November 17, 2014

Louisiana

Statehood: April 30th, 1812 (18/50)

I think it's only fair that we kick off this new region of the United States with a mini-history lesson on the Louisiana Purchase (especially since, after asking ten friends of mine about it, not a single one of us could remember exactly how that whole deal transpired... 11th grade U.S. History failures, all of us). So, picture this... it's April of 1803 and Thomas Jefferson has the opportunity to purchase more than 828,000 square miles from France for $15 million dollars. He does. And in one swift (hugely pragmatic, insanely strategic) move the size of our country is instantly doubled.

TJ, you the man!

The state of Louisiana - which wants you to "Come as you are. Leave different." - goes by many names, including (but not limited to): The Pelican State, The Bayou State, The Sugar State, The Creole State, Sportsman's Paradise, and - my personal favorite because it sounds like a 70's rock song - The Child of the Mississippi. And while everyone knows about the legendary Mardi Gras (c'mon, we HAD to bring it up) celebrations that happen down in New Orleans, do you know what the three traditional colors for the holiday are? Purple (which stands for justice), green (for faith), and gold (for power)!

Let's get to lapping up some light bites from your luxurious locale, Louisianans!


State Cuisine: Gumbo
The official state cuisine is rightfully gumbo. It has been since 2004. The dish is iconic and is an emblem of the various cultures that call LA home. How do you like yours? Me? I'm a girl who enjoys it with a dollop of cold potato salad!

Vegumbah
Makes: two to four servings

Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 medium red pepper, deseeded, de-stemmed, and diced
1 medium yellow pepper, deseeded, de-stemmed, and diced
1 medium orange pepper, deseeded, de-stemmed, and diced
1 15-oz can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
2 Tablespoon Cajun spice
1/2 cup white rice, uncooked
1 14-oz package of Artisan Tofurky Spinach Pesto Sausage
Optional: potato salad

Method:
Heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil on medium heat in a stock or soup pot. Add onions and sauté for around 3 mins. Add the garlic and sauté for another 2 minutes - veg should be slightly cooked down, beginning to become translucent, and fragrant. Add trio of peppers and cook for twelve minutes, mixing often to move veg around bottom of pot.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and sauté sausage links for at least ten minutes - so both sides have charred with color. Set aside.

Add beans, tomatoes, Cajun spice, and rice into the pot with veg. Turn up heat to bring to boil, then immediately turn down to simmer for twenty minutes. Mix every so often to prevent gumbo from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

With two or three minutes remaining, introduce sausage into pot. Mix to combine and let the mixture finish cooking.

Best served immediately with a dollop of potato salad on top!


State Drink: Milk
Milk became the official state drink in 1983. It's potentially the number one most important beverage to this country, as nearly every state has it as their official beverage/drink. It's rich in calcium, protein, and a whole host of other nutrients.

HalfwayOhLay
Makes: 1 beverage

Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons Luzianne
1 cup hot water
1/4 cup (alternative) milk, warmed
1 to 2 teaspoons sugar

Method:
If you've got a basic coffee pot, this is an easy way to make drip coffee. Put your filter or basket in your coffee maker. Place a coffee mug underneath the spout of the coffee maker. Pour in the Luzianne into the filter/basket, then pour in the hot water a little at a time mixing gently with a spoon throughout the process. Let it filter through and drip into your cup. To finish drink, add warm (alternative) milk and sugar to taste.


State Doughnut: Beignet
Apparently the best beignets come right outta New Orleans, but we're gonna try our best today to make some (it's like the difference between Prada and Prado). The infamous donut became an official state symbol in 1986.

NOTE: Feeling slightly overwhelmed with all the food I've been consuming lately, I thought I'd try to make these healthier - vegan, gluten-free, and baked not fried. The result was... well, let's just say less beignet and more pfeffernusse. 

The Saddest Looking Beignet's You've Ever Seen
Makes: 10 "beignets"

Ingredients:
1 cup gluten-free flour of choice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh lime zest
2 Tablespoons (Earth Balance) butter
4 1/2 Tablespoons (alternative) milk

Method:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and zest. Mix butter in with fingers until a coarse crumble forms. Add milk and gently combine until dough forms. Scoop out by Tablespoonful, roll into balls, and bake for 15 to 17 minutes until firm to the touch. Serve with a sprinkle of powdered sugar and a tear for how terribly unlike beignets these are.


State Fruit: Strawberry
The Louisiana Legislature declared strawberries to be the official state fruit in 2001. They grow mostly in the Tangipahoa - specifically the town of Pontchatula, which calls itself the "Strawberry Capital of the World" - and Livingston parishes (oh yeah, LA doesn't have counties like the rest of the states, they have "parishes").

Snakebite and Black
Makes: 1 beverage

Ingredients:
1 cup strawberry beer (preferably Samuel Smith's)
1 cup hard cider (preferably Samuel Smith's)
2 Tablespoons Ribena

Method:
Pour the strawberry beer into a glass. Gently pour the hard cider on top of that.  Drizzle the Ribena over the top of the drink. Serve immediately.


State Jelly: 1. Mayhaw Jelly; 2. Sugarcane Jelly
COMING SOON...
Why celebrate one jelly when you can celebrate two?! Louisiana decided in 2003 that both sugarcane jelly (literally jelly made from sugarcane juice) and mayhaw jelly (mayhaws are berries that are grown in the wetlands). Unfortunately, these are hyper-regional foods and I'm having a bit of an uphill battle acquiring some. I think the best bet is to buy some off Etsy. So stay tuned for that!


State Meat Pie: Natchitoches
Other states are jealous that they don't have an official state meat pie like LA does. The natchitoches - which are extremely similar to pasties or empanadas - was declared to be theirs in 2003.

Not Meat Otches
Makes: between 8 and 12

Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons (Earth Balance) butter
1/2 onion, diced (1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup diced Trader Joe's Hot & Sweet Cherry Peppers
1 12-oz roll of Lightlife Gimme Lean Beef
1 12-oz roll of Lightlife Gimme Lean Sausage
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 9-inch ready-to-bake pie crust (like this)

Method:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes; then add the garlic and continue sautéing for another 2 to 3 minutes. Turn heat down to medium-low. Add diced hot and sweet cherry peppers, meat, and cook through. (NOTE: Lightlife's Beef and Sausage products can be very difficult to use, so you'll need to break them down slowly. I usually start with a wooden spoon, then - as it gets a sear on it - I switch to a fork to break it down into smaller pieces. This is going to take upwards to 20 minutes.) Finally, add Cajun seasoning, salt, and Worcestershire sauce. Mix through and remove from heat. Take ready-to-bake pie crust and roll out into 1/4 inch thickness. Using a circular measurement of your choice (mine was a pint glass) cut out sections. Fill each circle with 2 Tablespoons of meat. Close pastry by crinkling edges together. Bake for 25 minutes until crust is golden. (NOTE: You will have plenty of the meat mixture leftover, and let me tell you, it tastes awesome in spaghetti sauce!)


State Vegetable: Sweet Potato
The sweet potato was declared the official state vegetable in 2003. The take the starch seriously, too - there's a Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission. It's HQ is in Baton Rouge and it's focus is to promote the consumption and benefits of locally grown sweet potatoes!

Sweet Tater and Pickle Lilly Salad
Makes: 2 to 4 side servings

Ingredients:
2 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 large sweet potato, peeled and quartered
1 cup mayo or Veganise
2 Tablespoons relish
2 Tablespoons whole grain mustard
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon salt pepper
¼ cup diced kosher pickles, patted dry on a paper towel

Method:
Add the potatoes to salted water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 to 15 minutes until just tender (a fork can pierce the vegetable with ease, but not slide through effortlessly). Strain in a colander and set aside for at least a half hour. When cool to the touch, cube the potatoes and toss with mayo or Veganise, relish, mustard, black pepper, salt, and kosher pickles. Chill for at least two hours before serving.


State Vegetable Plant: Creole Tomato

In the same breath as the sweet potato, the Creole tomato was given the title of the official state vegetable plant of LA in 2003. These meaty, flavorful tomatoes are bulbous and fleshy near the stem. 


A Po' Girl's Po' Boy
Makes: one enormous sandwich you should definitely split with someone

Ingredients for remoulade:
12-oz jar of fire roasted red peppers from Trader Joe's
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ + ¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoon Cholula Chipotle Hot Sauce
1 ripe avocado
½ cup mayo or Vegenaise
1 ½ Tablespoon whole grain mustard

Method:
Drain the jar of fire roasted red peppers from Trader Joe's REALLY WELL (remove all liquid from jar then place red peppers on thick paper towels, patting dry). Toss them, the garlic, salt, hot sauce, avocado, mayo or Vegenaise, and whole grain mustard into a blender. Process until smooth, thick, and creamy. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Ingredients for po' boy:
1 cup panko
1 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumb
½ cup (alternative) milk
½ cup flour
4 to 6-oz oyster mushrooms, cleaned and de-stemmed
8-oz demi baguette
¾ cup shredded lettuce
1 medium tomato, sliced

Method:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Mix the panko and Italian seasoned breadcrumbs together in a bowl. In another bowl, pour in the milk. In a separate bowl, place the flour. One at a time, dip the oyster mushrooms first in the bowl of flour to cover completely, then submerge in the bowl of milk also covering completely, then finish by covering completely oyster mushrooms in panko/breadcrumb mixture. Place on a cookie sheet. Repeat until you've run out of mushrooms. Bake for 16 minutes, flipping them over halfway through.

When mushrooms are done, build sandwich. Slice demi baguette vertically on the top of the bread. Gently remove excess soft dough from inside to make room for fillings. Spread about 1/2 a cup of the remoulade sauce into one side of the roll, pack the other side with lettuce, and layer tomato slices next to lettuce leaving plenty of room to dump the baked-fried mushrooms. Fill the rest of the sandwich with baked-fried mushrooms and serve with extra remoulade sauce.


Sources:
Louisiana State Legislature: Revised Statutes 49:166 through 49:170.12
National Geographic - Education: Beignets