I have no doubt that it would be even richer and more wonderful than this version.  She also suggests many different combinations for the filling.  I stuck closely to her recipe, since this was my first time making this dish, but it is easy to see that this is a very forgiving and flexible recipe and that you could make this into anything you want.  She suggests trying other cheeses and herbs, adding freshly grated nutmeg, using cooked rice instead of bread, omitting the bacon for a vegetarian dish or replacing it with sausage (I think vegetarian sausage, of which there are several good varieties, would be great in this, too).  She also mentions adding in kale or other greens, and even frozen green peas.  I think roasted chiles would be incredible, as well as apples or pears, mushrooms, caramelized onions, and even nuts.  The possibilities are truly endless!

Making use of your food

Making use of your food

This is no novelty, but I really like the idea of using as much of your food as possible, whether it’s using beet greens for a salad or saving the fat from a pork shoulder to cook your winter greens.  In Florida, we have the sort of climate that allows for plentiful and delicious tomatoes.  As a result, we don’t mind using our tomatoes in things other than salads or marinara sauce.   In fact, we use tomatoes before they ripen – aka when they are still green.  This is not to be confused with varieties of tomatoes that are actually bred to be green.  When I say green tomatoes, I mean un-ripened tomatoes.  There is a difference.

Of course, there is the ever popular fried green tomato (FGT, not to be confused with the movie – it’s a great one if you haven’t seen it.) I eat FGTs plain or with a little goat cheese schmeared on top.  Actually, I have dreamt of making myself a BLT with an FGT and some goat cheese on top.  However, that might induce a gallbladder attack and I can’t have the surgeon laugh at me again when I tell him what I ate, so I will restrain myself.

Another fun green tomato idea is ice tomato pickles.  Ice tomato who?  Essentially green tomatoes that have been pickled and canned in a sweet syrup.  They are crunchy and sweet and you can enjoy them solo or on a sandwich.

I have fond memories of my grandfather arranging a weekend in the summer to prepare and can ice tomato pickles with my cousins.  Some how I got out of any responsibility associated with the task (thank goodness for being the youngest) and was free to just pop-in and check things out in between playing.  When I say that I got out of having any responsibility, I don’t mean to say that spending time with granddaddy was a chore, but canning and pickling (two things I hadn’t done myself until a few weekends ago) green tomatoes certainly was.  It is a laborious and time-intensive process to say the least.

I got together with three good girlfriends to do exactly what granddaddy did with my cousins – process these tomatoes.  We had 14lbs (thanks to Nancy and Susan) of green tomatoes.  Why so many?  Here in Colorado our summers aren’t as long and so you end up with a fair amount of tomatoes at the end of the season that don’t have a chance to turn (red) before our first snow.   14 lbs ended up producing 15 wide-mouthed pint jars.

The first day was devoted to washing and slicing the tomatoes, followed by soaking them for 24 hours in a lime solution.

Day 2 called for draining the lime solution and soaking the tomatoes for several more hours in fresh water.  After the fresh water soak, you must make a syrup in which the tomatoes sit over night.


Day 3 involves thickening the syrup and actually canning the tomatoes in the syrup.

And here is my finished product along side a can from my grandfather’s last batch before he left this world.  You can see that with time, they darken.  And, if you aren’t sure you’ll like ice tomato pickles and aren’t ready to commit to canning just yet, you can order some online.

Ice Tomato Pickles
7 lbs washed green tomatoes (slice 1/4 inch thick) – stems removed
3 cups of lime
2 gallons of water
4 lbs sugar
3 pints of white vinegar
1tsp of ground cloves
1 tsp of allspice
1 tsp of cinnamon
1 tsp of mace
1 tsp of celery seed
1 spice bag or cheesecloth bag

Soak the tomatoes in 2 gallons of lime water (3 cups of lime in 2 gallons) for 24 hours.  Drain and rinse the tomatoes and soak in fresh water for 4 hours.  Drain the tomatoes again.  In a pot, boil sugar, vinegar and spices (in the spice bag).  Once the syrup has come to a boil and the sugar is dissolved, pour over the tomatoes and let stand overnight.  In the morning, pour the syrup back into a pot for boiling, and boil it for an hour (this is just to boil out some of the water). Then add the pickles/tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Now can the tomatoes and syrup and you’re done!

Canning details could require an entire blog post.  In an effort not to “re-create the wheel” I will share a website with you that my friend Nancy shared with me.  It was quite helpful.  I would definitely do research on canning if it’s your first time.  If canning is not done properly, and the food has a chance to spoil it could be dangerous.  And one last suggestion: think through what time of day the waiting periods will fall.  You don’t want to be stuck canning in the middle of the night!

Of Friends and Fried Okra

This year is our first with a garden.  As you’ll remember when I first wrote about the little (little!) raised bed we planted this year, I was thrilled to finally be in one place long enough to see a summer garden through the season.  So much for all my dancing and jigging about being in one place – yes, we made it through a year at the same address but now we’re pulling up roots, literally and figuratively, and moving to Los Angeles!

Anyhow, in the midst of all the packing and planning and preparing, I of course am still making time to cook.  It’s one thing that helps keep me sane and grounded.  This week, Dan brought home some okra that was a gift from a work friend (thanks, Dawn!) and requested I prepare it in the only way he likes that vegetable: fried.  I have had mixed results with deep-frying in the past, but once I saw these gorgeous purple and green fingers of summer goodness, I knew that’s what I’d do with them.

I could tell you all about okra, the myriad ways it can be prepared, its international, transcontinental interpretations, it botanical origins (did you know that it comes from the same plant family as cotton, cocoa, and hibiscus?) – but I don’t need to.  My dear friend Jennifer tells it all, with three different recipes to boot, in this post over at the Peachtree Road Farmer’s Market blog.

What I will say is that I didn’t actually use any of Jennifer’s recipes – at least, not from that blog post.  I went with a recipe from world-class Atlanta chef Virginia WillisBon Appetit Y’all. (Mostly because I had extra buttermilk in the fridge – Jen’s version of fried okra doesn’t use it, while Virginia Willis’ does.) This is fitting enough because Jennifer introduced me to Virginia (well, not in real life – but you know what I mean!) when she gave me an autographed copy of her cookbook for Christmas a few years ago.  Now well-worn and much-loved, I thrill as much in the beautiful photography and spot-on recipes as I do in Willis’ recollections of cooking with her Mama and Meme.  I can’t step into the kitchen without thinking of my Mimi, so it’s nice that Willis brings hers along, too.

I’ll be bringing along my copy of Bon Appetit Y’all, and many other gifts and memories, as we wind up this summer, load up the wagons, and head west for the next adventure.  I wonder if they serve fried okra in L.A.?

Fried Okra
Adapted from Bon Appetit, Y’all by Virginia Willis

1 pound fresh okra, ends trimmed
1 cup buttermilk (I used a low-fat buttermilk…not that this matters much when you’re deep-frying!)
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal (I had only half the cornmeal I needed and subbed semolina flour for the rest – it worked beautifully)
3 cups canola oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Mix flour and cornmeal together (I threw in some salt here, in addition to salting the okra after it came out of the oil). Slice okra into 1/2-inch rounds.  Toss with buttermilk.  Put a plate lined with paper towel next to the stovetop.  Heat oil in a heavy, deep (preferably cast-iron) wide-bottomed skillet to 350 degrees, or until flour tossed into the oil begins to bubble.  Working in batches, drain the excess buttermilk from the okra and toss okra in flour/cornmeal mixture to coat.  Fry okra in oil until golden brown, 3-5 minutes (for me, this took more like 5-8 minutes).  Don’t overcrowd the skillet or you’ll lower the temperature of the oil and won’t leave room for the individual pieces to bathe in the oil.  Using a mesh basket or slotted strainer, remove okra from oil and place on towel-lined plate.  Sprinkle with salt.  Keep frying in batches and enjoy!