In the Garden

Semi-tamed squash at the brewery.

My little girl and I worked all morning in our little vegetable plot today.  We harvested some Creole tomatoes, cucumbers, yellow squash and zucchini, several bell peppers, and thyme and basil leaves. When we were kids, our grandfather always tended a large vegetable garden, and I kind of want to pass that tradition on.

Though it is a lot of work, my little girl is still small enough not to notice that it is.

We still had a lot of food in the ice-box left-over from yesterday’s Independence Day barbecue – mainly a lot of grilled meat.  Several species had a place on that July 4th grill, but the focus was on the traditional hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken wings.  We also put some fresh pork sausage in our smokehouse, smoking the links with the same cherry wood that we use to flavor our Boucanee beer.

Man we drank a lot of beer yesterday for America’s birthday on the fourth of july.

My daughter and I went back into the house with our freshly harvested bounty.  We washed and put away the vegetables, taking the time to sample a few cherry tomatoes.  Our niece was visiting from Arizona, so we visited her and her toddler son.   In South Louisiana, our conversations always end up being about the next meal. We had plenty of left-over barbecue beans, potato salad, Cole slaw and leftover barbecued meats, but we decided on doing something with the vegetables my daughter and I had just brought in.

While my wife boiled some angel hair pasta, I put some fresh basil, olive oil, parmesan cheese and pine nuts in the food processer. Seasoning with some salt and freshly ground black pepper, I then pressed the pulse button several times making pesto sauce for the pasta.

We often make fresh pesto – you can put some on top of Cajun-seasoned, broiled catfish filets a few minutes before you take them out of the oven.  Sometimes I’ll mix them with egg yolks for deviled eggs, or boiled potatoes and fresh green onions for a pesto potato salad.

I poured an LA-31 for my niece – she lives in Arizona and our beers are not available out of state yet.  I then sliced up the yellow squash and zucchini, tossed them with some of the fresh thyme we picked, olive oil and salt and pepper.  I sautéed them on the grill outside for just long enough for them to pick up some of that smoky goodness you can only get from outdoor cooking.  We also sliced up some of those fresh Creole tomatoes and cucumbers.

You know, everywhere around Acadiana there are specialty meat shops selling stuffed anything you can think of, multiple meat sausages, tasso, turduckhens – you name it.  Growing up I remember holiday meals with many meats on the table – beef roast, several chickens in a fricassee and smothered pork chops on the side would be a typical holiday meal.  We all fall into the trap of thinking Cajun food is about meat and seafood, but we forget about our tradition of delicious vegetable sides.

That same holiday table would have maque choux, smothered cabbage with andouille, hot from the oven, and still in their skins, sweet potatoes, black-eyed peas and smoked sausage, petite pois with onions and tasso, lima beans, field peas with snap beans, and smothered potatoes.  Our grandfather had an acre set aside for his vegetable plot, and he grew everything he needed there for our grandmother’s signature vegetable dishes.  Though we often think of our area’s specialty meats, our cuisine has some of the best vegetable dishes in America.

Like red beans and rice.

So we opened a six pack worth of LA-31s, and served ourselves heaping plates of pesto with shredded parmesan (yeah, yeah I know that pesto is not a Cajun vegetable dish), sautéed squash, and salted tomatoes and cucumbers.  We ate so much, and though we had no room for dessert, we forced down some Blue Bell pecan praline ice cream. Tomorrow it will be hard to get back to working at the brewery; this has been one long and relaxing holiday weekend.

Happy birthday America.