What's Cooking in Carolina?

Mainly creative menus and recipes (usually healthy) and always from scratch with tips for party planning, theme parties, weddings and decorating tips so you can give swank parties or dinners to delight your guests from a part time caterer, owner/operator of a coming soon Entree Vous, but mainly a cook and eater who grows much of her own food and loves to laugh.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

More Okra: Okra Gumbo

More on Okra. I know, you are wondering why I am blogging on okra in the first place, but some of us love it and the next bitneeds documenting so here it goes.

When my husband was in graduate school, another student working on his PHD in the same program, lived with us for awhile. He was 100% pure-bred Cajun. He taught me to make okra gumbo; his mama's recipe. Anyone, including his mama would laugh at the idea that he taught me how to cook anything. The truth is that we spent alot of time over the phone getting the directions. We had invited several people overto learn with us in what was supposed take 30 minutes (or was it 4) hours later, when everyone was starving, we had our first okra gumbo and we've been eating it ever since.

My gumbo experience to that point was okra as an adder to veggie soups. Not this gumbo. It is mainly okra. You take a huge pile of okra and chop it in the food processor with some onions, bell pepper, hot pepper and garlic. Put a bit of oil in the bottom of a stew pot, add the okra combo, add a bit of water and cook it in a slow oven for several hours: "until you cook the slime out", stirring occasionally. Portion and freeze the "concentrated gumbo solution".

The picture on the left is prior to cooking and the one on the right is the concentrated gumbo solution. Do you see how much wetter the one on the left is?

When ready to use, I pressure cook a whole chicken, cool, take the fat off and debone and put the chicken back in the broth. Add the frozen "concentrated gumbo solution". You have Okra Gumbo with Chicken.

Serve over rice and season with Tony Chacherie's Creole seasoning. It has become a staple in our diet, particularly on cold winter nights. I tried my best to document the proportions for my recipes on my website so you can try it too. http://www.swankcatering.com/soup-and-stews.html
I have never seen this way to cook gumbo outside of southern Louisiana. It IS ugly but very good! I promise, no more okra (well, I don't mean I am going to quit eating it!) I do hope you'll give it a try!

Saturday, August 26, 2006


Okra is coming in full steam. For those of you that have never grown okra, what that means is that if you forget to pick them at least every other day, they end up being the size of your arm. Okay, I know that it's a southern thing and I know many people don't like it and claim it's because it's slimy. It doesn't have to be and I think if given a chance, everyone could find a way to love it. The easiest way to fall for okra is fried. It is very simple to do. You cut the ends off and slice it into pieces about 1/2" thick, dip them in beaten egg, then in corn meal and sauté them in oil, or deep fry them. That's the typical way to do it. I, on the other hand, try to minimize the amount of frying to reduce the amount of fat in out diet. So I take the cornmeal coated okra and put them in a single layer on parchment on a sheet pan and cook in a 350 oven for about 30 minutes, spraying with olive oil spray and turning about 1/2 way thought the cooking. Salt it lightly after you take it from the oven. It is crunchy and yummy, like popcorn. (Side note: I do the same for fish, except that I salt and pepper it and dip it in buttermilk, then cornmeal, then into the oven).
The picture is fired okra that's not fried, fried fish that's not fried and corn pudding, which is our recipe of the week on the website, if you want to check it out. Swank Recipes

Other ways we like to cook okra:

Sautéed with onions, tomatoes and corn and hot peppers

Okra with bacon and rice
Okra poppers, filled with jack cheese, coated with egg, corn meal and deep fried
Okra Gumbo (see previous blog on that subject)
Pickled Okra

It goes in any vegetable soup and makes it better! returns home to Kaylyn's Kitchen this weekend. Check it out for great ideas on food, herbs and gardening.

That's all for today!


Friday, August 18, 2006

Tomatoes and Basil

My food blogging friend and neighbor in Durham, Jmom of In Our Kitchen told me about a wonderful way to get lots of ideas for gardening cooking eaters called Weekend Herb Gardening and it is right up my alley! I love seeing what everyone is growing and cooking in season around the world. This is my first post to it, this week which is hosted by Anthony's Kitchen.

We have about 1/4 acre garden. Right now we are picking the last of the blueberries and the first of the figs. We have green beans, butter beans and pick eyed purple hulls, corn, cucumbers, okra, and cantelope. That's in addition to the herbs that are in the garden year 'round (rosemary, thyme, oregano, chives, garlic chives, burnett and tarragon (some years).

We, like many others am being inundated with tomatoes and basil. We have about a dozen varieties of tomatoes and 4 varieties of basil.
We haved canned some of them and will can more and make salsa. We eat them fresh at every meal and regularly have caprese salads with fresh mozerella and basil. We have had fresh tomato sauce for pasta, grilled eggplant, fresh tomato and mozerella pizza with fresh basil, loads of pesto and roasted tomato soup a swank recipe link and gazpacho. It is hard NOT to focus on tomatoes when you have them by the bushel.

What next, you ask? We'll give you a few nifty ideas that you may not have thought of. Donna, a friend of mine, used to work for a caterer in Cleveland, years ago. One of the favorite appetizers was baby tomatoes stuffed with a piece of lettuce, crumbled bacon and a dollop of mayo. A BLT without the bread! We like to do it with a leaf of basil instead of lettuce, a BBT. It is very cute and yummy.

Another friend, Kathy, gave us her recipe years ago for Hungarian tomato pie. We have modified over the years. We use whole wheat pie crust (this recipe is on our website too), but you can use your own favorite pie crust; you just need 1/2 for the bottom or even buy those rolled up Pillsbury pie crusts to make it really easy. Chop 4 large tomatoes and saute in 3 Tab. butter until soft, about 5 minutes. Cool. Saute 2 large sliced onions in 5 Tab butter until soft. Stir in 2 Tab chopped parsley and 3 Tab chopped basil (we really like it with more basil). Mix 1 1/2 cups gruyere with 1 T flour. Stir in salt and pepper to taste. Line bottom of pie crust with cheese and flour mixture. Spread sauted onions on top then the cooked tomatoes. Cut the last uncooked tomato into identical sized wedges and place decoratively on top. Bake at 375 for 35-40 minutes.

Serve warm. Serves 4 big servings.

Not your everyday tomato sandwich (although there's nothing like a BBT or a BLT). Enjoy the fruits of your labor! Eat well and laugh often!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Chicken Saute, Roasted Tomato Soup

It has cooled off a bit but is still so humid you can't believe it! We found some beautiful shrimp at a great price and decided to serve it cold, with a cocktail sauce made with ketchup, lots of horseradish, lemon juice and hot sauce! It's great to eat cold shrimp on hot days, served with grilled corn on the cob, caprese salad and a cucumber salad.

We've had pizza with roasted eggplant, fresh tomato slices and fresh mozzarella and basil. YUM!

We found chicken legs and thighs for $0.19/lb so last night we had a chicken sauté with bacon, potatoes, onions, fresh herbs (basil, thyme and tarragon) and a salad of tomato, feta, and cucumbers in vinaigrette. It is so easy and good!

Tonight, we're thinking about some kind of corn chowder or maybe a roasted tomato basil soup or maybe some stuffed peppers or chili rellenos......What won out? Roasted tomato basil soup with parmesan crisps served with grilled cheese sandwiches.
The bread for the sandwiches were made by a friend of ours, Ron, in Durham, who makes it in a back yard outdoor wood fired oven (something I covet) and it is the best bread we have ever had in our life; therefore, the grilled cheese sandwiches with provolone and gruyere were to die for! The soup is our recipe of the week this week. Check it out along with other recipes on our website. Swank Recipes

The big deal for the next week is canning tomatoes and salsa. Along with cutting the grass, that's what I hope to be doing all day. I'll try to get a picture in when I get a spare moment!

Have a great weekend. I have some training I am doing all weekend so I’ll check back with you next week!


Sunday, August 06, 2006

Summer Salads

There are lots cooking in Carolina, especially with the heat index over 100 degrees. It makes one want to cook everything on the grill and makes me, more than ever; want an outdoor kitchen, especially for canning (plus a bread/pizza oven!). Anyway, we have been grilling out a lot: meats as well as eggplant, corn, etc.

We are big fan of breading with bread crumbs and parmesan and baking (as opposed to frying) to keep the fat down. When I saw a recipe in a recent Gourmet for breading and grilling, I tried it (if you can't take the heat....). You dip the meat (in their case, pork chops) into olive oil then in the breadcrumb mixture and put in on a hot greased grill. Leave it in the covered grill 4 minutes or so, depending on thickness. Turn, cover and leave until ready. We were surprised the coating adhered so well and seemed to hold in the moisture of the meat. Maybe it is also that the cooking time is so fast. We have tried it with chicken breasts and lamb (dipped in dijon then breadcrumbs and parmesan) and it is all so wonderful, especially with grilled corn.

We catered a party today for the Triangle Orchid Society's Growers Day. We decided on salads because it is a perfect summer lunch. We had Caprese salad, tuna salad with olive tapenade and pita points, potato salad with bacon, pasta salad with fresh and sun dried tomatoes, dried cranberries, and parmesan, oriental chicken salad and a Moroccan inspired lentil salad with feta, olives and mint. We provided lettuces and an array of breads if people wanted to make sandwiches as well as homemade dressing (Dijon vinaigrette, a sour cream/lime dressing (recipe is on the website) and a low-fat buttermilk blue cheese dressing) if anyone wanted a tossed salad. The guests seemed pleased so we were happy!

Today will be spent canning and freezing in the kitchen. Check out some of our recipes Swank Recipes Link

Relishing a breeze or cooler temperatures!

We hope you stay cool and cook outdoors or hire us to cook for you!

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