Even marginal cooks can rule with veggies

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 6, 2009

Two fortuitous things:

• Laurin Stamm, food editor, is on summer vacation.

• The Southland’s produce gardens are coming in, as we like to say, real good.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Sounds like a good time to snatch Stamm’s job.

So here we go.

Get some okra, corn, tomatoes, onions (Vidalia), butter beans, specks, crowder peas, new potatoes cucumbers, green beans and yellow squash.

Get all of them or any combination.

Get some butter (not margarine) and some cream.

Now let’s get going.

For a salad, peel and thinly slice the cucumbers. Add some red wine vinegar and a pinch or salt, sugar or both.

Add diced tomatoes or onions to the salad if you want, or not. Doesn’t matter.

Any of the veggies will be fine dining, plain and simple.

The okra, stems trimmed, can be boiled in salted water or sliced, moistened, coated lightly with flour and cornmeal and fried in about a quarter-inch of oil.

Corn as a solo dish can be boiled on the cob or roasted in the oven or “nuked” in the microwave. If you want to, shave the kernels off the cob and nuke them with butter for a few minutes.

The tomatoes can be sliced or stewed.

Vidalias, sweet enough to be sliced and eaten just like tomatoes, are better if chunked and sauteed in butter with salt and pepper or microwaved until tender. Some people put Worchestershire sauce on onions before baking them. That’s fine with regular yellow onions. Skip it with Vidalias or Texas Sweets.

Crowder peas and specks are good when boiled low and slow with a ham hock. New potatoes, green beans and butter beans are great when boiled the same way with some butter in the water.

Squash can be sauteed like onions, but it can also be sliced into quarter-inch rounds, moistened, dipped in flour and pan fried like okra.

The fun part of vegetable season comes in the combinations. The possibilities are endless.

For instance, a sliced Vidalia in the sauteed squash (and a few drops of bacon grease) is almost essential.

Corn cut from the cob can be cooked with the butter beans for succotash. Tomatoes can be put added to that pot, too. And okra.

If you haven’t eaten fresh sliced okra boiled with chunks of fresh tomatoes in a pot of half-water, half chicken stock, you haven’t really lived.

For an easy squash casserole, saute about six cups of sliced squash and onions in butter and drain it a little. Mix in a cup of sour cream and a cup of grated cheddar cheese and an egg or two. Then put it in a baking dish and sprinkle with crushed butter crackers and bake for 30 minutes or so.

For the best corn ever, scrape about six cobs in a skillet with salt, pepper and a half stick of butter. In a few minutes, stir in some cream and flour and dine in high fashion.

People (Stamm) think cooking is complicated. Some recipes do require special care. But the beauty of dining from the Southern garden is that freshness provides plentiful flavor. The only way to mess up is by trying too hard.

To complete the meal, get an iron skillet and melt two spoons of bacon grease in it. Mix a cup and a half of self-rising flour and a cup and a half of self-rising cornmeal in a bowl and pour half the grease (not too hot) in the mixture. Return the skillet to the stove to get good and hot. To the bowl, add an egg, a small scoop of sugar and enough buttermilk just to make the batter pourable. Then dump the mixture into the hot skillet and put it in a 350-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes.

You’ve got cornbread to complete your meal.

It’s not hard. I know, because I can do it.