Here’s a fun fall snack that features beautiful green apples and nutty gruyere cheese. A great spread on hearty wheat crackers, this also makes a wonderful sandwich filling that’s particularly suited to rye bread. In fact, those little square slices of party rye are great for an appetizer or little tea sandwiches.
This is a basic blueprint that is fabulous on its on, but feel free to stir in some pecan or walnut pieces, or some dried cranberries.
Apple Gruyere Spread
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces of gruyere cheese, grated
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
2 Granny Smith apples, unpeeled
Beat the cream cheese until it is soft, then fold in the gruyere, mustard and chives and mix until combined. Grate the apples with their peels and immediately add to the cream cheese mixture and fold into to completely combined. Make sure the apples are covered by the cream cheese to prevent browning. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours to let the flavors blend. The spread will keep a few days in the fridge.
Makes about 1 ½ cups
The summer herb garden has been rampaging this year, and I have a rosemary bush that won’t quit. I’ll have plenty for use when the pears come in to make Rosemary Pear Butter and I’ll make a couple of dishes of Chicken, Prosciutto and Rosemary Lasagna. But I have also been using it in all sorts of interesting ways, trying to step out of my normal routine.
Delicately brushing that line between sweet and savory, these little bites are lovely beside a glass of champagne or crisp white wine. I’ve even served them on a cheese board with some soft goat cheese.
Lemon Rosemary Cocktail Wafers
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 Tablespoons grated lemon zest
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
Beat the butter and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until well blended. Make sure your rosemary is very finely chopped – use an electric spice grinder if you have one, if not chop as much as possible with a heavy knife. Add the rosemary and lemon zest to the bowl and beat until blended. Add the flour and salt and beat until combined and smooth.
Scoop half the dough onto a long piece of plastic wrap and shape into a log. Roll the dough up and wrap tightly into a small, thin log. I like to make these a small bites, so I roll the log about 1-inch in diameter. Repeat with the remaining dough. Refrigerate the logs for at least an hour, but these will keep in the fridge for several days.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the fridge and slice wafers, about 1/8 of an ich thick from the logs. Lay them on the baking sheet about ½ and inch apart and bake for 5 minutes, just until the centers are firm and the edges are slightly brown. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.
Makes about 40 wafers
When I think of really old Southern recipes, spoon bread always comes to mind. I really have no particular knowledge of its history, its just that first time I ever had it was on a school trip to Colonial Williamsburg where it is served at Christiana Campbell’s Tavern by costumed and in-character servers. I assume everything else at Williamsburg is so accurate, that this must be a colonial recipe. I love Williamsburg, and no small part of that is the food, and I have enjoyed the spoon bread on many subsequent visits.
Working on the theory that bacon makes everything better, I added a little bit to my classic spoon bread recipe. The creamy, light cornbread-soufflé hybrid is perfect with the addition of a little crunch. But it occurred to me that spoon bread could be taken out of the realm of simple side with the addition of a little saucy extra. This bacon-onion-tomato mixture is one I have been whipping up with leftover bits and pieces for years, but finally decided was worthy of a recipe.
And no, I do not think this is too much bacon. It is actually very well balanced. But of course, these two dishes stand alone wonderfully well. The spoon bread as a side with stick ribs or grilled foods or as part of a breakfast spread. And the jam, which makes more than you need for the spoon bread, is wonderful on burgers or a grilled cheese sandwich.
Bacon Spoon Bread
6 strips of bacon
1 ½ cups cornmeal
3 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1½ cup water
2 Tablespoons butter
1 ½ cups milk
1 Tablespoon baking powder
Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook in a skillet until crispy. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Reserve 1 Tablespoon bacon grease
Mix the cornmeal, sugar and salt together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Bring the water, butter and 1 Tablespoon bacon grease to a boil in a pan. Turn on the mixer and pour the boiling water into the cornmeal. Beat until thick and stiff. Let cool for about 10 minutes.
Measure the milk in a 4-cup jug, then crack in the eggs and beat well. Beat the milk and eggs into the cornmeal mush, then fold in add the bacon pieces and beat until combined. Beat in the baking powder until well blended, then scrape the spoon bread into the baking dish. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes, until the center is set. Serve immediately with spoonfuls of Tomato Bacon Jam.
Serves 4 – 6
6 strips of bacon
2 pounds tomatoes, chopped
1 small white onion, finely chopped
½ cup white sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
3 Tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook in a skillet until crispy. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.
In a large, high-sided saucepan, bring the chopped tomatoes, onion, sugars, vinegar, salt and pepper to a boil. Boil for about 10 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and breaking down. Use a spatula or the back of the spoon to crush the tomatoes, though I like to give the jam a little whirl with an immersion blender at this point to create a rough puree. Reduce the heat to medium-low, stir in the bacon pieces and simmer until the jam is thick and spreadable, about an hour or more. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching on the bottom of the pan. As the jam thickens, watch it more closely and stir often to prevent burning. The jam will be done when you pull a spatula through to expose the bottom of the pan and the two sides don’t run together.
Scoop the jam into jars or a bowl and leave to cool. The jam will keep covered in the fridge for more than a week.
Makes 1 pint
Tabbouleh is the perfect summer farmers market dish – fresh herbs and vegetables tossed with fine grains for a fresh, cool salad. But has always been underwhelming to me. Too bland, too dry, I don’t know. I’ve always wanted to love it, but never had.
Until a conversation at a party about family recipes. A lovely woman from Mississippi was telling me about some of her family’s traditional Lebanese dishes, filtered through generations in the Missisippi Delta. She mentioned in passing that her family always soak the bulgur in lemon juice. That idea stuck with me as a way to pep up the dish. And it does. This version of tabbouleh is bright with lemon juice, really tart and unique. I love lots of fresh herbs, but have added a few spices for a little flair. So now I like tabbouleh – my way. I make this for parties and cook outs, but also just to keep a bowl in the fridge for quick lunches and snacks.
But here’s the thing about tabbouleh. This is my blueprint, lifted from someone else’s recipe. You can do what you want. More tomatoes or cucumbers, no garlic, a little chopped hot pepper. What you find at your market or in the garden. I do offer some hints. I like to give my knife and board a workout and finely chop all the ingredients, so each bite has a good mix of flavors, rather than a big chunk of tomato or cucumber or a big parsley leaf. With all the lemony tang, I’ve never really thought this needed salt, but do as you will.
Summer Market Tabbouleh
½ cup fine bulgur wheat
¼ cup lemon juice
2 plum tomatoes
1 cucumber, seed scooped out
1 green onions, white and light green parts
1 small garlic clove
½ cup fresh flat leaf parsley leaves
½ cup fresh mint leaves
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 Tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon sumac
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon coriander
Place the bulgur in a bowl. Then mix the lemon juice and ¾ cup water in a pan and bring to a boil. Pour the liquid over the bulgur and give it a good stir. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 15 minutes.
While the bulgur is soaking, finely chop the tomato, cucumber, green onions and place in a large bowl. Pass the garlic clove through a press into the bowl, or chop it to a fine paste on a board and add it. Finely chop the herbs and add to the bowl. Add the olive oil, sumac, cinnamon and coriander to the bowl and stir well to blend everything. Set aside.
When the fifteen minutes have passed, uncover the bulgur and fluff with a fork. If there is any liquid in the bowl or the bulgur seems wet, place it on a fine sieve and press out any liquid. Return to the bowl and fluff with the fork. Leave the bulgur to cool for about 5 minutes.
Scrape the bulgur into the tomato cucumber mix and use a fork to mix everything together, breaking up any clumps in the bulgur and scraping the sides and the bottom of the bowl. Cover the bowl again and refrigerate for a few hours to let the flavors meld.
Serves 4 as a side dish, easily doubles.
I spend a great deal of time in the summer putting up gorgeous fresh tomatoes for winter. Almost as much time as I do eating them. Ziptop bags full of sauce and soup base. Salsa, bloody mary mix and chutney in jars. And this, my favorite tomato condiment. I discovered recipes for tomato butter in several very old community cookbooks. The kind of recipes that call for a peck of tomatoes and sugar, just sugar no measurements. I was intrigued first by the name – I make lots of fruit butters, but had never thought about doing it with tomatoes. Then I was drawn in by the addition of vinegar; I could see how a hit of acid would really balance the sweetness of the tomatoes and sugar. So I set to work scaling this to a recipe more reasonable for my needs. And I love it.
Tomato butter has a jam like consistency and a deep, glossy, rich red color. It is sweet and tart, perfectly playing on all the attributes of a good tomato. Try this on a hamburger, and you may never go back to ketchup again. It is excellent dolloped on a steak or a piece of fish. It makes a wonderful mid-winter BLT and it is an elegant addition to a cheeseboard. My favorite usage is spread thick on good bread bought from a local baker, a few thick sliced of creamy brie and some smoky bacon, toasted and pressed. And I warn you, once you start making this, it may become an addiction.
5 pounds tomatoes, peeled
2 cups sugar
½ cup cider vinegar
First, place a small ceramic plate in the freezer. You’ll use this this to test the set of the jam later. Then get your jars clean. You will need 5 -6 half-pint mason jars (I always have an extra on hand in case I need it). I clean the jars and the rings in the dishwasher, and leave them in there with the door closed to stay warm. You can’t put the lids in the dishwasher, it will ruin them.
Chop the tomatoes and place them in a large Dutch oven with the sugar and vinegar. Stir everything together, then turn the heat to medium and simmer until the tomatoes begin to break down and become soft, about 15 minutes. Blend the tomatoes with an immersion blender until you have a smooth puree. Lower the heat and continue simmering the jam, stirring frequently, until the liquid has reduced and the mixture is thick and spreadable. This could take anywhere from 40 minutes to over an hour, depending on how juicy your tomatoes are. As the mixture thinks, stir more often and watch carefully to prevent scorching.
When the jam has cooked down and is thickened, pull that little plate out of the freezer and spoon a little jam onto it. Leave to set for a minute, then tilt the plate. If the jam stays put, or only runs a little bit, it’sready. Also, run a finger through the jam on the plate if the two sides stay separate and don’t run back together, you’re good to go.
While you jam is cooking, get a boiling water canner or big stockpot of water going. Here are step-by step instructions for processing jam in a canner. When the jam is almost ready, pour some boiling water over the jar lids jars to soften the seals and set aside.
When the jam has met the set test, remove it from the heat. I like to ladle the jam into a large measuring jug for easy pouring. Fill each of your warm, cleaned jars with the jam, leaving a ½ inch head space. Wipe the rimes of the jars with a damp paper towel to clean up any sticky spills. Dry the lids with a clean paper towel and place on the jars. Screw on the bands tightly, then process the jars for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. If you have a bit of extra jam, scoop it into a refrigerator container and keep in the fridge for up to a week.
When the jars are processed, leave to cool on a towel on the counter.
The processed jars will keep for a year in a cool, dark place. Don’t forget to label your jars!
Makes 3 – 4 (½ pint) jars, plus a little extra
I have also made this in the slow cooker. To do this, place all the ingredients in the cooker and cook uncovered for 12 – 14 hours until set. Puree the tomatoes when they are soft.
Watermelon and mint are a classic summer pairing. I love it in a sorbet or a sweet tea drink. But basil is a great match with melon as well, so I worked up this sweet pesto, with the herby, grassiness of basil and a little undernote of mint. It really is a fresh taste of the summer garden.
Serve the watermelon however you like – in thin wedges, big chunks or pretty balls. Toss it as a salad or drizzle over pieces. The pesto is also good on other melons and fruits.
Watermelon With Sweet Pesto
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
½ cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup neutral flavored oil, like grapeseed or canola
1 small watermelon
Put the basil, mint, confectioners’ sugar and lemon jusice in the bowl of a food processor (I like to use a small one) and process until finely chopped. With the motor running, drizzle in the oil until well blended.
The watermelon is up to you – wedges, balls, rough chunks. Drizzle with the pesto before serving.
Store the pesto in a jar in the fridge for up to a day. Shake well before serving.
My love of field peas has been declared far and wide. I generally grab bags from the farmers market, put some up in the freezer for a mid-winter summer meal. Then I throw some in my field pea pot with whatever pork product I have around. Salt pork, bacon, country ham, fatback. My summer Saturday dinner. But not so with lady peas. Lady peas are delicate and dainty – I am assuming that’s where the name comes from, and too much salty, strong pork overwhelms them. So I like to treat them with a gentler hand. Bright and sharp celery, a light addition of garlic and classic onion and bay flavor the peas, and butter enriches the whole dish, adding a lovely glaze. This version is simmered uncovered so the liquid reduces to burnish the peas. There is just enough potlikker to soak up with some tangy buttermilk hoecakes.
Butter Braised Lady Peas
1 pound of fresh lady peas
2 cloves garlic
1 stalk celery, cut into chunks, with the leaves
1 small onion
2 bay leaves
¼ cup ( ½ stick) of butter
Place the lady 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.
Nestle the garlic, celery onion and bay leaves 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 add the butter. Simmer the peas, uncovered, for 1 hour until soft and tender but still holding their shape. Remove the celery, onion, garlic and bay leaves and add salt to taste. Serve warm.
Serves 4 – 6
Buttermilk Hoe Cakes
½ cup soft wheat flour, like White Lily
½ cup stone ground cornmeal
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ cup buttermilk
3 Tablespoons water
2 Tablespoons melted butter
oil for frying
Stir the flour, cornmeal salt and baking powder together with a fork. Measure the buttermilk and water together, then crack in the egg and stir in the melted butter. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until thoroughly mixed. The batter should be loose but thick. Add a little more buttermilk if needed.
Heat a couple of Tablespoons of oil in a deep skillet (you can add a little butter or bacon grease if you’d like). Drop about 3 Tablespoons of batter for each hoecake into the oil. Cook about 3 minutes per side, then flip and cook the other side until brown and cooked through.
Remove the hoecakes to paper towels to drain.
Makes about 8 hoecakes
The combination of fresh summer peaches and Southern bourbon is a favorite of mine, and I use it in savory dishes, like Peach Bourbon Grilled Pork Tenderloin, or in sweets, like Peach Butterbourbon Sauce. Faced with an abundance of gorgeous peaches this year, I wanted to create a simple, cool dessert – perfect for hot days. Lightly sweet, fresh with peaches with the tang and kick of bourbon and buttermilk, this has fast become a peach-season favorite for me.
This lovely dessert can be homey or elegant, served in delicate demitasse cups or mismatched small Mason jars. Top it with the crunch of candied pecans or a soft dollop of whipped cream, or even some fresh peach slices.
Peach Bourbon Buttermilk Pudding with Candied Pecans
1 envelope plain, unflavored gelatin
2 cups peeled, pitted chopped peaches (about 4 peaches)
1 Tablespoon bourbon
½ cup sugar
1/3 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
Stir the gelatin and 2 Tablespoons of water together in a small bowl and set aside to become soft.
Puree the peaches, bourbon and sugar in a blender or food processor. You should end up with 2 cups puree. Pour ½ cup of the peach puree into a medium saucepan and heat over medium high heat. Stir in the gelatin and heat just until the gelatin is dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the rest of the peach puree. Refrigerate until the puree is cooled, but not set, about 1 hour.
Whip the buttermilk and heavy cream together with an electric or stand mixer until stiff peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the cold peach puree, making sure all the puree is distributed through the cream.
Gently spoon the pudding into small cups or ramekins and refrigerate for 3 – 4 hours until softly set.
2 cups pecan halves
1 cup light brown sugar
2 Tablespoons water
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
Line a cookie sheet with non-stick foil or parchment paper sprayed with cooking spray. Toast the pecans in a large skillet over medium heat until they smell nutty. Remove from the skillet to a plate immediately. Wipe out the skillet to remove any bits of pecan. Place the brown sugar and water in the skillet and cook over medium heat until thickened. Stir in the cinnamon and salt then add the pecan halves and stir to coat. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the pecans are completely coated and there is very little glaze remaining in the skillet.
Turn the pecans out onto the prepared sheet. Use two forks to carefully separate the pecan halves and lay them out flat on the sheet. Leave to cool and for the glaze to harden.
The pecans can be prepared up to 4 days in advance and kept tightly wrapped in an airtight container.
Makes 2 cups
My go to baked bean dish for many years has been my Brilliant Baked Beans made with a variety of canned beans. And I love those beans. But eventually, I started fiddling around with dried beans to recreate memories of New England style baked beans I’d enjoyed when I lived in the area. I like those too. Then I started to find fresh shelly beans and October beans at my local farmers market and decided I could surely make a delicious Southern-style version for summer cook-outs. So now this is my favorite baked bean dish. For summer, when I get fresh beans. In winter, I still make maple syrup rich beans from dried yellow-eyes, and the canned version when I want a large quantity quick. In short, yeah, I like baked beans.
The shelly beans that are sold around here are plump with a lovely burgundy speckled-surface. They are similar to borlotti or cranberry beans, which you may find at gourmet markets.
Southern Baked Shelly Beans
1 pound fresh shelly beans
½ a Vidalia onion
4 ounces salt pork (or bacon)
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves
½ cup sorghum
½ cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons bourbon
1 teaspoon mustard powder
Soak the beans in cold water for 30 minutes. Scoop out any beans that float and discard. Use your hands to scoop the beans into a large pot. This way, any dirt and grit stays in the bowl. Pick over the beans and remove any discolored or shrunken beans
Cover the beans with fresh cold water by 2 inches. Peel the onion and cut in half vertically. If you leave the stem intact, just pulling off any hairy bits, the onion will hold together better during cooking. Tuck the onion half, salt pork, garlic and bay leaves down into the beans. Bring to a boil, skim off any foam that rises, then reduce the heat to medium low. Cover the pot and simmer the beans for 45 minutes.
Mix the sorghum, brown sugar, vinegar, bourbon and mustard into a thick paste in a small bowl. Scrape the paste into the beans, stir gently to combine, cover the pot and simmer for a further 2 hours.
Stir in salt to taste and cook the beans uncovered until the sauce is thick and reduced and the beans are tender.
Simple ingredients of the best quality produce the most amazing results. It always holds true. Fresh blueberries straight from the farmers’ market, real vanilla and creamy buttermilk, the best you can find. I mulled over ways to dress up the cake, make it more exotic or unusual, but in the end, I decided there is really no justification for that, because it is wonderful in its purest form. The crumb is tender, the blueberries juicy and the top a craggy, sugary delight.
Demerara sugar is a coarse, granular light brown sugar that makes a crunchy crust on top of the moist cake. If you can’t find it, sprinkle one Tablespoon of plain white sugar on top. This works as a special breakfast treat, or a dessert with a scoop of ice cream.
Blueberry Vanilla Cake
¾ cups butter (1 ½ sticks), softened
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup buttermilk
12 ounces fresh blueberries, rinsed and dried
2 Tablespoons demerara or coarse sugar
Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease an 8 by 8 inch baking pan.
Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer until smooth and creamy. Add the sugar and the seeds scraped from the vanilla bean. Beat until thoroughly combined and light in color. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Beat in the flour, baking soda and salt, alternating with the buttermilk, in three additions, ending with the buttermilk. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat until smooth. Fold in the blueberries with a spatula. Do not beat with the mixer or the berries will break up.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, wet your fingers and spread the batter out evenly. Sprinkle the top of the cake evenly with the demerara sugar.
Bake for 45 – 50 minutes until the cake is golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cover the pan loosely with foil for the last ten minutes of cooking.
Serves 6 – 8