Cooking Louisiana - Newsletter - July / August 2004

Bonjour my fellow home chefs! 

Tomatoes, mmmm... fresh homegrown tomatoes, mmmmier. Are you sick of tasteless tomatoes from the grocery? Unfortunately there's not a thing you can do about it. But why are they always tasteless? Tomatoes, when picked vine ripe (red), will spoil quickly and if handled roughly bruise very easily. Because of this tomatoes are picked green, gassed with ethylene to force color change and refrigerated (a tomato no-no) for shipment. The tomatoes then ripen on the way to, and, at the grocery store. When picked green they develop little or no flavor compared to a homegrown tomato. A "Vine-Ripe" label on a tomato means that it was picked when the green tomato just started it's color change, not when it was fully red.

Do commercial tomato growers send a bunch of people to a field to pick tomatoes? Not quite... it's all done by machine... click here to see a tomato picker.

What is an Heirloom tomato? 

Want to make your own homemade stewed tomatoes? Click here...

Creole dishes will usually contain tomatoes because of the abundance of the tomato here in South Louisiana.

Here's a few creole recipes with tomatoes. Steak and TomatoEggs and Tomato Gravy, Lima beans, Shrimp Creole. Do these with fresh homegrown tomatoes and they'll be killer dishes!

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High beef prices are killing our pocket books. Demand is up (Atkins' diet) and supply is down (Canada market closed to the U.S. and other countries). How can you save a buck on beef? Look for sales, ask the butcher when they normally purge their meat cases. On those days show up at the store and look for marked down meat, it's still good don't worry. The only marked down meat I won't buy is ground meat because of the bacteria. Buy cheaper cuts and cook them longer. I find the cheapest tender cuts are "chuck".

What about beef cuts that have a little brown color to it? It shouldn't be bad, and, can actually be a little more tender because it has been "case-aged" longer than the other cuts. Trust your nose, if it smells bad bring it back to the store, or trash it.

Lastly, don't get angry at the restaurant owner for a little higher prices. He is actually loosing money on beef dishes because he's trying to stay competitive and still make a few bucks.

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Okra is coming into play now and this is one vegetable that won't loose it's flavor no mater where it comes from.
Fresh is best naturally but frozen and canned are good too. If you can find IQF (Individually Quick Frozen) okra it's easy to grab the portion you need. I like to use these when I make a gumbo or soup and just want to throw in a handful for added flavor.

Many folks don't like to mess with okra because of the slime. You've probably heard of using vinegar to reduce the slime. I've tried it and I didn't see a whole lot of difference. Additionally I don't want the taste of vinegar in my okra. When I want to cook down some okra I just slice it up and put it in a microwave dish with a little water. Start cooking on high stirring every 5 minutes. Add water as needed to keep it moist. Watch it closely the longer it cooks so it doesn't burn. After about 30 minutes it's ready to throw in the pot to begin making your dish. You'll see the slime eventually disappear as it cooks. I don't so much mind the slime when it cooks so much as I do how I have to continually scrape the bottom of the pot to prevent it from burning. This method helps with that problem.

Did you know the okra is related to the Hibiscus? That's right... check out the pictures and you'll see the similarity.

       

..............Okra flower...................................Hibiscus flower

 

Oh, and guess what? The okra is also related to the marshmallow! 

What... marshmallow is a candy silly! 

Well, the roots of the marsh mallow plant were once the source for the original marshmallow candy, made by boiling the soft inner pulp from the roots with sugar until very thick.

To the right is a picture of the marshmallow plant.

Marshmallows today are made from sugar, corn syrup and gelatin.

 

 

 

 

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Don't you love stuffed crabs? Do you have to settle for making a casserole because you don't have the shells to make them? I got to messing around and figured out how to make my own shells. You can too... it's easy...Click here.... 

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Do you make your own sausage or know someone who does? I have and one of the pitfalls is getting the right seasoning mixtures for the type of sausage you want to make. Professional sausage makers have many tried and true seasoning mixtures. Now, through the power of the internet, you can buy these pre-mixed seasonings. Each seasoning pack will make a certain amount of sausage up to 25 lbs. To find the suppliers simply do a search using the words Fresh Sausage Seasonings. I cannot vouch for the quality of any of the seasonings, but, I have used some I found around here and they weren't bad at all. Here's an example of one I found. Click Here

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Cooking Louisiana wishes the best to the men and women of the military and to their families. We thank you for your service to the people of the United States. 

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Be sure to visit the "What's New" page to see all of the site's new additions.
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Featured recipes.....
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Mini Onion Mums

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Cajun Egg Rolls  
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Shirley's Squash Custard
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