Monday, September 13, 2010

Market Report: Southern Accent

The end of summer and early fall is when we here in the Northwest start seeing crops at the farmers' markets that require lots of sun to mature. It's hard to believe, but a few local growers have actually managed to get okra to grow here, along with the peppers that are so much a part of Southern cuisine. Contributor Jim Dixon of RealGoodFood shares a recipe he collected on his trip to New Orleans last year.

When we ate at Cochon in New Orleans last year, I ended up talking to chef and co -owner Stephen Stryjewski. I mentioned that I sold olive oil, and I’ve been shipping both extra virgin olive oil and Katz vinegars south ever since.

The Cajun food served at Cochon is very similar to the simple, Italian-like stuff I like to make, but with a slightly different ingredient mix. Many dishes use a base of aromatic vegetables to build flavor, and what they call the trinity in Louisiana—onion, celery, and bell pepper cooked in fat—is basically the sofrito that’s the start of many Italian preparations.

This shouldn’t have surprised me. The Acadians expelled from Canada in the late 1700s were mostly French, and even before the Louisiana Purchase the area was being settled by German, Italian, Greek, and Irish immigrants. Working folks from these European cultures knew how to get the most from everyday ingredients. Mix in the influences from Spain (who sold the Mississippi delta area to the USA), the Caribbean, and Africa, and, with the right hands in the kitchen, you get real good food.

Fresh okra was available last week at the farmers market, and my sungolds are still getting ripe. Combine both with a little cured pork and put on some zydeco. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Okra, Cherry Tomatoes and Bacon
Adapted from "Real Cajun,"the Cochon cookbook

Cooking the okra separately in hot oil keeps it from getting that slimy quality. Slice the okra into one inch chunks and cook in fairly hot olive oil until nicely browned, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

Cut a few slices of bacon into small pieces and cook in a little olive oil until browned. Add a chopped onion, a pinch of salt, and, if you like a little heat, all or part of a finely chopped jalapeno or other mildly hot to incendiary pepper. Add a decent splash of Katz Gravenstein Apple Cider vinegar and cook for 10-15 minutes.

Slice about a pint of sungold cherry tomatoes in half. Add to the bacon, toss in the cooked okra, and simmer for another 10 minutes. Serve with Crystal hot sauce.

If you'd like to get Jim's e-mail newsletters with updates on what he's featuring each week at Activspace and at the farmers' market, send him an e-mail with "Subscribe" in the subject line.


Becky said...

Mmmm I love okra. I grew up in Louisiana, and hate that I can't find if often enough here in Oregon. Wish I were closer to PDX, but was able to grow a bit over here in Pendleton!

kab said...

That's an impressive feat all by itself! I saw a basket of them, along with padron peppers, at the farmers' market here yesterday!