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.

Summer Squash and Leek Gratin

Squash casserole is a Southern summer must. My go to has been a classic version, rich with cheese and sour cream, and I adapted that for a pimento cheese version in my first book, Pimento Cheese the Cookbook. Most southerners deal with an overabundance of summer squash, whether it’s from friends who garden or the irresistible urge to buy the locally grown, beautiful sunshine yellow vegetable at the farmers market.  So we are always looking for new and interesting ways to serve fresh squash. This gratin has the beautifully creaminess we love  in squash casserole, but is lighter and very fresh and bright.  My mom told me this was the best thing I’ve made recently, and what better endorsement could there be.

I like that the leeks in this dish complement the squash without overwhelming – the brilliant sunny taste of the squash shines through. Thyme is my favorite herb with squash, but feel free to branch out with marjoram or oregano. Nutty gruyere cheese and a light hit of breadcrumbs make a rustic topping, but you could also use fontina or swiss.

Summer Squash and Leek Gratin
Serves 8
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Ingredients
  1. 2 large leeks, white and lightest green parts only
  2. 2 pounds yellow summer squash (about 4 medium)
  3. ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
  4. 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (stripped from the stalks)
  5. 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  6. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  7. 1 teaspoon black pepper
  8. 1 cup milk, heated in the microwave or a small pan until hot to the touch
  9. ¾ cup grated gruyere cheese
  10. ½ cup bread crumbs
Instructions
  1. Slice the leeks in in half, then slice the leeks into thin half-moons. Place in a colander and rinse well, then leave to drain for a few minutes. Thinly slice the squash – I use a mandoline, but the slicing blade of a food processor also works, or a knife and a little patience.
  2. Melt 6 Tablespoons of the butter over medium heat in a large, deep-sided sauté pan or a Dutch oven (you need room to stir the squash around). Add the leeks with some water clinging to them and stir to coat with the butter. Cook, stirring frequently, until the leeks are soft and glassy, do not let them brown, about 15 minutes. Add the squash and stir to coat in the butter and combine with the leeks. Cook until the squash is tender and floppy, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle over the thyme leaves, the salt and the pepper and stir to combine. Sprinkle over the flour and stir until there is no dry flour left visible in the pan and cook for about 2 minutes. Stir in the hot milk and bring to a bubble. Cook until the milk has thickened and created a nice sauce for the vegetables, about 5 minutes. Transfer everything to a buttered 2-quart baking dish. If you are making this ahead, leave to cool before proceeding.
  3. Toss the gruyere and breadcrumbs together in a small bowl, then sprinkle evenly over the top of the gratin. Cut the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter into small pieces and dot over the top of the gratin. You can cover the cooled dish at this point and refrigerate for several hours, or bake immediately. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake until bubbly and golden on the top, about 20 minutes.
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Nectarine and Almond Coffee Cake with Whipped Honey Yogurt

I’ll be honest, the first time I set out to make this cake, my idea was to use purple plums, which I had seen at the farmers market the previous week. At that Saturdays market though, there were no plums, but I had promised to make a fruity coffee cake for a girls’ brunch the next day. Fortunately, I found some lovely, rosy nectarines and knew they would work just as well and be a little unique, as I find I don’t make use of nectarines as much as I do the plums or peaches which are in season alongside. I love the grainy, sweet and nutty flavor of almond paste and think it is just perfect paired with fresh stone fruits. It creates a dense, moist cake that is not to sweet and really highlights the fruit. I consider it a coffee cake, but it could perfectly well serve as dessert along with some ice cream. And of course, you can use plums to beautiful effect as well.

The sprinkling of demerara sugar over the batter gives it a lovely, crackly crust that I just love on a brunch cake, but you can omit it or use granulated sugar, though the top won’t be quite as textured. The tangy yogurt whip matches beautifully to the dense almond cake and adds a hint of earthy sweetness. This yogurt makes a wonderful dip for any sliced fruit, or pairs well with other cakes.  The afternoon that I served this, I sliced the one left over nectarine and served it with a little of the slightly deflated yogurt and a sprinkling of nuts for a lovely snack.

Nectarine and Almond Coffee Cake with Whipped Honey Yogurt
Serves 8
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For the Coffee Cake
  1. 8 ounces almond paste
  2. 1 ¼ cup granulated sugar
  3. ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  4. 6 eggs
  5. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  6. 1 cup all-purpose flour
  7. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  8. ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  9. 3- 4 nectarines, pitted
  10. 1 Tablespoon demerara sugar
For the Yogurt
  1. 1 cup Greek yogurt (whole or low fat)
  2. ½ cup heavy cream
  3. 2 Tablespoons honey
For the Cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray.
  2. Beat the almond paste and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer until well combined and creamy. Add the butter and beat until smooth, light and fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla, then add the flour, baking soda and salt and beat until the batter is thick and smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Scrape the butter into the prepared pan and smooth the top to an even layer with a spatula.
  3. Cut the nectarines into chunks and spread evenly over the top of the cake batter. Sprinkle the demerara sugar evenly over the top, then bake until no longer wobbly in the center and a tester comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cool completely.
For the Yogurt
  1. Right before serving the coffee cake, beat the yogurt, cream and honey together in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment until completely combined and fluffy. Serve dolloped over wedges of the cake.
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Buttermilk Coleslaw

Coleslaw is a perfectly refreshing summer side dish, I’m not sure it’s actually allowed to have a summer celebration without it! There are so many delicious versions of coleslaw, and many people have very particular requirements, it can be a somewhat fraught decision about which to serve. But I do like to switch things up, from tangy, vinegary Crispy Picnic Slaw to this creamy iteration that has a very fresh finish perfect in the heat of summer. Some people tell me am a little bit obsessed with buttermilk, and I can’t say they’re wrong. I think it adds such flavor and dimension to everything it touches. In this recipe, buttermilk makes the slaw tangy and fresh with a refreshing creaminess that manages not to be overbearing.

And this coleslaw is versatile. Great with barbecue, hamburgers or hot dogs, or as a part of a cold picnic spread. I grab my vegetables at the farmers market for a local summer treat at the peak of freshness. If you can’t find two kinds of cabbage, one color is perfectly fine, and you can omit the carrots or the radishes, though they add such a lovely, colorful touch. You may want to drain off a little of the dressing before serving, some of the liquid from the cabbage will add to the dressing.

Buttermilk Coleslaw
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 1 small head of green cabbage
  2. 1 small head of purple cabbage
  3. 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  4. 2 carrots
  5. 3 radishes
  6. ½ cup mayonnaise
  7. ½ cup whole buttermilk
  8. ¼ cup granulated sugar
  9. 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  10. 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  11. generous grinds of black pepper.
Instructions
  1. Shred the cabbage – you can do this on the food processor, a box grater, or very thinly slice the cabbage with a large knife. You should have about 10 cups of cabbage Place the cabbage in a colander and toss it with the salt. Leave it to drain for at least an hour, tossing it around a few times. Rinse and drain the cabbage. Spread the cabbage on paper-towel lined baking sheet. Grate the carrots and radishes and toss with the cabbage. Leave to dry for about half and hour. You can pat it dry with more paper towels if you prefer.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, buttermilk, sugar, lemon juice and pepper until thoroughly combined. Add the grated vegetables and toss with a fork to coat the slaw with the dressing. Cover and refrigerate for several hours at least, but overnight is perfect. Toss well before serving. You may want to drain off some accumulated dressing.
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Lady Pea Buttermilk Vichyssoise with Crispy Country Ham

 

When I was a kid, my mom would sometimes in summer serve cold soups for supper. Mostly vichysoisse from a can and something called consommé madrilène. I didn’t not like this. The idea of cold soup just didn’t square in my adolescent brain. But like most things, my mother was right. Cold soup is such a perfectly refreshing summer meal. And it is a great opportunity to make the most of summer’s delicious produce, like my summer squash Vichysquash, or Cold Vidalia Onion Soup. And my favorite summer produce is unquestionably field peas. Add a touch of buttermilk and I am in chilled soup heaven.

Delicate lady peas are perfect for pureeing into a light and creamy soup. Tangy buttermilk and soft leeks add layers of flavor. The crispy country ham adds the perfect salty note and crunchy texture to finish it off. This soup can be an elegant dinner party starter, and I can also see it as one of those soup shooters serves at a cocktail party, with a pretty shard of country ham balanced on the glass. But I also like it for a simple summer dinner, maybe with some sliced tomatoes on the side, and having some in the fridge over a weekend to sip for lunch or a snack is a treat.

Lady Pea Buttermilk Vichyssoise with Crispy Country Ham
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 2 pounds leeks, white and light green parts only (about 3)
  2. ¼ cup butter
  3. 1 pound fresh lady peas
  4. 3 celery stalks
  5. 2 shallots
  6. 6 – 7 stalks of thyme
  7. 2 bay leaves
  8. zest and juice of one large lemon
  9. 1 ¼ cups whole buttermilk
  10. 6 ounces thinly sliced country ham
Instructions
  1. Slice the white and lightest green parts of the leeks into halves lengthwise, then into thin half -moons. Place the leek slices in a strainer submerged in a bowl of water and shake around a bit to loosen any dirt. Let the leeks sit for a few minutes while you melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Remove the strainer and shake out excess water. Drop the leeks into the pot and stir. Sauté until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Do not let the leeks brown.
  2. When the leeks are soft, add the lady peas, the celery stalks (broken in half if needed) and the shallots. Pour over 6 cups of water. Tie the thyme sprigs together with kitchen string and drop in the pot with the bay leaves. Zest and juice the lemon and set aside both. Drop the squeezed out lemon halves in the pot, bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the peas are very tender, about 1 hour.
  3. Fish out the bay leaves, the thyme bundle and the lemon halves, then cool the soup to room temperature. Transfer the soup to a blender (in batches if needed), add the lemon zest and juice and puree until completely smooth. Season well with salt – it may take quite a bit. Pour the soup through a wire mesh strainer, scraping it through, into the cleaned out pot or a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until chilled. Whisk in the buttermilk until smooth and creamy. Taste and season with more salt if needed.
  4. Cut the country ham into thin slivers and cook in a skillet over medium high heat until brown and crispy. Remove to paper towels to drain.
  5. Serve the soup topped with the slivers of country ham.
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Blueberry Zucchini Cake

What grows together goes together is a good way to cook in the kitchen. I love to make the most of in-season produce. I always seem to end up with one more zucchini hanging around and my market bag is always bursting with berries when they are in season. So it seemed only natural to find a way to use them together. And I really love this unique, fresh, summery sheet cake.

I saw a recipe for a zucchini bread with blueberries somewhere, but I didn’t save it our cut it out, the idea just stuck with me. I worked on that idea for a while, but in the end, it seemed to me like a great idea for a straight-up sweet with a twist. The zucchini adds this grassy, vegetal note to the sweetness of the cake and the pop of juicy blueberries. Buttermilk adds a little tang with some freshness brought in with a zip of lemon to the cake and to the sweet, crackly glaze. The added bonus here is that this makes a great big sheet cake that serves a real crowd, so it’s perfect for a summer picnic party.

Blueberry Zucchini Cake
Serves 24
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For the Cake
  1. 2 cups grated zucchini, from about 1 large zucchini
  2. ½ cup whole buttermilk
  3. zest of one lemon
  4. 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
  5. 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  6. 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  7. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  8. 2 large eggs
  9. 3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  10. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  11. ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  12. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  13. 2 cups fresh blueberries
For the Glaze
  1. 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  2. ¼ cup whole buttermilk
  3. 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  4. a dash of nutmeg
For the cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a 15 by 10 inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment or nonstick foil with some overlapping ends.
  2. Combine the grated zucchini, buttermilk, lemon zest and lemon juice in a small bowl and stir to combine. Beat the butter and sugar together in a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, then add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the flour, baking soda, salt and nutmeg alternately with the zucchini mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. When fully combined and smooth, fold in the blueberries with a spatula to evenly distribute them. Spread the batter in the prepared pan, scooting the berries around as needed to distribute them throughout the cake. Bake for 30- 40 minutes until golden and firm and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan.
For the glaze
  1. Whisk the confectioners’ sugar, buttermilk, lemon juice and nutmeg together until smooth. Slowly spread it over the top of the cooled cake to cover the top. Go slow so the glaze doesn’t drip off the sides. Let the glaze set for at least an hour, then slice and serve.
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Ricotta Cake with Blackberry Limoncello Compote

I used to make this cake all the time because it is so simple to put together but is so luscious. I think the original recipe is from a Mollie Katzen Moosewood book, but I have it scrawled in one of my many recipe keeping notebooks. I used to serve it with raspberry coulis when that was in vogue, or with chocolate sauce. That’s kind of the great thing about this cake. It is so simple that it can be the vehicle for any manner of delicious toppings without overwhelming it. The smooth, creamy cake has the texture of cheese cake and is not overly sweet, so it really lets a fruit accompaniment shine. The compote I top it with here was honestly born from having some blackberries from the farmers market and some limoncello a friend made on the counter at the same time. When I whipped up this tart and sweet topping, I knew immediately I had to search through my files for the ricotta cake recipe. I inadvertently pulled together a delightful summer Italian inspired dessert.

Nothing could be an easier summer treat – a few seconds in the food processor and a little time on the stove – no chopping, dicing, whipping and very little clean up involved! This would be equally delicious with Blueberry Basil Compote or Peach Butterbourbon Sauce.

Ricotta Cake with Blackberry Limoncello Compote
Serves 6
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For the Cake
  1. Softened butter for greasing the pan
  2. 2 (15-ounce) containers whole milk ricotta cheese
  3. 3 large eggs
  4. 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  5. 1/3 cup all purpose flour, plus more for the pan
  6. 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  7. Zest from one lemon
  8. 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
For the Compote
  1. 1 Tablespoon butter
  2. 2 pints blackberries
  3. ¼ cup granulated sugar
  4. zest and juice of one lemon
  5. ¼ cup limoncello liqueur
For the Cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan, then sprinkle with flour. Shake the pan to coat with the flour and dump out any excess. Don’t be tempted to use cooking spray – this is an important step.
  2. Put the ricotta, eggs, sugar and flour in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the vanilla, lemon juice and lemon zest and blend until smooth and combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 45 – 55 minutes until the center is set. Touch it lightly with your finger and it should be firm to the touch. Cool completely, then chill for several hours or overnight.
For the Compote
  1. Melt the butter in a sauce pan, then tumble in the blackberries. Stir them around to coat in the butter and cook for a few minutes until they begin to soften. Stir in the sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest and cook for about 3 minutes until the berries release their juices. Use the back of a spoon or spatula to mash about half of the berries as they soften so you have a nice, juicy sauce. Carefully add the limoncello away from heat, and stir to combine. Cook the compote for about 4 minutes, stirring frequently, until the liquid had reduced a little and is thick and syrupy. Set aside to cool.
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Southern Buttermilk Cobb Salad

Summer entertaining should be easy. It is just too hot to spend hours over a steaming stove. But that doesn’t mean a meal can’t be spectacular. And I am telling you, no one will feel cheated with a salad for dinner when it is this full of delicious, hearty components. I love laying this out on a big rectangular platter – it absolutely produces oohs and ahhs. But a big pretty bowl will work as well. The buttermilk poached chicken is tender with a hint of tang, and the buttermilk vinaigrette walks the line between creamy and light perfectly.

Here’s what I do to make this easy. I marinate and cook the chicken a day ahead and chill in the fridge, and hard boil the eggs keeping them in their shell in the fridge as well and whip up the dressing. Then before serving I put the bacon on a baking sheet in the oven to cook until crispy, then drain it on paper towels. Radishes and cucumbers can be sliced and cubed a few hours ahead. Cut the chicken into chunks, peel and slice the eggs, crumble the bacon and shortly before dinner is to be served, just assemble the salad. Serve with some lovely bread and you’ve got a full meal.

What I list here is a guide: go with whatever beautiful fresh vegetables you find. Avocado is traditional on a cobb salad, but I like refreshing locally grown cucumbers, paired with colorful radishes and bright tomatoes. Blue cheese adds a lot of tang, but goat cheese is wonderful too.

Southern Buttermilk Cobb Salad
Serves 8
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Ingredients
  1. Buttermilk Poached Chicken
  2. 3 ½ cups whole buttermilk
  3. 1 Tablespoon hot sauce
  4. Salt and pepper to taste
  5. 3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  6. Buttermilk Vinaigrette
  7. 2 green onions, very finely chopped
  8. 1 clove of garlic, put through a garlic press
  9. 2/3 cup whole buttermilk
  10. 6 Tablespoons olive oil
  11. 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  12. ½ teaspoon hot sauce
  13. Salt and pepper to taste
Salad
  1. 2 heads of romaine lettuce
  2. 3 hard boiled eggs. sliced
  3. 3 large radishes. Thinly sliced
  4. 6 strips of bacon, cooked crisp
  5. ½ cup blue cheese
  6. ½ of a seedless cucumber, cubed
  7. 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
For the chicken
  1. Stir the buttermilk, hot sauce, and a hearty dose of salt and pepper together in a large saucepan. Add the chicken breasts and refrigerate for four hours or overnight. Place the pan over medium low heat and bring the buttermilk just to a simmer – do not boil. Cook just at a bubble until the chicken is cooked through, about 30 – 40 minutes. I like to use a probe thermometer to gauge that the chicken has reached 165 degrees. The buttermilk will separate and look a little curdled, that’s fine. When the chicken is cooked through, remove it and rinse off the curdy buttermilk. Pat the chicken dry, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
For the Vinaigrette
  1. Place all the ingredients in a pint jar and shake well to combined. I like to make this a day ahead so the flavors really meld together and store it in the fridge. Shake well before serving.
Assembly
  1. Layer a large platter or salad bowl with torn romaine leaves, then top with the chicken, vegetables, eggs, bacon and cheese, Drizzle with the vinaigrette.
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Fresh Strawberry Biscuits with Chocolate Gravy

I have combined a lot of words I like here. Strawberries and biscuits and chocolate. I’m not sure I can do any better for a strawberry season brunch treat. I think strawberries and chocolate are a timeless pairing, though usually found in desserts and candies. Of course, I’m not saying you can’t eat these for dessert, but they make a really lovely surprise on a breakfast or brunch menu. Classic Southern biscuits get an upgrade with seasonal strawberries and a little sweet sugar. Inspired by my Fresh Corn Buttermilk Biscuits, these pale pink beauties are tender and moist and packed with strawberry flavor. Traditional Southern chocolate gravy is rich and chocolate-y without being cloying or tooth-achingly sweet.

These biscuits are also wonderful for strawberry shortcake, split open and layered with whipped cream and sliced, macerated berries. Or mix up a little strawberry butter to spread on them, or your best homemade strawberry jam. The chocolate gravy is wonderful (and traditional) on plain buttermilk biscuits – but if you make these for breakfast or brunch and have some extra gravy, it is very good on ice cream after dinner!

Fresh Strawberry Biscuits with Chocolate Gravy
Yields 12
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For the Biscuits
  1. 1/3 cup unsalted butter
  2. 12 ounces strawberries
  3. 5 Tablespoons granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  4. 1 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing
  5. 4 ½ - 5 cups soft wheat flour (such as White Lily)
  6. 4 teaspoons baking powder
  7. A pinch of salt
For the Gravy
  1. ¾ cup granulated sugar
  2. ¼ cup cocoa powder
  3. 3 Tablespoons flour
  4. 2 cups whole milk
  5. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  6. ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, softened
For the Biscuits
  1. Melt the butter and set aside to cool. Hull the strawberries, cut into chunks and place about 10 ounces in a blender with 4 Tablespoons sugar (1/4 cup). Puree until very smooth (you can add a drop of cream to get things going if needed). Pour the puree into a 2-cup measuring jug. You should have about 1 cup puree. Puree some more strawberries if needed. Add cream to measure 2 cups of liquid. Return the liquid to the blender, add the melted butter and blend until smooth.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix 3 ½ cups flour, the remaining 1 Tablespoon of sugar, the baking powder and salt with a fork until blended. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the wet ingredients. Using the fork, blend everything together, pulling the flour into the wet ingredients until everything is incorporated. Lightly flour your hands and work in up to another 1 cup of flour until you have a soft, cohesive dough. Don’t treat the dough too rough – you want a tender biscuit. Cut three or four strawberries into small pieces and sprinkle them over the dough. Lightly knead in a little more flour and the strawberry pieces until you have a nice, soft, cohesive dough dotted with berries. Don’t be tempted to use more berries – they can make the dough watery.
  3. Line a small rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly flour a work surface and turn the dough out onto it. Lightly knead the dough, folding it over on itself, about 6 times, then pat it out into a circle 1-inch thick. Using a floured 2- inch biscuit cutter, cut the biscuits by just pressing down and lifting out – don’t twist the cutter. Place the biscuits on the prepared baking sheet, almost touching. You can pat out the dough scraps to cut more biscuits, but they are never quite as pretty. I usually get nine biscuits on the first go, then three more from a second pat out. Refrigerate the biscuit dough for 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees/
  5. Brush the tops of the biscuits with cream and sprinkle a light sparkle of sugar over the top. Bake the biscuits for 8 minutes, rotate the pan and cook for a further 2 – 3 minutes until they are firm and cooked through.
For the Gravy
  1. Sift the sugar, cocoa powder and flour together into a medium saucepan. You want the dry ingredients lump free from the start. Add the milk and vanilla extract and cook over medium high heat, whisking frequently until the gravy is smooth and thick (like gravy). Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter a few pieces at a time until it is melted and smooth.
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Pineapple Ginger Fruit Dip

I am forever looking for interesting ways to serve strawberries on a spring buffet. Their natural beauty brightens up any table, and I always want to make the most of their short growing season. Not that there is anything wrong with eating strawberries on their own, but it’s nice to have a little delicious extra to highlight their flavor. This sweet citrus saucehas been my go to, but I wanted to mix things up with this slightly tropical blend that hints of summer to come.

I like that this dip is full of flavor, but not too sweet. That way you really get the sweetness from the berries. But you could add a little powdered sugar into the mix if you like – just taste both the berries and the dip first so you don’t go overboard. And of course, this works beautifully with other fruit. You can leave out the rum if you must, but it adds a perfect undernote.

Pineapple Ginger Fruit Dip
Yields 2
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Ingredients
  1. 1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple
  2. 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  3. ¼ cup Greek yogurt
  4. ¼ cup chopped crystallized ginger
  5. 1 Tablespoon dark rum
Instructions
  1. Drain the pineapple well over a bowl to catch the juice. Beat the cream cheese, pineapple, yogurt, ginger and rum together in a food processor (a mini is fine) until smooth and well combined. Beat in enough of the reserved pineapple juice to create a dippable consistency. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, then serve with strawberries or other fruit.
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Roasted Butternut and Onion Soup

One of my favorite grocery innovations of the last few years is the ready availability of pre-cut butternut squash. I love butternut, but peeling and seeding it myself for a quick weeknight meal more trouble than I am generally willing to undertake. So butternut squash dishes used to be a special occasion food for me. But now, so many stores offer peeled and ready to use pieces, it’s a regular menu item in my kitchen. And this soup is in frequent rotation in my kitchen, because for very little effort, the result is surprisingly complex and deep.

Roasting both the squash and the onion brings out the sweetness and adds an almost smoky note. Don’t be shy – the onions should get a little black in places and deeply browned in others. Just make sure it is very soft all the way through. Keep an eye on the squash – the size of the pieces you start with will determine how long it will take to get nice brown edges and a soft center. I like to pour everything through a strainer to produce a silkier result, but it is not a deal breaker. Top this soup however suits your fancy. A dollop of sour cream or crème fraiche, a swirl of olive oil, a sprinkling of toasted nuts, or simple croutons floating in the bowl.

Roasted Butternut and Onion Soup
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 3 medium yellow onions
  2. 2 pounds peeled butternut squash pieces
  3. olive oil
  4. kosher salt and black pepper
  5. 6 cups chicken broth
  6. ¼ cup sage leaves
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with non-stick foil to make clean up simple.
  2. Peel the onions and cut into quarters. Leave the stem end intact to hold the quarters together. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, just enough to lightly coat the onions. I use my hands to spread just a light coat of oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast the onions for 1 hour, or until charred in places and soft so that a knife slips right through.
  3. Place the squash cubes on the second baking sheet. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, again, just enough to barely coat the pieces. Toss them around with your hands to coat with the oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast the squash for 45 minutes to an hour, just until lightly browned in places and very soft. The time this takes will depend on the size of the squash pieces, so check frequently and remove from the oven when done.
  4. Let the onions and the squash cool slightly, then begin pureeing with a few cups of broth and the sage leaves. You will probably need to do this in several batches – use about 2 cups of broth with each batch. Pour the puree through a strainer into a large Dutch oven. Season with salt and pepper as needed and heat through. You can add a bit of water to thin the soup out if you would like.
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