Purple Hull Peas


Summertime when I was growing up in East Texas meant having fresh vegetables on the table. Tomatoes, yellow crookneck squash, onions, okra, mustard and turnip greens, melons, corn and peas. Blackeyed Peas, Crowders, Lady Peas, Field Peas, and best of all – Purple Hull! They may be the hardest of all to shell, but they are certainly the prettiest on the vine and the tastiest in the pot. I have tried lots of ways to cook them and things to put in them, but the way Grandma and Mother cooked them is still my favorite way to eat them – along with a hot pan of cornbread, of course! I even enjoyed shelling them. It took me almost an hour, but there is something very satisfying about popping these lovely peas with their lavender centers out of their pods and filling up the bowl. All they really need is a good rinsing, and into the pot with some bits of bacon and salt and pepper. Add water as necessary as the liquid cooks down. We like to eat them with some onion and tomato slices, chow chow or green tomato relish, and a wedge of crusty cornbread. Cook about an hour, or until done!

Garden Gazpacho

Cold soup in hot weather is perfect for a light lunch or served with pasta salads for supper.  Of all the gifts my garden provides, having fresh herbs and vegetables to gather just before preparing them is one of the best.  Gazpacho is made as many different ways as there are cooks, and I have tried a number of them, but my favorite is this one, combining all the flavor and crunch of our summer harvest.  I make a big bowl of this and store it covered in the refrigerator to ladle out as long as it lasts (usually not very long)!  The receipe is adapted from a Sheila Lukins recipe called Farmstand Gazpacho. There are slight ingredient variations, but the main difference is that the Lukins recipe is placed in the blender and pureed. We like ours crunchy!

Garden Gazpacho

Makes 8 servings

2 cups diced cucumber (peel if skin is thick)
 2 cups diced  bell pepper
 2 cups diced ripe tomato
 1/2 cup diced red onion
2 cups tomato juice (or V8 if you prefer)
 1/2 cup red-wine vinegar
 1/3 cup  olive oil
several dashes Tabasco sauce
a pinch of sea salt, and ground pepper
fresh basil for garnish

1. Place all of the diced vegetables in a large bowl. Add the tomato juice, vinegar, oil, and Tabasco. Season with salt and pepper.

Refrigerate for several hours before serving.  I like to serve in chilled stemmed glasses with mint or basil as a garnish. A dollop of sour cream is optional.

Per serving: 122 calories, 9g fat (1g saturated), 0mg cholesterol, 179mg sodium, 8g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 2g protein

Bouillabaisse

My great great grandparents, Bienvenue and Clarice Augier, lived in the south of France and eventually sailed from the seaport of Marseilles to southern Louisiana with their young daughter Ernestine Matilde, who was my great-grandmother.  I am told that Clarice never learned to speak English and that Ernestine (who lived with my grandmother when I was born) had a prie deau in her room on which she knelt to pray everyday. Other than those facts, I know little about my French ancestry.  I have been to France only once and do not speak the language.  But both language and French cuisine call my name.  I love bouillabaisse, which is simply a hearty seafood stew which was something fishermen living in and around the seaport of Marseilles created by cooking whatever fish and shellfish had not been sold at the market by day’s end.  There are many versions, some much fancier than this, but all seem to have similar seasoning with fennel, thyme, bay, and saffron.  I have used other recipes over the years, but I adapted mine from one found in a lovely healthy food book called Canyon Ranch Cooking by Jeanne Jones.  There are two Canyon Ranch health spas. They must serve delicious food if we can judge by their cookbook.

I prefer to serve this by pouring a ladle full over a piece of crusty bread placed in the bottom of the bowl, but it works well served with French bread on the side.

Bouillabaisse

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, chopped (at least 1 1/2 cups)

1 large or several small leeks, white ends only, sliced very thin

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 or 2 Bay leaves

1 handful fresh basil leaves, julienned

1 teaspoon dried thyme (I use Penzey’s French thyme)

1/4 teaspoon dried fennel seeds, crushed

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads which have been dissolved in a little chicken stock

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

2 cups chicken stock

1 cup dry white wine

1/2 pound firm white fish, cut into bite size pieces

1/2 pound shrimp, shelled and cleaned

Sprigs of fresh thyme for garnish

slices of French bread

Saute onion, leek, and garlic in olive oil until softened.  Add all other ingredients except the fish and shrimp, garnish and bread.  Mix well and simmer covered for 10 to 15 minutes.  add the fish and shrimp and simmer another 3 to 5 minutes, until fish and shrimp are cooked through.  Serve in large bowls over crusty bread slices or with bread on the side.  Garnish with a sprig of thyme.

Cook’s note:  This is a good dish to make with leftover fish if you make it the very next day.  I like to keep shrimp in my freezer (shelled, deveined, and cooked) to use, but fresh is always best. If you do not wish to use wine (or don’t have any on hand), substitute 1 cup of chicken stock plus 2 Tablespoons of any good white vinegar.   Adjust seasonings to taste.  We like some extra heat added, so I add a chopped hot pepper from the garden or a splash of Tabasco.

Zucchini Ruffles

There are so many ways to use summer squash, but this has to be the most fun! Long thin strips of squash can be sliced by using a mandolin or sharp knife, but I used a small hand cranked “Spiral Vegetable Slicer” ordered online at the recommendation of someone who eats alot of raw vegetables.  (photo below)  Cucumber  or squash both produce long spirals similar to the lovely ribbons made when you peel an apple in one long strip.  My granddaughters love to help crank out the ruffles.  It is a simple way to prepare thin strips to marinate or steam.  These zucchini ruffles were threaded onto bamboo skewers to make  kabobs, a real hit when I served them last week with grilled pork tenderloin.  I adapted my recipe from one in the Food and Wine 2012 annual cookbook.

Grilled Zucchini Ruffles with Mint Dressing

For Dressing:

1 teaspoon lime zest

juice of 1 lime

3 Tablespoons chopped fresh mint

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup olive oil.

salt and pepper

Mix lime zest and juice with mint, garlic and olive oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Squash Ruffles:

2 medium zucchini, sliced very thin (preferably on a mandoline or using a similar slicer)

1 small yellow squash, cut into 1/2 inch slices

8 -10 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for at least 15 minutes to avoid burning on grill

Preheat grill.  Thread the squash ribbons onto skewers, bunching up loosely.  I like to use “buttons” of yellow squash at the beginning and end to help hold the ruffles in place.  Brush the skewered squash lightly with olive oil,  sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Grill briefly (a minute or two each side) just long enough to char edges of ruffles.

Drizzle with mint dressing.