365 Project Day 258: A Farm Grows in Nola

In New Orleans we're cursed with a six-month-long summer, but that also means an extra-long growing season.  Nowhere is this more evident that at Hollygrove Market and Farm.  While all of the area's farmers markets showcase how much produce south Louisiana has to offer, at Hollygrove you can actually see it growing.  It's quite wonderful.

Last week we looked at what comes in "the box" this time of year; today we'll look at what they're still growing, even this late in the season.






Bell pepper

Banana pepper



Fairytale eggplant

Winter melon

Personal-size watermelon

Some Nola favorites:

Long beans

Muscadine grapes


Some more exotic selections:



And of course, some lovely green onions.


365 Project Day 257: Makin' Groceries.

So, about that vernacular thing.  Around here, a lot of us don't go grocery shopping; we make groceries.  Really!  I mean, we don't physically create groceries.  But instead of saying we're going shopping, we say we're makin' groceries.  There's even a popular local card game based on the phrase - it works like go fish and was my very favorite as a kid.

Why do we talk like that?  I've heard some theories about how the French verb translates to English.  We say all kinds of funny things - who dat instead of who's that (yes, that's where that came from), where y'at instead of where are you, and ya mama 'n them instead of your family.  Folks from Gentilly and further out might wear poils to the terlet in the jernt before the berl.  It's part of our charm.

My favorite part about makin' groceries though, aside from the FOOD, is the names of our grocery stores.  The groceries with old family names are inevitably the most interesting.


365 Project Day 256: The *other* holy trinity

I mentioned the holy trinity of Nola cooking when we made red beans - that is, onion, celery, and bell pepper.  These three vegetables, sauteed together, form the basis for uncountable Creole and Cajun dishes - beans, dirty rice, jambalaya, etouffee, gumbo...  It's so common that some stores here sell it pre-chopped and mixed.

Each Nola cook has their own strong beliefs about how one should be prepared; for instance, I always use yellow or Vidalia onions.  (White onions have no place in my cooking.  NO PLACE AT ALL I TELL YOU.)  But no one questions that this is the proper base for much of our cooking.  We feel strongly about its importance, and hold it in high reverence.

Believe in the Trinity.


365 Project Day 255: and a Dash of Heat.

In New Orleans there are two kinds of families: Tabasco families and Crystal families.  And I'm not here to tell you who's right and who's wrong, except to say that Tabasco sauce is infinitely better than Crystal and you shouldn't even bother with that nonsense.

I will admit, though, that I used to LOVE the whiff of peppers I used to get driving past the old Crystal factory at Carrollton and Tulane.  Sadly, after the storm it was converted into condos.  They call it The Preserve - ain't that adorable?

There are, of course, other hot sauces made here.  We love flavor and spice and peppers grow like weeds, so that's only natural.  There are whole tourist shops downtown that sell almost nothing but hot sauce - go sample them on Decatur Street.  Nearly all of them boast a simple ingredient list of peppers and vinegar.

One that's a little different is Pick-a-Peppa sauce.  It's made in Jamaica, but brought to the states via the New Orleans port - (did you know we're still a major port city?).  So we've somewhat adopted it - really it slides right in.

In conclusion, who wants to go tour Avery Island with me?


365 Project Day 254: With A Grain of Salt

People often why New Orleans food tastes so good.  (It really, really does.)  Apart from the fact that we do not in any way shy away from tasty tasty fat, we also gleefully apply salt and spice.  In fact, we have several locally made brands of seasoning salt!  The best of these, of course, is Tony Chachere's (pronounced like SATCH-er-ies, as enunciated in their ridiculous ad campaigns).  Any Nola home cook worth their salt (ha ha) has a canister of Tony's next to the stove.  And with good reason - it's great on everything!

Of note: Slap ya Mama advertising was recently banned by the NFL over "domestic violence concerns."  Because what we really need to worry about is season salt.


365 Project Day 253: Brighter Brews

Everyone loves a nice cold beer in Nola.  We drink them at boils and during Saints games, and during Mardi Gras it's something of a tradition to share a beer with a stranger.  So it's no surprise then that we make our own.

In addition to its proud rums, Louisiana boasts several locally brewed beers.  These include:
I'm grandfathering in Dixie here, as it's now contract-brewed in Wisconsin.  They held out as New Orleans' oldest operating brewery until Katrina, when the flooding was too much for the old facility to bear.  Its old brewery is still here, falling apart over on Tulane Avenue, but soon to be refurbished and incorporated into the new VA hospital complex.  So it goes.  We also must remember those great fallen breweries of Jax, now a mall of sorts, and Falstaff, now converted into apartments.  (Incidentally, I can see the iconic Falstaff tower from my front porch.)

The best part is, all these local beers are vegan!  So next time you have a poboy or some red beans, enjoy it alongside an Abita Amber.  Or a Nola Hopitoulas.  Or even a plain ol' Dixie.


365 Project Day 252: Poboy Pleasures

I've talked about poboys before, so I won't bore you with the details of the sandwich's history.  Aw, who am I kidding.  There is nothing boring about it, so here's a brief explanation:
In 1929, the city's streetcar conductors went on strike.  The Martin brothers, who had worked for the streetcar but left it to open a cafe in the French Market, still felt strong ties to their fellow streetcar workers.  They invented a sandwich on extra-wide and flat Gendusa French bread to feed the "poor boys" during the strike.  And as a result of the tendency of the local dialect to drop r-sounds at the ends of words, the po' boy was born.
So there you go.

The rub comes when you want a vegan poboy.  The sandwiches began with roast beef drippings or "debris," and then moved on to actual sliced roast beef, and then to all manner of fried seafood, sausage, and other such meaty fillings.  They're also slathered in mayonnaise - they must be, as it is a key to their unique flavor.  What's a vegan to do?

Never fear - as always there are answers.  You can get a french fry poboy from Parkway and add your own mayo, and even your own gravy.  You can head down to Seed and have one made with tofu nuggets.  You could head to Killer Poboy in the back of Erin Rose for a sweet potato offering.  Or, like I did this past weekend, you can go to 13 Monaghan on Frenchman for this herbed tofu delight.


365 Project Day 251: Hollygrove Harvest

On this eighth day of VeganMoFo, I'd like to take a closer look at the offerings of Hollygrove Market and Farm in New Orleans' Hollygrove neighborhood.

Hollygrove both grows their own produce and sources from local growers.  Each day, they offer a "box" (usually put in a bag, though) of fresh local produce for $25.  Brilliantly, Hollygrove shares the farm on which each offering was grown.

It's much like a CSA offering, with a little bit more choice in what veggies you get through a frequent "this or that" system on some of the offerings.  A discounted $20 box is available to neighborhood residents and people of lower income, and volunteers earn free produce.  In these ways, Hollygrove is a wonderful support and resource for its immediate community.

Yesterday's box had the following local produce to offer:

Sweet potatoes, apples, cucumbers...

...green peanuts, okra, squash...

...banana peppers...

...arugula, purple peas, lettuce, and mustard greens.

Hollygrove isn't the only spot making local-grown produce available to Nola folks, but it is the most consistent - other markets are only one day a week in each location - and there's always something special to be had.

Here's to fresh produce and to eating locally!


365 Project Day 250: ...Liquor is Quicker

For those of you following along, you'll maybe have noticed that yesterday's post ended with a question.  What besides sugar is made with sugarcane?

That's right friends.  Where there is sugarcane, there is rum.  Rum production was a profitable side business for sugar plantations in Louisiana in the 1800s.  Production died off for a good long while, but in (very) recent years has seen a resurgence.  This renaissance, according to many, was kicked off by local artist Michalopoulos and his Old New Orleans Rum.  Its Celebration Distillation distillery is located on the cusp between the upper corner of the Seventh Ward and Gentilly, and tours are given several times a day.  And, yes, it's made with Louisiana sugar cane.

They also use their signature crystal rum in a spicy kicky beverage called Gingeroo.  Check out that ginger pulp in the bottom of the bottles!  Despite its polished look, rest assured that this is a beverage hand-crafted in Nola.

Outside the city, we have Bayou Rum, which makes special batches with items like our wonderful seasonal satsumas.

Find these rums in groceries, bars, and restaurants all over town.

You could get this Toasted Coconut Fizzy at Sugar Park, made with house made coconut soda!  But for some dang reason they'll also make it with *Bacardi*.  Maybe you could ask for local rum instead!


365 Project Day 249: Candy is Dandy, but...

Many parts of the south are wonderful for agriculture, with long growing seasons and fertile soil.  The marshes of Louisiana, however, are good for growing only two things: rice and sugar.

Brought to Louisiana first by priests in the 1700s, sugarcane is still grown in large swaths of the southern parts of the state.  You can visit a real live working sugar plantation (if you can stomach a pretty serious whitewashing of southern plantation history).  There's even a sugar cane festival in New Iberia each year.  Anyone who's driven by Lafourche or Gramercy in the summer knows intimately the sickly sweet, slightly burnt smell of the cane being processed into sugar, and then boiled down more into molasses.  It's so common in these parts that my father talks of chewing on the cane as a treat when he was a kid, and cane still shows up in area groceries for that purpose.

Local sugar products have always been around Nola in Steen's syrups.  And lately, smaller purveyors like Three Brothers Farm are bringing Louisiana made raw sugar back to store shelves.

This leaves Louisiana with a huge advantage when folks want to "eat local" - we've got local sugar and molasses.  And in fact, Steen's Molasses Cake - recipe on the jar - is easily veganized by swapping out the egg for soy yogurt and using any plant milk.  I'll bake it again in November... when it's finally cool enough to turn on the oven.  ;)

Oh hey - do y'all know what else is made with sugarcane?