Regressing to a childhood meal

June 6, 2013

Takes me back to Benton County, it does.

Takes me back to Benton County, it does.

Sometimes, you just want comfort food. Particularly when there are the first good, fresh veggies of the summer to be had.

When the Farmers’ Market yielded me the first green beans of the year, along with the first yellow squash, I figured it was time. But for the fact there was no meat (in the old days, there would’ve been Swiss steak, or meat loaf, or pork chops, or even a hamburger steak), and no bread (I thought about making cornbread, but I didn’t think that for too long), it could have passed for a summer evening dinner 50 years ago, when I was, well, 7.

Almost. I seasoned the green beans with butter, ‘sted of bacon grease. It just seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Now, had the beans been Kentucky Wonders, those flat green beans who somehow have a sweet taste that blooms out when they’re simmered for a long, long time with bacon grease or salt pork, be assured I’d have been reaching for the crock of bacon grease. I snapped the beans, almost too young and tender to string, tossed them in a pot with some water, some salt, a quarter-stick of butter, and a pound or so of small new potatos (ping pong ball size), and put them on to simmer. Doesn’t get much simpler than that, nor much better.

Then I turned to the squash. Actually, to the onion, which precedes the squash. It gets cut in half and sliced thinly, and tossed into the iron skillet with a little olive oil, to soften up while I sliced four small squashes. I sliced same, added them to the skillet, cut the heat down to medium, salted the whole mess with seasoned salt, clapped a lid on it and went away.  Twenty minutes and a couple of stirrings later, the squash and onions were perfectly tender and a great counterpoint to the beans. A handful of halved cherry tomatoes completed dinner. Dessert was strawberries, which are, sadly, nearing the end of their season.

I love to cook in the summer; fresh veggies, a minimum of prep and seasoning, just letting heat and salt and some kind of fat coax all the wonderful, natural flavors of the garden. It’s quick, it’s simple and it’s good. Now, when okra and sweet corn come in, we’ll really be ready to cook a big ol’ West Tennessee dinner for you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em.


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