RECIPE: FRIED OKRA

You know those "you might be a redneck" jokes by Jeff Foxworthy? Well, I am sure there is one about growing and eating okra. Yes. I grow okra. And yes. I cannot wait to fry up the first batch each summer. Right now, I've got more okra than I can give away, in fact. Okra is a lot like zucchini. At first, you think it isn't going to grow and then you have so many, you cannot eat it all or give it away. People actually run when they see you coming with a basket full of zucchini or okra because they probably have more than they can eat at their house, too.

You really have to watch the okra in the garden. It can quickly get away from you if you are not careful and go from perfect to tough in a day. Whether picking it yourself or shopping for it at the store or farmer's market, you want the tender, young okra. Bigger is not better. The larger okra pods have tough husks and are too chewy.

Growing up, fried okra was always a real treat. To me, a freshly picked homegrown tomato, a pile of fried okra and a deviled egg or two on my plate is all I need to make a perfect summer supper. Growing up, my mom would put a bowl of fried okra on the table and we'd fight over it like candy. There was never enough.

Most folks use buttermilk for frying okra but since I don't always have buttermilk and always have heavy cream in the fridge, I use heavy cream. I also think it sticks to the okra better.

WHIPPING CREAM FRIED OKRA

INGREDIENTS

4 cups fresh okra, sliced into 1/2" pieces (this is probably about a pound of okra)

1 1/2 cups heavy cream or whipping cream (you can use buttermilk)

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup self-rising cornmeal

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

scant pinch, cayenne pepper

Vegetable oil for frying

DIRECTIONS

Cut the tips and stem end off each okra pod and slice into 1/2" pieces.

Put the heavy cream into a bowl. Add the sliced okra. Let it soak for 15-20 minutes.

Make the dredge in a large bowl or zip top bag by combining the flour, cornmeal, salt, pepper, and cayenne.

Working in small batches, use a slotted spoon or a strainer to remove the okra from the whipping cream. Add the drained okra to the dredge mixture. Toss well to coat evenly. Remove from the dredge using a slotted spatula or a slotted spoon and shake it a bit to allow the excess flour to fall off. (otherwise this excess will fall into the oil and burn as you are frying the okra) You want a light coating on the okra, not a heavy, solid breading like you often see with fried okra at restaurants. You want to be able to see the okra.

NOTE: I have frozen the okra at this point by spreading it out in a single layer on a sheet pan. Once frozen, I put it into single serving zip top bags and it is ready to fry when I need it. I doesn't keep well for a long period of time- use it within a month or so.

To fry: Add vegetable oil to 2" deep on your frying pan, cast iron skillet, or Dutch oven. I like canola oil. My mom used Crisco vegetable oil. Heat the oil to 360 degrees or test it by dropping a piece of okra in the hot oil. You want the okra to sizzle when you drop it into the oil but not too hot that it burns up before the okra is cooked fully.

Again, working in small batches, add a single layer of okra to the hot oil in the pan. Fry until golden brown and drain on paper towels. Repeat.

Check the seasoning- sometimes I will add a sprinkle of salt when the okra comes out of the hot oil.

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RECIPE: EASY, FAST, AND ALWAYS PERFECT GRILLED CORN ON THE COB

It's just about corn season! To me, nothing says summer more than fresh picked corn and I cannot wait to bite into that first piece of corn from the grill. Some of my friends think it is hard to grill good corn- that it gets dried out, etc. I've got a super easy way to grill corn for a crowd that is perfect every time. Here's how:

MARTIE'S PERFECTLY EASY GRILLED CORN

SUPPLIES

Large tub or bucket

Large Styrofoam ice chest

Grill (charcoal, gas, wood fire or whatever you like)

Long handled tongs

Oven mitt or heat-proof glove

INGREDIENTS

2 dozen ears of fresh corn in the husk (you don't have to remove the inner silks but it does make it easier for your guests if you do) Estimate 2 ears of corn per guest.

Butter

Salt

Pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Check the ears for any evidence of bugs, etc. Snip the silks off of the tip of each ear. I usually don't slice the bottom off so people have something to hold on to... but you can cut them level if you are using plastic corn holders.

Submerge the ears in cool water and let them soak for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.

While the corn is soaking, fire up your grill. You want a medium heat and an indirect heat zone-so move some of your coals to the outer edge of the grill if you are using charcoal. so you can move the corn off direct heat. Make sure the grill rack is not down too low. You want indirect heat so the husks don't burn. A bit of charring is good but if the heat is too high or the grill is too low over the coals, you'll burn up the husks before the corn cooks inside.

Once the coals are ready, drain the water.

Place the corn on the center of the grill- stay away from the outer edge where there could be hot spots.

Cover the grill and leave it alone for 12 minutes. (you may need to adjust the time if you have a larger quantity of corn)

Open and turn the ears to char the other side. Close the grill and let cook for another 5 minutes.

Remove the corn and immediately put it in the Styrofoam ice chest and put the top on it as fast as you can. Put something heavy on top of the chest to keep the lid down tight.

Allow the corn to continue to steam in the chest until serving time- at least 15 minutes. I usually do this an hour or more before the party and it is perfect to serve when guests arrive. The ice chest keeps the corn steaming hot!

To serve: Put the corn in a big bowl and pass family or simply allow guests to serve themselves. Provide tongs and heat-proof mitts. Guests simply peel back the husks and the silks fall off with it. Set up condiments like butter, salt, pepper, lime, queso fresco, cilantro, or spices.

So easy, so fast, and soooo dang good! Have a trash can nearby where they can dispose of the husks and cob.

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RECIPE: ROASTED WHOLE CAULIFLOWER

I don’t like cauliflower. That is- until I tasted it roasted. Even kids will eat it. I serve it for Halloween with a large knife in the center of it and tell the kids it is a brain. It’s a big hit. You can also puree it after cooking with some veggie or chicken broth and heavy cream to make a beautiful Cream of Cauliflower soup or with butter and heavy cream to make a Cauliflower mash-a great substitute for potatoes.

ROASTED WHOLE CAULIFLOWER

Skill level: Easy

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes based on size of the head of cauliflower

INGREDIENTS

1 head cauliflower

1 teaspoon canola oil or olive oil

6 tablespoons butter

2 teaspoons kosher salt

 DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Cut the stem of the cauliflower down to the base as far as possible so that it sits flat on the skillet.

Put the whole cauliflower head in a cast iron skillet. Rub oil over the cauliflower. Roast for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and smear butter over the surface. Sprinkle with salt. Roast for 20-30 more minutes, occasionally brushing with the butter in the pan using a pastry brush. It is done when you can easily insert a knife into the center and it meets no resistance.

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