Category Archives: Food

Food and recipes

Morel March Madness

Many kinds of madness peak in March including those of March hares, March basketball fans, and March morel hunters. My own passion is tipped towards springtime fungus, and this year I had only to look in my own backyard to get excited. Continue reading

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Root Vegetable Roast

Learning to live as a Locavore means learning to shift our eating habits with the seasons. As summer is to fresh greens, winter is to root vegetables and with a proper approach the cold outside does not mean a dearth of flavors inside. Continue reading

Dandelion Wine

When life gives you dandelions, make dandelion wine. Continue reading

José’s Cousin’s Chilies

Being a life-long obsessive omnivore with a penchant for unusual tastes, it isn’t often anymore that I come across a new edible. But at the end of last summer one of the Mexicans on the block offered to show me a special chili pepper plant he was growing and it turned out to be unlike anything I’d ever encountered. Continue reading

Cold-weather Comfort Food

I propose a challenge. Graham and I have posted recipes here before, and both were good for eating in the autumn / winter.

What, dear readers, would you add to the comfort-food arsenal?

I’ll pitch in a starter:

Buy a bottom round steak and mince it. Now brown the ground meat with a little salt and pepper. Remove from pan; add 3 tbsp flour

to the pan drippings and make a blond roux. Stir in 1 cup milk to make gravy; turn off heat, stir meat back in. Serve over mashed

potatoes, biscuits, or rice.

Cornbread and Black-Eyed Peas

Time for another receipt. This one I got from my mother, who grew up during the Depression. For the part that takes the longest:

1 lb dried black eyed peas, rinsed, picked and soaked

1/2 lb cubed salt pork OR 1/2 lb sliced ham hocks, rinsed

3 quarts water

1 tbsp black pepper

2/3 tbsp white pepper

1/3 cup chopped onion

2 cloves minced garlic

1/2 seeded diced jalapeno (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker and let cook 12-18 hours (in other words, set it up just before bedtime to have ready for the next night’s supper). If you’re on a low-fat diet, turn off the heat, chill it in the refrigerator and skim off the solidified fat, then reheat to serve. You’ll note there’s no salt other than what’s in the pork. If you use salt pork you won’t need more salt but you might want 2 tsp liquid smoke flavor, (which can be substituted for the meat altogether in a pinch, in which case you may also need some salt). If you use ham hocks you might want some salt available on the table. To ease serving, you’ll need to slice the ham hock off the bones; I usually discard the rind (skin). I know people who fight over the marrow…

good thick slow-cooked peas

Black-eyed peas

Cornbread

1 cup cornmeal

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 egg

2/3 cup buttermilk

3 tbsp melted butter or good vegetable oil

Sift dry ingredients together. Beat buttermilk into egg; beat in oil; stir in dry ingredients. Bake at 425 degrees F for 18-20 minutes, until top is golden brown, in an 8×8 inch lightly-greased pan. (Or, for best flavor, in an 8” cast-iron skillet with about 1/2 tsp of clean bacon grease melted in it while you preheat the oven. The hot bacon grease and hot pan give the bread a tasty, crunchy crust.)

To serve: slice cornbread. Split slices open and butter generously. If using ham hocks, debone the meat, discard the rind, and return shredded meat and bones to the peas. Heat peas through while cornbread browns.  Ladle peas over sliced cornbread.  (The peas will thicken the broth in the last couple hours of cooking.)

cornbread

cornbread

Sweet Potato Pie

Surrogate parental figures can have an important positive influence in our lives. As a child, my best friend’s maternal grandparents were a strong presence for me. Both of them were born and raised and lived most of their lives in a very small Mississippi town on the banks of the great river itself until they moved to California in their old age. Granddad taught me how to fish and with his voice like a gravel truck on a washboard road how to sing bass, and by his example any number of important parts of what it means to be a man. Granny taught me many things about living in harmony, among them the fine art of cooking for others. From her recipes I still make a great number, including Sweet Potato Pie. Continue reading