Monthly Archives: August 2009

Granny Recipe #2: Not Just a Movie

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Green Tomatoes.  These babies are a delicacy.  To get green tomatoes, you have to know someone with a tomato plant.  The grocery store doesn’t know what one of these is (although to taste tomatoes from the store, you’d think they were green).  The farmer’s market won’t even do you for a good green tomato (unless they’re the kind that never turn red).  No, most sane people like to keep their tomatoes on the vine until they turn red.   Don’t get me wrong, a juicy red tomato pulled straight from the vine is the essence of perfection; a good one will almost make me cry.  But as anyone who has ever successfully grown tomatoes knows, if you wait for all of them to ripen before you pick them, they’ll be rotten before you can finish eating them.  And you’ll never want to see another tomato again.  Nor will your neighbors. *

Simple solution: pick some of them before they’re ripe, and figure out a different way to use them.  Hence, the fried green tomato was born.  According to granny, you have to fry them green, because the red ones “don’t have a strong enough constitution” and they’ll fall apart in the frying pan.  Personally, I think it would be doing a ripe tomato a disservice to fry it; they’re delicious enough already.  I know it’s another recipe that calls for deep frying something, but it’s not too bad–you don’t need a whole vat of oil (unlike Granny’s fried ribs)–and you can use olive oil if it makes you feel better.  I still recommend the cast iron skillet, though!

*Funny story–my first job after college took me to Boston for awhile; I found an apartment with a guy who had lived in the city his whole life.  When I moved in, I found no less than fifteen tomato plants scattered in pots on the back balcony.  My roommate called it his “agriculture experiment” and hoped to get enough tomatoes for a couple of salads by the end of the summer.  Needless to say, we ate a lot of salads. And spaghetti.  And tomato sandwiches.

The method for frying green tomatoes is pretty self explanatory:

slice 'em up

slice 'em up

Dredge each slice in some cornmeal, salt, and pepper, and throw in a hot skillet.

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Leave them alone while they brown; you don’t want to flip them more than once or they’ll fall apart.  It should take 2-3 minutes for each side.  Remove from skillet and drain on a paper towel.

eat 'em while they're hot!

eat 'em while they're hot!

Savor the beauty that is an unripe tomato.  If you can get your hands on them, that is.

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Next time:  something from granny that isn’t dredged in cornmeal and deep fried–promise!

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I just had to share with someone…

I haven't seen the top of my desk in six months

I haven't seen the top of my desk in six months

And yes, that is a mint julep.

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When life gives you rotten bananas…

So, you know how you and your roommates make a biweekly trip to the yuppie grocery store outside the city, because it’s actually cheaper than the Not-So-Safeway just a few blocks from your house, and you want to be environmentally conscious, so you bring your own grocery bags with you, and you suffer through the stares from the people behind you in line because even though your bookbags and duffel bags hold groceries just as well as anything else, they’re not stamped with the store logo so for some reason they’re not as good, and you get home and put away all your groceries, and then you take your bookbag back to your room and don’t look in it for another week, because it’s summer, until one day you wonder what that funny smell is coming from your closet and you find that entire bunch of bananas that you wondered where they went but just assumed your roommates ate them before you did? No? Well, it happens more often than you think—usually it’s crackers or something that doesn’t really make a difference, but I guess bananas are better than, say, a gallon of milk.  At least they’re salvageable.  I mean, how often do you have an entire bunch of rotten bananas that you can make banana bread with?  Usually, there’s only one—two, if I’m really lucky—banana left in the bunch that’s too far gone for anyone to eat.  I hoard rotten bananas in the freezer for months before I have enough for a loaf.

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As banana breads go, this one is fairly involved, ingredient-wise, but everything goes into the same bowl and stirred with a fork, so it’s really not that bad (especially if you don’t have a dishwasher).

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This recipe has been tweaked and tweaked and tweaked (like I said, the missing-grocery-items scenario happens more often than you would think), but I think I’ve finally settled on a winning combination.  Oh, who am I kidding?  I’m a sucker for banana bread, and I would consider any combination a winning combination.  Anyway, this one has both white and brown sugars, and white and whole wheat flours in it.  If you want to keep it simple, feel free to make substitutions as you please.   Just do me a favor and don’t leave out the coffee, ok?  It’s vitally important to provide yourself with as many vehicles for caffeine consumption as possible.

Steeping the coffee.  Sometimes I just use the dregs from the coffee pot, but today there wasn't any left Sometimes I just use the dregs from the coffee pot, but today I had some bananas foster flavored coffee–terrible for drinking, but great for banana bread–so I steeped just a bit of that for this recipe.

And the chocolate.  Don’t skimp on the chocolate.  I skimped on this one, thinking walnuts would be a great addition.  They were, but they should have been that: an addition, not a substitution!

tip from granny: toss your chocolate chips/nuts in flour first before stirring them into a batter--it helps them stay suspended while baking

tip from granny: toss your chocolate chips/nuts in flour first before stirring them into a batter--it helps them stay suspended while baking

Added bonus: baking banana bread while the cable repair guy is at your house (for the THIRD time this month, I shit you not) guarantees that he’ll hang around long enough for the pans to come out of the oven, which gives him all the time he needs to make sure the job is done right this time.

Worth the wait--and the working television!

Worth the wait--and the working television!

Banana Bread (this was my starting point, although I’ve adapted it quite a bit):

makes 2 loaves

5-6 overripe bananas, smashed

1/2 cup melted butter

3/4 cup white sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

pinch of cinnamon

2 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup brewed coffee

2 tsp baking soda

pinch of salt

1 1/2 cups white flour

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

8 oz chopped chocolate or chocolate chips

Walnuts (optional)

Mix the butter and bananas until incorporated.  Batter will probably still be lumpy.  Add sugars, cinnamon, eggs, vanilla, and coffee, stir until (mostly) smooth.  Sprinkle baking soda and salt over top of batter, then add flour in 1-cup increments and mix until just incorporated.  Stir in chocolate chips (or filling of your choice).  Divide batter evenly into two greased loaf pans; bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes or until knife comes out clean.  (Note: my bread usually browns 10-15 minutes before it’s done–I just cover it with foil and let it finish baking).

Enjoy!

Enjoy!

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Hobo Tuesday–er, Wednesday: Veggie Chili

So, I know it’s not Tuesday anymore, but a perfect storm of circumstances prevented me from writing this up yesterday.  Actually, I can’t believe it’s been a month since I beat the pants off everyone in my first ever Tight-Ass Tuesday Challenge.  Michelle at Thursday Night Smackdown hosts this monthly challenge in which we all try to cook the cheapest meal possible–a maximum of $5 for two people (or $10 for 4).  Official rules are here.  Last month, I stole the smugness prize, and am out for blood this month!

Since I won (sorry, did I mention that I won?) the July picnic challenge, I got to pick the theme for August.  I figured that the hottest month of the year deserved a little competition, and challenged everyone to bring on the spice.  A little out of season, perhaps, but I’ve read somewhere that the reason people who live in tropical climates tend to have spicier foods is because eating hot things actually helps cool your body off.  Anyway, I digress, so without further ado, I give you my submission for this month’s Hobo Tuesday: Vegetarian Chili and Cornbread.

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please ignore the less-than-clean bowl; I forgot to take a picture until round 2

I would just like to say for the record that, technically, this meal was 100% free.  Not just because everything I used came straight from the pantry, but because I didn’t pay to get them there in the first place.  I helped a friend move last week, and in exchange she let me take home most of her food–including all the fixin’s necessary for this meal.  In the interests of fair play, though, I made a special trip to the grocery store to price the things I didn’t consider actual pantry items, so, you know, other people had a shot at beating me.

First things first–everything I used:

DSCN0160In case you can’t make out the spices, it’s cumin, red pepper flakes, chili powder, hot chili powder, and sage.  I also threw in a shitload of black pepper and quite a bit of salt, too.  I started by chopping and browning the onion and two cloves of garlic in some olive oil, and then threw the spices in the hot pan towards the end, just to toast them a bit.  I would estimate about a tablespoon each of the cumin and chili powders, a pinch of sage, and a whole palmful of the red pepper flakes.

yes, I did use that much chili powder--got a problem with that?

yes, I did use that much chili powder--got a problem with that?

Meanwhile, drain and rinse the black beans and kidney beans, and toss them in the pot with the large can of tomatoes.  At this point I also usually add a can of beer (which, in my house, can most definitely be considered a pantry staple!), but we were out so I settled for about a cup of water.  I also threw in a bit of extra salt and a couple of tablespoons of black pepper to compensate for the lack of flavor.  Add in the onion/spice mixture and de-seeded green chile (we’re going for the hot factor here).  Finally, I added about half a bag of frozen corn, and let it simmer on the stove while I baked the corn bread.

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I cheated on the cornbread, and my granny would just die if I found out.  But the boxes of Jiffy corn muffin mix are super cheap (3/$1!), very fast, and I actually prefer the cornbread they make to many homemade versions.

a mix, an egg, and 1/3 cup of milk--can't get any easier than that!

a mix, an egg, and 1/3 cup of milk--can't get any easier than that!

Et viola!  You have yourself a bowl of chili!  Extra cheap, extra easy, and extra spicy, complete with a corn muffin to wash it down.

On to the nitty gritty details:

5-alarm Vegetarian Chili: (makes 4 servings)

1 med. Onion–pantry staple

2 cloves garlic–pantry staple

1 Tbsp. ground cumin–pantry staple

2 Tbsp. chili powder (mixture of regular and hot)–pantry staple

1/4 cup (or to taste) red pepper flakes–pantry staple

1 can Black Beans–$0.69

1 can Dark Red Kidney Beans–$0.69

1 large can diced tomatoes–$1.19

1 green chile, de-seeded and diced–from garden

1/2 bag of Frozen Corn–$1.29/2 = $0.65

1 c. water

Salt and Black Pepper to taste.

Brown onions and garlic over med-high heat; add in spices and stir briefly.  Add to large pot with drained beans and undrained tomatoes.  Add water (or beer, if you have it) and salt and pepper.  Add chile and frozen corn; let simmer 10-15 minutes or until corn is cooked (or cornbread comes out of the oven).

Corn Muffins:

1 box Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix–$0.33

1 egg–pantry staple

1/3 c. milk–pantry staple

follow directions on back of box.

And the grand total comes to… $3.55!  That breaks down to $0.89/person.  We’ll see how that measures up to my competition…good luck everyone!

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