Sauce Piquant | for the love of the south

“Our fear of death is like our fear that summer will be short. But when we have had our swing of pleasure, our fill of fruit, and our swelter of heat, we say we have had our day.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Summer is like a dear familiar friend. She spends hours upon hours at my kitchen table, taking pride in the blushing peaches and grassy scent of freshly picked okra. Her knowing gaze falls on the ripe ruby tomatoes, deeply black blackberries and emerald cucumbers. She delights in the pleasures that have come out of my kitchen: a plethora of peach pies, ice-cold strawberry lemonade, and mint-flecked vanilla ice cream. But now, she stands at the back door, sunhat in hand, hugging me goodbye. I watch her leave with no regrets. I can proudly say I have eaten a bushel and a peck of ripe tomatoes, gorged myself on sweet tea, and have consumed more corn and watermelon than I would like to admit. Now, I’m ready for a new season. I’m anxiously waiting Autumn with her amber hues, enchanting leaves, and the scent of cinnamon, which always seems to follow her.

This recipe sweetly embraces the last of these summer days. Fond memories of summer rush through my head as I peel back the thin skin of tomatoes, as I slice through pods of pale jade okra, and plough through a mountain of assorted chilies. The combination of sweet, fiery and fruity chilies make this dish wonderfully refreshing. All of the ingredients mingle and meld together, making this a pot full of the essence of summer. We dig in, relishing the end of the season one last time.

Summer in the South seems endless. I’ve yet to hear anyone complain of a Southern summer being short. But I can say I’ve had my fair share of heat and have been full of summer’s offerings. I’ve had my day.

Summer Produce | for the love of the south

Sauce Piquant:

Serves 6, plus leftovers

Note: This is a comforting dish that warms you up on a chilly autumn night, so make as many batches of this recipe as you can at the end of the summer, label, stash in freezer bags and store in the freezer. Thaw and serve with perfectly steamed rice. It’s a lovely way to hold onto the season just a little while longer!

¾ cup canola oil

4 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 cups assorted sweet and spicy finely chopped peppers, deseeded (I use a combination of Serrano peppers, red bell pepper, banana pepper, whole cayenne peppers, and habanero peppers.)

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon chili powder

½ teaspoon sweet, smoked paprika

4 cups peeled, roughly chopped tomatoes

Handful of okra, cut into ¼-inch rounds

1 teaspoon dried oregano

5 cups chicken broth (or recently boiled water)

4 teaspoons pepper sauce or Tabasco, plus more for serving

Salt and pepper, to taste

Steamed rice, for serving

In a large heavy bottomed pot over medium heat, add oil. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the chicken, seasoning with salt and pepper on each side. Panfry until golden on both sides. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

Add the flour to the oil and cook, stirring constantly for 5 minutes until medium brown in color. (It should resemble the color of peanut butter.) Add onion, garlic, peppers, cayenne pepper, chili powder and paprika. Cook for 2 minutes.

Add tomatoes, okra, dried oregano, and broth (or water). Add the chicken back to the pot along with the pepper sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer with the lid cockeyed for 45 minutes. Scrape the bottom of the pot occasionally. Remove the chicken thighs from the pot, debone and shred the chicken with two forks. Add the chicken back to the pot. Serve with rice.

Sauce Piquant | for the love of the south








Muscadine Focaccia | for the love of the south

Earlier this week, I woke with bated breath. This happens every so often during the year. The excitement revolves around the arrival of my favorite seasonal produce, especially crops that have a tendency of poking their head out without notice like a prairie dog and quickly disappearing.

With wild abandon, I fling open the windows of my loft and deeply inhale the warm, summer air. I barely run a comb through my blonde bob, throw on a white tee and denim shorts, and stumble into my black rubber boots. This is no time for vanity. I have been impatiently waiting for muscadines to arrive for a year. An entire year! Today is the day they arrive. I can feel it in my bones.

The light of day barely began creeping over the grounds of the Carnton Plantation. Sunbeams welcome me into the garden as I walk the pea gravel paths. Ruby tomatoes and ladyfinger okra pods thrive on their stalks. Sunflowers keep a watchful eye out as they tower above everything else in the garden. Chive flowers with their violet crowns sway in the breeze on their long, elegant stems.

Muscadines | for the love of the south

Keeping on task, I walk to the edge of the garden where I know there is an archway of muscadine vines. I stop in my tracks, pea gravel flying every which way. I spot the beauties dangling like deep, wine-hued baubles on a lady’s arm. I pluck a few muscadines off their vines and pop them into my mouth. The skin of a muscadine is thick, much thicker than that of a grape. The skin bursts and separates from the pale green flesh as I bite into it. The combination of tart, chewy coating and the sweet, squishy flesh is delightful. Using my teeth, I strategically fish out the seeds from the muscadine, which are neon green and the size of a sunflower kernel, and discard the seeds by the base of the vines. I sit on an iron bench in the garden, fully content with a pile of muscadines in my lap. Muscadine season is officially mine for the taking, and I’ll cherish it for as long as it lasts.

Muscadine Focaccia | for the love of the south

Muscadine Focaccia:

Makes 1, 10” focaccia

Note: Leave smaller muscadines (the size of a marble) whole and cut larger ones (the size of a cherry) in half and discard seeds. If you can’t find muscadines, substitute with a lovely grape like Concord.

306g all-purpose flour

8g sea salt

2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

1 cup warm water

2g active dry yeast

1 teaspoon light olive oil

1 cup muscadines (See Note)

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine flour, salt and 1 tablespoon sugar. In a small mixing bowl, combine water, yeast and olive oil. Make a well in the flour and pour the water and yeast mixture in the center of the flour. Knead until combined, about 3 minutes. Place a tea towel moistened with warm water over the bowl and allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes. The warm water clinging to the tea towel will create a warm, moist environment for the dough to rise.

On a floured surface, knead the rested dough for 3 minutes. Place the dough on a heavily floured plate or baking sheet, sprinkle with more flour and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to slowly rise in the fridge for 12-24 hours. Whenever you are ready to make the focaccia, take the dough out of the fridge 30 minutes before shaping.

In a small bowl, combine muscadines and the remaining tablespoon of sugar.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface, and gently pull the dough into a 10” inch circle. Place the dough in a generously buttered 10” skillet. Cover the top of the dough with the muscadines (including any juice that has come out of the muscadines), pressing the fruit firmly into the dough. Cover with a warm, moistened tea towel, and allow the dough to prove once more for 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400oF. Bake the focaccia until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar right before serving. This sweet focaccia is also lovely slathered in ricotta and drizzled with honey.







Cucumber Ribbon Salad | for the love of the south

A Southerner’s backyard is a treasure trove of edible gems during the long, hot summer months. Standing in the yard, I gaze from left to right, each neighbor has a little garden of some sort, revealing characteristics of its caretaker. Some gardens overflow with herbs and spring onions in simple clay pots, others with emerald green bell pepper plants in perfectly straight rows. The more adventurous gardeners have a few chickens strutting about their yard, feasting away on herbs and fallen vegetables. Then, there are those who create raised vegetable beds out of old barbecue pits and tractor tires.

I remember tending to our own little garden with my mom when I was a little girl. One night, I sat in the dirt next to the cucumber plants as we began snipping away at a few green onions for our dinner. I couldn’t help but stare at the perfectly ripe cucumbers suspended in midair, reminding me of hanging sausages in a great meat market. I peer under one of the jade leaves and spotted a small cucumber with a bright yellow flower attached at one end. A crack of thunder in the distance broke my focus. Tomato plants sway in the breeze and drops of cool summer rain began hitting our cheeks. “Be sure to peek at this one in the morning,” mom said with a knowing smile. Before it began pouring, we rush inside with fists full of green onions and arms crammed with cucumbers. I thought no more of the gherkin-sized cucumber and continued helping to prepare for dinner as it rained sheets and sheets.

Cucumber Ribbons | for the love of the south

The next morning, I walk outside to gather a few tomatoes and herbs for breakfast. Curiosity gets the best of me as I begin folding back the leaf, and lo and behold, the teeny cucumber grew half the length of my forearm overnight. I couldn’t believe it! From that moment on, I thought of cucumbers as being enchanted. They appear mystically in our garden patch after a midsummer storm and disappear just as magically at our table.

Cucumber Ribbon Salad

Serves 2

Note: This is a delicate, quick summer salad, which pays homage to the simple way we prepared cucumbers growing up. There is no need to make this recipe ahead of time, just wait until the last minute to toss the cucumbers in the dressing, or else you will end up with waterlogged cucumbers instead of crunchy, fresh ribbons.

½ medium-sized garlic clove (or 1 small garlic clove)

Pinch red pepper flakes

Small handful mint, leaves only, plus more for serving

2 tablespoons lemon juice

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium-sized cucumber

Parmesan cheese shavings, for serving

Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Finely chop the garlic clove, red pepper flakes and mint leaves together. Place the seasonings in a medium-sized mixing bowl and add the lemon juice. Whisk in olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

With a vegetable peeler or a mandoline, thinly slice the cucumber. Once you get to the seeds, begin cutting the other three sides, so all you are left with is the watery, seedy center.

Discard the seedy center and toss the cucumber ribbons in the dressing. Once all of the ribbons are coated, lay the cucumbers on a serving platter. Scatter with remaining mint leaves, Parmesan shavings and black pepper. Serve immediately.

Cucumber Ribbon Salad | for the love of the south


Roasted Nashville Hot Chicken | for the love of the south

Whenever I was a little girl, many afternoons were spent gathering ingredients for our family dinners with my mom at our local grocery store in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The old, shuddering sliding glass doors warmly welcomed us. We made our way across the scuffed black and white checkered floor; my mom grabbed a shopping cart, also referred to as a buggy in the South. The buggies at our grocery store were unique; the area for groceries was shallow instead of deep like baskets nowadays. The end of the cart had a latch, so whenever you went to checkout, the checkout girl simply unlatched the end of the basket, like a truck bed and unloaded the groceries straight from the cart. But the most important thing to know about these buggies is that the distance between the bottom of the basket and the rack just above the wheels of the cart was an ideal space for a child to retreat to.

As soon as I nestled underneath the buggy, my mom made her routine stop to the deli counter to buy a pickle. She covertly handed it to me, going along with the charade that I was invisible to everyone else in the store except her. Now that I think about it, everyone probably thought I was a little odd as I had one leg propped up and the other leisurely dangling in midair as if I were floating on a pirogue in the bayou while slowly munching away on a pickle.

Louisiana Maque Choux | for the love of the south

I enjoyed watching the cart fill up with ingredients for our supper. Emerald striped watermelons the size of a toddlers, dusty, earthy cantaloupes, bags and bags of long-grain rice, Mason jars of roux, pint-sized containers of cayenne pepper and ruby red homegrown tomatoes rolled around in the basket. I daydreamed about what we were having for dinner and quietly observed the other shoppers in the store, imagining what they were making for dinner as well. Sometimes I dreamt of what it would be like if everyone put all their groceries together on one endlessly long picnic table and had a great feast every night. I decided that would certainly establish world peace.

Things weren’t always seen for what they were, but what I imagined they could be. As a child, I was oblivious to the fact that not everyone saw the world the same as I did. And as I grew up, I realized I tasted the world around me differently as well.

Nashville Hot Chicken:

One of my favorite Southern dishes is fried chicken, so whenever I moved to Nashville, immediately I was introduced to Nashville’s cayenne crusted hot chicken, which has been known to make grown men weep. Traditionally, hot chicken is fried in a cast-iron skillet and crusted with a reddish cayenne paste, and is served with pickles and white bread, which gets soaked through with shockingly spicy orange hot chicken drippings. I love serving my spicy Roasted Nashville Hot Chicken with sweet Louisiana Maque Choux because it ties together two homes. My past and my present. Here’s to the hot summer days ahead.

{Because I love y’all, I am giving away a 15” Seasoned Steel Pan from Lodge Cast Iron. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below letting me know your favorite dish to prepare in your cast-iron between now and midnight June 4th. The winner will be chosen randomly and will be contacted via email on June 5th. Limit 1 comment per person, pretty please! PS For US residents only… Good luck, y’all!} Congrats to Sandy for being the winner of the giveaway!

Roasted Nashville Hot Chicken

Serves 4

Note: Traditionally, Nashville Hot Chicken is fried then tossed in a hot chicken paste. I prefer the method of pan-frying then finishing the thighs off in the oven. The result is crispy skin and juicy dark meat, and while the chicken finishes off in the oven, I have time to clean up the kitchen and get ready for company!

8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

2 tablespoons of olive oil

6 tablespoons of clarified butter, melted (or you can use olive oil if you prefer)

5 tablespoons cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons of dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons of kosher salt

2 teaspoons of sweet, smoked paprika

Salt and pepper, to season

Preheat oven to 425oF

Taking a paper towel, gently blot the chicken thighs, making sure to remove any moisture from the surface of the chicken. This will ensure you get a nice crisp golden skin. Season both sides with salt and pepper.

In a large pan over medium high heat, preferably cast-iron or seasoned steel, heat the oil until it shimmers. Gently place the chicken thighs in the pan skin side down and fry until the skin is lightly golden brown. Flip the thighs over and immediately place the pan in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the thighs are completely cooked through and deeply golden brown.

Combine clarified butter (or oil, if using), cayenne pepper, dark brown sugar, 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, and paprika in a medium-sized mixing bowl. This creates the Hot Chicken Paste. While the chicken is still piping hot, gently coat the chicken in the Hot Chicken Paste. Serve with pickles and white bread for an authentic Nashville Hot Chicken experience or serve with Maque Choux!


Maque Choux

Serves 4

2 rashers of bacon

1 small onion, minced

1 Serrano pepper, deseeded and deveined, minced

1½ teaspoon of kosher salt

½ teaspoon of black pepper

½ teaspoon of sweet, smoked paprika

Pinch of red pepper flakes

2 medium-sized tomatoes, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1½ cups of water

6 ears of corn, kernels cut off the cob

Small handful of basil leaves

In a cast-iron skillet over medium high heat, cook bacon until crispy and golden brown. Remove the bacon from the skillet, drain on a paper towel and crumble. Add onion, Serrano pepper, salt, black pepper, paprika and red pepper flakes to the bacon drippings. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, garlic and water. Reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes. Add corn and simmer for another 10-15 minutes until the corn is cooked through. Take off the heat. Stir in the basil leaves and crumbled bacon. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Roasted Hot Chicken + Maque Choux | for the love of the south


Pearls + Oysters | for the love of the south

My fingers slowly etched the black velvet lining of my grandmother’s jewelry box. Getting dressed for the day was more of an event rather than a duty for my grandmother; every strand of hair flawlessly sprayed into place, lips perfectly tinted like the color of an azalea petal, and the air was filled with a cloud of Estée Lauder perfume. She was not ready until she graced her jewelry box and pulled out a strand of pearls. Each pearl perfectly round, milky, and luminous. I watched as she clasped the two gold ends together with ease and gracefully placed her fingers on the pearls as she looked at herself in the mirror, knowing she was now prepared for whatever the day held. As a young girl (to be honest, quite the tomboy at that age with grass-stained denim shorts and skinned knees), I dreamt of the day I would wear my own strand of pearls.

As I grew up, I realized pearls are a lovely depiction of the South. A pearl begins its life with an irritation, a piece of grit that has made its way inside the oyster. Over the course of many years, that irritation transforms into a seamless, radiant pearl. Imperfect oyster shells are the ideal environment for pearls to form, and without pain or frustration, pearls would not exist. And those who are searching for pearls are the only ones who find them.

Pearls + Oysters | for the love of the south

Just as devoted Catholic women outline rosary beads with religious reverence, we can trace every surface of every pearl on a strand, each one symbolizing an event, something we have overcome. Instead of seeing our pain as something to hide, the years of healing have gently worn down and polished the rough edges of our past, and we wear them around our neck as an encouragement of strength.

Now, I have a strand of my own as I treasure and carry on the tradition, the reminder that our everyday irritations can one day turn into something more beautiful than we could ever image. They retell of the great women who stood before us, striving for goals that they may or may not have met, but one thing I am sure of, they donned their pearls no matter the cost, no matter the prize. They are a symbol of the South, something we earn with time and proudly wear. Many people see them as old-fashioned, but I see them as timeless, as timeless as the women who wear them. As we daily clasp our strands around our necks and close to our hearts, it’s a daily ritual, a promise that we are treasures among the shores. Valued and adored.

Pearls + Oysters | for the love of the south



Spring Onions + Buttercups | for the love of the south

A few weeks ago, I woke to a wintery Southern fairytale. I leaned my head back, gazed out the window above our bed and saw an icicle the length of a dagger slowly melting away. Drip, drip, drip. My heart skipped a beat. Something magical happened overnight. For those who grew up in the North, I apologize if you can’t relate to my delight of winter weather. Growing up in Louisiana, the closest I got to snow was devouring a jade spearmint snoball on the streets of New Orleans in the dead of summer.

Sautéed Spring Onions | for the love of the south

Immediately, I threw on my charcoal wool coat, slung my fur stole around my neck, and slipped into my black rubber boots. Michael and I followed our feet to one of our favorite spots in Franklin, the Carnton Plantation. It seems like this is the place we visit whenever the seasons are in their fullest glory, whether the buttercups are blooming, muscadines are ripe for the picking or the leaves are at their autumnal peak.

Spring Onion + Bacon Quiche Prep | for the love of the south

Tiny emerald green buttercup leaves popping through the perfectly blanketed snow caught my eye. Buttercups are one of the first signs of spring around here. It’s our first sign of hope. Immediately, I began dreaming of a budding quiche, sunny and yellow from fresh farm eggs and speckled green with lovely spring onions.

We continued walking the grounds of the old plantation. Its large porch flanked with rocking chairs and white columns welcomed us. As I walked across the wooden porch, there was a small groan, like a whisper underfoot. If these floorboards could speak, they would tell a story of war, loss and bloodshed. The Carnton Plantation has a rough past, much like the South itself, but with time the seasons pass, the snow melts and spring appears. Wintertime is necessary for survival, so when spring comes we are prepared; we are ready for new growth. The South has its fair share of tales, but in the end, no one can deny its present beauty, no matter the season.

Spring Onion + Bacon Quiche | for the love of the south

Recipe: Sautéed Spring Onion + Bacon Quiche

Serves 4-6

1 ¼ cup of all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon of kosher salt

½ cup of lard or unsalted butter, cubed, chilled

½ cup of ice water

1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar

4 large eggs

1 cup of heavy whipping cream

4 rashers of bacon

½ bunch of spring onions, white and pale green parts only, cut in half lengthwise

Salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350oF. Place a baking sheet in the oven fitted with aluminum foil.

Combine flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Create a well in the center and add the lard/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 the dough until 9 or so inches in diameter. Gently place the dough into an 8” pie plate. Crimp the edges. Without breaking the yolk of the eggs for the filling, use a pastry brush and gently brush a thin layer of the egg white onto the dough. This will create a barrier between the filling and the piecrust as it bakes. Prick the bottom of the pastry with a fork. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the filling.

Whisk eggs, cream, salt (Keeping in mind that the bacon is already salty!) and freshly cracked black pepper until well combined and fluffy. Set aside.

In a medium cast-iron skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until brown and crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan and add the spring onions. Sauté until the onions start to color and soften, about 2-3 minutes. Drain remaining bacon fat from the pan. Scatter sautéed onions and crisp bacon to the bottom of the pie plate. Add the egg and cream mixture over the onions and bacon.

Place in the preheated oven for 40 minutes or until the top is slightly golden, edges are lightly browned and the filling is set in the center. Serve in slices with a salad for a lovely lunch! If you have any leftovers, wrap the dish with cling film and stash in the fridge for a few days. Reheat in a low oven until completely warmed through. Enjoy!

Spring Onion + Bacon Quiche | for the love of the south


Chicory Coffee Meringues | for the love of the south

There is something special about the art of preparation. Normally, the focus is on the final dish that graces our table, not the silent characters that assist us in preparing the meal. Without them, we would be forever lost in the kitchen. There is the story of the courageous and dependable wooden spoon, facing the depths of our scalding soups and countless gumbos. Irregular mason jars with their faded sky blue and suspended bubble façade, which are used in preserving the seasons. Cast-iron skillets, slicked and smooth from daily use of frying chicken, stewing okra and baking biscuits. These utensils don’t often make it to the table, but they are there for us, day after day, allowing us to taste from their crooks while gently holding their scorched handles, blades of our favorite knives seemingly becoming an extension of our bodies as we slice through seasonal produce without a care in the world, and the cast-iron we break our backs carrying, knowing no other pot will do the job. These are the unsung, unseen heroes of the kitchen.

Just as seasoned skillets and scarred spoons tell stories, I have found we communicate more freely in the kitchen than anywhere else. Perhaps it’s because the kitchen is the hearth in the home. It’s a place where people can open up while the cook can keep a sense of busyness, without making the person feel as if you are glaring into the depths of their soul in complete silence and stillness.

Chicory Coffee Meringues | for the love of the south

Whisking wintery egg whites and roughly chopping plump vanilla bean pods are tasks that are comforting yet don’t require much thought. Slowly stirring sugar and egg whites together while smoky, chicory coffee fills the kitchen, creates a sense of safety while we visit. These actions are second nature to a home cook.

I do my best listening while in the kitchen. It’s a place where those who need to get something off their chest can while slowly pecking away at a piece of pie. I’ve heard some whoppers while frying bacon and stories that made me tear up while stirring roux. I’ve celebrated in the kitchen, enjoyed life at my table with the ones I love, and, honestly dear friends, that includes every single one of you.

Chicory Coffee Meringues | for the love of the south

{As a “Thank You,” I am giving away 4, 12oz. bags of my favorite Premium Community Coffee Whole Bean Coffee. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below letting me know your favorite kitchen moment/favorite kitchen tool between now and midnight March 8th. The winner will be chosen randomly and will be contacted via email on March 9th. Limit 1 comment per person, pretty please! Good luck, y’all!} Congrats to Kelly who is the winner of the giveaway! 

Recipe: Chicory Coffee Meringues

Makes 6 Large or 12 Small Meringues

Note: I love using finely ground Community Coffee Whole Bean Coffee for this recipe. Chicory coffee gives the meringue a slightly smoky layer, which pairs beautifully with the sweetness of the meringue and the rich flavor of the vanilla bean. If you can’t find chicory, finely grind whole beans until the beans resemble a fine powder. And if you don’t own a coffee grinder, just use espresso powder!

In case you were wondering, the vinegar acts as a stabilizing agent for the egg whites. Whenever I’m making meringues in the South, there always seems to be some percentage of humidity in the air, which can really wreak havoc on meringues since they absorb moisture. So, I find adding the vinegar (which you will not taste in the meringue) acts as a little “meringue insurance”.

165g of granulated sugar

1 vanilla pod, coarsely chopped

3 egg whites, room temperature

Pinch of sea salt

1 ½ teaspoon of cornstarch

½ teaspoon of white vinegar

1 teaspoon of finely ground chicory coffee


Preheat oven to 200oF

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

Fill a medium sized saucepan halfway with water. Place over medium-low heat to simmer.

Add the sugar and vanilla pod to a food processor, pulse until the vanilla pod is fully incorporated into the sugar and there are no large pieces of vanilla. This may take a few minutes, so be patient and don’t rush it! You are actually creating superfine vanilla sugar in this step, which will blend quickly and evenly into the meringue mixture.

In the base of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, add the vanilla sugar, egg whites, sea salt, cornstarch and white vinegar. Whisk just until combined.

Place the mixing bowl over the simmering water and slowly stir with a rubber spatula for a few minutes. Once the mixture feels completely smooth between your fingertips, continue whisking until the mixture forms stiff peaks.

Spoon into 6 medium mounds (or 12 small mounds) onto your parchment covered baking sheet. Sprinkle each mound with chicory coffee powder. With a teaspoon, shape the meringues, starting from the base and sweeping around and up to the top, creating a small peak.

Place the meringues in the oven for 2 hours. Turn off the oven and allow the meringues to dry in the oven overnight.

Store in an airtight container for 1 week, but really, you can eat them all for breakfast in the morning. I won’t tell anyone!






Marvelous Grapefruit Beignets | for the love of the south

There is a bridge stretching over Lake Pontchartrain, a very long bridge, which connects Mandeville to Metairie, Louisiana, just outside of New Orleans. We made our way past the gilded Superdome, onto Poydras to Decatur St. The scent of boiled crawfish, brewed Abita beer and fried beignets pierced the air. There is a tangible excitement in the streets, an energy as the city marches to the beat of its own drum, king cakes baking, jazz pouring out of every nook and cranny, rod iron rails decorated with colorful beads. It’s Carnival Time! The occasion calls for a visit to one of my favorite spots in New Orleans, Café du Monde.

The emerald green and white striped awning greeted us, welcoming us to our home away from home with open arms … and café au lait and beignets! We found a spot at one of the speckled, sugar dusted circular tables. Visitors from all over the world came to celebrate the season. Piles of camera bags, men in less than flattering shorts, gluttonous pigeons and hot beignets covered in mounds of powdered sugar filled the open-air café.

Marvelous Grapefruit Beignets | for the love of the south

Immediately, I became captivated by my surroundings and began watching a businessman, most likely a local, talking on his cell phone in the middle of the café.“How in the world is he carrying on a conversation with all of this celebrating going on?” It was in that moment when I heard him say, “Hold on, a pigeon is about to fly on top of this girls head!” Before I could turn around to get my eyes on the ill-fated girl, I felt something brush the top of my head as I bit into my beignet. Exhaling out of pure shock (and unfortunately covering everyone around me in a cloud of powered sugar), the lively café came to a screeching halt as I began waving frantically, attempting to get the pigeon away from me. My effort completely failed as one of its tiny feet got caught in my ponytail. That’s when the real floorshow began. A flurry of feathers, blonde hair, skinny arms and sugar began to brawl right smack dab in the middle of Café du Monde. An uproarious laughter filled the café, the bird finally got its footing and made a quick escape to the rafters. Everyone cheered, plates full of beignets slapped the tables, coffee cups clanked together and everything went back to its harmoniously brassy New Orleans self.

Our waitress placed another plate of hot beignets in front of me with a smirk. I knew she had seen the spectacle, and I also noticed she gave us twice as many beignets as we originally ordered. I think she felt bad for me. I didn’t mind. An extra order of hot beignets at Café du Monde was worth the trauma and disheveled hairdo. I cautiously devoured my glorious “pity” beignets as I kept one eye on the hot fried dough and one on the greedy pigeons above me.

Across the way in Jackson Square, someone began playing “When the Saints Go Marching In” for the tourists. No matter how many times I hear this song being played on the streets of New Orleans, I’m always surprised how it bewitches me. I’ll always have the spirit of Mardi Gras in my pocket, carrying it with me wherever I go and maybe a beignet or two! Laissez les bon temps roulez!

Marvelous Grapefruit Beignets | for the love of the south

Recipe: Marvelous Grapefruit Beignets

Serves 6

Note: These buttery, sugar-covered beignets, are traditionally eaten on Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, during Carnival season right before the season of Lent. But honestly, I love to serve them year round to keep the spirit of Mardi Gras alive!

If you don’t have superfine sugar, don’t worry. Just whiz up some granulated sugar in a food processor until superfine! Also, you can also substitute the grapefruit zest for lemon, lime or orange zest.

½ cup (100g) of granulated sugar

Zest of 1 grapefruit

2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon of kosher salt

½ teaspoon of baking powder

6 tablespoons of unsalted butter, cut into cubes, room temperature

3 eggs, room temperature

2 tablespoons of vanilla extract

Vegetable oil, for frying

Superfine sugar, for dusting

In a small bowl, combine sugar and zest. Rub the zest into the sugar with your fingertips. Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with a batter attachment, combine flour, salt and baking powder with a fork. Create a well in the center and add the rest of the ingredients, including the zest-infused sugar. Mix until the ingredients are combined and begin to form soft dough. Shape the dough into a ball, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.

On a generously floured surface, roll the dough out until ¼-inch thick. Cut into 16×2-inch strips. Cut again on a diagonal, creating diamond shaped pieces. The dough is very delicate, so be as gentle as possible!

Over medium heat, pour 2-inches of oil in a large cast-iron skillet. Once the oil reaches 325oF, gently place the diamond-shaped pieces of dough into the oil, allowing them to get beautifully golden on both sides. Drain on paper towels or paper bags and toss in superfine sugar. Devour immediately! If by some miracle there are any leftover, just seal them up in a plastic bag, stash them on the counter, et voilà! Breakfast is served!






Black-Eyed Pea Cassoulet | for the love of the south

New Year’s is a time for reflection, celebration, and, if you were raised in the South, black-eyed peas, collards and cornbread. Waking up on New Year’s Day, the glitter of the evening still evident in my hair while little strands of popped confetti littered the floor. Resolutions have been resolved. Paper crowns and empty Mason jars are scattered about the living room as I make my way past the gold and silver foiled-lined doorway and into the kitchen to my beloved, saving grace: the coffee pot. Within moments, the aroma of chicory coffee filled the air. The scent of ham hocks and collards babbled away on the stove along with black-eyed peas and pork sausage crooning away in a cast-iron skillet, and golden, crackling studded cornbread sizzles in the oven. This is the aromatic symphony of New Year’s Day.

Black-Eyed Pea Cassoulet | for the love of the south

Each ingredient has meaning and purpose. Black-eyed peas represent coins, collard greens represent dollar bills and cornbread represents gold. Eating each Southern staple on New Year’s Day is supposed to guarantee a prosperous year, ensuring wealth and luck. While, I do not believe in luck, I do believe in the power of tradition.

Black-Eyed Pea Cassoulet | for the love of the south

This New Year’s custom dates back to the Civil War, when union troops pillaged the Southern landscape, leaving behind black-eyed peas and greens as food for animals. These nutrient rich, humble ingredients became cherished as they saved many families from starvation during hard times, and the tradition of the celebration of these ingredients was born. The story may differ from table to table across the region, but the common bond of the unity of family and friends brought together by thankful hearts and renewed hope for the New Year remains the spirit and soul behind the tradition.

So, here is to the New Year, may it be greater than anything we could ever ask or imagine. May it be filled with boundless courage, laughter, and…black-eyed peas and collard greens! Cheers, y’all!

Recipe: Black-Eyed Pea Cassoulet

Serves 4

Note: This dish has all of the components of a Southern New Year’s Day traditional meal, but it is also a lovely, comforting dish perfect on any winter’s day.

1 ½ tablespoons of olive oil, plus more for drizzling

¼ pound of smoky bacon, cut into thin strips

1 yellow onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped

1 sprig of rosemary, leaves only, chopped

Pinch of red pepper flakes

½ pound of dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight

1 cup of collards, rinsed and torn into small pieces

½ cup of cornbread crumbs

Salt and pepper, to taste

Hot Pepper Sauce, Sea Salt, Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, for serving

Preheat broiler

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large cast-iron skillet. Add bacon and cook until golden and crispy. Toss in onion, garlic, tomato, carrot, rosemary leaves and red pepper flakes. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Cook until the vegetables softened, about 10 minutes.

Drain black-eyed peas and add to the pan. Cover with water, season again lightly with salt, bring to boil and lower the heat to simmer for 45 minutes, until the beans are tender and most of the water has evaporated. Toss in collards and cook just until the greens are bright green, about 2 minutes. Take off heat, adjust seasoning, and cover with cornbread crumbs. Drizzle with a little bit of olive oil and place under the broiler until the crumbs are golden and browned. Serve with hot pepper sauce, flaky sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Enjoy!

Black-Eyed Pea Cassoulet Ingredients | for the love of the south









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!