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.

Christmas Fruit Salad

Christmas Fruit Salad

Christmas is, for me, a time of indulgence. I gorge myself on cookies and candies and appetizers and heavy meals. It is one of the special treats of the season, and motivation for a new year’s resolution. I have been known to serve Christmas breakfast buffets featuring cheese grits, cheese and sausage casserole, bacon, ham, biscuits and all manner of desserts. It’s not how we eat during the year. It’s a special occasion. But it is nice to have some refreshing fruit on the table. But tough to find good fruit in the heart of winter. I love a rich baked fruit casserole, I find this simple bowl of festive fruit really refreshing and a great complement to all the richness of the other dishes.

Bright red apples and juicy green pears get a dusting of mint sugar. This looks absolutely beautiful in a pretty glass or crystal dish, garnished with a few sprigs of mint. It’s also a great way to use some of the pears from that box that so frequently arrives during the holiday.

Christmas Fruit Salad
Serves 10
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Ingredients
  1. 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  2. 3 red apples
  3. 2 green pears
  4. 2 cups pomegranate seeds
  5. ¼ cup fresh mint leaves
  6. ¼ cup granulated sugar
  7. ¼ inch piece of vanilla bean
Instructions
  1. Put the lemon juice in a large bowl and add water to fill it half way. This is called acidulated water and will keep the fruit from turning brown.
  2. Cut the apple into chunks and add to the acidulated water. Cut the pear into chinks and add it to the water as well. Stir the fruit around as you add it to the water so every surface gets a dunk.
  3. Drain the fruit and place in a large bowl. Rinse and drain the pomegranate seeds and add to the apples and pears.
  4. Place the mint, sugar and vanilla bean in the bowl of a small food processor. Pulse until you have a fine, damp mixture like wet sand. Sprinkle the mint sugar over the fruit and toss to coat. Taste as you go; you may not need or want to use all the mint sugar.
  5. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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Buttermilk Bacon Cheddar Macaroni Salad

Buttermilk Bacon Cheddar Macaroni Salad

Macaroni salad is a great summer picnic dish. And it is a classic of the Southern table, from church suppers to days outdoors. I have been served a lot of macaroni salad and read a lot of traditional recipes in Southern community cookbooks that include, like many a southern dish, pickle relish. I am not a fan of pickle relish so I haven’t always been a fan of macaroni salad. So I set out to create a tasty macaroni salad that met my particular tastes, but would appeal to the family and friends I was sure to serve it to. I want tangy and creamy with interesting flavor contrasts and textures, but nothing too out there.

Adding vinegar to the cooking water and tossing it with the cooked pasta helps to season the salad without adding buckets of salt. A touch of bacon grease keeps the pasta from sticking together. I like to keep this pretty simple, with the herby ranch style dressing creamy with buttermilk, tossed with sharp cheese and crispy bacon. This salad will appeal to all ages and leave no picky eaters passing it by because they are concerned about all the bits and pieces in the dish. If you’d like, you can add to it. A little finely chopped celery or bell pepper or onion could add texture and flavor.

Buttermilk Bacon Cheddar Macaroni Salad
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 6 strips of bacon
  2. 2 cups elbow macaroni
  3. 3 Tablespoons cider vinegar, divided
  4. 4 green onions, white and light green parts only
  5. 3 Tablespoons chopped chives
  6. 3 Tablespoons chopped parsley
  7. 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  8. 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  9. ¾ cup buttermilk
  10. ¾ cup sour cream
  11. 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Instructions
  1. Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook over medium-high heat until very crispy. Remove to paper towels to drain and reserve 1 Tablespoon of the bacon grease.
  2. Cook the macaroni in a large pot of water with 1 Tablespoon vinegar according to the package instructions until cooked through. Drain the pasta and rinse with cool water and drain well again. Return the pasta to the pot and add the remaining 2 Tablespoons of cider vinegar and the tablespoon of bacon grease. Stir to coat the pasta well and leave to sit for 15 minutes.
  3. Place 3 of the green onions, the herbs, salt, pepper, buttermilk and sour cream in a food processor or blender (I like the mini-food processor for this) and blend until smooth and combined. Pour the dressing over the macaroni and stir gently to coat. Add the grated cheese and bacon and stir to distribute. Finely chop the remaining green onion and add to the salad, stirring to combine. The dressing will absorb and thicken as it chills, so don’t worry if it looks a little loose. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Cover the salad and refrigerate until chilled. The salad will keep for 3 days covered and refrigerated. You can stir in a little more buttermilk to loosen the salad up before serving.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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Asian Inspired Chicken Salad with Sesame Mayonnaise

Asian Inspired Chicken Salad with Sesame Mayonnaise

I do love a good chicken salad, and I am always working on new and different versions. This Asian inspired iteration relies on the wonderful sesame mayonnaise, a recipe I used for years when I first started entertaining, as a dip for asparagus spears or snap peas. I started making it when Asian ingredients like sesame oil and rice vinegar weren’t as readily available as they are now, so it always struck a note of the exotic. I’ve kept that recipe on one of those personalized recipe cards that used to be such popular hostess gifts. I returned to the mayonnaise recipe recently and realized how incredibly versatile it is. I whipped up a little cold chicken supper with leftovers from the fridge, and it was such a good idea, I had to turn it into a summery chicken salad recipe.

Serve this chicken salad in lettuce cups with lime wedges to squeeze over it. I also like it scooped up with rice crackers.

This will make more mayonnaise than you need. Toss it with cold rice or ramen noodles for a lovely side dish, spread it on a bahn-mi style sandwich. It’s a different twist for a burger or a chicken sandwich. Try it with roasted asparagus or steamed snap peas. I’ve even served this as a dip for grilled shrimp.

Asian Inspired Chicken Salad with Sesame Mayonnaise
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. Sesame Mayonnaise
  2. 1 whole egg
  3. 2 egg yolks
  4. 2 ½ Tablespoon soy sauce
  5. 2 ½ Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  6. 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  7. ½ teaspoon salt
  8. ¼ cup sesame oil
  9. 1 ¾ cups vegetable oil, like grapeseed or canola
  10. Chicken Salad
  11. 3 bone-in, skin on chicken breasts
  12. 1 cup shredded carrots
  13. 4 green onions, finely chopped
  14. ½ cup roasted and salted peanuts, chopped
  15. ¼ cup finely chopped mint
  16. ¼ cup finely chopped cilantro
For the Mayonnaise
  1. Place the egg, egg yolks, soy sauce, vinegar, mustard and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process until the ingredients are combined. With the motor running, drizzle in the sesame and vegetable oils in a slow, steady stream. Process until the mixture is creamy, thick and emulsified. You will actually hear the food processor change sounds from smooth blending to a wet slapping sound.
  2. When the mayonnaise is thick, scrape it into a container, cover it tightly and refrigerate for at least two hours to firm up and allow the flavors to meld.
For the Salad
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Lightly salt the chicken breasts and place on a baking tray. Roast for about 20 – 25 minutes until the chicken is cooked through (internal temperature of 165°). Let the chicken cool to room temperature, then pull of the skin, pull the meat from the bones and shred into a bowl, either using two forks or your fingers.
  2. Add the carrots, green onions, peanuts, cilantro and mint to the chicken in the bowl and toss to combine. Add 1 cup of the sesame mayonnaise and stir to coat.
  3. The chicken salad will keep, covered, in the fridge for a few days. The mayonnaise will keep, covered, for 4 days.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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Mardi Gras Slaw

Mardi Gras Slaw

Mardi Gras is a fun season for food.  Not only can you draw from the great canon of Louisiana cooking, you can play with the bright signature colors of purple, green and gold and be a little silly.  This slaw is simple but the multi-colored vegetables and the tangy dressing make it a special dish.  It is beautiful served beside or on top of a po’ boy, but is also a great starter or side with other favorites like Shrimp Creole or Red Beans and Rice or Grillades and Grits. But this slaw is also beautiful at a summer barbecue or picnic, long after Mardi Gras season has passed.

Mardi Gras Slaw

For the dressing:

1/3 cup creole mustard (I use Zatarain’s)

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup white sugar

1/3 cup vegetable oil

a couple of dashes of hot sauce

For the slaw:

½ head purple cabbage

½ head green cabbage

2 yellow bell peppers

For the dressing:

Blend all the ingredients together in a blender or in a small bowl with a whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the dressing is creamy.

For the Slaw:

Cut out the core of each cabbage half.  Slice the cabbage with the slicing blade of a food processor.  You’ll need to do this in batches.  Transfer the sliced cabbage to a very big bowl.  Remove the ribs and seeds from the peppers and finely dice.  Add to the cabbage in the bowl.  Use you clean hands to toss everything around until evenly distributed.  Discard any large cabbage pieces or remnants of hard core.

Give the dressing a last whisk to make sure it is creamy and pour it over the slaw.  Stir and toss to coat everything well.  I like to do this with clean hands as well.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours to allow the flavors to blend.  This is best served soon after it is made, but will keep for up to a day.

Serve 10 – 12

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Summer Market Tabbouleh

Summer Market Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh is the perfect summer farmers market dish – fresh herbs and vegetables tossed with fine grains for a fresh, cool salad.  But has always been underwhelming to me.  Too bland, too dry, I don’t know.  I’ve always wanted to love it, but never had.

Until a conversation at a party about family recipes.  A lovely woman from Mississippi was telling me about some of her family’s traditional Lebanese dishes, filtered through generations in the Missisippi Delta.  She mentioned in passing that her family always soak the bulgur in lemon juice.  That idea stuck with me as a way to pep up the dish.  And it does.  This version of tabbouleh is bright with lemon juice, really tart and unique.  I love lots of fresh herbs, but have added a few spices for a little flair.  So now I like tabbouleh – my way.  I make this for parties and cook outs, but also just to keep a bowl in the fridge for quick lunches and snacks.

But here’s the thing about tabbouleh.  This is my blueprint, lifted from someone else’s recipe.  You can do what you want.  More tomatoes or cucumbers, no garlic, a little chopped hot pepper.  What you find at your market or in the garden.  I do offer some hints.  I like to give my knife and  board a workout and finely chop all the ingredients, so each bite has a good mix of flavors, rather than a big chunk of tomato or cucumber or a big parsley leaf.  With all the lemony tang, I’ve never really thought this needed salt, but do as you will. 

Summer Market Tabbouleh

½ cup fine bulgur wheat

¼ cup lemon juice

2 plum tomatoes

1 cucumber, seed scooped out

1 green onions, white and light green parts

1 small garlic clove

½ cup fresh flat leaf parsley leaves

½ cup fresh mint leaves

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

2 Tablespoons olive oil

¼ teaspoon sumac

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon coriander

Place the bulgur in a bowl. Then mix the lemon juice and ¾ cup water in a pan and bring to a boil.  Pour the liquid over the bulgur and give it a good stir.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 15 minutes.

While the bulgur is soaking, finely chop the tomato, cucumber, green onions and place in a large bowl.  Pass the garlic clove through a press into the bowl, or chop it to a fine paste on a board and add it. Finely chop the herbs and add to the bowl.  Add the olive oil, sumac, cinnamon and coriander to the bowl and stir well to blend everything.  Set aside.

When the fifteen minutes have passed, uncover the bulgur and fluff with a fork.  If there is any liquid in the bowl or the bulgur seems wet, place it on a fine sieve and press out any liquid.  Return to the bowl and fluff with the fork.  Leave the bulgur to cool for about 5 minutes.

Scrape the bulgur into the tomato cucumber mix and use a fork to mix everything together, breaking up any clumps in the bulgur and scraping the sides and the bottom of the bowl.  Cover the bowl again and refrigerate for a few hours to let the flavors meld.

 Serves 4 as a side dish, easily doubles.

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Watermelon with Sweet Pesto

Watermelon with Sweet Pesto

Watermelon and mint are a classic summer pairing.  I love it in a sorbet or a sweet tea drink.  But basil is a great match with melon as well, so I worked up this sweet pesto, with the herby, grassiness of basil and a little undernote of mint.  It really is a fresh taste of the summer garden.

Serve the watermelon however you like – in thin wedges, big chunks or pretty balls.  Toss it as a salad or drizzle over pieces.  The pesto is also good on other melons and fruits.

Watermelon With Sweet Pesto

1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves

½ cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves

½ cup confectioners’ sugar

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

1/3 cup neutral flavored oil, like grapeseed or canola

1 small watermelon

Put the basil, mint, confectioners’ sugar and lemon jusice in the bowl of a food processor (I like to use a small one) and process until finely chopped.  With the motor running, drizzle in the oil until well blended.

The watermelon is up to you – wedges, balls, rough chunks.  Drizzle with the pesto before serving.

Store the pesto in a jar in the fridge for up to a day.  Shake well before serving.

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Moroccan Chicken Salad

Moroccan Chicken Salad

As the weather really starts to heat up, a cool summer supper salad is a great thing to have in the fridge.  Chicken salad is perfect picnic or party food, great for a weekend at the lake or lunch by the pool.  I love a good chicken salad and make many different versions depending on the occasion and the mood.  I like chunky chicken, crunch, texture and color – something interesting and intriguing, so this recipe has become a favorite.

This savory – sweet recipe is unique and distinctive and will spice up your regular summer menu.  It’s lighter and healthier with Greek yogurt, which still adds richness and tang and the fresh herbs give it zing and brightness.  Traditional Moroccan spices are what set this iteration apart, and the herbs, apricots and carrots make this a colorful addition to any summer table.

Moroccan Chicken Salad

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 lemons

1 cup Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon coriander

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint

2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

½ cup slivered almonds, toasted

6 dried apricots, finely chopped

¼ cup shredded carrots

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Squeeze half of one lemon into a baking dish that just fits the chicken.  Lay the chicken on top, and squeeze the other half of the juice over it.  Tuck the spent lemon halves in between the chicken.  Slice the other lemon into thin slices and lay over the chicken breasts. Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake until the chicken is cooked through, with an internal temperature of 165°, about 30 minutes.  Uncover the dish and leave the chicken in the liquid until cool.  Chop the chicken into small, bite size cubes.

Mix the yogurt and spices together in a large bowl. Stir in the mint and parsley until thoroughly combined.  Add the chicken, almonds, apricots and carrots and gently fold everything together until the yogurt evenly coats all the chicken and the ingredients are evenly distributed.  Refrigerate for several hours to allow the flavors to meld.  The chicken salad will keep covered in the fridge for two days.

Serves 4

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Comeback Shrimp Salad

Comeback Shrimp Salad

Comeback Sauce is, according to my research, a specialty of Jackson, Mississippi.  It apparently originated in Greek restaurants and is now found on restaurant tables all over the city.  It really hasn’t made its way up to Memphis, but as you meander through the Delta, you do find in on some restaurant menus.  That’s where I discovered it.  And of course it shows up in community cookbooks in many forms with many uses.

Comeback sauce is a great dip for chicken tenders or fried catfish, but pairs wonderfully with big, juicy Gulf shrimp as the centerpiece dip in a Southern shrimp cocktail.  I frequently serve it with shrimp that I smoke in rigged-up stove top or grill smoker. I had in mind sharing a shrimp remoulade recipe as a nice, cool summer salad.  Then it occurred to me that I could make it a little more regional by using a comeback sauce dressing, and I haven’t turned back.  The flavor of the sauce is so punchy, that I only add a little celery and some capers to the shrimp for crunch.  Use beautiful wild-caught American shrimp – I prefer big chunks of juicy shrimp, but feel free to cut smaller pieces.  I suppose you could use pre-cooked shrimp, but this beer boil does add a nice zing.

You can serve this on lettuce to be eaten straight up, but it makes a great filling for a po’ boy.  Kind of a redneck lobster roll.

Comeback Shrimp Salad

For the Shrimp:

3 pounds shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails off

12 ounce bottle beer

1 lemon, quartered

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

½ teaspoon mustard seeds

2 bay leaves

3 celery stalks

2 Tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained

For the Comeback Sauce:

¼ cup mayonnaise

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

2 Tablespoons chili sauce

1 Tablespoons ketchup

1 teaspoon stone ground mustard

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

dash hot sauce

1 garlic clove

¼ a small white onion or a small shallot

½ teaspoon salt

several grinds of black pepper

For the Shrimp:

Place the beer, 2 cups of water, the lemon, peppercorns, mustard seeds and bay leaves in a large saucepan with a tight fitting lid.  Bring the liquid to a boil, drop in the shrimp, then cover the pot and remove from the heat.  Leave the shrimp for about 5 minutes, then remove the lid.  The shrimp should be nice, pink and curled now.  Leave them in the liquid, uncovered, for a further ten minutes.  Remove from the cooking liquid and drain. I usually do this with tongs – you don’t want peppercorns or mustard seeds stuck to the shrimp when you make the salad.

Cut the shrimp into bite-size pieces and place in a large bowl.  String the celery and cut it into a very fine dice and add to the bowl.  Add the capers and toss to combine.

For the Sauce:

Place all the Comeback Sauce ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and combined.

Pour the sauce over the shrimp and gently fold everything together until thoroughly coated with sauce.  Cover and refrigerate for several hours to let the flavors combine.  The salad can be made one day ahead.

Serves 6

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Strawberry Mint Vinaigrette

Strawberry Mint VInaigrette

It’s always nice to whip up a simple, homemade dressing for a salad, and this one is really special.  A little sweet from the berries with the nice summery hit of mint.  And it’s a great way to use up some berries lingering in the fridge.  I love it on a salad of fresh butter lettuce tossed with slice strawberries, salty feta or goat cheese and crunchy pecans.  It also goes well with spinach, and is a nice dressing for a fruit salad too.

Strawberry Mint Vinaigrette

8 ounces hulled strawberries

1 small shallot, peeled and quartered

6 – 7 fresh mint leaves

¼ cup honey

¼ cup white wine or champagne vinegar

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

¼ cup vegetable oil

Place everything but the oil in the carafe of a blender and blend until completely smooth.  With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil until you have a nice, emulsified dressing.  Store the vinaigrette in a jar with a tight-fitting lid for up to three days in the fridge.  Shake well before using

Makes about 2 cups

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Autumn Sweet Potato Salad

Part of the joy of Thanksgiving for me is the leftovers.  I cook a turkey bigger than my family could ever eat on the day, I make huge amounts of dressing, I even cram some in a loaf pan to bake so it can be sliced to fit on a sandwich.  My shopping lists include good bread, cheese and condiments for next day sandwiches.  I’ve made Fig, Bourbon and Vanilla Bean Jam and Rosemary Pear Butter months ahead to spread on those sandwiches.  After the fun of a formal meal, it’s nice to gather the next day (usually at someone else’s house, lucky me) very casually, in jeans and comfy sweaters, to enjoy our own sandwich creations.

If the leftovers are a big part of your tradition, or if you have guests around the house through the weekend, add this salad to your plans.  As long as you are buying (and peeling) all those sweet potatoes for the big meal, it’s worth the little extra effort to have this stashed in the fridge.  It is an absolute dream next to a turkey sandwich, better than a bag of chips, and looks like you really went that extra mile. Earthy sweet potatoes, crunchy pecans, tart cranberries and rich maple syrup create a symphony of fall flavor. If your fridge is full to bursting, you can store this in a ziptop bag in a crisper drawer to take up less room.

A word about process.  Don’t be tempted to do that TV chef-y thing and put the potato cubes directly on the baking sheet, casually drizzle over oil and roast.  When you do that, there is inevitably too much oil, and the potatoes steam rather than roast, so they don’t get those nice, crisp edges, but are mushy and soft.  Lightly toss the potatoes with a small amount of oil in a bowl, rubbing around with your hands to get a little coating on each cube, then lift the potatoes out of the bowl onto a baking sheet (I line mine with non-stick foil for easy cleaning), leaving any extra oil behind.  I do this with all my roasted vegetables,

Autumn Sweet Potato Salad

2 ½ pounds sweet potatoes (about 4 medium)

1/3 cup plus 2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided

¼ cup maple syrup (grade B amber)

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard

3 – 4 fresh sage leaves

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Ground black pepper

4 green onions, white and some dark green parts, finely chopped

2/3 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted

2/3 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into ½ inch pieces.  You want them to be bite-sized and roughly the same size so they roast evenly.  Toss the potato cubes with the 2 Tablespoons olive oil and a pinch of salt.  Use your hands to make sure every potato cube has just a slick of oil on it.  Lift the potatoes out of the bowl onto a rimmed baking sheet.  Roast them for 25 – 30 minutes, until a knife easily slides into a potato piece.  You want them to be cooked through but not mushy.  They should still hold their shape and have a little bite.  Cool the potatoes to room temperature.

Put the mustard, maple syrup, vinegar, sage, cinnamon, salt and pepper in a blender and blend until smooth.  With the motor running, drizzle in the remaining 1/3 cup olive oil until you have a creamy, emulsified dressing.

When the potatoes are cool, gently toss them with the chopped green onions, pecans and cranberries.  Pour over the dressing and toss until all the potatoes are coated.  It’s fine if you prefer not to use all the dressing, but reserve the remainder in case you want to add some later.

Refrigerate the potato salad, tightly covered, for several hours or up to a few days.

Serves 6

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