Thursday, June 29, 2017

hors d'oeuvres of ramps, ham and blu cheese

This is one of the best Hors d'oeuvres I've ever come up with: Crackers topped with baked ham, home made blue cheese and sour cream dressing and a ramp and red pepper salad.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Southern Kimchi?

I had some storage vegetables on hand and was thinking about roasting them. I laid a nice, sweet cabbage on the counter, laid out some carrots, some radishes, storage onions, garlic... a few green onions... I noticed a string of dried hot peppers in the corner.... a knob of ginger..... I realized that I had nearly everything I needed for kimchi! I was out of fish sauce, so I substituted a couple of dashes of store bought soy sauce and a spoonful of kombucha. I'll know in 10 days if it is worth eating, but it tastes like a good Asian slaw already, so I think it is going to be good. Kimchi may not be traditionally Southern, but neither was chowchow or chutney until Southerners began making it..... I'm thinking of all kinds of substitutions using traditional Southern vegetables. Obviously, turnips could substitute for radishes, collards for cabbage.... maybe rutabaga... Vidalia onions... ramps... maybe wild ginger... cayenne peppers.. Do y'all have any suggestions?

Monday, June 26, 2017

Radish Greens

Well, I just had a head-slapping moment! I was chatting with an elderly Asian lady the other day and she was curious about Southern greens. She was very pleased to learn of our passion for turnips - apparently, that is a big deal in Japan. I mentioned that my favorite is mustard. She told me that they have several varieties of Asian mustard, and the greens are among her favorites along with radish tops. Well, I had never tried cooked radish tops. She was amazed by this ...and seemed to think it was a real shame that my radish tops had gone to the compost heap or the chickens. Well, radishes are in the same family as both mustard and turnips... so I gave it a try. WOW! Just cooked in oil and salt, they are awesome! The flavor is somewhere between mild mustard greens and spinach with butter... seriously! The flavor is very buttery. The high mineral content gives the distinct aroma of roasted oysters. The taste is not fishy, but the aroma has a strong aspect of oysters roasted in the shell. So, if you closed your eyes, you would anticipate Oysters Rockefeller. It is really a very good, mild, savory, green with a remarkable depth of flavor and aroma

Thursday, June 22, 2017

My Eggplant Parmesan

Here is my eggplant Parmesan recipe (I ate it all before I took a pic, so I grabbed these from wiki).   I make my mayo from scratch, so I use it to enrich a lot of things. I tried it one day just to see if it would help hold the bred crumbs on, and the results were fantastic. That is what got me started pressing the liquid out of the eggplant - that gives it a more meat like texture, firmness and not soggy, so that it really binds with the mayo and crumbs. The mayo gives it a richness, a meatiness and a background layer of tanginess, even though I don't use much. It is not a traditional Italian recipe - just something I came up with.

First, the sauce.... which is the most important thing, because you can use it for lots of other dishes.
Heat a pan to about medium hot and toss in enough olive oil to cover the bottom. Add about 1/2 to finely chopped medium onion (yellow or white is best). Once the onion has softened and turned translucent, toss in a 2 or 3 chopped garlic cloves. As those cook, add a pinch of crushed red pepper, a das...h of slat and black pepper, oregano, rosemary, basil and thyme ( a pinch to a half teaspoon full of dried, or twice as much fresh). Then, add one large can of crushed tomatoes. Simmer that for a bit and salt and season to taste.

The second most important thing is getting the water out of the eggplant - it is bitter and makes it hard to cook.

First, either peel your eggplant or peel off alternating strips, so it looks striped.... or leave the peel on (which is what I do). Then, lay it down lengthwise and cut of round slices about 1 inch thick. Salt the round on each side and place them on in a colander, with paper towels between each layer. Put a plate on top and a double sized can of tomatoes (or something about the same weight) on top of the plate. Leave it for an hour. The weight of the plate and the can will press the water out and the salt will really pull it out.

Then, spread a little mayonnaise on each side of the eggplant rounds and coat them in Italian bread crumbs. (home made or store bought). You can then either bake these in an oven, single layer of breaded eggplant rounds on a cookie sheet for about 30 min at 350 degrees, turning over half way, or until brown) or pan fry them in olive oil until brown.

After the eggplant is browned, put a some sauce in a casserole dish or baking pan and sprinkle some parmesan (or mixed cheese) over it, lay a layer of eggplant on that and then put more cheese on the eggplant. Put sauce on that and repeat until all the eggplant is used. Put more sauce on top, more parmesan and some good slices of mozzarella. (if you want to spice it up a little, some Italian sausage between the eggplant layers is really good).

Bake at 350, uncovered for 30 min or until the cheese is browned.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Byron Dalrymple on Cane Pole fishing

"In early 1975 I was assigned by Outdoor Life magazine to do a story about the enjoyment, the art and, the productiveness of fishing with a cane pole, bobber and bait for bass and panfish.  The research for that story took me back to boyhood.  I have long claimed that bobber and bait fishing is one of the most dramatic of angling sports.  Many a youngster started that way. Then, as it is said, he "graduated" to casting with artificials.  Nonsense!  He gave up an infinitely dramatic endeavor for one really seldom half as much so.

Part of the time while renewing my acquaintance with the cane pole, I fished on a lake that I built on a property of ours.  I suddenly realized all over again fully,  what it meant to move a boat quietly.  With a cane pole, you have to get close.  I learned over again how to be quiet myself in the boat.  And how to reach gingerly out and put a baited hook into a small pocket without disturbing the fish.  Modern, big boat anglers never learn such arts.  They zoom and carom, cast a country mile.  As a cane poler I was put suddenly, by the restrictions of my tackle, on intimate terms with my quarry.  But the real drama was brought back to me as I watched the bobber.  Of c course, you can fish an artificial fly down below the bobber.  If you move it by crawling it along you may catch something.  But, try leaving it still and it is a total dud.  A fish may nose up to it, then turn aside. A worm - any bait - however is something different.

Any fish knows that it is good to eat, undoubtedly partly from past experience, but probably mostly from the smell.  It also looks edible and when nibbled it feels right.  If fish do have a developed sense of taste, which they may,  it tastes right.  So a bait, with out any question, has several advantages that artificials lack.  Regardless of propaganda to the contrary, if fish won't take bait it's likely they won't take an artificial either.  But time and again when fish won't strike artificials, they will eagerly seize bait.  So, it is awfully hard to argue cogently in favor of artificials.  You either want to catch fish, or you don't.

Recently, in fact again, on my own lake I watched from the cover of a tree shadowed by the dam, as a bass of possibly four pounds cruised slowly nearby.  Eagerly I pitched a lure out past the fish and worked it near.  The bass spurned it I.  tried several different kinds.  The brute would not even look.  So, the heck with him.  I rigged a worm baited hook and a bobber and tossed out to catch a redear sunfish if I could.  Shortly, I had one.  As  it protested on the way in, that big bass literally exploded out of the weeds and belted it.  He didn't get it, and I didn't get him, but he certainly knew what was good to eat -  in his then selective mood - and what wasn't. 

While I researched my cane pole story, I was reminded again of the beautiful anguish of watching dancing bobber with bait below.  It lies first inert upon on a flat surface.   Then, it suddenly jiggles.  You tense, you snug the line oh so gently.  The bobber skitters aside, goes under.   You start to set the hook but it pops up again. None of this would happen if an artificial dangled below.  Further, when you cast an artificial lure and wind it in, there's a strike and you grind away.  The strike is a split second thrill.  Bait fishing with a bobber drags the exquisite excitement out almost unbearably.  Suddenly the bobber goes. You haul back.  Of course this is an art!  Of course it is sporting!"

 - from How To Rig and Fish Natural Baits

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

What Fishing Equipment is Necessary?

The short answer is, none.  You can fish with only your hands.  There is a long tradition of people feeling around under a river bank and pulling out catfish.  Where I live though, in the American southeast, I wouldn't recommend it.  People do it, but we have way too many alligators and big snapping turtles, that will bite your hand right off.

When the beginning fisher-person (from now on, I'll use the term "angler to avoid this awkward phrase) enters a tackle shop, sporting goods store, big box store or opens a catalogue, the choice of fishing equipment (called tackle) and accessories is overwhelming.  Fishing tackle and related products are a huge industry and a good salesperson will be more than happy to convince you that you can't get started without spending at least a few hundred dollars.... and of course, the more you spend, the more fish you will catch... right?  Actually, no.  Some, perhaps even most, fishing tackle will catch fish if used properly, at the right time, under the right circumstances and matched to the right fish.  A lot of what you will see though, is designed to catch anglers - they are just shiny lures meant to land your wallet.

All you really need to fish is a few yards of fishing line and a hook.  You can wrap the line around your hand or a stick, tie the free end to a hook (by the way, hooks used to be called "angles", which is why people who fish are called anglers), bait the hook with something heavy enough to throw and you will very likely catch a fish if there is a fish there to catch.  Hand line fishing works, and in some cases, is a very good option for catching fish.  Often times, I catch more blue crabs from the Intercoastal Waterway, with just a length of rope and a piece of chicken than I do with crab pots and traps.  I just toss out the baited cord, wait a few minutes and gently pull it back in.  If there is a crab clinging to the bait, I'll bring him to just beneath the surface of the water and slip a long handled landing net underneath.  As I pull the bait from the water, the crab will let go and fall into my net.   You can also fish with a spear/gig or net, but that takes specialized equipment and we will get into that later. For now, lets stick with hook and line fishing.

A step up from a hand line, is to tie a few yards of fishing line to a long bamboo/cane pole.  You usually just tie on enough line to reach from the tip (skinny end) to the butt (the part you hold in your hand).  This allows you to swing or gently cast your bait more accurately, makes it less likely the fish will see you and the flexible but strong cane pole gives you leverage to land the fish.  Hand lines are better for smaller fish, because they lack this leverage - fighting a larger fish can cause the line to cut into your hand.  The flexibility and resilience of the cane pole also allows you to use lighter line. Lighter line is less easily seen by the fish and allows the bait to have more natural movement int he water.  I have landed many 15 - 30 lb catfish with only 10 lb test monofilament line on my cane pole.  "10 lb test" means the line is strong enough to suspend 10 pounds of static (not moving or jerking) weight.  Even though fish jerk and jump as you try to pull them in, the springiness of the cane pole and the slight elasticity of the monofilament, make landing a larger fish no problem (so long as you are patient enough to fight and land the fish, as opposed to trying to yank him out of the water as soon as he strikes your bait).  If you are targeting smaller, "panfish" line lighter than 10 lb will be even better - you may loose a big fish, but you will very likely catch more small ones.

This simple set up only needs two (optional) improvements to maximize its potential to catch fish.  The first is a small metal weight or sinker that you can tie near the hook to help it sink.  The second is a bobber or float.  The bobber serves two purposes, the most important of which is that can be used to control the depth at which your bait is suspended in the water.  The bobber is tied or clipped onto the line - the higher you attach it above the hook, the deeper the hook hangs down in the water.  The bobber can be used to hold your bait just off of the bottom mud, dangle it just above under water weeds or just below the surface.  The bobber and the weight allow you to put your bait where the fish are feeding.  The second use for a bobber is to indicate a strike.  The bobber is colorful and floats on top of the water.  When a fish nibbles your bait, it will shake.  When a fish takes your bait, it will dip under the water, telling you to pull back and set the hook.

That said, there are many situation in which you would not want to use the weight at all.  Often, especially when fishing for panfish like blue gills, in small ponds, clear still water or the shallows of a larger body of water, the weight may scare off the fish.  I have often found that by using an in-weighted hook with just the bobber a worm, cricket or grub, that I have had better results.  The lack of weight offers a better presentation to the fish as the bait floats down naturally.  This can be the "secret" to catching a lot of panfish.

It is also true that you don't even need a bobber or a fishing pole to catch a steady supply  of good eating fish - especially catfish.  Jug rigs and trotlines allow you to set a baited line and walk or paddle away.  Yuo come back later, pull in the line/s and may very likely have caught a week's worth of meals in one leisurely afternoon.  Some argue that there is no "sport" in that, but sport is not the point when the collection of food is the priority.  A jug rig is simply an empty plastic jug, with the cap screwed on and a length of line with a hook and bait attached to it.  The jug floats naturally on the water and will catch fish.  If conditions are windy, you may want to partially fill the jug with water to give it more weight.  A trot line is a longer length of line, weighted on one end and tied to something on the bank at the other, with sever short lines tied to it, each with a baited hook.

So, a cane pole, a few yards of line, a few hooks, sinkers and bobbers are all the equipment you need to begin fishing.  The total cost of this outfit should be less than $10.  All you need beyond that is bait, a fishing license (if necessary - check your state fishing regulations) and a body of water.  One dinner of fish will more than make up for your monetary investment.  So, there is really no excuse not to take up fishing both for enjoyment and to supplement your food budget.  It is among the most rewarding uses of time and resource.