Vernon Summerlin

Last month I promised a crappie recipe without using hot peppers. So mote it be… let’s use herbs instead.
When planting your garden, a plot set aside for herbs will pay off in better tasting foods as well as save you a few bucks at the grocery store. The use of herbs goes back to when humans decided to add a little extra flavor to their foods.
Basil, one of the herbs in this month’s recipe, for instance, has been cultivated for more than 5,000 years. Herbs are different than vegetables in that they add zest to foods whereas veggies are consumed as food. (I wonder if hot peppers are a veggie or herb or both???)
To make your plants produce more leaves, pinch back the growing tips and remove the flowers before seed matures. If you want to dry the leaves, harvest them just before the plant produces flowers. I pinch off the flowers to prolong leaf growth. You’ll want to make your final harvest before the first frost.
Another herb for our fish recipe is oregano. This perennial herb is commonly used in Spanish, Italian and Mexican dishes, and it goes very well with fried fish. Plants may be started from seed, cuttings or crown division.
Fresh leaves can be snipped when you need them. For the best flavor, harvest leaves just as flower buds form. To dry, cut stems and bag dry or tray dry. When leaves are brittle, remove and separate them from the stem and store in an airtight container.
Parsley is a popular, widely grown herb and is very easy to grow in gardens, containers and hanging baskets. It is a biennial that is usually treated as an annual (my Middle Tennessee plants don’t make it through the winter). They can be used fresh or dried for future use.
We’ll talk about more herbs in the future but for now let’s whip up some herb-seasoned crappies.
Herb Seasoned Crappie
1 pound fish crappie fillets
16 ounces crushed Saltine crackers
1/2 teaspoon parsley flakes
1/2 teaspoon sweet basil
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
1/2 tablespoon milk
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup canola or your favorite oil

Pat the fish fillets dry with paper towels. Dredge the fish in flour and shake off the excess. Mix the egg and milk in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the crackers, parsley, basil, oregano, garlic powder and Parmesan cheese. Dip the fish in the egg mix, then in the cracker mix. In a frying pan, heat 1/2 cup oil to 375 degrees. Place the breaded fish in the hot oil, skin side up if you’re not cooking fillets. Fry until golden brown.

Persimmon Puddin’
‘Simmons are getting ripe to the point they don’t turn your mouth into a dry sand pit. Did you ever bite into a green persimmon? My grandmother tried to cure my puckered mouth with peppermint. I don’t recall that the sweet treatment worked well; at least it didn’t work fast enough to suit me. Avoidance of less-than-nearly-soggy ripe fruit is the key. Forget buying those in a grocery – they ain’t never ripe!
1 pint buttermilk
1 pint ripe persimmons (a taste test is imperative!)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Flour enough for a thin batter

Mix buttermilk with ripe persimmons. Press through sieve or colander and add sugar, egg, butter, baking powder, baking soda, cloves, allspice and cinnamon. Add enough flour to make stiff, but not as stiff as cake dough. Bake at 350 degrees until done. When you are ready to serve cut in squares and dose it with the following topping.

Persimmon Puddin’ Topping
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon butter

Mix sugar, milk, cinnamon and flour. Bring to boil. Add butter and mix. Pour over pudding. Place under broiler and cook until bubbly. (You first, Mikey.)