Vacation cooking….southern food, mountain style!
June 16, 2011

Pan-fried okra...one of my favorite dishes!!

I don’t think it’s wrong to start this post with a big skillet of pan-fried okra….which is in my mind, the only way okra should be fried. Yes, restaurants always batter and deep fry it…but take it from me…this takes away the flavor of the okra, and makes it too bready(and fattening). Just toss it with some plain cornmeal, and pan-fry it in a small of vegetable(or olive) oil. You will need to add a little oil as you go along….salt and pepper….done. Some people like it darker(burned), like my sister…I prefer mine a little greener, as above. Either way, you’ll love it.

from left: my sister Jan, the lovely Jennifer, my precious daughter, me, my sister Audrey, and my son!

And we cooked a lot in North Carolina….and why not? We had a huge, killer kitchen with a large island(and a 6 burner stove), so lots of people could prep(aka stand around drinking wine and peeling and inhaling 5 pounds of gulf shrimp my sister hauled from Gulf Shores-that’s what my son is doing in the picture)….and socialize at the same time, of course. My fav way to prepare a meal…not alone! Occasionally we did eat out….

Hey, can I borrow that lip gloss???

Watch the roux, or it will burn, baby!!

We made a fabulous gumbo one night….with chicken, Andouille sausage and shrimp…in a big pot. But of course you start with a roux(oil and flour cooked to a carmel brown), and add the peppers and onions and garlic..the step you see above.

Serving up bowls of gumbo, Paul Prudhomme style...

We listened to Clifton Chenier during gumbo prep…..love NOLA music…

Dinner on the porch(right after I check my Blackberry)my bros-in-law Jack and George in foreground...

How lovely is that??

Our VRBO house thru the trees….as we called it, our “big-ass house”!
Highlands….you’ll love it!

Tomorrow….”cake surgery” on a birthday cake that…ummmm….wasn’t up to code!

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Flowers, Cake and Oil…..
June 1, 2010

Buttercream fabulosity......

It was a lovely weekend, with a most important occasion being celebrated…my sweet daughter’s birthday. She now moans about “getting older”(puh-leeze) and wishes to be 17 again..though I don’t think she means it. Seventeen? No thanks. But my son and the lovely Jennifer came in Friday night, and while we had intended to celebrate at the Dogwood Restaurant  in Hampden, they were stuck in traffic coming down from NYC, so at the last minute we rushed together a birthday dinner at home….barbecued ribs, lobster tails, and thank goodness I had snapped up a couple of family size salads at Whole Foods that day..potato salad  and tomato/corn…both accidentally perfect with the meat and seafood. And Jennifer had bought the birthday cake(Schnooks is her pet name for Cada) from One Girl Cookies Bakery in Brooklyn, that she claims has the best cake she’s ever had….that from an admitted cake snob. Yummy buttercream, with a raspberry middle layer….fabulous. Just amazing…and they even make Whoopie Pies!

It's hydrangea time!!

Let’s see….the hydrangeas I painstakingly lugged back from a farm in Rhode Island two years ago in the back seat of my car are in bloom…and while I still suffer from a lesser degree of Hydrangea envy…(you know those yards with humongous bushes covered with endless blooms, that must be decades old)….mine look really lovely, and I adore them.

Cherries and brownies...you can see how many pits I left...

We sat around eating homemade brownies and fresh cherries at a neighbor’s house one night…enjoying the loveliness of the evening, and the deliciousness of the brownies, while mourning what’s going on(and what’s not going on) along the Gulf Coast. I haven’t written about it, because I can hardly stand to contemplate it. I spent all my girlhood summer vacations on those Gulf beaches with their blindingly white sugar sand, beaches so wide they were really never very crowded, even at peak holiday time. The thought of those white sands and the clear blue-green waters being fouled,  home to so many sea and air creatures, perhaps for years and years, with smelly oil from giant rigs that plunder what’s underneath the seabed, I can’t stand it. And what I must also admit , is that we all share in the blame…all of us…because we demand the oil , oh, and we want it cheap too. Let’s take a collective look in the mirror.

Parting is such sweet sorrow....in this case, just sweet.

On a happier note, one thing that didn’t end up in a landfill was my sofa….if you remember on Friday, I was desolate because no one would take it. I called the nice man(Daryl) who did my mulching this year to see if I could pay him to haul it to a rescue mission downtown who said they were interested. But when Darryl got there, he announced that he would keep it himself! Love it…and all’s well that ends well. I wish we could hope for that down South. As a trip to Biloxi looms this month for the wedding of my nephew, I will be anxious to see what’s going on in the area. I’m hoping for the best….but fearing the worst.