PRETTY IN PINK

Strawberry Shortcake Meringues | for the love of the south

February, the month of seemingly perpetual grey skies. When winter seems to drag on for all eternity and spring is nowhere in sight, in rambles Valentine’s Day in all its kitschy glory. This time of year, the world is in desperate need of a little color, a little life, and my answer to the call comes in the form of shockingly pink, cloudlike strawberry shortcake meringues worth swooning over. Usually I’m not one for kitsch, but on Valentine’s Day, I dive in head first.

These meringues are cartoonlike crunchy on the outside yet marshmallowy in the center. The crushed vanilla wafers remind me of slightly salty and buttery shortbread. Strawberries add a lovely tartness; meringues desperately need sharpness to balance out its sweetness. The flavor combination reminds me of those strawberry shortcake ice cream pops I loved when I was a little girl.

Yes, these meringues are over the top, but they are also a breeze to make. On Valentine’s Day, I would not have you chained all day to your oven or even think of asking you to reach for a candy thermometer. I want you to gracefully and confidently whip these up, feel like a domestic goddess and be treated accordingly. These beauties can be put together in less than thirty minutes. If you are like me, you will be watching An Affair to Remember while sipping on pink champagne as the meringues bake away in the oven. Once they come out of the oven, shower them with a final flourish of rose-hued strawberry dust. These meringues are prettier in pink, as all things are prettier in pink on Valentine’s Day.

Strawberry Shortcake Meringues | for the love of the south

Strawberry Shortcake Meringues

Makes 6 Large Meringues

Note: These meringues are adapted from Ottoleghi’s marvelous meringue recipe. He is the king of meringues. What I love most about this recipe is there are no candy thermometers or double boilers involved. I’ve included weights and measurements for the egg whites and sugar just in case you don’t have a scale. 

 

½ cup vanilla wafers

Pinch of sea salt

½ cup freeze-dried strawberries

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

300g granulated sugar (scant 1½ cups)

150g egg whites, from about 5 large eggs, room temperature

 

Preheat oven to 375oF.

Using a food processor, mortar and pestle or even a rolling pin and a heavy-duty plastic bag, pulverize the vanilla wafers. Add the sea salt to the crumbs and set aside in a shallow dish.

Pulverize the freeze-dried strawberries into a powder. Mix 1 tablespoon strawberry powder and vanilla extract together in a small dish, creating a paste. (Save the rest of the strawberry powder for dusting the meringues after they bake!)

Tip the granulated sugar onto a parchment lined rimmed baking sheet and cook the sugar for 7 minutes. Keep in mind the sugar is just getting hot at this point. You aren’t caramelizing it. This step ensures the meringue will be stable without having to heat the egg whites and sugar over a double boiler.

While the sugar is heating up, separate and weigh your egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer. Set the bowl in the base of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. (Don’t start whipping the whites yet!)

Take the sugar out of the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 275oF. Slide the sugar into a bowl and set the baking sheet aside to cool.

Start whipping the egg whites on high speed. Once they become foamy, add the hot sugar 1 tablespoon at a time while the mixer is running. Whip on a high speed for 7-8 minutes or until the egg whites form stiff peaks. The meringue should hold its shape if you flip the whisk attachment upside down. Fold the strawberry paste gently into the meringue.

Using two large spoons, scoop a meringue mound into the vanilla wafer crumbs, tipping the meringue to one side so the crumbs cover the bottom and half of the meringue. Pick the meringue up with both spoons and place on the cooled baking sheet. Keep in mind the meringues will expand in the oven, so give them space between each other on the baking sheet. Repeat this process until you have 6 large meringue mounds.

Place the meringues in the preheated oven and bake for 2 hours.

While the meringues are still on the baking sheet, place the reserved strawberry powder in a small sieve and dust the tops of the meringues until perfectly pink! Once the meringues have completely cooled, store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

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CITRUS BONDS

Satsumas | for the love of the south

Lacy railings adorn balconies as we stroll along Royal St. The combination of the faint scent of decay and the citrus growing in ancient pots into the center of courtyards spills out into the French Quarter. Jazz echoes through Pirate Alley as we pass St. Louis Cathedral.

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Naturally, we dined like kings in New Orleans. The po’boys from Parkway on Hagan Ave. are served on the softest French bread and then slathered with a thin layer of mayonnaise, thinly sliced tomatoes, cold shredded lettuce and are generously piled with the crispiest oysters you’ve ever had. All you need is a bottle of hot sauce and a pile of napkins as thick as a dictionary, and you are all set. In the heart of the French Quarter, we sat under the green and white awning at Café du Monde with a plate of beignets piled with a mountain of powdered sugar and washed them down with café au laits and hot chocolates. In the Caribbean Room at the historic Pontchartrain Hotel in the Garden District, we split the Mile High Pie, which is a wedge of ice cream pie with layers of chocolate, vanilla and pink-tinted mint ice cream, crowned with toasted marshmallow and drizzled with melted chocolate. Impossibly crusty bread, decadent turtle soup drizzled tableside with sherry and dark, rich seafood gumbos littered our table at Commander’s Palace.

Satsuma Peels & Coffee | for the love of the south

But all the while, I had a secret. Safely stashed away in a clear cellophane wrapped bag nestled in my purse were sweet and sour satsuma candied peels. I found these to be the perfect travel companions. Anytime I needed a hiatus from heavy dishes, I popped one of these sunny beauties in my mouth and instantly my palate was refreshed. We piled into the car and drove three and a half hours west to Lake Charles. The fresh citrus peeling reminded me of nibbling on a few contraband kumquats in the center of one of the courtyards in the French Quarter.

Satsuma Tree | for the love of the south

I woke up in my grandparent’s house the next morning. Immediately, I made a steaming cup of café au lait and walked all the way to the left of the yard to the great satsuma tree, which gave off the scent of sweet honeysuckles after an afternoon rain. I gently twisted the fruit off the tree and peeled back the thin, supple peeling. The cold juice from the swollen segments dribbled down my chin. I quietly sipped on my coffee and finished off half a dozen of freshly picked satsumas on an old ladder next to the tree.

On our way back to Nashville, we made our way past sugarcane fields being cleared, and I couldn’t resist reaching into my bag and pulling out one of these satsuma peels. During this time of year, I have a deep connection with these little fruits. They remind me of home, and that’s a very strong bond indeed.

Sweet & Sour Satsuma Candied Peels | for the love of the south

Sweet & Sour Satsuma Candied Peels

Makes about 2 cups

Adapted from Rebekah Turshen of City House in Nashville, TN

Note: Satsumas are my favorite citrus to use since the skin is thin and peels away with ease, leaving the rest of the fruit intact. This makes for a perfect snack for later!

P.S. You can find citric acid at spice shops or online!

 

6 medium organic Satsumas

2½ cups granulated sugar, divided

1 tablespoon citric acid

½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped out

 

Scrub the satsumas, and carefully peel the satsuma in one long piece if you can, trying not to break the peel so you can easily cut the peeling in long, thin strips. Cut in ¼-inch thick strips. You should end up with about 2 cups of sliced peelings. (Save the segments for snacking!)

Bring peels and 4 cups water in a small saucepan to boil for 5 minutes.

Drain and repeat process twice, using fresh water each time.

Return peels to pan and add 2 cups granulated sugar and 2 cups water. Bring to a soft boil and cook until peels are soft and translucent, about 30 minutes.

Drain and transfer peels in a single layer onto a rimmed baking sheet fitted with a wire rack. Chill for 20 minutes.

Mix citric acid, remaining ½ cup sugar and vanilla seeds in a medium bowl with your fingertips. Toss the chilled peelings to coat. Return to rack and let sit at room temperature for 4-12 hours. You want the peels to be completely dry before storing in an airtight container.

Stays good for 1 month!

 

FEELING FULL ON THANKSGIVING

Browned Butter Apple Tart | for the love of the south

There is something magical about this apple tart. It has the power to bring people together. It welcomes guests into my home with its nutty, sweet scent and deeply satisfies with silky layers of tender apple and golden, flaky crust. It’s rustic appearance and flaws are forgiven after one bite. And… It has a habit of disappearing…quickly, much like the holiday season itself. But for that reason, I desire even more to wallow in it.

Browned Butter Apple Tart | for the love of the south

I want to give thanks for every lovely ritual and morsel that crosses my lips and passes through my kitchen this season. Herb and butter rubbed and roasted turkey, the perfect roast potatoes, cornbread dressing, citrus studded cranberry sauce, creamed corn, sautéed collard greens, and this tart. I want them all. I especially want to give reverence to the dishes that show up only once a year. I want to revel in communion, the intimacy we participate in as we break bread around the table. I want people to enjoy this holiday of festive and guiltless overindulging, which is a celebration of living!

Browned Butter Apple Tart| for the love of the south

Last Thanksgiving after all the leftovers had been safely stashed in the fridge, I remember standing barefoot at the kitchen sink, one elbow deep in suds and the other hand quietly brushing away crumbs from my lips, which were the only remnants left from a piece of apple tart I had hidden under a bag of kale in the fridge. (This felt a sliver selfish. Just a sliver.) But I recall the distinct feeling of being expectant for a season, and now, standing in the hearth of the home, the kitchen, and feeling full in every sense of the word. That’s something to be grateful for.

Browned Butter Apple Tart | for the love of the south

So I hope your holiday plans are going well, your kitchen smells lovely and you are wallowing in the season! And I hope you plan on making this Brown Butter Apple Tart, which is one of the many dishes I brought to the Endless Table from Reynolds Kitchens. You can find this recipe over on Reynolds Kitchens along with countless recipes for Thanksgiving from lovely, inspiring friends!

Browned Butter Apple Tart | for the love of the south

Brown Butter Apple Tart

Note: I love serving this tart at the end of a heavy meal. Its light, flaky and deeply satisfying. Drizzle with Sea Salt Caramel if you desire!

Serves 4

For the crust:

1¼ cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes, chilled

½ cup cold water

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

½ cup ice cubes

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flour and salt. Add the cold butter to the flour mixture. On low speed, combine all of the ingredients until the mixture looks like coarse sand. Make sure there are no pieces of butter larger than the size of a pea, and do not over blend.

In a small bowl combine cold water, vinegar and ice.

Tablespoon by tablespoon, add the ice water mixture to the flour and butter mixture, mixing in between additions. Add the water until the dough comes together into a ball. The dough should be smooth, not be sticky or crumbly. Shape into a disk. Wrap the disk in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or up to three days.

To Assemble:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ vanilla bean pod, split lengthwise, seeds only

2 medium-sized apples, sliced 1/8-inch thick

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

1 egg, slightly beaten

Preheat oven to 425oF

In a small skillet over a low heat, add the butter and allow it to slowly melt and becomes lightly brown and nutty. Take off the heat and add vanilla seeds to the browned butter.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 12×12-inch square. Place the crust on a rimmed baking sheet fitted with a piece of foil.

Arrange the apple slices onto the prepared crust in rows, fanning slightly as you go, making sure to leave a 1-inch border around the edges. Brush with the vanilla-infused brown butter. Sprinkle with the brown sugar. Fold up the edges of the tart over the sides of the apples, pressing down on at the edges. Brush the sides of the tart with the egg wash. Refrigerate the tart for 30 minutes.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Rotate, decreasing the oven temperature to 375oF and bake for another 30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown around the edges. Slice into 4 generous slices and serve.

 

KITCHEN CONFIDANTE + A GIVEAWAY

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!

 

 

 

 

BEIGNETS, I LOVE Y’ALL

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!

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Recipe: Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Makes 1 ½ Quarts

2 cups of whole milk

2 cups of granulated sugar

Pinch of kosher salt

1 vanilla bean pod, deseeded

2 cups of heavy whipping cream

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine milk and sugar. Stir occasionally until the sugar completely dissolves and tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Take off the heat, and add the salt and vanilla seeds along with the vanilla pod to the milk and sugar mixture. Allow to steep and cool for at least 10 minutes. Whisk in the heavy whipping cream and discard the vanilla bean pod. Cover and place in the fridge for a few hours until completely chilled, at least 2 hours.

Transfer the base to an ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to a container and let ice cream set completely for at least 2 more hours.

 

Recipe: Georgia Peach + Basil Ice Cream

Makes 1 ½ Quarts

2 cups of whole milk

2 cups of granulated sugar

Pinch of kosher salt

1 vanilla bean pod, deseeded

2 cups of heavy whipping cream

½ cup peaches, chopped into small cubes

½ cup of hand-torn basil

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine milk and sugar. Stir occasionally until the sugar completely dissolves and tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Take off the heat, and add the salt and vanilla seeds along with the vanilla pod to the milk and sugar mixture. Allow to steep and cool for at least 10 minutes. Whisk in the heavy whipping cream and discard the vanilla bean pod. Cover and place in the fridge for a few hours until completely chilled, at least 2 hours.

Using an ice cream maker, add the chilled ice cream base to the machine and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once the mixture has thickened, add the chopped peaches and basil. Once the machine has finished, scoop the ice cream into a freezer proof container and freeze for at least 2 hours. Enjoy!

 

Recipe: Blackberry + Local Honey Ice Cream

Makes 1 ½ Quarts

2 cups of whole milk

2 cups of granulated sugar

Pinch of kosher salt

1 vanilla bean pod, deseeded

2 cups of heavy whipping cream

½ cup blackberries, quartered

1 tablespoon of local honey

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine milk and sugar. Stir occasionally until the sugar completely dissolves and tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Take off the heat, and add the salt and vanilla seeds along with the vanilla pod to the milk and sugar mixture. Allow to steep and cool for at least 10 minutes. Whisk in the heavy whipping cream and discard the vanilla bean pod. Cover and place in the fridge for a few hours until completely chilled, at least 2 hours.

Using an ice cream maker, add the chilled ice cream base to the machine and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once the mixture has thickened, add the blackberries and drizzle in the honey. Once the machine has finished, scoop the ice cream into a freezer proof container and freeze for at least 2 hours. Enjoy!

 

Recipe: Dark Cherry + Amaretto Ice Cream

Makes 1 ½ Quarts

2 cups of whole milk

2 cups of granulated sugar

Pinch of kosher salt

1 vanilla bean pod, deseeded

2 cups of heavy whipping cream

½ cup dark cherries, pitted and quartered

1 teaspoon of amaretto extract

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine milk and sugar. Stir occasionally until the sugar completely dissolves and tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Take off the heat, and add the salt and vanilla seeds along with the vanilla pod to the milk and sugar mixture. Allow to steep and cool for at least 10 minutes. Whisk in the heavy whipping cream and discard the vanilla bean pod. Cover and place in the fridge for a few hours until completely chilled, at least 2 hours.

Using an ice cream maker, add the chilled ice cream base to the machine and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once the mixture has thickened, add the cherries and amaretto. Once the machine has finished, scoop the ice cream into a freezer proof container and freeze for at least 2 hours. Enjoy!

 

Recipe: Backyard Mint Ice Cream

Makes 1 ½ Quarts

2 cups of whole milk

2 cups of granulated sugar

Pinch of kosher salt

1 vanilla bean pod, deseeded

2 cups of heavy whipping cream

½ cup of hand-torn mint

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine milk and sugar. Stir occasionally until the sugar completely dissolves and tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Take off the heat, and add the salt and vanilla seeds along with the vanilla pod to the milk and sugar mixture. Allow to steep and cool for at least 10 minutes. Whisk in the heavy whipping cream and discard the vanilla bean pod. Cover and place in the fridge for a few hours until completely chilled, at least 2 hours.

Using an ice cream maker, add the chilled ice cream base to the machine and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once the mixture has thickened, add the fresh mint. Once the machine has finished, scoop the ice cream into a freezer proof container and freeze for at least 2 hours. Enjoy!

 

 

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!