Muscadines, or "scuppernongs" as I've also heard them called (by my grandaddy) are in season at the end of summer, and I've always thought of them as the heralds of what passes, in South Mississippi, as "fall."
Down here "fall" should just be called "slightly less miserable summer."
I don't know many people who do much with muscadines, because although they taste great, they're not as easy to eat raw as grocery store variety grapes. They have VERY tough skins, pulpy innards, and large seeds. Fortunately, when you cook them down, smoosh out the seeds, and then bake them between two flaky layers of pie dough, they soften up considerably, and have a wonderful and unique flavor. This recipe comes from Nancie McDermott's Southern Pies, and the only adjustment I've made is to cut back on the sugar somewhat. Muscadines--or at least, my muscadines--are so sweet on their own that too much sugar actually harms rather than helps the flavor of the pie.
I recommend you add sugar slowly, and taste the filling as you go, until you get it how you like.
When I travel to other regions of the country, I like to notice differences in food. Sometimes it's totally unique experiences, like the kick-ass Mexican food I ate in Tucson, or the wow-we-don't-actually-eat-pizza-in-America moment I had in Italy. And sometimes it's just interesting perspectives on things I generally take for granted, like how lobster, fine dining fare to me, is insanely cheap in the Northeast, or, by contrast, how precious figs are in the same area. Don't get me wrong, it's not that figs aren't special in the South. They have a short growing season and so can't help being that. It's just that they aren't exotic. There's a fig tree in every other yard down here and I don't even remember not knowing the proper way to eat one (ditto muscadines, but that's another post). Also, of course, my grandmama made the best fig preserves (so did her mother, and her mother, etc etc).
A galette is simply a pie that doesn't need a pan. It's free-form, and the edges are folded up around whatever you put inside (typically fresh fruit). You might say it's as easy as...someone else doing your taxes.
Fresh Fig Galette with Fig Preserve Cream Cheese Spread
Ok, don't get freaked out by the frou-frou sounding name of this dish. All "en papillote"means is "in parchment," and using it is no different than laissezing your bontemps roulez.
Some French Cajun person somewhere is no doubt having an ear bleed right now.
This is such an easy and tasty dish to make, it's a whole meal in a packet, and it's a snap to customize to individual preference. It's also a great meal for one, since it makes no leftovers. My recipe uses catfish, but you can use any fish you prefer. Shrimp is also fine, though I confess I'm not sure about any other meat. Give it a go if you're feeling adventurous, though with chicken especially I'd err on the side of caution and maybe use a meat thermometer. The same flexibility applies to the starch: I used brown rice, but you can use anything you want, or nothing at all. Couscous is nice, as is quinoa or small pasta. Like I said, easily and infinitely customizable.
The food culture in France (and in many other countries I'm sure, though I don't know them as well) appeals to me immensely. Not even necessarily because of what they eat so much as how they eat. It's such a lovely, calm, ritualistic affair. But for the life of me I could not figure out how to recreate it in my home. Surely eating like that breaks the bank, I thought. Or is horribly time consuming. How can you possibly eat things that are delicious and satisfying without gaining a bazillion pounds?? (The answer to this last question, by the way, is that I did not until recently understand what "delicious" or "satisfying" actually meant.)
Then I read this book:
And I realized that the reason I couldn't understand what the French do is because I'm an American, and our young country lacks much of what most older peoples have: a deliberate food culture. Thanks to this book (which I read twice) I am able to better understand how French children are raised, and divine, by way of comparison with my own home learnin', why French adults behave so differently with respect (and I do mean respect) to food. I originally picked up this book as a curiosity, and began following the guidelines therein because they sounded nice, but y'all, ever since I've begun implementing these new habits in my home, I have lost a steady 1-2 pounds per week. I hate to make it about weight loss, because it's so much more than that, but I am someone who has unsuccessfully "dieted" since she was 5 years old, so to me this is HUGE (no pun intended. Ok, pun intended. Ha, ha, freaking ha).
I have not counted a single "point" or calorie, have not sacrificed entire food groups, have had no sense of forcing myself to do anything. There has been no artificial sweetener, "diet food," or low fat dairy. I'm just learning to pay attention to and take pleasure in the experience of eating, and I'm finally learning the completely intuitive art of listening to my own body's signals of satiety (my home was one of those "clean your plate" deals). These new habits result, with no direct intention on my part, on better quality, more variety, and smaller portions. And I have NOT started spending more money on food, nor more hours in the kitchen (quite the contrary, actually).
Y'all, I am experiencing a personal revolution. That's why I just had to take time out of my usual recipe posting to share this long-winded narrative. Thanks for your patience! In keeping with the theme, here's two French recipes to express my appreciation: