|Clockwise from top left: simmered green beans, stewed okra and tomatoes, hoecake (experimental), and white bean |
To loosely paraphrase Pulp Fiction, Southern veggies traditionally come one of two ways: burnt to a crisp or mushy as hell. We like to slice, batter, and fry a lot of things, and the outcome is usually scrumptious. Those plants that can't stand up to that treatment are usually immersed in water and bacon fat and simmered into soft submission. Since I am criminally lazy and despise cleaning up fat frying mess, I usually focus on the second treatment when I'm doing a down-home meal. Besides, it's healthier (especially if you're a pig like me and you sometimes drink the cooking liquid!).
The biggest challenge I had when I first turned veg was replacing bacon in my old school recipes. There's just nothing like that smokey, salty, fatty goodness, is there? Well, there is, but it took me heck of a lot of research to get it down. At first I tried soy bacon bits, but it just wasn't right. Next came smoked paprika - smoky, but not salty or fatty. Then, Kittee came along and rescued me with her red beans and rice recipe. She used smoked salt to give her beans a little of that classic flavor. This works wonders - as does Bryanna Clark Grogan's tip to use toasted sesame oil in dishes that call for pork seasoning. Ingenious, both of them! Just ingenious.
I used a combination of Kittee's and Bryanna's methods when I made up some Southern-style veggies this past weekend. Our subjects are stewed okra and tomatoes and green beans. Both are cooked pretty much the same way, with just minor variations for seasoning. These do contain added fat in the form of sesame oil and some margarine, so they are not suitable for anyone strictly following Dr. Barnard's diabetes diet. They are, however, still not bad for you - and yummy, if I do say so myself.
There really is no recipe for the two of them, so I'll just give you an outline of how each is cooked.
A. For both dishes, you will need:
- Vegetable broth (about three cups, just to be safe)
- Black pepper, to taste
- Smoked salt (a scant 1/8 of a teaspoon for each recipe)
- Toasted sesame oil (just a few drops)
- Earth Balance (about one teaspoon per recipe)
B. For the okra and tomatoes, you will also need:
- About two cups of sliced okra (this was most of a two-pint basket for me)
- One large tomato, diced (an equivalent amount of canned would probably be fine, and the juice would take the place of the some of the broth)
- One small onion, diced
- Cajun seasoning (about a scant teaspoon - more or less to your taste)
C. For the green beans, you will also need:
- About two cups of broad, flat green beans (Kentucky Wonder or Italian) - frozen is fine
- One small onion (you dice it, or if you have a picky eater like Red you can just peel it and cut in half - that way it lends the flavor without getting intermingled with the beans themselves)
Cooking method for both dishes:
I have two 2-quart slow cookers, and I placed the veggies and seasonings for each recipe in its respective crock pot. Be sure to add the items from Group A to each pot as well. Use enough veggie broth to cover about three quarters of the veggies in each pot; you should be able to just barely see it when you look down (you can always add more later if it gets dry). Cook each crock pot for about 3-4 hours on high, or 5-6 hours on low. The green beans will be soft and a dark olive drab green when they're done; the okra and tomatoes will be soft and saucy. If you don't want to go the slow-cooker route, you can simmer each on the stove top for 45 minutes to an hour.
The green beans need no adornment, but the okra and tomatoes (and their juices) are traditionally served over rice. Or, if rice doesn't agree with you, you can serve it over a little white bean
Sorry gang, no Nutrition Information today. Just know that you traditionally don't count the carbs in the actual veggies, and that there is a little added fat from the sesame oil and the margarine. Happy nibbling!