Tuesday, September 22, 2020

On Cooking Southern: Catch as Catch Can Week

Peach Salsa
Peach Salsa

Shrimp, salad, salsa and other savory summer satisfiers.

By Laurie Triplette

ldtriplette@aol.com

SOUTHERNISM OF THE WEEK

Catch as catch can:  To make do with what’s available in a haphazard way without any pre-planning. This English-language idiom dates back to 13th century Anglo-French culture, becoming associated with a type of wrestling in the 1500s. It’s a universal English idiom, but we Southerners embody the concept with our cuisine. Think gumbo, stew, soup, jambalaya, many salads, or how we use leftovers.

SHRIMP, CORN, PEACHES, TOMATOES.

Summertime, when the livin’ is easy….  It’s finally here, but is it really easy?

There was a time in American culture when agricultural growing cycles governed all of our activities. Life slowed down in June, as the school year ended, the weather heated up, and agricultural cycles matured.

Not anymore. Nowadays, life whirls on, the pace simply switching from one set of deadlines to another. But even as I write, Nature’s local rock stars (tomatoes, peaches, corn, berries, peas and beans) continue to ripen in our own back yards, promising to bless us with a taste of gustatory heaven in coming weeks. I love that we Mississippians still celebrate agricultural milestones during every season. All of our celebrations involve food, ranging from crawfish, crappie, strawberry, and tomato festivals, to barbecue and tailgating competitions.

My daughter Gabrielle in New York City.
My daughter Gabrielle in New York City.

The first food-related marker of our summer season actually occurs far, far away — in New York City, at the annual Mississippi Picnic in Central Park that was founded 34 years ago by homesick Mississippians. This summer’s Mississippi Picnic in the Park occurred on June 8, honoring the memory of a founder, our own late Kay McDuffie, a fellow O-U Methodist chorister. The Old Bride’s daughter was among the Southern exiles in attendance this year, with friends in tow and fried catfish in hand.

The other marker heralding summer around here is the annual launch of the Mississippi shrimp season. That, my darlings, occurred last week on June 11, a slight delay due to the unusually heavy, late spring rains. As Mr. Rogers would say, “Boys and girls, can we spell ‘JOY’ ?”

It may not be easier, but summertime living certainly can be simplified in the kitchen. Keep it simple. Did you hear me say simple? Buy local. Eat what is in season —fresh, raw, steamed or grilled. And as one gone but-not-forgotten mentor used to say, “Don’t sweat the nickel-dime.”

 

SHRIMP REMOULADE PASTA SALAD

Shrimp_remoulade-pasta-DSCN3251

Make the Spicy Remoulade Sauce ahead of time and refrigerate it in a quart-size canning jar.  For this recipe, I use medium-count shrimp (50-60 per pound), but feel free to use large-size (30-40) shrimp. Serve it with a side of fresh fruit or a green salad and crusty bread. Note: Store-bought boiled shrimp may be used, but is not as tasty.

Spicy Remoulade Sauce

2 c mayonnaise

2-3 T Creole mustard

3 T fresh ground horseradish (not sauce)

1/4 tsp table salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 T lemon juice

Dash of Tabasco or Louisiana Hot Sauce

1 c ketchup

2 T fine-minced white onion

2 T celery leaves, minced

Puree all ingredients in a blender. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to use. Yield: About a quart.

Pasta and Shrimp

6 c water

3 to 4 T Crab Boil

1 T black peppercorns

1 tsp salt

2 Bay leaves

Juice of 1 lemon

1 c beer

2 lb raw shrimp

16-oz box of rotini pasta

4 green onions, chopped, including greens

1/4 c chopped parsley

1 c fine-chopped celery (heart ribs and leaves)

1/2 tsp salt

2 c of Spicy Remoulade Sauce, plus extra if needed

1/4 c sliced kalamata olives, OPTIONAL

Bring about 6 cups of water to boil in a stockpot with the next six ingredients.  Drop shrimp into the boiling water, cover, and when shrimp rises to top, turn off heat and drain in a colander. Cool and peel the shrimp.  Reserve a few shrimp for garnishing individual servings of the finished pasta salad. Chop the rest of the shrimp.

Cook the rotini pasta according to package directions. Drain.  Toss with green onions, parsley and salt.  Toss in about 1 c of the Spicy Remoulade Sauce. Pasta will absorb it and need more. Let the pasta rest about 10 minutes before adding the chopped shrimp. Add more Spicy Remoulade until shrimp and pasta are completely coated.  Add olives if desired. Garnish each serving with a few whole shrimp on top, drizzled with additional Spicy Remoulade Sauce.

 

Corn Salad

This is a refreshing and light side dish to accompany picnic food or grilled fish and meat. Keeps up to four days, refrigerated.

corn salad-DSCN20931/4 c red wine vinegar

2 T extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp white granulated sugar

2 T mayonnaise

1 T sour cream

2 c blanched fresh corn, cut off cob (about 4 medium ears)

8 cherry tomatoes, quartered

1-1/2 c cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced

1/2 c green bell peppers, chopped

1/2 c red bell peppers, chopped

1/2 c celery, chopped

1/2 c Vidalia onion, chopped

1/4 c green onion, chopped

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

Combine vinegar, olive oil and sugar in a small bowl, whisking until sugar is dissolved. Add mayo and sour cream. Gently stir until blended. Set aside.

Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and drop in the corn. Bring back to a boil, covered, and cook for 3 minutes. Remove corn and submerge in an ice bath for about 5 minutes. Drain, pat dry, and cut off kernels with sharp knife.

Combine corn with remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Add dressing and toss well. Adjust seasoning to taste. Refrigerate at least 1 hour. Serve with tortilla chips or fresh rolls.

 

PEACH AND FETA SALSA

Amazingly, these seemingly disparate ingredients combine to create a fabulous side salad or condiment for quiche, grilled meat, or fish. The salsa transports well and is just as tasty at room temperature as chilled.

1 tsp Dijon mustard

2 T honey

1/4 c white wine vinegar

1/4 c extra virgin olive oil

3 c of peaches, sliced and diced in large chunks

1 c quartered red grape tomatoes

1 shallot, sliced and chopped (makes about 1/4 c)

1 T fresh basil, chopped

3/4 c crumbled feta cheese

Whisk first four ingredients in a small bowl until honey is completely blended. Combine peaches, tomatoes, shallot, and basil in a medium bowl. Pour half the dressing over it and toss to blend. Add feta and gently fold to blend without breaking up the feta. Add remaining dressing and gently toss. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Drain any excess liquid.