|I’m thankful for food to cook and dear ones to enjoy it. But I do not like to be in the kitchen during the precious time we could be spending together, so I cook ahead. In order to have time to cook, I spent Sunday evening and Monday morning with camera and laptop meeting deadlines and even got the weeds pulled, thanks to some garden angels. The parsley, basil, green onions, thyme, oregano, and even the bay tree put up with my constant picking and keep on going. We picked 6 pints of cherry tomatoes in the unheated greenhouse and 2 more in plants we left outdoors.
Clearly, there’s been no killing frost at Chez Ingram! I’m thankful for that, because every morning I get to watch a mockingbird eat 1 – just 1 – Tabasco pepper from the huge pot just outside my window. He’s an early bird and has been here every morning for 2 months to eat a pepper for my amusement and, presumably, his. They’ll be on the table in my notorious Tabasco vinegar – the peppers, not the bird. There’s no more to this vinegar than a mix of peppers and cider vinegar, and we use it on all kinds of greens, peas, and beans. As a daughter of Louisiana, I’m proud to say I can cook dried legumes with the best of them, and not always with meat. We’ll be enjoying the big, sweet limas seasoned with green onion and parsley, celery and yellow onion, with ham on the side and no noxious gas! If you’re interested in how to cook dried beans and peas without creating flatulence, let me know and I’ll blog about it another day.
Two of our favorite dishes are spaghetti with meat sauce and nearly-vegetable soup. Everyone has their tomato sauce recipe, but here’s the secret to the soup: one turnip. Yes, the other ingredients are predictable, from onion, celery, and carrot to peas, corn, and green beans. But I start by sweating the chopped onion with diced turnip in melted margarine or butter, then add chopped celery and carrots. Stir for 2 minutes and add something tomato – a can of diced, sauce, or stewed will work. Cook for 5 minutes, taste and add salt/pepper if needed, and pour in a box of chicken broth. Chop up several parsley sprigs, 2 basil leaves, and ¼ cup chopped green onion leaves. Simmer, do not boil, for 10 minutes and add canned vegetables that you like, along with the liquid in the cans. At this point, if the soup looks pale, add a small can of tomato sauce, or similar amount of tomato juice. Simmer for 30 minutes, taste and adjust seasonings. You can add chopped potatoes and/or finely sliced cabbage, so long as you add more liquid and perhaps more seasonings to compensate. It’s a big soup week here. Feeling the confidence of finally making a butternut squash soup that everyone liked, I’m on to French onion soup that starts with making beef broth. I had always read the recipes with skepticism that I would ever put a chopped parsnip in anything, but once I decided its purpose was a natural sweetener and thickener, it was easy to substitute my beloved turnip. I made the broth last weekend, put it in the frig for 3 days, skimmed what little fat formed on top as it chilled, and strained out the vegetables, beef, and bones. Tonight I will make the onion soup, top it with toasted French bread and melted Swiss cheese. It’s almost as good as the traditional Gruyere and much more affordable.
Don’t give up – I’ll get to the Thanksgiving dishes now. Since we’re sharing the meal, we’re sharing the cooking, too. Some things will arrive with the guests: turkey, ham, yeast rolls, lima beans, and broccoli with cheese. I’m thankful for many hands to do the cooking! From our kitchen comes a cherry tomato salad dressed in vinaigrette; a wildly popular congealed salad of lime jello, cream cheese, and pineapple; fairly traditional green bean and sweet potato casseroles, buttered corn; and 2 desserts, glazed chocolate bundt cake and blueberry tarts. We buy the pecan pie! I wish all the vegetables were from my garden, but I am proud that I needn’t grow sweet potatoes because our farmers grow the best in the world. Because we are a tolerant bunch, both homemade and canned cranberry sauce are on the table.
The house will be thankfully full from now until Sunday, so in addition to the spaghetti sauce and dried beans, there’s a meatloaf, cole slaw and potato salad will be ready, and I’ll be sitting on the couch enjoying family. Hope you are, too. Geaux Tigers!