Soups and Gumbo

Backyard Gazpacho

During these sweltering months, I take pure pleasure in light, casually elegant and effortless meals. This is one of those recipes I keep at hand when I’m desperate for a dish celebrating the season and all of its offerings without making one feel weighed down. Gazpacho reminds me of summer evenings spent in our small backyard garden in Louisiana gathering Creole tomatoes and emerald cucumbers to be sliced and humbly seasoned with a generous sprinkling of salt and a splash of vinegar. These simply dressed vegetables graced our table every evening, and for me, gazpacho delightfully embodies the essence of summertime and the grassy sharpness of the beloved backyard garden.  

Our short story begins with tomatoes and cucumbers chopped into laidback chunks, tossing into a colander and scattering with a lavish sprinkling of salt. The salt will draw water from the vegetables, leaving you with a wonderfully intensified flavored gazpacho achieved effortlessly. Pile the rest of the ingredients into a deep bowl and using an immersion blender leisurely whirl everything together until you are left with a smooth, cool puddle of lusciousness. To make the gazpacho even more velvety smooth, pass through a food mill or a fine sieve. All that’s left is to make the soup as piquant as you desire. Keep in mind, when served cold, the flavors are subtly muted. This is the time to be bold, darlings. 

This gazpacho is an elegant starter at a summertime feast, but it’s balanced enough to stand on its own as a light lunch when served with resoundingly crunchy and beautifully bronzed garlic toast to dip into the cool shallow pool of rhapsodically coral gazpacho. Within a matter of moments, summertime is served without ever breaking a sweat. 

Backyard Gazpacho

Serves 2

Gazpacho can be made in a few days in advance and stashed away in the fridge until ready to serve. PS The addition of bread adds both ballast and a silky creaminess to the dish. 

4 medium sized tomatoes, cored, roughly chopped 

1 small cucumber, peeled, roughly chopped 

Sea salt 

1 cup stale bread, roughly chopped

1 small green bell pepper or large banana pepper, deseeded, roughly chopped 

1 garlic clove, peeled

¼ cup olive oil, plus more for serving 

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar 

10 or so dashes Louisiana hot sauce 

Black pepper, for serving 

Garlic Sea Salt Toast, recipe below 

Toss the tomatoes and cucumber in a colander with a good pinch of sea salt and toss everything together. Let sit in the sink for 10 minutes, shaking the colander every once in a while. This step will help draw out excess water in the tomatoes and the cucumber leaving you with a more intensely flavored gazpacho.  

Toss everything together with the exception of black pepper in a bowl and whirl together with a blender or an immersion blender, adding more sea salt and blend until smooth. Adjust the salt, vinegar and hot sauce at this point. Strain the soup through a food mill or a sieve for a silky texture. Serve with a little black pepper sprinkled on top, a few puddles of olive oil and Garlic Sea Salt Toast. 

Garlic Sea Salt Toast

Serves 2

Olive oil 

2 slices sourdough bread, halved crosswise 

1 small garlic clove, peeled

Sea salt  

In a skillet over medium heat, add enough oil just to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the bread and fry until golden brown. Flip and fry the other side, adding more oil if needed. Place the toast on a plate and rub the entire surface of each piece with fresh garlic. Season with a sprinkle of sea salt. Serve hot! 

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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.


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.