Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Today we learned how to take vegetables and douse them with enough sugar, bacon and butter so as to render any health benefits obsolete! Ah, southern cooking!

With Alabama coming later this week and providing yet another opportunity for a huge Southern meal, we decided on a dinner of sides for Georgia. Conveniently, Georgia has declared several official state foods, so we made good use of those. Grits is the state's "prepared food," peanuts are the state crop and, not surprisingly, peaches are the official state fruit. In addition, it was so hot in Iowa today that we might as well have been in Georgia anyway!

Both girls had determined that peaches should be a part of the meal, preferably in dessert form, so we finished our meal with a fresh peach crumble, which is quicker to make than a pie or a cobbler. Crisp and crumble are the same thing--fruit desserts topped with an oatmeal, butter, sugar topping. Cobblers have biscuit toppings.

I was not inclined to peel the peaches, so I just sliced them up right into the pan. Right now in Iowa, perfectly ripe Missouri peaches are easy to find.

For the topping:
1/4 c butter
1/4 c flour
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c oats
1 Tb cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt.

Melt the butter and blend with the rest of the ingredients for the topping. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of white sugar over the peaches. Then evenly sprinkle the topping over that. Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes.

In retrospect, I might also add about 1/8 cup of flour to the peaches, the juice was very runny and a little flour would have thickened it up a bit.

Oh, right--we ate a meal too: cheddar grits, butter beans and green beans with peanuts. This turned out to be the richest and most filling set of side-dishes I've ever eaten.

Here in the north, butter beans are lima beans and they can be found dry, canned or frozen. I used frozen and used the following recipe, which was slightly adapted from Southern Cooking:

5 bacon slices, diced
1 small onion, minced
1/2 c packed brown sugar
3 T butter
1 package frozen butter beans (recipe called for 16oz, I could only get 10oz)
2 tsp salt
pepper to taste

In a large dutch oven, cook the bacon and onions until the bacon is brown and crisp. Add the sugar and butter and stir until the sugar has dissolved. As this point you might also want to add a few tablespoons of water to deglaze the pan. Add the butter beans and water to cover. Bring to a boil, then simmer, uncovered until most of the water has cooked out and the beans are glazed.

The original recipe called for an astonishing 12 cups of water and 2 hours of boiling--I like my beans to have some tooth to them, 20 minutes was more than sufficient!

For the grits, I used basic quick cooking grits (the only variety I could get at the store!). Stir 1 cup of grits to 4 cups boiling water with about a teaspoon of salt. Cover and reduce heat for about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally, the grits should thicken to a smooth consistency. I added about 2 tablespoons of butter and about 1 1/2 cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese.

The green beans were quickly steamed in a small amount of water, then uncovered them and added a couple handfuls of peanuts--Viola!

This meal contained a lot of new textures and flavor combinations for the kids. Both started with the green beans, the most familiar item on the plate. The grits were carefully tasted by the tiniest spoonful and eventually declared "ok." Both agreed that there was a surprising resemblance to macaroni and cheese. The butter beans were a bit more challenging. Lucy dramatically spit her first one out, declaring it "disgusting!" Maia was slightly more subtle, saying "no, these are not good." Both were able to manage two beans after much grumbling. Marc and I cheerfully pointed out that neither of them keeled over dead from the experience. The peach crisp also got mixed reviews. Both enjoyed the topping (of course), but found the peaches unpleasantly "squishy." In all, I call this a success--had I put that dish of butter beans in front of either of them before starting this project of shared experimentation, there would have been mutiny. Eating two whole disgusting beans is, in my book, a victory.

As for me, this meal satisfied every one of my cravings for rich, salty and sweet food. I'm still full hours later and I'm quite glad that this project isn't about trying to cook low calorie state meals.

Next stop: Alabama

1 comment:

  1. I consider it a success too. My ex husband used to describe lima beans as "sand with skin over them". Personally, I like them - esp the frozen variety. I'm not sure I've ever had grits and the peach thing sounded fab. I can't believe how many peaches I have rung up these past few weeks. Steve says they could last through Labor Day....