4TH of JULY + SOUTHERN RATATOUILLE

Southern Ratatouille | for the love of the south

There is something so freeing about this time of year. The weight of the world seems to slip off our shoulders and allows us to dive deep into the pleasures of the summer sun. Farmers markets are filled with the most beautiful, vibrant colors. Feasts are prepared ahead of time, allowing us more time to spend out of the kitchen and outside with loved ones.

Summer Produce | for the love of the south

Last week, I was completely captivated by the summer produce at the market. White and purple speckled eggplant, pinky-sized emerald okra pods and intensely dark zucchini caught my eye. Immediately, I knew I wanted to make ratatouille, and not just any ratatouille, Southern Ratatouille. I tossed in okra along with the other lovely summer vegetables, added a lot of red pepper flakes, omitted the Herbs de Provence and finished the dish with a few shakes of Tabasco sauce. The best thing about ratatouille is that it gets better as it sits in the fridge, so it’s the perfect dish to make ahead of time and can be served warm, cold or at room temperature, which made it the most wonderful dish for a picnic I was having the next day.

Summer Produce | for the love of the south

I drove along the long, dusty road to Arrington Vineyards to meet up with a dear friend. We found a quiet, shaded spot at the top of the vineyard and laid out our spread. She prepared a simple mozzarella and tomato salad and a beautiful cherry galette. I whipped out my ratatouille, a freshly baked baguette, fleur de sel oregano butter and fresh lemonade. We chatted all day about the summer, our plans for the 4th of July and mostly just laughed until the sun began to set and we went our separate ways.

Summer Picnic | for the love of the south

On the way home, I began dreaming about my 4th of July menu while still buzzing over our picnic in the vineyards. I decided to make a peach and basil galette, sweetened with raw honey, stone fruit summer sangria, vanilla ice cream served with fresh berries and sea salt caramels.

Peaches + Basil | for the love of the south

The air was unseasonably cool as the sun began to set on the 4th of July. Our linen draped table proudly held our summer creations. Close friends gathered together. Laughter and fireflies filled the air. And, then there were fireworks.

Now, let me explain. About half of the gathering consisted of Australians, and in Australia, it’s illegal to pop fireworks. Therefore, the overall response to the fireworks was unbelievable! I was more entertained by their squeals and wide eyes than the actual explosives. My crème brûlée torch, which I set out for toasting marshmallows, was being slightly abused as it was being used to light the fuse for the fireworks. All of a sudden, one of the rockets fell over and completely bombed us! The children spent the rest of the evening underneath the table in sheer terror and were seemingly forming an evacuation plan in case of an emergency (There may have been a few adults hiding under there as well.)

Summer Stone Fruit Sangria | for the love of the south

Toward the end of the evening, I began pecking away at the drunken fruit in the bottom of my sangria jar as the smoke from the fireworks cleared, I sat back and relaxed as the fireflies flickered away in the distance and the laughter of our group softly bubbled away like a gently simmering pot of blackberry jam. I felt the weight of the world fall off my shoulders in the freedom of the setting summer sun on this wonderful 4th of July.

4th of July Evening | for the love of the south

Recipe: Southern Ratatouille

Inspired by Buvette

Serves 4

Note: This has become my favorite ratatouille recipe because of its simplicity and ease. It’s a wonderful summertime recipe that be served warm, cold or at room temperature. My favorite way to eat ratatouille is on a heavily buttered baguette finished with a sprinkling of fleur de sel.

2 tablespoons of unsalted butter

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

1 small yellow onion, finely diced

2 small tomatoes, cut into ½ -inch dice

1 red bell pepper, cut into ½ -inch dice

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 medium-sized eggplant, cut into ½ -inch dice

Handful of okra pods, trimmed and cut into small rounds

1 zucchini, trimmed and cut into ½ -inch dice

1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes

3 teaspoons of Tabasco Green Jalapeño Pepper Sauce

Sea salt, to taste

 

Place the butter and olive oil in large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onion, tomatoes, bell pepper and garlic, and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables soften, about 10 minutes. Add the eggplant and okra rounds and another pinch of salt and cook for another 10 minutes. Lastly, add the zucchini and the red pepper flakes. Stir and cook for a final 15 minutes (35 minutes total), or until all of the vegetables are soft. If the mixture begins to look a little dry, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Take off the heat and stir in the Tabasco Green Pepper Sauce and add more salt if needed.

Ratatouille can be made ahead and will last up to a week in the refrigerator.

 

Recipe: Summer Stone Fruit Sangria

Serves 15-20

Combine 3 (750ml) bottles of dry white wine, ½ cup of brandy, 1 pound of sliced peaches and 1 pound of pitted cherries in a large container and chill overnight. Right before serving, add a liter of sparking water to the sangria. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

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SOUTHERN WOMEN

Sweet Tea + Magnolias | for the love of the south

There is something special about Southern women. There are elements engrained in our history, in our ability to be hospitable and in our namesake. We take on the names of the great women that have created a legacy before us, in hopes of leaving our own legacies. There are great expectations on our lives as Southern women. We were taught to sit up straight, to listen more than we speak (which we don’t always succeed at, but we try!), and to attempt to meet difficult times with a sugary disposition. Daring to be sweet in a world hell bent on being difficult. And above all, we were taught to be nothing less than a gracious hostess.

I mastered the art of being a hostess at a young age. I watched my grandmother and mother gracefully greet guests into their homes with open arms, always offering them something to drink as soon as they cross the threshold and answer the door with such enthusiasm the person on the other side heard them coming from a mile away while they shout, “I’m coming! I’m coming! I’m coming!” The gesture was well received with a grin and a hug around the neck.

Magnolias + Pearls | for the love of the south

Now, I greet guests with open arms in my own home. Mimicking the movements I’ve watched over the years. I rush around last minute lighting magnolia scented candles, pulling at my linen apron strings while touching up my lipstick right before company arrives. All the while, attempting to give the illusion that everything looks this way all the time, that I’m not out of breath, and that my company couldn’t hear me running around as they walked up the wooden stairway to my loft!

Magnolias | for the love of the south

Most people remember how you make them feel upon meeting, that is why the heart of a hostess is so important to Southern women. Our goal is to make you feel loved and comforted as you step into our home. We want to make sure there is plenty of food whenever life carries a crisis to your doorstep (and enough casseroles to fill your entire freezer for a year), enough flatware to serve a small infantry, and more than enough pimento cheese and biscuits to slake any Southern appetite.

Magnolias + Pearls | for the love of the south

Southern women are made to withstand heat. We have the tolerance to render bacon fat with a smile in a steamy kitchen in the dead of summer. To be able to serve ice cold sweet tea at a moments notice. We are resourceful in the kitchen when tough times abound. We are resilient women, withstanding all odds, challenges and our past. Southern women are tethered to history and are made stronger because of it.

I’m grateful to be a Southern woman. It has helped shape the very person I have become: God-fearing, proud, strong-willed, polite, caretaker. I am defined by geography, circumstance, and culture, and for that, I am truly grateful. Forever I will be thankful to be a spirited, Southern woman like the great women before me who graced these halls, handled these slicked skillets, wore these pearls and filled these etched glasses with sweet tea. Long live the legacy of the Southern woman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KITCHEN WISDOM + LEMONADE

Summer Fruit Lemonades | for the love of the south

I’m not a chef or even a trained professional cook. I am, however, an eater. A professional eater. Hopefully this puts you at ease, because like you, I’m someone who loves food and the stories behind them, and, like many of you, my kitchen is not pristine. I cook on an electric range that sometimes has a mind of its own. I use my kitchen table as extra prep space and store my Le Creuset on my countertop because I lack sufficient storage for it. These things do not make my kitchen less desirable; on the contrary, I adore my kitchen. It’s my space where I am allowed to create, discover and share. This is where many friends and family members are welcome to laugh and cry (or cry because they’re laughing too hard) at any given time. And it’s because of my kitchen’s little eccentricities that make me love it even more. It has character and personality, just like all of us.

Lemonade | for the love of the south

It’s in this charming space where I discover pearls of kitchen wisdom, which usually spill out of nooks and crannies at the least unlikely of times. I uncover them whenever I’m alone in the kitchen on any given afternoon, doing something that may seem mundane to others. But what I love is how the clamor and clatter of the world falls away, and I am left with the sound of my paring knife gently slicing through the thin skin of a Yukon Gold potato as wind chimes from my neighbors garden softly ding in the summer breeze.

Peach Lemonade | for the love of the south

Sometimes pearls tumble onto the floor whenever a dear friend takes a seat at my table with a cup of chicory coffee. The steam rises as my friend slowly tells of her tales, and I stand at the helm of the stove, flipping pieces of cornmeal crusted okra in my skillet while savoring the laughter that quickly fills up the kitchen, pierced by the whistle of the teakettle and the sizzle of cornmeal hitting hot oil.

Strawberry Lemonade | for the love of the south

A kitchen may not be able to erase the troubles in life, but it can be a sanctuary that has the ability to soothe an anxious soul, steady a shaking hand, and ease a broken heart. When the hottest of days hit us like a ton of bricks, we can find shelter in simply preparing a refreshing glass of lemonade, which may not be the answer to life’s problems, but it has a way of lifting weary spirits. Maybe life is meant to be lived this way, in a procession of pearls strung out in long afternoons spent in the kitchen, to be cherished around our necks and worn close to our hearts.

Summer Fruit Lemonades | for the love of the south

I had such a wonderful time creating these 4 Summer Fruit Lemonade Recipes for Relish! Hope you enjoy!

OKRA WHEN IT SIZZLES

Smashed Cayenne + Cornmeal Crusted Fried Okra | for the love of the south

Sometimes sweet summer pleasures come early in the South. As Michael and I walked toward our local farmers market last week, Michael looked at me and said, “Maybe they will have okra!” I sweetly stated it was probably too early in the season for okra. Honestly, I didn’t want to be disappointed but secretly hoped there would be some too.

Fresh Okra | for the love of the south

As we got closer to the market, the first thing to catch my eye was a wooden crate filled to the brim with pinky-sized okra pods. My heart skipped a beat. The first okra of the season! I quickly grabbed a bag and began picking through the precious pods. Almost immediately my hands started to sting a little. The lady tending the market noticed I began itching the back of my hands. “It’s from the okra, isn’t it?” I nodded that indeed it was, but this little bother was about to be well worth it.

Fried Okra Ingredients | for the love of the south

Whenever I returned home, I laid the emerald beauties on white marble and gently began smashing the ends of the okra with a wooden pestle. As soon as I inhaled the grassy scent of fresh okra and listened to the symphony of sizzle as the cornmeal batter hit the hot oil, I knew I was right. In life, the good far outweighs the bad, and in the end, there’s fried okra.

Smashed Okra | for the love of the south

There are some ingredients that beg to be transfigured and transformed like a strawberry pleading to be roasted and paired with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar or sweet white corn steeped in cream, creating a lovely base for a summertime ice cream. But then there are those ingredients I can’t help but prepare the same way, time after time. I have yet to find a more comforting use of okra as being bathed in buttermilk and tossed in cayenne and cornmeal and quickly fried. I believe frying okra is the way nature intended it to be prepared. Why else would it endure and thrive in the Southern summer so much if it didn’t love to sizzle?

Cornmeal Crusted Smashed Okra | for the love of the south

Recipe: Smashed Cayenne + Cornmeal Crusted Fried Okra

Adapted from Southern Living | June 2014

Makes 4-6 Servings

Note: The original recipe leaves the entire okra pod whole, without cutting off the tops. Personally, I eat the pod whole, but after serving these whole, I found the fried tops left on the platter. So, I decided to take that extra step and cut the tops off since most people don’t like eating the entire pod, but it’s completely optional!

1 pound of fresh okra, washed and dried

1 ½ cups of buttermilk

2 cups of fine yellow cornmeal

½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Canola oil, for frying

Using a flat kitchen utensil like a pestle, meat mallet or even the bottom of a Mason jar, gently smash the okra, starting at the fattest part of the pod, working your way down to the skinny tip of the pod.

Optional Step (see note): Once the pods are smashed, cut off the woody top (or the “head”) of the okra pod. (I acted like the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland yelling, “Off with your head,” at this step to keep myself entertained, you may do the same!)

Place the buttermilk in a shallow dish, and place the cornmeal and cayenne pepper in another shallow dish. Season both the cornmeal and buttermilk with desired amount of salt and pepper.

Dip the smashed okra into the buttermilk and dredge in the cornmeal, shaking off the excess.

Pour oil to a depth of 2-inches in a large cast-iron skillet. Heat to 350o. Fry the okra in batches, 2-3 minutes or until golden and crispy, turning once. Remove the okra and drain on paper towels and season lightly with kosher salt. Devour immediately!

Smashed Cayenne + Cornmeal Crusted Fried Okra | for the love of the south

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOUTHERN SUMMERLAND

Honeysuckle Pound Cake | for the love of the south

There is something about the arrival of another Southern summer that makes me feel like a child again. Summers in the South seemingly last forever, but nevertheless, I am always sad to see them go and look forward to their return. One of the first signs of the season draws me in as the heady aroma of honeysuckle fills the air during my evening walks. Immediately, I am transported to my grandmother’s backyard in Louisiana.

Honeysuckle Pound Cake | for the love of the south

At the onset of any summer evening, I could be found running around barefoot and wide-eyed in faded jean shorts and a white tee shirt catching fireflies in a wide-mouth Mason jar. As soon as I had as many blinking insects as my heart desired, I strolled over to the honeysuckles, which were nestled next to a blooming wild blackberry bush. I put down my treasure trove of fireflies and plucked winter white and buttercup yellow flowers off the emerald branch. Gently, I pinched the end of the green stem and slowly pulled out the center filament until a sweet bead of nectar rested at the end of the thread. Quickly licking the saccharine syrup off the end of the filament, I continued with a few more flowers until my summer sweet tooth was satisfied. The path back to my grandmother’s house was faintly illuminated by the light of the fireflies softly flickering away from the jar in my hand.

Honeysuckle Pound Cake | for the love of the south

Creating recipes using one of my favorite scents reminds me of being a child again, skillfully capturing the scent of a honeysuckle in a Mason jar as if they were fireflies at the arrival of another glorious Southern summer.

Honeysuckle Simple Syrup | for the love of the south

Recipe: Honeysuckle + Lemon Pound Cake

Makes 1, 9×5” Loaf Cake

Note: To make the Honeysuckle Simple Syrup combine 1 cup of recently boiled water to 1 cup of granulated sugar. Stir until completely dissolved. Add 1 1/2-2 cups of rinsed honeysuckle flowers and ½ of a lemon that has been zested and sliced into thin slivers to the simple syrup. (Make sure to include the lemon zest as well.) Allow the syrup to steep and cool at room temperature. Once the syrup has cooled, strain and stash the Honeysuckle Simple Syrup in the fridge until you are ready to use it. Any leftover syrup can be added to lemonade or sweet tea!

If you are allergic to tree pollen, skip the honeysuckle simple syrup and substitute warmed orange blossom honey where the syrup is used in the recipe.

1 ½ cups (190g) of all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

¼ teaspoon of baking soda

1 teaspoon of kosher salt

2 tablespoons (30ml) of Honeysuckle Simple Syrup (see note), plus 1/3 cup

1/3 cup (80ml) of buttermilk or plain yogurt

2 tablespoons of freshly grated lemon zest (from 2 large lemons)

½ cup (100g) of granulated sugar

½ cup (95g) of raw cane sugar

½ cup (120ml) of light olive oil (not extra virgin)

2 eggs, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9×5” loaf pan.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a glass-measuring cup, combine 2 tablespoons of Honeysuckle Simple Syrup and buttermilk (or yogurt).

In a large mixing bowl, add lemon zest, granulated sugar, and raw cane sugar. Rub the zest and sugars together with your fingertips. Whisk in the oil until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, and whisk until combined. Scrape down the bowl.

Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures to the cake batter, beginning and ending with the flour.

Spread the batter into the prepared loaf pan; tap the pan on the countertop a few times, releasing any bubbles in the batter. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the cake tester comes out clean.

When the cake has finished baking, let cool for 10 minutes in the pan and invert onto a cooling rack with a tray underneath. Poke holes in the cake with a skewer or toothpick and brush 1/3 cup of Honeysuckle Simple Syrup over the cake. Allow the cake to cool completely while absorbing the syrup. Enjoy!

 

 

 

WILD ROSEMARY & LEMON CAKE COOKBOOK: FRESH PASTA

Fresh Pasta | for the love of the south

Indigo blue hues deepen as the sun sets on the Amalfi Coast. Salty sea air tousles my blonde locks as I quietly sip on limoncello. Clanging wine glasses and the gentle hum of a distant Vespa become a symphony of sorts. The scent of lemon fills the air. Silky strands of handmade pasta against bursting tomato flesh and fresh basil gives me a certain pleasure. Suddenly, the whistle of my teakettle brings me back to reality. I get up from the couch to make another cup of coffee, all the while dreaming of the wonderful cookbook Wild Rosemary & Lemon Cake by Katie & Giancarlo Caldesi.

Fresh Pasta | for the love of the south

I devour cookbooks as if they were novels with characters to be discovered and cultures to be revealed. Not only am I allowed to engage in the narrative behind the recipe, but I also get to create, consume and share these experiences with others. As I dig deeper into a new cookbook, there are usually those few recipes that stand out in my mind, tugging on my arm like a child begging for attention until I am compelled to hunker down and give them the consideration they deserve. The pasta chapter is what did it for me. I’d been eyeing the silky strands of pasta daily, and I couldn’t take it anymore. I need to make pasta, now.

Fresh Pasta | for the love of the south

As I begin to knead the homemade pasta dough on my cool marble surface, I take time to relax and completely focus on the task at hand (quite literally)! There is something deeply therapeutic about repeating the same motion over and over again and being able to feel the dough come together in your hands. It’s an empowering sensation. Everything else falls away and in that moment, I imagine being on the Amalfi Coast as the scent of fresh pasta fills my quaint loft.

Fresh Pasta | for the love of the south

I believe cooking is one of the greatest ways to feel connected with someone else’s culture. Recipes bring me to every corner of the globe without having to leave home. They allow my kitchen to be an escape; a place of wonder, filled with new experiences, tastes and adventures. One of the greatest joys in life is cracking open a cookbook and becoming lost in the stories behind the recipes, which have a way of focusing on life and celebrating it.

Fresh Pasta | for the love of the south

The pages of Wild Rosemary & Lemon Cake are filled with beautiful photos and recipes from the Amalfi Coast. Below is a lovely recipe for homemade pasta and a few of my favorite quick pasta sauce recipes from this lovely book. Ciao, y’all!

Wild Rosemary & Lemon Cake | for the love of the south

Recipe: Fresh Pasta Dough

From Wild Rosemary & Lemon Cake by Katie & Giancarlo Caldesi

Serves 4 as a main

Note: The rule for fresh pasta is that you use one egg per 100g of flour. I tend to use a few teaspoons of extra-virgin olive oil as well to keep the dough from drying out too quickly.

200g (1 ½ cups) of ‘00’ flour or all-purpose, plus a little extra if necessary

Pinch of kosher salt

2 eggs

1-2 teaspoons of extra-virgin olive oil, if desired

Place the flour and kosher salt in a bowl. Combine with a fork and create a well in the center. Crack the eggs in the well and add the olive oil (if desired). Stir the eggs and oil together with the fork, while gently incorporating the flour as you work your way outwards. Continue mixing until you have incorporated all of the flour and a dough ball begins to form.

Remove the dough from the bowl onto a floured surface and knead the dough by hand. Stretch and roll the dough over itself, adding more flour if the dough begins to stick to the palm of your hands. Enjoy this kneading process because it does take about 10 minutes to come together! A good way to know if the dough is well blended is if the dough is completely one color, not yellow and white. If the dough becomes too dry, add a few drops of water.

Once the dough has come together, wrap it in plastic wrap and allow it to rest for 20-30 minutes on the counter. After it has rested, it will be ready to be rolled out by hand or through a pasta machine.

Quick Pasta Sauce Recipes:

Serves 4

Note: If you are using dried pasta for these quick sauce recipes, being cooking the pasta before making the sauce; if using fresh pasta, make the sauce first. Also, use a large pot of well-salted water to cook the pasta in so that it can move around freely and it won’t stick together.

Lemon Tagliolini:

1 quantity of fresh tagliolini, or dried spaghetti or linguine

1 ¼ cups of heavy whipping cream

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 ounce of Parmesan cheese, finely grated

In a large frying pan over medium heat, combine the cream, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes to slightly reduce and thicken. Whether you are using fresh pasta or dried, drain the pasta (see note) and toss it with the sauce and add the Parmesan cheese. Serve the pasta in warmed bowls immediately.

Summer Tomato Sauce:

1 quantity of fresh pasta, or (12 oz.) of dried penne, rigatoni or farfalle

4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

1 large garlic clove, finely chopped

½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes

200 g of fresh ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped

2 sprigs of basil, divided in half, leaves roughly torn

Kosher salt, for seasoning

1 ounce of Parmesan cheese, finely grated

In a large frying pan over medium heat, heat the oil and fry the garlic and red pepper flakes together for 1-2 minutes. Immediately add the tomatoes, half of the basil and salt. Squash the tomatoes with the back of a spoon. When the pasta is al dente, toss it into the sauce, along with a tablespoon of the pasta water to lengthen the tomato sauce. Stir the pasta into the sauce and allow it to finish cooking (this will allow the pasta to absorb more of the flavor of the sauce.) Add the remaining basil leaves and toss again. Serve in warmed bowls with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ODE TO MAS

Chicken + Lime + Cilantro Soup, Elote, Watermelon Agua Fresca | for the love of the south

One of the advantages of moving from place to place is getting to research and experience the best restaurants the South has to offer. Whenever I moved to Nashville, my list quickly took form with numerous local eateries. On the top of the list was Mas Tacos Por Favor, which is nestled in a residential area and honestly does not look like much from the outside. Mas Tacos is in the neighborhood of being a dive and super trendy (only in Nashville can somewhere be considered as both.) But, nonetheless, it stole my heart love at first bite and quickly became one of my favorite spots to eat in town.

Elote | for the love of the south

With cash in hand, I eagerly scan the chalkboard menu to make sure my favorites are available. Fried avocado tacos, watermelon agua fresca, elote and chicken tortilla soup, por favor. As soon as I find my table, my order is up, and there, sitting in front of me is some of the greatest Mexican food I’ve ever encountered. The elote (Mexican street corn) is roasted to perfection and slathered in a thin layer of mayo, kissed with shredded cheese and sprinkled with ground red pepper. The chicken tortilla soup is so bright and acidic it becomes slightly addictive, and you MUST wash everything down with their watermelon agua fresca.

Chicken + Cilantro + Lime Soup Prep | for the love of the south

This is a casual spot to meet up with friends, share stories, laugh, and most of all, enjoy a lovely meal. And you must eat there with a friend who is willing to tell you you have corn in your teeth from the elote because it WILL happen, and it’s completely worth it.

It began as a simple quest to find the best in Nashville, and it transformed into a love story about wanting more out of life, well more tacos to be exact.

Fresh Corn | for the love of the south

I’ve created these recipes completely inspired by my favorite dishes at Mas Tacos so you can recreate them at home just in time for Cinco de Mayo, y’all!

Chicken + Lime + Cilantro Soup, Elote, Watermelon Agua Fresca | for the love of the south

Recipe: Chicken + Lime + Cilantro Soup

Inspired by Mas Tacos Por Favor

Note: To get the most flavor out of the cilantro stalks, gently crack the stalks with the back of a knife before tossing them into the stock. I also use kitchen twine to tie the stalks together, which makes it easier to take them out later. 

1 gallon of water

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts

2-3 tablespoons of Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce

3 onions, quartered

6 cloves of garlic, smashed

1 carrot, roughly chopped

1 bunch of cilantro, stalks only (reserve the leaves for garnish)

1 jalapeño, halved lengthwise

1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to season

Juice from 3 limes

In a large stockpot on medium-high heat, combine all of the ingredients with the exception of the salt, pepper and lime juice and bring to a boil. Reduce to a medium simmer for 1-1 ½ hours. Take out the chicken breasts and shred with two forks. Strain the broth and return the shredded chicken to the pot. Add salt, pepper and lime juice. Adjust the seasonings to your taste. Garnish with avocado slices, halved grape tomatoes, cilantro leaves, roasted corn, queso fresco, rice, and lime wedges.

Recipe: Elote

Serves 4

4 ears of sweet, white corn, shucked

1-2 tablespoons of mayonnaise

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Kosher salt

Lime wedges

In a dry skillet over medium-high heat, roast corn until charred, turning occasionally, about 10-15 minutes. Brush with mayonnaise and sprinkle with cayenne pepper, kosher salt and lime juice.

Recipe: Watermelon Aqua Fresca

Serves 4

4 cups of cubed, seedless watermelon

Juice of 1-2 limes, depending on taste

In a blender, blend watermelon until smooth. Pass through a sieve and add lime juice to taste. Serve chilled.

HOME & HILL

Spring Picnic | for the love of the south

Tennessee. This is a lovely state in which I’m grateful to call my home. I’m enjoying discovering sweet family farms that sell fresh eggs, with their only advertising being a hand painted sign leaning at the front of their fence. Farmers markets with some of the most passionate farmers tending to their stands, making sure you choose the best possible produce for your weekend meals, and the whispers of the South’s history being sung in the graveyards and historic battlefields. I’m educating myself in tobacco-scented sorghum, golden benne seeds and wild emerald green ramps.

Thyme & Garlic Infused Fried Chicken | for the love of the south

It’s no secret that I’ve been enraptured by Tennessee’s seasonal displays of autumn and winter, but as I pass the gently green rolling hills of Franklin, white petals blow in the wind like gently falling snow. I begin to realize this is easily my favorite season yet. Lovely dogwoods and cherry blossoms reveal their beautiful blooms, enticing us for a picnic so we can revel in nature’s spring splendor.

Homemade Potato Chips | for the love of the south

So in preparation of a lovely spring picnic, I decide to create a menu of thyme and garlic infused fried chicken, gently bathed in buttermilk and cayenne pepper, paired with crisp homemade potato chips and a wonderful sweet delight of floral elderflower marshmallows.

Elderflower Marshmallows | for the love of the south

I pack all the picnic treats in a vintage wooden basket. Nestled paper bags filled with chips, silver bento boxes of marshmallows, and a lovely milk glass dish of fried chicken line the basket. Packing up anything, especially food, reminds me to take a piece of home with me wherever I am going, or in this case, my kitchen. As I pull out my everyday flatware, white flour sack dishtowels, silver Laguiole knives, and Mason jars filled with lemon slices among the green grass and blushing blossoms, I am reminded of my sweet home on a hill in Tennessee.

Spring Picnic | for the love of the south

I am grateful to be able to contribute to the lovely quarterly, Home & Hill, which is dedicated to people who love this state as much as I do. You can find these recipes exclusively in Home & Hill Issue No. 3. You can order the magazine here!

THE HUNT

Crème Fraîche Deviled Eggs | for the love of the south

As Easter service concluded, a parade of bright hats, pastel suits and white patent leather shoes raced out of church. I remember all the little girls dressed in floral dresses with such realistic flower prints that seemed to attract and confuse bees. Fidgety little boys donned their itchy baby blue seersucker suits and had uncharacteristically slicked back their hair. All of us were in a hurry for the same reason. We were on our way to The Hunt. We arrived prepared with baskets in hand. My basket was white with bright yellow plastic “grass” hanging over the sides. I decorated the wide, plastic handle with pastel eggs, baby chickens, and teeny bunny decals with little stickers spelling out, “Happy Easter.” (I was very proud of my decorating skills.)

Crème Fraîche Deviled Eggs | for the love of the south

All of the kids were instructed to remain inside and not to peek out the window as the adults “hid” the eggs, mostly in plain sight for the younger kids and in the nooks and crannies of the trees and in the overgrown monkey grass for the older kids. Our baskets filled up with the colorful, hand dyed eggs. Before we knew it, The Hunt was over and it was time for the adults to count our spoils, declare a winner and commenced shelling the eggs to make the best deviled eggs in the whole wide world for our Easter dinner. What I loved most about these eggs is that they were slightly hued from being dyed the day before. I adored that. Easter was the only time of the year when I could eat blushing pink, buttercup yellow and robin egg blue eggs. I cherished deviled eggs because they only seemed to grace our table at special occasions. Now, whenever these reverent beauties are prepared in my kitchen I am reminded of the mad dash of Easter attire and disheveled baskets in absolute eagerness of The Hunt.

Crème Fraîche Deviled Eggs | for the love of the south

Recipe: Crème Fraîche + Lemon Deviled Eggs

Serves 4

Note: Growing up, these eggs were a treat to have on our table. I, however, cannot wait for a special holiday to make them, so I whip these up at least once a week to devour as a midafternoon snack. Also, if you can’t get your hands on crème fraîche, you can use sour cream in a pinch.

6 hardboiled eggs, shells removed, cut in half lengthwise

4 tablespoons of crème fraîche or sour cream

2 teaspoons of whole grain mustard

1 teaspoon of lemon zest

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

Gently scoop the yolks out of the hardboiled eggs. Place the whites on a plate and place the yolks in a bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients to the yolks. Stir the ingredients together while breaking up the yolks with the back of a fork. Taste the deviled egg mixture for seasoning and adjust as needed.

Using two teaspoons, scoop deviled egg mixture into the egg whites. Garnish with more lemon zest, black pepper and cayenne.

 

 

 

 

GUILTLESS PLEASURES

Ghirardelli Intense Dark-3

There are some things in life which people call guilty pleasures, but I think pleasure is something we should seize, not something we should feel the least bit guilty about. If something gives you gratification, embrace it, and if at all possible, allow that pleasure to be part of your everyday life, especially if that indulgence can be found in the kitchen, which many of mine are. One of my pleasures comes in the form of sinisterly dark chocolate, perfectly paired with sea salt and smoky, chicory coffee.

Ghirardelli Intense Dark | for the love of the south

Slowly cracking open the fridge, I pull out a cherished square of chocolate that I secretly tucked away for safekeeping. To its gleaming, chilled surface, I sprinkle on tiny shards of winter white salt. The contrast between intensely dark chocolate and starkly white salt gives me a certain, unspoken gratification. The kettle begs for attention as it whistles from the stove, steam rises from the coffee press, and I magically become transported to a place all my own. I sit on the counter in my kitchen, dark chocolate speckled with crunchy sea salt in one hand and earthy chicory coffee in the other and become lost in downright decadence. When my days are filled with so many things that plead for my attention, it’s in these moments that I take time out for myself, which is something I never feel guilty for.

Ghirardelli Intense Dark | for the love of the south

This cast of characters always has a place in my home, but even when I’m far away, I know if I have a piece of dark chocolate sprinkled with salt and an afternoon cup of coffee, I can delight in my daily pleasure and never feel the least bit remorseful. I think that’s the way pleasures in life should be, or at least the ones that take place in the kitchen.

Ghirardelli Intense Dark | for the love of the south

Many thanks to Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate for sponsoring today’s post and allowing me to share my perfect pairing. If you would like to share your perfect pairing as well, upload your Ghirardelli Intense Dark photos here or #IntenseDark on Instagram. I’d love to hear what y’alls favorite pairings are!