Tag Archives: Unscene Shreveport

BAKED STUFFED TOMATOES: STOPPING BY A TEXAS FRUITSTAND

We are back home after a very long two weeks in Shreveport, Louisiana. We had a good time and enjoyed seeing old friends, but taking care of two young children is not in the usual job description for folks as old as my wife and me.

Susan had driven her car all the way from Santa Fe, so we knew that we had a long drive back. We decided we were not going through the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex even though it was probably the shortest and fastest return. There is too much traffic; we have been there before many, many times; and the cityscape is, well frankly, boring.

Instead, we left the interstate at Tyler and headed up to Sherman, the home  of a beautiful small liberal arts college, Austin College. The road was like so many country roads in Louisiana and Texas: well paved, not much traffic, and lines with farms and big stands of pines and hardwoods. The further west we got, the smaller the trees became. There were several towns along the way, but most were no bigger that a few hundred people. Every town, though, had an enormous high school and an even bigger football stadium. Every town also had several churches. Some had tall spires while others looked like they were just hanging on.

Still steeped in farm-to-table enthusiasm, we stopped at a small roadside stand several miles from any town. They were advertising fresh homemade ice cream along with fresh produce. We certainly helped their cash-flow that day. Susan bought several jars of homemade preserves, honey, pinto and Anasazi beans, sweet potatoes, cantaloupes, watermelon, sweet cherries, fresh peaches, and bright red tomatoes.  We had to re-arrange our already crowded back seat to make room for everything.

We resumed our travel, stopping in Amarillo overnight (That is another story, but probably not appropriate for a blog) and then got back on the interstate to complete our trip home.

Since then, we have been enjoying all of the fruits and vegetables from Shreveport along with more from the fruit stand. We’ve had fresh tomatoes sliced, in a salad, and along with avocado so it occurred to me that a tasty meal might include mashed sweet potatoes, a big slice of ham from the store, and baked tomatoes.  That’s what we had last night.

RECIPE

Baked Stuffed Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 2 large ripe tomatoes
  • 3 crimini mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil + more to drizzle on top of the tomatoes
  • 3 scallions including green tops, chopped finely
  • ½ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • ½ cup panko
  • ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Method

  1. Cut off the stem ends of the tomatoes. If needed, cut a very thin slice off the blossom end so that the tomato will sit flat. With a grapefruit knife or grapefruit spoon, remove the pulp from the tomatoes, leaving a rim of about ¼ inch of the flesh. Rinse, drain, and set aside.
  2. Rinse any seeds from the pulp, sprinkle with salt, chop finely, and set aside to drain any excess water.
  3. In a small pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the mushrooms until they have given up their liquid and it has evaporated, about three minutes. Set aside.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the mushrooms with their cooking oil, scallions, parsley, panko, Italian seasoning, and vinegar. Blot the chopped tomato pulp dry with paper towels and add it to the mixture.
  5. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper.
  6. Stuff the tomato shells with the mixture, packing it firmly. Top with the Parmesan cheese, drizzle with olive oil, and place in the middle of an oven preheated to 350° F. Bake for 30 minutes. Using a spatula, transfer the tomatoes to plates and serve immediately.

 

 

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LETTER FROM UNSCENE SHREVEPORT: THE LAST HURRAH

This will be my last post from Unscene Shreveport. Actually, I am already home, but I wanted to describe the final event for Sarah and Evan. Now, after two weeks of looking after a three-year-old and a three-month-old, my wife and I plan to rest.

On Saturday night, the Shreveport Municipal Auditorium became the focus of the food week. There was a small farmers market set up in the lobby, and fifteen local chefs joined Sarah and Evan to prepare an amazing array of dishes that were supposed to focus on the farm-to-table concept. Most, although not all, used products from the farmers market as the main ingredients in their foods.

As well, one local artist was assigned to each of the chefs to capture the food in images. Then there was music, bright lights, colored lights, and wine to establish a party atmosphere. And it was a party – about 600 people showed up.

The Municipal Auditorium is a classic Art Deco building that was completed in the late 1920s or early 1930s. For many years it served as the home of the Louisiana Hayride, a strong radio competitor with the Grand Ole Opry. Many of the greats of country music performed at the Hayride, including Hank Williams and even Elvis Presley. In fact, the street in front of the building has been renamed Elvis Presley Avenue. After the Hayride shuttered its doors, the auditorium fell on hard times. Paint peeled, plaster became loose, and windows got broken. Except for high school graduations, the space was on its way to becoming derelict. In recent years, however, the buildings around have been cleaned up or knocked down, and the Municipal Auditorium has had lots of love and care to restore it to its original grandeur.

Here is the menu for the evening:

  • Sarah, Evan, and their Shreveport host, Chef Jason Brady served pork panzanella using the hog that they had butchered on Thursday.
  • Chef Carolyn Manning of Blue served goat’s milk grits
  • Chef Pansou served creole maux chow
  • Chef Hardette Harris made a green garden salad
  • Chef  Charlie Reed from Superior’s Steakhouse prepared Toulouse beef striploin canapés, duck, and gravlax
  • Chef Giuseppe Brucia of Giuseppe’s made cheese ravioli
  • Chef Jason Reynolds of Zocolo prepared a chilled field pea salad
  • Chef Tootie Morrison of Abby Singer’s Bistro served gumbo balls
  • Chef Cedric Williams made chicken meatballs
  • Chef Kevin Bourg from Wine Country Bistro had a refreshing chilled cucumber soup
  • Tina Palmesano of Jester’s Catering served fresh shrimp tamales
  • Chef Conrad Patterson provided individual pecan pies
  • Chef Andrew Parsons of Lagniappe Foods made crostini topped with fig jam and pork liver paté
  • Chef Eddie Mars from the Petroleum Club served pork cheek bahn day
  • Chefs Lisa and TK Tike of Lilah’s made tres leches cake
  • Chefs Scott Roebuck and Liz Bowen of Serendipity served veggie sliders

After all of that, there was no reason that anyone should go away hungry, but there was one more opportunity for food. Sarah and Evan served their gourmet popcorn to those who wanted to stay for a showing of the movie, Ratatouille.

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LETTER FROM UNSCENE SHREVEPORT: BUTCHERING A PIG

Trigger warning: this post is not for vegetarians.

As part of their residency in Shreveport, Sarah and Evan were asked to demonstrate how to butcher a  whole hog. The program was designed for professionals so that they would consider buying whole animals or primal cuts instead of just ordering chops or steaks from the restaurant food supply company. In that way, they could use everything, both as a cost-saving measure and as a way to think of new uses for meat cuts that they had never tried before.

No, Sarah did not slaughter the pig, but it came close: the animal was bled, skinned, and cleaned of offal, but otherwise it came snout to tail with suggestions on how to use every part.

Sarah’s tools included knives that she spent all morning sharpening, a big cleaver, and a hack saw that she bought from the hardware store.

The audience included restaurant professionals, enthusiastic amateurs, old folks who recalled butchering a hog on their grandparents’ farm, farmers from the farmers market who were interested in sustainable farming, and students from the local culinary training program who mostly slept in the back of the hall.

Evan talked while Sarah talked and demonstrated how to separate the various cuts of meat.  She carved out the tenderloin, chops, roasts, hams, and pork belly. She showed how to trim excess fat, and how to remove silver skin for a more tender cut of meat.

In the end, she demonstrated how to get hog cheeks – a delicacy – and what to do with the whole head. Several older people were very interested in that because they remembered making souse and head cheese when they were younger.

In the end, it turned out not to be a beautiful or tasty demonstration, but one that everyone found interesting – except the culinary students.

 

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LETTER FROM UNSCENE SHREVEPORT: TOMATO AND SQUASH SHOWDOWN

Today is the day of the amateur cook-off. The contestants have had the weekend to think about what they would cook, using either tomatoes or squash. There have been over seventy entrants, more than twice as many as anyone thought. Even at that, there were several who chose not to enter because they couldn’t think of anything to make with tomatoes or squash. One woman asked what the ingredients were. She declined tomato. When she found out the other choice was squash, she said, “I don’t do vegetables,” and left. So much for the farm-to-table movement.

Our guess was that there would be a lot of stewed tomatoes and okra (This is Louisiana, after all.) There would also be a lot of zucchini bread. We’ll see. Turn in time was 5 PM and at 3PM entries were already starting to arrive.

On the way to the place where the contest was to be held, we stopped for barbecue. Big D’s Barbecue has been smokin’ for over 30 years. It is quintessential Louisiana barbecue although too much ketchup for my taste. Still, it is worth the trip. I’ve included an image of their smoker and outdoor dining area (if you can stand the heat) along with their delivery vehicle.

Sarah and Evan’s menu included:

  • Sliced tomatoes with grilled corn, popped sorghum, and white chocolate
  • Green bean salad with raw pecans, coffee vinaigrette, and green-bean chimichirri
  • Honey-roasted potatoes with sunflowers
  • Plum-glazed pork roast

The contest turned out to be an exciting event. Over 70 cooks along with families showed up, so there were nearly 300 people jammed into the hall. The contestants were intense and clearly there to win. Contrary to our expectations, there was not a single serving of tomatoes and okra or zucchini bread, although a 10-year old girl made an elegant squash cake with an elaborate squash glaze. Choosing winners turned out to be more difficult than anyone had thought, but among the winners were a fancy pizza with lots of toppings, a tomato pie, and a squash appetizer. After the judges – Sarah, Evan, and Jason – had sampled everything. (Yes, you read that right.) everyone in the audience stormed the tables to get their own taste of the various entries.

Following the announcement of the winners, Sarah and Evan’s dinner was served, and folks were still hungry! Then there was a lively panel of local food experts talking about the next steps toward getting Shreveport more farm-to-table friendly.

A long evening, but everyone went home well-fed and happy.

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LETTER FROM UNSCENE SHREVEPORT: FARMERS MARKET

Today we went to the Farmers Market at the Festival Plaza in downtown Shreveport near the banks of the Red River. We arrived at 7 AM, but there was already a long line of customers waiting to buy fresh corn from the Bailey Farms trailer filled with sacks from the fields of the Mennonite colony in Arkansas. The crowds were otherwise fairly light, but within a short time, the plaza was filled with folks of all descriptions, and the vendors were busy selling their wares. Unscene Shreveport is an ongoing project of the Shreveport Regional Arts Council, who are trying to revitalize the riverfront while bringing new ideas about art and food to the community. The executive director, Pam Atchison, met with Sarah and Evan, along with local chef, Jason Brady, to plan events of the day and to talk about the cooking challenge.

Amateur cooks were encouraged to  participate in a free cook-off using a “secret” ingredient from the farmers market. The entrants drew their assignments from a big basket – either tomatoes or squash. It was interesting to see how many were puzzled about  what to do with tomatoes, which were in abundance –  ripe or green, big or small, heirloom or otherwise. There were lots of choices for squash as well.

On Monday evening, contestants were to return with eight helpings of their dish. Sarah, Evan, and Jason would be the judges and also cook a meal from market selections. Then there would be a sort of covered-dish supper with all the entrants invited to sample their competitors’ offerings.  Extra points for using more ingredients from the market. As we wandered around the plaza we saw the bounty of the Ark-La-Tex (the region where the three states come together with Shreveport as the unofficial capital) There were berries of all kinds, fresh watermelons, authentic Louisiana pralines by Dardie, fried pies, fresh and pickled quail eggs, hen’s eggs, meat of several varieties, cookies, cupcakes, bread, goat cheese, and on an on.

I’m looking forward to Monday.

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