MUSCADINE MISSION

Muscadine Focaccia | for the love of the south

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

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

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

Muscadines | for the love of the south

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

Muscadine Focaccia | for the love of the south

Muscadine Focaccia:

Makes 1, 10” focaccia

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

306g all-purpose flour

8g sea salt

2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

1 cup warm water

2g active dry yeast

1 teaspoon light olive oil

1 cup muscadines (See Note)

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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