A mother-daughter conversation on food and cooking (mostly)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Vegetarian Southern Food

Our pal Mark was in the US last week, and because he is currently not eating meat (long story), I got to cook some vegetarian food. It was fun. I think it's been about five years since I gave up my 12-year vegetarian spell.

Because Mark lives in Kyoto but is from around here, I wanted to make him some Southern food. These are lima beans, cooked very simply overnight in a crockpot, with olive oil and salt added in the last several hours. I experimented with the mustard greens, sauteeing a few chunks of red miso paste in some olive oil to see if I could get a meaty, salty fullness for a base the same way I would from a ham hock or some bacon. It was delicious and did have a full taste and a brownish pot liquor, but I don't know that it was that brilliant.

The grits were fermented. I interviewed Glenn from Anson Mills several months ago, and he told me that during the summer one can pre-soak grits at room temperature and get what he called "pinpoint ferment," which completely changes their taste and texture. I could never find any other information on the phenomenon, but when I soaked some grits Glenn had ground coarsely from John Haulk corn, they did indeed ferment rather quickly. It was a sweet, mild ferment, never sour, and after I let them do that overnight I rinsed them thoroughly and cooked them like normal: 1.5 or so hours on the stove, gently, with salt and butter and a little cream at the end. The fermented flavor was strong, but sweet and corny and smooth. Very strange. Lawson and Mark loved it, too, although they'd never heard of it, either.

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