THE PRODIGIOUS GRAPEFRUIT

Grapefruit + Raw Cane Sugar + Olive Oil Pound Cake | for the love of the south

While driving down the long, dusty road to Lacassine, Louisiana, cleared sugarcane fields revealed new life from the rich soil and a mellow, sweet fragrance filled the warm air. I imagined the empty field later in the year, taking over the landscape with its towering pampas-like foliage. As I became entranced by the pale jade landscape, we crept closer and closer to my great grandma’s house.

I tiptoed across the tiny, white shells in my great grandmother’s driveway and peaked around the corner of her small, whitewashed house and stepped into the garden. To me, this was an enchanted backyard, filled with life from one end of the tiny lot to the other. Strategically placed rows of perfectly ripe tomatoes and fingerlike okra pods smelled of sweet grass as I walked by. Tiny yet vibrant red and green peppers pirouetted in the breeze, reminding me of flickering Christmas lights. A protective fig tree magically became the perfect umbrella to take refuge under in the midst of afternoon showers, and near the back of the property, there was a gaggle of disgruntled chickens that became ruffled around the feathers if you got too close to their coop.

Grapefruit + Raw Cane Sugar + Olive Oil  Pound Cake | for the love of the south

On this particular trip, I decided to keep my distance from the foul fowls and kept to the side of the house, close to my grandmother. She was reaching over her head, picking what looked like spotted yellow basketballs. Quietly and curiously, I filled as many plastic shopping bags with the enormous unidentified fruit as I could and piled into the backseat of the car. I remember how the combination of the saccharine air from the sugarcane fields and the fresh scent of the mysterious citrus resting on my lap made my mouth water.

Immediately when we got back to the house, my grandma grabbed a large carving knife and split the colossal clandestine citrus in half, revealing blushing pink flesh. My grandma smiled proudly and said in her sweet Cajun accent, “Dat’s a biiggg grapefruit!” My mouth dropped in sheer disbelief, and we both started laughing and began ripping into the slightly sweet and tart flesh.

Grapefruit + Raw Cane Sugar + Olive Oil Pound Cake | for the love of the south

With a mouthful of ruby grapefruit and pink juice dribbling down my chin, I wondered what the secret was to the gigantic, sugary grapefruits that grew in my great grandmother’s backyard. Suddenly, I recalled the soft, spring breeze coming from the sugarcane field across the way and became sweetly satisfied in solving the mystery of the prodigious grapefruits.

Grapefruit + Raw Cane Sugar + Olive Oil  Pound Cake | for the love of the south

Recipe: Grapefruit + Raw Cane Sugar + Olive Oil Pound Cake

Slightly Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 1 Loaf Cake

Note: If you don’t have plain yogurt or buttermilk in the fridge, have no fear. Just add 2 tablespoons of grapefruit juice to 1/3 cup of milk and let it sit on the counter for 5 minutes to get nice and funky! It works perfectly in a pinch! 

Using the zest and juice from 2 medium-sized grapefruits for this recipe usually makes enough leftover juice for a simple glaze. Just whisk ½ cup of powdered sugar while slowly adding the leftover grapefruit juice until you have a smooth, thick glaze. Pour the glaze over the cooled cake and serve!

1 ½ cups (190g) of all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

¼ teaspoon of baking soda

1 teaspoon of kosher salt

2 tablespoons (30ml) of grapefruit juice, plus 1/3 cup (80ml) for syrup

1/3 cup (80ml) of buttermilk or plain yogurt

2 tablespoons of freshly grated grapefruit zest (from 2 medium-sized grapefruits)

½ cup (100g) of granulated sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for syrup

½ cup (95g) of raw cane sugar

½ cup (120ml) of olive oil (choose a mild olive oil, not extra virgin)

2 eggs, at room temperature

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9×5” loaf pan.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a glass-measuring cup, combine 2 tablespoons of grapefruit juice and buttermilk (or yogurt).

In a large mixing bowl, add grapefruit zest, ½ cup of granulated sugar, and raw cane sugar. Rub the zest and sugars together with your fingertips. Whisk in the oil until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, and whisk until combined. Scrape down the bowl.

Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures to the cake batter, beginning and ending with the flour.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top and tap the pan on the counter a few times, releasing any bubbles in the batter. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Meanwhile, combine remaining 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar with 1/3 cup of grapefruit juice in a small saucepan, and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Set aside.

When the cake has finished baking, let it cool for 10 minutes and invert onto a cooling rack with a tray underneath. Poke holes in the cake with a skewer or toothpick and brush the grapefruit syrup over the cake. Allow the cake to cool completely while absorbs the syrup. Serve the cake all by itself or create simple glaze to pour over the top  (see note). Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strawberry Fig Crêpes

As I left the comfort and wonderful aroma of my grandmother’s kitchen this past weekend, she approached me with a large Sketcher’s shoebox. “This should last you a few weeks at least,” she said. Trying for the life of me to remember the last time I put on tennis shoes, I slowly opened the lid, and there, like perfect tin soldiers, were rows of her preserved figs and strawberry figs. “Oh this should last for at least that amount of time,” I said as I began ruminating of places to hide the coveted jars. Vegetable drawer, behind jars of roux, seasoning cabinet, cookie jar, above the refrigerator… I can be quite wily with her preserves. They sustain me, so therefore they must be hidden.

Fast-forward 24 hours.

On our trek back to Birmingham, we stopped in the ever beautiful and steamy city of New Orleans. Walking around the streets of New Orleans in July is a lot like being trapped in a sauna with a keg of beer. The moist air clings to your skin and the smell of booze piggybacks. There are few things in the world that could tempt me to be a peach in moments like this, but the smell of crêpes being made on a small, endearing cart on the sidewalk has the power to make me forget the fact that I am damp from head to toe.

Then, it came to me. I wonder if I could sneak some of Grandma’s preserves into a crêpe without anyone noticing? If no one had noticed the 2-pound Mason jar I was carrying in my purse, maybe they would not notice me cracking open the jar of her sweet, sticky, red preserves.

I asked for a plain crêpe and whenever everyone ordered theirs, I quickly smeared some of the red preserves onto the pancake. The process was quick and messy. It resulted in a half opened jar of preserves in the bottom of my purse, staining everything in its path. The reward outweighed the sacrifice. I began walking the streets of New Orleans with pep in my step, dripping sweat, and a curiously stained smile while I devoured my wonderfully “plain” crêpe.

Recipe: Adapted from Tyler Florence

Makes 6 10-inch crêpes

¼ cup of water

1 cup of milk

2 eggs

1 cup of flour

1 teaspoon of vanilla

2 tablespoons of sugar

Pinch of salt

3 tablespoons of butter, melted, plus more for greasing pan

1 cup of your favorite preserves*

Notes: I am using my grandmother’s strawberry figs in this recipe, but you can use peach, strawberry, blackberry…. whatever you are craving!

Combine water, milk, eggs, flour, vanilla, sugar and salt in a blender. Blend until all of the ingredients are well incorporated and the mixture is no longer lumpy. Scrape down the sides and blend again. Add the butter to the mixture and blend for just a few more seconds. Let the mixture rest in the fridge for an hour.

Place a nonstick skillet on medium to medium-low heat. Brush butter onto the pan. With the batter in one hand and the hot skillet in the other, slowly pour the batter into the pan and twirl the skillet in the other so that there is enough batter to purely coat the bottom of the pan. Let the crêpe cook just until brown, flip with a spatula and brown on the other side. Flip onto a plate and continue with the remaining batter. I usually end up with 6, but depending on the size of your skillet, you may end up with one or two more or less.

Fill half of the crêpe with the filling of your choice and fold the crêpe over itself twice.

My Thick Cajun Roots

Let me just start by saying that I may fool many people I meet. My roots run deep with Cajun culture but I give no signs of it. I have no dog named Duke. My English is not broken Cajun-French. I do not hug EVERY stranger that I meet and invite them over for gumbo. Even though on the outside I do not drip with Cajun culture, it shapes the very person I am.

They may not be the most refined people in the South, but these people, my family, have hearts of gold (no Saints color reference intended). They stand together no matter what. No tragedy can separate the bonds that these people share.

Cajun Dancing at D.I.’s Restaurant in Basile, Louisiana

There are many quirks that are unique to my culture. It is a Cajun’s cruel joke to ask people that are not from Louisiana to pronounce their last name. Broussard, Fontenot, Fruge, Duplechain may be pronounced like Brow-sard, Font-e-not, Fruggie, and Dup-lee-chane anywhere else in the country. There are things that we put on the Sunday afternoon buffet that you may call an exterminator for. We will eat frog legs and alligator meat and tell everyone that it tastes like chicken. Little hint: it does not and never will.

Crawfish Hole in Lake Charles, Louisiana

No matter what kind of dog, male or female, they are named Duke or Lady. Gender is never relevant. This is where I get my unnatural addiction to Ray Charles and Louis Armstrong (and yes, I can do the impersonation). I let people know that they need a passport when they go into Deep South Louisiana because it is like a whole other country. It is nothing like you have ever experienced. One thing I can say through all of the craziness is that we know how to laugh through anything and everything. My strength draws deep through my tangled roots of Louisiana but I would not have it any other way. We are a resilient people.  I know whatever comes my way in life that it will be tackled with hard work, love for others, and a love for life.

All of this to say that Louisiana is my home and the people in it are my family. I would not be the same strong and sometimes crazy person that stands in front of you right now without my culture. I carry it with me in my pocket and in my heart. I love how through everything there are people that will never leave Louisiana through hell or high water (literally). No matter how much nature and man may build and teardown and build back up again, it is always home. You learn it is not about possessions. A home is built not with wood and steel but love and community. My culture has a sense of togetherness. Whenever anyone asks where I am from, I will proudly say that my home is and will always be Louisiana.

Crawfish Pond in Basile, Louisiana