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.

Vidalia Onion and Goat Cheese Soufflé

Vidalia Onion and Goat Cheese Souffle

I’m a little obsessed with Vidalia onions.  I love the sweetness with the onion edge.  I buy them in bulk when they are in season, and I tie them up in pantyhose to hang in my pantry for winter storage.  Really.  Vidalias are sweet and smooth without any of the burn of other onions, so it is easy to make them the star of a dish.  The flavor is mellow and rich, creating a unique soft onion flavor. 

The slow, gently cooking of the onions brings out their sweetness, but leaves the characteristic onion taste in tact.  Patience is a must here, just cook them to a soft, glossy tangle; you don’t want deep sticky caramelized onions for this. Marjoram is a wonderful complement to sweet onions with its mildly woodsy taste.  If you can’t find marjoram, use thyme or oregano (though slightly less of either). Find a good, soft, salty goat cheese with lots of flavor (I use a locally made chevre). This soufflé makes a wonderful side dish to a roast, but is also an elegant vegetarian centerpiece.  This doesn’t rise up and puff the way a traditional French soufflé does, but is light and creamy and packed with flavor.

Vidalia Onion and Goat Cheese Soufflé
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. ¼ cup (½ stick) butter, divided
  2. 3 medium Vidalia onions, finely sliced
  3. 6 sprigs fresh marjoram
  4. 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  5. 1 cup milk
  6. 4 ounces soft goat cheese
  7. kosher salt to taste
  8. 5 egg whites
  9. ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
Instructions
  1. Melt 2 Tablespoons of the butter in a large, deep skillet over medium heat and add the sliced onions. Stir to coat in the onions in the butter and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are very soft and translucent, about 20 minutes. Partially cover the pot for the first 5 - 10 minutes of cooking just to wilt the onions, but stir frequently. A little browning is okay, but you don’t want to caramelize the onions, just make them really soft. If they start to brown, turn down the heat and watch carefully. Sprinkle the leaves of about three marjoram sprigs over the onions, then leave the onions to cool to room temperature.
  2. Scrape the cooled onions into a blender or food processor and process until you have a rough puree, sort of like loose mashed potatoes. You should have roughly 2 cups of puree.
  3. Melt the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and stir until you have a smooth, thick paste that is pale in color, about 5 minutes. Slowly add the milk, whisking away any lumps, until thick and smooth. Reduce the heat to low and cook the base for 10 minutes. Add the onions puree, stir well to combine and cook a further 10 minutes. Whisk in the crumbled cheese a handful at a time, making sure each addition is melted before adding the next. Finely chop the remaining marjoram leaves and stir in with a big pinch of salt. Leave the mixture to cool.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 2-quart soufflé dish with cooking spray or butter.
  5. Beat the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer until almost stiff. Sprinkle over the cream of tartar and beat until the whites hold very stiff peaks. Stir a big spoonful of the whites into the onion base to loosen things up, then gradually fold in the remaining whites a big spoonful at a time, doing your best not to deflate the whites. Spoon the mixture into the prepared dish, lightly smoothing the top.
  6. Bake the soufflé for 30 – 35 minutes until the top is light golden and puffed. Serve immediately.
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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.
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Fresh Herb Field Peas

Fresh Herb Field Peas

I buy field peas in bulk in the summer.  Ladys, creamers, zippers, whippoorwill, crowders, purple hulls, you name it.  Farmers market Saturdays for me are about canning and putting up, followed by a Southern supper of field peas, corn and tomatoes.  So I am always looking for creative ways to prepare them.  This is my new favorite.  It’s clean and summery with a good dose of the best of the seasons herbs. 

 It can be a little hard sometimes when writing recipes to quantify herbs. Particularly for a recipe like this.  So I just say handfuls.  You want the potlikker the peas cook in  well flavored, and the finishing butter to be chockfull, so the peas are well coated with fresh green herbs.  Choose whatever herbs you have to hand.  I love a good blend of leafy basil and parsley with a little hint of mint, combined with onion-y chives and woodsy oregano.  I love the flavor pork adds to field peas, but you can leave it out to make a vegetarian version of this dish.

Fresh Herb Field Peas
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1 pound purple hull or other field peas
  2. 6 cloves garlic
  3. 2 generous handfuls of fresh herb leaves – basil, mint, oregano, chives, parsley and thyme
  4. 3 strips bacon
  5. ½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  6. salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Place the peas in a bowl and cover with cold water. Leave to settle for 30 minutes, then scoop off any floaters. Pick out any bruised peas, then lift the peas out of the water into a saucepan using your hands. Don’t pour through a strainer, the dirt only gets on the peas again.
  2. Pick out a good handful of herbs and tie them together in a piece of cheesecloth. Nestle the herb bundle, the bacon and 4 cloves of garlic in the peas and add fresh water to just barely cover. Bring to a boil and skim off any foam or scum that rises. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer the peas, uncovered, for about 1 hour until soft and tender but still holding their shape.
  3. While the peas are cooking, finely chop another handful of herbs and place in a bowl with the softened butter. Put the remaining two cloves of garlic through a press or very finely chop them and add to the butter. Use a fork to mash the herbs, garlic and butter together. Add salt and pepper to taste and combine thoroughly.
  4. When the peas are cooked, strain through a strainer and discard the bacon, garlic cloves and herb bundle. Scrape the herb butter into the saucepan over low heat until it begins to melt. Return the peas to the saucepan and gently stir through the butter until the peas are coated. Taste and adjust seasoning and serve.
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Tomatoes Stuffed with Summer Squash

Tomatoes Stuffed with Summer Squash

So it’s the middle of summer. You’ve been to the farmers market and loaded up your bag with beautiful vegetables. That whole box of yellow squash and lots and lots of tomatoes. Now what? I always get questions from friends about how to use squash (other than squash casserole) and for interesting ways to use tomatoes. And I am just as guilty. I buy and buy, wanting to soak up every last bit of summer bounty.

I love this vividly summer dish as a twist to traditional stuffed tomatoes and a unique way to highlight Southern summer favorites. Sure, there is a little work involved, but it pays off in spades. Look for medium sized, firm tomatoes that just fit in the palm of you hand. Grating the squash takes a few minutes, but do use the small side on the grater to give you a fine, almost mousse-like filling. These beauties can be the centerpiece of a stunning vegetable plate with field peas, greens and fresh corn or a side dish for a meatier meal.

Tomatoes Stuffed with Summer Squash
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 6 medium tomatoes
  2. 2 yellow squash
  3. ½ small yellow onion
  4. 2 Tablespoons butter
  5. 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  6. 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  7. 1 cup heavy cream
  8. ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  9. salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Cut a small slice off of the top of each tomato and use small spoon to scoop out the seeds and pulp, leaving a nice little hollow cup. Sprinkle the insides lightly with salt, then turn them upside down on several layers of paper towels to drain for 30 minutes.
  2. Grate the squash on the fine holes of a box grater and place in a colander. Leave to drain for 30 minutes. Transfer the squash to a clean tea towel and twist and squeeze to remove as much moisture as possible. Grate the onion on the same small holes and add to the squash.
  3. Melt the butter with the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, then add the squash and onions. Sauté for about 5 minutes, until the squash is soft, stirring frequently to avoid browning. Stir in the chopped oregano. Pour in the heavy cream and cook, stirring frequently, until the squash has absorbed all the cream and is thick and there is no cream left in the pan. Stir in the Parmesan cheese until melted, then remove the skillet from the heat and leave to cool slightly.
  4. Place the tomatoes in a lightly oiled baking dish in which they fit snuggly – basically holding each other upright. Spoon the squash into the tomatoes, filling the hollows and pressing down, but be gentle so you don’t break the tomatoes. Fill the tomatoes, but don’t leave mounded squash overflowing. You may have some filling leftover – chef’s treat!
  5. You can cool and refrigerate the tomatoes for a few hours at this point.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350°. Bake the tomatoes for about 20 minute, until heated through but the tomatoes are still holding their shape. Serve immediately.
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Farmers Market Vegetable Tart

Farmers Market Vegetable Tart

I think this tart is the very picture of summer farmers market bounty. It uses all the best local summer produce with fresh herbs and salty cheese. I even use locally produced goat feta. You can buy the vegetables for specifically for this magnificent tart or make it with the remnants of a big shopping haul.  It looks like a work of art, simply because of the bounty of nature. I like to vary the vegetables to get the beautiful colors – green zucchini, yellow squash, red tomatoes and peppers, purple eggplant and onions. Vary it up according to your tastes and what is growing. Thyme is a wonderful complement to hot weather vegetables, but oregano or marjoram work as well, or you could add some basil or parsley to the cooked vegetables.

And it is perfect summer cooking. You can make it in easy stages and have the final product ready hours before popping it in the oven. It is good fresh and hot, but still delicious as it cools to room temperature. It makes a great meal on its own, or can be a side to grilled meats.

Farmers Market Vegetable Tart
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  2. ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
  3. 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, divided
  4. ½ teaspoon salt
  5. ¾ cups (1 ½ sticks) cold butter, cut into cubes
  6. ½ cup water
  7. 1 zucchini
  8. 1 yellow squash
  9. 1 small eggplant
  10. 1 yellow bell pepper
  11. 1 red bell pepper
  12. 1 small red onion
  13. 2 plum tomatoes
  14. 3 cloves garlic
  15. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  16. 4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
  17. 1 egg
Instructions
  1. Pulse the flour, ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, salt and 1 teaspoon thyme leaves together in the bowl of a food processor until combined. Add the cubed butter and pulse until the texture of fine meal. If you pinch a little between your fingers, it should stick together. Add ¼ cup of water and pulse until the dough starts to come together, then slowly drizzle in the remaining water just until the dough comes together in a ball. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and press it out into a flat disc. Wrap it tightly and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400°. Cut all the vegetables into bite size chunks and place on a baking sheet. Cut the onion into small wedges and add to the pan, then cut the tomatoes into chunks and add. Peel the garlic cloves and add to the pan. Drizzle over the olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and about ½ teaspoon of thyme leaves. Toss everything together with your hands until the vegetables are lightly coated with oil. Don’t be tempted to add lots of oil – the vegetables will not be lovely and roasted, but soggy. Roast for 30 - 45 minutes until the vegetables are soft and slightly browned. Leave the vegetables to cool, then toss with the crumbled feta.
  3. Take the pastry out of the fridge and let rest for about 10 minutes. Trace a circle about 14-inches round onto a piece of parchment paper (I frequently trace an outline of the platter I am going to serve on). Lightly flour the parchment paper and transfer the chilled dough disk to the paper. Lightly sprinkle the top with flour and roll the dough into a circle the size you’ve traced on the paper. Pile the vegetables into the center of the dough, leaving about a 2-inch border. Carefully fold the dough up around the vegetables. Use your fingers to press together any creases or breaks of in the dough. Carefully transfer the tart on the parchment paper to a baking sheet. Sprinkle about 1 Tablespoon parmesan over the top and some thyme leaves. Beat the egg with a splash of water and brush a thin layer over the crust. The tart can rest in the fridge for a few hours.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350°. Bake the tart until the pastry is cooked through and golden, about 30 minutes. Let the tart rest for a few minutes before slicing, though it is also delicious at room temperature.
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Slow Cooker Creamy Corn with Bacon, Green Onions and Bourbon

Southern Slow Cooker Creamy Corn with Bacon, Green Onions and Bourbon

My family has a farm in Arkansas, rice and soybeans mostly, but a few other crops. One year, when I was maybe ten or twelve, my dad and a fellow farmer decided to experiment with corn. So on a little corner of the farm, they planted a couple of varieties. When it came in, he brought home paper grocery sacks of corn all summer. My mother spent that summer shucking corn and using it in every kind of recipe she could think of. We ate corn every single day. The problem was, it was never very good. Little kernels, pale and tough. But my mama sure did keep trying and we did our best to support her. One day, Daddy was out at the farm, picking some corn and putting it in his paper grocery sack and his fellow farmer asked what in the world he’s doing. Well, turns out my dad, bless his heart, had been picking corn from the end of the field that was grown as feed corn – not the good eating corn from the other end. Of course, by the time he figured it out, the season was pretty much over. We don’t grow corn anymore.

Fresh corn is one of my very favorite things about summer. I wait for the season all year and really make the most of it when it arrives. I buy freshly picked cobs by the armful at the farmers market. I blanch and strip those kernels and freeze them in little bags to enjoy all winter. I can fresh corn relish. I use it in cool summer salads. And of course I eat it straight off the cob, boiled or grilled and smothered with butter.

Sometimes I do go over board. I buy so much corn, I just can’t get it dealt with quickly, so there are some cobs in the fridge for a few days. They are still good, but not as fresh and tender and sweet as those right out of the field. So they sometimes need a little help. I found myself in this predicament one day and remembered a recipe for crockpot corn scribbled on a scrap of paper. I dug it out of the files, but decided I could do better. Take that basic creamy corn recipe and really give it some style. Green onions, bourbon and hot sauce zazz it up, but is deliciously creamy and tender.

You can cut the corn from the cobs right into the slow cooker and avoid the mess of flying kernels (just be careful if the cooker is hot). And of course, you can use frozen corn when the fresh is not in season. But whatever you do, make sure the corn was intended for good eating and not for the pigs.

Slow Cooker Creamy Corn with Bacon, Green Onions and Bourbon
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 5 strips bacon, cooked until crisp
  2. 3 Tablespoons bacon grease
  3. 2 Tablespoons butter
  4. 7 – 8 green onions, white and light green parts, finely chopped
  5. 1 clove garlic, minced
  6. 6 – 8 ears of corn (about 5 cups kernels, or 1 ½ pounds)
  7. ½ cup milk
  8. 8 ounces cream cheese
  9. 2 Tablespoons bourbon
  10. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  11. 1 teaspoon black pepper
  12. 1 teaspoon hot sauce
Instructions
  1. Place the bacon grease and butter on the bottom of a 5 – 7 quart slow cooker, turn it on high, cover and leave for about 5 minutes until the butter melts. Add the chopped green onions and minced garlic, cover, and leave for about 10 minutes until the onions are soft. Reduce the heat to low.
  2. Add the corn, cream cheese cut into cubes, milk, bourbon, salt, pepper and hot sauce and give it a good stir. Cover the crockpot and cook for 3 ½ hours.
  3. Chop the bacon strips into small pieces and stir through the corn. Cover and continue cooking for 30 minutes.
  4. Serve immediately
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Parmesan Zucchini Bites

Parmesan Zucchini Bites

Quick, summery and simple.  This is the perfect passable bite for a party or a wonderful side to a summer meal.  If you tend to end up with a couple of extra zucchini hanging around after a trip to the farmers market, this is a great way to use them up, as a starter or a snack.  Serve these while still warm, but you can make the mayonnaise mix hours ahead and prepare the slices about 20 minutes before broiling.  And of course, you can double or triple the recipe for a crowd.

Parmesan Zucchini Bites
Yields 36
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Ingredients
  1. 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  2. 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  3. 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  4. generous grinds of black pepper
  5. a pinch of salt
  6. 2 medium zucchini
Instructions
  1. Preheat the broiler in your oven to high. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or non-stick foil.
  2. Mix the mayonnaise, parmesan and oregano together with a fork. Grind in some pepper and salt to taste (the parmesan can be salty, so go slow with the salt).
  3. Slice the zucchini diagonally into ¼ inch thick slices. Spread each slice with a thin layer of the mayonnaise mixture, making sure to spread to the edges and evenly.
  4. Cook the zucchini under the broiler for 1 -2 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and lightly golden.
  5. Serve immediately.
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Greek Herbed Spinach Pie

Greek Herbed Spinach Pie

I do love dishes made with phyllo dough, spanakopita, tiropita and the myriad of sticky sweet desserts made with it. But after a number of failed attempts, I have discovered that I simply do not have the patience to work with it. So I am attracted to recipes that mirror the tastes of my phyllo favorites without the work. My first success was Greek Feta Parcels, and now I have conquered spanakopita.

I found the basic formula for this recipe in a community cookbook and immediately thought I could give it a Greek twist. I’ve added feta cheese and generous amounts of dill and oregano. The simple batter creates the balance of the delicate original pastry, but could not be easier to mix up. This can be served in big slabs for a meal or cut into smaller pieces for a side dish (try it with a chicken roasted with Greek seasoning and lemon); you can even slice it into small pieces to serve as an appetizer.

Greek Herbed Spinach Pie
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 12 ounces frozen spinach, thawed
  2. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  3. 1 bunch (about 6) green onions, chopped
  4. 1 clove garlic, minced
  5. ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  6. ¼ cup chopped fresh dill
  7. 2 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  8. 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  9. 1 cup cottage cheese
  10. 1 cup crumbled feta cheese (crumble it from a block)
  11. salt and pepper to taste
  12. 4 eggs
  13. 1 cup all-purpose flour
  14. 1 cup water
  15. 1 Tablespoon olive oil
Instructions
  1. Place the spinach in a clean tea towel and squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Separate the spinach with your fingers.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the green onions and cook until soft. Ad the garlic, parsley, dill, oregano and lemon zest and cook until soft and fragrant. Add the spinach and stir to combine and separate the spinach. Remove from the heat and add the cottage cheese and feta and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to cool. When the filling is cool, beat 2 eggs in a small bowl, then stir into the filling.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°. Pour 1 Tablespoon olive oil in the bottom of an 8 by 8 inch baking dish and swirl to cover the bottom of the pan. Blend 2 eggs, the water and flour and 1 teaspoon salt together in a blender or with a whisk until completely smooth. Pour ½ of the batter evenly over the bottom of the oiled dish. Use clean, damp fingers to crumble and spread the spinach filling evenly over the top of the batter. Pour the remaining batter evenly over the top of the filling, covering fully, though a little filling poking up is fine.
  4. Bake the pie for 40 – 45 minutes until puffed and golden and cooked through. Let the pie cool for about 5 minutes before slicing and serving.
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Strawberries with Sweet Tea Dressing

Strawberries with Sweet Tea Dressing

Strawberries come into season when the beginnings of spring are arriving.  When it’s time air out the seersucker and the sandals and give the grill a good clean and make sure the big cooler is ready for weekends at the lake and beach.  And though we drink sweet tea all year, the mint is starting to grow and its time for great big glasses full of ice while sitting outside enjoying the weather before it gets too hot or the mosquitoes get too fierce.  It seems only naturally to take the first fruit of spring and combine it with a delicious dressing tinged with the flavors of the South’s favorite beverage.  Sweet, sweet strawberries and mint combine with the sweet and tangy dressing, set off with a hit of vinegar and emulsified to a nice creaminess with oil.  This salad is beautiful on its on, but looks pretty on butter lettuce leaves as well.  The strawberries can also be part of a sweet dish, served along side a cake or over ice cream.

Strawberries with Sweet Tea Dressing
Serves 8
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Ingredients
  1. ½ cup sugar
  2. ½ cup water
  3. 2 black tea bags
  4. a generous handful or fresh mint leaves
  5. 2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
  6. 6 Tablespoons canola oil
  7. 4 pints fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
Instructions
  1. Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan and cook until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat, add the teabags, cover the pan and leave to cool. When the syrup is cool, remove the tea bags.
  2. Place the sliced strawberries in a large bowl. Stack about 10 mint leaves on top of each other, roll them up like a cigar and slice into thin ribbons (this is called a chiffonade). Separate the ribbons and toss with the strawberries.
  3. Place 1/3 cup of the sweet tea syrup in a blender. Add about 5 mint leaves and the vinegar and blend until combined and the mint is beginning to break down. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil until you have a creamy dressing.
  4. Pour the dressing over the berries in the bowl and gently stir to coat. You may not want to use all the dressing. The berries just need to be lightly coated, not drowning.
  5. Serve immediately.
Notes
  1. The strawberries can be sliced ahead of time and the dressing can be made ahead, but do not combine until ready to serve.
  2. Leftover dressing can be used on other fruit or a green salad.
  3. Extra sweet tea syrup can be used as a base for sweet tea. Combined with water to taste, or as part of a brine, as in Sweet Tea Glazed Pork Chops.
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Carrot and Dill Risotto

Carrot and Dill Risotto

Risotto for me was, for many years, solely a restaurant dish.  I had only eaten it at fancy eateries at a time when it was ubiquitous on menus as the trend of the minute. I did not understand that it was something a normal human could make at home.  But when I discovered that there is no real mystery, that it is quite a simple dish to make, one that takes only patience, a whole world of flavors opened up to me.  I started with a champagne risotto, which I served at fancy dinner parties and felt very sophisticated about it too, because most of my guests had never had homemade risotto either.

Then I read in a lovely cookbook that the author’s Italian husband considered tomato risotto his childhood comfort food – like we might think of macaroni and cheese or chicken noodle soup.  She shared her recipe, well, his mother’s recipe, for the food he always wanted when he was feeling poorly.  And it was basically risotto made with tomato sauce.  That really opened the flavor floodgates for me.  And eventually, with some carrot juice in the fridge and dill in the herb garden, I came up with this version.  I love the bright, zingy color and flavor of this risotto.  It immediately perks up an plate.  Carrot and dill are made for each other, so you have this amazing harmony of flavor to go with the vibrant color.  I eat this on it’s own as a meal, but it is stunning on a plate with pork or chicken and a vibrant green vegetable.  It would also make a beautiful starter.  Make sure you buy 100% carrot juice, which I find in the refrigerated juice section of the produce department.  You don’t want orange or mango or any other fruity flavors mixed in.

Carrot and Dill Risotto

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

3 cups carrot juice

6 Tablespoon unsalted butter, divided

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 cups Arborio (risotto) rice

1 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth, room temperature

½ cup chopped fresh dill, plus more to garnish

Combine the broth and carrot juice in a small saucepan and bring just to a simmer.

Melt 4 Tablespoons butter in a large saucepan or skillet over medium-low.  Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent.  Do not brown. Raise the heat to medium high and add the rice.  Stir to coat well in the butter 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.

Add ½ cup of the broth/juice mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until it is absorbed.  Continue to add the liquid ½ cup at a time, cooking and stirring until each addition is absorbed and incorporated.  Add some of the chopped dill with each addition, reserving 2 Tablespoons to stir in at the end.  Continue cooking the risotto until all the liquid is absorbed and the risotto is creamy, about 20 – 25 minutes.  Stir in the last of the dill and the remaining butter and season with salt and pepper.

Risotto is best served immediately, but can be kept, covered, over very low heat for about 20 minutes.

Garnish with a shower of chopped fresh dill.

Serves 4

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