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.

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.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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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.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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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
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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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.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
 

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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.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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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.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
 

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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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Colcannon (Irish Mashed Potatoes and Cabbage)

Colcannon (Irish Mashed Potatoes with Cabbage)

Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish that showcases the true brilliance of that culture’s rustic cuisine. Simple, staple ingredients transformed into something all together luscious and comforting. Mashed potatoes and cabbage are combined with a touch of leek and lots of rich dairy to create a dish that will fell like a welcome home, even if, like me, you’ve never been to Ireland.

I like to use napa cabbage because I find it slightly sweeter and milder, but classic green cabbage or savoy cabbage works just as well, and give a more traditional green speckle to the dish. Colcannon is a great side dish to lamb or beef, particularly corned beef for St. Patrick’s Day.

Colcannon (Irish Mashed Potatoes and Cabbage)

2 large russet potatoes (about 2 pounds)

½ head of napa cabbage (about 2 pounds)

2 large leeks, white and light green parts

½ cup (1 stick) butter, divided

1 cup buttermilk

salt to tast

Peel the potatoes, cut into chunks and place in a large pot. Cover with well-salted water by about 1 inch and bring to a boil. Cook the potatoes until very tender and a knife slides in easily, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and place in a large bowl. Heat the buttermilk to just warm in a small pan or the microwave and add ½ cup to the potatoes. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher or sturdy wooden spoon until you have a nice, creamy mash. Stir in salt to taste

While the potatoes are cooking, slice the leeks into thin half-moons and rinse thoroughly in a colander. Wipe out the pot and melt ¼ cup ( ½ stick) of the butter in it. Add the leeks with some water clinging to them and cook until they begin to soften and become translucent. Stir frequently and do not le the leeks brown. Add ¼ cup of water, cover the pot and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until the leeks are completely soft and translucent. Cut out the tough core of the cabbage half and slice into thin shreds. Rinse the cabbage shreds in the colander, then add them to the pot with some water clinging. Stir to combine the leeks and cabbage and coat the cabbage with the cooking juices. Cover the pot and cook until the cabbage is completely soft and wilted, about 15 minutes. Stir a few times and add a few tablespoons more water if there is any worry of the cabbage scorching or sticking.

When the cabbage is cooked, add it to the potatoes in the bowl and fold through. Add buttermilk as needed to create a creamy, rich texture and salt as needed.

Scoop the colcannon into a large serving bowl and make a well in the center. Cut the butter into small pats and place in the well to melt. Serve scoops of colcannon with the melting butter.

Serves 4 – 6

 

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Cast Iron Collards

Cast Iron Collards

I adhere very solidly to tradition of eating black eyed peas and greens on New Year’s day for luck and prosperity.  I have a wonderful New Year’s Eve tradition, so on New Year’s Day, I usually sleep in, then curl up on the couch with a book while a pot of peas and some collards stew away on the stove – minimal prep and minimal work.  But this cast-iron skillet, bacon-fried version of collards is a quicker method, if you don’t get around to cooking until its almost time for dinner. If you really sleep in after a night out. Or they make an excellent accompaniment to a  bowl of slow-cooked peas.

I think these are collards for people who don’t like collards.  The bacon of courses helps, as does the fact that these are thin strands of greens, rather than a big leaf.  And the sugar slightly caramelizes the greens and the bacon, adding an interesting touch of sweet.  A big bunch of collards wilts down to a small amount – this makes about 2 cups of cooked greens, so its just enough for a small side.  These are really interesting used as a garnish on a big bowl of black eyed peas or hopping john, just place a tangle of the collards on top. They could even add an extra dimension to soft, slow cooked collards.  You can certainly double the recipe or make multiple batches.

Cast Iron Collards

1 large bunch collard greens

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

6 strips bacon

1 garlic clove

a pinch of red pepper flakes

1 Tablespoon sugar

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

Cut the leaves of the collards away from the hard center stems.  Stack the leaves up in bunches of about 6, then roll each bunch into a cigar.  Cut the collards into thin ribbons. Place the collard ribbons in a colander, shuffling them around to make sure they are well separated.  Rinse the collards thoroughly and shake as much water of as possible.  Lay the collard ribbons out on a tea towel, then roll them up in the towel to blot off as much water as you can.  A little damp is fine, soaking wet will be a problem when you add them to the bacon grease.

Put the vegetable oil and bacon strips into a large, deep cast iron skillet and cook over medium heat until the bacon is very crispy and the fat has rendered out.  Do not be tempted to raise the heat or the grease will get too hot and scorch the greens.  When the bacon is crispy, remove it to paper towels to drain.  Drop the garlic clove and the red pepper flakes into the pan and cook for just until the garlic starts to brown and is fragrant, about 20 seconds.  Remove the garlic clove.

Carefully add the collards to the pan, standing back because the moisture on the greens will spit.  Stir the collards to coat in the bacon fat and cook, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes until the greens are wilted.  Add the sugar, baking soda and salt and stir well.  Chop the bacon into rough pieces, add them to the greens and stir. Lower the heat, cover the pan and cook the greens for about 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until they are tender.  Watch carefully so they do not burn.  The greens will be dark and soft, with a few crispy edges here and there.

Serve immediately, sprinkled with a little pepper vinegar if you’d like.

Serves 4 as an accompaniment 

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Bacon Spoon Bread with Tomato Bacon Jam

Bacon Spoon Bread with Tomato Bacon Jam

When I think of really old Southern recipes, spoon bread always comes to mind.  I really have no particular knowledge of its history, its just that first time I ever had it was on a school trip to Colonial Williamsburg where it is served at Christiana Campbell’s Tavern by costumed and in-character servers. I assume everything else at Williamsburg is so accurate, that this must be a colonial recipe.  I love Williamsburg, and no small part of that is the food, and I have enjoyed the spoon bread on many subsequent visits.

Working on the theory that bacon makes everything better, I added a little bit to my classic spoon bread recipe.  The creamy, light cornbread-soufflé hybrid is perfect with the addition of a little crunch.  But it occurred to me that spoon bread could be taken out of the realm of simple side with the addition of a little saucy extra.  This bacon-onion-tomato mixture is one I have been whipping up with leftover bits and pieces for years, but finally decided was worthy of a recipe.

And no, I do not think this is too much bacon.  It is actually very well balanced.  But of course, these two dishes stand alone wonderfully well.  The spoon bread as a side with stick ribs or grilled foods or as part of a breakfast spread.  And the jam, which makes more than you need for the spoon bread, is wonderful on burgers or a grilled cheese sandwich.

Bacon Spoon Bread

6 strips of bacon

1 ½ cups cornmeal

3 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1½ cup water

2 Tablespoons butter

1 ½ cups milk

4 eggs

1 Tablespoon baking powder

Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook in a skillet until crispy.  Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.  Reserve 1 Tablespoon bacon grease

Mix the cornmeal, sugar and salt together in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Bring the water, butter and 1 Tablespoon bacon grease to a boil in a pan.  Turn on the mixer and pour the boiling water into the cornmeal.  Beat until thick and stiff.  Let cool for about 10 minutes.

Measure the milk in a 4-cup jug, then crack in the eggs and beat well.  Beat the milk and eggs into the cornmeal mush, then fold in add the bacon pieces and beat until combined.  Beat in the baking powder until well blended, then scrape the spoon bread into the baking dish.  Bake for 30 – 40 minutes, until the center is set.  Serve immediately with spoonfuls of Tomato Bacon Jam.

Serves 4 – 6

Tomato-Bacon Jam

6 strips of bacon

2 pounds tomatoes, chopped

1 small white onion, finely chopped

½ cup white sugar

½ cup light brown sugar

3 Tablespoons cider vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook in a skillet until crispy.  Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.

In a large, high-sided saucepan, bring the chopped tomatoes, onion, sugars, vinegar, salt and pepper to a boil.  Boil for about 10 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and breaking down. Use a spatula or the back of the spoon to crush the tomatoes, though I like to give the jam a little whirl with an immersion blender at this point to create a rough puree.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, stir in the bacon pieces and simmer until the jam is thick and spreadable, about an hour or more.  Stir occasionally to prevent scorching on the bottom of the pan.  As the jam thickens, watch it more closely and stir often to prevent burning.  The jam will be done when you pull a spatula through to expose the bottom of the pan and the two sides don’t run together.

Scoop the jam into jars or a bowl and leave to cool.  The jam will keep covered in the fridge for more than a week.

Makes 1 pint

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