Culinary jackpot for neighbors – Northside Sun

Things to know in case there is another Pandemic:

1) Know your passwords: Who would have imagined all the things I could do on my phone or computer. OK, most 10-year-olds would know, but not me!! I have had to stay at home and pay bills, order food, and conduct meetings. Most have gone smoothly once I was able to locate all the dozens of passwords associated with these chores. I have created a “super-secret” password book so that I do not have to re-set my passwords every time I need to do something. It has proven impossible for me to keep all the passwords straight in my mind. Make note of your passwords.

2) Know your grocer: I enjoy making quick trips to my neighborhood grocery. They know me there and are always willing to order specific items for me. I was one of people that did not stock up on toilet paper in March. I thought that things would calm down and we would be back to our normal schedules soon and I would leave all the TP on the shelves for the hoarders. By early April, I started to get a little stressed. By mid-April, I was very stressed and started buying cheap napkins (the only paper-good available at my store) to have just in case. That when my friend and manager at the neighborhood grocery stepped in. He explained that he was due a shipment the next day and I should plan to arrive early. 

Sure enough, the next day the shipment arrived and the store had only received four packages of toilet paper. The manager was so kind to have put one back for me and he worked tirelessly to get more products and ensure that his customers would be able to have the items they need. Thank you Eddie, and I am so thankful for all our grocers that work so hard to make sure we had the things we need!

3) Know your neighbors: I have lived in two neighborhoods since moving to Jackson: Belhaven and Fondren. In both neighborhoods, I have loved my neighbors and neighborhood. People look out for one another and take care of each other. During the “stay at home orders,” our neighborhood was quick to make sure everyone was safe, fed and well. Many times friends would call to see if we needed food, water, wine or toilet paper. I brought food to older neighbors that needed a quick meal and so did many of my neighbors. Neighbors called and checked on one another, one of the good things that I can reflect on during this difficult time. 

Danelle and Kendall Garraway made sure everyone had plenty of eggs, casseroles, and vegetables during this time. I am fortunate to live right around the corner from the Garraways. Danelle is originally from New Orleans, and grew up cooking and eating her mother’s and grandmother‘s Italian food. The combination of Italian and New Orleans roots basically constitutes a culinary jackpot for a neighbor. However, I have not even mentioned that Kendall is a farmer and they have one of the best backyard gardens in the area. They are always happy to share the bounty from the garden and from the kitchen. 

Since we moved into the neighborhood, our family has been the fortunate recipient of a lot of her delicious Italian cooking and fresh home garden produce. It is all amazing. I have begged for recipes and she has been gracious enough to lead several cooking lessons for some of her specialties. 

Danelle’s Breakfast Casserole

(Best made with fresh Garraway eggs)

½ loaf sliced bread

About ¼ cup melted butter

1 pound cooked sausage, bacon or ham

1 ½ cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

2 1/2 cups half-and-half

1 tsp dry mustard

1 tsp salt

7 large eggs, well beaten

You can add any vegetables you like such as: green onions, mushrooms, herbs

Grease a 9×13 or two 8×8 casserole dishes. Tear up bread, place in casserole dish and drizzle with melted butter. Top with meat, cheese, vegetables of your choice. Stir together eggs, half-and-half, mustard, and salt. Pour over bread mixture and cover. Refrigerate eight hours or overnight. The next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake covered casserole for 50 minutes until set and slightly golden brown. Allow casserole to rest for about 10 minutes before serving. 

Pasta e Fagioli Soup

Last year, I came down with a cold and she brought over some Pasta e Fagioli Soup. At the time, I could not imagine what she put in it but I promise that it has some magical healing power. It tasted great and was the perfect pick-me-up. She shared her basic recipe with me and insisted that you can add, substitute, or remove anything on the list. Just be sure and include the things you like. Most recipes do not include meat, but I like the addition of Italian sausage. The list of ingredients might seem long, but it is truly a simple process of adding ingredients. 

5 strips bacon, finely chopped, or 4 oz. pancetta

1 large onion, chopped

3 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 ribs celery, chopped

3 cloves, garlic, peeled and chopped

Herbs: Any combination of fresh (1 Tbs each) or dried (1 tsp. each) Rosemary, thyme, parsley, oregano, basil

2 bay leaves

6 cups broth, chicken or beef or any combination

1 can tomato sauce

1 can diced tomatoes

1 pound Italian sausage, cut or rolled into very small meatballs

1 cup uncooked small shell pasta

3 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

½ cup white wine or vermouth

Salt/pepper to taste

In a large stock pot, cook chopped bacon until slightly crispy. Add onions, celery and carrots. Stir and cook until translucent (about 5 minutes.) Add garlic, herbs, bay leaves and tomato sauce. Stir and cook an additional 2 minutes. Add broth, diced tomatoes, beans and Italian sausage. Bring to a boil and add pasta and wine. Cook until pasta is done. 

Remove bay leaves and serve the soup topped with some fresh grated Parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, and a drizzle of good olive oil. Add some bread and it is a perfect meal. 

*If you are gluten-free, simply omit the pasta or use gluten-free alternative to pasta. Also, this soup can easily be vegetarian with the use of vegetable broth and substitute a 2 Tbs. of olive oil for the bacon.

Feel free to add any vegetable you would like. Among those I have used are: chopped zucchini, spinach, Swiss chard or kale. 

Mushroom Risotto

Danelle’s risotto is equally amazing. I was never really sure how to make it and it always seems so complicated. Her version takes a little time but is simple and delicious.

4 cups chicken broth, or more as needed 

2 Tbs butter, divided 

1 Tbs olive oil

1 finely chopped onion 

1 package of baby bella mushrooms, sliced or chopped

1½ cups Arborio rice

1/2 cup Vermouth 

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese 

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp freshly grated black pepper 

1 Tbs freshly chopped parsley 

1/4 cup mascarpone cheese

In a large sauce pan, melt one tablespoon of butter and add one tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onion and sauté until tender, about three minutes. Add the rice, stir to coat. Add the vermouth and simmer until it’s almost completely evaporated. Add mushrooms and 1/2 cup of broth. Stir until almost completely absorbed, about two minutes. Continue cooking rice, adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time and stirring constantly. Allow each addition of to be absorbed until you add the next. Once rice is tender but still firm (about 20 minutes.) remove from heat and add the additional tablespoon of butter, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, parsley, and mascarpone cheese. Serve immediately.

Homemade Pasta

I have tried several recipes for homemade pasta and Danelle’s recipe is so quick and easy. It turns out perfect pasta dough every time.

2 cups of all-purpose flour

3 large eggs

1Tbs olive oil

1 tsp of salt 

Put eggs, oil and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to mix well. Add the flour and process until mixture holds together. Remove from the food processor and use right away or wrap in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

Using a pasta machine, divide the dough in several pieces. Put small sections of the dough through the pasta machine beginning on the widest setting, repeat with all the dough moving pasta rollers closer together each time until you reach the desired thickness. Danelle’s dough was very thin (about to #6.) Once all the dough is rolled, boil the sheets a few at a time for about 30 seconds to a minute in well salted water. Drain and keep separated on towels.

Garraway Homemade Waffles

All of this Italian food might sound difficult and a little overwhelming but my favorite recipe of hers is super simple. This might be the easiest and best waffle recipe that I have ever come across. The waffles are light, crispy, and delicious. They almost taste like beignets.

2 cups of Bisquick 

1 egg 

1/2 cup of vegetable oil 

1 – 10 ounce bottle of club soda 

Mix well and prepare according to the instructions on your waffle iron. Top with fresh berries, butter, syrup, whipped cream, or powdered sugar. Whatever you like.