What do I do with all this stuff?
You've had an exhilarating day at the farmer's market and returned with a backseat-load of produce--colorful, healthy, and diverse.
Or, your trip to your garden plot has yielded a potpourri basketful of bits and pieces--some random okra, a few corn ears, a handful of tomatoes, an onion here and there--not enough to stock a cellar with canned goods but never-so-fresh-as-now and calling to be prepared and eaten.
What to do? Where do you go for inspiration?
Farmwives of the past, believe it or not, faced the same dilemma.
We tend to regard women of bygone days--when gardens were a necessity and when frugal food preparation meant the difference between survival and starvation for some families--as born wise in the "how-to" department. We tend to think of granny ladies of that era as people who hatched out mature and well-versed in automatically knowing how to use their garden produce.
Enter our Aunt Frances and her first job out of high school.
As a young woman entering the work world in Delta County, TX, Aunt Frances was hired by the county extension agent as an office helper. Her job was to type the recipes that the agent then carried to rural homes throughout the region. The recipes were welcome helps to farmwives who were stumped about how to use their garden pickin's so they didn't have to fix the "same-old, same-old" for supper. (An entire chapter, "Downtown", is devoted to this in my new cookbook, Way Back in the Country Garden.)
An example of the kind of recipes Aunt Frances would type--and also tuck away for the eventual day she, as a married lady, would be queen of her own kitchen--is today's feature: Sauteed Okra, Corn, and Tomatoes. A few evenings ago, when we brought in just "a bit of this and a bit of that" from our garden, this dish was a perfect medley. As I mentioned in my blog post, "Fresh vegetables unadorned make for some delightful seasoned greetings", Hubby and I always are incredulous how the fresh vegetables season themselves--with only limited salt and pepper recommended to be added--yet how immensely flavorful!
What the county extension office did in Aunt Frances' day is the same kind of help the Chickasaw Nation Nutrition Services office provides today to help Chickasaws learn to cook more healthily and to use homegrown produce. My hubby and I stand amazed each time we visit our closest Chickasaw offices in Ardmore, OK. The nutrition-services building has free recipe cards on display in its entry. Live food demos are scheduled several times a day; they feature test kitchen and personnel to show how recipes on the freebie cards are prepared.
(Of course in today's Internet age, merely "Googling" the names of ingredients you have also can turn up a wealth of ideas as well.)
Hubby and I enjoyed our Sauteed Okra, Corn, and Tomatoes for dinner alongside Sauteed Zucchini and Fettuccini (featured in Wednesday's blog). The fact that we had this okra medley recipe in our collection (thanks to Aunt Frances, who by the way died a year ago at age 102) made us really happy that those farmwives of yesteryear needed a little help now and then!
Sauteed Okra, Corn, and Tomatoes
2 pounds fresh okra, with stems and tips removed
3 pounds tomatoes, skinned and seeded
8 ears fresh corn
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons oil
4 cups onions, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon salt (we used salt substitute)
freshly ground pepper
Cut okra into 1/4-inch rounds; discard tops. This should make about 6 cups of okra. Put tomatoes in stainless or enameled pan and cook slowly for about half an hour. Do not scorch. Drain any liquid. This should make about 2 cups of tomatoes. Use sharp knife to cut corn from cob. In a skillet heat butter and oil. Add okra and onions. Cook until onions are wilted and okra has begun to brown at edges, about 10-15 minutes. Turn often; add reduced tomatoes and salt; cook 5 minutes. Add corn and cook 3-4 more minutes. Add salt and pepper; season to taste.