Southern Snacks Cookbook

The Southern Sympathy Cookbook

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.

French Apple Hazelnut Loaf with Quatre Épices

French Apple Hazelnut Loaf

Some years ago, on a cooking trip to France, I bought every manner of French ingredient I could fit in my suitcase (removing the dirty clothes to an extra folded bag that came with me for this exact purpose). I visited gourmet markets, specialty traiteurs and big box grocery chains. It was marvelous. I tucked in jars of fine herbes, herbes de provence and a jar of quatre épices, to make sure I had covered all my seasoning bases. Quatre épices is a classic French seasoning of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg with bite from black or white pepper. It is used in all manner of ways – traditionally in pates and terrines, but also in pain d’épices, a traditional spice bread I had tasted in a food tour in Paris. I made a version of pain d’épices for every occasion I could, and sprinkled it in daubes and on braised vegetables. Eventually, what was left lost its flavor and scent and I moved on to other things. But I recently stopped in a lovely spice shop on a trip to Charlottesville, Virginia, and was thrilled to stumble across quatre épices on the shelf. I tucked a little bag in my suitcase (it’s a thing with me) and couldn’t wait to get home and use it.  I, of course, planned to make some pain d’ épices, but the first weekend home found me with some apples from the farmers market. As I pondered the best way to combine the two, it immediately came to me to incorporate my newest obsession, hazelnut flour, which I find at better grocery stores.

This loaf is homey and nutty and perfect for fall. Your house will smell wonderful while its baking. It’s a lightly sweet and spice treat – the elusive warmth of pepper adds a real difference. I love the sprinkling of rough textured demerara sugar to give a crackly topping. This loaf is perfect for a chilly autumn breakfast or as a lovely afternoon snack. It is the perfect companion to a mug of warm apple cider.

Make you own quatre épices and store the leftovers in a jar. You’ll want to come back to this recipe, but try it sprinkled over roasting sweet potatoes or to make spiced nuts.

French Apple Hazelnut Loaf with Quatre Épices

1 ½ cups hazelnut flour

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup tightly packed light brown sugar

3 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons quatre épices

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

¾ cup canola oil

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large apples

1 Tablespoon chopped hazelnuts

1 Tablespoon demerara sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a 8 ½ inch loaf pan with baking spray.

Mix the hazelnut flour, flour, brown sugar, baking soda, quatre épicesand salt together in a large mixing bowl, breaking up any lumps. Measure the buttermilk and oil in a 4-cup measuring jug, then break in the eggs and add the vanilla and beat together. Add to the dry ingredients in the bowl and mix until just moist. Grate the unpeeled apples into the batter using the large holes of a box grater. I like to grate one side to the core, then turn to the next until I have grated the flesh from the whole apple and am left with the core. Quickly stir the apples into the batter until evenly distributed and there is no trace of dry ingredients visible. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle over the chopped hazelnuts, then the demerara sugar.

Bake for 45 – 50 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes put clean. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Quatre Épices

1 tablespoon ground cloves

1 tablespoon ground nutmeg

1 tablespoons finely ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Put all the ingredients into a small jar and tighten the lid. Shake until thoroughly and evenly combined. Store in the jar for a few months.

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Salted Honey Chess Pie

Salted Honey Chess Pie

I have been on a quest for some time now to create a dessert that really tastes of honey. I make amny desserts that have honey as a sweetener, but the rich, earthy taste of honey is often masked by other ingredients. I mastered the honey flavored cake with my  Honey Raspberry Cake, but then I tasted this amazing, almost creamy, honey tart at an afternoon tea in London. It was just one of several pastries on the lovely display. At first I thought it might just be whipped honey in a pastry case, but the server assured me it was a baked tart, but she had no recipe to give. When I returned to my kitchen, I googled around and found a number or English and Welsh honey tart recipes and got to work. But none of them had the potent hit of honey I was looking for. I experimented until I came on what I wanted – basically circling back to home to make a pie that tastes of honey with the texture of a classic chess. And I must say, I even impressed myself with this one.

With all things honey related, I use a locally sourced honey for purity of flavor. And there are lots of local sources of honey at farmers markets and local groceries. This pie is rich with honey, and I felt kind of genius when I added a dose of sea salt to cut through the sweetness and highlight the complexities of the honey. I love sprinkling the top with big flakes of sea salt, like Falk brand, but any flaky salt will do. I think this is best all on its own, but you could certainly add a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream. Anything else will be too sweet and disrupt the beautiful salt-sweet balance.

I make my own pie crust – usually – but am not averse to using the ready-made rolls of crust. A removeable bottom tin works best here, but I sometimes fit the crust into a springform pan for an elegant straight sided look.

Salted Honey Chess Pie

For the crust:

1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon sugar

8 Tablespoons (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small pieces

2 to 4 Tablespoons ice water

For the Filling:

½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted

¾ cup honey

¾ cup light brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 eggs

3 Tablespoons cornmeal

2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup heavy cream

3 Tablespoons lemon juice

Flaky salt for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Place the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to mix.  Drop in the small pieces of cold butter and pulse several times until the mixture is crumbly, but some minute pieces of butter are still visible.  Sprinkle the water over, a tablespoon at a time, and pulse to combine.  When the pastry just comes together, dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat into a disk about ¾ inch thick. Wrap the disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour before rolling.

When ready to roll, place the disk on a lightly floured surface and using a floured rolling pin, roll out the pastry to a round about 14 inches in diameter, to fit a nine inch removable bottom tart pan.  Carefully drape the pastry over the rolling pin and transfer to the pie dish.  Gently fit into the bottom and sides of the dish.  Trim any overhanging pastry. Line the crust with parchment paper, then fill the paper with baking weights or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes until then remove from the oven, cool and remove the paper and weights.

For the Pie:

Preheat the oven to 375°.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, honey and brown sugar until pale and shiny, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla, cornmeal, flour and salt, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary, until thoroughly combined. Beat in the cream and lemon juice, scraping the bowl, until incorporated and smooth. Pour the filling into the prepared crust and bake for 35 – 40 minutes, until the filling is puffed and golden brown and not jiggly in the center. Cool completely, then chill, covered, in the fridge until firm, up to one day. Sprinkle the top with flaky sea salt before serving.

I find it easiest to slice the pie right out of the fridge, but best served with the chill off.

Serves 6

Green Tomato Vanilla Cake

Green Tomato Vanilla Cake

Over the years, I have seen a number of recipes in old school Southern community cookbooks for green tomato cake. The idea intrigued me – it sounds so old fashioned and resourceful to me. I could just imagine a cook making the most of everything in the garden to create something special, or I like to imagine that this cake is born of scarcity, a recipe that uses what’s on hand rather than expensive or hard to come by fruit. I don’t actually know the origin. I marked those pages with little sticky flags and for a long time, never went back to them. The truth is, I’ve never really known what to do with green tomatoes, so I don’t usually have any to hand. Of course, fried green tomatoes (and there is a great recipe in my book Pimento Cheese the Cookbook) and once I made a fantastic green tomato marmalade, but I lost the recipe and can’t seem to find anything similar. So those little sticky flags languished and curled on the cookbook shelf. Until the day I bought a basket of green tomatoes at the farmers market to make some fried slices, but the dinner got cancelled, I didn’t want to do it just for myself etc etc, which left me stuck with some green tomatoes. I remembered those marked recipes and started to work. It took me many tries to land where I wanted. That the first attempt may not have been right, but there was something there to make me keep trying.

Some of those original recipes were of the old-fashioned kind that assume a lot of existing knowledge. One actually said to chop tomatoes fine and stir into a tube cake batter. Add cinnamon and nuts.  That’s the entire recipe. I searched the internet and found a few examples to try. There are sheet cake and Bundt cake ideas, but I like the dense beauty of a Bundt. Most of the recipes had nuts and/or raisins and spices like cinnamon and nutmeg or apple pie spice. I liked those, but they really just seemed like spice cake with a stunt ingredient, not a special flavor all its own. I wanted more interest from the green tomatoes. So I stripped it back. Instead of beating butter and sugar, I went for a flavorless oil not to distract and to help keep things moist. A little lemon juice brightens it up and the vanilla is mellow and complimentary. This cake doesn’t shout green tomato, there is just this lovely, earthy mysterious background note.

I turn to green tomatoes from the farmers market at the end of the full, red juicy tomato season. They offer one last gasp of tomato as we move into Fall. This is one of those cakes that could be a dessert or a breakfast or an afternoon snack. You could try a simple glaze on top or drizzle it with honey or serve it with ice cream. It’s tender on the inside and with a wonderfully sweet crust.

Green Tomato Vanilla Cake

2 medium sized green tomatoes (a little less than 1 pound total)

½ teaspoon kosher salt

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup packed light brown sugar

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 cup canola oil

4 large eggs

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Cut the tomatoes into rough chunks and place in the bowl of a small food processor. Pulse until the tomatoes are finely chopped – do not puree, just break them up into small pieces (you can also do this by hand). Scrape the tomato into a strainer and sprinkle over the salt. Leave the tomatoes to drain, stirring and pressing down a few times, for 15 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a 12-cup Bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Put the flour, both sugars, baking powder and soda in the bowl of a stand mixer and turn it on low speed to stir together until combined and any clumps of brown sugar are broken up. Add the oil and beat to combine, then add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beating in each egg before adding the next. Beat in the lemon juice and vanilla until combined. Add the chopped tomatoes and beat for a few seconds, then use a spatula to evenly distribute the tomatoes. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 – 50 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then turn the cake out on a wire rack to cool completely.

The cake will keep tightly covered for a day.

Serves 10

Honey Mustard Potato Salad

Honey Mustard Potato Salad

I am generally a planner – I like to think about menu ideas and recipes for a while before I entertain. But I am getting better at loosening things up and learning to go with the flow.

Case in point, I ran into a friend on the Friday of a holiday weekend and we realized we had not major plans so decided to get together to cook burgers and hot dogs. A trip to the farmers market provided some easy, late summer produce, but as I ran through the grocery to grab the extra bits in pieces, I snagged a bag of baby potatoes thinking that everyone likes potatoes with their meat. But I didn’t really have a plan. Sometimes, as a recipe developer, I get caught up in always trying to innovate – to add to recipes, give them a new twist. And I pondered those potatoes, knowing I wanted to do a potato salad. But the celery in the fridge had gone limp, I’d earmarked the onions for other things, I had no sour cream, there was bacon in another dish. So this recipe came together out of what I had on hand. And you know what, sometimes simple is better. Just a little shallot and some herbs with lovely potatoes and an American classic dressing. No bells, no whistles. Just a good, solid potato salad.

Roasting the potatoes adds an extra layer of flavor to this simple salad – but you want to be sure to roast the potatoes very crispy, so don’t let any oil pool on the roasting pan. Same with the dressing – just coat the potatoes, don’t drown them.

Honey Mustard Potato Salad

2 pounds small yellow potatoes, or a combination of yellow and red

1 shallot

¼ cup finely minced Italian parsley

2 Tablespoons mayonnaise

2 Tablespoons whole grain mustard

2 Tablespoons honey

2 Tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425°.

Cut the potatoes into bite-sized pieces of roughly the same size for even cooking. Put the potato pieces in a ziptop bag and pour over the olive oil. Toss the potatoes around until they are evenly coated in oil, then lift them out of the bag and spread them on a rimmed baking sheet (you can line it with foil for easy cleanup). You just want a light coating of oil with none pooling on the baking sheet, so it is better not to just pour them out of the bag. Sprinkle very liberally with salt and pepper and roast for 25 – 30 minutes, until the potatoes are golden brown and crispy and a knife inserted in a piece slides smoothly in. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.

Whisk the mayo, mustard, honey and oil in a small bowl. Toss the cooled potatoes with the chopped shallot and the parsley, then pour over the dressing and gently toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, but overnight is great.

Serves 8

Slow Roasted Zucchini with Fennel and Tomatoes

Slow Roasted Zucchini

I am always so intrigued by the adorable little baby zucchini I see in the farmers market, but I’ve never been sure about what to do with them that preserves their sweet size. I’ve cut them long ways and grilled the halves, but it always seems a shame to just slice them as you would a full size version. A few years ago, I read in a magazine about slow roasting these babies and I was dubious but willing to try. And it’s a doozy – a totally different experience from those crisp grilled or sautéed rounds or the casserole route. The whole zucchini become meltingly tender and sweet, and the aromatic vegetable ragout underneath gently flavors them and adds a lovely topping. I love the bright bight of fennel that adds a lovely sort of Mediterranean touch with a hint of oregano.

Look for the baby zucchini – about 4 inches long and an inch around. 1 zucchini with some vegetables spooned over the top will serve a person as a perfect side to a summer meal. Create a thin bed of fennel and shallot, not to deep but the zucchini shouldn’t touch the bottom of the pan.

Slow Roasted Zucchini

1 small bulb of fennel, very thinly sliced (or ½ of a small bulb)

1 shallot, very thinly sliced

4 ounces of small cherry tomatoes

4 – 5 stalks of oregano

½ cup vermouth

2 Tablespoons olive oil

5- 6 small zucchini, about 4 inches long

Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375°. Pour 1 Tablespoon of olive oil over the bottom of a 2-quart baking dish – the zucchini should fit without touching each other. Spread the fennel and shallots on a layer on the dish and add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Toss around with your hands to coat with the oil, then spread in a thin layer. Prick the zucchini all over with a thin, sharp knife, then place the on top, tuck the oregano sprigs around the zucchini, then drizzle over the remaining 1 Tablespoon oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Cover the dish tightly with foil and roast for 1 ½ – 2 hours, carefully turning the zucchini over half way through cooking, until the zucchini is very soft. Remove the foil and cook for a further five minutes.

To serve, gently place a zucchini on a plate and spoon over some of the fennel, shallots and tomatoes.

Serves 6