Monday, August 22, 2011

summer across the south

I've lived in Nashville for just over a week now, and I have discovered that although it differs from Charleston in a number of ways, the two cities share at least one thing in common: they have awesome summer produce. High-quality, inexpensive fruits and vegetables are hard to find, so as soon as I decided to move to Nashville I began scouring the internet for places to buy produce here. Luckily, I almost immediately found Green Door Gourmet, a local "farm to fork venture" that offers weekly CSA boxes for $20, with no seasonal commitment. I ordered my first box on Friday and picked it up on Saturday; I was not disappointed. Corn, heirloom tomatoes, peppers, squash, basil, cucumbers, and okra filled my rather large box to the brim, and they even threw in a free bag of locally sourced cornmeal for good measure.

But what to do with all of it? I'm only one person, and this was a LOT of vegetables. Nostalgia kicked in soon enough, and I decided to combine some of my okra, tomatoes, and corn with black-eyed peas for the quintessential southern summer dish.

I'm not even going to feign humility here; this turned out damn good. (Unfortunately, the pictures did not, so you'll have to trust me on this one.) One thing I love about food is that it can make me feel at home no matter where I am, and as I create a new home in a new city I find this quality especially important. It's nice to know that even though I'm nine hours away from Charleston, at any moment I could be eating the very same variety of tomato I would find at the farmer's market on Marion Square.

black-eyed peas with summer vegetables
makes about 6 servings as a side dish, 4 as a main
nutrition: it's healthy except for the time to calculate 
   nutrition facts now that i'm actually busy!

1 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 c diced bell pepper (about 1/2 medium)
1 c okra (about 8 large pods), sliced into disks
1 c corn kernels (from about 1 large ear)
1 medium tomato, chopped
2 cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained, OR
   1 c. dried, prepared from package directions
1 c water
1 tbsp molasses
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp salt, or more or less to taste

Melt butter in large cast iron (preferred) or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and bell pepper and cook until lightly browned, a minute or so.

Add okra, corn, and tomatoes, and cook until slightly softened and blackened in spots, 5-7 minutes or more. Add black-eyed peas, water, molasses, vinegar, thyme, and red pepper, and stir to combine. Let cook down until little liquid remains. Add salt to taste (and more molasses, vinegar, thyme, or red pepper, if you want) and serve.

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