Thursday, May 5, 2011

Gratitude, & some Southern cookin'

An often overlooked, though very necessary, step to achieving happiness is bringing your attention to everything you've go to be happy about!

I use the Gratitude Journal app from happytapper now as it is an easy reminder. Nothing beats paper...but I try not to fight progress.  :)

It is in the spirit of gratitude that I write about my most recent culinary adventure. I had two wonderful people over my house the other night and wanted to give them more than boxed pasta and a jar of sauce. Wracking my brains in the bulk beans aisle, I had a moment of enlightenment and decided to treat them to some good old fashioned Italian-American Southern home cooking.

The menu:

Cornbread (the rustic kind. no sugar. no corn chunks.)
1 ½ c yellow cornmeal 
1 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 scant tsp sea salt
1 egg lightly beaten
2 cups buttermilk (or soured regular milk, or just regular milk. any %.)
2 tbsp olive oil (or bacon drippings)

* Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
* Put the oil in a cast iron skillet and place it in the oven while it preheats.
* Mix together dry ingredients. Whisk egg and buttermilk together. Mix wet and dry ingredients together.
* Take cast iron skillet out of oven. Pour the hot oil into batter and mix.
* Pour batter into cast iron skillet, bake in oven for 20 minutes - or until cornbread is brown on top and pulling away from the sides of the skillet. 
*Serve warm, with real butter.

Beans n' Greens
This is both a traditional Italian, and Southern, dish. Any bean with any green works really - experiment! The foundation is always the same:

* In a heavy bottomed pot or skillet, warm a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and cook 1 chopped onion and a few smashed and chopped garlic cloves until translucent and fragrant. 
* Add fresh or frozen greens, toss with the oil, and cook until crisp-tender and bright green.
* Add can or two of beans - only add the juices from one can (try to get NO Salt Added)
* Simmer gently until all the flavors combine- 5-10 minutes.

I used chopped leftover Easter ham in with the oil, onion and garlic, with kidney beans and a whole pot full of fresh kale.

Mac n' Cheese
A classic - prepared classically. Boiled macaroni noodles, into a casserole dish with about a cup of shredded cheddar and fresh parmesan-reggiano, with ½ cup buttermilk and a little powdered milk to help make the roux come together. Basil, oregano, black pepper, & a pinch of sea salt. Panko breadcrumbs on the top. Baked with the cornbread when the bread had about 10 minutes left.

(Trick: heat butter in a pan, add a spoon of flour and mix it together. Then slowly whisk in your milk. This should make a sort of gravy. Add your shredded cheeses to this and it'll all melt together into a cream sauce, rather than milk+cheese bits!)

All together - a success. Many thanks to my company and my cast iron skillets!


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