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.

Creamy Fresh Corn Pasta Sauce

Creamy Fresh Corn Pasta Sauce

I adore fresh corn in the summer, but for most of my life, I never imaginged it paired with pasta until one of my favorite local restaurants had a summer special of fresh tortelloni filled with corn and ricotta. I loved that dish and it really got me thinking, though I knew I would never make my own stuffed pasta. Toothsome pasta with sweet pops of fresh local corn make for an excitingly simple summer supper that is unique but not too complicated. I love that this incredibly flavor full dish basically has five ingredients, but utilized in different ways, they create layers of flavor. The slightly smoky charred corn is a simple step but a beautifully complex layer. Fresh kernels softened in milk and set off by gently tangy green onion, with some bright fresh onion tops on top to add color and zest.

I have at times added a little thyme or marjoram to the milk and corn, but it is a little bit of gilding the lily when you want the corn flavor to really shine. I’ve also used half and half for a richer sauce, but milk is delightfully creamy. Pecorino gives a great salty hit without overpowering, which parmesan tends to do. I am partial to a sweet yellow corn, but a mix of yellow and white works well – only the color of your sauce will change. Orecchiette, or “little ears,” are perfect for this dish because they cradle the lovely little charred kernels in a pool of sauce. Shells or a mezze rigatoni could do the same thing.

Fresh Corn Pasta Sauce

Creamy Fresh Corn Pasta Sauce

4 ears corn, shucked

6 green onions, white and light green parts, with some green tops saved for topping

2 Tablespoons butter

1 cup whole milk

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

12 ounces orecchiette pasta

½ cup finely grated pecorino cheese

Char one cob of corn, either directly over the flame of a gas stove or under the broiler in the oven, turning the cob several times to get nice charred kernels. It will make some popping noises! Set the charred corn aside until cool enough to handle, then cut the kernels from the cob and separate.

Cut the kernels from 3 ears of corn and finely dice the green onions. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, then add the green onions. Sauté until soft and pale, about 5 minutes, then add the corn kernels and cook for a further 2- 3 minutes. Pour in the milk and bring to a bubble – don’t let it boil or the milk will curdle, just heat it through and cook for a few minutes to soften the corn. Season well with salt and generous grinds of black pepper. Transfer to the carafe of a blender. Remove the vent from the lid and it down with a tea towel. Blend until the sauce is completely smooth. Pour the sauce through a sieve back into the wiped-out skillet while you cook the pasta.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, then add the orchiette and cook according to the package instructions until al dente. Scoop out about 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta.

Heat the sauce over medium heat until hot through. Add the pasta and stir to coat, adding a little of the reserved pasta water to thin it out if needed. Taste again and season well – use lots of black pepper. Toss the charred corn kernels through the pasta and serve topped with the grated pecorino and thin slivers of green onion top.

Serves 4

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Leek, Lemon and Goat Cheese One Pot Pasta

Leek, Lemon and Goat Cheese One Pot Pasta

A few years ago, I started reading about “one pot pasta” recipes on the internet. I pinned a couple, and was a little curious, but didn’t jump right on the bandwagon. I’ve never really thought of boiling the pasta separately as an overburdensome task. But then I did think about dirty dishes. I do A LOT of dishes, and many of my recipes have been streamlined to dirty as few as possible, so it suddenly seemed like an idea I should explore. My first few attempts, following popular recipes, where underwhelming. After reading all the headlines and recipe titles about “super-easy” and “so simple”, I think in my mind the idea was you could just chuck everything in a pan and wait 20 minutes and voila, dinner! It is not quite as simple as that, as there is some watching the pot involved. And it turns out that what I like about the recipes I have successfully developed is not having one pot to clean or the perceived ease of the dish, but the way the flavor really does permeate the pasta. My first success was this Creamy Gorgonzola One Pot Pastathat is just full of the rich flavor of gorgonzola. I made that so much it got a little predictable. So I decided to adapt one of my favorite simple pasta dishes that I’ve been making with two pots and a bowl. Soft leeks, tangy lemon and creamy goat cheese meld for a sprightly sauce with a touch of sunshine. The lovely lemon flavor really permeates a dish in way that is difficult to achieve in a pour-over sauce.

The secret to creamy one pot pasta is to stir the pot almost constantly, particularly at the end to keep the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pot. It is a little difficult to stir when the noodles are first go in, but just make sure to keep things moving and at a low boil. Serve this pasta immediately so the sauce retains its luscious creaminess.

Leek, Lemon and Goat Cheese One Pot Pasta

1 Tablespoon olive oil

2 leeks, light and white green parts only

¼ cup white wine or dry vermouth

Zest of one lemon

Juice of two lemons

4 cups chicken broth

¾ cup heavy cream

¾ pounds spaghetti, broken in half

4 ounces soft goat cheese

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

½ cup parmesan cheese, divided

Chives for garnish

Slice the leeks in half, then into thin half moons. Rinse well in a colander and shake some of the water off. Heat the oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven. Add the leeks and sauté until soft and glassy, then add the white. Bring to a bubble and cook until the liquid is evaporated and the leeks are very soft. Add the lemon zest, juice, broth, cream and spaghetti and bring to a low boil. Crumble in the goat cheese and season well with the salt and pepper. Cook, stirring very frequently, until the spaghetti is tender and the sauce has reduced and thickened, just coating the pasta. Stir in the parmesan cheese and adjust the seasoning. Serve immediately garnished with snipped chives.

Serves 6

Barbecue Pasta Salad

My hometown of Memphis is known far and wide for barbecue. And we’ve found ways to barbecue-ize everything. Pizza, nachos, pimento cheese (yes, I did that). So when I was pulling together an outdoor picnic, adding a dose of barbecue to the spread seemed only natural, so I added a little Memphis kick to a lovely cold pasta salad. The results were a big hit, so I think it will become a staple in my summer side menu. It’s great with burgers and dogs, but also compliments a cold sandwich spread.

As is the case with dishes like this one, it is imminently customizable. I love using my house barbecue sauce, so I control the spice and sweetness, plus I end up with some extra sauce for burgers or grilling. But if you use a bottled sauce, I won’t tell. Use a mix of colored bell peppers, substitute green onions for the red. Add some cooked crispy bacon, or small cubes of cheddar cheese. Stirring some vinegar into the cooled pasta helps to add a salty flavor – it’s difficult to get the level right in a cold dish, so salt it after it has chilled.

Barbecue Pasta Salad
Serves 8
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For the Barbecue Sauce
  1. 1 ¼ cup ketchup
  2. 1 cup dark brown sugar
  3. ¼ cup sorghum
  4. ¼ cup cider vinegar
  5. ¼ cup water
  6. 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  7. 2 ½ teaspoons ground mustard
  8. 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  9. 1 teaspoon salt
  10. ½ teaspoon black pepper
  11. ½ teaspoon garlic powder
For the Salad
  1. 16 ounces small pasta
  2. 2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
  3. 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  4. 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  5. ¼ cup parsley, finely chopped
  6. ½ cup barbecue sauce
  7. 1 cup mayonnaise
  8. salt and pepper to taste
For the Sauce
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a sauce pan and whisk to blend well. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, then lower the heat and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  2. Leave the sauce to cool. This makes more sauce than needed for the salad, the extra will keep covered in the fridge for up to a week.
For the Salad
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain the pasta and rinse with cold water. Rinse the pot with water to cool it down, then return the pasta to the pot. Add the vinegar and stir to coat the pasta. Toss the noodles with the onion, green pepper and parsley.
  2. Stir the barbecue sauce and mayonnaise together in a small bowl until completely combined, then pour over the pasta. Stir to completely coat the pasta. Cover and refrigerate for several hours to allow the flavors to blend. The Salad can be kept covered in the fridge for up to two days.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Zucchini Pasta Bake with Mint Pesto

A few years ago, on a family trip to Italy, we had an amazing meal prepared by a local chef that included handmade ravioli with a zucchini mint pesto sauce. It was one of the culinary highlights of the trip for me. I asked the chef how it was made, but my lack of Italian and his lack of English didin’t make for very good instructions. I have wanted to recreate that dish since then, but making ravioli by hand is above my patience level, and I never managed to get his pesto version just right. But with tinkering, I eventually managed to get a mint pesto that mimicked the lovely fresh taste I remembered. I toss it here with freshly shredded zucchini – and the real shortcut of pasta made by someone other than me. I nice dose of crème fraiche mimicks the creamy handmade ricotta filling of the original dish, and just ties the whole thing together.

This really is the taste of summer in one dish. Beautiful in season zucchini with a gorgeous garden mint pesto, which I always find artfully displayed at the farmers market. Keep the pesto recipe in your back pocket – it is great stirred into pasta on its own or spooned over grilled chicken or veggies.

Zucchini Pasta Bake with Mint Pesto
Serves 8
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For the Pesto
  1. 1/3 cup slivered almonds
  2. 1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
  3. zest of one lemon
  4. 4 cups loosely packed mint leaves
  5. 1/3 cup olive oil
For the Pasta Bake
  1. 1 pound tubular pasta like rigatoni
  2. 2 medium zucchini (about 1 ¼ pounds)
  3. 2 (8-ounce) containers crème fraiche
  4. 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  5. ¾ cup plain dry bread crumbs
  6. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  7. salt and pepper to taste
For the Pesto
  1. Put the almonds, garlic, lemon zest and mint leaves in the bowl of a food processor and process until chopped to a rough puree. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the motor running, drizzle in the oil until you have a thick paste.
For the Pasta Bake
  1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water 2 minutes less than the package directions. Dip out about 1 cup of the pasta water in a measuring jug, then drain the pasta a rinse under cool water.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, grate the zucchini on the large holes of a box grater. Put the grated zucchini in a really large bowl, then add the crème fraiche and the pesto and generous pinches of salt and stir to combine. When the pasta has cooled, stir it into the zucchini. (If you don’t have a huge bowl, you can scrape everything into the pot you cooked the pasta in). Stir to coat the pasta with the creamy mixture. Drizzle in ¼ to ½ cup of the reserved pasta water to create a lighter sauce that coats the pasta.
  3. Scrape the pasta into a greased 13 by 9 inch baking dish. Sprinkle the Parmegiano-Reggiano evenly over the top. Mix the breadcrumbs and the olive oil together in a small bowl. I start with a for, then use my fingers to rub them together until I have a mixture like wet sand. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top of the pasta.
  4. The dish can be cooled covered and refrigerated overnight. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350. Bake until heated through and bubbling, about 30 minutes.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Squash Blossom Pasta Butter

I adore squash blossoms. A few local farmers market vendors sell them here, and I always buy as many as they have for sale. I make pesto, risotto, quesadillas, soup, and sometimes just lightly batter and fry them. I admit I have a little problem. I cannot resist buying them, and buying them in bulk. At the height of summer, I am in full canning mode, so I tend to bring home huge amounts of produce to put up. I often find that my love for summer finds outstrips reality. That is to say, I buy more than I have the time or energy to deal with. On one of those occasions when I found myself a little worn out after canning the bounty, but I still had a quantity of freshly picked squash blossoms. I knew I needed to use them, but felt a little overwhelmed by the idea of one more project. Inspiration struck suddenly for a way to make the most of the fresh flowers, but also save them for later use, a simple composed butter. That sparked my memory of one of my favorite summer simple tricks – pasta butter balls.

The end result of this buttery pasta dish reminds me of another favorite – cacio e pepe, simple linguine is tossed with butter, pecorino cheese, salt and lots of pepper. But this version has a special touch added by the squash blossoms, which also lends a lovely orangey-yellow color. And of course, you can use this butter any way you want – melted over a grilled chicken breast, tossed with vegetables (squash is an obvious choice) or spread on toasted bread.

Squash Blossom Pasta Butter
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cloves garlic
  2. 12 squash blossoms
  3. 2 Tablespoons Italian parsley leaves
  4. ½ cup grated Parmegiano-Regianno cheese
  5. 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  6. salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Drop the garlic cloves into the bowl of a small food processor and pulse to finely chop. Pull the yellow petals off the squash blossoms and tear them into pieces and drop in the bowl. Discard any green leaves and the stamens. Add the parsley, then pulse a few times to finely chop. Add the cheese and pulse to combine, then add the butter, cut into pieces. Pulse until the butter is well combined, scraping down the side of the bowl as needed. Add salt and grinds of black pepper to taste. Be generous with the pepper.
  2. Scoop the butter into a bowl, or roll it up in logs in waxed paper and refrigerate until ready to use. The butter logs can also be frozen for several months.
  3. To use the butter, cook your favorite pasta according to the package instructions. Reserve about a cup of the cooking water than drain the pasta. Melt some of the butter in a large skillet and whisk in enough of the pasta cooking water to coat the pasta. Whisk until the sauce is smooth and creamy, then toss in the cooked pasta.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/