From eggs to oysters, local farms and markets provide bounty for the Thanksgiving table
On the upper Texas coast, small farms, farmers markets and fish markets are abundant. We asked foodies to share their tips on how to use the freshest, local ingredients to prepare a Thanksgiving feast to remember. And we’re thankful they obliged.
Shirley Duronslet’s 46 chickens are productive in their San Leon environment, where their living quarters give them shelter and their pasture area offers them daily opportunities to roam.
Duronslet has several varieties of chickens, including Wyandottes, Long Island Reds, Leghorns and Easter Eggers. Their colorful shells include olive, pale green, cream and brown hues.
“Locally sourced eggs have a much better flavor, are creamier and they have better texture,” Duronslet said. “I feed the chickens non-GMO, soy-free feeds to make sure they get proper nutrients. Also, I give them treats such as meal worms, fruits and vegetables. We feed them in the morning, let them out, they drink out of the pond and they range freely. They are very happy, so they lay delicious eggs.”
– Sue Mayfield Geiger
12 medium eggs, boiled
½ cup mayonnaise (Duronslet uses Chosen Foods brand made with 100 percent avocado oil, non-GMO, dairy- and gluten-free with no sugar)
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sweet relish
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
Slice eggs in half and remove yolks from eggs.
Mash yokes in a bowl and add remaining ingredients. Stir until creamy.
PUT yolk mixture into the egg halves. Garnish with chopped parsley or smoked paprika.
In 2004, Renee and Wilson Hillman decided they could make better use of their acreage in Dickinson and wanted to do something productive. So, they started Fruits ’n Such Orchard. Today, the Hillmans grow an abundance of vegetables and fruit trees. They open the orchard to the public during May and June.
“Locally sourced produce is by far a better choice for consumers because it reduces the environmental impact by cutting out packaging and shipping,” Renee Hillman said. “Ideally, most produce has the best flavor when ripe, but winter squashes, like butternut, can be picked from the plant and stored easily in a cool, dark place where sunlight won’t hasten its ripening.”
Summer and fall are best harvest times, said Hillman, who plans to open the orchard in November and December to make fresh citrus available for sale to the public.
– Sue Mayfield Geiger
PAN-ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH WITH PECANS
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into ¾-inch cubes
2 tablespoons of light olive oil
Heat olive oil in heavy skillet over medium heat. Add cubed squash, salt and pepper. As the squash cooks, stir and scrape often with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula to get tasty bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir until tender and lightly browned, about 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle with toasted pecans.
Jody Winter, of Winter Farms in Santa Fe, calls this dish a spin-off of the classic holiday and comfort-food side of green bean casserole. Produce from farmers markets is generally fresh, because it’s often picked that very morning, so vegetables are at their peak nutrition, Winter said.
“Taste declines the longer it takes to get to the store and sit on the shelf,” Winter said.
During this season of giving thanks, Winter Farms donates produce to local food bank H.I.S. Ministries.
“It warms our hearts to see the faces of those we help when they see our truck pull up with freshly picked greens and vegetables for them,” she said.
– Sue Mayfield Geiger
SQUASH AND MUSHROOM CASSEROLE TOPPED WITH CRISPY ONION
1 yellow squash
1 yellow onion
Olive oil, salt and pepper
1 small package button or white mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1–2 cloves of garlic, minced
¾ cup chicken broth
4 ounces cream cheese
½ cup heavy cream
Slice and quarter zucchini, yellow squash and onion, coat with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in 400 F oven for about 20 minutes until the zucchini, squash and onion begin to soften and get slightly browned on edges.
While those are roasting, sauté mushrooms in olive oil and butter, adding minced garlic. As they cook, add chicken broth and cream cheese, stir until cheese melts. Add heavy cream and cook till simmering and starts to thicken (when it coats back of the spoon). Season to taste.
Transfer roasted veggies to a 9-inch-by-9-inch casserole dish, pouring off any excess liquid. Top with enough mushroom sauce to coat veggies. Bake another 10 to 15 minutes to meld all together. Remove from oven and top with crunchy onions.
Crunchy onion topping: Slice two yellow onions, toss in a bowl with olive oil and seasonings of your choice. Put in air fryer at 400 F until caramelized, roughly 30 minutes until lightly browned and slightly crunchy. (If you don’t have an air fryer, put them in a 400 F oven until brown and crunchy, which will take longer.)
Lisa Piper, owner of Natural Living in League City, lives a few blocks away from the shop. Her home has a small backyard garden full of seasonal produce. Piper loves this time of year when some of her greens are available for picking, she said. This time of year, collards are plentiful.
“I use a mix of whatever greens I have growing, so kale and even sweet potato leaves would work for this recipe,” Piper said. “You would not believe how much more nutrients you can get out of locally sourced produce. As soon as you pick something, it starts to lose nutrients over the course of the first three days. When you get more nutrients out of something, your body will actually tell you when you’re full. It got what it needed and you eat less, so your body will signal you and say, ‘I’m good.’”
– Sue Mayfield Geiger
CREAMED LOCAL GREEN SAUTÉ
4-5 medium to large collard green leaves, chopped (you can substitute kale or chard)
¾ cup Brazil nuts, chopped
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon garam masala
¼ cup water
¾ cup canned coconut milk
Salt to taste
Sauté onions, garlic and nuts in olive oil for 5 minutes. Add water, coconut milk and other seasonings and cook 3 minutes.
Add greens and turn off heat. Cover and let wilt for
3 to 5 minutes and serve.
A little more than a year ago, Phillip Gregory, owner of Fidelis Farms in Friendswood, began growing microgreens, which are greens that have been harvested before maturation.
“They’ve been scientifically proven to be one of the healthiest things you can buy at farmers markets,” Gregory said. “Grocery stores don’t have fresh ones. There is a plethora of professional studies and information about their nutritional value, one in particular by MD Anderson. They did a study on the natural anti-inflammatories found in cruciferous plants, which they extracted from broccoli microgreens.”
Gregory is expanding his enterprise into an urban farm.
“Local farmers and ranchers are using safer, natural and healthier methods of growing plants or raising animals than their corporate counterparts, so anything locally sourced is a plus,” he said.
Microgreens are available at some farmers markets, including Nassau Bay Farmers Market, where Gregory sells them. There also are various online tutorials and kits available to grow your own.
– Sue Mayfield Geiger
Microgreens are harvested at the stage in-between a sprout and a full grown plant, when the shoot is about 1 to 1½ inches long. For a salad, chop a good amount of pea shoots, sunflower shoots or another type of microgreen.
You also can add as many types of the smaller microgreens, 1 to 2 inches in height. Examples for smaller microgreens are those from the cruciferous plant family, like broccoli, kale and kohlrabi. Add flavorful microgreens like mustard, arugula and radish to make the salad pop with flavor.
Mix all in a big salad bowl, and add whatever dressing you like. Light vinaigrettes are popular because they don’t conceal the flavor of the microgreens. It’s fast, easy and nutritious.
Galveston resident Johnnie “LaShon” Simmons has been cooking most of her life. She grew up in the kitchen honing her skills and learning from her grandmother, Mae Mae, and her mother, Lonnie, both now deceased.
Simmons now has the title of “family cook” at various gatherings throughout the year. One of her family’s favorites at Thanksgiving is the traditional cornbread dressing, but for the past few years, oyster dressing, with fresh oysters sourced from Katie’s Seafood in Galveston, is one she loves making and is slowly becoming a family favorite.
“Although my family prefers the original dressing at Thanksgiving, I sometimes make both,” she said. “I also make it by special request for friends and people who’ve had an opportunity to taste my version of oyster dressing. They seem to like it just as much as I do.”
– Angela Wilson
8 cups bread crumbs
1½ cups celery, chopped
1 cup onions, chopped
1 pint of fresh oysters, chopped
1 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sage and poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon thyme
¼ cup parsley
½ cup milk
1 cup chicken broth
Preheat oven to 350 F. Heat milk, butter and oyster liquid in small pan at low heat. Combine bread crumbs, celery, onion, spices and chopped oysters. Add liquid and stir. Place in greased baking dish. Bake for 1 hour. Once it’s cooled and set, it’s ready to serve.