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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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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!

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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!

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Among summer’s incredible bounty are fresh-shelled peas of all varieties: from fava beans to English peas to whiteacres and more.  Last week at the Morningside Farmer’s Market I picked up a couple of pints of pink-eyes, knowing they’d been shelled a few hours before and I’d be cooking them a few hours later.

Raw pink-eyed peas

There are many wonderful things that you can do with fresh peas.  I highly recommend this black-eyed pea, corn, and tomato salad from Virginia Willis’ Bon Appetit, Y’all.  After seeing her make this last summer (and tasting it!) at a market demo, we enjoyed this salad at home several more times last year.  I certainly don’t intend to let this summer slip by without making sure it’s as good as I remember.

Cooked pink-eyed peas and grits

But my favorite thing, and the easiest, to do with fresh summer peas is just to boil them up and serve them in their own broth, perhaps over rice or grits.  Here I served them over stone-ground grits cooked with fresh cream and parmesan.  A friend said she topped the same thing with crumbled up local bacon, and I just bet that it was out of control.

Simple Fresh-Shelled Peas

Fresh-shelled peas – pink-eyes, whiteacres, field peas, and on and on
Enough liquid to cover (you could use just water, or use vegetable or chicken broth or bouillon)
1 white onion, cut into eighths, length-wise
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: Ham hock

A note on seasoning: My mom and grandmother would never have cooked peas without a ham hock in the broth to flavor them.  Salty, fatty, savory, and smoky, pork is used to flavor much Southern cooking – here’s a new book with recipes and history that calls pork “the King of the Southern table.”  (If anyone feels like buying me a present, feel free to make it this book!) However, as a vegetarian for many years, I adapted this dish to my needs.  I found that a few cubes of veggie bouillon, the cut up onion, salt, and maybe some additional olive oil or butter for fat content mimicked very well the taste I remembered from childhood.  If you do use bouillon, broth, or ham hock, you will need far less salt in the cooking liquid than if using just water, so do adjust accordingly.

To cook: Place peas in a pot with onion and enough liquid to cover.  Boil for 20-30 minutes, or until tender but still firm and not mushy.  As the peas cook, you will notice a gray foam forming on the surface of the water – simply skim this off with a shallow spoon and discard.  Taste before serving for salt and pepper.  As mentioned, these are wonderful just in their own juices, perhaps with a piece of cornbread to soak up the liquid, or on top of white rice or creamy stone-ground grits.  Serve and enjoy!

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When Rachael and I started The Mimi Project, we compiled a list of recipes – with the help of other family members – that we wanted to re-create.  Mimi died at Christmas last year, and Rachael and I inherited her treasured recipe box.  Every time I talked to Mimi in the months before her death, she told us that she was busy getting the recipes cards organized for us, a fact our Aunt Mary Anne confirmed.  Mimi spent hours at the dining room table, combing through those cards, ostensibly trying to get them in some kind of order.  I think the exercise might have been more about reminiscing, thinking about all the good things she had cooked and all the things she would still like to cook.  Lord knows, she cooked until the end!  After reading Rachael’s post about failed ice-box cookies, Mimi baked us a batch – they were fresh and waiting for us on Christmas morning just days after her death.

Thinking of Mimi lovingly mixing and forming and baking cookies for us even as she was dying, it’s clear to me why I feel such a connection between food, love, and family.  I was touched, then, to discover a recipe attributed to my brother Michele as I sorted through Mimi’s cards.  Rachael, Michele, and I share the same mom (and thus the same Mimi!) – but Michele’s dad is not ours.  Michele’s dad Maurizio is Italian, from Florence, but I’ve had the pleasure of knowing him my whole life as he now lives in Tallahassee, Florida.  He is a sweet man, an accomplished scholar/designer (he’s been working on the Large Hadron Collider!) and a wonderful cook.  I remember distinctly finding a jar of Barilla pasta sauce in my mom’s fridge many years ago – it was a new brand to our area back then, and I wanted to try it.  It was delicious – just like home-made – and I excitedly bought another jar on my next trip to the grocery store.  Imagine my disappointment when I opened that jar to discover the flavorless, processed stuff that I should have expected – and I realized immediately that the jar I’d found in my mom’s fridge had been a gift from Maurizio, homemade marinara sauce re-packaged in a recycled jar.

Michele’s sauce-making abilities rival those of his dad, so when I found this marinara sauce attributed to Michele among Mimi’s recipes, I knew immediately I had to make it.  I found the perfect use for the sauce when I came across another of Mimi’s recipes, for “zucchini lasagna.”  It wasn’t until I was in the middle of cooking the zucchini lasagna that I realized that there are no lasagna noodles – the whole point is to replace the pasta with vegetables.  It’s simple, surprisingly good, and a great use for all those squash and zucchini at the farmer’s markets right now.  And of course, for me, it’s a casserole that represents the layers of love and family that I connect to through cooking.

Michele's Tomato Sauce

Michele’s Tomato (Marinara) Sauce

1 large can whole peeled tomatoes (I like organic San Marzanos, like these)
2/3 tbsp olive oil
Half an onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp sugar
Cayenne
Salt and pepper

In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic in olive oil until soft and translucent.  Do not let the onions or garlic get browned or crisp.  Add the tomatoes, sugar, a dash of cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste.  Crush the tomatoes with a wooden spoon and cook over low-medium heat until the tomatoes are broken down and flavors are melded, at least 30 minutes.  Taste for salt, adjust as needed, and serve.

Mimi’s Zucchini Lasagna
Serves 6-8

1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 c. chopped onion
1 15 oz. can of tomato sauce (or equivalent homemade – which is preferred!)
4 medium zucchini (about 1 1/4 pounds), sliced into rounds – I used a combination of zucchini and summer squash
2 tbsp. flour, divided
1 (12 oz.) container of cottage cheese
1 egg, beaten
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large saute pan, cook onion in olive oil over medium heat until translucent.  Add ground beef, browning and stirring to crumble.  Add tomato sauce, taste for salt and pepper and adjust seasoning as needed.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Set cooked ground beef and tomato sauce aside.

In a large saute pan over medium heat, saute zucchini – I used a non-stick skillet and basically no olive oil.  The squash and zucchini cooked nicely and even browned a little bit.

Spray a 12″ x 8″ x 2″ baking dish with non-stick cooking spray or olive oil in a mister.  Combine cottage cheese and egg.  Start with a layer of zucchini on the bottom of the pan.  Then sprinkle with 1 tbsp of the flour.  Spread a layer of the cottage cheese mixture, then spoon half of the meat sauce over the cottage cheese.  Repeat layers.  Bake casserole at 375 degrees for 35 minutes (until hot and bubbling).  Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and bake another 5 minutes, until cheese begins to brown.  Let the casserole rest for 5 minutes before serving.  I garnished it with a chiffonade of basil – but it’s wonderful on its own, too!

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Tallahassee, Florida is home to the Florida State Seminoles, state government, and my family.  It’s located in what we call the “panhandle” of our Sunshine State.  As you know, the Panhandle borders the Gulf of Mexico, a body of water that has recently met its match thanks to the unbelievable Deep Water Horizon oil spill.

I’m bitter – can you tell?  These are the beaches that I grew up on. I spent family vacations, spring breaks, and days in college when we just wanted to relax instead of going to class.  I caught my first “real fish” on this shoreline (a 10 pound black drum that was almost as tall as me!), jumped waves with my grandmother, and caught crabs in order to orchestrate “crab races” (it really didn’t take much to entertain me as a child!).

Over the last few weeks, I’ve experienced predictable emotions in response to disaster in the Gulf: anger and sadness.  But I’ve also experienced, unpredictably, joy.  Unable to to see into the future, Mike and I planned a trip with Boulder friends (who happen to be originally from Louisiana) to head to the beach in the Gulf.  And so, while I am angered and saddened by the oil disaster, I am grateful that in light of all of this, we were able to hop on a plane and beat the oil to our destination.  We made it.  I savored the trip as much as possible, realizing that this would be (short of a miracle) the last chance we would have to visit “my ocean” in the way that I remembered it.

And so, we chartered a boat for a little deep sea fishing and caught, cooked, and ate some snapper

We went to the local seafood market, Goatfeathers, for some grouper, shrimp, and tuna

Goatfeathers

Robert preparing the grouper for the grill

Grouper with blackening spices

Grouper on the grill

Bay shrimp (grey) and Gulf shrimp (pink - saltier, and sweeter)

My cousin Katie's, famous shrimp!

Tuna

Prepared tuna platter with wasabi paste - compliments of Mike

And we made sure to spend plenty of time in the ocean and on the beach…

My two loves - Mike and ocean

Santa Rosa Beach - 10 miles from Destin, FL

 

Cousin Katie’s Delicious Peel n’ Eat Gulf Shrimp Recipe

Serves 2

1/4 cup of Old Bay seasoning (classic – loose powder, not in the bag)
1/4 cup of caraway seeds
1 lb of shrimp (shell and tail on, preferably fresh, if not fresh then at least thawed)
Large pot of water (filled with 1 or 1.5 gallons of water)
Seasoned salt (we like this one called Aunt Cora’s but I think that’s only available regionally)
1/4 cup of white vinegar

Fill the pot with the water, vinegar (vinegar helps make shrimp easy to peel), seeds, salt, and Old Bay.  Bring to a rolling boil and add shrimp.  Continue cooking until the water just comes to a boil again (sometimes even before.) It’s very important not to overcook the shrimp or they will be rubbery.  Once cooked, remove the pot from the heat and strain the shrimp.  Your strainer will collect seeds and spices.  I serve the shrimp hot or ice cold in a bowl with their seeds and remaining spices.  I also dust the shrimp with fresh Old Bay – or even sprinkle it on a plate to dip the shrimp in as I peel them.

Mike and I read about using the famous (or infamous) Sriracha Sauce (with the green lid and rooster on it) to mix with a little mayo.  It didn’t sound appealing to me at first but I tried it and it makes for a great tangy yet spicy dipping sauce for the shrimp.

Optional Sriracha Sauce Recipe

Sriracha Sauce
1/8 cup of mayonnaise
However much Sriracha you can handle

Mix together to your taste and voila!

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My little garden is really starting to produce: my first cherry tomatoes have ripened, the first large green tomatoes are ready to ripen, we’ve enjoyed many wonderful leaf lettuce salads, and now the cucumbers are going crazy.

Mimi and Granddaddy always had a big garden when I was growing up.  In the summertime, they grew sweet and hot peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, onions, potatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, zucchini, scallions, and green beans, at a minimum.   I remember helping them sometimes, mostly with the harvesting: crouching along the rows of green beans, making sure to get all the little pods.  Or helping Granddaddy in the winter, washing his harvests of collard, mustard, and turnips greens in successive water baths in big white buckets in the carport (don’t you know, there were no “garages” back then – just carports!).   Somehow, though, I escaped most of the labor involved in their garden and simply got to enjoy the fruits: those greens, cleaned, cooked, and doused with Granddaddy’s home-grown and -made pepper vinegar; soft, cooked green beans with onions and ham hocks in the summer and crisp canned green bean salad with tangy dressing and sharp onions in the winter; steaming hot cornbread sticks – like the ones Rachael made here – slathered in Mimi’s home-made and -grown pepper jelly; Mimi’s ratatouille, surely inspired by Julia Child’s introduction of French cooking to America’s home cooks, composed of stewed eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes.

More than anything, though, summer at Mimi and Granddaddy’s house meant dinners full of crisp, beautiful, home-grown cucumbers – very often, cucumbers simply peeled, sliced, and bathed in white vinegar, topped with ice cubes and chilled in the refrigerator.  Crunchy, light, tangy, and cool, biting into these helped combat the sweltering blanket of heat that covers North Florida in the summertime.

Iced cucumber salad

My one cucumber plant is producing about one or two cucumbers a day right now – that’s upwards of a dozen a week, and I don’t pick them until they’re pretty big (the ones pictured above are actually from the farmer’s market, before mine were ready to harvest – much smaller than what I’ve been picking at home).  We have a lot of cucumbers to eat!  Mimi canned many of hers, of course, making a couple of kinds of cucumber pickles, in addition to her green tomato pickles, canned green beans, jellies, relishes, and frozen home-grown fruits and veggies.  But I wondered what other fresh preparations of cucumbers she made, so I turned to the pile of hand-written recipe cards I brought home after her funeral last Christmas.  Of course, Mimi didn’t disappoint.

“Buttermilk Salad” was the answer I came away with.  I don’t remember ever eating this growing up, but that could be because I turned my nose up at it.  I thought I hated buttermilk, one of those decisions you make as a child and don’t question until you’re old enough to have forgotten why you thought you hated that thing in the first place.  I don’t think I could drink a tall glass of buttermilk with dinner, like my mom is apt to do, but sliced fresh cucumbers drenched in the creamy, tangy stuff?  I’m there.

Mimi’s Sliced Cucumber Salad with Vinegar

Cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced
White Vinegar, enough to cover sliced cukes
Sliced sweet white onion (preferably Vidalia)
Salt & pepper
Ice cubes

Peel and slice as many cucumbers as you’d like and place in a bowl.  Add sliced white onion, season with salt and pepper to taste, and mix.  Cover with white vinegar – if you want the salad to be a little milder and less vinegary, replace some portion of the vinegar with water.  Top with ice cubes and place in refrigerator to chill before eating.  This is best made an hour or less before you plan to eat, so that the cucumbers are at their freshest.

Mimi’s Buttermilk Salad
Serves 6

3 medium cucumbers
1 small clove garlic
1/2 tsp. thyme (I used fresh lemon thyme)
Salt
1 quart buttermilk
Optional: thin slices of sweet white onion

Peel and slice cucumbers as finely as possible.  Put the garlic through press and add with thyme to the cucumber.  Add onion if you’re going to use it – only use a small amount and slice very thinly.  Mix thoroughly with the cold, fresh buttermilk and season to taste with salt.  Serve immediately or chill for an hour and serve.

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