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.

Decadent Chocolate Bread Pudding (and variations)

Decandent Chocolate Bread Pudding

I’ve been making this bread pudding for years, when I really want to pull out the stops for a decadent, but homey, dessert. It’s another of those recipes written on card, transferred to a notebook, moved to a file folder – the victim of my many attempts to organize a lifetimes worth of shared and saved recipes. The chocolate custard soaks through the bread and the chocolate morsels add little surprises of molten chocolate. This is not a dessert for the faint of heart.

When I was making this again to test and photograph it, I was suddenly struck with great indecision. Should I make a peppermint version? Add a new sauce? I finally decided the most helpful thing to do would be to stick with the basics and share this template recipe, which is utterly delicious and perfect as it is. But I offer some seasonal variations and additional trimmings from the archives.

Decadent Chocolate Bread Pudding (and variations)
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 1 pound loaf challah bread or soft Italian bread
  2. 3 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
  3. 8 ounces semisweet chocolate
  4. 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  5. ½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  6. 5 large eggs
  7. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  8. ½ cup whole milk
  9. 11.5 ounce bag milk chocolate morsels
Instructions
  1. Cut the bread into roughly 1-inch chunks and set aside.
  2. Break the chocolate into small pieces and drop it in a food processor. Heat 1 cup of the heavy cream in the microwave (about 45 seconds) or in a saucepan until just steaming. Do not boil or bubble. Process the chocolate for a few seconds to break it up, then pour over the warm cream and process until smooth. Leave to cool for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the sugar, the melted butter and the vanilla to the chocolate mixture and process until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, processing until smooth between each addition. Scrape the chocolate mixture into a capacious bowl –one that will fit the bread too. Stir in the remaining 2 cups cream and ½ cup milk and stir until smooth. Add the bread cubes and the chocolate morsels to the bowl and gently stir until the bread is well coated, the morsels are evenly distributed and everything is well combined. Scrape the mixture into a greased 9 by 13 inch baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, but up to six.
  4. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°. Take the baking dish out of the fridge for 10 – 15 minutes to get the chill off. Bake for 55 minutes to an hour, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
  5. Serve warm.
Notes
  1. You can serve this with ice cream, plain vanilla, salted caramel or peppermint or with whipped cream, or try it drizzled with Toffee Sauce or Bourbon Sauce.
  2. Give an autumn twist by adding 2 cups of dried cranberries, soaked in a little brandy to plump and ½ cup chopped walnuts, using just 1 cup of chocolate morsels.
  3. As the holidays approach, mix this up to make a Mint Chocolate Bread Pudding. Swap the vanilla for ½ teaspoon peppermint extract and use white chocolate chips instead of milk chocolate. Sprinkle the top with crushed peppermint candies before serving.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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Homemade Southern Hash Brown Casserole

Homemade Southern Hashbrown Casserole

I rather hope this recipe becomes an internet sensation. Because I know I have searched and searched through websites, engines, magazines and books looking for an old-fashioned style hash brown casserole that doesn’t use canned soup. I cannot abide canned soup, so I finally took it upon myself to come up with a can-free casserole. I don’t know why I was so stymied, going without the soup is pretty darn easy. Okay, maybe I stretch the word homemade a bit – I do use frozen hash browns, but as long as they are nothing but potatoes, I am fine with this major timesaver.

I’ve added all the flavors that are reminiscent of southern cooking to me. Chopped green onions, lots of parsley and a hit of paprika in tribute to my grandmother’s garnishing ways, a touch of bacon, and of course pimentos and cheddar cheese. This can be made ahead and popped in the oven to be hot and ready for a family breakfast or brunch. It is rustic and homey, but I happily serve it with my most elegant silver on a holiday table. And sure, it’s great for dinner, too.

The casserole is adapatable too. You could sprinkle some cheese over the top before baking, though I think that leaves an unappealing crust. Swap out the pimentos for green chiles and use Monterrey jack cheese. Leave out the bacon or use ham instead – or country ham.

Homemade Southern Hash Brown Casserole
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 30 ounce bag frozen, shredded hash browns, thawed (potato only)
  2. 2 Tablespoons butter
  3. 3 Tablespoons flour
  4. ½ cup whole milk
  5. ½ cup chicken broth
  6. 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  7. 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  8. 1 teaspoon salt
  9. 1 teaspoon black pepper
  10. ½ teaspoon paprika
  11. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  12. 8 ounces sour cream
  13. 8 – 10 green onions, white and light green parts, finely chopped
  14. 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  15. 1 (4-ounce) jar diced pimentos, rinsed and well drained
  16. 6 strips bacon, cooked and finely chopped
  17. 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Instructions
  1. Drain the potatoes fully in a colander.
  2. Melt the butter over medium high heat in a saucepan. Add the flour and stir until combined and you have a thick paste. Whisk in the milk and chicken broth and cook until smooth and bubbling and any floury taste is gone. Whisk in the mustard, Worcestershire, salt, pepper, paprika and nutmeg. Set aside to cool.
  3. Toss the thawed potatoes with the green onions, parsley, pimentos, bacon and cheese together in a large bowl until well mixed. Stir the sour cream into the cooled sauce base. The sauce base will be thick, just keep stirring until it is smooth and combined and add to the potatoes. Stir until everything is combined and evenly distributed. Spoon the hash browns into a well-greased 9 by 13 inch baking dish.
  4. At this point, the dish can be covered and refrigerated 8 hours or overnight. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350° and bake, covered with foil, until heated through and bubbly, about an hour.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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Maple Apple Biscuits with Whipped Maple Butter

Maple Apple Biscuits with Whipped Maple Butter

I’ve been focusing this month on simple comfort foods; food to share with family and friends that are simple and delicious. And nothing is more comforting to me than a homemade biscuit. So in the fall, I like to pair up the best of the season’s apples with a little sweet maple syrup to make a perfectly appropriate treat for breakfast, brunch or a snack.

These biscuits have just a hint of sweetness, so they pair well with the sweet maple butter. Any sweet spread would be lovely from homemade apple butter to a drizzle of honey. Take them more to the savory side with plain butter, or use them for ham biscuits with a little swipe of mustard.

Maple Apple Biscuits with Whipped Maple Butter
Serves 8
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups soft wheat flour (such as White Lily)
  2. 3 teaspoons baking powder
  3. 3 teaspoons sugar, plus 1 Tablespoon
  4. ½ teaspoon salt
  5. ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, plus ¼ teaspoon
  6. ½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, divided
  7. ¼ cup milk
  8. 1 egg
  9. 2 Tablespoons grade B amber maple syrup
  10. 1 medium apple
For the Maple Butter
  1. ½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
  2. 2 Tablespoons grade B amber maple syrup
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°. Grease a small baking sheet or line it with parchment paper.
  2. Mix the flour, baking powder, 3 teaspoons sugar, salt and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon together with a fork in a large bowl. Cut the butter into small cubes and add it to the flour. Toss the butter to coat it with the flour, then use two knifes or your good clean hands to rub the butter into the flour until it looks like coarse meal.
  3. Measure the milk into a jug then add the egg and maple syrup. Beat with a fork until well combined. Add to the flour and butter and still with a fork until the dough is just coming together. Peel the apple, remove the core and cut it into very small pieces. Drop the pieces into the bowl and use your clean hands to lightly knead the dough until the flour is all incorporated and the apples are distributed evenly. (peeling and chopping the apples right before adding them prevents browning.)
  4. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and pat it out into a rectangle about 4 by 8 inches. Press any stray apple pieces into the dough. Flour a knife or bench scraper and cut the dough into eight squares. Carefully transfer the biscuits to the greased baking sheet.
  5. Melt the remaining 2 Tablespoons butter in a small saucepan or the microwave. Stir in the 1 Tablespoon sugar and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon until you have a thick paste. The sugar will not dissolve completely. Brush the butter mixture over the tops of the biscuits using a pastry brush. Make sure you get some sugar on the biscuits. Coat the biscuits well, but you may not use all the topping.
  6. Bake the biscuits until risen and golden on the edges, 8 – 12 minutes, watching closely.
  7. For the Maple Butter
  8. Whip the softened butter and maple syrup together with an electric mixer until completely combined and smooth. Scrape into a bowl, cover and refrigerate.
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Crispy Buttermilk Baked Chicken

Crispy Buttermilk Baked Chicken

I spend most of my time creating and testing recipes. And I get caught in the cycle of always trying to think of something new and different. How can I add a twist to this recipe, or update an old stand-by? And I love every minute of it. But I realize that sometimes this means I discount or overlook wonderful recipes, or maybe just ideas in my head, that are standard, simple dishes. Because I assume there is nothing special or unique about them. I think of them as something I whip up for myself or for family. The things I no longer need to look at a recipe for, or a procedure that is etched in my mind and doesn’t need any thought. At some point though, I realize that the reason I keep returning to these dishes is because they are good. Not fancy, not innovative, just plain good. This is one of those recipes. Simple and quick, no fancy tricks or exotic ingredients. Just good food. I never thought to post this, because it is so simple, but the last time I made it, everyone was just plain happy to have it for dinner. And that’s the kind of recipe I want to share. Food that makes people happy. So here’s to simple and delicious!

Crispy Buttermilk Baked Chicken
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  2. 2 cups buttermilk
  3. 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  4. 1 Tablespoon hot sauce
  5. 2 ½ sleeves buttery cracker (such as Ritz), about 75 crackers
  6. salt and black pepper to taste
  7. ¼ cup butter, melted
Instructions
  1. Place the chicken breasts in a bowl or a ziptop bag set on a plate. Mix the buttermilk, Worcestershire and hot sauce together and pour over the chicken. Cover and leave in the fridge to marinate for several hours or overnight. The longer the better, and it can be up to 24 hours.
  2. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350°. Slice 2 Tablespoons the butter in a baking dish that will fit all the chicken pieces and place in the oven to melt.
  3. Melt the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter in the microwave or a small saucepan. Place the crackers in a ziptop bag and crush finely with a rolling pin. Mix in some salt and black pepper (I like a lot of black pepper). Spread the cracker crumbs out on a plate or baking sheet. Remove the chicken from the fridge. Shake any excess buttermilk off the chicken, then roll each breast in the cracker crumbs, coating well, and set aside. When you’ve coated all the chicken pieces, remove the hot dish from the oven and place the chicken breasts in the melted butter. Drizzle over the melted butter and return the dish to the oven. Bake for 50 minutes to an hour until the chicken is cooked through to an internal temperature of 165°. You can turn on the broiler for a few minutes at the end to brown the tops if you would like.
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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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Peach Bourbon Cake with Sweet Tea Peaches

Peach Bourbon Cake with Sweet Tea Peaches

Here I go again. Peaches and bourbon. They just go so well together, and when I am standing in the kitchen with some marvelous summer peaches, I just want to add a little splash. The peaches have been so amazing this year – I’ve jammed, spiced, ketchuped and canned a huge amount. But I went a little overboard on the buying. I created this recipe for a family dinner when I found myself with an overabundance of peaches, and added a touch of bourbon at the end. But I still had more peaches, so I upped the Southern factor by making a sweet tea infused compote, which adds another layer of flavor. You could add a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream, but it is rich enough as is. The cake would also be delicious with Peach Butterbourbon Sauce and the compote would be delicious on its own or stirred into some yogurt for breakfast.

Peach Bourbon Cake with Sweet Tea Peaches
Serves 8
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Ingredients
  1. Peach Bourbon Cake
  2. 4 medium sized peaches
  3. 3 cups flour, divided
  4. 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  5. 1 cup granulated sugar
  6. 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  7. 4 eggs
  8. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  9. ½ teaspoon salt
  10. ½ cup buttermilk
  11. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  12. 2 Tablespoons bourbon
  13. Sweet Tea Peaches
  14. 1 cup water
  15. 1 cup granulated sugar
  16. 2 black tea bag
  17. 8 medium peaches
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Grease a 12-cup Bundt pan thoroughly.
  2. Peel and pit the peaches and cut into small chunks. Toss with ¼ cup of the flour and set aside.
  3. Beat the butter and sugars together in the bowl of a stand mixer for 5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl several times, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, beating well after each addition and scraping down the bowl. Add the remaining 2 ¾ cups flour, baking powder and salt alternately with the buttermilk, scraping down the bowl, until completely mixed. Beat in the vanilla and bourbon.
  4. Gently fold the floured peaches through the batter distributing the chunks evenly. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 – 50 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the Peaches
  1. Stir the water and sugar together in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for about 5 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is syrup. Remove from the heat and add the tea bag. Leave to steep for about 5 minutes.
  2. Peel and pit the peaches and cut into small chunks. Remove the tea bag from the syrup and add the peaches. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the liquid is reduced and the peaches are coated in a light syrup, about 15 minutes.
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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.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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