April Foodie Pen Pal

Let’s just place this right here:

The Lean Green Bean

Looks nice, doesn’t it?

This is a little program i found online in which you are paired with another food blogger, and you send them a small package of interesting local food. Minos and i decided to give it a go in the month of April.

We received a package from Tara at Fresh Food For My Family, and we posted a blog entry there about what we received.

We sent to Andrea, who doesn’t have a blog (yet), so we are posting her thoughts on what we sent. Take it away, Andrea:

I’m not a Southerner by birth, nor do I live there now, but I once made my home in Baton Rouge for six years, long enough to learn to love many wonderful, sometimes paradoxical, elements of Southern living and cooking. The contrast of elegance against homeliness is deep-rooted there—think weathered barns behind antebellum houses, or New Orleans shotguns, skinnied up next to each other on an old tree-lined street, painted up like Mardi Gras. Once while in grad school, when I entertained probably more than I have before or since, I was so pleased with myself and the huge tray of polenta crostini—rich with fresh parmesan cheese—that I laid out for my guests. Later on, from across the room, my foodie self was mortified when she heard someone call out, “Hey, who made the cheese grits?!” Horrors! My elegant hors d’oeuvres had been relegated to Plain Southern Cooking.

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Torshi Left

When I went to graduate school, there were numerous and excellent places to get falafel.  They invariably came with little sour pink pickles, which I later discovered were turnips.  Because I have never seen them for sale, I eventually found a recipe to make them.  I used to make them in the spring.  One night as I was up working on a batch, some tornadoes ripped through the city.  Ever since, I have thought of these as tornado pickles!

These pickles are brined and fermented.  They will need to sit for about a week out on a shelf.  If you see bubbles when you move the jar, then the fermentation is working.  I once tried to process these in a hot water bath, and the fermentation process was killed and the turnips turned to mush.  Ew.  After a week of fermentation, try one.  If they are sour enough, put them in the fridge.  They should be crisp but not raw tasting.  If not, leave them  out for a while, but keep checking on them.

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Apple Daikon Pickle

David Lebovitz’s pickled radish inspired this variation.  When I read his post, I had nothing but daikon radishes around, and there were some apples that needed to be used.  Then I thought that shallots would be a nice addition.  The tarragon I added with cornichons in mind, as my favorites are made with that herb.  It also seemed very French to me, and Lebovitz blogs in Paris.  In the end, the shallots tie all the flavors together and make the pickle decidedly savory, despite the apple.

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Decatur Style Gumbo

Okra.

Okra

You heard me: okra.  It is a southern staple that i had never had before, oh, high school.

When my family immigrated to this region from the Midwest, a lot of the indigenous cuisine was mysterious to us, so we avoided it.  However, in high schools in the metro Atlanta area they serve battered and deep-fried okra as a side dish with school lunches.  I decided it wasn’t that scary, and it is very versatile.

For example, okra is one of the primary ingredients in gumbo.  Usually, when you hear gumbo, you imagine Cajun people with thick accents boiling up a stew with okra, beans, and shellfish.  Well, i am allergic to shellfish, so here is a vegetarian variant.

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Apple, goat cheese, and caramelized onion birthday tart

Our friend Kurt loves pie. No, that’s not quite right, it is more like he is obsessed with it, perhaps unhealthily so. So in April, when his birthday rolls around, he invites everyone to come over to his house and share pie.

Minos and i came up with a plan for a pie with apple and goat cheese. She suggested adding caramelized onions to it, and i suggested adding fresh rosemary. So this was a group effort, really. I ended up baking it in a shallow pan, which made it more of a tart pan really. And as an added bonus, it was very simple.

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Shan Chana Dal Curry

So after my adventures making chana dal dumplings for Minos, i was left with a giant bag of the dal.  It was 4 pounds for about $5 at The Patel Brothers, and that recipe did not use anywhere near 4 pounds.  So i needed more dal recipes

One of our friends from college is now a Hindu and lives over near the big temple in Riverdale.  On the first night of Diwali he posted that he had made a chana dal curry before heading over to see the fireworks.  So i asked for a recipe.

His answer: go buy a box of Shan brand Chana Dal Curry Mix.

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