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.

Scandi-Style Potatoes

Scandi-Style Potatoes

Potatoes are a real kitchen workhorse. They go with anything – fish, chicken, beef, pork, lamb – and it is easy to make them taste good. Tossed with a little olive oil and herbs and roasted, mashed with butter and milk, baked and topped with all manner of things, cold in a potato salad. I’m a believer that if you have a potato in the house, you always have a meal. But I also admit to falling into a rut. I spend a lot of time working on a main dish, figuring I’ll just cook some potatoes to go with it. The roasted version is my go to, and everyone seems to like them that way. I sometimes pull out the mandolin and slice up a pile for a cheese gratin or a simple pommes boulangere, but I am not always as creative as I could be.

Nowadays, I am also always intrigued by the variety and color range of the potatoes we find in the stores and farmers markets. I can barely resist the selection of jewel-toned orbs available now, and sometimes come home from a shop with way more than I intended. So I look for ways to push the boat out a little, try something new and different to expand my potato horizons. I found a version of this recipe in a community cookbook that involved way more packaged and processed ingredients than I am comfortable with, but I saw the potential and soldiered on. That recipe was called German Potatoes, but these have more of a Scandanavian feel to me – maybe it’s the dill, but really the glaze reminds me of the sweet-tangy sauce on Swedish meatballs. I love to use the bite-size multi-colored potatoes when I find them, but simple red or yellow ones will do. These spuds are perfect with a simple roast meal like a good chicken, a fatty pork roast or a simple beef tenderloin.

Scandi-Style Potatoes
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 2 pounds small potatoes
  2. 6 strips of bacon
  3. 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  4. 2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
  5. 2 Tablespoons flour
  6. ½ cup granulated sugar
  7. ½ cup cider vinegar
  8. ¾ cup water
  9. 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Instructions
  1. Choose small potatoes about the size of a ping pong ball, but if they are larger cut them half. Cook the potatoes just until tender – I prefer to steam them over boiling water for about 20 minutes, which helps them hold their shape, but you can also boil them for about 15 minutes.
  2. Drain the potatoes and set aside, covered with a tea towel to keep warm. Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook over in a saucepan large enough to hold the potatoes until crispy. Remove to a paper towel lined plate with a slotted spoon. Let the bacon grease cool for about 5 minutes, then add the chopped onion and celery. (If you add the veg to the hot grease, they will burn). Cook over medium heat, until the vegetables are soft and translucent. Sprinkle over the flour and stir to coat the vegetables. Cook for a few minutes until the flour has disappeared and the mixture is thick. Add the sugar and stir well until dissolved. Pour over the vinegar and water and continue cooking until the sauce is thickened, about 15 minutes. Stir in the chopped dill.
  3. Add the potatoes to the sauce and stir to coat completely. Add the chopped bacon to combine. Cook until everything is warmed through, and serve immediately.
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Greek Inspired Shrimp and Feta Spaghetti

Greek Inspired Shrimp and Feta SpaghettiThe Greek flavors of a shrimp, tomato and feta are a favorite of mine, and always remind me of summer, and a trip to Greece and the island of Mykonos one summer many years ago. Our favorite dish was Shrimp Saganaki, a rich tomato sauce with shrimp nestled in, covered in a blanket of fresh feta cheese. None of my travelling companions or I knew much about Greek food at the time, and when we discovered this, we were glad to see it on almost every menu. I am sure we ate it every day of our trip, possibly even twice a day. This particular dish is also inspired by one of my favorite summer pastas, the Tomato, Herb and Brie Pasta I unknowingly laid claim to as my own creation for years. The idea of leaving ingredients to steep and soften before tossing in hot pasta struck me and I have used the technique in many ways, but this is a great version and perfect for a quick summer meal.

Feta cheese doesn’t melt like the brie in the original dish, but the small crumbles will cling to the pasta and the shrimp. While the sauce mixture is sitting, the tomatoes soften and release some juice and the herbs and lemon meld together, making for a really bright and fresh dish. Feta cheese is salty, so season lightly at first, then adjust at serving.

Greek Inspired Shrimp and Feta Spaghetti
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 4 plum tomatoes
  2. 1 clove garlic
  3. ¼ cup chopped oregano
  4. zest and juice of one lemon
  5. 8 ounces crumbled feta cheese
  6. ¼ cup olive oil
  7. salt and pepper
  8. 1 pound spaghetti
  9. 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  10. ½ cup white wine
Instructions
  1. Remove the seeds from the tomatoes, finely dice the flesh and place in a bowl big enough to hold all the pasta. Put the garlic through a press, or finely chop it, sprinkling a little salt over it during the process.  This helps mellow the garlic - you don’t want big chunks. Add the lemon zest and juice, the oregano and feta cheese to the bowl and season lighlty with salt and pepper. Add the olive oil and stir to combine. Leave to sit for at least an hour, but up to three is fine.
  2. When ready to serve, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta according to the package instructions, about 12 minutes. While the pasta is cooking, bring the wine to a boil in a medium skillet and add the shrimp. Continue cooking until the shrimp are pink and cooked through and the wine is reduced to just a couple of Tablespoons.
  3. Put the cooked shrimp and reduced wine in the bowl with the other ingredients, then drain the pasta and put it on top. Cover with a towel and let sit a few minutes, then toss everything together and serve immediately.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Queso Fundido Soup

Queso Fundido SoupCinco de Mayo approaches and with it, thoughts of the completely Americanized restaurant specialty, queso, or cheese dip as we used to call it. I, and pretty much anyone from in Memphis, grew up on a thin, cold cheese dip created by the area’s first Mexican restaurant. It is still a favorite and available at local groceries in a plastic tub, and a true guilty pleasure for me. Next came Ro-tel dip, melted Velveeta cheese mixed with canned tomato and green chile mix. No teenage party was complete without it. Then a restaurant opened in town serving the first incarnation of what was considered “authentic” Mexican food. It was the first place in town to serve fajitas. And with it came queso fundido (they title their version queso flameado). Spicy chorizo sausage covered in melty cheese, served in a hot skillet. The restaurant has been opened over 25 years, but that dip was a game changer at the time, adding such zip and interest to an old standby.

I was thinking about that dip, and other delicious versions of queso fundido I’ve sought out over the years, when I created this soup. It’s a flavorful and fun meal-in-a-bowl with lots of toppings and flavor addition possibilities. Start the meal with chips and salsa or guacamole and mix up a pitcher of margaritas and celebrate the spirit of Cinco de Mayo.

Queso Fundido Soup
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 9 ounces Mexican pork chorizo sausage
  2. 1 cup finely diced onion
  3. 1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles, drained
  4. 1 clove garlic, minced
  5. ½ teaspoon mild chili powder
  6. ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  7. 4 cups chicken broth
  8. 1 ½ cups whole milk
  9. ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  10. 8 ounces Monterrey jack cheese, grated
  11. 2 small plum tomatoes
  12. fresh cilantro
  13. tortilla chips or strips
Instructions
  1. Sauté the chorizo in a Dutch oven, breaking the meat up with a spatula as you go. When the chorizo releases some of its fat, add the onion, green chiles and garlic and stir well. Cook until the chorizo is cooked through and the onions and chiles are soft, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the chili powder and cumin. Pour in the chicken broth, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  2. Measure the milk in a 2-cup jug and whisk in the flour until smooth and completely dissolved. Stir the milk mixture into the soup and cook at a low bubble – not a boil – until slightly thickened. Reduce the heat to low. Reserve about a half cup of the cheese to top the soup, then stir in the remaining cheese, ½ cup at a time, making sure each addition is melted and smooth before adding the next.
  3. Serve the soup in large bowl topped with chopped tomato, minced cilantro, a little grated cheese and some tortilla strips.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Irish Barmbrack (Fruit and Tea Loaf)

Irish Barmbrack (Fruit and Tea Loaf)I picked up a recipe card in a grocery store in London for a fruit and tea loaf. It sounded good, so I was looking for the ingredients. A lovely lady with a lilting Irish accent was helping me, but she told me that I’d be better off making a real barmbrack than using a product-promoting recipe card. I’d never heard of barmbrack, so she explained that it was a traditional treat her granny always made back in Ireland. She outlined the ingredients and steps in some detail and I took notes on the back of a Tube map I had in my purse, right there in the baking aisle at Waitrose. I never did make the recipe card bread, but when I got home to my own kitchen, I started a little research on barmbrack and developed my recipe in combination with her notes.

Here is what I learned. Barmbrack is traditionally served at Halloween, and sometimes little charms or a coin are baked into the loaf to predict various fortunes for those who get the charm in their slice. There is some dispute, as far as I can make out, as to whether a version made with yeast is the original or the batter bread came first. My grocery store guru never mentioned yeast, so I went with the simpler version. Most recipes I read and the ingredients she listed included candied peel and cherries, but I can only find those readily available during the Christmas, so I substituted dried sweet cherries and citrus zest and juice. The long soak in tea gives this bread a nice tannic finish and a subtle flavor. The bread is fruity but not overly sweet.

I offer this recipe in time for St. Patrick’s Day, even if that is not traditional, because it always reminds me of my Irish grocery pal (I like to imagine her name was something wonderful like Siobhan or Aoife) and the name is so musically Irish, especially with the Irish spelling báirín breac, which means “speckled bread.” And this dense, fruit studded, tea infused loaf is good at any time of year, spread with good Irish butter or with a slice of Irish cheddar.

Irish Barmbrack (Fruit and Tea Loaf)
Serves 10
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Ingredients
  1. 2 black tea bags (Earl Gray or English Breakfast)
  2. ¾ cups black raisins
  3. ¾ cup golden raisins
  4. ½ cup currants
  5. ¼ cup dried sweet cherries
  6. 1 medium navel orange, zest and juice
  7. 1 medium lemon, zest and juice
  8. 1 egg
  9. ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
  10. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  11. ½ teaspoon baking soda
  12. ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  13. ¼ teaspoon cloves
  14. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  15. ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  16. 2 Tablespoons buttermilk or milk
Instructions
  1. Brew 1 cup of tea with the two teabags. It should be strong tea. Toss the dried fruits together in a large bowl and cover with the tea and stir. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave the fruit to soak overnight, giving it a stir if you happen to remember.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a standard 9 by 5 loaf pan with cooking spray.
  3. Zest the orange and the lemon into the bowl of fruit and tea and stir to combine. Squeeze the orange, then the lemon to make ½ cup juice (more orange juice is a little sweeter than too much lemon). Add the juice to the bowl and stir, then crack in the egg and stir to combine. Add the brown sugar, flour, soda and spices and stir until the batter comes together. Add the buttermilk or milk. This is a thick batter, but make sure all the dry ingredients are mixed in with the wet. If you need too, you can add a little bit more buttermilk to pull things together.
  4. Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan and press it out to an even layer. Bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
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Chicken Katsu Curry

Chicken Katsu CurryI will tell you right up front. I have never been to Japan, I know very little about Japanese food and I don’t like sushi, so I haven’t explored the local Japanese offerings in depth. I will also tell you my interest in this dish comes from a place I don’t normally get inspiration. I first had this at a fast-casual Japanese restaurant in London that I stopped in to get out of a downpour. It was delicious. Then I saw it as a heat-and-eat meal in the grocery a day or so later and, I admit, I bought it. It too was pretty darn good. So I decided there had to be a way to make the recipe at home, so I started searching the internet. Lots of the recipes that came up were from British websites, which reinforced my sense that katsu is becoming a pretty standard dish in the UK (once something reaches the grocery store shelf, you know the trend has taken off). I discovered several things in my research. First, in every recipe I found, the chicken is breaded and fried. That’s what makes it so delightfully crispy and crunchy. Second, a lot of the curry sauce recipes I found used packaged mixes or ingredients not readily available at home, plus I am not a big fan of packaged mixes.

I wanted to make this an accessible recipe. Frying is a rare thing for me. The mess and the prep and the lingering smell. I fry chicken and fish on the burner of the outdoor grill sometimes, but it is certainly not something I do for a weeknight meal, so I wanted to make a baked version of chicken katsu that was still brown and crispy. And I cobbled together some ingredients and instructions for the curry sauce from some websites written in Japanese and translated (poorly) and few ideas from the English versions. The curry sauce is fantastic, perfect with the crispy chicken and rice, but also delicious served with Japanese noodles.

Chicken Katsu Curry
Serves 6
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For the Curry Sauce
  1. 2 tablespoons canola oil
  2. 1 large onion, diced
  3. 5 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 2 medium carrots, diced
  5. 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  6. 4 teaspoons curry powder
  7. 2 ½ chicken broth
  8. 4 teaspoons soy sauce
  9. 2 teaspoons honey
  10. 1 teaspoon garam masala
For the Chicken
  1. 3 cups panko breadcrumbs
  2. 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  3. 1 cup all-purpose flour
  4. salt and pepper
  5. 2 eggs
Instructions
  1. Pour the canola oil in a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and carrot and stir to coat. Cook, stirring frequently until the vegetables start to soften, then cover the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until everything is very soft and slightly golden and caramelized, about 10 minutes.
  2. Sprinkle over the flour and curry powder and stir to coat the vegetables, then pour in the chicken stock. Add the soy sauce and honey. Stir to dissolve the flour, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until slightly thickened. Stir in the garam masala, then use an immersion blender to just blend the sauce. You don’t need to go for smooth here. Pour the sauce through a strainer into a glass bowl, rinse out the pan and return the sauce to it. Simmer over low heat until the sauce is thickened a little, but still pourable. Season with salt to taste. The sauce can be kept warm over low heat while you make the Katsu, or made a day ahead, cooled, covered and refrigerate. Gently reheat the sauce over low heat.
For the Chicken Katsu
  1. Put the breadcrumbs in a large dry skillet and toast over medium heat, stirring constantly, until they are consistently golden. Turn over and stir constantly to prevent burning. They don’t have to be completely browned, just mostly toasted. Set aside to cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with non-stick foil or parchment paper.
  3. Cut the chicken breasts in half and place each half between two sheets of waxed paper or plastic wrap. Pound with a meat mallet or rolling pin until evenly thin, about ¼ inch thick. Mix the flour with a generous amount of salt and black pepper on a flat plate. Beat the egg with a little splash of water on a second plate and spread the panko out on a third plate. Dip the chicken pieces in the flour and shake off any excess, then dip in the egg and allow the excess to drip off. Press the chicken breast into the panko crumbs, making sure both sides are fully coated, and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with all the chicken.
  4. Bake the chicken for about 20 minutes until crispy and coked through, then serve with a drizzle of curry sauce, with extra sauce in the side for dipping. Serve with rice.
Notes
  1. This recipe makes a more sauce than you think you will need, but it is delicious stirred into rice and I want it with every bite of chicken. Leftover sauce is great tossed with noodles and vegetables.
  2. If you want to be more traditional, don’t toast the panko, but coat the chicken as directed, then fry in about 2 inches of hot vegetable oil.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Greek Shrimp and Orzo Bake with Lemon and Dill

Greek Shrimp and Orzo Bake with Lemon and Dill


A good casserole is pure comfort food. And there are, I know, a million versions of casseroles out there, so coming up with new and unique versions is a welcome challenge for a recipe developer. So here’s my process for creating a recipe like this. I wanted to do something different – still a rich, creamy casserole, but with a twist. First I thought rice or noodles? Which led me to orzo, the small rice shaped pasta. Orzo, for some reason, always puts me in mind of Greek and Mediterranean food, and that made me think of lemons, much like one of my favorites, Greek Lemon Rice Soup. And of course, keeping with the Greek theme, feta cheese was an obvious ingredient. So I started to work out in my mind a recipe with orzo, lemon, feta cheese, herbs and chicken. Frankly, I had just finished my testing on another chicken casserole (recipe coming soon!), and didn’t really want to repeat myself, then the idea of using shrimp popped into my head. And with shrimp, I thought dill would be a bright herbal addition in keeping with the sunny Mediterranean profile. A quick shuffle through the ingredient library in my head led me to capers, to add a salty, briny note and a bit of texture.

That’s how these things work out with me. I wanted to create a creative casserole perfect for family meals or entertaining, and one thought led to another. And I am very pleased with the results, I think this dish meets all my points, unique, comforting packed with flavor and a change-up from the standards.

Greek Shrimp and Orzo Bake with Lemon and Dill
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 1 ½ cups orzo pasta
  2. ¼ cup butter
  3. 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  4. zest of two lemons, divided
  5. ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  6. 3 ½ cups whole milk
  7. 8 ounces crumbled feta cheese, divided
  8. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  9. salt and pepper to taste
  10. 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  11. 1 Tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
  12. 3 Tablespoons capers, drained
  13. 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  14. 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined, thawed if frozen (18 - 20 count)
Instructions
  1. Cook the orzo according to the package directions, reducing the cooking time by one minute. Drain and rise thoroughly with cold water.
  2. Spray a 9 by 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  3. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium high heat, then add the minced garlic and the zest of one lemon. Cook for two minutes until fragrant, then sprinkle over the flour. Cook stirring, until the flour is pale and smooth. Gradually pour in the milk, whisking all the while, and cook until the sauce is thickened and smooth. Whisk in the nutmeg and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir in half of the feta and remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the remaining lemon zest, dill and oregano. Add the capers and the lemon juice and stir until well combined. Stir in the cooked orzo until it is completely separated and coated in the sauce. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.
  4. Rinse the shrimp and pat them dry with paper towels then add to the warm sauce. Stir until everything is combined and well coated with sauce. The shrimp will just begin to turn pink in the warm sauce.
  5. Spoon the casserole into the prepared dish and sprinkle the remaining feta cheese over the top. The casserole can be cooled, covered and refrigerated at this point for several hours.
  6. When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 350° and bake until heated through and bubbling around the edges, about 30 minutes. Turn on the broiler for a few minutes to brown the feta cheese on top if you would like
Notes
  1. Personally, I prefer leaving the shrimp whole, but you may cut them in half before adding to the casserole if you prefer.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Habitant Pea Soup in the Slow Cooker

Habitant Pea SoupLast fall, over a year ago now its hard to believe, I set out on a book tour to share Pimento Cheese The Cookbook (available at your local bookstore or online now) throughout the South, tasting all sorts of local specialties along the way. I drove myself for the whole tour, so I spent a lot of time in the car listening to public radio and a few podcasts. One program I was listening to had a Canadian chef expounding the virtues of Habitant Pea Soup, a traditional Canadian dish I’d never heard of before. Maybe I was in the mood for some home cooked food, or the weather was turning cold or just the enthusiasm of the chef, but the story piqued my interest. And the story of this chef exploring the origins of the soup as a piece of Canadian heritage was fascinating. (If I remembered where I heard it I’d post a link!). He deduced that this was a dish made by the original European explorers out of their meager stores, and that it had remained in the Canadian culinary canon. When I got I home, I did a little research and came up with my own version of the soup, cooked in the slow cooker for simplicity.

Habitant Pea Soup is as comforting and homey as I thought it would be. The split peas, an ingredient I had only used in Indian cooking before, add a nice richness and creaminess to the soup, and the use of a ham hock and a little salt pork keep the soup from being plain or boring. In my research, I found a couple of different ideas. I settle on this version for ease of preparation, but one recipe suggested shredding the ham meat and crisping in a skillet and serving on top of the soup, rather than stirred through. I like that. Some suggested topping the soup with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraiche. I like that too. I can definitely imagine this warming up the original explorers on a cold Canadian night.

Habitant Pea Soup in the Slow Cooker
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 16 ounces yellow split peas
  2. 1 ham hock (about 14 ounces)
  3. 6 ounces salt pork
  4. 1 medium onion, finely diced
  5. 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  6. 1 carrot, finely diced
  7. 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  8. 6 -7 sprigs of thyme
  9. 2 bay leaves
Instructions
  1. Spread the split peas on the bottom of a 7- 8 quart slow cooker. Place the ham hock and salt pork on top, then the onion, celery and carrot. Pour over the chicken broth. Do not stir. Drop in the thyme sprigs (count how many stems so you can remove them later) and the bay leaves. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 7 hours.
  2. Remove the salt pork, thyme stems and bay leaves and discard. Remove the ham hock to a plate and pull the meat off the bone using two forks. If needed, dice the hock meat into bite size pieces. Return the meat to the slow cooker, cover and cook a further 30 minutes.
  3. Serve warm, topped with sour cream of crème fraiche if you like.
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Creamy Cauliflower Parmigiano Gratin

I had the good fortune to spend a month in Italy this summer, a blissful few days of it at the cooking school of Badia a Coltibuono, a medieval abbey turned into a winery and bed and breakfast in the hills of Tuscany. We made pasta by hand and learned the secrets to Italian breads and sauces. On one day, the chef, Benedetta Vitali, told us we would make a cauliflower cheese dish to accompany the evening meal. I have to say, we students were not at first thrilled at the idea. The other ladies in the class were English, where “cauliflower cheese” is a ubiquitous comfort food dish, and I have always been underwhelmed by the seeming bland crucifer. Amidst the amazing classical Tuscan recipes, it seemed sort of plain and uninteresting. But we were there to learn, so we watched and participated as told. The first difference we noticed from our own ideas of the dish was how finely Benedetta insisted we chop the cauliflower, rather than layering florets in a baker. Then she saved the cooking water to use in the sauce. Genius. When the dish was served at dinner, we were all amazed. It was so simple to make, but so packed with flavor, rich and creamy but not heavy or cloying. We each in turn said we’d definitely be making this at home. Homemade, hand rolled gnocchi, we weren’t so sure.

As it happens, it showcased the best of Tuscan cooking – choosing the best in season, fresh ingredients and treating them simply and with respect. True parmigiano-reggiano cheese is the secret to this dish. It adds a salty edge and Italian flair, so splurge on a piece and grate it freshly for this dish. Chopping the cauliflower into pretty fine crumbs makes a huge difference in this recipe. I served this to my extended family, and they loved, each saying “I don’t usually like cauliflower, but this is delicious…”

Creamy Cauliflower Parmigiano Gratin
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 1 head of cauliflower
  2. 10 Tablespoons butter (1 stick plus 2 Tablespoon)
  3. 5 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  4. 1 cup milk
  5. 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Instructions
  1. Place the whole head of cauliflower in a large, deep pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook until soft when pierced with a knife, about 20 minutes. Carefully remove the cauliflower to a plate. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, then wipe out the pot.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350° and grease a 2-quart baking dish.
  3. When the cauliflower is cool enough to handle, remove any stem and leaves, and place on a large chopping board. Cut the head in half, then finely chop – it should be fine crumbs. Repeat with the other half. I use my biggest chopping board and a large knife and scrape the first half of the crumbs onto the plate and continue with the rest.
  4. Melt the butter in the pot, then whisk in the flour until smooth. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is pale and smooth. Whisk in the milk and the reserved cooking water and cook until thickened and smooth. Whisk in the cheese, a handful at a time, until smooth and melted. Fold in the chopped cauliflower until it is all coated in the sauce. Taste and add salt as needed.
  5. Scrape the cauliflower into the prepared baking dish and bake until heated through, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.
  6. The gratin can be cooled, covered and held in the refrigerator for several hours before baking. Adjust the cooking time as needed.
Adapted from Benedetta Vitali
Adapted from Benedetta Vitali
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Pumpkin Tres Leches

Pumpkin Tres Leches

Moist, sweet and tender Tres Leches cake is a favorite of mine. A classic of the cooking canon of many Hispanic cultures, “three milk” cake is simply a delicate cake soaked in a combination of milks. For years, I used a recipe given to me by a friend from Nicaragua that used a box cake mix and it was always a big hit. I eventually developed a from-scratch recipe, and then adapted that to become one of my favorite Christmas dessert, Eggnog Tres Leches. It’s a fabulous holiday dish, because it needs to be made ahead and can serve a crowd. So for Thanksgiving, it seemed only right to come up with a pumpkin version.

Pumpkin Tres Leches is a great treat for any seasonal entertaining, and with its origins is a great choice for a Day of the Dead celebration. Serve it up as a post trick-or-treating feast of Chicken Enchiladas with Pumpkin Sauce or Spicy Chorizo, Pumpkin and Black Bean Chili (because you can’t have too much pumpkin on Halloween). And it is a natural for Thanksgiving and is imminently portable if you are headed to another house for the celebration. An artful dollop of whipped cream and sprinkle of nutmeg add an elegant touch if you’d like.

Pumpkin Tres Leches
Serves 12
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Ingredients
  1. 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
  2. 2 cups granulated sugar
  3. 1 cup vegetable oil
  4. 4 eggs
  5. 2 teaspoons vanilla
  6. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  7. 2 teaspoons baking soda
  8. 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  9. ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  10. ½ teaspoon salt
  11. ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  12. ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  13. 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
  14. 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  15. ¾ cup evaporated milk
  16. ½ cup buttermilk
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9 by 13 glass baking dish.
  2. Beat the pumpkin, sugar and oil together in the bowl of an electric mixer until smooth and well combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Mix the flour, soda, spices, and salt together in a small bowl. Beat into the pumpkin mixture at low speed until thoroughly combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally.
  3. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 – 45 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool to room temperature.
  4. Stir the condensed milk, evaporated milk and buttermilk together in a 4-cup measuring jug until completely combined. Poke small holes over the top of the cake using a skewer or cake tester. Slowly pour the milk mixture evenly over the top of the cake. Let sit for about 15 minutes, then carefully cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Leave the cake to soak up the syrup for up to 12 hours.
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Nancie’s Asian Chicken Salad

Nancie's Asian Chicken Salad

Years ago, when I first thought about becoming a full-time food writer, I attended the wonderful and much missed Symposium for Professional Food Writers at the Greenbrier Hotel. It was amazing and inspiring and really made me understand that food writing is real and vibrant field, and it set me on the path to doing something I truly love. One of the first people I met was the astounding Nancie McDermott. Nancie is a food writer from North Carolina who has written amazing books about Chinese and Thai cooking that make those cuisines possible for American home cooks. She is also the author of two books that should absolutely be in every Southern cooks library, Southern Cakes and Southern Pies. But more than her prolific talents in the kitchen, Nancie is a kind and generous person who has been a friend and mentor to me. Just when I start to hit some sort of wall, I always seem to get a surprise email from Nancie just asking how I’m doing, and that always pushes me past the block.

A few years ago I was waiting in a doctor’s office, flipping through one of the magazines they offered (I can’t remember which one) and I came across this recipe for Asian Chicken Salad. It looked so delicious, that I asked the receptionist if she would make a copy for me. She seemed a little surprised someone had asked and told me to just rip it out of the magazine, so I took the whole page home with me. After I had made the delicious salad a few times, I flipped the page over to see the other recipes. Then I noticed the article was written by none other than Nancie McDermott. It didn’t surprise me at all that a recipe I found so appealing was written by such an amazing friend.

Nancie’s most recent book is Simply Vegetarian Thai, and it reminded me of this favorite Nancie recipe, and I knew I needed to share it. This salad is spectacularly fresh and light. The herbs really make it sing. I love to keep a bowl of this in the fridge to snack on or make a quick meal. It is great eaten on its own, but I have also scooped it up with rice crackers or served it in a lettuce cup. I have even used it to fill a rice paper roll served with one of Nancie’s delicious dipping sauces. Make a bowl of this refreshing salad, and I’m sure you’ll love Nancie too. And I can’t wait for her next book, Southern Soups and Stews!

Nancie's Asian Chicken Salad
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For the dressing
  1. 3 tablespoons lime or lemon juice
  2. 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
  3. 1 tablespoon honey
  4. 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  5. 1 tablespoon sugar
  6. 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  7. 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Salad
  1. ½ cup very thinly sliced red onion
  2. 3/4 cup purchased julienned carrots
  3. 3 cups cooked shredded chicken (from 2 boneless, skinless breast halves)
  4. 2 cups thinly sliced cabbage
  5. 3/4 cup coarsely chopped loosely packed fresh mint
  6. 1/3 cup coarsely chopped loosely packed cilantro
  7. 1/4 cup coarsely chopped salted roasted peanuts
For the Dressing
  1. Place all the ingredients in a jar, screw on the lid and shake until the sugar is completely dissolved.
For the Salad
  1. Place the sliced onions in a bowl and cover with water. Leave for 30 minutes. This takes some of the sting and burn from raw onion. Drain completely.
  2. Toss carrots, chicken, cabbage and onion in a large bowl using your good clean hands. Add mint, cilantro and peanuts and toss to combine. Give the dressing a good shake to combine, then pour over and toss to coat every strand. I like to use clean hands again, but you can use a fork if you prefer. Serve cold or at room temperature.
Adapted from Nancie McDermott
Adapted from Nancie McDermott
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/