Fried Okra

The other day my roommate and I went to the farmer’s market, where 5 oz of okra was part of my farm share. I’ve never had okra before, to my knowledge, but my roommate is from Tennessee and waxed poetic about fried okra. So, with plenty of time on my hands, I decided to try it.

I was very pleasantly surprised by the taste and texture. With my eyes closed it could have been fried zucchini. (My roommate just came home, tasted one, and said, “Good job.” High praise from someone who’s been eating her mama’s recipe her whole life.)

I used this recipe from Allrecipes, and I would definitely do it again. My one complaint is that there was more than half the cornmeal mix left over once all the veggies were in the skillet. Next time I’ll throw in some other vegetables for good measure.

 The okra, just begging to be eaten.

Since there was so much leftover batter, I made what my mom calls pancakes but are secretly fritters. When I was a kid, my oldest sister was a vegetarian for several years. She loved my mom’s chicken schnitzel but couldn’t eat it. So my mom would take leftover batter and cook it up with the chicken. Pancakes! Basically all I did was take the cornmeal (there was maybe 3/5ths of a cup), add a beaten egg and a couple tablespoons milk, and fry in the leftover oil.

 Eat me.

Everything came out delicious, but it doesn’t take much to realize these are gut bombs, and therefore, sometimes foods. I look forward to the next sometimes.

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Delicata Squash

A new kind of winter squash (what? winter? it’s still almost 90 degrees out!) showed up in my CSA box last week. They were out of spaghetti squash so instead I got delicata. This lovely little vine fruit is secretly a summer squash but is treated like its winter cousins. Having never seen a delicata before, I consulted my old friends Mark Bittmann and The Internet. Both advised me that roasting was the way to go, and so I did.

I wish I could show you pictures of the end result, but…there isn’t anything left. It came out so well I almost couldn’t help eating every last slice while they were still hot enough to burn my tongue. I hope to get more next week. (Secretly, I really hope for spaghetti squash. Why? So I can make spaghetti squash and meatballs, of course.)

Roasted Delicata Squash

(makes enough for, oh, let’s say 2 side dishes, or one me-sized snack)

2 squash, scrubbed clean and not peeled, about 1 pound each
olive oil
salt, pepper, other spices as per your inclination

Set the oven to 400. Prepare the squash in one of several ways:

  • Slice off the ends, then cut into 1/2″ thick rounds, removing the seeds with a knife, a spoon, or your fingers (this is what I did)
  • OR slice the whole thing longways, remove the seeds, and slice into half-moons
  • OR poke the skin a couple times with a knife and roast whole

(Keep the seeds if you want – clean off the guts and roast those suckers right along with the squash.)

Drizzle olive oil all over a rimmed cookie sheet. Lay the slices onto the sheet, flip once, and season. Cook for about 40 minutes or until everything is caramelized and lovely, flipping once halfway through. If you decided not to slice, cook it until you can poke the skin easily with a knife, rotating once or twice during the cooking process.

Try not to remove too many taste buds eating directly from the cookie sheet.

Life got in the way

I meant to write all about last week’s dinner party and the wonderful things I made. However, I lost my job very suddenly Friday afternoon and I’ve been focusing on that instead. I will say this: the pop-tarts were fantastic.

Since I have the time, I’ve been doing a fair bit of cooking this week. Last night I made my first attempt at eggplant Parmesan. For all that I don’t much care for eggplant, it was pretty good! Later I will made some fried okra and decimate the house’s insane basil crop with pesto. I also have some winter squash to use up – perhaps I will stuff them with barley and other assorted goodies. But first priority right now is finding an income source. Argh.

Challah

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I made challah today, following a recipe I’ve used several times before (here). It came out beautifully, but didn’t rise enough. I’ll have to figure something else out next time. For now, though, this will have to do.

My family is Jewish, and challah was everpresent at synagogue on Saturday mornings. Round challah with raisins was a special favorite for Rosh Hashanah, the new year. It lends itself well to sandwiches, or just being slathered in honey. But my favorite is French toast. I can’t wait to share this with my friends on Friday.

Making challah is fun and easy. It takes all day, but most of it is hands-off, and it’s worth it. Mixing and kneading takes up all of 15 minutes, and then the rest is 3 separate risings, during which you can do chores, cook the rest of your meal, or read. It would certainly be easier with a stand mixer, but until I get one…

Catching up

I’ve been so bad about posting. I’ve also been bad about cooking, so I guess it makes sense. Last week I went on a much-anticipated and much-needed vacation to California, so I could visit family and watch two very close friends get married. While I was there, I got some impromptu cooking lessons from my friend Maddy, who is trying to start her own catering company. (San Francisco Bay Area readers, take note, and find her at The Barbarian Gourmet.) Her task for the wedding was to make all the food for the bachelorette party, which took the two of us a couple of days, in between all the other wedding-related tasks. But we did it, and I still dream of her Israeli couscous salad.

Also while I was out there, I visited my cousin and her (very) soon-to-be husband. They own a beautiful 3/4-acre lot filled to the brim with over 200 trees and vines. Very nearly our entire dinner came from their garden. I really enjoyed talking with both of them about growing seasons and living sustainably. While most of their plans are far, far out of my reach, I’m definitely more motivated to start a garden than ever before.

This Friday, I’m having the first of what I hope will be monthly dinner parties. The theme is breakfast and I’ll be prepping for it all week. My hope is to post on everything I make, either as they come out or next weekend. So keep an eye out for

  • Challah (and Challah French toast)
  • Yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Pop Tarts (really!)
  • Crustless quiche
  • Hashbrown waffles
  • Potato-leek soup (not for the party, but because I got a lot of potatoes and leeks in my CSA box this week)
  • Black bean cakes (need something protein-filled to go with the soup)

Tomato Pie

Tomorrow I’m going to an outdoor play with a bunch of people, and even though it wasn’t strictly necessary to bring a meal to share, I decided I would anyway. Coincidentally I had a lot of tomatoes to use up. I queried my social networks and ended up getting talked into tomato pie.

Now, I am not a Southerner. Tomato pie is a distinctly Southern food that I’ve never even eaten, let alone thought about making. But it looked easy, so I decided to go for it. Looking at the mayonnaise content, though, nearly gave me a heart attack. Luckily, my CSA recently posted a recipe for homemade mayo that made me feel better about slathering a pie in 3/4 cup of it.

So the first step was making the mayo.

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You need: eggs, a lemon, canola oil, olive oil, salt, and mustard.

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The eggs, lemon juice, mustard, and salt went into my trusty stick blender.

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After mixing in the oil, I poured it into a jar, and this is the final product. It’s delicious and rich. Like store mayo but ten times better. I find the consistency a little thin, but that can be improved with more oil, and probably with extended refrigeration.

Important tips: the eggs are raw. There’s no way around that. If you’re not keen on eating raw eggs, you shouldn’t use this recipe. But you can avoid getting sick if you use safe eggs (know your source), keep it in the fridge, and don’t use it in recipes that will be left out all day. Once you’ve made it, use it inside of a week.

Even though about half this batch went into the pie, there’s a bunch left. I foresee many sandwiches this week.

Next, it was onto the pie.

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(Yes, it’s a pre-fab pie crust. Shh.)

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In the crust: a whole yellow onion, chopped; a jalapeno, chopped, for a little kick; 6 or 7 roughly chopped and seeded tomatoes.

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Topped with 3/4 cup mayo mixed with 1/3rd cup Parmesan and a little more than that in mozzarella.

And 35ish minutes later…

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Can’t wait to cut this up tomorrow!

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Zucchini crust pizza

Sorry for the lack of pictures – I was more focused on getting dinner on the table/in my belly than being artsy.

Seriously good pizza. It stuck to the pan quite a bit, so next time I’m definitely going to use parchment paper. And I will be making this again. The crust came out light and crispy, and the zucchini was undetectable. (I like zucchini, but if you’re making this for someone who doesn’t, now you know.) A friend of mine wants to turn this recipe into breadsticks, which I think is a brilliant idea.

Next time you have a ton of summer squash to get rid of, try this!