Thursday, November 7, 2013

History Corner: Louisiana Eats by Poppy Tooker, Phot. by David G Spielman

Disclosure / Disclaimer: I received this book, free of charge, from Pelican Publishing, for review purposes on this blog. No other compensation, monetary or in kind, has been received or implied for this post. Nor was I told how to post about it 
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And now something for the adults!

A beautiful book about the food, people and culture of NOLA!

On her popular radio show of this name, Poppy Tooker has captured some amazing oral histories about the food of Louisiana. This book brings those words to the page, including interviews with Chef Leah Chase, Randy Fertel of Ruth's Chris, the Roman Candyman, Creole kosher cook Mildred Cover, and more. Mouthwatering recipes and outstanding portraits by world-renowned photographer David Spielman beautifully garnish this delicious addition to Louisiana food literature.

When tourists come to NOLA, they come not only for the atmosphere, but for the FOOD. Like going to Paris, you expect to 'pig' out on rich foreign food, that is such a essential part of the culture. And like our ancestral country, the food we serve is a reflection of our faiths, culture and traditions. Poppy has been a tireless crusader to keep these food traditions alive and being passed on to the next generation, and for those who do not live in NOLA any longer.

This book is at its heart a love story to the people who have inspired her, and other New Orleanians, in their cooking, and their very presence in the city, and the fabric of their lives. The 15 chapters include icons like Leah Chase and John Gendusa, to people who are descendants of those who were integral to New Orleans' history like Connely Hayward, fourth generation owner of Camellia Brand beans, and Ronnie Kotterman, the Roman Candy man, a personal fav of mine, due to seeing him at his visits to my high school in NOLA, to beginnings of the Knott family brewery in Arnaudville and Vaucresson Sausage po-boys sold at Jazz Fest each year!

What Poppy gives us in this love letter to NOLA, is tradition and change, and how they can all work together, to bring forth a modern NOLA, that has its feet firmly grounded in the culinary traditions of the past, but ambitious enough to take new aspects of different cultures, and ways of cooking, to bring lagniappe to its comfort food, and to show the world that it is still here and at the forefront of the culinary world!

Did you think I wouldn't give you a recipe from the book, because it's not Recipe Weekend? Nah, I couldn't do that to ya! How about a new take on a veritable Monday tradition- red beans and rice?

Fried Red Beans and Rice


  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 1 cup red beans, cooked creamy style
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 tablespoons finely chopped ham
  • 1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons dried breadcrumbs, divided
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce
  • 2 eggs, divided
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • Oil for deep frying

1. Mix together the rice, red beans, green onions,ham and 2 tablespoons of the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle the hot sauce over the mixture, and then stir in one of the eggs. Mix well to form a tight batter.

2. In another bowl, combine the milk and remaining egg together to form an egg wash.

3. Form small balls from the rice mixture, approximately the size of a golf ball. 

4. Roll balls in flour, then coat with the egg wash, and roll in the remaining 1 cup of breadcrumbs.

5. Heat the oil to 360 degrees, and fry the balls until golden brown. Drain onpaper towels and serve immediately with green garlic mayonnaise.

Green Garlic Mayonnaise

1 clove garlic
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, stems removed
6 green onions
1 egg 
juice of 1 lemon
1 cup olive oil
1/s teaspoon salt:
2 tablespoons ketchupl
1. With a food processor running, drop in the garlic clove. 

2. Add the parsley and green onions and process until well chopped.

3. Add egg and lemon juice. 

4. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Add salt and ketchup. Continue processing until well mixed.

5. Serve as dipping sauce with the Fried Red Beans and Rice balls.

About the Author:

Poppy Tooker is a native New Orleanian who has spent her life immersed in the vibrant colors and flavors of her hometown. Louisiana Eats, the NPR member affiliated weekly radio show produced and hosted by Poppy Tooker takes listeners into the fields, the waters, the markets and kitchens to hear from the people who maintain the state’s storied food traditions and create new culinary magic inspired by the wealth of Louisiana’s food culture.

Poppy contributes colorful food commentary on WYES, the New Orleans PBS affiliate's weekly arts and entertainment show, Steppin' Out. She has shared the screen with television celebrities such as Extreme Cuisine’s Jeff Corwin, Foodography’s Mo Rocca and even Bobby Flay could not resist a Throwdown with Poppy. Her famous seafood gumbo proved unbeatable on the popular Food Network show! Following Hurricane Katrina, Poppy was recognized by the Times Picayune as a "Hero of the Storm”, a story which was nationally told on the Weather Channel.  In 2012, Southern Living magazine named Poppy a “Hero of the New South” for her work in foodways.  

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