AROUND THE TABLE

Tomato & Bacon Sandwich with Chipotle Mayonnaise | for the love of the south

Tracing the lines down the slats of my kitchen table, sketching over the saw marks with my fingertips. This table gives life in a way, serving as a place to feed family, friends and myself; it’s a safe haven. It’s where we are restored and fortified, empowering us to face the world again.

I’m not a professional chef, but I am a professional eater, a home cook. The story of a home cook is rooted in where we come from, the lives we’ve lived, and the mouths we feed. My favorite cookbooks are written by home cooks. They are the ones that weave stories together; stories strung along about the lives of recipes, succession of meals, characters revealed around the table. My book is a story of the culture I hold dear, but more importantly, it’s a collection of what I eat every day.

Around the Table | for the love of the south

If you’ve had a marvelous tomato sandwich, then you will understand why I’m sharing this recipe from my book. Honestly, a tomato sandwich done right can be one of the most wonderful things in life. It’s simple yet deeply satisfying. Also, this is one of the handful of recipes that helped sustain me while spending countless hours writing and editing my cookbook. It never failed me, and no matter how busy I was, I knew in my kitchen I had the basics; bread, mayonnaise, Tabasco, bacon in my freezer and tomatoes on my countertop. There is such security in knowing I have everything I need to make a juicy and crispy tomato bacon sandwich.

I spent the first two years in my new house without a kitchen table. I couldn’t quite find the right one until I spotted this beautiful reclaimed wood table from Arhaus. It is elegant, sturdy, and full of character. I love how it had a life before it graced our dining room. The kitchen table is something precious to me. It’s one of those things like my skillets, silver, pearls and china I will pass on. This table will see many years of candlelit dinners ending in nights of empty bourbon glasses and caramel wrappers, brunches with antique vases spread about the table filled with blushing blooms, vanilla scented doughnuts, blackberries, chicory café au lait, and late lunches spent over bowls of chicken and sausage gumbo and spicy skillet fried okra. All the while, I’ll be engraving my own stories around the table, the heart of my home.

Tomato Bacon Sandwich from Cookbook | for the love of the south

Tomato & Bacon Sandwich with Chipotle Mayonnaise

Serves 1

This recipe is a grown-up version of my childhood go-to sandwich. If done correctly, a tomato sandwich can be one of the greatest pleasures in life. Since this recipe is simple and requires few ingredients, quality is key, so try to buy the best bread, tomatoes, and bacon that you can.

2 slices thick-cut bacon

2 slices of your favorite bread (I love sourdough or a crusty baguette.)

Chipotle Mayonnaise (recipe follows)

2 slices tomato (1/2 to 3⁄4 inch thick)

In a medium skillet, fry the bacon over medium-low heat until crispy. Drain the bacon on a plate lined with a paper towel. Place the skillet back on the heat and toast up both sides of the bread in the bacon renderings until golden brown.

Spread a layer of the chipotle mayonnaise over one side of each piece of toast. Lay the slices of bacon on top of the mayonnaise. Lightly press down on the bacon, helping it adhere to the mayonnaise. Lay the tomato slices on top of the bacon. Crown the sandwich with the remaining piece of mayonnaise-slathered toast. Press down on the sandwich and cut on the diagonal. This sandwich is best enjoyed standing over the kitchen sink.

CHIPOTLE MAYONNAISE

Makes 1⁄4 cup

1⁄4 cup mayonnaise

Several dashes of Tabasco chipotle pepper sauce

In a measuring cup, combine the mayonnaise and chipotle pepper sauce. Any leftover mayonnaise can be stored in the refrigerator for another use.

 

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VERONA, THE MARBLE CITY: PART II

Verona, The Marble City | for the love of the south

When we got back to the hotel late that afternoon, we bundled up for one final stroll around the marble streets of Verona. We walked under the Porta Borsari, which is at the end of the elegant Corso Porta Borsari. The ancient Roman gate to the city is constructed of local white limestone. It has two arches framed by pillars with Corinthian capitals. We made our way to the Basilica di Sant’Anastasia, which drips with Gothic influence. The colors of red, black and white echo from the floor to its crossed vaulted ceiling. Reverently, we walked around the church, attempting to take in all its beauty. Finally, we made it to the Piazza Bra, which is the largest square in Verona.

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We walked over the liston, which refers to the long marble slabs used for paving the west side of the piazza. We passed café after café filled with tourists and locals enjoying the brisk evening air and the bustle of the holiday festivities. The last stop was the Arena di Verona, the amphitheater located in the heart of the Piazza Bra. I imagined all the gladiator fights, jousts and tournaments that took place just on the other side of these stone walls. We walked all the way around the pink and white stone amphitheater. By this point, Michael and I felt quite confident we knew our way back to the hotel without directions, and we were about to be served a very large slice of humble pie.

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We were supposed to turn left at the arena. We thought we turned left. At first, it was romantic strolling arm in arm under the icicle lights strung along piazza after piazza. After ten minutes or so, we both realized we were absolutely lost. Shockingly neither of our phones were working so looking up directions to our hotel was out of the question. After about an hour or so (or for what felt like an hour), we dove deeper and deeper into the city. In which direction, I couldn’t tell you.  Miraculously, of course, we made our way back to the hotel. In a matter of moments all was well with the world, but we will never forget about our time getting lost head over heels in the Marble City of Verona.

Arrabbiata | for the love of the south

Arrabbiata

Generously Serves 2

Note: We traveled to Verona to visit with Giovanni Rana, which is a family owned pasta company in Verona. Having their pastas stocked in my refrigerator is a lovely way to remember the trip! I use fresh Giovanni Rana Tagliatelle for this recipe, but you can use any pasta shape you love!

 Arrabbiata literally means “angry” in Italian. The dishes namesake refers to the spiciness of this pasta dish. If you are sensitive to spice, reduce the amount of red pepper flakes to 1/4-1/2 teaspoon. I love using whole, green Castelvetrano olives for this recipe. To easily pit the olive, crush with the blade of a knife like you would smash a clove of garlic and fish out the pit. But, of course, you can use pitted olives if you like!

¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes

¼ teaspoon dried oregano

1 garlic clove

1 small shallot

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 slice bacon, chopped

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes, hand crushed

1 tablespoon tomato paste

6 ounces Giovanni Rana Tagliatelle

10 green olives, pitted, roughly chopped

Small handful basil leaves, hand torn

Kosher salt

Extra-virgin olive oil, for finishing

 

Finely chop red pepper flakes, oregano, garlic and shallot together. Set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, add oil and bacon. Once the bacon is crisp and lovely and golden in color, toss in the red pepper flakes, oregano, garlic, shallot, and black pepper.

Once the shallots and garlic begin to color around the edges, about a minute. Slowly add the tomatoes and tomato paste to the skillet. Season with salt, and allow the tomatoes to gently come to a bubble. Lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the sauce has thickened, about 10 minutes. Adjust seasoning if needed.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve about ¼ cup of the starchy pasta water and drain the pasta in a colander.

Toss the olives and basil leaves into the sauce at the last minute. Add a little reserved pasta water and pasta to the sauce and toss. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and serve.

Arrabbiata | for the love of the south

This post was sponsored by Giovanni Rana, but all the experiences and opinions are my own!

VERONA, THE MARBLE CITY: PART I

Verona, The Marble City | for the love of the south

I fell in love with Verona the moment my right foot graced its pink marble streets. We began walking down the Ponte della Vittoria where we were greeted by a pair of equestrian statues on both sides of the bridge, welcoming us into the city. The deep blue Adige River sweetly swept under us as we walked across the bridge. Staring at the blushing marble paths and amber buildings with their ancient balconies, I understood why this city was the setting for one of the greatest love stories of all time.

After checking into our room at the Palazzo Victoria, Michael and I quickly dropped off our bags and walked hand in hand through the streets of Verona to the House of Capulet. We walked through the long entryway to the courtyard. The lengthy entrance opens to an ivy-covered brick façade decorated with elegant gothic windows on either side of the legendary balcony. All the way at the end of the courtyard is a lovely bronze statue of Juliet Capulet. I sat there for a moment and listened to the words penned by Shakespeare almost haunting the walls as they echoed around me. We made our way past the crowd and back through the long archway, which is covered in graffiti were couples have written their names on the wall, believing that doing so means their love will be eternal. On the way back to the hotel, we just had to pass by Romeo’s medieval house. We almost missed the building until we spotted this inscription on the exterior wall, “Oh Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?”

Verona, The Marble City | for the love of the south

Our room was on the top floor of the hotel. Floor to ceiling windows faced the center of a honey-colored courtyard below. Despite freezing temperatures, I opened the windows and played Noël Coward’s “A Room with a View” while looking out onto the courtyard in my pajamas with an espresso in hand.

Verona, The Marble City | for the love of the south

On the second day, we traveled east to the small hamlet of Soave. We pulled up to the city’s ancient walls to Borgo Rocca Sveva, which is home to the most beautiful wines in the region. We toured the winery and completely fell in love with both the silky, ruby red Amarone della Valpolicella and with the floral and fruity Soave Classico. After our wine tasting, Michael and I decided to venture inside the walls of Soave. Perched at the top of the hill, the majestic Castello di Soave overlooks the town. The sky was overcast, and it left a golden glow over the city. It was as if I was looking through a glass filled with white wine from the region or perhaps we drank too much at our tasting. Either way whether it was the weather or the wine, it was a lovely trip indeed.

Verona, The Marble City | for the love of the south

Grilled Radicchio & Balsamic Pasta | for the love of the south

Grilled Radicchio & Balsamic Pasta

Serves 2

Note: We traveled to Verona to visit with Giovanni Rana, which is a family owned pasta company in Verona. This dish is inspired by the lovely radicchio I found in the markets in Italy. I love the way the bitter radicchio is slicked by the smoky bacon and the whole dish is lifted by beautiful balsamic vinegar. I am using Giovanni Rana Fettucine for this dish, which is great for a quick weeknight meal. 

 

6 ounces Giovanni Rana Fettuccine (or any other long, thin shaped pasta)

½ small head radicchio, core removed, leaves separated

1 slice bacon, roughly chopped

1 teaspoon rosemary leaves, roughly chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

Pinch red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Shaved Parmesan, for serving

Extra virgin olive oil, for serving

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve about ½ cup of the starchy pasta water and drain the pasta in a colander.

In a large skillet over medium heat, grill the radicchio leaves for a few seconds until charred in a few spots. Remove the radicchio from the skillet and set aside. Toss the bacon into the skillet. Once the bacon is lovely and crispy, take the skillet off the heat and add the grilled radicchio, tearing the leaves into long strips as you add them to the skillet. Toss in the rosemary, garlic, red pepper flakes, balsamic vinegar, butter and reserved pasta water. Place the pan back on the heat and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

Add the fettuccine and toss, toss, toss. Divide between two bowls and shower with shaved Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Radicchio | for the love of the south

This post was sponsored by Giovanni Rana, but all the experiences and opinions are my own!

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WINTER’S WHITE GOLD

Buttery Braised Belgian Endive | for the love of the south

Like an anxious child, I start tearing through kitchen boxes that have been stored up for months. In the matter of moments, my winter white kitchen begins taking on a life of its own as copper and silver trays, amber glass bottles filled with spices and salts, countless mason jars, slicked cast-iron skillets, brass pots and nicked wood cutting boards settle into their proper places. The kitchen is set up just in time as a blizzard is forecasted to barrel through Nashville. Whenever you live in the South and snowfall is predicted, you equip yourself with essentials, which usually come in the form of bread and milk. In a storm one thing is certain, we must eat.

Belgian Endive | for the love of the south

Slowly but surely, the dust begins to settle as I relax into a home we have been renovating for the past six months. Michael and I left the loft in Franklin and purchased a lovely fixer upper in the heart of Nashville. The house has been stripped down to the studs, and, finally, after many months of blood, sweat and tears, it’s beginning to feel like a home.

Purple Garlic | for the love of the south

The first click-click-click of the gas range seems to blow away any cobwebs. Armed with a beloved and dearly missed knife, I begin ripping through the centers of crisp white and pale green Belgian endive, also known as winter’s white gold. Deep green rosemary sprigs and pink papery jackets from purple garlic litter my table. Pulling out my cast-iron skillet is like reuniting with an old, loyal friend. No matter how much time has passed between the two of you, it’s like no time has passed at all. The endive starts to char in the skillet, and the bitter, crisp leaves sweeten and soften like silk petals. Lentil soup already at hand simmers away in a small copper pot on the back burner. In less than thirty minutes, I enjoy my first meal in my snow covered home.

Braised Belgian Endive | for the love of the south

Buttery braised Belgian endives pair beautifully with comforting, familiar lentil soup. This is purely a vegetarian dish, yet the endives take on a “meaty” quality with help from the rosemary and garlic. Spoon a little of the leftover cream from the endives into the lentil soup, which adds richness, decadence and also ties the two dishes together wonderfully. If by chance you have any leftover endive, toss in an omelet or with pasta. You could also create another soup with the endive by sweating onions, garlic and braised endive in a pot, add stock, season, and simmer for twenty minutes. This is what I call home cooking: Picking up loose ends from one dish and tying them together with the next, forming an everlasting meal.

Buttery Braised Belgian Endive | for the love of the south

This post was created in sponsorship with Food 52 & Progresso. All thoughts and opinions belong to me!

Buttery Braised Belgian Endive:

Serves 4

4 Belgian endive

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

¾ cup heavy whipping cream

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

2 rosemary sprigs

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Sea salt and black pepper, to season

Preheat oven to 400oF

Trim the ends of the endive and remove any discolored outer leaves. Cut in half lengthwise, and season the cut side of the endive lightly with sea salt.

Melt butter in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the endive, cut side down, and cook until golden, 2-5 minutes. Place the endive, browned sides up in a large, shallow baking dish. Add cream, garlic, and rosemary sprigs to the dish. Season lightly with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 20 minutes, or until the endive are tender. Drizzle with lemon juice and serve.

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A BUGGY WITH A VIEW + A LODGE CAST IRON GIVEAWAY

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

FIRST SIGN of SPRING

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

BLACK-EYED PEAS + COLLARD GREENS

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.