Kay Wheeler Moore

Welcome to my blog

Hello. . .

The Newfangled Country Gardener is for anyone who has a garden, would like to have a garden, or who simply enjoys eating the garden-fresh way. I don't claim to be an expert; in this blog I'm simply sharing some of the experiences my husband and I have in preparing food that is home-grown.

About the author

Kay Wheeler Moore is the author of a new cookbook, Way Back in the Country Garden, that features six generations of recipes that call for ingredients that are fresh from the garden. With home gardening surging in popularity as frugal people become more resourceful, this recipe collection and the stories that accompany it ideally will inspire others to cook the garden-fresh way and to preserve their own family food stories as well. The stories in this book center around the Three Red-Haired Miller Girls (Kay's mother and aunts) who grew up in Delta County, TX, with their own backyard garden so lavish that they felt as though they were royalty after their Mama wielded her kitchen magic on all that was homegrown. Introduced in Kay's previous book, Way Back in the Country, the lively Miller Girls again draw readers into their growing-up world, in which a stringent economic era--not unlike today's tight times--saw people turn to the earth to put food on the table for their loved ones. The rollicking yarns (all with recipes attached) have love, family, and faith as common denominators and show how food evocatively bonds us to our life experiences.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Summer and Southern blend in this okra-cheese grits recipe

When I saw the recipe, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Two of my favorite food items in all the world—cheese grits and okra—pulled together in one combo casserole. This must be my week for perfect pairings. Yesterday’s blog was about the dynamite combination of pears and apples in the most delectable pie ever. Now today I’m extolling okra with cheese grits. With all these dynamic duos, you’d think we were celebrating Valentine’s Day.

The only problem for baking this wonderful dish that I found described on www.myrecipes.com was my okra supply. Baby okra abound—we’ll have a bumper crop in a few days—but we’re waiting for the next wave. I did manage to scrape together enough mature okra for 6 small fresh okra pods called for in this casserole, but I could have added twice that amount and felt even more indulged.

The original recipe on myrecipes.com (originally from Southern Living October 1999) was called Baked Polenta with Cheese and Okra—polenta being just another name for something made from boiled cornmeal. We speak grits around here, so I subbed a name that described the casserole’s ingredients.

I can’t describe what a big hit this made around my house. Grown daughter happened in for a visit. When I suggest she sample something I’ve just made for a blog, I always can see trepidation in her eyes. Another weird veggie combination? I can read in her thoughts. But when the words cheese grits and okra emerge from my mouth, she’s a willing volunteer.

This basically involves cooking quick grits on the stovetop, stirring in okra, cheese, butter, and egg, and then baking in a casserole for 55 to 60 minutes. Adding the okra keeps the casserole from being boring and works a very Southern veggie into a very Southern dish.

Baked Cheese Grits and Okra Casserole

4 cups water, divided
6 small fresh okra pods
1 cup uncooked quick-cooking grits
1/2 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten (or 1/2 cup egg substitute)
1/4 cup butter, cut into pieces
8 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese (or 1 8-ounce block sharp Cheddar, cubed)

In a large saucepan over medium heat bring 2 cups water to a boil; add okra and cook 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon remove okra. Reserve liquid in pan. Cool okra slightly and coarsely chop. Add remaining 2 cups water to reserved liquid; bring to a boil. Gradually stir in grits and salt; return to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 to 7 minutes. Gradually whisk about one-fourth of the grits into eggs; add this to remaining hot mixture. Whisk constantly. Whisk in butter. Stir in okra and cheese. Spoon into slightly greased 11-by-7-inch baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 to 60 minutes or until set. Makes 8 servings.

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