Grow Your Own

21 Jul

Not just tomatoes and bell peppers. Not just typical kitchen herbs or even tangerines. Why not try growing olive trees, coffee bushes, black pepper, kiwi or papaya trees? Library staff has had success so far with 8 different fruits and vegetables, just from kitchen scraps. The easiest? Pineapples and green onions.

Don’t throw it, grow it! 68 windowsill plants from kitchen scraps (635 P485.3d), by Deborah Peterson, tells you how to harvest and save seeds from what you use in the kitchen. She gives explicit instructions, such as telling you which seeds need to sit in your refrigerator for several weeks before you plant them. Discover the hidden possibilities you are bringing home from the grocery store.

Growing tasty tropical plants in any home, anywhere (635 M379g), by Byron Martin,  is also full of helpful hints on raising those plants. From the Australian Finger Lime to the Tahitian Orange, this book will provide cultural requirements and recipes for what you grow.

Eat your yard! : edible trees, shrubs, vines, herbs and flowers for your landscape (635 C486.7e) by Nan Chase is for the less adventurous, but those who would still like spring blossoms, colorful flowers, lush greenery, fall foliage, and fruits, nuts, and seeds that you can eat, cook with, and preserve. Why not have blueberries or a bay tree in your yard instead of plain old boxwood?

Some of our staff can’t wait to add a Sweet Lemon (Citrus ujukitsu) to their backyard. Think about it, sweet lemonade without adding sugar or sweetener. Yum!


Real Cajun

20 Jul

Southwest Louisiana native Donald Link won the James Beard Foundation American Cooking award in 2010, for Real Cajun (LA 641.597 L756.3r). This cookbook is going to make you hungry.  There’s no way around it.  You can’t look at the photos and not want to taste the dish.  And although Link is an award winning chef, this is not a restaurant cookbook. It’s filled with recipes for preparing real Cajun, rustic, simple, and not necessarily spicy or trendy food.  It’s for the home cook, whether in the kitchen or hanging out in the back yard.

Smothered Pork Roast over Rice

Makes 8 to 10 servings

1 (6- to 7-pound) boneless pork roast (shoulder or butt)

Kosher salt

Ground black pepper

2 large onions, thinly sliced

8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

1 tablespoon dried rosemary, crumbled

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter

½ cup all-purpose flour

4 cups chicken broth

Juice of ½ lemon (optional)

Steamed rice

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Season the pork very generously with salt and pepper, rubbing the seasonings into the fat and flesh of the meat. Set the roast aside for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour at room temperature.

Combine the onions, garlic, thyme and rosemary in a medium mixing bowl and toss to combine. Heat the vegetable oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the oil is very hot, sear the meat on all sides until deeply browned and crusty, 10 to 12 minutes total.

Transfer the meat to a plate, reduce the heat to medium, and then stir in the butter. When melted, stir in the flour to make a roux and continue to cook, stirring, until the roux turns a dark peanut butter color, about 10 minutes.

Add the onion mixture and cook, stirring, until all the ingredients are well coated and the mixture is thick. Whisk in the chicken broth and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Return the pork to the Dutch oven, spoon some of the onion mixture over the meat, cover, and roast for about 3 hours, turning and basting the pork every 30 minutes or so, until the meat will break apart when pressed gently with a fork.

At this point, you can serve the roast right out of the pan, or transfer it to a plate, then simmer the pan drippings, skimming off excess fat, until reduced by about one-third, or until it coats the back of a spoon. Add the lemon juice and taste for seasonings.

Before serving, sprinkle the roast with some additional salt. Serve the roast smothered with a generous amount of sauce and hot steamed rice.

Staff Favorite-Mother Africa’s Table

19 Jul

Mother Africa’s table : a collection of West African and African American recipes and cultural traditions (641.596 W378m)

I enjoy the Chicken in a Spicy Peanut Sauce. I refer to this cookbook a lot, especially when I’m using my crock pot- lots of stews and gumbos. You can definitely see the African influence on Louisiana cooking when you read these recipes.

The recipes are simple, hearty and healthy with ingredients that can be found cheaply and locally…a lot of root vegetables and greens. I haven’t tried it yet, but Sweet Potato Corn Bread also sounds really good! – Ammon M.

Chicken in a Spicy Peanut Sauce

1 ½ lbs boneless skinless chicken breast halves (I use 4 thighs and just throw them in the pot instead of sautéing, oops)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon white pepper (I use black pepper)

1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger

2 tablespoons peanut oil

2 red jalapeno peppers stemmed, seeded, and slivered (or half a red bell


2 green jalapeno peppers stemmed, seeded, and slivered

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup water

3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter (I use chunky)

1/3 cup sliced green onions

Rinse chicken and pat dry. Cut into bite-size pieces and season with salt, pepper and ginger.
In a skillet, warm the oil over medium-high heat and sauté the chicken with the peppers until the chicken has browned. Stir in the tomato paste and water; mix until blended. Whisk in the peanut butter and cook covered, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or until the sauce has thickened to the consistency of light cream. Adjust the seasoning to taste and sprinkle with green onions before serving. Enjoy!

A Month of Sundaes

15 Jul

July is national ice cream month. What a wonderful thing to celebrate! The library has lots of cookbooks focused on making your own ice cream desserts. A fun one to read is A month of sundaes by Michael Turback (641.862 T931m). How does a Tin Roof Sundae sound? How about a Fire Chief Special or a Pink Flamingo? Fascinating history mixed with 150 recipes for all kinds of ice cream desserts make this book a treat.

Pound Cake Melba

4 slices pound cake

Vanilla ice cream

4 poached peach halves

2/3 cup grenadine syrup

1/2 cup toasted almonds, chopped

Place a slice of pound cake in the bottom of each of four dessert bowls. Top each with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and then a peach half, cut side down, on the ice cream. Ladle grenadine syrup over the top and sprinkle with chopped, toasted almonds.

(From staff: Don’t want to poach peaches? Just peel and sprinkle with sugar. Or use frozen or even canned. We won’t tell.)

Other titles to try:

The ice cream & frozen yogurt cookbook (641.862 H711i)

Ice cream treats : easy ways to transform your favorite ice cream into spectacular desserts (641.862 F383i)

Serendipity sundaes (641.862 B887s)

Hog Heaven

14 Jul

Pig: King of the Southern Table (640.664 V726p). Why an entire cookbook devoted to pork? In the words of the author, North Carolina native James Villas, “Southerners understand pork like nobody else, its vital role in our history, and to provide recipes showing how…to produce hundreds of succulent dishes for every formal and informal occasion imaginable.”  With soups, stews, chops, pies, roasts, ham, sausage, bacon, barbecue, rice dishes, breads and more, this James Beard American Cooking award winner has something delicious for everyone’s taste.  Try this quick soup flavored with smoky, but less fatty, Canadian bacon.

Canadian Bacon, Vegetable, and White Bean Soup

5 cups beef broth

1/4 pound Canadian bacon, diced

1 medium onion, diced

3 celery ribs, diced

6 carrots, scraped and diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes

One 19-ounce can Great Northern beans, drained

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, combine the broth, Canadian bacon, onion, celery, carrots, and garlic.  Bring to a low boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, beans, and salt and pepper, stir well, return to a simmer, and cook for about ten minutes longer.   Serve the soup piping hot in heavy soup bowls.

More titles from James Villas:

The bacon cookbook (641.664 V726b)

Biscuit bliss (641.815 V726b)

Crazy for casseroles (641.821 V726c)

The glory of Southern cooking (641.597 V726g)

Staff Favorite-Super Simple Pumpkin Tiramisu

13 Jul

Staff member Michael B. would like to share this recipe from his personal collection. It’s been a big hit at staff parties. Thanks Michael!

Super Simple Pumpkin Tiramisu

This needs to set up overnight, so start one day ahead.

Makes 8 servings.


1 ½ cups chilled whipping cream

3/4 cup sugar

1 (8-oz.) container mascarpone cheese

1 (15-oz.) can pure pumpkin

3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or 1/4  teaspoon each cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg)

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 (3-oz.) packages halved ladyfingers

1/4 cup Frangelico

2 oz. crushed amaretti cookies


Beat whipping cream and sugar until peaks form.  Mix mascarpone cheese, pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, and vanilla; beat just until filling is smooth; fold in whipped cream.

Line the bottom of a 9-in. diameter springform pan (with 2-¾ inch-high sides) with 1 package ladyfingers, overlapping and crowding to fit.  Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of Frangelico.  Spread half of filling over ladyfingers.

Repeat with second package of ladyfingers, remaining 2 tablespoons Frangelico, and remaining filling.  Smooth with spatula.  Wrap tightly in plastic, then foil. Chill overnight.

To unmold, run a knife around inside edge of pan.  Release pan sides; sprinkle with amaretti cookies.

The Oscars of Cookbooks

12 Jul

Our country’s most coveted food honor is probably a James Beard Foundation Award. There are several categories of awards, but in the American Cooking category there should be no surprise that many of the cookbook nominees are from the South. Today we are highlighting the 2009 winner, Screen Doors and Sweet Tea (641.597 F686.7s). Its author, Martha Hall Foose, is a Mississippi Delta girl. Trained in France, she has found her way back home.  Her book is a wonderful combination of unmistakably Southern recipes and personal stories (or wisecracks, as the case may be).

Sweet Potato Biscuits

1 cup mashed baked sweet potato (about 2 medium)

2/3 cup whole milk

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3 ½ teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Grease a baking sheet and set aside.  In a medium bowl, mix the sweet potato, milk, and butter. Sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.  Add to the potato mixture.   Gently mix the dry ingredients into the sweet potato mixture to form a soft dough.  Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until a deep golden orange tinged with brown.   Serve warm or let cool on a wire rack.