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Green Beans Made Easier


green beansGreen beans have always been easy to make. But thanks to Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart, the process just got easier.

Mastering the Art of Southern Vegetables v2The authors of “Mastering the Art of Southern Vegetables” (Gibbs Smith, $25) have simplified one step that will make your beans look as good as they taste: Instead of dunking your steaming hot beans into an ice bath in order to keep their color, as most recipes call for, all you have to do is run them under some cold water.

You can learn more vegetable tips from Dupree and Cynthia Graubart at this year’s San Antonio Book Fair. Their demonstration is set for 10 a.m. April 2 at the Central Market Cooking Tent at the Central Library Plaza on Augusta Street. A signing will follow.

Once you’ve got those green beans cooked up, follow the authors’ suggested variations, adding flavors and textures to make your favorite standby vegetable new and delicious. Of course, I’d add bacon to the list, too. After all, it’s considered a vegetable to some.

Green Beans

1 pound green beans, tipped, tailed and stringed
2 tablespoons butter or oil
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Bring enough salted water to a boil to cover the beans. Add the beans and return to the boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, utnil the beans are no longer raw but still crisp. Drain and run under cold water to fresh and set the color. The beans may be made a day ahead and refrigerated or frozen at this point.

When ready to serve, heat the butter or oil to sizzling in a large frying pan. Add the beans and toss until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

2016_SABF_POSTERVariations:

–Top the hot beans with tomato conserve or warm tomato sauce.

–Toss with 1/2 cup pecan halves.

–Saute 1 pound of quartered or sliced mushrooms along with 4 chopped shallots or scallions in 4 tablespoons butter or oil for 1 or 2 minutes. Add the cooked green beans to the mushrooms and reheat. Add a tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs if desired.

–Toss with the grated rind of 1 lemon, no white attached.

–Toss with 1 teaspoon ground cumin or coriander seed and 1/2 teaspoon sugar.

–Toss with 2 tablespoons sesame seeds or chipped pecans.

–Toss hot drained beans with a vinaigrette. Toss just before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

–Toss green beans with a mix of sliced roasted cherry, grape or small tomatoes, and add sliced green or black olives, sauteed pecans and/or crumbled goat cheese or other soft white cheese.

Makes 4 servings.

From “Mastering the Art of Southern Vegetables” by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart

 

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Yes, You Can Squeeze Flavor from a Spring Turnip


Turnips get a bad wrap. Most of us only know them as these oversized, rock-hard roots that you couldn’t squeeze a drop of water from.

turnips and red peppersYet if you can find turnips at a farmers market, give them a chance. They taste very little like their larger cousins, which Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart call “storage turnips” in their new “Mastering the Art of Southern Vegetables” (Gibbs Smith, $25). The two will be discussing their book at this year’s San Antonio Book Fair. Their demonstration is set for 10 a.m. April 2 at the Central Market Cooking Tent at the Central Library Plaza on Augusta Street. A signing will follow.

“Turnips meld well with bell peppers and make a striking contrast that is particularly good with quail and turkey,” they write. “This may be made ahead a day or so and reheated.”

They also recommend storing spring turnips for no more than a few days, while those so-called storage turnips will last a few weeks.

One nice feature of Dupree and Graubart’s recipes is that they include variations to show you how versatile these vegetables can be.

Mastering the Art of Southern Vegetables v2 This helped when testing the recipe. I had enough turnips on hand, but not enough red peppers, so I added a small golden delicious apple as the variation suggested. It worked perfectly with apple and red pepper both in the blend. And the dish was even more attractive with its blend of red, green and white. But flavor that is the real bottom line, and this recipe tastes so good that it’s a keeper. I would also serve it with pork chops, roasted chicken and maybe even a hearty fish, such as halibut or flounder.

Turnips and Red Peppers

1 pound red bell peppers
1 pound small white turnips, peeled
3 to 6 tablespoons butter, divided use
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

turnipsCore, seed and slice the peppers. Cut the peeled turnips into quarters if the turnips are golf-ball size, or into eights if the turnips are larger. (Smaller young turnips can skip the next step.) Add larger turnips to a pot of boiling water and cook for a few minutes to blanch; drain.

Meanwhile, melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a frying pan, and add the peppers, young turnips or parboiled larger turnips and the garlic. Cook over medium heat until the turnips are tender when pierced with a knife and peppers are still crunchy; add more butter if necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Variation: Turnips and Apples

Substitute any firm cooking apple for the peppers. Cut into wedges, leaving skin on and proceed as above.

Makes 4 servings.

From “Mastering the Art of Southern Vegetables” by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart

 

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Mastering the Art of Southern Vegetable Salads


Cooks in the South have definite ideas about vegetables — and they aren’t always correct, no matter how tasty their creations are. Often the term is confused with side dishes, so you’ll find restaurant menus with something like macaroni and cheese listed among the vegetable options. Tasty, to be sure, but hardly a vegetable.

Mastering the Art of Southern Vegetables v2So, don’t go to Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart’s “Mastering the Art of Southern Vegetables” (Gibbs Smith, $25) expecting to find a host of side dish recipes. Instead, the authors have followed up their definitive “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking” with a sharper focus on the rich bounty of vegetables from throughout the region and how to prepare them in traditional ways your family will love.

The authors will present a free talk on their book during this year’s San Antonio Book Festival. It’s set for 10 a.m. April 2 at the Central Market Cooking Tent at the Central Library Plaza on Augusta Street. A signing will follow.

2016_SABF_POSTERIn the introduction, the writers claim, “We traveled all over the South and enjoyed seeing how and where its vegetables are grown. We ate tomatoes from the hills of western North Carolina and ripe melons from the sandy fields of southern Georgia. The Georgia commissioner of agriculture loaned us his plane, and we loaded its storage area with zucchini, squash and Vidalia onions to take home.” And on they go to include sivvy beans, Jerusalem artichokes, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, peanuts and cucumbers.

Great stuff, unless you’re one of those sticklers who would categorize tomatoes, squash, zucchini, melons, cucumbers and all other foods with seeds as fruit.

Does that matter? Hardly. Faced with this trove of great recipes, you’ll discover flavors that could conjure images from your childhood or enlighten you about how good turnips, butter beans, collard greens with “pot likker” or fried ramps can be.

I headed for the kitchen shortly after opening the book in order to make three salads, all of which came together easily and yet offered bold, rewarding flavors that made me want to revisit them again a few days later. In the next week, we’ll be running more recipes from “Mastering the Art of Southern Vegetables” in addition to those below.

To read more about Dupree and Graubart’s “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking” and to find an exceptional biscuit recipe, click here.

Traditional Coleslaw

Traditional Coleslaw

Traditional Coleslaw

“The diversity in coleslaw comes from the size of the cabbage pieces,” write Dupree and Graubart. “It’s very finely machine chopped for cafeterias and schools, and we’ve all gotten to like it on top of barbecue on a bun. Halved and quartered before slicing thickly, makes it more rustic and adds a homemade feeling, sort of “grandmother loves me.” And sliced thinly is like a gourmet chef is coming in your kitchen. Using commercial mayonnaise enables making this dish several days in advance. Some people salt, rise and drain the cabbage before using, to reduce the tendency of the cabbage to release water.

“Homemade mayonnaise is discouraged in all slaw recipes because it is easily diluted as the cabbage weeps. This dilutes the acid in the mayonnaise, which acts as a preservative for the egg in the mayonnaise. In a commercial mayonnaise product, the eggs are processed and therefore still have preservative properties.”

4 pounds green or red cabbage, sliced, grated or shredded
2 Vidalia or other sweet onions, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise, preferably store-bought
Dijon mustard
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Cider vinegar

Toss the cabbage with the onions and mayonnaise; taste. Add mustard, salt and pepper as desired. Add a little cider vinegar for a zesty flavor.

Variations:
–Add grated carrots.
–Add a bit of hot red pepper.–Crown with chopped salted peanuts.

Makes 10 to 15 servings.

From “Mastering the Art of Southern Vegetables” by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart

cucumber saladRoberta’s Tomatoes and Cucumbers

“Roberta O’Neill Salma and I worked together when we were young women, and we’ve kept our friendship alive,” Dupree writes. “She is a painter and she makes simple ingredients look like art, her food tasting as good as it looks. Her husband shops for the fruit and vegetables and is very picky. Salt brings out the liquid in the tomatoes, making a mouthwatering tomato juice. Omit the vinegar if the tomatoes are ripe and juicy.”

2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1-2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil or parsley
Up to 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, if needed
2 pounds cucumbers, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or other fresh herbs, optional

Sprinkle the tomatoes well with salt and pepper, and toss with the herbs. cover and leave 1 hour or up to 2 days to extrude the juices. Taste and add vinegar if necessary.

Sprinkle the cucumbers with salt and let sit in a colander over the sink for 30 minutes. Rinse well and drain. Stir inot the tomatoes. Add chopped herbs if using, stir, and pour into a serving bowl.

Variation: Add a few thin slices of red onion.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

From “Mastering the Art of Southern Vegetables” by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart

 

celery saladCelery and Olive Salad

“Frequently used only as an accent in salads, soups and stews, celery is overlooked as a vegetable,” Dupree and Graubart write. “It can step into service nicely, particularly when the storage bin is bare.”

1-2 ribs celery,
2-3 Kalamata or French black olives
2–3 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Remove tough celery strings with a knife or scrape off with a peeler. Place the celery rib flat side down and slice on the diagonal as thinly as possible.

Cut the olives off the pit and in small pieces. Toss together with 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, adding more oil as needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve chilled.

Variation: Add 1 teaspoon grated orange rind, no white attached.

Makes 2 servings.

From “Mastering the Art of Southern Vegetables” by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart

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Mastering Biscuits Is Part of Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking


When Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart were working on their exhaustive, hefty and mouthwatering cookbook, “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking” (Gibbs Smith, $45), the biscuit recipes began to get out of hand.

Cynthia Graubart

Cynthia Graubart

Without realizing it, the two had gathered 30 different biscuit recipes and were far from done, Graubart said in a recent telephone interview. So, they did what any good cookbook writers would do: They used all those wonderful recipes in another book, which they titled “Southern Biscuits” (Gibbs Smith, $$24.99).

But they had to include some recipes in their award-winning tome on Southern cooking, because biscuits, after all, are one of the hallowed hallmarks of the cuisine. So, the list includes Angel Biscuits, also known as Bridegroom’s Biscuits, biscuits you can make in a food processor and sweet biscuits used for strawberry shortcake. There’s also a recipe for Two-Ingredient Biscuits, which Graubart will be demonstrating in San Antonio on April 5, when she appears as part of the San Antonio Book Festival.

Southern biscuits are fluffier than those from the rest of the country because of the type of wheat used in the flour, she explained. Southern flour, sold in brands such as White Lily, is made from soft winter wheat, which has less gluten. As a result, the biscuits rise and the texture is fluffy.

You might also find that, in many corners of the South, biscuits are small, as opposed to those gargantuan creations some restaurants serve to cover half of the plate. That’s because the biscuit maker of the family was always up early to make breakfast, including biscuits, Graubart said from her Atlanta home. But families were larger then, and in order to have two biscuits per person, the biscuits had to be smaller.

The ideal biscuit recipe, she said, would be one that is “quick to make, quick to bake.” And so it is with her Two-Ingredient Biscuits. It’s the kind of recipe that home cooks love to latch onto because the biscuits don’t take much time to make once you get used to the technique. So, you can be like a true Southerner and serve biscuits hot out of the oven for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Your family will love you for it, until your dying day – and that’s the Southern Way.

After you’ve gone, “the thing they should miss about you most should be your biscuits,” Graubart said, with the appropriate amount of Southern Gothic mixed in for good effect.

Southern cooking has that effect on people. That’s because it’s “incredibly soul-satisfying and comforting food,” she said, adding that it has undergone a renaissance in recent years because, “well, we’ve had a long spell of depriving ourselves of food that tastes good.”

Is there any dish as Southern as biscuits?

Is there any dish as Southern as biscuits?

“Southern cooking doesn’t have to be high fat, high calorie,” Graubart said, mentioning the wealth of choices that comes from three growing seasons a year, with everything from collard greens and yellow squash to Okra and Tomatoes. All of these are just made to go with the likes of fried chicken, ham with redeye gravy or Shrimp and Grits with Brie, the other recipe she’ll be demonstrating when she comes to town.

No discussion of Southern food is complete without discussing the many pies, cakes and sweets that have been served through the years. Treats such as Mississippi Mud Cake, coconut cake, sweet potato pie, hummingbird cake, Brown Betty, pandowdy, peach cobbler, divinity and pecan brittle are as much a part of the South as crab cakes and corn fritters.

“Southerners definitely have a sweet tooth,” Graubart admitted. “We do like to say you can stand a spoon straight up in a glass of iced tea, there’s so much sugar.”

But the cakes and pies are often saved for celebrations, rather than being an everyday feature.

Still, the book features recipes on everything from Charleston pralines to key lime pie from Florida. What exactly is the South? And is Texas a part of it?

mastering the artTexas is “such a thorny issue,” Graubart said. “There are parts of Texas that are Southern; geographically that would be the more eastern part of the state.” But it’s also a border state that’s close to Louisiana, and “what kind of South is Louisiana?”

Though “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking” has been out for more than a year and won a James Beard Award for American Cooking, Dupree and Graubart aren’t finished with the topic, and they will never be, as long as they live in the South.

“Nathalie and I haven’t stopped debating what is the South,” she said

Cynthia Graubart will appear at the San Antonio Book Festival on April 5. Her demonstration is from 1 to 2 p.m. at the Central Market Cooking Tent located at the Southwest School of Art, outside in the Ursuline Campus parking lot on Augusta Street.

 

 

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Your Okra Never Has to Be Slimy if You Follow One Easy Rule


Don’t like the sliminess of okra? You don’t have to worry about that. It’s all about what you pair with it.

Okra is in season, so why not treat yourself to some while it's fresh.

Okra is in season, so why not treat yourself to some while it’s fresh.

In “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking” (Gibbs Smith, $45), Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart tell us that acid counters the mucilaginous, or slimy, quality of okra. “With this discovery, okra and tomatoes became the basics of many vegetable dishes and soups,” they write.

In Dupree’s husband’s South Carolina family, this dish was always served over rice.

Okra and Tomatoes

3 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, chopped
2-3 cups canned diced tomatoes with juice
2 cups okra, caps removed and sliced
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Granulated sugar, optional

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the tomatoes and okra, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered until thick, about 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring as needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If the tomatoes taste “tinny,” add a little sugar to smooth out the flavor.

Variations:

  • For Fresh Tomatoes and Okra: Peel and seed 4 to 5 large tomatoes to substitute for the canned tomatoes.
  • For Okra with Corn and Tomatoes: Scrape corn off the cob and add to the pot 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 4 servings.

From “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking” by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart

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Yes, You Can Make Fluffy Biscuits Using Only Two Ingredients


Biscuits are a cornerstone of Southern cooking. But, of course, they should never be hard as a stone; only light and airy will do.

You can do that in your kitchen, using only a couple of ingredients.

Make biscuits in the size you like.

Make biscuits in the size you like.

In “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking” (Gibbs Smith, $$45), Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart write that “it’s miraculous to make a biscuit with only two ingredients, particularly when making such an impressive biscuit, light and tender, capable of convincing anyone that the cook was born holding a biscuit bowl. This recipe is a good fallback for anyone who hasn’t made a biscuit for a while or has to hurry up and get some baked. If using a cream with less fat (heavy cream has 36 percent), start with less and use only what is needed to make a moist, slightly sticky dough. Half-and-half just doesn’t work well enough to use by itself. This is really and hurry-up recipe, but the directions are detailed.”

Graubart will be demonstrating how to make these beauties at the San Antonio Book Festival on April 5. She will appear from 1 to 2 p.m. at the Central Market Cooking Tent located at the Southwest School of Art, outside in the Ursuline Campus parking lot on Augusta Street.

Two-Ingredient Biscuits

2 1/4 cups self-rising flour, divided use
1 1/4 cups heavy cream, divided use
Butter, softened or melted, for finishing

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Selecting the baking pan by determining if a soft or crisp exterior is desired. For a soft exterior, use an 8- or 9-inch cake pan, a pizza pan, or an ovenproof skillet where the biscuits will nestle together snugly, creating the soft exterior while baking. For a crisp exterior, select a baking sheet or other baking pan where the biscuits can be placed wider apart, allowing air to circulate and create a crisper exterior. Brush selected pan with butter or oil.

Fork-sift or whisk 2 cups of the flour in a large bowl, preferably wider than it is deep, and set aside the remaining 1/4 cup. Make a deep hollow in the center of the flour with the back of your hand. Slowly but steadily stir 1 cup of the cream, reserving 1/4 cup, into the hollow with a rubber spatula or large metal spoon, using broad circular strokes to quickly pull the flour into the cream. Mix just until the dry ingredient is moistened and the sticky dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. If there is some flour remaining on the bottom and sides of the bowl, stir in just enough of the reserved cream to incorporate the remaining flour into the shaggy, wettish dough. If the dough is too wet, use more flour when shaping.

Lightly sprinkle a plastic sheet, a board or other clean surface with some of the reserved flour. Turn the dough out onto the board and sprinkle the top of the dough lightly with flour if sticky. With floured hands, folks the dough in half and pat it into a 1/3- to 1/2-inch-thick round, using a little additional flour only if needed. Flour again if sticky and fold the dough in half a second time. If the dough is still clumpy, pat and fold a third time. Pat dough into a 1/2-inch-thick round for normal biscuits, a 3/4-inch-thick round for tall biscuits , or a 1-inch-thick round for giant biscuits. Brush off any visible flour from the top. For each biscuit, dip a 2-inch biscuit cutter into the reserved flour and cut out the biscuits, starting at the outside edge and cutting very close together, being careful not to twist the cutter. The scraps may be combined to make additional biscuits, although they will be tougher.

Using a metal spatula, if necessary, move the biscuits to the pan or baking sheet. Bake the biscuits on the top rack of the oven for a total of 10 to 14 minutes, until light golden brown. After 6 minutes, rotate the pan in the oven so that the front of the pan is now turned to the back, and check to see if the bottoms are browning too quickly. If so, slide another baking pan underneath to add insulation and retard the browning. Continue baking another 4 to 8 minutes, until the biscuits are light golden brown. When they are done, remove from the oven and lightly brush the tops with softened or melted butter. Turn the biscuits out upside down on a plate to cool slightly. Serve hot, right side up.

Variations:

  • For Sour Cream or Cream Cheese Biscuits, substitute 1 cup sour cream or cream cheese for the heavy cream. Bake 8 to 10 minutes. This makes a moist biscuit.
  • For Yogurt and Cream Biscuits, use 1/2 cup yogurt and 3/4 cup heavy cream or half-and-half.
  • For Yogurt Biscuits, add 1 teaspoon salt to the flour and 1 cup plain yogurt for the heavy cream. Add a bit of milk or cream to moisten if a “drier” yogurt is used. Yogurt biscuits are a bit “bouncy.”
  • For Strawberry Shortcake, add 1 or tablespoons sugar to the dough. Line a cake pan with parchment paper. Pat the dough into the lined cake pan. Bake as above. Remove from the oven, brush the top with butter, and turn upside down on a rack to cool slightly. When cool. slice in half horizontally. To serve, sandwich with sugared strawberries and cream or serve a bowl of each separately.

Makes 14 to 18 (2-inch) biscuits.

From “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking” by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart

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