We have had SO much rain in the past few days that I have not worried about watering my gardens. Last night, after a fairly busy day, I finally had a chance to go out back and look at the gardens and make sure everything was OK.
[Thunderstorms yesterday and Monday kept me from swimming and I was feeling sluggish, and in need of a little walk in the yard.]
My three little zucchini plants are now HUGE and although I've been checking them for zucchini, and found a couple, there were two I had somehow overlooked. One of them was a MONSTER zucchini - must have weighed 4 lbs! Alas, bugs had gotten in it. I threw it off to the side yard, into the stand of bamboo. The squirrels have likely feasted on it by now.
The other zucchini is probably a good 14-18 ounces. I showed it to Mother. "You better cut that one lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. They will be too tough to eat," was her comment.I was planning on doing that anyway.
It occurred to me this morning that I have learned a lot of wisdom from my mom about vegetables, and how to select and prepare them. Of course, she spent some of her crucial growing years on a farm in South Carolina, and my grandmother was not only a great cook, but she had studied Home Economy at Bessie Tift College and was very knowledgeable about all things culinary.
Of course, Mamaw's idea of a "salad" would be a lettuce leaf with a slice of peach and a dollop of cottage cheese. She liked greens and fixed them often for the family, but she always boiled them.
My grandmother could take a pressure cooker and make a vegetable into something that could be safely fed to someone in a coma.
However, in her defense, she cooked the way she was taught at the time [1916-1920's].
Mamaw's green beans were the best I've ever eaten. My father loved them, and she always made them for him because he raved over them and would eat a huge helping.
What always amazes me is when I am served green beans and they haven't had the strings removed. You need to pull of the strings with a paring knife. Cut the tips and gently pull. That gets the strings. Wash them in a colander in the sink. THEN, cook them until they are SOFT. (If you don't want to use side meat or bacon, use a little olive oil, some chopped onion, salt and pepper and a pat of butter for flavor.) I was in New York once at a fancy restaurant and I got green beans that were crunchy. Horrible. ICK. [Maybe it's a southern thing, but I am southern so I have my opinions...]
Ironically, Mamaw never taught Mother to cook. When Mother was grown and married and struggling, Mamaw would tell her stuff about how to cook, but Mother learned just as much from friends, and from her sisters in law.
Mother and I were watching the Today show this morning and they were serving grilled corn on the cob. We then had a discussion of why we wouldn't eat that corn.
There are basically two ways I will eat corn on the cob.
1. Either Mother or I boil the corn. It needs to be boiled in water that has at least a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of SUGAR, to bring out the sweetness. Boil it for 10-15 minutes. Use Silver Queen if you can, since it's the best.
2. Creamed Corn. When I was a kid, Mother used to go to the farmer's market and buy bushels of corn. Bruce and I were drafted to clean it and silk it. Mother then took the raw corn and stood it on end, in a big pot, and gently scraped the kernels off the cob - just the tips of the kernels, really. Next, she flipped the knife over to the dull side and gently scraped the white starchy stuff into the pot.
Once the corn filled the big cooking pot, she cooked it on low, stirring gently. She added spoonfulls of cold water, until it was the right thick consistency. Then she seasoned it with salt, pepper, and butter. The corn's natural starch was the thickener, no milk needed. We would put up containers of creamed corn in July, into the big freezer, and eat it all winter. YUM. I can still taste that.
Here are some random tips for selecting and cooking veggies you typically find in the summer.
The problem with it is that it gets left on the plant too long. You should never let okra get bigger than you pinky finger.
YELLOW SQUASH, ZUCCHINI AND CUCUMBERS
Never buy it if it's big. Pick small squash and/or cukes that are no longer than your hand [if you're a woman]. Maybe 2/3 the length of your hand if you're a man.
Big tomatoes are wonderful just sliced and salted. If they give you indigestion, peel them. The easy way is to drop the tomato into boiling water for 8 seconds, then pull it out and let it cool. The skins will slide right off.
When you are in the store or at the farmer's market, pick it up and smell of it. If it doesn't have a faint smell of cantaloupe, it's not ripe. Ditto for peaches.
I was surprised one day at work to see a lady in the kitchen peeling an avocado that was clearly not ripe. I said "Don't you know how to tell if it's ripe?" Since she was a vegan I was sort of amazed that she didn't know better. You look at the stem end of the avocado and try to depress it slightly with a finger. If it's hard and has no "give" then it's not ready to eat.
Avocados are a new passion of mine. Prior to the last year or so, I would not eat them at all. I have found that I can eat them now, just not cold. I mash up avocado, sea salt, and fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice, and a little onion powder, and add that puree to soups, spaghetti sauce, scrambled eggs, etc.
Once you've determined the avocado is soft and ready, take a long, sharp knife. Hold the avocado in your left hand and take the knife and stick it in the skin until you hit the pit. Carefully rotate the avocado 360 degrees, with the knife embedded, until it's halved. Pull apart the halves and discard the pit. Hold each half over a bowl and simply squeeze until the contents drop into the bowl. Mash with a fork and add lemon or lime juice to keep it from turning brown, and some sea salt. Serve asap. Can add chopped tomatoes, onions, etc.
For breakfast this morning, I fixed Mother a big omelet, with sauteed portobellow mushrooms in a little butter, some shaved fresh parmesan cheese, and avocado puree. I should've added some onions, but I was just in a hurry. Mother had a bad night with her legs aching and having cramps, and avocados have anti-inflammatory properties.
METHODS OF COOKING
It always amazes me when people don't buy fresh veggies and cook them. It is SO easy. It just takes a good sharp knife.
I would like to buy organic produce but cost and availability are big issues. I buy from a farmstand or the farmer's market as much as possible. Unless it's something labeled organic or I picked it from my own garden, I wash it and peel it. Pesticide residue often is in the peel.
These are my most "go-to" ways to fix veggies.
Chop your vegetable. While that happens, heat up some canola or olive oil in the skillet. They are GOOD oils, so don't worry about fat or cholesterol with them. Add some chopped onion for flavor. Throw in your chopped veggies and stir. Add fresh or granulated garlic, salt and pepper, seasoned salt, etc. Let them cook until they are as tender as you like.
Tossing the chopped veggies with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and whatever seasonings you like is the way to go here. Use a big plastic freezer bag with everything in it. Let the kids shake the bag. Cover a cookie sheet with foil and dump the veggies on there. Roast at 400 for 300-40 minutes, depending on how soft you want your veggies.
Just remembered - what would be a summer veggie post without salad?! I've included this before, but in case you missed it, here is how we fix green salad around here, which is always a huge hit.
Most people like a vinegary salad, and I am among those folks, but my mother makes a tossed salad without it that is very yummy. My kids really don’t like American salads, but they will eat a Granny salad really well, any day of the week. I think the key is they don’t like the vinegar, but this salad has none.
Part of the key to this salad is the lettuce. Forget iceberg. You want tender Boston lettuce (or other soft or spring lettuce). Buy at least two small heads of it and rinse it thoroughly. Either dry it carefully with paper towels, or put it in a salad spinner. We have a salad spinner and it does a great job.
Elva’s Fabulous Salad
2-4 cloves fresh garlic
Juice of one lime or enough to make a tart dressing.Taste and add more if needed.
1/2 tsp salt
1-2 cups fresh mushrooms, washed and sliced.
½ cup Olive oil
½ cup good feta cheese, crumbled
Chop the garlic cloves fine, or use a garlic press. In a glass dish, place the mashed garlic; sprinkle with salt; mash the salt into the garlic using a fork or back of a spoon. (This releases the good flavor). Add the olive oil and lime juice. Beat with a fork or whisk. Add sliced mushrooms. Put it aside for an hour or so if you have time. Don't chill it. Meantime, wash the lettuce and put it in the fridge, or spin it and refrigerate it.
When you are almost ready to eat, tear the lettuce into bite size pieces, add the lettuce leaves and the mushrooms to the dressing. Toss everything well, from the bottom. Sprinkle the feta over the top.Don’t put any other dressing on it.
OPTIONAL: Can add : sliced scallions or cherry tomatoes.