Tag: Alabama

Okra and Other Summer Garden Delights

photoWhat you see above is summer’s bounty, people. Fresh basil, strawberries, tomatoes, cucumbers and okra just picked from the garden.

I dedicate this Paestry post to my co-worker who kindly shared these garden delights with me these past two months. The experience has already cemented a future plan to begin gardening.image_7It is mind-boggling how prolific a garden can be. It started with never-ending yellow summer squash, cucumbers and “peaches and cream” corn, then the green beans and bell peppers arrived and the okra emerged. Soon, the jalapenos and banana peppers appeared and now the tomatoes are really taking off.photoThis entire time, the basil has been thriving. It is the most fragrant basil I have ever encountered. I plucked a leaf once, ate it straight-up and it was so fresh it tingled my tongue. frametastic

image_5I will take a moment to focus on okra. It is a wonderful and mysterious vegetable. Before moving to Alabama, the only times I’ve eaten it were in gumbo or Indian curries.

The most distinctive thing about them is their sliminess, which is by no means unpleasant but rather their best trait. Cooking them reduces the slipperiness inside the pods but I like the slimy texture.
image (2)image_3Their flavor is challenging to describe. It’s unlike any vegetable out there, really. Kind of musky and mellow in a green vegetable way, if that make any sense at all.

The plants grow really tall, as high as five feet. They make beautiful flowers too. I’ve read they love hot and humid weather, which explains why they thrive in the South. image_1 (2)My friend and I cooked them the traditional southern way. We cut them in small pieces, coated with cornmeal and fried until crispy. Other recipes have them battered and deep-fried. I’ve also fried some just covered with flour. Anything goes!image_4 (2)

image_5 (2)It has been a marvelous summer of fresh garden vegetables. To close, these are some cool hop plants that grew high up a trellis.image_10frametastic(1)

Taste of Alabama: New Market BBQ

photo 2Just your typical lunch at yet another fabulous BBQ joint in north Alabama. This one, at New Market Bar-B-Q in New Market.

MaryMac Berry Farm

image_3There can be so much joy in picking your own fruit. I felt it yesterday while picking blueberries at MaryMac Berry Farm in Brownsboro, a few miles east of Huntsville.image_9The experience became all the more delightful when I took the fresh berries home and made a batch of blueberry muffins. Just knowing the berries were plucked from their stems mere hours before they were dunked in a dense batter and baked, made me feel good.image_7The farm is really wonderful. It’s tucked away along the foothills of Monte Sano, which provide a gorgeous backdrop by the small farm. We went early Saturday morning when the dew was still heavy on the bushes. image_4

frametasticThe grower advised us to look inside the bushes for the biggest, bluest ones and they were indeed bigger and bluer there. Some grow in little bunches like grapes while others grow alone on a solitary stem.

The best part of berry-picking is eating them as you go and noticing how one tastes curiously different from another. Each blueberry had its own distinctive sweetness and flavor. I even ventured to believe that certain bushes produced better-tasting berries than others.image_8They are splendid just by themselves or on cereal but I decided to make muffins out of them too. It was nice to liberally pour the blueberries in the batter because I had so many at-hand. I used about two cups of berries so that each bite would be packed with fruit.image_10I’m glad I did that. Just look at what happened inside these muffins. The fresh blueberries exploded into an amazing violence of dark, antioxidant-packed juices.

I hope you can also find joy in picking fruit. It is, after all, summertime! Stay tuned for more summer produce-related posts…

Vidalia Onion Pie

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Oh yes, the Vidalia onion. They are sweeter and milder than their yellow, brown and white relatives. They’re available pretty much everywhere in the south and prized for their mellow deliciousness.

The Vidalia Onion Committee makes sure these onions are grown in only 13 Georgia counties near the city of Vidalia, where they were born. Something about the soil in that region makes these onions more sweet and less spicy.

But enough about the onion’s history. Look at what I did with some Vidalias about a week ago. I made a pie!

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Slice the onions and cook them in lots of butter until they’re soft and translucent but not browned. Set aside.

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In a bowl, mix sour cream, eggs, milk and S&P until smooth. Add the buttery onions to the mix. Pour into an uncooked pie shell, top with shredded cheddar cheese and bake for about 45 minutes.frametastic

Slice, and enjoy it as a side dish or just by itself. As a Vidalia onion grower was quoted, these sweet onions “only make you cry when they’re gone.”

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Discovering fava beans

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There’s nothing like shelling fava beans after a long day at work to put my mind off things. I find myself going to the kitchen more and more these days to calm down. Cooking, it seems, is wonderful therapy.

Today, the fava bean was my therapist. The moment I snapped open the long pod and extracted the pretty little beans from within, I knew I had to write a Paestry post about the experience. Again, apologies for the lack of posting. Work consumes much of my time but I also haven’t been very inspired to write anything — until now. photo(1)It’s a downright shame fava beans are so often associated with the Silence of the Lambs movie because these are truly delightful. Must every reference to fava beans be followed by “did you have a nice Chianti with that?” No, there was no Chianti involved. Not this time.

So here we go. This post will give you an in-depth look at fava beans and show you how to prepare them!

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When you get to the store, pick the long, bloated ones. The first time I prepared these I did not know that the beans could be so small. The bigger the pod, the bigger the beans (probably). Make sure to buy a lot because they won’t yield much.

Bring a pot of water to boil and in the meantime, peel the pods to remove the beans. This is the most fun part. The pods are incredibly spongy and plush. Pulling the pod’s string, opening it like a book, then scooping out the edible seeds is a joy. For reals. It’s like opening a present. You don’t know what to expect and each time you snap one open, there’s that hope the bean will be fat.

Once removed, the beans will look like they’re ready to eat but not quite yet. A pale, waxy, and bitter skin covers the bean inside. That’s why you cook them. Put them in boiling, salted water and blanch for about 2-3 minutes. Remove immediately and rinse with cold water to cool them.photoThen you must do more peeling. This is when it becomes labor-intensive. Probably the most tedious part of preparing fava beans. Pinch off one end of the skin and squeeze out the bean.
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A big bag of fava bean pods only yielded a small bowl of them. But it’s worth it.

As for taste… they’re less like beans and more like peas. The flavor is similar to fresh spring peas.The texture… more plant-like than starchy bean-like. Kind of like edamame. There is also a distant bitterness that many green vegetables offer and it is wonderful.image_8I dressed mine with olive oil, salt, pepper, a tiny squeeze of lime and chopped cilantro. They are so delicious and I’m eating them as I write this.

I hope you try fava beans if you have never done so. It is a wonderful vegetable experience. I just counted how many times I used the word “wonderful” in this post (4) so trust me on this one.