Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for November, 2010

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.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

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!

Read Full Post »

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!

Read Full Post »