Eat Your Vegetables, Please!

Sunday, August 14, 2016 - by Charles Siskin
Summer Squash souffle
Summer Squash souffle
- photo by Charles Siskin
We have several Farmer’s Markets here along our stretch of the beach.  However sometimes on a Sunday when we don’t have a serious plan and it is too hot to hit the crowded beaches, we head out to Panama City Beach.  Our favorite green grocer is Carousel. It is right there on Front Beach Road across from the Gulf and is home to lots of local produce and fruit plus a gazillion kinds of wine and beer. Remember local grocery stores cannot live by zucchini alone.

Actually it really is a nice change from the big box stores like Publix, Winn-Dixie and Walmart .
It also reminds me of when grocery shopping was a local affair.  Back in the day, as they say, there was the Easy Way Market where the Aquarium now stands. We would stop, I believe, every afternoon before heading home across the Market Street Bridge to North of the River, formerly known as North Chattanooga.

Not to be overlooked was Chattanooga’s Farmer’s Market. In those days it was out on 10th Street but now over on Carter Street.  It was there we could load up our old stick shift Oldsmobile with enough baskets of fruits and veggies to last, what seemed forever, but was actually a week. 

That was the greatest place with farmers selling out of their wagons and beat up trucks. Everyone loved to bargain and still do.  And those crafty old farmers baited us buyers with higher prices than they ever expected to get and then the sport was on.  In the end it was a win-win for everyone.

I can still conjure up the taste of a real tomato, not one that has sat in a climate controlled warehouse for maybe a year. I think there was nothing better than sitting out on the front porch steps on a hot summer night, tomato in one hand and salt in the other and tomato juice dribbling down your chin.  

Never heard of a caprese salad in those days. The closes thing to fresh mozzarella was the cottage cheese my mom use to put on the salad plate then surround with slices of tomato and a generous dollop of mayonnaise.

Currently we have a generation who lives by the word, “kale”.  My mom’s family came from the hinterlands of Alabama where they ate collard and turnip green. In fact there were times all they had were vegetables on the kitchen table. Let me clarify that my grandfather however wasn’t a farmer he was a peddler.

In truth he was a Jewish peddlar who billed himself as an optometrist. (Note: this is not Fiddler on the Roof so back off the singing and dancing) This was the depression years so he bartered for food with the farmers. He traded “reading glasses” like the ones you can buy at CVS today and whatever else he happened to have in his wagon.  After all with six young children to feed and money being almost nonexistent during those depression years it was a win-win for everyone.

A generation later here is chubby me who has eaten his and apparently everyone else’s vegetables. However as I grew up and left the warmth of a good hot meal at precisely 5:30 PM, so as not to miss Huntley and Brinkley at 6, I realized that starches are not the predominate part of the vegetable chain I wanted to include in my diet. Well not exactly at every meal.  I just needed to keep eating all those wonderful veggies that would sometime, in my mother’s kitchen, disappear under a cloud of sauce. What is it with southerners?

Have I mentioned that my part-time next door neighbor down here on the coast is also one of my old “North Chattanooga, aka Riverview Gang”, friends?  He was here visiting a couple of weeks ago along with his bride and joined by his daughter and granddaughter, the YOLO Princess, who came for a long week end. 

After daughter and granddaughter had their fill of shrimp and grouper and other local seafood they headed back to Chattanooga and I had the neighbors in for dinner. I know my buddy doesn’t eat eggplant, but neither does my bride, and it’s a “no” to cauliflower as well. 

Bulletin, dude has taken up broccoli in his old age. Nevertheless being undaunted I decided to slip in a squash soufflé whose recipe I lifted from our treasured friend, Ellen, many years ago.

Now we are seated at the dinner table and we’ve just had my version of a Caprese Salad with the addition of fresh corn along with the tomatoes tossed with sweet basil from my garden and slices of fresh mozzarella. 

Note here that my garden is an ongoing project now in its 16th year that has produced some basil, one sad little stalk of dill, some knockout roses who have gone down for the count and, praise the lord, my lantana which is looking totally healthy and producing pretty little yellow buds.

Next I bring on the steak which my wife has learned to do flawlessly thanks to that rascal Georgie Forman and his never fail grill. This means we do not have to go out into the 100 + weather and deal with one of those scary mosquitoes diving in, literally, for the kill. 

Then- no drum roll please- I present my awesome squash soufflé which would make even dear Ellen tear up. Hold up, did I detect a look of “you’ve got to be kidding” on my buddy’s face? Reminded me of the look my children gave me when they were faced with eating crunchy green beans or beets for heaven’s sake?

So next time I’ll do the broccoli thing. Simple, just steamed with some lemon butter although I do have this great broccoli salad recipe. It’s one of those raw food recipes that is… not going to happen.

Yellow Squash Soufflé (serves 4)

What you will need:
3 large unblemished yellow squash (2 to 3 cups)
1/3 Cup diced Vidalia yellow onion 
1 large egg
½ cup bread crumbs
½ cup half and half (non-fat) cream
2 tablespoons butter
½  cup shredded cheese (I like to use shredded Mexican 4 cheese) 
1 tablespoon grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste

To Prepare:
Cut squash into rounds
Put into saucepan along with the diced onion 
Add enough water to just cover the squash
Bring to a boil and lower heat and cook until the squash is soft
Drain and put into food processor along with egg, half and half, nutmeg, salt and pepper and process
Turn into a soufflé dish and toss with bread crumbs and shredded cheese
Dot with butter

Bake at a low temperature or not more than 300 degrees until a toothpick inserted comes out clean
Cooking at a low temperature for a longer period helps in assuring that the soufflé will be moist and light

Note: Because my wife is gluten intolerant I use gluten free panko bread crumbs 

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