Take advantage of the “safe zone” and fill the freezer
Posted 3:07 p.m. on Sunday, November 20, 2022
By Kara Kimbrough
In a few days we will be in what I call the safe zone. Basically, these are the fleeting days between food-heavy Thanksgiving and the frenetic weeks of the Christmas season.
I plan to take full advantage of the too short days after Thanksgiving and the month of December which flies by.
And, as the weather has turned unusually cold for November, it provides a great excuse to fill my freezer with lots of what I call “winter food”, i.e. soups, stews, hot peppers and heavy foods like kidney beans and rice.
Before I delve into the content of my free zone frozen food week, I must share the passionate comments of a social media post/photo of a simple bowl of okra served to me at Doc’s Seafood in Orange Beach, Ala. I posted jokingly, “You know you’re not in Mississippi when okra is okra,”- Or something to that effect. I was looking for humor. It turned against him.
The reason for the comment that seemed to offend so many people? I’ve interviewed many Gulf Coast cooks and they’ve never said for sure, “Gumbo is a prerequisite for okra.” As long as your lime powder or roux is on point, okra MUST NOT contain okra.
Additionally, I’ve eaten many, many bowls of okra along our state’s coastal region and some of them, including many reputable restaurants, did not contain the slimy vegetable. Additional note: I do like fried okra in the summer. It’s the boiled variety that leaves me cold.
Anyway, I was clearly in the minority among the friends who felt that I needed my head examined even to suggest this okra is perfectly fine without okra. I really had no idea okra inspired such loyalty among Mississippians. Believe me, I do now. But I still prefer my okra without okra. Please let me know your thoughts – Team Okra… or not?
Second, I learned a lesson in judging other states for, to put it bluntly, not being “Mississippi.” I mean, they can’t create food that rivals anything Mississippi cooks put on the table – can they? In fact, I caught myself passing up a cookbook of California’s best recipes.
The fact that it was part of the “Best of the Best” state cookbook series published by Mississippi’s Quail Ridge Press and only cost fifty cents on a library’s book-selling table blew me away. pushed to buy it.
Flipping through the pages, I was shocked to find so many recipes I really wanted to try, including Chicken Pot Pie, Creole Shrimp, Peach Pie, and Seafood Salad, to name a few. some.
In my defense, my misconception about California cuisine stemmed from stories from friends who lived in the state for a while and talked about the “seeds, nuts, berries, and kale” that health-conscious Californians seemed to survive on. so you can wear bikinis and swimsuits at the beach all year round.
Lesson learned: don’t judge an entire state OR its cooks by hearsay. I even selected a taco soup recipe from the cookbook that I will be making in double batches to fill my freezer for a while.
Well, I said this week was a respite to think about Thanksgiving or Christmas, but I have one small request. Please send me the “best of the best” Christmas activities, decorations and places to enjoy holiday dining in your area.
I will include them in columns before Christmas, along with advice on how and where to buy food and gifts.
In the meantime, enjoy this “shoulder week,” filled with plenty of winter comfort food, before the official Christmas season arrives. .
Super Cali Taco Soup
8 ounces ground beef
½ cup chopped onion
1-1/2 tablespoons flour
2 cups of water
17 ounces whole kernel corn, drained
16 ounces of kidney beans
16 ounces canned tomatoes
2 tablespoons taco seasoning
1 tablespoon sweet taco sauce
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Brown ground beef and onion in skillet, stirring frequently; drain. Add flour, stirring until dissolved. Add water. Pour into a large saucepan. Add corn, beans, tomatoes, taco seasoning, taco sauce, seasoned salt, garlic powder and salt. Bring to boil; lower the temperature. Simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour into soup bowls. Top with shredded cheddar cheese, sliced green onions, crushed tortilla chips and sour cream. For 8 people. (doubles easily)
Recipe from California Cookbook’s Best of the Best. Quail Ridge Press, 2000.
Best red beans and rice
1 pound dried red kidney beans
¼ cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
6 cups water (for the beans)
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon dried sage
1 bay leaf
1 pound andouille sausage, sliced
4 cups of water (for the rice)
2 cups long grain white rice
Rinse the beans thoroughly, then soak them in a large pot of water overnight.
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Slice sausage and cook in oil until browned. Drain and transfer to a plate; refrigerate. Cook onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic in remaining oil (add more if needed) for 3 to 4 minutes or until translucent.
Rinse the beans again, then transfer them to a large saucepan filled with 6 cups of water. Stir in cooked vegetables with beans. Season with Cajun seasoning, cayenne pepper, sage and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for about 2 1/2 hours.
While the beans cook, prepare the rice by bringing the water and rice to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
Stir sausage into beans; simmer 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaf before serving. serve bean and sausage mixture over steamed white rice.
Favorite chili recipe
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 pound ground chuck
2 1/2 tablespoons chilli powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 tbsp garlic powder
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1-1/2 cup beef broth
15 ounce can small diced tomatoes, undrained
16 ounces kidney beans, drained and rinsed (you can omit the beans if you prefer)
8 ounces of tomato sauce
Add olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion; cook 5 minutes until translucent. Add chopped chuck and separate to cook well. Cook 6-7 minutes, until the beef is browned. Pour the onions and beef into a large pot.
In pot, add chili powder, cumin, sugar, tomato paste, garlic powder, salt and pepper; stir until well blended. Add broth, diced tomatoes (with juice), drained beans and tomato sauce. Mix well.
Bring liquid to a simmer, then reduce heat to gently simmer chili, uncovered, 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Let the chilli sit for 5-10 minutes before serving. Serve over steamed rice (my preference, but not a requirement) and top with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, chopped chives, or any other favorite toppings.
Kara Kimbrough is a food and travel writer from Mississippi. Email him at [email protected].