OKRA WHEN IT SIZZLES

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

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

Fresh Okra | for the love of the south

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

Fried Okra Ingredients | for the love of the south

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

Smashed Okra | for the love of the south

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

Cornmeal Crusted Smashed Okra | for the love of the south

Recipe: Smashed Cayenne + Cornmeal Crusted Fried Okra

Adapted from Southern Living | June 2014

Makes 4-6 Servings

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

1 pound of fresh okra, washed and dried

1 ½ cups of buttermilk

2 cups of fine yellow cornmeal

½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Canola oil, for frying

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOUTHERN SUMMERLAND

Honeysuckle Pound Cake | for the love of the south

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

Honeysuckle Pound Cake | for the love of the south

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

Honeysuckle Pound Cake | for the love of the south

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

Honeysuckle Simple Syrup | for the love of the south

Recipe: Honeysuckle + Lemon Pound Cake

Makes 1, 9×5” Loaf Cake

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

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

1 ½ cups (190g) of all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

¼ teaspoon of baking soda

1 teaspoon of kosher salt

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

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

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

½ cup (100g) of granulated sugar

½ cup (95g) of raw cane sugar

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

2 eggs, room temperature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

WILD ROSEMARY & LEMON CAKE COOKBOOK: FRESH PASTA

Fresh Pasta | for the love of the south

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

Fresh Pasta | for the love of the south

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

Fresh Pasta | for the love of the south

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

Fresh Pasta | for the love of the south

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

Fresh Pasta | for the love of the south

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

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

Recipe: Fresh Pasta Dough

From Wild Rosemary & Lemon Cake by Katie & Giancarlo Caldesi

Serves 4 as a main

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

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

Pinch of kosher salt

2 eggs

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

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

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

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

Quick Pasta Sauce Recipes:

Serves 4

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

Lemon Tagliolini:

1 quantity of fresh tagliolini, or dried spaghetti or linguine

1 ¼ cups of heavy whipping cream

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 ounce of Parmesan cheese, finely grated

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

Summer Tomato Sauce:

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

4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

1 large garlic clove, finely chopped

½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes

200 g of fresh ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped

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

Kosher salt, for seasoning

1 ounce of Parmesan cheese, finely grated

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ODE TO MAS

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

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

Elote | for the love of the south

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

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

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

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

Fresh Corn | for the love of the south

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

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

Recipe: Chicken + Lime + Cilantro Soup

Inspired by Mas Tacos Por Favor

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

1 gallon of water

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts

2-3 tablespoons of Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce

3 red onions, quartered

6 cloves of garlic, smashed

1 carrot, roughly chopped

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

2 Serrano Peppers, halved lengthwise

1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to season

Juice from 3 limes

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

Recipe: Elote

Serves 4

4 ears of sweet, white corn, shucked

1-2 tablespoons of mayonnaise

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Kosher salt

Lime wedges

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

Recipe: Watermelon Aqua Fresca

Serves 4

4 cups of cubed, seedless watermelon

Juice of 1-2 limes, depending on taste

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

HOME & HILL

Spring Picnic | for the love of the south

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

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

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

Homemade Potato Chips | for the love of the south

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

Elderflower Marshmallows | for the love of the south

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

Spring Picnic | for the love of the south

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

THE HUNT

Crème Fraîche Deviled Eggs | for the love of the south

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

Crème Fraîche Deviled Eggs | for the love of the south

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

Crème Fraîche Deviled Eggs | for the love of the south

Recipe: Crème Fraîche + Lemon Deviled Eggs

Serves 4

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

6 hardboiled eggs, shells removed, cut in half lengthwise

4 tablespoons of crème fraîche or sour cream

2 teaspoons of whole grain mustard

1 teaspoon of lemon zest

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

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

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

 

 

 

 

GUILTLESS PLEASURES

Ghirardelli Intense Dark-3

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

Ghirardelli Intense Dark | for the love of the south

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

Ghirardelli Intense Dark | for the love of the south

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

Ghirardelli Intense Dark | for the love of the south

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

THE PRODIGIOUS GRAPEFRUIT

Grapefruit + Raw Cane Sugar + Olive Oil Pound Cake | for the love of the south

While driving down the long, dusty road to Lacassine, Louisiana, cleared sugarcane fields revealed new life from the rich soil and a mellow, sweet fragrance filled the warm air. I imagined the empty field later in the year, taking over the landscape with its towering pampas-like foliage. As I became entranced by the pale jade landscape, we crept closer and closer to my great grandma’s house.

I tiptoed across the tiny, white shells in my great grandmother’s driveway and peaked around the corner of her small, whitewashed house and stepped into the garden. To me, this was an enchanted backyard, filled with life from one end of the tiny lot to the other. Strategically placed rows of perfectly ripe tomatoes and fingerlike okra pods smelled of sweet grass as I walked by. Tiny yet vibrant red and green peppers pirouetted in the breeze, reminding me of flickering Christmas lights. A protective fig tree magically became the perfect umbrella to take refuge under in the midst of afternoon showers, and near the back of the property, there was a gaggle of disgruntled chickens that became ruffled around the feathers if you got too close to their coop.

Grapefruit + Raw Cane Sugar + Olive Oil  Pound Cake | for the love of the south

On this particular trip, I decided to keep my distance from the foul fowls and kept to the side of the house, close to my grandmother. She was reaching over her head, picking what looked like spotted yellow basketballs. Quietly and curiously, I filled as many plastic shopping bags with the enormous unidentified fruit as I could and piled into the backseat of the car. I remember how the combination of the saccharine air from the sugarcane fields and the fresh scent of the mysterious citrus resting on my lap made my mouth water.

Immediately when we got back to the house, my grandma grabbed a large carving knife and split the colossal clandestine citrus in half, revealing blushing pink flesh. My grandma smiled proudly and said in her sweet Cajun accent, “Dat’s a biiggg grapefruit!” My mouth dropped in sheer disbelief, and we both started laughing and began ripping into the slightly sweet and tart flesh.

Grapefruit + Raw Cane Sugar + Olive Oil Pound Cake | for the love of the south

With a mouthful of ruby grapefruit and pink juice dribbling down my chin, I wondered what the secret was to the gigantic, sugary grapefruits that grew in my great grandmother’s backyard. Suddenly, I recalled the soft, spring breeze coming from the sugarcane field across the way and became sweetly satisfied in solving the mystery of the prodigious grapefruits.

Grapefruit + Raw Cane Sugar + Olive Oil  Pound Cake | for the love of the south

Recipe: Grapefruit + Raw Cane Sugar + Olive Oil Pound Cake

Slightly Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 1 Loaf Cake

Note: If you don’t have plain yogurt or buttermilk in the fridge, have no fear. Just add 2 tablespoons of grapefruit juice to 1/3 cup of milk and let it sit on the counter for 5 minutes to get nice and funky! It works perfectly in a pinch! 

Using the zest and juice from 2 medium-sized grapefruits for this recipe usually makes enough leftover juice for a simple glaze. Just whisk ½ cup of powdered sugar while slowly adding the leftover grapefruit juice until you have a smooth, thick glaze. Pour the glaze over the cooled cake and serve!

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 grapefruit juice, plus 1/3 cup (80ml) for syrup

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

2 tablespoons of freshly grated grapefruit zest (from 2 medium-sized grapefruits)

½ cup (100g) of granulated sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for syrup

½ cup (95g) of raw cane sugar

½ cup (120ml) of olive oil (choose a mild olive oil, not extra virgin)

2 eggs, at 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 grapefruit juice and buttermilk (or yogurt).

In a large mixing bowl, add grapefruit zest, ½ cup of 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 pan, smooth the top and tap the pan on the counter a few times, releasing any bubbles in the batter. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Meanwhile, combine remaining 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar with 1/3 cup of grapefruit juice in a small saucepan, and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Set aside.

When the cake has finished baking, let it cool for 10 minutes and invert onto a cooling rack with a tray underneath. Poke holes in the cake with a skewer or toothpick and brush the grapefruit syrup over the cake. Allow the cake to cool completely while absorbs the syrup. Serve the cake all by itself or create simple glaze to pour over the top  (see note). Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

WELCOME HOME DARLIN’

pimento cheese and thyme gougeres

The smell of freshly painted walls and sawdust lingers in the air as I sit in the newly renovated house. For the past few months, I have been living in between two places, my loft in Nashville and my in-laws newly renovated home in North Alabama. The house was Michael’s grandmother, Meme’s, home just one short year ago.

Many moments were spent sitting in the short, beige chair in the den listening to Meme’s laughter. She laughed so hard the entire room had no choice but to be engulfed and embraced by her happiness. There was never a time when I didn’t get lost in her hugs or wasn’t welcomed with a smile that filled her entire face and a greeting that didn’t involve the word darlin’ in it. Everywhere she went seemed to be filled with life. Even as I sit here in this beautifully remodeled den, the echoes of her stories live on in my mind, countless prayers she prayed for the ones she loved, and the moments she spent visiting and giggling with her beloved family.

There is a beautiful foundation in this home. There is groundwork of love that has settled in the floorboards, it echoes in the hall and is audible in the laughter this home will be immersed in for years to come. Life springs from this home, it’s a place of healing, of rest. What a beautiful place for Michael’s parents to start their new season of life. I can see Meme, sitting across the way from me, with that contagious smile saying, “Hey, darlin’.”

Now, as I walk up the stairs from the lower den into the kitchen, I am greeted with a warm smile and a, “Hey, darlin’,” from Michael’s mother. Some things we pass on, whether it be a warm smile that can light up a room, a place to call home or a simple phrase that can make you feel like you’re home even if you are miles away. Welcome home, darlin’.

pimento cheese and thyme gougeres

Recipe: Pimento Cheese & Thyme Gougères

Inspired by Southern Living

Makes 24

Note: This recipe combines ones of my favorite Southern treats and the wonderful, traditional French gougère. This is the kind of food that must be shared with others! It makes for a great hors d’oeuvre, appetizer or a lovely midafternoon snack to be washed down with sweet tea.

The gougère dough can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and chill until ready to use. Also, you can freeze completely cooked and cooled gougères for up to 1 month. To reheat, place the frozen gougères on a baking sheet, cover loosely with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, until warmed through.

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

¾ teaspoon of kosher salt

1 ¼ cups of all-purpose flour

1 (4 ounce) jar of diced pimento, drained

4 eggs

1 ½ cups (6 ounces) of finely shredded sharp cheddar

1 ½ teaspoons of whole grain mustard

½ teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves

½ teaspoon of cracked black pepper

¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper

1 egg yolk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Over medium heat in a medium-sized saucepan, combine butter, salt and 1 cup of water and bring to a boil, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add flour and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon for another minute until the mixture is smooth and pulls away from the side of the pan, forming a ball.

Reduce the heat to low, stirring constantly for 2 minutes. At this point, the dough will begin to dry out. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, finely chop the drained pimentos and drain again on a paper towel.

Add eggs to the slightly cooled dough one at a time, stirring well between each addition. At this point, you will feel as if you completely ruined the dough, but trust me. Just keep stirring. Add pimentos, cheese, mustard, thyme leaves, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Keeping stirring until all of the ingredients are incorporated.

On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, create 1-inch mounds of dough, 2 inches apart either by piping the dough using a plastic bag or by using a small cookie dough scoop or a tablespoon. Whisk yolk and 1 teaspoon of water together and brush onto gougères.

Bake gougères until puffed and golden, about 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes. Enjoy!

THE PERFECT ROAST POTATOES

The Perfect Roast PotatoesRight down the street from where I lived was a tiny, taupe elementary school sweetly nestled next to a convenience store and a beloved grocery store. Tucked in between the worn hurricane fence and the textured brick façade of the school was a small, modest plot of dirt where Mrs. Benoit’s 2nd grade class were to conduct very important physical science experiments.

The entire group marched outside onto the magically damp, dark chocolate lot. We fashioned furrows with our hands, gently created holes with our index fingers and dropped tiny seeds into the hollows. We covered them with mossy, murky soil, gave them a drink and hoped they slept tight under the soil and not to let the bedbugs bite.

The Perfect Roast PotatoesDaily during recess, I took a quick peak at the petite garden. My heart filled with delight as I began seeing little sprigs of green hairs and emerald leaves peaking through the soil and stretching out in the sunlight like a small child awakening after a midafternoon nap.

Then, on one bright and sunny day, Mrs. Benoit told us to retreat to our adored garden we had been tending to for quite some time now. She handed out little shovels and gardening gloves and directed us on how to tend each row of veggies. I was assigned to a short row of mysterious emerald fronds while the rest began plucking beautiful vibrant green cucumbers and juicy red tomatoes off their vines. Immediately, I became chartreuse with envy but quickly shrugged it off and stayed on task.

The Perfect Roast Potatoes Rising to the challenge, I lowered my shovel, confronted the bright green shrub and gave it a good yank. All of a sudden with a zip I flew onto my back, holding what seemed like a clump of mud. Desperately, I shook myself off trying to clean the dirt from my clothes without attracting too much attention to myself. Then, I stared at my fist and gasped. I ran over to Mrs. Benoit screaming, “ I think I just harvested turtle eggs!” She just laughed and said, “Honey, those are potatoes.” My eyes became as big as golf balls in sheer disbelief. I never looked at a potato the same way ever again.

This is the best roast potato recipe ever. These little beauties are quite addictive, and they will disappear in mere moments. Breaking through these perfectly roasted potatoes, listening to the cartoon crunch, inhaling its meaty aromatics and allowing the creamy, fluffy insides of the potato fall on your tongue like warm, buttery clouds, makes every second spent cooking them, tending to them, worthwhile. Enjoy!

The Perfect Roast PotatoesRecipe: The Perfect Roast Potatoes

Inspired by Jamie Oliver

Serves 4 as a side

Note: Parboiling the potatoes, adding them to hot fat and slightly crushing them after they have cooked ¾ of the way, helps create a fluffy, insanely crunchy roast potato. Also, you can substitute clarified butter or duck fat for the olive oil for a less healthy option. I won’t tell!

1 bulb of garlic

3 sprigs of rosemary

1- 1 ½ pounds of baby potatoes, peeled

Olive oil

Sea salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Crush the bulb of garlic, leaving the cloves in their paper jackets and pluck the leaves off of the rosemary sprigs.

Place the potatoes into a pot of cold water, covering the potatoes by about 1-inch. Season the water with salt and boil for about 5 minutes. Drain and allow them to steam dry for a few minutes. Then, shake the colander until the potatoes start to look fuzzy and blurred around the edges. This step will help create a crunchy roast potato!

Place a skillet on medium-high heat (or place in the preheated oven until hot) and add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Toss in the garlic cloves, rosemary leaves and potatoes and place in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, take the skillet out of the oven, gently flip the potatoes and smash them slightly with the back of a fork. Place them back in the oven for 30 more minutes, or until the edges are crispy and golden brown. Serve immediately.