Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Community Cooking Classes are back!

These classes are open to any experience level. All that is needed is the willingness to learn and share your experiences with others. Although there will be one formal "teacher" these classes are intended to be a community experience where community members can share their knowledge and discuss their challenges.

The first course will focus on basic cooking skills and maintaining a food budget. The course will meet every Monday for a month and will repeat monthly. The first class will be on October 17th and will continue every Monday until November 7th. The courses will be at the Escalante Senior Center Kitchen. You need to RSVP with Neal Wepking at (480)350-5830 or nealw@tempeaction.org.

Monday, September 26, 2011

"We've got Okra, enough to choke ya"

My sincere apologies to the songwriter Chris Smither for borrowing his lyrics for the title (see comments).

As the summer holds on for a few extra weeks and thermometers around the city continue to top 100 degrees, it seems appropriate to take a moment and pay our respects to one of the few members of the community garden that is enjoying it's moment in the sun. Although most of our veggies have sucumbed to the long hot summer, the humble okra seems to be enjoying all this heat. In fact, our okra patch has been producing heavily and doesn't look like it will slow anytime soon.

Okra, a relative of cotton and cocoa, does seem particularly well suited for Arizona summers. It is known for being exceptionally heat and drought tolerant, as well as tolerating poor soils. Plus, the plants can range anywhere from 3-6 feet tall, which means they can shade out any weeds pretty quickly.

At this point, I'm sure many of you are wondering what to with all this okra. Afterall, this vegetable does not have the greatest reputation. This reputation can be summed up with one particularly unappetizing word: mucilagenous. This gooey, thick texture is what happens to okra when it is cooked for a long period of time. While many (myself included) find nothing wrong with this texture, there are a few ways to prevent your okra from getting sticky. The first is deep frying it (like you needed an excuse...). Since this involves cooking the okra very quickly in very high heat, it will not get as sticky. There are many great recipies online for this, so I will leave it up to you to find one. The other method for mucus-prevention is to cook the okra in something acidic (lemon juice,tomatoes, citrus?).