Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Turn on that oven and bake!

With the drop in temperature the interest in cooking has been renewed with verve. Building on the fact that I had a dairy extravaganza last week, precipitated by an over accumulation of cream in the freezer.   I made two pounds of butter which also yielded about 2 quarts of buttermilk and some creme fresh.  I also made yogurt and yogurt cheese.  Next came two buttermilk apple crumb cakes and last night a bodacious buttermilk spoon bread.  Spoon bread is an interesting cross between cornbread and polenta or mush.  Last night I added fresh corn, pasilla chiles, and chopped green onions, the resulting dish was hearty, creamy, sweet, (though I added no sugar) and quite satisfying. Recipe below.

I was surprised in the garden yesterday to see the sweet potatoes blooming.  A pretty flower, like a morning glory, which is in the same plant family.  There has been a battle of sorts going on for the past couple of months between the sweet potatoes which always grow rampant and run over everything around them and the Long Island Cheese squash.

Sweet potatoes are one of the happiest crops in our climate.  There is a reason North Carolina is the largest producer of sweet potatoes in the country raising close to 40% of all the sweet potatoes grown in the US, they grow VERY happily here.  Lately, eating the greens seems to be the rage, everyone is talking about it, and the way they grow, its worth trying.  So last night we did.  Just the tender tips and youngest leaves, washed and sauteed like spinach in olive oil with a little garlic, S&P, they were quite tasty.  I've heard they are also super nutritious.  Researching a bit I see its recommended that they are blanched in boiling water for a couple of minutes before stir-frying them, but we did not do that and they were still good.
The Long Island Cheese squashes huge pizza sized leaves rambled down through the sweet potato patch and even up into the pepper cages. They have traveled easily 40 feet down the row and back again.
One squash hangs down between a couple of pepper plants, another is over in the asparagus patch.  I had tried this squash once before but unsuccessfully.  They are a type of butternut but not as dense or sweet, the flesh is slightly more stringy, a little like a spaghetti squash, light and good flavored. This year we put the seeds in the ground and just got out of the way!  The result; four good sized squashes from two plants. I think pound for pound the sweet potatoes will win out but everyone seems to have come to an amicable sharing of space.
This one here is the biggest and best. 12.5 Pounds 
I can just see Cinderella riding off to the ball in this dude

So for the spoon bread, here's the recipe which is a doubling of the original from the Joy of Cooking, plus my embellishments, always embellishing...

Buttermilk Spoon Bread 6-8 servings
Pour 3 cups boiling water over 2 cups yellow cornmeal, mix well and let cool
beat together 2 eggs, 2 T melted butter, 2 cups buttermilk, 2 t baking soda and 1.5 t salt
Scrape the kernels from two ears of corn (or open a can or use frozen, about 1 cup of kernels)
Roast, skin, seed and chop 2 pasilla, poblano or other mild green chiles
Chop a cup of green onions
Mix it all together and pour into a buttered dish to bake at 350 for about an hour or until set.
I used a deeper corning ware dish , if you used a flatter baking dish, like a 9x12 it will probably bake faster and be drier.  I think sprinkling some grated cheese over top, cheddar or jack or a combo would be a good addition too.

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