Sunday, August 3, 2014

Tomatoes and Okra or What you can Make with Bruised Tomatoes

As I sit here wrapped up in a blanket at the first of August....Well, it's not THAT cold, but I do have a chill. I think about the crazy weather we've experienced this summer. There were floods one week, no rain for weeks, tornadoes, sweltering heat and almost record-breaking cold around the 4th of July. The only thing missing was snow and I'm convinced if we got some of that, I wouldn't have been surprised. We would have made a bread and milk run and waited a few hours for it to disappear.

We live just outside of the city limits and the deer have moved in the back yard and helped themselves to the feast my husband has prepared for them. They really loved the asparagus, carrots and lettuce. The blue birds and finches are really enjoying the sunflowers and the marigolds I planted in between the cabbage are incredible! The ones on my patio are dried up and hopeless. This only proves who has the green thumb in the family and it's not me. In spite of all the ups and downs, our garden performed quite decently.After all the mud following the rains, the weeds got a little crazy, but it didn't stop anything from growing.

I've spent many a night and weekend putting up green beans and especially tomatoes. Some years are great and some not so. When I do have a lot of tomatoes, I work really hard to put up all I can because I never know what the next year will hold. When the cold for us weather gets here, I look forward to all the soups, stews and pots of chili these will be a part of.

Yesterday, I was picking through the tomatoes to can and I had a bunch that just weren't going to make the cut. They had a bruise or some other flaw. Andy had also cut some okra. I can't stand to throw away food so he and I started talking about what I could do with them. I looked back over the 400+ recipes on this blog and realized I had never posted my recipe for tomatoes and okra This is so easy but it requires some patience. Why? Peeling tomatoes requires that and a super sharp knife. Other than that, it's a piece of cake. I'm not going to give exact measurements on this one because it's a throw what you have a in a pot recipe. TASTE THE BROTH! That will determine if you need to add additional seasoning to satisfy your taste buds.
 Blanch some chopped okra in a medium saucepan.
 Cook until the color just starts to change. It will finish cooking in a big pot later.
 Pour the okra and the "slime" in to a strainer and rinse several times. Set the strainer on top of your pan and set to the side. Another inch of slime drained off by the time I was ready to use it.
 Drop a half stick of butter in the bottom of a large soup pot. Cover with chopped or sliced onions. These were some of the small onions from this year's garden so I left them in rings. Set to the side.
 I went through probably 30 tomatoes; peeling, trimming out the bad spots and cutting into large chunks. Season with some salt and set to the side.
 Season with salt and pepper and saute until just tender.
 Drop in the tomatoes. Season some more and add Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning. Stir well and cover.
 Turn heat to medium low and cook for about 20 minutes or so. The tomatoes will be tender. Taste the broth. Add additional seasonings if needed.
 Drop in the okra and cook uncovered.
 Cook until the okra is tender. Serve as a soup. 
If you have squash or zucchini, they make a wonderful addition!
With the little bit of Creole Seasoning. I had an urge to turn this dish into something with a little more flair. 
I decided to cook some rice for a base to top with tomatoes and okra; added in some boiled shrimp and Andy grilled some garlic bread.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Grilled Okra

Grilled Okra? What? You've got to be kidding! How have I managed to live in the South for almost 40 years and never hear of this until recently? Andy and I were at the river one weekend and our neighbors, Don and Debbie let us in their little secret of grilling okra. Well, you know we were all over it as soon as we started getting fresh okra out of the garden. I even by-passed fixing a big plate of fried okra to try this out. Since then, we have fixed it three times. The first time we seasoned it with Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning and the next two times I chose Lawry's Garlic Salt with Parsley Flakes. You can't go wrong with either and I will be experimenting with a few other seasonings soon. But, being the one-trick pony I am, if I like it, why change? And for those of you who avoid okra because of the slime, you won't find that here. (The picture above has olive oil in it by the way--not slime.)
The first two times, I used a single skewer. The third time I opted for a double skewer. Why? For ease when turning. Every once in a while you'll get one or two that are set on flipping the wrong way and this did help. Put your cleaned okra on skewers. I had mine fairly tight. Brush and season both sides with olive oil and the seasoning of your choice.
 Get your grill up to around 400-450 degrees and set the skewers on it.
 Close the lid and let them cook for about 4-5 minutes.
Flip and do the same to the other side. And that's all there is to it. Just pop the end in your mouth, bite the stem off and pitch it.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Pork Dumplings

Saturday I baked a Boston butt while we were out fishing. I'm talking low and slow...all day long. When we returned to the cabin, I had a deep aluminum pan full of glorious broth, which I poured up and saved. We  had quite a bit of the shredded pork left over so we knew pork dumplings would be on the menu one night this week. There are no specific quantities to add, it just depends on the broth quantity.
Put your broth in a large pot and slowly bring it to a boil. While it's heating up, prepare your dumplings. For quick and easy, just use flour tortillas and cut them into the size dumplings you want. We used 6 of the large ones.
Once the broth is rolling, drop in tortilla strips a few at a time. Carefully stir them around so they don't stick. Once all the strips are in the pot, turn the heat down to medium. Carefully stir in the amount of meat you want. Let it simmer for at least 30 minutes or so and the dumplings will plump up nicely. Taste the broth to determine if you need additional seasoning. This pot didn't as the broth was pretty rich already. If you aren't satisfied with the broth, mix a little corn starch with some cold water to thicken it up.

Andy grilled some garlic bread and it was perfect. Typically we will fix some hoe cakes, but this was a nice change.