Wednesday, December 17, 2008

In Praise of Pecans (copy)

He said we had Valdeemers.” My husband came inside the house to tell me. “The tree stump guy called them Val-Deem-Ers.”

What the man meant to say—or possibly said but was somehow lost in a tobacco juiced translation—was Van Deman, a variety of pecan. Whatever the case, he is right. On the northern border of our property, we have five of these cultivars amongst over 20 pecan trees. A favorite in our household because of the large size and taste, we concentrate our picking efforts biannually on these trees when blessed with a crop.

Pecans have become a staple in our diet since our move to Mississippi. When a recipe calls for nuts we use pecans; although, biscotti can only be made with almonds. Instead of a bag of chips for a snack, we now open a zip-locked bag of pecans. For a sweet low-carbohydrate break, we sauté some pecans in a little butter and drizzle over a tortilla adding splenda and cinnamon for taste. We eat salads with pecans, place pecans in our pancake batter, and top fish or chicken with the crunchy delight. The Moran family runs on pecans.

It is with mouth savoring delight I write about June Jackson’s new book In Praise of Pecans: Recipes & Recollections. Mrs. Jackson was feeling a little homesick for her state of Georgia in 2006. In her Maryland home she hosted a fall luncheon for the ladies, and in each dish she included pecans. One attendee, Colleen Nunn, told her husband Sam and the next day June got a call. The then-Senator Sam Nunn asked her, “Do you think you could write a book that would promote pecan use around the world?”

In Praise of Pecans definitely has an international flavor. The recipes include Thai Chicken, Pecan & Mango Salad, Butternut Squash Risotto, Jalapeno Cranberry Compote, and Pan Sautéed Sole a la Beurre Pecane. Closer to home, she includes Marilyn Monroe Brownies, Lula Mae’s Brown Sugar Pecan Pie, and Grits Good Enough for Mardi Gras.

The best recipe in the book is her mother’s Perfect Pecan Pralines. Her mother was a mere 12-year-old in 1928 when she cut out the recipe from a newspaper. A recipe that had Mrs. Stuckey, second generation to the gas and candy chain, call out, “June, this is the best candy I’ve ever eaten in my entire life! How can I get more?”

Now that I have your mouth watering, it is a good time to resolve to eat more low-in-sodium, high-in-fiber pecans in the coming year.