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Cookbook review: Taste of Treme

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(Read caption) Spicy shrimp with cheddar grits from 'Taste of Treme' combines seafood, peppers, and Creole seasonings on a bed of creamy grits – comfort food with a kick, quintessentially New Orleans.

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New Orleans is one of our favorite cities for food. Everything tastes of history, blended cultures and spices. Lots of spices. Some of them hot, of course, but more often just big flavored. And from the diviest dives to the fanciest white tablecloth spots, you have to work hard to find a bad meal.

It’s been too long since we’ve been back to New Orleans. Fortunately, "Taste of Tremé: Creole, Cajun, and Soul Food from New Orleans’s Famous Neighborhood of Jazz" by Todd-Michael St. Pierre delivers. Published in October 2012, it is stuffed with doable recipes, from breakfast right on through to dinner, dessert, and cocktails.

"Taste of Tremé" is also packed with the flavor and soul of the city. Author Todd-Michael St. Pierre shares some history of Tremé, his favorite NOLA neighborhood and the oldest African-American community in the nation. St. Pierre says of the area “music is always in the air and something wonderful is always simmering on the stove.”

This recipe for shrimp with cheddar grits had me at "grits." I grew up in St. Louis, about as far north as grits reliably get on breakfast joint menus. And I have a lot of family in the South. So the creamy texture and buttery, salty taste of grits (to those of you who put sugar or syrup on grits, stop it) is a road trip welcome home sign for my mouth.

It helps to think of grits as kind of polenta (they’re both ground corn) or even risotto, filtered through Southern kitchens. All are slow cooked to a creamy finish that, unlike rice or pasta, doesn’t need a sauce or gravy. In fact, they often serve as the slightly saucy base for other foods.

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