This is a meal drawn straight from my childhood memories. Plates piled high with garden vegetables, beans, skillet cornbread - simple, nourishing food. The jewel-toned tomatoes were always my favorite. They’re best eaten still warm from the sunshine and un-fussed with except for a sprinkle of salt. Although there are several dishes, this meal is simple to prepare. The peas keep well, and can be done ahead of time and eaten throughout the week. Everything else can be made while the cornbread bakes. Be sure to have some iced tea and lemon on hand to accompany the meal!
Black Eyed Peas
1 1/2 cups black eyed peas
1 generous bunch alliums (scallions, spring onions, or leeks), white and green parts finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped herbs (dill, tarragon, marjoram, chives), optional
4 tbsps butter
Place black eyed peas in a pot and add water to cover by a couple inches. Salt generously. Simmer for 30 minutes to an hour until the beans are soft and creamy. Drain and set aside.
Melt 2 tbsps of butter in a skillet. Add chopped alliums and season with salt. Cook until they are golden and caramelizing. Add beans and season to taste with salt, remaining butter, and herbs if desired. Serve warm.
2 cups stone-ground cornmeal
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups full-fat buttermilk
4 tbsps butter or bacon grease
Preheat oven to 450. Mix dry ingredients. Add egg and buttermilk and stir vigorously to combine. Put butter in a cast iron skillet and place in the oven to melt. Once the butter has melted, remove the skillet from the oven and tilt it to grease the sides of the pan. Pour the excess into the batter and stir quickly, then put the batter in the hot skillet. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
2 cups cucumbers, thinly sliced
1/2 cup thinly sliced sweet onion or scallions
1 cup full-fat buttermilk
2 tbsps chopped fresh dill
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp black pepper
Mix together the buttermilk, dill, vinegar, salt, sugar, and pepper. Place the cucumbers and onions in a bowl and dress with the buttermilk. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve chilled.
1 lb. okra, cut into 1/4 inch coins
1 egg, beaten
1 cup cornmeal (more if needed)
Oil for frying
Salt and pepper
Place okra in a bowl. Add the beaten egg and toss to coat. Add cornmeal and mix well to evenly coat the pieces. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Heat a 1/4 inch of oil in a large skillet. Add a test piece of okra to see if it sizzles. Cook the okra in a single layer (in batches if necessary) until golden brown all over, 3-5 minutes. Remove to a paper towel lined plate or wire rack and season with additional salt if necessary. Serve immediately.
Fill your plate with the fried okra, cucumber salad, black eyed peas, and a wedge of buttered cornbread. Don’t forget some sliced heirloom tomatoes and a glass of iced tea.
Other good candidates to round out the meal include fresh sweet corn, summer squash gratin, sautéed greens, or steamed green beans. Deviled eggs or fried chicken for more protein. Peaches and blackberries for dessert!
One more thing: cornbread is best when it's fresh from the oven, but if you do have leftovers, eat it for breakfast, toasted and slathered with butter and honey or jam.