Tag: Down-Home Comfort

Creamed Corn with Bacon — Down-Home Comfort

by in Recipes, July 25th, 2014

Creamed Corn with BaconWhen I was a little girl, my grandfather had a large garden down by the Savannah River. It was situated between the river itself and a stand of trees. There was an old homestead, really an old, rundown fish shack with an ancient rusty pump for water. The soil was deep black, soft and fine-grained, a result of the years of silt washing downstream through the river basin. My sister and I would play alongside the garden or fish in the river while my grandfather worked in the field. There is something magical to me about a field of corn. Some varieties loom high, reaching into the blue summer sky. The rows are tight and the long, ribbonlike leaves blow in the wind, creating a seemingly impenetrable fortress.

I was scared to death of the cornfield when I was a child. And, truth be told, I’m not in a hurry to get into a patch of corn as an adult. My grandmother scared the mess out of me telling me not to go into the corn as a child. She’d admonish, “Don’t go in there; you might get on a snake.” For those of you that might chuckle at that fear, I only add that my home state of Georgia is also home to all five deadly poisonous snakes in North America, and that riverside gardens seem to be an especially hospitable habitat for them.

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Spiced Okra and Tomatoes — Down-Home Comfort

by in Recipes, July 18th, 2014

Spiced Okra and TomatoesI am an okra missionary. I love okra. Okra lovers passionately love okra in all manners of being. Boiled, fried, steamed, grilled, broiled, pickled, raw, whole, sliced, julienned — you name it, okra lovers love okra. Those who hate it think it’s slimy, gooey and gummy. In my opinion, they haven’t met the right okra.

Okra is perhaps most famous as a common ingredient in the classic Louisiana dish, gumbo. (Okra helps thicken Creole gumbo; the other choice for thickening gumbo is file, or sassafras powder.) It has a long history in Louisiana, as it was popular with the French colonists and thrives in the moist heat.

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Summer Tomato Pie — Down-Home Comfort

by in In Season, Recipes, July 11th, 2014

Summer Tomato PieTomatoes, eggplant and peppers are members of the nightshade family. There’s something a bit sexy about those nightshades; maybe it’s the deadly yet beautiful part …. Tomatoes are, in fact, a fruit, but their affinity for other savory ingredients means that they are usually classed as a vegetable. Fruit or vegetable, they are a rock-solid part of summer down-home comfort.

Fresh tomatoes are only ever good in summer. There is nothing as wonderful as the full flavor of a garden-ripe tomato — and there is nothing as sad and disappointing as the insipid, lifeless flavor of a tennis ball-like tomato held in cold storage and shipped in a case from the other side of the world. I don’t eat those atrocities and strongly suggest that you don’t either. So, when it’s tomato season, I vigorously support eating those glorious ripe ones as often as possible.

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Old-Fashioned Peach Cobbler — Down-Home Comfort

by in In Season, Recipes, July 4th, 2014

Old-Fashioned Peach CobblerI grew up in Macon County, Georgia. Central and South Georgia are well known for their peach crops in the summer. Summer means peach pie, peach jelly, pickled peaches, peach ice cream and peach cobbler. Macon County is adjacent to Peach County, home of “The Big Peach,” a 75-foot-tall peach mounted on a 100-foot-tall pole — a gigantic totem that makes it pretty clear that peaches are serious business in Georgia. So is July, as the temperatures often soar into the triple digits with a humidity that makes life a lot more comfortable when experienced at a slower pace.

Where do you think the expression “easy as pie” originated? Many cooks are scared of making pie — they don’t think it’s easy! Everyone loves pie, but making it can be intimidating. Even perfectly useful kitchen folk are rendered helpless when pie is mentioned. That’s where the cobbler saves the day. The really great part about a cobbler is that it can be made ahead and is equally delicious served warm, chilled or at room temperature. (Don’t limit yourself to only peaches for this simple and spectacular dessert. Other fruits include blueberry, blackberry, plum, cherry and apricot, depending on what is ripe in your part of the country.)

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Summer Succotash — Down-Home Comfort

by in In Season, Recipes, June 27th, 2014

Summer SuccotashSuccotash is essentially an all-American stir-fry. Succotash has many variants and adaptations, but by definition, nearly all contain corn and beans. Fresh vegetables are what make this recipe so special, so I gently suggest not to bother with this recipe unless you can make it with peak-of-summer produce. All the ingredients are diced about the same size, resulting in a stellar vegetable medley. I promise you will be rewarded! The key to succotash is that simple ingredients are combined with a minimum of fuss, and the results are a colorful and crisp burst of down-home comfort.

Choosing the vegetables is important. When faced with a mountain of corn at the grocery store, farmers market or produce stand, look for the silk at the top of the ear to be very dark brown, almost black. It is not unusual to see people peeling back the husks in search of ears with perfect rows of kernels. Just take a peek to make sure the ear is full and free of worm. Try to purchase corn still in the husk and keep it on until ready to cook, to keep the corn moist and sweet.

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Grilled Apple Cider Chicken — Down-Home Comfort

by in Recipes, June 20th, 2014

I actually put together my very first grill myself. It took all day and a good deal of patience and persistence. It was a pretty scary moment when I twisted the control on the tank and clicked the ignition. It all worked out and I didn’t blow myself to kingdom come. I love to grill throughout the year, but in the summer it’s just practical to keep the heat out of the kitchen. Burgers and brats are brilliant, and steaks and seafood are stupendous, but my absolute favorite is cheap and cheerful chicken. Read more

Cheesy Summer Squash Casserole — Down-Home Comfort

by in In Season, Recipes, June 13th, 2014

At its simplest, squash casserole consists of thinly sliced tender summer squash and a cheese sauce to bind it all together, perhaps with a smattering of crispy, buttery crumbs strewn on the top for crunch. But, as with many favorite dishes, there are a whole lot of opinions about which recipe is the absolute best. Variations include those with homemade white sauce, those with sauces made with familiar red-and-white cans of cream of fill-in-the-blank soup, decadent heavy cream and cheese-laden versions crowned with smashed sleeves of crackers and pats of butter, and mayonnaise-cream cheese dump-and-stir versions. The truth is, nearly all are foolproof, crowd-pleasing favorites, because nothing, absolutely nothing, spells Down-Home Comfort like a casserole. Read more

Blueberry Delight — Down-Home Comfort

by in Recipes, June 6th, 2014

Blueberries are the Disney version of summer fruit, round and gentle like a bouncing sing-along ball. They bring to mind fingers stained purple-blue, fruity tarts, pies and cobblers, and warm, fresh-from-the-oven muffins. I love eating them fresh out of hand as a snack, with creamy, healthful yogurt to start my day — or perhaps topped indulgently with freshly whipped cream to end it! Blueberries are good and good for you, a veritable summer delight. Read more

Easy Macaroni Salad — Down-Home Comfort

by in Recipes, May 30th, 2014

Although it’s pasta-based, old-fashioned Easy Macaroni Salad is pretty far away from anything that might remotely be considered Italian. Only in Middle America would something made of pasta and mayonnaise be considered a salad. Believe me, Rome, Georgia, and Rome, Italy, are more than just a few miles apart. Instead, consider the deli cases all across the U.S. that have mini-tubs and buckets of this lined up like soldiers and at the ready for afternoon picnics and summer suppers on the deck. Macaroni salad is all-American Down-Home Comfort. Moms and dads are also quick to go to this to recipe to accompany BBQ chicken or burgers on the grill. And we all know that store-bought is fine, but homemade is nearly always better. Read more

Sweet Heat BBQ Ribs — Down-Home Comfort

by in Recipes, May 23rd, 2014

If there is any one point that marks the beginning of the backyard barbecue season, it has to be Memorial Day. The official start of summer may be the solstice on June 21, but summer really starts Memorial Day weekend. It’s the kickoff of afternoons spent tending burgers and ribs on the grill, enjoying lazy picnics in the park — before it gets too hot — and supper under the stars. Food just tastes better when served outdoors on a beautiful evening. Our senses are alive and we are more engaged. On my deck I have the very same picnic table my mother’s family used when I was a child. It essentially serves as our dining room table in the spring and early summer. Dining alfresco is one of the true joys of the season. Add a slab of ribs and you’ve got summer front and center. Read more