Southern Snacks Cookbook

The Southern Sympathy Cookbook

I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Roasted Fennel Soup with Fennel Parmesan Toast

I love the magic of soup. With such a few ingredients you can create richly flavored and complex bowls of delight. And those bowls can be elegant and sophisticated or hearty and homey. I make this soup while I’m doing other things in the kitchen – cut the vegetables and roast them while putting the dishes away, simmer them in the broth while making a grocery list, blitz it all in the blender and your good to go. You can serve it directly, or cool, cover and refrigerate for several hours and gently reheat. Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of the preparation – the end result is amazing.

I am a latecomer to fennel but I absolutely love it. This simple soup is just pure fennel loveliness. Roasting brings out the flavor and a little onion highlights without overpowering. Any soup is made better by the addition of toasty cheesy bread, and here I like to add a little nutty parmesan and some green, herbal fennel fronds. The beautiful lacy, feathery fronds add so much flavor, never throw them all away. Sprinkle some finely chopped over the soup and add them to the crispy toasts. Little cups of this make an elegant starter, but big bowls with lots of cheese toasts and a green salad are a rustic meal.

Roasted Fennel Soup with Fennel Parmesan Toast

For the Soup:

1 large fennel bulb

1 large yellow onion

Olive oil

Kosher salt

½ teaspoon fennel seed

4 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth

For the Toast:

½ cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature

2 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

1 Tablespoon finely chopped fennel frond

Coarse salt

8 (¼-inch) slices Italian bread

For the Soup:

Preheat the oven to 400°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.

Cut the stems and fronds from the fennel bulb, then halve the bulb and cut out the hard cor. Cut the into quarters and loosely separate the pieces. Place on the baking sheet. Peel the onion and qurter and separate the pieces and place on the pan. Drizzle over a little olive oil and toss just to coat the pieces – you do not want oil pooling on the pan. Sprinkle generously with salt, then roast until the fennel and onion are soft and lightly browned, about 30 minutes, flipping the pieces over about half way through. While the fennel is roasting, put the fennel seeds in a heavy duty ziptop bag and crush them with a rolling pin or meat mallet to a powder.

Transfer the vegetables to a large pot and pour over the broth. Add the crushed fennel seed and bring to a boil, reduce the heat and cover the pan. Simmer for 15 minutes. Let cool slightly Transfer the soup to a blender (do this in batches if necessary, don’t over fill the blender). Vent the top of the blender and hold it down with a towel and blend until the soup is very smooth. Wipe out the pot and return the soup to it. Gently reheat until warm through. Season with salt to taste.

For the Toasts:

Preheat the oven to 425°. Mash the butter, cheese and fennel frond together in a small bowl. Seaosn with salt to taste. Spread the bread slices with the butter and place on a baking sheet lined with non-stick foil or parchment. Toast the bread for 5 minutes, then turn on the broiler and toast, watching closely, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes.

Serves 4

Advertisements

Smoky Spicy Black-Eyed Pea Stew

Smoky Spicy Black-eyed Pea Stew

As the New Year starts, we turn again to our black-eyed peas for luck. I usually go for something traditionally Southern, but every once in a while, I like to ring the changes and spice things up. This hearty stew has all the cold-weather comfort of old-fashioned Southern black-eyed peas with a fantastic hit of smoke and spice. I’ll admit, I am mostly a sit-on-the-sofa-reading-and-watching-movies on New Year’s Day person, but this is a great New Year’s Day meal for friends, guarantee them all some luck with an interesting twist to tradition – just put out some bowls and serve directly from the pot.

Smoky bacon and smoky sausage with smoked paprika add a great depth to this dish. Look for double smoked bacon for an extra hit. I love the balance of heat here, but stouter souls can substitute a spicier pepper for one poblano. And of course, serve some hot sauce or pepper vinegar on the side. A chunky slice of cornbread is the perfect accompaniment, but corn tortillas or corn chips are great as well. You can add a dollop of sour cream if you like.

Smoky Spicy Black-eyed Pea Stew

2 poblano peppers

8 strips of smoked bacon (double smoked if you can find it)

12 ounces smoked sausage

1 onion, finely diced

1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles

2 teaspoons cumin

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles

4 cups (1 32-ounce box) chicken broth

2 (12-ounce) bags frozen black-eyed peas

Char the poblano peppers over a gas burner or on a foil lined baking sheet under a high broiler. Get every inch of skin charred black, turning a few times with tongs to cover get all surfaces. Immediately place the charred peppers in a paper bag and fold down the top or in a bowl tightly covered with plastic wrap. Leave to steam until cool enough to handle, then rub off the skin, rinsing the peppers under cold water to remove any last remnants of char. Remove the stems, seeds and ribs then finely dice the peppers and set aside.

Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook in a 5-quart Dutch over medium high heat until very crispy, then remove with a slotted spoon to a small baking sheet lined with paper towels. While the bacon is cooking, cut the sausage in half lengthwise, then into little bite-sized half-moons. After you’ve removed the bacon, cook the sausage in the bacon grease until lightly browned and curling, about 10 minutes. Remove the sausage to the paper towels with the slotted spoon as well. Drain off all but 2 Tablespoons of the bacon grease and let it cool slightly before adding the diced onion (if you drop the onion into sizzling hot grease, they will burn). Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, about 8 minutes. Add the poblanos and the green chilies with their liquid and cook about 2 minutes, then sprinkle over the chili powder, cumin, paprika and salt and stir to coat the vegetables. Cook about 2 minutes until the spices are very fragrant, then add the garlic and cook a further 2 minutes. Pour in the can of tomatoes and chilies with their liquid and the chicken broth. Add the black-eyed peas and stir to combine, then bring a boil. Reduce the heat and cook the stew uncovered for 30 minutes until thickened and the peas are softened. Hold back a handful of the bacon to top the stew, then stir the remaining bacon and the sausage into the stew. Cover and cook a further 30 minutes or until the peas are very soft and cooked through.  Serve in hearty bowls, sprinkled with a little bacon.

Serves 8

Lyonnaise Style Platter Salad

Lyonnaise Style Salad Platter

On the calendar, summer is moving into fall. On the thermometer, not so much. Theoretically, we are all ready for soups and stews and pumpkin everything. But really? It’s still over 90 degrees outside here. So a hearty cold meal is still very much welcome, but one with some substance and depth. I turn here to my new favorite easy entertaining option – the platter salad. With one nice sized platter or board and a little effort, you can create a stunning display that is sure to impress – and satisfy – anyone you serve it to. I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of my Buttermilk Cobb Saladand the Margarita Shrimp Salad Platter, so I am forever looking for new versions.

I turn here to a lovely version of a classic Lyonnaise Salad. I’ll be honest, I don’t order salads at restaurants very often, because I generally feel like I can do that at home. But one place here in town has a Lyonnaise salad I am happy to order. The classic Salade Lyonnaise is frilly frisee lettuce topped with bacon lardons and a poached egg with a warm vinaigrette, so I am definitely off book. The green beans and potatoes come from the version I order at the local bistro – they add some heft to a simple salad, making it a full meal. Roasting the shallots makes for a rich vinaigrette with a hint of caramelized sweetness and a gentle tang. Elements of the salad can be made a day ahead, others hours ahead, so it just needs to be attractively assembled before serving.

Lyonnaise Style Salad Platter

For the Roasted Shallot Vinaigrette:

4 shallots

1 cup olive oil, plus a bit more

1 tablespoon Dijon

1 Tablespoon herb leaves – tarragon, basil, oregano

1 teaspoon honey

1/3 cup champagne vinegar

Salt and pepper

For the Salad:

1 pound small red new potatoes

1 Tablespoon kosher salt

1 Tablespoon white vinegar

1 pound of fresh green beans

4 large eggs

8 strips of thick cut bacon

1 generous head of frisee lettuce or curly romaine

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Dressing:

Preheat the oven to 350°. Peel the shallots and cut each blub in half. Lightly coat with olive oil and roast for about 25 minutes, until the shallots are soft and browned in places. Place the shallots, herbs, mustard, honey and vinegar in the carafe of a blender and blend until smooth. With the motor running, drizzle in the oil and blend until smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste. The dressing can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 days. Shake or whisk well until the dressing is creamy before use.

For the salad:

Add the salt and vinegar to a large pot of water and bring to the boil. Drop in the potatoes and cook until tender when pierced with a knife, about 15 minutes. Drain well and leave to cool. The cooked potatoes can be kept covered in the fridge for a day. Before assembling the salad, cut the potatoes into wedges. 

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, and fill a large bowl or sink with ice water. When the water is boiling, drop in the beans and cook for 5 minutes. Drain the beans and plunge them into the ice water to stop cooking. When the beans are cold in the water remove them to a tea towel to air dry. The beans can be cooked up to a day ahead and refrigerated in a ziptop bag.

Place the eggs in a saucepan and cover with water.  Bring the water to a boil, then cook the eggs for 7 minutes.  Fill a bowl with ice cubes and water, and when the 7 minutes is up, remove the eggs to the ice water and leave until cool.  Peel the eggs, rinse off any shell bits and pat dry with paper towels. This can be done several hours ahead with the peeled eggs kept in the fridge in a ziptop bag. Before assembling, cut the eggs into wedges.

Cook the bacon strips until very crispy.  Drain on paper towels, patting off as much grease as possible.  Leave to cool, then chop into small pieces. This can be done several hours in advance.

To assemble:

Wash and dry the lettuce, and cover the bottom of a large platter with the leaves. Arrange the potato wedges, green beans, eggs and bacon on top. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the eggs, potatoes, and beans. Put the vinaigrette in a small pitcher or bowl and serve on the side for dinners to drizzle over their portions.

Serves 4- 6 

Slow Roasted Zucchini with Fennel and Tomatoes

Slow Roasted Zucchini

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

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

Slow Roasted Zucchini

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

1 shallot, very thinly sliced

4 ounces of small cherry tomatoes

4 – 5 stalks of oregano

½ cup vermouth

2 Tablespoons olive oil

5- 6 small zucchini, about 4 inches long

Salt and pepper

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

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

Serves 6

Fresh Corn Risotto with Roasted Tomato Jam

Fresh Corn Risotto with Roasted Tomato Jam

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

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

Fresh Corn Risotto with Roasted Tomato Jam

For the Jam:

1 ½ pounds plum tomatoes

¾ cup cane sugar

1 Tablespoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon smoked paprika

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

Very genoerus grindings of balck pepper

¼ cup cider vinegar

For the Corn Stock:

4 ears of corn, 

5 – 6 large green onion tops

2 garlic cloves

For the Risotto:

The kernels from 4 ears of corn

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

1 garlic clove

¼ cup unsalted butter, divided

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 cup arborio rice

½ cup white wine

5 – 6 cups corn stock

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

Sea salt

For the Jam:

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

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

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

For the Corn Cob Stock:

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

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

For the Risotto:

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

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

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

Serves 4