Grill Mates

I like to make a lot of things from scratch. For instance, I don’t very often use barbecue sauce from a bottle. I usually put my own together with ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, cider vinegar, Tabasco and brown sugar. The same goes for marinades. My favorite is a combination of teriyaki, honey and orange juice.

However, in hectic times, such as days when there is a lot of canning and gardening work to be done, ‘ll go with  something store-bought.

That’s what I did today. I pulled a couple of pheasants out of the freezer and put them in a marinade mix made by McCormick’s, the spice guys. The company’s Grill Mates line of marinades are pretty tasty and easy to throw together. For example, the one I used for the pheasant breasts, called Hickory BBQ, is just mixed with a little vinegar and oil, and it’s ready to go.

The meat has to marinate only for 15 to 20 minutes before it was ready for the grill. I chose to keep it in the sauce a little longer, and the result was pretty tasty, especially when combined with some new potatoes and fresh garden beans. I especially loved the hickory flavor. It reminded me of a Jamaican jerk.

Speaking of Jamaican jerk, here’s a recipe for some grilled island-style chicken, which is flavored with a jerk.

Jerk Marinade
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon dry leaf thyme (not powdered)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 inches fresh ginger, washed and cut into chunks
½ Scotch bonnet pepper or 3 or more jalapenos, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 small bunch scallions, trimmed and coarsely chopped
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Process until smooth. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
Yield: 1½ cups.
Grilled Island-Style Chicken
1½ cups Jerk Marinade (see recipe)
1 (3- to 4-pound) broiler fryer, cut into serving pieces (or 3 pounds breast, leg and thigh pieces)
Discard excess fat from chicken and put pieces in a large, self-sealing food storage bag. Pour on 1 cup marinade and rub it in, lifting the skin and pushing marinade under where possible. (If you have sensitive skin, wear rubber gloves.) Seal and refrigerate at least 2 hours and as long as 24 hours, turning occasionally.
Heat grill to medium-high; oil the grates. Lift chicken from marinade, letting excess drip off (discard marinade). Place on grill and cover. Cook, turning occasionally, until chicken is blackened in spots, about 10 minutes.
Move chicken to a cooler part of the grill. Grill, covered, basting from time to time with remaining ½ cup marinade, until chicken is cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes more.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 649 calories, (62 percent from fat), 39 grams fat (9 grams saturated, 16 grams monounsaturated), 167 milligrams cholesterol, 40 grams protein, 5 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 420 milligrams sodium.


Shrimp and Slaw

We recently went out to eat at China Garden in Grand Forks. They serve a dish there called shrimp and cabbage in garlic sauce. It’s quite tasty — and spicy, and I usually order it, although it’s somewhat different than the one by the same name that was served at the old restaurant in East Grand Forks before the Flood of 1997. I would love to get that recipe.

The combination of shrimp and cabbage is one that appeals to me. I like both of them a lot, no matter how they’re cooked. When I’ve had them together at home, it’s usually been in a stir-fry.

I recently came across a recipe that combines shrimp and cabbage, but it’s not a stir-fry. It’s for shrimp on the grill that’s served with a cabbage slaw. And by the looks of its name, it could have a little kick to it.

The recipe looks like a perfect way to celebrate the last days of summer and to make use of some fresh vegetables from my garden, including some sweet Spanish onions, tomatoes, carrots and cabbage.

Grilled Shrimp with Thai Curry Barbecue Sauce and Cabbage Slaw
20 large shrimp, peeled and divined
2 sweet Spanish onions
6 tomatoes
1 teaspoon Thai curry paste
1 stalk lemon grass
4 ounces rice wine vinegar
12 ounces orange juice
2 ounce soy sauce
2 ounce sugar
1 head cabbage
1 sweet Walla Walla onion
½ teaspoon chili garlic paste
1 teaspoon salted shrimp paste
8 snow peas
1 carrot
Skewer shrimp and barbecue over grill.
For the sauce: In a large suspect, saute onions in olive oil for 15 minutes over medium high heat. Chop the tomatoes and add to onions. Cook for 5 minutes, then add the Thai curry paste and lemon grass and cook for 2 minutes. Add the liquids and the sugar. Let simmer until reduced by half. The onions should be very soft and the liquid should be slightly thickened.
For the slaw: cabbage, sprinkle with kosher salt and let stand for 5 minutes. Drain off liquid. Thinly slice the onions, mix with chili garlic paste and salted shrimp. Julianne the snow peas and carrot and add to the mixture.

A Fowl and Afoul

Whenever I’m at a loss at what to cook — whether it’s for company or just for us — I go to the freezer and pull out a free-range Hutterite chicken. I’ve taken them for granted ever since Tony Waldner from the Forest River Colony started coming around about 10 years ago.

Since then,I’ve been buying the chickens by the case, either regular or smoked, and haven’t purchased one in the store.

A couple of months ago, I wrote about the chickens, and Diane Hoverson of Phoenix, and originally from Manvel, N.D., left a comment on my blog wondering if she had to go out to the colony near Inkster, N.D., to pick up some when she was home visiting. I told her we always had plenty on hand and if she let me know when she was going to be here, there would be some available.

Well, Diane drove into town this past week with her daughter and gave me a call. We had a nice chat when she came over to our house to pick up some chickens. She said her grandmother used to cook at the old Palace restaurant, which was located on North Third Street in downtown Grand Forks, and her stepgrandfather was a butcher at Hugo’s, so she’s always been around good food.

She also shared a humorous story about running afoul of airport security with some homemade strawberry-rhubarb jam she had bought at a farmers market while in Billings, Mont.

After trying to convince the authorities her strawberry-rhubarb spread was jam, not a "jelly," she forked it over. Later, however, she went back and asked for the jam so she could put it on some buns she’d also purchased at the farmers market.

When one of the security people asked if she had a knife to spread the jam, she replied that she wouldn’t think of bringing one on the plane and proceeded to pull out a plastic spoon. She said you can’t find rhubarb in Phoenix, and she wasn’t going to let the security people eat her jam.

At least she won’t have trouble transporting the chickens home. 

Speaking of fowl, here’s a recipe for beer can chicken, which I hope to try soon.

Beer Can Chicken
½ cup kosher salt
¼ cup white vinegar
1 whole frying chicken, about 4 pounds
1 lemon, halved
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ cup Greek seasoning mix
1 12-ounce can beer
Fill sink or large bowl with cold water; add salt and vinegar. Soak chicken in brining solution 30 minutes or more. Rinse chicken, pat dry. Rub chicken with one half of the lemon. Rub inside of chicken with other half of lemon. Coat chicken on all sides with olive oil. Rub chicken inside and out with seasoning mix.
Prepare a grill for indirect cooking. Punch two holes in the top of the beer can, away from the opening. Pour off ¼ of the beer (about ½ cup); add any remaining rub to the beer in the can. Slowly insert the can of beer into the chicken’s cavity until chicken legs are even with the end of the can. Place the chicken on the grill, standing upright with the legs forming a tripod. Close lid; grill until the juices run clear, 1 to 1½ hours.
Carefully pick up chicken with tongs; transfer upright to a cutting board. Stick a long handled spoon through the neck hole of the chicken; gently push beer can through without spilling, holding chicken with the tongs. Allow chicken to rest 15 minutes before cutting into pieces.
Note: Cavender’s makes a nice Greek seasoning, but you can substitute your own blend by crushing 3 tablespoons dried oregano in your hands into a small bowl; add 2 teaspoons each salt and pepper, plus 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and mix.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 634 calories, 57 percent of calories from fat, 39 grams fat (10 grams saturated), 201 milligrams cholesterol, 4 grams carbohydrates, 64 grams protein, 1,837 milligrams sodium, 1 gram fiber.

Green Beans and Shiitake Mushrooms

I’ve had my hands full with beans lately. Not only are my green bush beans and yellow wax beans still producing (at both gardens), the scarlet runners and pole variety are going crazy, too.

That’s means more three-bean salad, speaking of which I must give the recipe to a co-worker, for his wife, and also to a friend from the gym, who’ve both of whom requested it.

Of course, green beans, like most veggies these days, are available year-round, but there is nothing like ones straight from the garden. Sometimes, when there are too many, I blanche and freeze them for later use. Then, they’re good either cold (tossed with a homemade vinaigrette ) or warmed up (cooked in a pan with a little butter or lemon juice) — a nice change of pace.

While most recently I’ve creamed some beans with new potatoes, my thoughts have turned to another recipe. It’s for green beans with shiitake mushrooms. I love mushrooms, too, so this recipe is sure to suit my fancy.

Green Beans with Shiitake Mushrooms
6 tablespoons butter
8 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and caps sliced
2 shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds slender green beans, trimmed
2/3 cup low-salt chicken broth
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in large skillet over medium-high heat.
Add shiitake mushrooms and saute until tender, about 5 minutes.
Transfer mushrooms to medium bowl.
Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter in same skillet. Add shallots and garlic and saute until tender, about 2 minutes.
Add green beans and toss to coat with butter, Pour broth over green bean mixture. Cover and simmer until liquid evaporates and green beans are crisp-tender, about 10 minutes.
Stir in shiitake mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
Yield: Serves 8.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 120 calories, 2 grams protein, 9 grams carbohydrates, 9.5 grams fat (5.8 grams saturated), 25 milligrams cholesterol, 2.5 grams dietary fiber, 161 milligrams sodium, 1.1 gram sugar, 32 milligrams calcium.

Pasta and Peas

Once again, the Herald Food page ( will help celebrate National Pasta Month and Pasta Lovers’ Week in October. We will be featuring the "Use Your Noodle" pasta puzzle crossword as well as publishing several pasta recipes, in conjunction with the North Dakota Wheat Commission.

One of the highlights of the contest (this year’s theme is "Premium Pasta from the Prairie") is the package of gifts 10 winners of the contest will receive. Included is a T-shirt and a couple of boxes of pasta from three North Dakota producers.

In anticipation of the contest, here is recipe that features angel hair pasta that is served with a bacon cream sauce and peas — a tasty combination. With our cool summer, many people have planted a second crop of peas, which soon will be ready. I even think Farmers Market vendors still have been selling peas. If not, frozen peas will do.

Angel Hair Pasta with Bacon Sauce and Peas
6 strips raw bacon
½ pound dry angel hair pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil or more as needed
¼ cup minced onions or shallots
1 clove garlic, peeled, minced
½ cup fresh or frozen peas (thawed and rinsed)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Cut the bacon into 1/8-inch pieces. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon pieces until crispy. Remove the bacon and set aside on a paper towel.
Drain all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat from the skillet.
Cook the pasta according to package directions, less 1 minute. Drain the pasta and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
Heat the remaining bacon fat until shimmering. Add the onions and cook over medium heat until soft. Add the garlic and peas and cook for 1 minute longer. Add the bacon and cream and cook until simmering. Add the cooked pasta, stir to combine and cook 1 minute more. Top with Parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper before serving.
Yield: Serves. 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 606 calories (61 percent from fat), 41 grams fat (19 grams saturated), 47 grams carbohydrates, 14 grams protein, 305 milligrams sodium, 100 milligrams cholesterol, 87 milligrams calcium, 3 grams fiber.


Fun with Tomatoes

I spent much of my Saturday canning tomatoes — 26 pints to be exact.

I was lucky this year to get my tomatoes in a little earlier than most people. Those who’ve attended the Farmers Market in downtown Grand Forks haven’t seen many tomatoes for sale yet this summer. Vendors are saying maybe next week. By next weekend, I hope to have a couple of dozen new quarts of tomato juce on the shelf. And then, maybe I’ll go for the salsa.

If you can’t tell, tomatoes are a passion for me. I use them in soups, casseroles, sauces, you name it. I guess marinara sauce is my preference, but there’s nothing like a hotdish or casserole that contains some canned home-grown tomatoes.

Today, I’m going to share a hotdish recipe that contains canned tomatoes, and several of my other favorites — peppers, onions, mushrooms, ground beef and elbow macaroni. I used to make this a lot before getting married, and used whatever vegetables were on hand, fresh or leftover.

Heavenly Hotdish
1½ cups macaroni
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 green bell pepper, seeded, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 8-ounce package sliced mushrooms
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound lean ground beef
2 pints whole, diced diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon each: salt, freshly ground pepper
Heat a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over medium high heat; cook macaroni according to package instructions until tender, about 7 minutes. Drain; set aside.
Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add green pepper and onion; cook, stirring, until the onion browns slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove from skillet; set aside. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to the skillet; add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring, until mushrooms brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from skillet; set aside.
Add garlic to the skillet; cook, stirring, over medium heat until golden, about 30 seconds. Add the ground beef; cook, stirring often, until meat is browned, about 5 minutes. Drain fat, if necessary.
Add the tomatoes to the skillet; heat to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer; add peppers, onions, mushrooms, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes cook down slightly, about 20 minutes. Stir in the macaroni; cook, stirring, until heated through, about 2 minutes.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 325 calories, 35 percent of calories from fat, 13 grams fat (4 grams saturated), 47 milligrams cholesterol, 33 grams carbohydrates, 20 grams protein, 302 milligrams sodium, 5 grams fiber.

Bouef Bourguignon a la Julia Child

Last weekend, we went to see the movie "Julie and Julia." I might have to go see it again. Anyone who loves food will will love this movie. I particularly enjoyed the scenes of the two women preparing meals, which is one of my passions.

"Julie and Julia" is two stories in one. The first tells the story of Julia Child’s beginning in the in the cooking profession in 1950s Paris. It is intertwined with the second, blogger Julie Powell’s 2002 challenge to cook all 524 recipes in Child’s first book, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," in 365 days in her tiny Queens, N.Y., apartment.

The movie stars Meryl Streep as Julia Child, Amy Adams as Julie Powell and Stanley Tucci as Julia’s husband, Paul. I can’t imagine Streep not winning an Oscar for her performance. Adam and Tucci also were outstanding.

One recipe that I took particular interest in was for Bouef Bourguignon‎, a wonderful dish that raises a simple stew to an artform. I’ve never made it but have thought of the day when some will be simmering on my stove.

I don’t have Julia’s cookbook but do have the recipe, which I found on the Internet. I would love to publish it here, but permission is needed from the publisher.

So, here is a another, based on the famous recipe. If you’re contemplating making this dish, remember that the true recipe for success is hope, love and a double batch of Bouef Bourguignon‎.

Bouef Bourguignon a la Julia Child
6 ounces bacon, solid chunk
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 onion, peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups red wine (a full-bodied wine like Bordeaux or Burgundy or Chianti)
2 to 3 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, mashed (you may choose to add more)
1 sprig thyme (or ½ teaspoon dried thyme)
1 bay leaf, preferably fresh
18 to 24 white pearl onions, peeled
1½ tablespoons unsalted butter
1½ tablespoons olive oil
½ cup beef stock
Salt and fresh ground pepper
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
2 sprigs parsley
1 pound mushrooms, quartered
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Prepare the bacon: cut off the rind and reserve. Cut the bacon into lardons about ¼-inch thick and 1½ inches long. Simmer the rind and the lardons for 10 minutes in 1½ quarts of water. Drain and dry the lardons and rind and reserve.
Preheat the oven to 450 degree.
Put the tablespoon of olive oil in a large (9- or 10-inch wide and 3-inch deep fireproof casserole and warm over moderate heat. Saute the lardons for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.
Dry off the pieces of beef and saute them, a few at a time in the hot oil/bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. Once browned, remove to the side plate with the bacon.
In the same oil/fat, saute the onion and the carrot until softened.
Pour off the fat and return the lardons and the beef to the casserole with the carrots and onion. Toss the contents of the casserole with the salt and pepper and sprinkle with the flour. Set the uncovered casserole in the oven for 4 minutes. Toss the contents of the casserole again and return to the hot oven for 4 more minutes.
Lower the heat to 325 degrees and remove the casserole from the oven. Add the wine and enough stock so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic and herbs and the bacon rind. Bring to a simmer on the top of the stove.
Cover and place in the oven, adjusting the heat so that the liquid simmers very slowly for 3 to 4 hours.
The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
While the meat is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms and set them aside till needed.
For the onion, if using frozen, make sure they are defrosted and drained.
Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet and add the onions to the skillet. Saute over medium heat for about 10 minutes, rolling the onions about so they brown as evenly as possible, without breaking apart.
Pour in the stock, season to taste, add the herbs, and cover. Simmer over low heat for about 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but retain their shape and the liquid has mostly evaporated. Remove the herbs and set the onions aside.
For the mushrooms, heat the butter and oil over high heat in a large skillet. As soon as the foam begins to subside add the mushrooms and toss and shake the pan for about 5 minutes. As soon as they have browned lightly, remove from heat.
When the meat is tender, remover the casserole from the oven and empty its contents into a sieve set over a saucepan.
Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it (discarding the bits of carrot and onion and herbs which remain in the sieve).
Distribute the mushrooms and onions over the meat.
Skim the fat off the sauce and simmer it for a minute or 2, skimming off any additional fat which rises to the surface. You should be left with about 2½ cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If the sauce is too thick, add a few tablespoons of stock. If the sauce is too thin, boil it down to reduce to the right consistency.
Taste for seasoning.
Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables.
If you are serving immediately, place the covered casserole over medium low heat and simmer 2 to 3 minutes.
Serve in the casserole or on a warm platter surrounded by noodles, potatoes or rice and garnished with fresh parsley.
If serving later or the next day, allow the casserole to cool and place cold, covered casserole in the refrigerator.
Twenty minutes before serving, place over medium-low heat and simmer very slowly for 10 minutes, occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 913 calories, 53 percent of calories from fat, 54.2 grams fat (20.1 grams saturated, 24.6 monounsaturated, 3.8 grams polyunsaturated, no trans fat), 168 milligrams cholesterol, 1.120 milligrams sodium, 28.5 grams carbohydrates, 3.9 grams dietary fiber, 56.1 grams protein, 10.8 grams sugar.


Cabbage Fest

I’ve kind of been having a cabbage fest this past week. With between 30 and 40 heads in my garden, most of which go into the making of sauerkraut, I have the occasion in indulge myself with fresh cabbage, just like every other year about this time.

And I don’t mind overindulging, either, since cabbage is full of vitamins A, B and C, as well as iron, calcium and enzymes and is high in beta-carotene and fiber.

My first foray into cabbage nirvana was some plain, old coleslaw, which I had at lunch a couple of days in a row last week. And just last night, I steamed some cabbage, then braised it in butter and olive oil with a little onion. I then mixed it with some mashed potatoes. For those of you who’ve never done this, it’s a real treat.

Now, I’m going to stuff some cabbage leaves with a meat and rice mixture and bake them in the oven, covered with some tomato sauce, using the following recipe. (If you have any more suggestions on how to use cabbage, drop me a note.) 

Stuffed Cabbage Leaves
8 cabbage leaves
2 quarts water
½ teaspoon salt
1 pound lean ground meat (beef, bison or venison)
1 egg
½ cup cooked rice
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 slices bacon, cut into half slices
1 cup tomato puree
¼ water for diluting puree, if desired
Prepare rice ahead of time by cooking ½ cup regular rice in 1 cup water with about 1/8 teaspoon salt. Once rice has cooked, set ½ cup aside for this recipe and reserve any extra for another time.
Bring to boil 2 quarts water and ½ teaspoon salt. This will be used to blanche the cabbage leaves.
While water is coming to a boil, cut a circle around core of cabbage to loosen leaves.
Drop 8 cabbage leaves into boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove with tongs and lay flat on a paper towel to absorb excess moisture. Cut a small "V" from the root end of the cabbage leaf. (You want to remove the hard spine at the base of the leaf.) Set aside prepped leaves.
Saute onion in butter in a small saute pan over medium-high heat.
After onion has sauteed, mix in a medium-sized bowl: onion, uncooked beef, raw egg, cooked rice, salt and pepper.
On a cutting board or other cleared surface, stuff leaves by filling each with a heaping spoonful of meat mixture. Fold sides of leaves to cover meat mixture, then fold top and bottom of leaf to further cover the mixture. Place stuffed cabbage leaf seam side down in a baking dish.
Place a half piece of bacon over each stuffed leaf. Pour tomato puree mixed with about ¼ cup of water over stuffed leaves. (Add water to create the consistency of puree that you prefer.)
Cover loosely with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 481 calories, 33.8 grams protein, 15.2 grams carbohydrates, 31.5 grams fat (12.7 grams saturated), 176.4 milligrams cholesterol, 616.4 milligrams sodium, 2.2 grams dietary fiber, 5.1 grams sugar.

Creamed Potatoes

One of my favorite meals this time of the year is creamed new potatoes (I prefer reds) with either peas or beans, or both, along with a couple of fresh tomatoes and maybe a sliced cucumber in a little vinegar (you also could add some onion). 

I’ve come up with pretty good bechamel (white) sauce for the vegetables, which is an improvisation of one in my Fanny Farmer cookbook.

However, there is one that I’ve found comparable. I’ve had it at Al’s Grill and Catering on Gateway Drive in Grand Forks. It’s also served over small new potatoes.

A reader, Jan, recently wrote and asked if I had any idea where she could find a recipe similar to the white sauce used on the baby reds at Al’s. Being pretty proud of my white sauce, I’ve decided to share the recipe for it with her and the rest of my readers.

New Potatoes and Peas with Bechamel Sauce
6 to 8 small new potatoes, with skins
2 cups shelled peas or 2 cups string beans, ends removed
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 to 3 tablespoons flour
1¼ cups milk
Steam potatoes and peas (or beans or both) in separate pots until tender. Set aside.
Melt butter in a saucepan and add olive oil. When pan is hot, add flour and stir into butter and olive oil, making a paste. While the paste is forming, warm the milk, either in the microwave or another pot. Once the flour/butter mixture starts to bubble, add the warm milk and mix until sauce thickens. Pour potatoes and peas and serve.

Go Gumbo

It’s been kind of a funny summer temperature-wise. Just about everyone has noticed, particularly gardeners.

A lot of fresh vegetables that we’d be eating by now are just starting to ripen. A good case in point has been my okra. Generally, I’d have been eating mine for several weeks, but the cool weather has held it back.

Anyone who’s from the South, particularly Louisiana and the Gulf Coast region — or if you’ve watched one of Emeril Lagasse’s food shows on TV — knows about okra. It’s considered a delicacy down there.

One of my favorite ways to use okra is in stew or soup that’s called gumbo. Gumbo consists primarily of a stock, meat and/or shellfish, a thickener and the vegetable "holy trinity" of celery, bell peppers and onion and traditionally is served over rice. Gumbos also are broadly divided between the use of okra and file powder as a thickening agent.

I’ve made gumbo using both, but my preference is with okra. I recently tried a recipe from my Fanny Farmer cookbook for New Chicken Gumbo Soup. It was wonderful. The only snafu was that instead of using a cup of cooked rice I used a cup of raw rice. I didn’t realize this until I mixed the rice into the soup. Nonetheless, it was delicious.

Here’s that recipe, along with another gumbo that features shrimp and smoked sausage.

New Chicken Gumbo Soup
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped fine
2 stalks celery, chopped fine
4 cups chicken broth
½ cup green pepper, chopped fine
2 cups okra, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1½ cups canned tomatoes, with juice
Pinch of cayenne pepper, or to taste
2 cups diced raw chicken meat
1 cup cooked rice
Melt the butter in a large soup pot, add the onion and celery and cook, stirring for about 5 minutes, until golden. Stir in the broth, green pepper, okra, garlic and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes. Add salt to taste, the cayenne pepper, chicken and rice, and cook for 2 more minutes. Taste and correct seasonings.

New Orleans to Go Gumbo
1 pound medium shrimp in their shells
5 cups water
1 small yellow onion, quartered
2 sprigs parsley
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 large, sweet onion, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
1 green pepper, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup flour
1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes in tomato puree, drained, liquid reserved, and tomatoes coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 pound smoked andouille sausage, cut into chunks
½ pound okra, fresh or frozen, cut into ½-inch lengths
Hot pepper sauce
2 cups cooked white rice
Working under cold running water, strip shells off shrimp and reserve. Devein shrimp, rinse, drain and refrigerate.
Tumble shrimp shells into a medium saucepan. Add the water, yellow onion, parsley, thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, partially cover and simmer until flavorful, about 45 minutes. Strain out and discard solids. Keep shrimp stock warm. (You should have about 3 cups.)
Pile up the chopped onion, celery, green pepper and garlic in a bowl.
Melt butter in a large Dutch oven. Add flour and cook, whisking, over medium-low heat until peanut-butter colored, about 10 to 12 minutes.
Tumble in the chopped vegetables, cooling the roux. Cook, stirring, over medium heat until soft, about 10 minutes.
Stir in tomatoes along with 1/3 cup of the reserved tomato puree. Stir in hot shrimp stock. Season with salt, oregano, thyme leaves and red pepper. Add sausage and simmer for 20 minutes. Add okra and simmer another 10 minutes. Add shrimp and simmer until just cooked through, 3 minutes.
Scoop hot rice into each bowl. Inundate with gumbo. Splash with pepper sauce, if you like it hot.
Yield: Serves 6.