We are going to take a little trip to the Deep South today, all the way to Louisiana and New Orleans! Everybody who has ever been comes back with wonderful food memories, unless they happen to be those people who think they have to eat a hamburger everywhere they go. I always feel sorry for those people because they miss out on so many wonderful new experiences. When talking about Louisiana cooking the word “creole” comes up, and it simply means a fusion of European cultures—usually French and Spanish—and the black culture from Africa and the Caribbean. This wonderful mix makes for some really fine eating, prepared with relatively simple and readily available ingredients. The word “gumbo” is of African origin, and in some dialects it is a direct reference to okra, a key ingredient. When a recipe is called “creole” it often means it contains onions, tomatoes, and peppers, somewhat like “Florentine” always implies spinach.

I am sharing with you today one of my recent finds which is one of my favorite zucchini recipes. I have always been puzzled by the fact that people talk about zucchini the way they do, but still plant it. It is an easy crop to grow, produces plentifully, and can be cooked up in so many delicious ways. Try this zucchini creole recipe today and I bet you’ll love it, too, and it seems to go with everything!

Last week I took a hankering for some New Orleans Red Beans. I cooked them in the pressure pot—no need for pre soaking. Half pound of beans, onions, peppers, a tomato and instead of smoked sausage I used a smoked turkey leg. I added about 6 cups of water and pressured them for one hour, slow release. They came out delicious with a rich, brown “gravy.” I added a little Creole Seasoning once they were cooked and it contains salt so there was no need to add more. I have also found that it is usually best not to salt beans until they are cooked because sometimes it toughens them.

I hope you find something that whets your appetite today! Stay cool and let me hear from you!

Zucchini Creole

4 medium zucchini sliced in rounds

3 Tbs. margarine

3 Tbs. all purpose flour

1 can petite cut canned tomatoes

1 small green pepper, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

1 tsp. salt

1 Tbs. brown sugar

2 cups bread crumbs

1/4 cup butter or margarine

Place the zucchini in a baking dished sprayed with non-stick spray. In a saucepan melt the three tablespoons margarine and flour and cook one to two minutes until it becomes bubbly. Add the tomatoes, pepper, onion, salt and brown sugar. Cook over medium heat for about five minutes until it is well blended and cooked together. Pour over zucchini. Mix the bread crumbs with the margarine and sprinkle evenly over the vegetables. Bake at 350° for one hour or until done. (Richard’s Note: I used a little mozzarella cheese to top mine instead of the bread crumbs. I also added a bit of basil and oregano, but very sparingly.)

Pecan Slice Torte

This makes up easily and everyone loves it. Is it rich? You bet! I wanted to start with this as it is one of my all time favorites. This recipe comes from one of the mansions in New Orlean’s beautiful Garden District.

Crust:

1 cup flour

1/2 cup butter

Mix the flour and butter to a paste and press on the bottom of a buttered 9x9 square pan. Bake 15 minutes at 350° until very light brown.

Filling:

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 & 1/2 cups brown sugar

3/4 cup coconut

1 cup chopped nuts

2 Tbs. flour

1/4 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

While crust is baking, mix filling ingredients in order given above. Pour this filling on the baked crust and bake again at 350° for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. When cool, spread the icing.

Icing:

2 Tbs. butter

1 & 1/2 cups powdered sugar

3 Tbs. orange juice

1 Tbs. lemon juice

1/2 cup finely chopped nuts

Mix icing ingredients. Spread on the torte. Sprinkle the top with nuts. Let this cool in the pan you baked it in. Cut in small squares to serve as it is very rich and delicious. Makes 16 or more servings.

Traditional Red Beans and Rice

In Louisiana, this is traditionally a Monday dish because as a Creole cook once explained to me, Monday is wash day and this delicious dish can be put on early and forgotten about, leaving time for other work.

Ingredients:

1 lb. red kidney beans

1/2 cup bacon drippings (or other oil)

1 cup chopped onions

1 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped bell pepper

1/4 cup diced garlic

1 cup sliced green onion tops

1/2 cup chopped parsley

2 cup diced ham

3 links Andouille or other smoked sausage

Salt, cayenne, Worcestershire sauce and Cajun Chef liquid hot sauce to taste

The beans will cook faster if they have been allowed to soak overnight. You can either cook them long and slow, as in a crock pot, or, by the following method. If the beans have not been soaked overnight, prep the beans only by covering them with about two inches, bring them to a boil, cover and remove from the heat and let soak for one hour. Cook as follows if whether the beans have soaked overnight or for the one hour. Heat the bacon fat and sauté the onions, celery and bell pepper, garlic and ham. Sauté until the onions are clear, (about five minutes) add the sausage and beans. Cook another five minutes. Cover the beans with water or chicken stock, bring to a boil and allow to boil for about two hours. Stir occasionally to avoid burning the bottom of the pot. Reduce heat and let simmer about another hour. Stir occasionally during this hour (no stirring is needed in a crock pot, throw in the ingredients, turn it on and come back in six or seven hours). Add salt, cayenne, Cajun Chef hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce. If the beans have not creamed, take a spoon and smash them on the side of the pot. Add parsley and onion tops just before serving over cooked rice. (Note: This dish gets better the second day.)

Seafood Sauce Piquante

Note: When I make this I use cooked chicken and smoked sausage instead of the seafoods and talk about good!

1 lb. (21 to 25 ct.) shrimp

1 lb. crabmeat

1 lb. firm flesh fish (Red, Drum, Grouper)

1/2 cup oil

1/2 cup flour

1 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped bell pepper

3 Tbs. chopped garlic

1 can Rotel Tomatoes

1 can tomato sauce

1 Tbs. chopped jalapenos or chili peppers

2 bay leaves

1/2 tsp. thyme

1/2 tsp. basil

1/2 qt. seafood stock

1 cup chopped green onion

1 cup chopped parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

2 to 3 cups cooked rice or pasta

Make a medium dark roux with flour and oil. Add onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic. Sauté until onions clear. Add tomato sauces and herbs. Slowly add seafood stock until all is in. Simmer 30 minutes. Add seafood except crabmeat, simmer eight minutes. Add onion tops and parsley, add crabmeat, Adjust salt and pepper, serve over rice or pasta. Serves eight.

Shrimp Creole

Watch for frozen shrimp to go on sale—which it often does—and you can enjoy this traditional southern dish very affordably! But, I have found that frozen shrimp has a high water content, so I think it is best to cook and drain the shrimp first and then add it at the last. That way you won’t weaken your rich-tasting broth.

4 Tbs. butter

5 Tbs. flour

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup chopped bell pepper

1/4 cup chopped celery

2 Tbs. chopped garlic

1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce

3 cup water

Chopped parsley and onions tops

Salt, cayenne to taste

3 lb. fresh shrimp peeled and deveined

Melt butter, add flour and cook to a medium brown roux. Add onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic and cook until tender. Add tomato sauce, simmer about five minutes. Add water and seasoning, simmer 15 minutes. Add shrimp and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, adjust seasoning, garnish with onion tops and parsley, serve over fresh rice.

Creamy Cucumber Salad

Dressing:

1/4 cup sour cream

1/3 cup plain yogurt

1 & 1/2 tsp. rice wine vinegar

1 & 1/2 tsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

3 cucumbers, thinly sliced

1 Vidalia or red onion, thinly sliced

Combine dressing ingredients. Toss with cucumber and onion, chill two hours.

Sweet Potato Casserole

Casserole:

4 cups mashed sweet potatoes or use 4 (1 lb.) cans of sweet potatoes.

3/4 cups sugar

3/4 cup half and half cream

1/2 cup melted butter

1 & 1/4 tea vanilla

Topping:

1/2 cup melted butter

1/2 cup flour

1 cup brown sugar

3/4 cups chopped pecans

Boil and mash sweet potatoes. Add the remaining casserole ingredients and combine. Put into a casserole dish. In a separate mixing bowl, combine the topping ingredients. Place the topping on top of the potatoes. Bake at 350° uncovered for about 30 minutes or until topping seems crisp.

Hushpuppies

1 & 1/4 cup yellow corn meal

1/2 cup flour

3 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. sugar

Pinch salt

1 tsp. black pepper

1 onion diced very fine

1 egg beaten

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup whole corn

1/4 cup green onion or chopped jalapenos

Mix corn meal, flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and pepper. Blend well. Add onion, egg, milk, corn and green onion/jalapenos. Mix until well blended. Using double spoons or an ice cream scoop, sample one pup in a 350° deep fryer. Adjust seasonings and continue to fry away.

Louisiana Dirty Rice

1 cup rice

Salt, red pepper, white pepper, black pepper

1/2 lb. chicken livers

1/2 lb. ground beef

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup chopped celery

3 green onions

2 Tbs. chopped parsley

Butter

1/3 cup oil

Cook rice with butter. Brown ground beef in oil, add chopped livers, cook until thoroughly browned, add onion and celery, sauté until tender, add cooked rice, mix in parsley and onion tops, season to taste with salt and peppers.

Oyster Dressing

Richard’s Note: I got to making oyster dressing years ago and now I make a pan of each—oyster and traditional southern cornbread dressing, and sometimes Mom’s “northern dressing” too!

1 loaf stale French bread

2 doz. Louisiana Oysters

1/2 lb. chicken or turkey liver

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp. white pepper

1 tsp. paprika

1/2 cup pecan meat

Pinch of sage

1 tsp. thyme

1 cup cornmeal

2 eggs, beaten

3 medium onions, chopped

2 cups chopped celery

3 tsp. butter or oil

Break bread into small pieces, soak in strained oyster juice. Squeeze out extra juice, mix in cornmeal. Sauté onion, celery, chopped liver, nuts, thyme, and sage in three teaspoon butter until the onions clear. Mix in cornmeal/bread mixture and mix well. Season to taste with salt and peppers, chop large oysters or add small ones, remove from fire, add two beaten eggs.

Creole Cabbage

1 head cabbage

2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. butter

1 onion diced

3 cup tomatoes, diced

6 pods okra, cross cut

1 bell pepper, diced

1 tasso or ham

2 cloves garlic

1 bay leaf

Cayenne to taste

Cook cabbage in boiling water covered with one teaspoon salt for 10 minutes, drain. Saute’ onions, tomatoes, okra, peppers, and meat. Add garlic, bay, salt and cayenne to taste, simmer 15 minutes. Remove bay leaf, pour over cabbage and toss lightly.

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

3 lb. fryer-8 cut

2 lb. sausage-fresh or smoked

2 Tbs. oil

4 Tbs. flour

1 cup onion diced

1/2 cup bell pepper diced

1/2 cup celery diced

2 cloves garlic minced

3 tomatoes diced

2 bay leaves

1/4 cup onion tops diced

1/4 cup fresh parsley chopped

1 cup chicken stock

Red, white and black peppers

Hot sauce, to taste

2 tsp. basil

2 tsp. thyme

3 dashes Worcestershire sauce

2 cups cooked rice

If the sausage is fresh, brown sausage first, then the chicken in oil. If the sausage is smoked, brown just the chicken, remove from pot. Boil grease until the water evaporates (clarify the fat), then add flour and make a medium dark roux. Add celery, onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Simmer four minutes, add tomato, basil and thyme, ground peppers, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and bay leaves. Put chicken and sausage back in and simmer at least 30 minutes, or until chicken is done. Add cooked rice, onion tops and parsley, adjust seasoning with peppers, bring back to a simmer and serve. Serves between four and six.

Sour Cream Pound Cake

1/2 lb. butter

2 cup sugar

2 eggs

1/2 tsp. vanilla

2 cup cake flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1 & 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

2 Tbs. sugar

Cream butter, two cups sugar, eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Alternately fold in sour cream and dry ingredients into the butter mix. Mix pecans, cinnamon and two tablespoons sugar. Grease a bundt pan. Pour in half of the mix. Sprinkle with half the pecan mix, pour in remaining batter and finish with remaining nuts. Bake at 350° for 55 minutes.