SATSUMA KISSES + HOLIDAY SECRETS

Satsuma Madeleines | for the love of the south

During the holidays, my grandparent’s backyard in Louisiana was home to one of my favorite treats: satsumas. Driving down the winding, gravel driveway, the smoky scent of barbecue welcomed us. Grandma waved to us from the pit with long barbecue tongs. Grandpa welcomed us with holiday cheer and glasses of sweet tea, and I made my rounds and gathered with the rest of my cousins at the shed where our beloved scooter resided.

We Louisianans are resourceful. My grandpa repaired a broken-down, abandoned three-wheeled scooter from the chemical plant he worked at, painted it fire engine red, and magically transformed it into a carriage that could hold 8 grandchildren at a time, 12 if we distributed our weight properly. It kept us occupied all day long, or at least until we ran out of gas. We peeled across the backyard, into the wooded trails, and past the fig trees. And every time we rounded the satsuma trees, we leaned to one side, stretched out our arms, and with the scooter puttering at full speed, we attempted to grab a piece of fruit. The prize for this dangerous game? Satsumas, of course!

I remember taking my rewards to my favorite place in the yard: an old, white wooden swing my grandfather built. I sat there with a pile of satsumas, admiring them as if they were spoils from a treasure trove. Rusty chains slightly creaked as I swayed back and forth, peeling my stash of jewels.

Satsumas | for the love of the south

The thin, spongy orange skin easily gave way to my tiny fingers. Citrus scented oil filled the air as I gently peeled the speckled skin away from the flesh of the satsuma. Hidden underneath was a perfectly segmented citrus fruit. Each segment stripped away effortlessly and burst with sweet juices as I bit into them. There is something special about satsumas. Shhh…it’s a secret. Hidden inside a satsuma is a tiny segment, wedged in between two larger ones; it’s called the kiss. The tradition is you share the “kiss” with someone you love. As I finished the mound of satsumas, I saved all the “kisses” in one hand, jumped off the swing and distributed the clandestine segments to members of my family. I loved watching their eyes light up with delight in the sweet, silent secret of the satsuma “kiss.”

Seasons change. The scooter, like my grandpa, has long been retired. The swing is beyond weathered and worn. Now, I live miles away, but I can’t help but think of my warm, green Christmases spent in Louisiana. As I stand close to my oven, waiting for these satsuma madeleines to bake, the citrus scent immediately transports me back to Louisiana, savoring the sweet kiss of home from the coziness of my Tennessee kitchen.

Satsuma Madeleines | for the love of the south

Recipe: Satsuma Madeleines

Makes 26 Madeleines

Note: You can substitute satsuma zest for grapefruit, orange, lemon or lime zest. If you substitute the satsuma juice for lime or lemon, decrease the amount of juice by half.

8 tablespoons (1 stick) of unsalted butter, plus more for brushing

2 tablespoons of local honey

130g granulated sugar

Zest of 1 satsuma

3 large eggs, room temperature

Pinch of kosher salt

150g of all-purpose flour, sifted

1 teaspoon of baking powder

2 tablespoons of satsuma juice

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Powdered sugar, for dusting

In a small skillet over medium heat, cook butter until browned. Take off heat and stir in honey. Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, combine sugar and satsuma zest. Rub the zest into the sugar with your fingertips. Add eggs and whisk on a high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together salt, flour and baking powder in a small bowl.

Whisk the flour mixture into the egg mixture until combined. Add browned butter, satsuma juice and vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and whisk for another minute. Transfer the batter to a large plastic bag. Chill for 2 hours or up to 2 days.

Preheat oven to 375o

Brush a madeleine pan with melted butter. Cut a hole at the end of the plastic bag and pipe the batter into the molds, filling the molds ¾ of the way. Gently tap the pan onto the counter, releasing any air pockets and bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden around the edges. Arrange on a plate and dust with powdered sugar. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE GROVE

Southern Nougat | for the love of the south

As we drove down the long, dusty road, I noticed a few fields of Alabama cotton that had yet to be cleared. Autumn was evident in the harvested crops, the cool, crisp air, and the golden and amber hued leaves that tumbled and weaved across our path like children playing without a care in the world. We slowly crept to a halt as we got to the end of the road and inched over a set of railroad tracks. As we passed over the tracks, it was as if we went back in time. A time when Southern traditions were worn like a strand of cherished pearls: donned daily around the neck and treasured close to the heart.

Mighty magnolias and precious pecan trees covered the grounds of the family estate. Branches bowed as if they were graciously welcoming our arrival. Pecan trees were freckled with bright green jackets, which harbored tiger-striped pecans, just waiting to drop to the ground. I gathered as many pecans that had already fallen before the squirrels could get their greedy paws on these scrumptious Southern treats.

Southern Nougat | for the love of the south

As I gathered pecans, I heard a loud yelp in the distance. “What was that?” My question was countered with laughter. “Oh, that’s just Jerry Lee Lewis. He loves to sing!” I looked around the corner and saw two larger than large German Shepherds. Recalling Jerry Lee Lewis’s nickname was “The Killer”, I retreated back to my basket, gathered my spoils and graciously allowed the dogs to feast on the remaining pickings.

With my basket filled to the brim with pecans, I made my way into the inviting, old house. The worn, wooden floors whispered and creaked as if they could tell tales of the children that grew up in these corridors. Those children have grown and now have their own children scurrying about the house, writing new chapters into the history and halls of the estate.

Pecan Picking | for the love of the south

As I walked into the main parlor, I noticed framed newspaper clippings along with black and white photos of beautiful hunting dogs. The owner of the house pointed to one photo in particular and said, “He is the one that started it all.” According to the legend, this was the first of many show dogs that raised enough money to pay for the estate. (It is also referred to as the house the dogs built!) I made my way through the French doors and down the hallway, and into the main living room where I found my favorite spot in the house.

In front of an enormous fireplace stood two matching chairs angled toward each other with a tall, circular table nestled in between. On top of the wooden table rested a crystal bottle filled with blushing brandy and two digestif glasses carefully placed in front. That one sitting area told an unspoken story of two people taking time at the end of the evening, relaxing in front of the crackling fire, enjoying something to drink that warmed their bodies and their spirits. This simple setting taught me something about the past. The past does not have to only live in photos on the wall or in worn floorboards, but it can also be kept alive in small, tangible details daily.

I watched the magnolias fade into the distance as we passed over the tracks once again. I sat there with my basket filled with pecans and thought about traditions and the means to restore and cherish them in our everyday lives. Here is to restoring old traditions and creating new ones that will live on in our spirits and homes for generations and generations to come.

Pecan Picking | for the love of the south

Recipe: Pecan + Fig Southern Nougat

Note: This classic European dessert is traditionally made with pistachios or almonds, but I combined local Tennessee honey, Alabama pecans and Louisiana figs for a lovely Southern twist!

90g of Sourwood Honey (or any other local honey)

90g of light corn syrup

300g of granulated sugar

2 tablespoons of water

2 egg whites, room temperature

Pinch of kosher salt

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

100g of toasted pecan halves, roughly chopped

100g of dried figs, quartered

Cornstarch and powdered sugar, for dusting

 

Line an 8 ½ x 4 ½” pan with greased parchment paper.

 

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine honey, corn syrup, sugar and water until the mixture reaches 284oF (140oC), soft crack stage.

 

Meanwhile, whisk egg whites and salt in a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until soft peaks form.

 

Add the golden syrup to the egg white while slowly whisking. Increase the speed and whisk for 6-8 minutes. Whisk in the vanilla extract for 30 seconds. Fold in pecans and figs.

 

Quickly pour the nougat into the prepared pan and spread evenly with a wet offset spatula until smooth. Allow the nougat to sit for 4-6 hours.

 

Dust a cutting board with equal amounts of cornstarch and powdered sugar. Turn the nougat onto the cutting board. Remove the parchment and dust with more cornstarch and powdered sugar. Cut into desired pieces and tightly wrap in wax paper for up to 2 weeks. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

SEASON of CHANGE

Bacon Latticed Apple Pie | for the love of the south

In this capricious world, I look forward to the promise of the change in seasons. No matter how unbearable summer is, the heat eventually subsides, the trees sigh in relief and leaves begin to transform before our very eyes. In a realm resistant to change, nature inevitably begins to beam one last time before winter.

In life, we don’t possess the ability to control, but we do have the power to embrace. There is security in knowing the blistering days are behind us, and we can hold fast to a brand new season.

Bacon Latticed Apple Pie Prep | for the love of the south Summer has been lovely. I’ve had my fair share of ruby red tomatoes, emerald okra, summer ice creams and fruity lemonades. Now, it’s time for smoky, roasted meats, speckled apples, crisp, honey-scented pears, fragrant cinnamon and warm cider. There is comfort in their seasonality and predictability. Their customary arrival is welcome in my home and celebrated at my table.

{In celebration of the arrival of the new season, I am giving away a copy of Southern Living Bourbon & Bacon: The Ultimate Guide to the South’s Favorite Foods. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below letting me know your favorite fall recipe between now and midnight, September 29th. The winner will be chosen randomly and will be contacted via email on September 30th! Limit 1 comment per person, pretty please! Good luck, y’all!} Congrats to Caitlin who is the winner of the giveaway! 

Bacon Latticed Apple Pie | for the love of the south

Recipe: Bacon Latticed Apple Pie

Inspired by The Loveless Cafe + Southern Living Bourbon & Bacon: The Ultimate Guide to the South’s Favorite Foods

Serves 12

Note: This pie is both sweet and savory, which is my favorite combination for dessert. As the fat renders from the bacon, it actually begins permeating the crust of the pie with its smoky drippings. It’s lovely! If you prefer, you can buy a center cut bacon for this dessert. Center cut slices have more meat and less fat than other bacon slices.

Pie Dough:

1 ¼ cups of all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon of kosher salt

1 ½ tablespoons of granulated sugar

1 stick (1/2 cup) of unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes

1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar

1 cup of ice water

1 egg

Combine flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Create a well in the center and add the butter. Mix on a medium speed until the mixture looks like coarse sand.

In a small bowl, add the vinegar to the ice water. Tablespoon by tablespoon, add the ice water mixture to the flour and butter mixture, mixing in between additions. Add the water until the dough forms a ball. The dough should not be sticky or crumbly. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough until 9 or so inches in diameter. Gently place the dough into an 8” pie plate. Crack the egg in a small bowl. Without breaking the yolk, use a pastry brush and gently brush a thin layer of the egg white onto the bottom of the dough. This will create a barrier between the filling and the piecrust as it bakes. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the filling.

Filling:

5 medium-sized apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

Juice of ½ a lemon

¾ cup of brown sugar

¼ cup of granulated sugar

2 tablespoons of cornstarch

1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon of ground nutmeg

Combine all of the ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Toss with your fingertips until the apple slices are coated evenly with the juice, sugars, cornstarch and spices.

To Assemble:

8 strips of smoked bacon

Preheat oven to 425oF

After the pie crust has chilled for 30 minutes, place the filling into the prepared pie plate. Place bacon strips horizontally onto the pie. Start placing bacon strips one-by-one vertically, lifting every other strip to create a lattice pattern. Crimp the edges of the pie, tucking in the ends of the bacon slices as you crimp the edges. Slightly beat the remaining egg and brush gently onto exposed edges of the piecrust. Place the pie in the fridge for 20 minutes to allow the pastry to set.

Place the pie on a baking sheet and place in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Rotate, lower the oven temperature to 375oF for another 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Cover the edges with foil if they get too brown. Let cool for 1-2 hours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE ART OF PRESERVING

The Art of Preserving | for the love of the south

Every year, I find myself trying to cling onto the last days of summer. By this point, many Southerners are beyond ready for cooler temperatures and shorter days, which I do love. But there is something about summer I wish I could bottle up: flickering fireflies, warm summer nights, and most of all, its produce. I happily endure the heat to devour juicy, ripe tomatoes, peppery okra pods, blushing peaches and beautiful blackberries.

The art of preserving is like a palimpsest, something that has been traced onto the pages of generations before us. With each page, the lines grow fainter and fainter until one day it may completely disappear. So, in pure desperation of holding onto the last days of summer and the art of preserving, I tied my linen apron strings and got to work.

Fresh Tomatoes | for the love of the south

I gathered all of the essentials: clean jars, fresh basil, a pot of boiling water, and a crate full of ripe summer tomatoes, anxiously awaiting their moment to be sealed in a mason jar and put away for the chilly months to come. Standing there in my steamy kitchen, with one hand on my hip and the other fishing out jars of sealed tomatoes with my bare fingertips, which I do not recommend, I instantly felt connected with the wonderful women with worn, wrinkled hands that have perfected the art of preserving generations long ago. There is something romantic and beautiful about preserving; in taking something we have in abundance today and saving it for sparse times in the future. The art of preserving is like an act of faith.

This goes beyond preserving tomatoes; this is a ritual to pass to the next generation in hopes of preserving part of our culture and forever clinging to the flavor of summer in the South.

The Art of Preserving | for the love of the south

Canned Tomatoes:

There isn’t a recipe to go along with this post, but I will give you a few steps for canning tomatoes that I found helpful.

P.S. Make sure you carefully inspect your jars, lids and rings before using. If you notice any rust, dents or chips, don’t use them for canning, please! Also just as a reference, I bought a 25-pound crate of tomatoes and canned 20, 16 ounce wide-mouth jars.

Wash your jars, rings and lids with warm, soapy water and dry completely. Place the jars, rings, and lids onto a baking sheet, making sure the pieces are spaced out and not touching. Place the baking sheet into a 225oF oven for at least 10 minutes. If you keep them in longer, that’s fine, but allow them to stay in for at least 10 minutes, undisturbed.

Cut an “x” on the bottom of each tomato and blanch them in a bowl of recently boiled water. Allow them to sit in the hot water for 5-10 minutes, or until the skin comes off with ease.

Peel the tomatoes, cut the core out and slice in half, lengthwise. (If you are canning larger tomatoes, cut into quarters.)

Whenever you are ready to fill the jars, take the baking sheet out of the oven and fill the jars with the peeled and cut tomatoes, placing a fresh basil leaf into each jar. Gently press the tomatoes down, and drain any excess liquid that comes up to the top. Pressing on the tomatoes does two things: you are making sure you are filling all of the space in the jar, and you are getting rid of excess water from the tomatoes. The result: you end up with actual tomatoes in the jar, not just a few tomatoes and tomato water! After you drain the liquid, fill the jar with more tomatoes until the jars are completely filled. With a clean towel, wipe any excess juice or pieces of tomato from the top of the jar.

Carefully place the lid onto the jar, making sure you do not touch the bottom of the lid. Screw the lid on tightly. Place the jars in a large stockpot, filling the pot with water so that your jars are covered at least halfway. Place a lid on the pot and allow the water to come to a boil. Once the water begins to boil, set a timer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, carefully take the jars out of the boiling water, tighten the lid more if you can, and set the jars aside to cool completely. Make sure you check the seal by pressing down on the top of each lid. If the lid doesn’t budge, great job! Store in a dark, cool pantry. But if the lid pops back, place the jar in the fridge and use a.s.a.p.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HUSHPUPPY HOARDER

Pimento Cheese Hushpuppies | for the love of the south

The hot, humid Louisiana air is heavy with mosquitoes, fireflies and the scent of fried fish. Newspaper shrouded picnic tables are piled high with platters of golden, crispy fish fillets and pale green peppery coleslaw, but peaking behind the Tabasco and rémoulade sauce rests the crowning joy of the fish fry, hushpuppies. Hushpuppies are my favorite part of any backyard fish fry or seafood joint.

Whenever I was young, I knew I was walking into a seafood restaurant because of the distinct aroma of damp wood and fish. There were stuffed alligators and moss-covered tanks filled with live seafood to play with while we waited for our table. I listened to everyone gush over what there were going to order that evening. Whenever I was asked what I was going to order, I simply stated, “Nothing.” But I had a plan. See, most people go to seafood places because of the seafood, of course, but I adored going to seafood restaurants for the promise of unlimited hushpuppies.

Pimento Cheese Hushpuppies | for the love of the south

As we were seated, I immediately grabbed the boat-shaped, woven basket filled with brown paper and tiny, round golden hushpuppies and placed them in front of me. Fishing out my trusty butter knife from my paper-restrained silverware, I cut the hushpuppy in half with accuracy in one fell swoop. The piping hot golden nugget of fried cornbread spilt in two, and sweet steam filled the air. The outside was golden and crispy and the inside was bright yellow and fluffy. I was in heaven. I grabbed a small packet of butter, which was in the center of the table, sitting alongside the hot sauce, salt and pepper (as if butter was like any other condiment), and in very precise motions, slathered half of the packet on half of the hushpuppy and the rest on the other…and I.ate.them.all.

Pimento Cheese Hushpuppies | for the love of the south

Once I finished one little basket of puppies, I replaced the empty basket where I found it and stealthily made my way over to the other side of the table, which had a full basket of untouched hushpuppies. I dodged jumping juices of cracking crabs legs and the saunter of stuffed shrimp and fried catfish as my little arms reached for the hushpuppies, which were in sheer peril of being contaminated by seafood spatter. I repeated this action throughout the entire meal without anyone noticing. No one would have guessed that I had eaten my weight in hushpuppies that night. Quiet and content, I sat at the end of the table with a pile of empty butter packets in front me, and a whisper of a smile running across my face. Hushpuppies.

Hushpuppy Prep | for the love of the south

Recipe: Cast-Iron Pimento Cheese Hushpuppies

Serves 4 as a side

Note: This is my version of the beloved hushpuppy. There is a balance of sweetness from the honey, spiciness from the cayenne, sour notes from the pickled pimentos and saltiness from the cheddar, which makes these hushpuppies my favorite!

Since these hushpuppies have extra moisture in the batter in the form of cheese, pimentos and honey, you need to finish these puppies off in the oven. This extra step insures that all of the centers are cooked through properly and allows the entire batch of the hushpuppies to come out of the oven at the same time piping hot!

Dry Ingredients:

1 cup of fine-ground yellow cornmeal

½ cup of all-purpose flour

2 ½ teaspoons of baking powder

½ teaspoon of kosher salt

¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper

Wet Ingredients:

1 large egg, lightly beaten

¾ cup of whole milk (or buttermilk)

2 tablespoons of honey

½ cup of cheddar cheese, grated

¼ cup of pimentos, drained and finely chopped

Canola, peanut or vegetable oil, for frying

In a mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, beat together wet ingredients. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until everything is combined. Cover and let rest for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.

In a 4-quart pot (preferably cast-iron), heat oil at least 3 inches deep to 350oF, making sure the oil remains at a steady temperature.

Preheat oven to 350oF

Once the oil has reached the appropriate temperature, drop rounded tablespoon scoops into the oil in batches of six. (I use a 1½-tablespoon cookie dough scoop.) As soon as the hushpuppies begin to float, flip, allowing both sides to get nice and golden brown. (These puppies cook quickly! They only need about 1 minute total in the oil.) Remove the hushpuppies from the oil and transfer to a paper towel lined plate or brown paper bag to drain. Once all of the hushpuppies have drained, place them into a shallow baking pan in a 350oF oven for 7-10 minutes until the center of the hushpuppies are set. (I usually test a hushpuppy in the center of the baking pan by pricking it with a knife and checking to make sure the center is set and no longer runny. If you notice it is still runny, place them back in the oven for a few more minutes.) Serve piping hot!

 

 

MELTING SUMMER DAYS

Summer Ice Cream | for the love of the south

Every summer, my family spent a few days at a friend’s vacation house on the Gulf of Mexico. To me, they were the most lavish people we knew. It didn’t matter that there were crab traps and wheel barrels lining the stairway to the house, that the kitchen had outdated, chipped linoleum floors and there was no air conditioning. Honestly, it was one step away from camping, but as a child, I didn’t notice. It was a summer home.

We spent long summer days carefully treading the shallow, murky Gulf floor, making sure we didn’t cut our feet on the backs of rigid oyster shells. We spent hours crouching in the water, grinning from ear to ear as we surfaced beautiful oysters. We tossed them in a galvanized bucket, and once the pail was filled to the brim we brought it over to a picnic table that was perfectly perched at the end on the dock. I watched as one of the older boys took a small, sharp knife and slowly pried the shell open, jiggled the oyster free and handed it to me. The oyster slid to the back of my throat like a sweet yet salty egg yolk.

Backyard Mint Ice Cream | for the love of the south

Roped to the dock were a dozen or so crab traps. We gently lifted the traps and carried any unfortunate captives to the kitchen, being careful not to trip on any flotsam and jetsam on the way up the stairs. The women prepared the seafood and all the trimmings while the men gathered the propane tanks and large silver pots outside. In no time the salty, summer air was bursting with Cajun spices, and we sat down to a great boil.

Dark Cherry + Amaretto Ice Cream | for the love of the south

As the sun began to set, the scent of spices became a faint memory, and we began scooping out servings of thick, creamy, black-speckled homemade vanilla ice cream. We sat on top of the wooden picnic table at the end of the dock, kicking our legs, watching our reflection on the water. I placed my hand on the table, tracing the initials I had carved into the weathered wood, making sure I treasured this moment as my childhood summer days started melting away and fading faster than ice cream in the hand of a child on a hot summer’s day.

Blackberry + Local Honey Ice Cream | for the love of the south

I had such a wonderful time creating One Summer Ice Cream Five Ways for Relish including Vanilla Bean, Backyard Mint, Blackberry + Local Honey, Dark Cherry + Amaretto, Georgia Peach + Basil!  Hope you enjoy!

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!

 

 

 

 

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