May 24, 2014

Georgia

Statehood: January 2nd, 1788 (4/50)

When attacking that second plate at your family's Thanksgiving meal, a gallon of ice cream after a heart break, or a food project where you - oh, say - attempt to eat all the official foods of the fifty states, there's a brief moment where the immortal words of Scarlett O'Hara ring through your brain: "I'm going to live through this and when it's all over, I'll never be hungry again. [...]As God is my witness, I'll NEVER. BE HUNGRY. AGAIN!"

While not entirely true (because, let's face it: cold Thanksgiving leftovers later that same night rock; the gallon of ice cream usually gets ditched for wine and greasy, fried comfort foods; and, there are still forty-six states left to go), this is basically all I know about Georgia: a couple quotes from a 1939 Oscar-winning movie that takes place in the "Empire State of the South".

Oh, and peaches. But the Peach State (another nickname for GA) is more than just the fuzzy, pink, drupe pictured on their license plates, right Georgians? Like, did you know that GA was founded by James Oglethorpe in 1733 who created it as a refuge for English debtors and the less fortunate? Or that Georgia Female College (which would later come to be called Wesleyan) was the first full college for women. It was chartered in 1836 and opened a few years later in Macon?

Now get ready, gourmands, to gorge yourself on Georgia's gourmet goods.

(The last third of this state's motto, "Wisdom, justice, and moderation," may not entirely apply here!).

State Fruit: Peach


Governor Zell Miller signed an act of the Georgia General Assembly on April 7th 1995 designating the peach as the official state fruit, considering: 1) Georgia's known as "The Peach State" in the U.S. and abroad (why's that?...); 2) cultivators in GA produce some of the best peaches in the world (y'know, because...); 3) Georgia peaches have the perfect texture, appearance, and juicy flavor, too!; and, 4) GA uses the peach as their symbol not only on license plates as mentioned above, but also on lottery tickets and other promotional materials, too. So celebrate this drupe the way it was meant to be celebrated: as the star of your meal. 

Cheesy Peachadillas
Makes: 2 quesadillas

Ingredients:
4 8-inch tortilla rounds
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
8-oz mozzarella ball, cut into even 8 slices
8 to 10-oz sliced peaches
4 Tablespoons of Gorgonzola
8 teaspoons walnuts, chopped
2 cups arugula

Method:
Heat a lightly greased pan to medium-high heat. Brush one side of a tortilla round with balsamic vinegar. Place four slices of mozzarella evenly on top of that; then top with 8 slices of peaches, 2 Tablespoon of crumbled Gorgonzola, 4 teaspoons of walnuts, and 1 cup of arugula. Brush another tortilla with balsamic vinegar, and place it (balsamic-vinegar side down) on top of the aforementioned ingredients. Gently slide quesadilla on to pan and cook for three to five minutes on each side (or until tortilla is golden-brown, and cheese is melty [but not completely melted]). Repeat with remaining ingredients to create second quesadilla. Serve both with additional balsamic vinegar for dipping.


State Vegetable: Vidalia Onion


In 1931 Mose Coleman, a farmer in Vidalia, GA, discovered the onions he had been growing were sweet in flavor (probably due to the soil they were grown in). They were so delicious that people began to come from all over the South - and eventually (in the '70s) throughout the whole of the U.S. - to try some of Vidalia's onions. By 1990 GA's state legislator named the Vidalia onion the official state vegetable!

Loaded Baked Potato Onion Dip
Makes: 2 cups

Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Vidalia onions (roughly 1lb), thinly sliced for about 2 cups
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
4 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups sour cream (or this or this)
3 to 4 Tablespoons cheddar cheese (or this or this)
3 to 4 Tablespoons tempeh bacon (like this or this)/regular bacon, cooked and crumbled
thick-cut potato chips

Method:
Add oil to a skillet and toss gently with onions and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cook over medium heat - STIRRING FREQUENTLY - for around 35 minutes until brown in color. During this process mix together the remaining salt, celery salt, liquid smoke, and black pepper with the sour cream before sticking back in the refrigerator. When onions are close to being done, add minced garlic and stir for another 2 minutes. Then, add mixture to blender and blend under creamy. Mix the creamed onions with the sour cream and refrigerate until cool and flavors have combined (at least one hour). Before serving, top with cheddar cheese, bacon, and chives.


State Prepared Food: Grits


Grits - which are comprised of ground corn (think porridge), a staple agricultural crop of Georgia, and first prepared by Native Americans - are uniquely Southern. They were designated as the official state prepared food in 2002.

Southern Style Poutine
Makes: 2 dinner servings, 4 lunch or appetizer servings

Ingredients:
1 cup quick cooking grits
4 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour, divided in half
1 cup veggie oil
1/4 cup butter or Earth Balance
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 1/2 cup vegetable stock
8 to 10-oz cheese curds

Method:
Make grits according to package (something like: stir grits and salt into boiling water; reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Let cook for five to eight minutes - or until grits have thickened - stirring occasionally so they don't burn). Layer in a shallow, greased dish, about an inch thick and store overnight in the refrigerator. The next day, cut into one inch strips. Dredge through 1/4 cup flour and fry in small batches in veggie oil on medium heat about 4 to 5 minutes on each side (or until golden brown). NOTE: Don't use all the veggie oil right away; use 1/2 cup for the first half of grits; and the remaining oil for the second half. During this time, prepare the gravy. Melt the butter in a saucepan on medium-low heat, then sprinkle in the remaining 1/4 cup flour. Mix with a wooden spoon until a golden-hued roux is formed (3 to 4 minutes). Whisk in the vegetable stock by the half cup, until the sauce is creamy; then add the tomato paste and continue whisking until entirely incorporated. Keep on low heat until it's time to serve. When you've fried off all of the grits, place on a platter and top with cheese curds before smothering with tomato gravy. Serve immediately.


State Crop: Peanuts


Georgia is responsible for 50% of all the peanuts grown in the United States each year. In 1995, GA designated the peanut (which, by the way isn't a nut at all, but a legume) the official state crop. Sylvester, GA is known as the Peanut Capital of the World and Georgian Jimmy Carter - before being the 39th President of the United States and Nobel Peace Prize recipient in 2002 - was a peanut farmer.

Sinful Candied Peanuts
Makes: 2 1/2 cups

Ingredients:
1 cup light brown sugar
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 cup water
2 1/2 cups unsalted peanuts
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Melt the brown sugar and cinnamon with water over medium heat. Stir until it just begins to boil (about 3 or so minutes) and becomes thick. Add the peanuts and don't stop stirring. Stir, stir, stir for about 10 minutes until most of the liquid mixture has been absorbed. Spread out peanuts onto a cookie sheet and bake for 15 to 18 minutes on lowest rack, gently stirring peanuts around the tray halfway through.


Sources:
Georgia Info: An Online Georgia Almanac