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.

Honey Mustard Potato Salad

Honey Mustard Potato Salad

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

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

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

Honey Mustard Potato Salad

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

1 shallot

¼ cup finely minced Italian parsley

2 Tablespoons mayonnaise

2 Tablespoons whole grain mustard

2 Tablespoons honey

2 Tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425°.

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

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

Serves 8

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Slow Roasted Zucchini with Fennel and Tomatoes

Slow Roasted Zucchini

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

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

Slow Roasted Zucchini

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

1 shallot, very thinly sliced

4 ounces of small cherry tomatoes

4 – 5 stalks of oregano

½ cup vermouth

2 Tablespoons olive oil

5- 6 small zucchini, about 4 inches long

Salt and pepper

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

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

Serves 6

Fresh Corn Risotto with Roasted Tomato Jam

Fresh Corn Risotto with Roasted Tomato Jam

Risotto has become a very favorite staple for me, once I learned how easy it is to create and how flexible it can be. I make it all year round, in my Carrot and Dill version, or my Squash Blossom recipe when I find the flowers. I’ve been known to make a simple risotto in summer and toss in my leftover farmers market vegetables. The possibilities are endless. The base of the recipe was the simple result of having some excess corn after a busy weekend on the kitchen with my farmers market finds and not enough energy. I have made it since many times, stirring in fresh herbs or different cheeses. The I topped a batch with some quickly sautéed cherry tomatoes and realized I was really on to something, combining the quintessential summer flavors. That idea turned to spooning a little of my summer canning staple Tomato Butter that wouldn’t fit in the jars on top. I adored the combination, so I set out to create something similar, in a smaller batch, that wouldn’t add to much prep to the whole. The rich, creamy risotto just bursting with corn flavor, with juicy little pops of kernel with a sweet and savory tomato jam on top sings of summer. I admit, I am pretty pleased with myself on this one.

Making the corn cob stock is very easy, and really ups the corn flavor. I highly recommend doing it. But in a pinch, you could use a light colored vegetable broth. Start the tomato jam and the corn stock at the same time and then move on to other things, just giving a quick look every once in while. I like to garnish the beautiful bowls with some sliced green onion tops for color, a little extra grated cheese and some striking large sea salt flakes, like Falk brand salt.

Fresh Corn Risotto with Roasted Tomato Jam

For the Jam:

1 ½ pounds plum tomatoes

¾ cup cane sugar

1 Tablespoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon smoked paprika

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

Very genoerus grindings of balck pepper

¼ cup cider vinegar

For the Corn Stock:

4 ears of corn, 

5 – 6 large green onion tops

2 garlic cloves

For the Risotto:

The kernels from 4 ears of corn

5 – 6 large green onions, white and light green parts

1 garlic clove

¼ cup unsalted butter, divided

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 cup arborio rice

½ cup white wine

5 – 6 cups corn stock

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

Sea salt

For the Jam:

Preheat the oven to 375°. Line a 9 by 13 inch glass baking dish completely with non-stick foil.

Quarter the plum tomatoes and place them on the lined dish. Sprinkle over the sugar, salt, and spices, the pour over the vinegar. Use your hands to gently toss everything together, coating the tomatoes as much as possible. There will be liquid pooling in the dish. Roast for 2 hours, stirring well every half hour and breaking up the tomatoes. Remove from the oven and stir to mix well and break up any larger pieces of tomato. For the first two times, it may look like it is never going to become jam, but the liquid will concentrate.

Serve immediately, or cool, cover and refrigerate for up to a week. Before serving with the risotto, gently heat the jam over low heat in saucepan with a little water.

For the Corn Cob Stock:

Cut the corn roughly off the cobs into a bowl – don’t be too precise, some kernels left behind are good, and there will be plenty left for the finished dish. Cover the bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.

Break the cobs in half and put them in a large pot with the green tops of the green onions and 2 garlic cloves. Add about 1 Tablespoon of kosher salt, then pour over 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cover. Cook for 2 hours until the stock is flavorful – and corny! Strain the stock through a colander lined with wet paper towels. The stock can be made ahead, but be aware that the kernels will only be fresh for about 12 hours. You can make corn cob stock any time you have cobs then freeze it for later use. In fact, you can freeze stripped corn cobs in a ziptop bag until you have enough to make a pot of stock.

For the Risotto:

Place 1 cup of corn stock and 1 cup of corn kernel in a blender and blend until smooth. Heat 2 Tablespoons of butter and the olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Finely dice the remaining white and light green parts of the green onions and sauté in the oil and butter until soft and wilted. Put the remaining garlic clove through a press (or very finely mince it) and add the pan and cook for one minute. Do not brown. Raise the heat to medium high and add the rice.  Stir to coat well in the butter and oil and cook until the rice grains are translucent around the edges, about 4 minutes.  Add the wine and cook, stirring, until it is completely absorbed.

Pour in the blended corn liquid cook until it is absorbed, stirring frequently.  Add the corn stock, ¾ cup at a time, cooking and stirring until each addition is absorbed and incorporated.  Add a pinch of sea salt with each addition. Continue cooking the risotto until all the liquid is absorbed and the risotto is creamy, about 20 – 25 minutes. Stir the remining corn kernels through the rice with the last addition of liquid. You may not need all the stock, simply taste the risotto and add liquid until it is al dente.  Stir in the last of the parmesan cheese and the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter and season with salt to taste. Cover the pot and let rest for 5 minutes.

Serve the Risotto in big bowls with a hearty spoonful of the tomato jam in the center.

Serves 4

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Loaded Dip

Roasted Potatoes with Loaded Dip

I completely stole this idea from a good friend. She brought crispy roasted fingerling potatoes with a creamy herb dip to a Christmas buffet, solving a problem we’d always had at that event in pairing a starchy finger food with the beef tenderloin. When she placed the lovely try on the table, I just kicked myself that I’d never thought of the idea before. So I tucked it away, also thinking it would be a perfect dish for a summer cook-out or picnic. It is easy to prepare but packs a ton of punch with all the classic potato toppings right in the dip I made my version for the first time for the aforementioned friend and admitted that I had swiped her idea – and she didn’t even remember making it!

Long thin fingerlings are perfect for dipping. I love the visual impact of the multi-colored varieties I often find, but all red or gold are equally delicious. Roast them until they are very crispy so they will hold up to a swipe through the dip. The consistency of the dip needs to be loose enough to dip, but thick enough to stay on the potatoes without dripping. Stir in some extra buttermilk until you get it just right. You made to add a bit more before serving to loosen it up.

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Loaded Dip

For the Dip:

1 cup sour cream

1 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon celery salt

½ teaspoon garlic salt

2 cups finely sharp shredded cheddar cheese

12 strips bacon, cooked until very crisp, finely chopped

3 Tablespoons finely chopped chives

Salt and black pepper to taste

For the Potatoes:

2 pounds fingerling potatoes

Olive oil

Salt and black pepper

For the Dip:

Whisk the sour cream and buttermilk together in a large bowl until completely combined. Add the celery salt and garlic salt and whisk well.  Add the cheddar, chopped bacon and chopped chives and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and generous grinds of black pepper. Stir in a little extra buttermilk to reach a consistency loose enough to dip but thick enough to hold on the potatoes without dripping. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Before serving, stir in a little more buttermilk if needed.

For the Potatoes:

Preheat the oven to 425°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with non-stick foil or parchment paper. 

Wash the potatoes and cut in half lengthways. Place them in a large ziptop bag and pour over about 1 Tablespoon of olive oil. Toss just to coat the potatoes. You want the surfaces covered, but no oil left to pool on the baking sheet. Spread the potatoes in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet. Do not pour them out of the bag, scoop them out with your hands – again, you don’t want oil pooling on the baking sheet. The potatoes can be close together but try to keep them from touching. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and roast for 15 minutes. Turn the potatoes over and roast for a further 15 minutes until crispy and browned. The potatoes can be roasted up to an hour ahead. Serve them at room temperature.

Scoop the dip into a serving bowl and serve surrounded by the potatoes.

Curried Rice Salad

Curried Rice Salad

What is summer without the cold salad? Potato salad is the standard sidekick to all of the season’s outdoor events, closely followed I would say by pasta salad, and maybe a good bean salad. And I love all of those things. But for something charmingly different with a whiff of the exotic, this curried rice bowl will surprise and impress everyone at the table. My mom made a curried rice salad for years, and she has told me many times that I should put it on the blog, and told me the cookbook where I would find her recipe. But there is no rice salad recipe in that cookbook, so I started from scratch, creating a heavenly flavored and brightly hued rice studded with crunchy nuts, sweet dried fruits, tangy green onions and a creamy dressing that is light and not at all cloying. A bowl of this sunny salad brightens up any buffet. 

This salad makes a huge amount to serve a big crowd but keeps in the fridge for several days to eat off of, making it a perfect take-along for a lake or beach weekend. It is wonderful at a cook-out, but also packs beautifully for a picnic. Leftovers make a fabulous packed lunch as well.

There is some method involved in cooking the rice so you get it as fluffy and separated as possible. It starts with rinsing the rice to remove the starch. Add the salt directly to the rice, and don’t be stingy. It is very hard to get cooked rice seasoned, so start from the beginning. Placing a towel over the pot before covering it absorbs some of the steam to keep the rice from getting sticky, and spreading it out on a pan helps in this, as it does cooling in it more quickly. (p.s., this is an excellent method for making a curried rice to serve hot as well, just serve after fluffing). The dressing is creamy and tangy but flavoring the rice as it cooks really makes all the difference.

Curried Rice Salad

For the Rice:

2 cups long grain white rice

1 Tablespoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon mild curry powder

¼ teaspoon cumin

¼ inch piece of fresh ginger

4 cups vegetable broth

For the Dressing:

¼ cup plus 2 Tablespoons plain yogurt

¼ cup plus 2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoon rice vinegar

1 ½ teaspoons mild curry powder

1½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon turmeric

Several grinds of black pepper

For the Salad:

¼ cup finely chopped cilantro

¼ cup finely chopped mint

4 green onions, white and light green parts, finely chopped

¾ cup golden raisins

¾ cup dried cranberries

¾ cup roasted cashews, roughly broken

For the Rice:

Place the rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse very thoroughly until the water runs almost clear. Transfer the rice to a large pot with a tight-fitting lid and sprinkle over the salt, curry powder and cumin. Grate the ginger on a microplane grater over the rice, then pour in the broth and stir. Bring to a boil and boil until almost all the water is absorbed and little steam vents form in the top rice, about 10 – 12 minutes, stirring a few times to prevent sticking. Remove from the heat, place a tea towel over the top of the pot, then tightly cover with the lid. Set aside for 15 minutes, then fluff with a fork. When the rice is cooked, spread out on a foil lined rimmed baking sheet to cool. This helps it cool faster and not clump together.

For the Dressing and Salad:

Whisk all the dressing ingredients together until smooth in a small bowl. Return the cooled rice to the pot (or another large bowl) and pour over the dressing. Stir with a spatula to coat the rice. Add the green onions, raisins, cranberries and cashews and stir to distribute evenly. Fluff with a fork to break up any clumps. Transfer to a serving bowl, cover and refrigerate for several hours, or up to 2 days.

Serves 10 – 12

Sweet Potato and Country Ham Gratin

Sometimes, the side dishes are the best part of the meal. That’s where this comes from. I had a meal restaurant meal that was generally unremarkable, but for a dish ordered for the table as something of an afterthought. It inspired me. That dish was a slightly overwrought, oddly-shaped plate with a small swipe of béchamel sauce topped with roasted sweet potatoes and a sprinkling of country ham and some gruyere, run under a broiler. But it got the wheels turning in my head though. A creamy sauce with rich roasted potatoes and salty country ham and nutty gruyere works together beautifully. I knew it would make a fantastic gratin, with plenty of each ingredient perfectly balanced.

Give this a try for Thanksgiving, it’s a switch from the cinnamon and brown sugar versions we are used to in the best possible way. And it can be made a day ahead to cut down on turkey day chaos. Every time I have served this, it’s gotten absolute raves. It’s also great beside a roasted chicken or pork loin, and frankly would make a great main dish. I like to use center cut biscuit sliced of country ham which are easy to find.

Sweet Potato and Country Ham Gratin

4 medium sweet potatoes

¼ cup olive oil

Salt and pepper

About 6 ounces country ham, to make 1 cup finely diced ham

1 leek, white and light green part

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter

2 Tablespoons flour

2 cups whole milk

1 ½ cups grated gruyere cheese

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil sprayed with cooking spray.

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into chunks about ½ inch square as evenly sized as can be. Place the potato chunks in a ziptop bag and pour over the olive oil. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper, then toss around to coat all the potato pieces with oil. Spread in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes. Finely dice the country ham. Remove the pan from the oven and gently turn the potato pieces over with a spatula. Sprinkle the diced ham over the top of the potatoes and return the pan to the oven for a further 15 – 20 minutes, until the potatoes are soft and the edges are brown and crispy. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

While the potatoes are roasting, cut the white and lightest green part of the leek in half, then into quarters and thinly slice. Place in a colander, rinse well and shake to remove as much water as possible. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a deep skillet and sauté the leeks until they are soft and glassy. Try not to let them brown. Add the remaining two tablespoons butter, and when it is melted, sprinkle over the flour. Stir to coat the leeks in the flour and cook for a few minutes. Stir in the milk and bring to a nice bubble. Stir frequently until the sauce is thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let cool for 10 minutes, then gently stir in the roasted potatoes, making sure they are well coated in sauce

Spread the potatoes in a baking dish, then sprinkle over the gruyere. At this point, the dish can be covered and refrigerated overnight. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cook the gratin for 20 – 30 minutes, until heated through and bubbly and the cheese is melted.

Serves 8

Herbed Farro Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette

It’s still summer, but the hope of fall is in the air. We are still in the cold salad territory, but moving into something heartier. I love this robust grain salad – it’s a change up from a standard pasta salad, but the addition of fresh herbs and cucumbers freshens things up and it makes the most of the end of tomato season with bright baby tomatoes and a tangy fresh tomato vinaigrette. If you haven’t experimented with farro yet, you should give it a try. It’s a healthy whole grain wheat with a slightly nutty, toasty flavor and a substantial texture and bite. I love it in soup, but is so fabulous in this tabbouleh-inspired salad because it beautifully absorbs the dressing. It’s the perfect picnic or grilling side, but is substantial enough to be the main course.

I say here to use a cup of cherry tomatoes, but it can be a little tough to judge. When I find little bitty tomatoes at the farmers market I love their cuteness and usually just cut them in half. Large tomatoes I quarter, but if all you can find in season is large tomatoes, seed them and chop them well. Reserve some of the dressing to stir through right through right before serving – the grain will absorb a lot of it while refrigerated. I also like to chop the cucumber into quite small pieces so every bite of salad has a bite.

Herbed Farro Salad with Fresh Tomato Vinaigrette

1 ½ cups farro

3 cups vegetable stock

1 lemon, zested and juiced, divided

2 teaspoons of kosher salt

1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

½ cup mint leaves

½ cup Italian parsley leaves

¼ cup cilantro leaves

3 green onions

½ seedless cucumber

1 cup cherry tomatoes

1 tomato, about 8 ounces

¼ cup white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

½ teaspoon salt

Generous grinds of black pepper

¼ cup olive oil

Place the farro in a strainer and rinse well with cool water. Place it in a pot with the vegetable stock, 1 Tablespoon lemon juice and 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 20 – 25 minutes, until the liquid is mostly absorbed and the grains are tender, but still have a little chew. Drain the farro through the strainer and rinse with cool water. Leave to drain, then transfer to a large bowl. Pour over 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and add the zest and stir to coat. Add the chickpeas and stir to combine.

Finely chop all the herbs and add to the farro. Chop the cucumber into very small pieces, add to the bowl, then chop the green onions finely and add. Half or quarter the cherry tomatoes and stir to combine everything well.

Cut the tomato in half and remove the core and seeds. Place in the carafe of a blender, add the vinegar, honey, 1 Tablespoon lemon juice, honey salt and pepper and blend until completely pureed. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil until blended and smooth. Pour about ¾ of the dressing over the salad and stir to coat. Reserve the rest of the dressing in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Cover and refrigerate the salad and remaining dressing for several hours or overnight. When ready to serve, you can add some extra dressing if you feel it is needed and season with a little salt if you like.

Serves 6

Roasted Summer Succotash

Recipe ideas come to me everywhere, this one came to me after I saw roasted lima beans on a menu, I think something I saw online, because it’s not something I ate. The description made me wonder exactly what the result would be – raosting bean? Then I remembered a Greek-style roasted dish using gigante beans and tomatoes, and my mind immediately went to butter beans, which lead to succotash. Corn and butter beans are one of the great pleasures of summer. They pair beautifully together and look like a lovely dose of bright summer. And succotash is just too fun to say. I’ve visited the idea before with my Succotash Salad, which is sort of the opposite of a this dish – the cold version as opposed to this richly roasted iteration. I’ve even changed the idea up with Sunshine Succotash, a yellow-toned dish bursting with sunshine.

Roasting any vegetable really concentrates the flavors and brings out the sweetness and that is absolutely true with this dish. The butter beans are juicy and tender, the corn sweet and crisp and the tomatoes bring the whole together. A bonus with the recipe is that it makes a big dish of summer goodness that can sit happily in the oven while you get on with any other preparations. And it’s pretty – the pale jade of the beans, the bright yellows and whites of the corn with a pop of tomato red. I love thyme for a nice herbal note, but any sturdy, woodsy herb like oregano, marjoram or even rosemary (very finely chopped) would hold up to the long cooking time. I can also see preparing this dish in winter with the frozen beans and corn I am putting up now, as the roasting will refresh the summer sweetness.

Roasted Summer Succotash

1 pound fresh butter beans

4 ears of corn

6 green onions, white and light green parts

2 bell pepper, red and orange are pretty, green is fine

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

¼ cup water

10 cherry tomatoes

½ cup olive oil

Generous amounts of salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the butter beans in a small pot and cover by water by about an inch. Bring to a boil, skim off any foam that rises, then lower the heat, cover the pot and cook for 30 – 40 minutes until the butter beans are just tender but with a little bite. Drain thoroughly.

Cut the kernels from the corn cobs into a large bowl. Finely dice the green onions, then finely dice the bell peppers and add to the bowl. Add the butter beans and the thyme and gently stir to combine and distribute everything evenly. Mix the tomato paste and water together and add to the bowl with generous amounts of salt and pepper and stir again to coat. Pour the mixture into a large baking dish, then half the tomatoes and nestle them into the beans. Pour over the olive oil.

Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for one hour. Serve warm.

Serves 8

Taleggio Risotto Cake

I did not grow up eating risotto. It was not a dish on the menus of the many fine Italian-American restaurants in Memphis we ate at during my childhood. When it started to become a common and trendy dish, for many years, I assumed it was some sort of chef-secret dish that couldn’t be created at home (a silly thought now I know). Once I realized that at its heart, risotto is simple fare that takes only a little patience, it became a comfort favorite for me. I love a creamy, homey bowl of risotto, and I find the stirring meditative and relaxing. One of the joys of cooking is watching plain ingredients transform into something altogether luxurious, and no dish is more an example of that than witnessing grains of rice release their starch into a luscious, creamy creation layered with flavors and sophistication.

I make risotto with all sorts of flavors – like my Carrot and Dill version, or the seasonal Squash Blossom iteration. Sometimes I go plain with just a dose of parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, sometimes I stir in fresh tomato sauce from my summer stash. But the point is, I usually make it only for myself. When you have guests to serve, standing over the stove stirring a pot of rice isn’t always feasible or friendly. I’ve tried baked versions, restaurant tricks for preparing it partially ahead, even a slow cooker method. But none have ever been completely satisfying. Until this springform version. Eggs hold the whole thing together and ricotta keeps the final result creamy. I tend to let the edges get slightly crispy, which adds an extra touch of texture, and I love the gooey layer of cheese oozing from the center. The presentation is pretty impressive too. Unmold the dish onto a pretty platter and add a sprinkle of fresh herbs for color.

My favorite risotto indulgence that I make for myself on special occasions uses salty pancetta, woodsy marjoram and aromatic taleggio. These flavors meld together beautifully to make a very pungent and unique whole. I have used the combination to top pizza and focaccia as well. But once you get the hang of this risotto cake, you can use any flavors you like.

Taleggio Risotto Cake
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 4 ounces diced pancetta
  2. 1 large shallot, finely diced
  3. 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  4. 1 ¾ cups Arborio rice
  5. 1 cup white wine
  6. 4 - 5 cups chicken broth
  7. 3 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh marjoram
  8. ¾ cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  9. 2 large eggs
  10. 4 ounces grated parmesan cheese
  11. 7 ounces taleggio cheese
  12. Olive oil
  13. Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Cook the pancetta in a large, deep skillet over medium high heat, until it is browned and crispy and has released its fat. Remove the pancetta to a paper-towel lined plate with a slotted spoon. You need about 2 Tablespoon of fat in the pan, so add some olive oil if the pancetta hasn't produced enough. Drop in the shallots and cook until glassy and soft, then add the garlic and cook for just about a minute - do not let it brown. Stir in the rice, coating it well with the fat, and cook for a few minutes until the edges of the grains begin to turn translucent. Pour in the wine and cook, stirring, until the wine is completely absorbed. Add the broth a cup at a time, stirring frequently, letting the rice absorb each cup before stirring in the next. After you've added two cups, stir in half of the marjoram and about a quarter of the pancetta. After adding four cups test to see that the rice is soft, but still with a little bite, then add liquid just until it reaches that point. Season well with salt and pepper. When the risotto is cooked, transfer it to a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil or parchment and spread it out to cool.
  2. While the risotto cools, cut the rind off the taleggio. It is easier to do this while the cheese is cold. Slice the taleggio into thin slices and set aside. Brush the inside and bottom of an 8-inch springform pan with olive oil.
  3. In a large bowl (or the pan you cooked the risotto in), whisk together the ricotta, eggs and parmesan cheese until smooth and combined. Add the risotto, remaining marjoram and pancetta and stir until everything is combined and well distributed. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if needed. Spread half of the risotto in the prepared pan and spread it out in an even layer. Drape half of the sliced taleggio over the top of the rice, distributing it evenly. Spread the rest of the risotto in the pan and press it down into an even layer. Place the rest of the taleggio over the top of the rice cake.
  4. At this point, you can cover and refrigerate the dish for several hours. When ready to bake, take the pan out of the fridge to take the chill off. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees then bake the risotto for 30 - 35 minutes, until the edges are golden, the cheese is melted and the center is heated through. Let the cake sit for about 10 minutes before removing the side of the pan, cutting into wedges and serving.
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Slow Cooker Sorghum Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are an absolutely essential part of Thanksgiving. I love a good sweet potato casserole, both the mashed version and a sliced version. I’m fortunate, particularly at the holidays, that I have plenty of oven space to prepare the full Thanksgiving menu, but I know that is not the case for everyone, so here as my space solution, which I think as a brilliant idea. This recipe didn’t start as a Thanksgiving dish for me, but as a hands-off way to cook a big batch of sweet potatoes for a dinner party. And I have made it many times for weeknight dinners because it really is unbelievably easy.

I love the flavor of grassy sorghum with earthy sweet potatoes. The smoked paprika adds a lovely depth and hint of smokiness. The result of slow cooking is similar to roasting on a sheet pan – the edges aren’t as crisp, but there are lovely browned rims with fluffy centers and a lovely seasoned exterior. Make these for Thanksgiving, but I promise you’ll pull the recipe out throughout the year.

Slow Cooker Sorghum Sweet Potatoes
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 4 large sweet potatoes, peeled
  2. 3 Tablespoons sorghum syrup
  3. 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  4. 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  5. 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  6. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  7. ½ teaspoon black pepper
Instructions
  1. Cut the peeled sweet potatoes into evenly sized cubes, about 1 inches. Spray the crock of a slow cooker with cooking spray then spread the potatoes in the crock.
  2. Whisk the sorghum, vinegar, mustard, paprika salt and pepper together in a small bowl until thoroughly combined, then pour over the sweet potatoes. Stir to coat the sweet potatoes, cover the crock and cook on low for eight hours, which I prefer, or high for 4 hours.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/