I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Fresh Strawberry Iced Tea

Fresh Strawberry Iced Tea

Fresh Strawberry Iced Tea

Strawberry season is in full swing and I am incorporating them into as many delivery systems as I can. With baskets and baskets of berries in my house and family coming over for lunch, I decided to veer from my normal sweet tea punch and put the berries to good use.

This flavored teas is miles and miles from any packaged product packed with “real fruit flavor.” The fresh berry taste shines through with just enough sweetness to highlight it. Sure, this takes a little more work than pouring water over tea bags, but the reward is well worth it. My whole family loved it (maybe more than the actual lunch). And with a fresh berry and mint garnish, its pretty to boot.

Fresh Strawberry Iced Tea
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Ingredients
  1. 12 ounces strawberries, hulled
  2. 1 cup granulated sugar
  3. 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  4. 3 -4 stems of mint
  5. 4 family size tea bags
Instructions
  1. Puree the strawberries in a blender, then strain through a cheesecloth-lined strainer. You should end up with about 1 cup of strawberry juice. Add water to make two cups, then pour it into a saucepan with the sugar and lemon juice. Stir well, then bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. As soon as it reaches a boil, remove from the heat, stir in the mint and leave to cool.
  2. Place the tea bags in a 1 gallon jar or pitcher. Pour over 7 cups of boiling water and leave to steep for 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags and leave to cool slightly.
  3. Pour the strawberry syrup back into the tea through the strainer to remove the mint leaves and stir well. Add 4 cups of cool water.
  4. Garnish with sliced strawberries and mint leaves and serve over ice.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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Strawberry Almond Morning Cake

Strawberry Almond Morning Cake

The strawberries are here! The strawberries are here! I anticipate strawberry season all year. I know you can buy strawberries every day now, but there is nothing like a fresh, seasonal, locally grown berry. So I wait. I may use some frozen berries during the out-of season-months, but I rarely buy the berries in the produce section. The farmers markets here start before strawberry season (the middle of April) starts, but things get exciting once the strawberries arrive. All this waiting makes the berries even sweeter, and as they fade, I look forward to the next berry harvest – blueberries and raspberries.

All this means I make the most of strawberry season while its here. I call this morning cake, because it makes a wonderful breakfast or brunch treat, not too sweet, but hearty and fresh with the burst of juicy berries. It has a lovely grainy, nutty texture from the almond meal that sets this apart from a typical coffee cake. The drizzle of creamy almond glaze ups the sweetness (you can certainly leave it off) and adds an extra hit of almond flavor. I am not, of course, saying this couldn’t be served as dessert with a scoop of ice cream or a pillow of whipped cream.

Strawberry Almond Morning Cake
Serves 9
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Ingredients
  1. For the Cake
  2. 1 pound strawberries
  3. ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) butter, softened
  4. 1 cup granulated sugar
  5. 2 eggs
  6. ½ teaspoon vanilla
  7. ¼ teaspoon almond extract
  8. 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  9. 1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
  10. ¾ teaspoon salt
  11. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  12. 1 3/4 cup ground almond meal
  13. ¼ cup heavy cream
  14. For the Drizzle
  15. 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  16. 4 – 5 Tablespoons heavy cream
  17. 1 teaspoon almond extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. Hull the strawberries and reserve 5 or 6 pretty ones to top the cake. Dice the remaining berries into small pieces.
  3. Beat the butter and the sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl and making sure the first is incorporated before adding the next. Beat in the vanilla and almond extract.
  4. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg together in a small bowl, then beat into the batter on low speed, scraping the bowl as needed. When the flour is fully incorporated, beat in the almond meal and cream just until combined.
  5. Spread half the batter into the bottom of the prepared pan. The batter will be thick, and I find it easiest to use lightly wet, clean hands to press it in an even layer. Sprinkle the diced berries over the batter in an even layer, pressing them lightly into the batter. Dollop the remaining batter over the top and use wet hands to press it in evenly over the top of the berries. Do your best to cover everything, but if a few little berries are poking out, it’s okay. Decorate the top of the batter with some strawberry halves if you’d like.
  6. Bake the cake for 45 – 55 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean and the top is firm and golden. Cool the cake completely.
For the Glaze
  1. Whisk the confectioner’s sugar cream and extract together in a small bowl until smooth and drizzle-able. Use a spoon to artistically drizzle the glaze over the top of the cake and leave to set.
  2. Slice into squares and serve.
Notes
  1. I like this cake even better the next day.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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Baked French Cream Eggs

Baked French Cream Eggs

One of my mother’s speedy, simple dinner dishes she always called shirred eggs, but are more formally known as ouefs en cocotte. Basically just eggs cracked in a dish, with a little cream poured over and maybe a sprinkling of cheese. I think she made this mostly for herself, but sometimes to feed us when the pantry was bare. I have happy memories of shirred eggs – though I wonder if she will dispute me on this – as a simple comfort food dish. When I moved out on my own and was pinching pennies and had an ill-equipped kitchen, shirred eggs were a standby meal for me too.

But shirred eggs can be so much more, and still be exceedingly simple. All the ingredients in this version are kitchen staples for me, so I can whip up an elegant meal in no time. Add a lightly dressed salad and some bread for dunking in the eggy mix and you are done. I like the simplicity of this, but you could certainly add some chopped fresh herbs or a hint of spice.

Baked French Cream Eggs
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup sour cream
  2. 3 Tablespoons grated gruyere or parmesan cheese
  3. 1 Tablespoon white wine
  4. 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  5. 1 teaspoon salt
  6. 8 eggs
  7. 2 Tablespoons butter, melted
  8. ¼ cup bread crumbs
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease 4 two cup ramekins and place in a larger baking dish. Put a kettle on to boil water.
  2. Mix the sour cream, gruyere, white wine mustard, salt and pepper together and blend until combined. Crack two eggs into each of the prepared ramekins. Spoon ¼ cup of the sour cream mixture over each ramekin, making sure to cover the surface of the eggs. Gently spread it out with the back of the spoon if needed.
  3. Mix the breadcrumbs with the melted butter and sprinkle the top of each ramekin. Place the ramekins in the baking dish and pour boiling water carefully into the dish, coming about ½ up the sides of the ramekins.
  4. Bake the eggs for 15 minutes, until the tops jiggle just slightly. Serve the eggs immediately, with toast fingers of baguette slices for scooping.
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Sweet Citrus Sauce for Fruit

Sweet Citrus Sauce for Fruit

Serving fruit to a group of guests can present a challenge. We’ve all seen that desultory grocery store platter of chunked fruit languishing away at the lonely end of the buffet table. There’s always the carved watermelon basket with balls of melon, but that is way to much work for me. I have never been a fan of savory dressing for fruit salads – those mustard and poppy seed versions – and old-fashioned congelead salads get some funny looks these days. So I developed this recipe for a purely sweet, citrusy dressing that that works spring through summer and is versatile to boot. You can vary the citrus to taste, using whatever is available, but all lemon is a bit too tangy.

The lovely, sunshiny yellow color of this dip looks beautiful on a platter with vibrantly colored fruit. Serve this as a dip with juicy strawberries, dolloped over a platter of sliced fruits, or gently stirred through a bowl of mixed, chopped fruit and berries.

Sweet Citrus Sauce for Fruit
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Ingredients
  1. 1 orange
  2. 1 lemon
  3. 1 lime
  4. 1/3 cup sugar
  5. 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  6. 1 Tablespoon butter
Instructions
  1. Zest the orange, lemon and lime, then juice them. Measure ½ cup of juice into a jug, then add water to make ¾ cups liquid.
  2. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together in a saucepan and add the liquid. Whisk over medium heat until the sauce is thick and glossy, about the consistency of thick maple syrup. The sauce will thicken as it cools. Whisk in 1 Tablespoon of the combined citrus zest. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter a small piece at a time until melted and smooth. Transfer the sauce to a bowl, cool, cover and refrigerate up to 12 hours. Let the sauce come to room temperature before serving with fruit.
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Roasted Asparagus Mimosa

Roasted Asparagus Mimosa

The true culinary harbinger of Spring – asparagus. When the tender stems push their way up through the dirt and out to the market, I really feel like we can start celebrating spring. Asparagus on the plate and buttercups in a vase mean soft days and gentle nights before the heat of summer truly starts. Color comes back, and the gray days of winter are behind us.

Asparagus Mimosa is a classic preparation, but I like to mix it up a bit by roasting the asparagus to deepen the flavor and bring out the natural sweetness. I up the spring factor by tossing the spears with a simple dressing bright with lemon. The grated hardboiled eggs are where the name mimosa comes from – the yellow and white is meant to look like a shower of mimosa petals. A platter of Asparagus Mimosa is a gorgeous addition to a brunch buffet table at any Spring celebration.

Roasted Asparagus Mimosa
Serves 6
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For the Asparagus
  1. 1 pound asparagus
  2. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  3. salt and pepper
For the Dressing
  1. juice of one medium lemon (about 3 Tablespoons)
  2. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  3. 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  4. 2 hard boiled eggs
Instructions
  1. Heat to oven to 400°. Break any thick woody stems from the asparagus by just snapping them off. Place the asparagus on a rimmed baking sheet and then toss with the oil until each spear is coated. Spread the spears in one even layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast until tender, but still with some bite left to them, about 12 – 15 minutes.
  2. While the asparagus are cooking, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil and mustard until smooth and emulsified. Remove the baked asparagus to a platter and toss with the dressing.
  3. Cut the eggs in half and pop out the yolks. Press the whites, one half at a time, through a wire mesh strainer, then do the same for the yolks. Use a spatula or the back of a spoon to push them through. I like to do this onto a plate into a pile of whites and pile of yolks, then carefully arrange them over the asparagus.
  4. The asparagus can be roasted and dressed a few hours ahead. Add the eggs just before serving.
Notes
  1. In the picture above, I added some color with a few cherry tomatoes and some chive blossoms I purchased at the farmers market.
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Root Vegetables with Walnut Sage Crumble

Root Vegetables with Walnut and Sage Crumble

Everyone is always eagerly anticipating the arrival of spring and the excitement of the fresh vegetables that begin to grow. And I love that too. Then the overwhelming bounty of summer, when there is so much fresh produce, there is hardly time to sample it all. But I love winter vegetables too. Rich, hearty root vegetables in a beautiful palate of colors. These sturdy vegetables go well with so many flavors – herbs and spices of all sorts, and work wonderfully well – roasted, mashed, pureed, in soups, stew and gratins. I think some of these knobbly beauties are the unsung heroes of the vegetable world, but I am here to sing the praises.

I love this dish for its homey charm and the creative twist – turning the idea of a summer fruit crumble into a hearty winter vegetable dish. This can be served as a side to a roasted joint of meat or as an impressive vegetarian main course. The combination of vegetables below marries into a perfect array of colors and contrasting flavors, but you can sub in other roots in the same quantities.

Root Vegetables with Walnut Sage Crumble
Serves 6
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For the Vegetables
  1. 1 celeriac (celery root), about 14 ounces
  2. 3 carrots, about 6 ounces
  3. 1 large parsnip, about 7 ounces
  4. 1 sweet potato, about 12 ounces
  5. 2 leeks
  6. 1 2/3 cup vegetable stock
  7. 1 (8 ounce) tub crème fraiche
  8. 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  9. 1 Tablespoon grainy mustard
  10. 4 – 5 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
  11. kosher salt
For the Crumble
  1. ¾ cup walnuts
  2. 6 sage leaves
  3. 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  4. 6 Tablespoons butter
  5. ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Wash, peel and chop the celeriac, carrots, parsnips and sweet potato. Cut all the vegetables into roughly the same size pieces, about ½ inch. Chop the leeks into half moons and rinse thoroughly.
  2. Bring the vegetable stock to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the root vegetables and stir, then add the leeks and cover the pot. Cook for 10 minutes.
  3. While the vegetables are cooking, stir together the crème fraiche, flour, mustard and chopped sage until thoroughly combined. When the vegetables have cooked, stir through the crème fraiche until everything is fully coated. Season to taste. Spoon the vegetables into a 2- quart baking dish and set aside to cool.
For the Crumble
  1. Pulse the walnuts and sage leaves together until you have a fine meal. Add the flour and the butter, cut into small chunks, and process until you have a nice crumbly topping. Add the parmesan and pulse briefly to mix.
  2. Spread the crumble topping over the vegetables. At this point, you can cover the dish and refrigerate several hours or overnight. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°. Cook the crumble until heated through and golden brown on top. Serve immediately.
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Green Bean Casserole with Tarragon and Hazelnuts

Green Bean Casserole with Tarragon and Hazelnuts

Green bean casserole is a traditional, can’t-do-without dish for many families Thanksgiving table. I have to say it though, I cannot stand the traditional version made with canned soup and fried crunchy bits. The beans are mushy, there is no telling what is in that can of soup and the oniony things are too salty. But green beans do make a great casserole for the holidays.

So here’s a perfect, unique version with a fresh, clean taste and a great deal of interest. I love to use tarragon to get a different herbal flavor in the mix, as I always use lots of sage and rosemary in the dressing and the bird. Toastyhazelnuts add a nice crunch, and a hit of cream, tangy mayonnaise and nutty cheese keep things in the traditional vein, while the lemon keeps it from being too cloying. Maybe this will be a new tradition for your family table too.

Green Bean Casserole with Tarragon and Hazelnuts
Serves 8
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Ingredients
  1. 2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed
  2. ¼ cup butter
  3. 4 shallots, halved and sliced into thin half moons
  4. 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  5. ½ cup chopped hazelnuts
  6. 3 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
  7. zest and juice of one lemon
  8. 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  9. 1/4 cup heavy cream
  10. 6 ounces gruyere, grated
  11. Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 8 by 8 inch baking dish.
  2. Cut the trimmed green beans into roughly one inch pieces. Bring a large skillet of water to a boil and drop in the beans. Boil for about a minute, just until the bright color of the beans comes out. Drain the beans and plunge into cold water to cool. Drain again.
  3. Wipe out the skillet and melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallot strands and cook, stirring frequently, until the shallot is soft and just beginning to turn a pale caramel brown, about 4 minutes. Add the hazelnuts, stir and cook for about 2 minutes, then stir in the garlic and cook for a further minute. Do not let the garlic brown. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the green beans, tarragon, the lemon zest and 2 Tablespoons lemon juice until everything is evenly distributed. Set aside to cool.
  4. Mix the mayonnaise and cream together in small bowl, then add it to the green beans, stirring to coat well. Spread a layer of beans in the baking dish, sprinkle over half the cheese, then layer the remaining beans and cheese.
  5. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake a further 10 minutes. Serve immediately.
  6. The casserole can prepared several hours before baking and kept covered in the refrigerator.
Notes
  1. Easily doubled.
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Maple Apple Biscuits with Whipped Maple Butter

Maple Apple Biscuits with Whipped Maple Butter

I’ve been focusing this month on simple comfort foods; food to share with family and friends that are simple and delicious. And nothing is more comforting to me than a homemade biscuit. So in the fall, I like to pair up the best of the season’s apples with a little sweet maple syrup to make a perfectly appropriate treat for breakfast, brunch or a snack.

These biscuits have just a hint of sweetness, so they pair well with the sweet maple butter. Any sweet spread would be lovely from homemade apple butter to a drizzle of honey. Take them more to the savory side with plain butter, or use them for ham biscuits with a little swipe of mustard.

Maple Apple Biscuits with Whipped Maple Butter
Serves 8
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups soft wheat flour (such as White Lily)
  2. 3 teaspoons baking powder
  3. 3 teaspoons sugar, plus 1 Tablespoon
  4. ½ teaspoon salt
  5. ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, plus ¼ teaspoon
  6. ½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, divided
  7. ¼ cup milk
  8. 1 egg
  9. 2 Tablespoons grade B amber maple syrup
  10. 1 medium apple
For the Maple Butter
  1. ½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
  2. 2 Tablespoons grade B amber maple syrup
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°. Grease a small baking sheet or line it with parchment paper.
  2. Mix the flour, baking powder, 3 teaspoons sugar, salt and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon together with a fork in a large bowl. Cut 6 Tablespoons of the butter into small cubes and add it to the flour. Toss the butter to coat it with the flour, then use two knifes or your good clean hands to rub the butter into the flour until it looks like coarse meal.
  3. Measure the milk into a jug then add the egg and maple syrup. Beat with a fork until well combined. Add to the flour and butter and still with a fork until the dough is just coming together. Peel the apple, remove the core and cut it into very small pieces. Drop the pieces into the bowl and use your clean hands to lightly knead the dough until the flour is all incorporated and the apples are distributed evenly. (peeling and chopping the apples right before adding them prevents browning.)
  4. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and pat it out into a rectangle about 4 by 8 inches. Press any stray apple pieces into the dough. Flour a knife or bench scraper and cut the dough into eight squares. Carefully transfer the biscuits to the greased baking sheet.
  5. Melt the remaining 2 Tablespoons butter in a small saucepan or the microwave. Stir in the 1 Tablespoon sugar and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon until you have a thick paste. The sugar will not dissolve completely. Brush the butter mixture over the tops of the biscuits using a pastry brush. Make sure you get some sugar on the biscuits. Coat the biscuits well, but you may not use all the topping.
  6. Bake the biscuits until risen and golden on the edges, 8 – 12 minutes, watching closely.
  7. For the Maple Butter
  8. Whip the softened butter and maple syrup together with an electric mixer until completely combined and smooth. Scrape into a bowl, cover and refrigerate.
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Roasted Green Beans and Peppers with Garlic

Roasted Green Beans and Peppers with Garlic

Every summer, I wait until the green beans at the farmers market look really plump and delicious, then I buy a big batch to take home, blanch and freeze. These are my Thanksgiving beans, for a traditional casserole or a simple steamed platter. I impress myself with my forward thinking ways. But sometimes I go overboard at the farmers market when everything is so fresh and ripe, and this recipe was born of that impulse. I was canning and pickling and cooking, and I completely forgot about the big basket of beans. And I bought a little tray of peppers in rainbow colors because they were so pretty, but I didn’t have any plan for them. So a few days later, when I rediscovered those beans, I wanted to use them in a flavorful way even though they weren’t at the very peak of freshness.

Roasting intensifies flavor, so it’s a great way to maximize beans that aren’t fresh off the vine. And it’s easy. You can prep everything ahead of time, then toss the beans and peppers with the oil at the last minute and bang them in the oven while your meat is resting. Bell peppers add wonderful bright pop to the dish and love to use a rainbow of colors – yellow, red, orange, purple. If you remembered to freeze some fresh, this is also a great way to give them a boost.

Roasted Green Beans and Peppers with Garlic
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. ¼ cup olive oil
  2. 6 cloves garlic, finely minced
  3. zest and juice of one lemon
  4. 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh marjoram or oregano
  5. salt and black pepper
  6. 2 pounds green beans, trimmed
  7. 4 bell peppers, the more colors the better
Instructions
  1. Pour the oil into a small saucepan and gently heat over low. When the oil is warm,
  2. add the minced garlic and stir to combine. When the garlic is very fragrant, stir in lemon zest and marjoram and remove the pan from the heat. Leave to steep for at least 5 minutes, but an hour is fine.
  3. Preheat the oven to 450°. Place the beans in a spacious bowl. Remove the stem, seeds and cores from the peppers and cut into strips about as wide as the green beans. Toss them with the beans in the bowl. Drizzle the oil over the beans and peppers and toss to coat. Spread the mix on a baking sheet in one layer (you can use two sheets if needed). Salt and pepper the beans generously, then roast in the oven for 15 minutes, until the beans are still tender and crisp, but browned and charred in a few places. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the beans and serve immediately.
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Fresh Herb Field Peas

Fresh Herb Field Peas

I buy field peas in bulk in the summer. Ladys, creamers, zippers, whippoorwill, crowders, purple hulls, you name it. Farmers market Saturdays for me are about canning and putting up, followed by a Southern supper of field peas, corn and tomatoes. So I am always looking for creative ways to prepare them. This is my new favorite. It’s clean and summery with a good dose of the best of the seasons herbs.

It can be a little hard sometimes when writing recipes to quantify herbs. Particularly for a recipe like this. So I just say handfuls. You want the potlikker the peas cook in well flavored, and the finishing butter to be chockfull, so the peas are well coated with fresh green herbs. Choose whatever herbs you have to hand. I love a good blend of leafy basil and parsley with a little hint of mint, combined with onion-y chives and woodsy oregano. I love the flavor pork adds to field peas, but you can leave it out to make a vegetarian version of this dish.

Fresh Herb Field Peas
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1 pound purple hull or other field peas
  2. 6 cloves garlic
  3. 2 generous handfuls of fresh herb leaves – basil, mint, oregano, chives, parsley and thyme
  4. 3 strips bacon
  5. ½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  6. salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Place the peas in a bowl and cover with cold water. Leave to settle for 30 minutes, then scoop off any floaters. Pick out any bruised peas, then lift the peas out of the water into a saucepan using your hands. Don’t pour through a strainer, the dirt only gets on the peas again.
  2. Pick out a good handful of herbs and tie them together in a piece of cheesecloth. Nestle the herb bundle, the bacon and 4 cloves of garlic in the peas and add fresh water to just barely cover. Bring to a boil and skim off any foam or scum that rises. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer the peas, uncovered, for about 1 hour until soft and tender but still holding their shape.
  3. While the peas are cooking, finely chop another handful of herbs and place in a bowl with the softened butter. Put the remaining two cloves of garlic through a press or very finely chop them and add to the butter. Use a fork to mash the herbs, garlic and butter together. Add salt and pepper to taste and combine thoroughly.
  4. When the peas are cooked, strain through a strainer and discard the bacon, garlic cloves and herb bundle. Scrape the herb butter into the saucepan over low heat until it begins to melt. Return the peas to the saucepan and gently stir through the butter until the peas are coated. Taste and adjust seasoning and serve.
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