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.

Apple Ginger Upside Down Cake

Apple Ginger Upside Down Cake

You may notice a little theme this month, though it wasn’t actually by design. As autumn rolls around, I start cooking with (and eating) a lot of apples. In season, locally-grown apples are a wonder, on par with eating seasonal, local strawberries, instead of the chemically ripened fruit flown in from miles and miles away. So I make the most of the bounty in cooking both sweet and savory. Last week, I included apples in my deliciously autumnal Roasted Pork with Sweet Potatoes and Hard Cider Cream Sauce, and here I use the little beauties in a sweet preparation, that makes a wonderful dessert with a scoop of ice cream or a perfect breakfast treat.

An upside down cake is a chance to be really artistic in the kitchen. Feel free to arrange the apple slices are creatively as you can manage. Flip the cake over and you’ve got a really beautiful creation to share. Ginger and apple is an amazing flavor combination, and I incorporate the ginger in layers here, using fresh, powdered and crystallized.

Apple Ginger Upside Down Cake
Serves 6
  1. For the Apples
  2. ¼ cup butter
  3. ¼ cup light brown sugar
  4. 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, finely grated
  5. 2 apples, I prefer golden delicious
For the Cake
  1. ¼ cup (1/2 stick) of butter, softened
  2. 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  3. 2 eggs
  4. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  5. 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  6. 2 teaspoons baking powder
  7. 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  8. ½ teaspoon salt
  9. ½ cup buttermilk
  10. ¼ cup chopped crystallized ginger
For the Apples
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Spray a 9-inch round cake pan lightly with cooking spray.
  2. Cut the butter into cubes and drop it the pan. Place the pan in the oven for 3 – 5 minutes until the butter melts. Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle over the brown sugar and the ginger. Stir with a spatula to combine, then spread the sugar mixture around the pan. It won’t cover the bottom completely, just make sure the sugar is not all in one place. Core and slice the apples into ¼-inch slices and fan out over the butter mixture in an attractive pattern. Some apples can overlap, but you only want one layer.
For the Cake
  1. Cream the butter and brown sugar together in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla, then beat in the flour, baking powder, ginger and salt alternately with the buttermilk, scraping down the bowl, until the batter is smooth. Beat in the crystallized ginger until evenly distributed. Dollop the batter over the apples in the pan, then use dampened fingers to press it out to cover the apples.
  2. Bake the cake fro 20 – 30 minutes until firm, golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Leave the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then run a thin knife around the edge to loosen it. Invert the cake onto a platter, leave for about a minute to loosen, then remove the pan.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Roasted Pork and Sweet Potatoes with Hard Cider Cream Sauce

Roasted Pork and Sweet Potatoes with Hard CIder Cream Sauce

October is that transitional time of year, the leaves are beginning to fall, the weather is cooling and I’ve pulled the sweaters out of storage. I’m ready to cover up the grill and move onto to hearty roasts and vegetables, but I’m not quite ready for thick soups and heavy stews. So a perfect piece of pork surrounded by fall produce fits the bill perfectly.

I love that this dish is beautiful to serve, with perfectly roasted meat and an array of colorful fall vegetables, but could not be easier to prepare. A little work for a lot of reward. The sauce is rich and creamy with a nice sweet-sharp tang from the hard cider. I use a Woodchuck Amber cider, and serve the rest of the six-pack with the meal.

Roasted Pork and Sweet Potatoes with Hard Cider Cream Sauce
Serves 6
  1. 2 pound boneless pork roast
  2. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  3. salt and pepper
  4. 2 medium sweet potatoes
  5. 2 medium apples
  6. 2 small red onions
  7. 1 cup hard apple cider (alcoholic)
  8. 1 cup heavy cream
  1. Preheat the oven to 450°. Rub the outside of the pork roast generously with salt and pepper. Coat the bottom of a stovetop and oven safe roasting pan with 1 Tablespoon olive oil. Heat the oil in the pan, placing it over two burners if necessary, then sear the pork until lightly browned on all sides. Transfer the roasting dish to the oven and cook for 15 minutes.
  2. Peal the sweet potatoes and cut in half vertically, then in wedges. Core the apples and cut into wedges, then cut the onions into wedges as well. Place everything in a large ziptop bag and pour in the remaining Tablespoon of olive oil and generous sprinkles of salt and pepper. Toss the vegetables around to coat with the olive oil and seasoning.
  3. After the first fifteen minutes of cooking, spread the oiled vegetables around the pork in the roasting pan and cook until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 140° internal temperature, about 20 minutes.
  4. Remove the roasting pan from the oven and transfer the pork to a cutting board. Cover with foil and leave to rest. Remove the vegetables to a platter. Place the roasting tin on the stove (over two burners again if needed) over medium high heat. Pour in the apple cider and use a spatula to scrape up all the delicious browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Bring the cider to a boil and cook until reduced and syrupy, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the cream and continue cooking until thickened, about 5 minutes.
  5. Slice the pork and serve with the roasted vegetables and the sauce.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Red Pepper Relish

Red Pepper Relish

I love good pepper jelly, the wobbly kind with little bits of pepper suspended in the jar. The kind ladies used to bring to the Christmas party to serve over cream cheese, the jar topped with a pretty little cloth circle. And as much as I love canning, jelly, made with exact amounts of liquid and pectin, are a little bit out of my league. So when I saw this simple recipe in a community cookbook, I wanted to try it, as it seemed to have everything that would produce the flavor of a good pepper jelly. In the cookbook, the recipe was titled Red Pepper Hash, but I don’t think that term really describes what this is and when I once labeled a jar red pepper jam, I could tell the recipient was very skeptical. So I went with relish. I think I like this better than classic jelly. It has more character, with body and heft and a nice tang from the vinegar, perfectly balanced with sugar. This has become a yearly ritual for me, because it is often requested by friends. I have one friend who squeals every time I give her a jar, and she keeps it hidden for her own personal use.

Try this on a burger instead of ketchup for a really interesting twist. In fact it is good on any kind of sandwich. I often serve it with a board of Southern cheeses and locally made charcuterie, but my favorite use is still poured over cream cheese. I just like to make the cream cheese from scratch now too.

Red Pepper Relish
  1. 12 red bell peppers
  2. 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
  3. 2 cups cider vinegar
  4. 2 cups granulated sugar
  1. Remove the stem, seeds and ribs from the peppers and cut the flesh into chunks. In about three batches, place the pepper in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until all the peppers are finely chopped. Scrape each batch into a colander set over a large bowl. When all the peppers are in the colander, stir in the salt and leave to drain overnight. Cover the colander with a tea towel.
  2. When ready to make the relish, 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 3 half-pint mason jars. I always clean a couple of extra just in case. 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.
  3. While you relish is cooking, get a boiling water canner or big stockpot of water going. Here are step-by step instructions for processing in a canner. When the relish is almost ready, pour some boiling water over the lids to your jars to soften the seals and set aside.
  4. Scrape the drained pepper pulp into a large pot and stir in the vinegar and sugar. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook until thick and jammy, about 30 – 40 minutes, stirring frequently, and more at the end as the relish thickens. Watch carefully, as the cooking time can vary depending on the density and moisture in the peppers. If there are any large pieces of pepper in the pot, you can use an immersion blender to break them up.
  5. 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’s ready to go. 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.
  6. Fill each of your warm, cleaned jars with the relish, leaving a ½ inch head space. Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp paper towel. Dry the lids with a clean paper towel and place on the jars. Screw on the bands tightly, then process the jars for 5 minutes in a boiling water bath. If you have a bit of extra relish, scoop it into a refrigerator container and keep in the fridge for up to a week.
  7. When the jars are processed, leave to cool on a towel on the counter.
  8. The processed jars will keep for a year in a cool, dark place. Don’t forget to label your jars!
  1. I like to can some of this is small 4-ounce jars, which is a perfect serving for a cheese plate.
  2. Don’t throw away the juice drained from the peppers – use it to add verve to Bloody Marys, gazpacho or tomato soup. You can even freeze it in ice cube trays to add a lift cooking anytime.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Sunshine Succotash

Sunshine Succotash

Field peas and corn are my favorite summer foods, so I am always thinking up ways to use them in recipes. Succotash is a traditional Native American dish originating in the Northeast, but it lends itself to regional variations and is a perfect vehicle for Southern field peas and our own fresh corn. Creamy butterbeans and delicate lady peas pair wonderfully with sweet corn.

I came home from the farmers market one Saturday with some lovely little yellow tomatoes I purchased from the Boys and Girls Club Technical Training booth. They were so pretty, I couldn’t resist taking them home. Back in the kitchen, unloading all my beautiful purchases, I realized I had a little sunshine spectrum of produce that I knew would look bright and fresh together. Pale peas and butter beans and sweet bi-color peaches and cream corn. And thus this version of my basic succotash recipe was born.

If you can’t find yellow tomatoes, red cherry tomatoes work just as well. If they are larger, cut them in half before adding them to the pot. I had a big handful of gorgeous thyme from the market, but oregano or marjoram would be just as tasty.

Sunshine Succotash
Serves 8
  1. 3 cups fresh butter beans
  2. 2 cups fresh lady peas
  3. ¼ ( ½ stick) cup butter
  4. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  5. 1 bunch green onions, white and light green parts, chopped
  6. 2 cloves minced garlic
  7. 2 Tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  8. kernels cut from 5 ears corn
  9. 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  10. salt and black pepper to taste
  11. 1 pint yellow cherry tomatoes
  1. Place the butter beans and lady peas in a saucepan and cover with water by about an inch. Bring to a boil, skim off an foam that rises, then lower the heat and simmer until the peas are tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes. Drain and rinse the peas.
  2. Melt the butter in a large skillet and add the olive oil. Saute the green onions until translucent and soft, about 5 mintues, then add the garlic and sauté for a further minute. Stir in about half of the thyme leaves and stir until fragrant. Add the butter beans, lady peas and corn to the pan and stir to coat with the butter and oil. Stir in the cream, the remaining thyme, a nice pinch of salt and generous grinds of pepper and cook for 20 minute, stirring frequently, until the mixture is thick and and the cream has reduced. Add the tomatoes, give it a good stir and cover the skillet. Cook for a two or three minutes until the tomatoes are soft and beginning to burst. Taste for seasoning and serve.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Squash Blossom Risotto

Squash Blossom Risotto

I ate at two restaurants in Rome earlier this summer that claimed to be built on the very spot where Julius Caesar was killed, and visited two tourist attractions that claimed the same thing. It makes a great story to print on a menu, and they each had some historical perspective to back up the claim. Of course, the restaurants are modern buildings now with only a small trace of their ancient ancestry, but the food at each one was quite good. I made sure to order classic and traditional Roman dishes at each (when in Rome, right?), but when I saw the risotto con fiore di zucca on one menu, I knew I had to order it. I love squash blossoms, and they are an ingredient I just have to sample whenever I see them. I had my fill on a trip to Mexico, and was lucky enough to be in Italy when they were abundantly available. So when I sampled this dish, I knew I would recreate it once I returned home.

It was at a restaurant in Tuscany that I had a risotto with a secret center of creamy cheese, and I decided to incorporate that idea into this recipe to add a nice tang and creaminess to complement the rich rice. The flavors here are subtly earthy with lovely strands of the blossoms stirred through. Many dishes that use squash blossoms like to include saffron for color. (I use it in my pesto). You can do that here too, just soak a pinch of saffron strands in some hot broth and stir that into the risotto during cooking.

Squash Blossom Risotto
Serves 4
  1. 24 squash blossoms
  2. 5 cups vegetable stock
  3. 4 Tablespoons butter, divided
  4. 1 large shallot, finely diced
  5. 1 ½ cups carnaroli or arborio rice
  6. ½ cup dry white wine
  7. ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  8. salt to taste
  9. 4 Tablespoons whole milk ricotta, at room temperature
  10. olive oil for drizzling
  1. Grasp the squash blossoms by the stem and twist to remove the hard stem and the stamen inside, leaving only the blossoms. Place 12 of the blossoms in a blender with 2 cups of the stock and blend until smooth. Pour the blossom mixture and the rest of the stock into a saucepan and heat over low until just simmering.
  2. Cut the remaining blossoms into thin pieces. I generally pull the leaves apart, stack them up and use scissors to cut them into fine shreds. Set aside.
  3. Melt 2 Tablespoons of the butter over low in a large, deep skillet. Add the diced shallots and sauté until soft and glassy, but do not brown, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat it in the butter and cook for a few minutes until the edges of the rice grains are a little translucent. Pour in the wine and cook, stirring, until it is completely evaporated. Now start adding the stock a big ladleful at a time, stirring after each addition. When each addition has evaporated, add the next ladleful and stir. When almost all the stock has been absorbed, taste the risotto. It should still have a little bite and texture to it, but if it still hard or crisp, keep adding stock until it is al dente. Stir in the squash blossom strips and the grated Parmigiano until combined and melted. Add the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter and stir it through. Season with salt to taste.
  4. To serve the risotto, scoop a dollop of ricotta (about a Tablespoon; I use a small cookie scoop) onto the center if a rimmed plate or shallow bowl, then spoon the risotto around it. Drizzle with good olive oil and serve immediately.
  1. The ricotta needs to be at room temperature to melt smoothly into the risotto. You can scoop it out onto the plates and have them waiting before you start making the risotto.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Italian Summer Cherry Tomato Tart

Italian Summer Cherry Tomato Tart

I’m recently back from a month in Italy, exploring the art and history and architecture, but let’s be honest, mostly exploring the food. Because that is what I love the most. The recipes, techniques and ideas I learned are working around in my head still, but I am sure they will come out here soon, but in the meantime, I have been drawn to the flavors I loved so much in Italy. My everyday cooking has seen a marked increase in the use of fresh basil, good Parmigiano-Reggiano and percorino cheeses, fine olive oil and rich vinegars. Light and fresh ingredients that when combined simply sing with flavor.

So it was only natural that when I set out to use some of the lovely little jewel-like cherry tomatoes from the farmers market, my mind wandered back to Italy. This is not something I learned in my travels, nor do I think it is particularly authentic, but the fresh, bright herbs and rich cheeses make a perfect match. Use the charming multi-colored tomatoes if you can find them for a nice presentation. I highly recommend using real Parmigiano cheese and grating it yourself, and rich whole milk ricotta. I’ve given measurements for the herbs below, but you can fudge a little with the quantities.

Italian Summer Cherry Tomato Tart
Serves 6
For the pastry
  1. 1 Tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
  2. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  3. ¼ cup grated Parmagiano cheese
  4. ½ teaspoon salt
  5. ½ teaspoon pepper
  6. ½ cup (1 stick) cold butter
  7. 4 – 5 Tablespoons ice water
For the Filling
  1. 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  2. 4 eggs
  3. ½ cup whole milk ricotta
  4. ½ cup heavy cream
  5. ¾ cup grated Parmagiano cheese
  6. 1 clove garlic, put through a press of very finely chopped
  7. 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  8. 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  9. 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
  10. salt and pepper to taste
For the Pastry
  1. Place the oregano, flour, cheese, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to chop the oregano and combine. Dice the butter into small pieces and add to the flour, then pulse until it looks like breadcrumbs. With the motor running, drizzle in the ice water just until the pastry comes together in a ball and there is no dry flour left.
  2. Transfer the pastry onto a piece of plastic wrap and press it into a flat, round disc. Wrap in the plastic, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, but it can be made a day ahead.
  3. When ready to prepare the tart, preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Roll the pastry out evenly, then fit it into the pan. Prick the pastry base with a fork many times, then line the pastry with parchment paper and fill it with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven. When cool enough to handle, remove the parchment and the pie weights.
For the Filling
  1. Whisk the eggs together in a large bowl, then add the ricotta and the cream and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the cheese, garlic, herbs a few grinds of pepper and a generous pinch of salt until everything is amalgamated and evenly distributed.
  2. Spread the tomatoes over the pastry shell, distributing them evenly and pour over the filling. Use your clean fingers to move the tomatoes around if needed, so they are pretty well distributed and not bunched up. Grind a little more black pepper over the top, then bake for 40 – 45 minutes until the top is firm and lightly golden.
  3. Cool the tart for about 5 minutes before removing the ring of the pan. Slice and serve warm, room temperature or cold.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Fresh Corn Bisque with Thyme Buttered Popcorn

Fresh Corn Bisque with Thyme Buttered Popcorn

Fresh corn straight off the cob is one of the great joys of summer. This soup is the freshest of fresh corn flavor, maximizing both the juicy sweet kernels and extracting every last drop of flavor from the cobs to make a broth redolent of summer. There are a few steps involved, but the velvety texture and bright flavor are worth the effort. I really want the corn flavor to shine, so I do not add much else to the basic soup.

Beautifully simple on its own, this bisque is brought alive by toppings. Here, I used a playful, fun sprinkling of popcorn seasoned with thyme-infused butter. You could season some popcorn with any flavor you like (Old Bay Seasoning is particularly good with corn). Or try a dollop of crème fraiche and a sprinkle of fresh herbs. Chopped bacon or garlic buttered croutons. A swirl of olive oil infused with chives or basil.

Fresh Corn Bisque with Thyme Buttered Popcorn
Serves 6
  1. 8 ears of yellow or yellow and white corn
  2. 1 stalk celery
  3. 5 sprigs of thyme
  4. 1 bay leaf
  5. 1 large yellow onion, halved
  6. kosher salt
  7. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  8. ½ cup whole milk
  1. Fill a large bowl or the sink with cold water and ice. Bring a large stockpot full of water to a boil. Blanch the corn in the boiling water for 30 seconds and remove it immediately to the ice water bath to stop the cooking. When the corn is cool enough to handle, cut the kernels off the cobs into a large bowl. Scrap the cobs to release any juices. Toss the kernels with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, cover the bowl with a tea towel and place in the refrigerator.
  2. Cut the corn cobs in half and place in a large stockpot (if you use the pot you blanched in, rinse it well to remove corn silks). Add the celery, thyme, bay leaf and half of the onion and cover with 10 cups of water. Bring the stock to a boil, skim off any scum that rise, reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, for 1 ½ hours. The liquid should reduce by about half. Pour the stock through a strainer and discard the solids.
  3. Rinse out the stockpot and add the olive oil. Chop the remaining onion half (you need one cup chopped onion) and cook in the olive oil over medium heat until soft and glossy. Stir frequently and do not let the onions brown. Add the reserved corn kernels and any accumulated liquid. Stir to combine the onions and corn, then pour in 4 cups of the corn cob stock. Bring to a boil, reduce to medium low and cover the pot. Simmer the soup for 30 minutes, until the kernels are very soft. Leave the soup to cool a little, then carefully puree it in batches in a blender. Pour each batch through a fine mesh sieve set over a large, pressing the liquid through. Rinse out the pot again, and return the smooth soup to it. At this point, you can refrigerate the soup for up to 2 days.
  4. When ready to serve, whisk in the milk. Gently warm through on low heat.
For the Thyme Buttered Popcorn
  1. For 1 cup of popped corn, strip 2 teaspoons of fresh thyme leaves and sprinkle them with 1 teaspoon of coarse salt on a chopping board. Chop very finely. Really go to town, rocking your knife back and forth over the herbs until you have thyme salt. Stir the thyme salt into 3 Tablespoons of hot melted butter. Stir very well, pour over the popcorn and toss to coat.
  1. Note: Corn stock is a wonderful thing to have around, it pumps up the flavor of a winter chowder made with frozen corn or any vegetable soup. Make big batches and freeze. I keep a Ziploc bag in the freezer and add a striped cob everytime I use corn. When I have about a dozen cobs, I make stock.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Blackberry Sage Skillet Cake

Blackberry Sage Skillet Cake

Fruit and herbs are a wonderful combination. I’ve made Peaches Poached in Basil, a Blueberry Basil Compote, even a Strawberry Mint Vinaigrette. Blackberries and sage a re a lovely pairing, the berries are sweet and the sage woodsy, but together they sing. Sage isn’t generally associated with sweet recipe, but it should be for the lovely herbaceous tone it adds.

I’ve added sage to blackberry jam for years – its one of my standard summer recipes, but I hadn’t really considered using sage in baking. I’ve been experimenting with various herbs in baking recently, and when I decided to use some fresh farmers market berries in this classic upside down cake recipe, I wanted to give sage a chance. It creates this elusive note of herbal freshness under the dark, sweet juiciness of the berries. The cake is tender and moist enough to soak in some of the juices, but not terribly sweet so the berries really shine. A bright note of lemon zest helps bring the whole together.

This cake is lovely on its own for dessert, though I could easily see it at breakfast. A dollop of whipped cream – perhaps infused with sage – or a big scoop of rich vanilla bean ice cream wouldn’t go amiss. And don’t these simple skillet cakes make an impressive presentation?

Blackberry Sage Skillet Cake
Serves 8
  1. 10 Tablespoons butter at room temperature
  2. 1 nice bunch of fresh sage, 5 -6 leaves and 2 Tablespoons finely chopped
  3. 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  4. ¾ cups granulated sugar
  5. 2 cups blackberries
  6. 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  7. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  8. 2 eggs
  9. 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  10. 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  11. ½ teaspoon salt
  12. ½ cup buttermilk
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Melt 4 Tablespoons of butter in a 10–inch oven safe skillet over medium heat. Drop in 5 – 6 sage leaves to infuse the butter. When the butter is melted and fragrant from the sage, remove the sage leaves, squeezing them against the side of the skillet to remove as much butter as possible. Stir in the dark brown sugar and cook briefly, just until smooth and melted. Do not let it burn. Remove from the heat and stir in 1 Tablespoon chopped sage. Spread the sugar mixture evenly over the skillet, then sprinkle the blackberries in an even layer over the sugar.
  3. Beat the remaining 6 Tablespoons of butter with the ¾ cup granulated sugar in the bowl of a mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in 1 Tablespoon of chopped sage, the lemon zest and vanilla until combined. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, blending thoroughly before adding the next egg, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the flour, baking powder and salt in two additions, alternating with the buttermilk, scraping the sides of the bowl.
  4. Scrape the batter over the top of the berries and smooth the top. Bake the cake for 30 minutes, rotating the skillet half way through the cooking time, until the top is a lovely golden brown a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Hoppin’ John Salad with Bourbon Sorghum Vinaigrette

Hoppin' John Salad

Hoppin’ John is a traditional southern dish of rice and black-eyed peas traditionally served on New Year’s Day to guarantee prosperity in the new year. That hearty, warming dish is in my New Year’s Day rotation, usually made with black-eyed peas I bought at the farmers market and put up in the freezer during the summer. Black-eyed peas are traditional on New Years, but they are in season in the summer. And they make a great cold salad, with a tender bite and earthy flavor. I’ve read recipes for hoppin’ john salad over the years, most using the peas only and those usually canned. But I wanted to create my own summer version, focusing on fresh peas, with truly Southern, tangy-sweet dressing and a hint of fresh from herbs and crunch from the classic vegetables of Southern cooking.

This hearty salad is a perfect side for a cook-out or a fried chicken lunch. It can be made ahead and held until ready to serve. It’s refreshing but filling enough to stand alone. It’s a pretty salad on the table (particularly in this Mississippi made McCarty Pottery Black-eyed Pea platter). When I have it on hand, I use Carolina gold rice t

Hoppin' John Salad with Bourbon Sorghum Vinaigrette
Serves 8
For the Salad
  1. 1 cup long grain white rice
  2. 1 pound fresh black eyed peas (frozen if that’s all you have)
  3. 3 green onions, finely diced
  4. 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  5. 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
  6. 1 green bell pepper, finely diced
  7. 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  8. 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
For the Vinaigrette
  1. 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  2. 3 Tablespoons bourbon
  3. 1 Tablespoon sorghum
  4. 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  5. ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  6. ½ teaspoon salt
  7. 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  1. For the Salad
  2. Place the rice in a strainer and rinse well, until the water flowing through it is no longer cloudy. Place the rice in a saucepan with 1 ½ cups water and bring to a boil. Cook until almost all the water is absorbed and little air bubbles form in the rice, about 10 – 12 minutes, stirring a few times to prevent sticking. Remove from the heat and tightly cover the pan. Set aside for 15 minutes, then fluff with a fork to separate the grains, then return to the strainer and rinse under cool water. Shake the rice to remove excess water and spread the rice on a tea towel to dry.
  3. Place the black eyed peas in the saucepan and cover by about 1 inch of water and bring to a boil. Cook until the peas are just tender but with a little bite to them, about 15 minutes, then drain and rinse and spread on the tea towel.
  4. When the rice and the peas are cool and relatively dry, toss them together in a big bowl using a fork. Add the diced celery, green onion and pepper and toss, then toss in the chopped herbs. Make sure everything is evenly distributed and break up any clumps of rice.
  5. For the vinaigrette
  6. Place all the ingredients in the carafe of a blender and blend until smooth and emulsified. Pour over the rice and peas and stir with the fork to coat everything. Cover and chill the salad several hours or overnight.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Mint Julep Vinaigrette

Mint Julep Vinaigrette

Every once in awhile, you absolutely stumble over an idea that makes you feel like a real culinary wizard. This is one of those for me. I was having some friends over to grill burgers. I made a few dishes and I’d picked up some amazing produce at the farmers market, including some beautiful butter lettuces. I had a master plan, but at the last minute, I realized I needed a light dressing for those lovely leaves. I took stock of what I had on hand and inventoried the ingredients in the other dishes I had prepared so I didn’t overlap too much. I had a lot of fresh mint (I always have a lot of fresh mint), so I started there. Literally standing at my kitchen counter with that mint and those lettuces, I spied the bottle of bourbon on the bar and the light bulb switched on “mint julep!” This last minute creation was huge hit.

I love this in the simplest of salads, just beautiful fresh lettuces lightly tossed with the dressing, but it can add a lot of flavor to a salad with toasted pecans and salty goat cheese. I really want to try this drizzled over a salad topped with some grilled chicken or shrimp.

Mint Julep Vinaigrette
Yields 1
  1. ½ cup densely packed mint leaves
  2. 3 Tablespoons bourbon
  3. 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  4. 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  5. ½ teaspoon salt
  6. ½ cup olive oil
  1. Place the mint, bourbon, vinegar, sugar and salt in a blender and blend to finely chop the mint and dissolve the sugar. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until combined. Store in the fridge in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake well before serving
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/