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.

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 

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Slow Roasted Zucchini with Fennel and Tomatoes

Slow Roasted Zucchini

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

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

Slow Roasted Zucchini

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

1 shallot, very thinly sliced

4 ounces of small cherry tomatoes

4 – 5 stalks of oregano

½ cup vermouth

2 Tablespoons olive oil

5- 6 small zucchini, about 4 inches long

Salt and pepper

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

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

Serves 6

Fresh Corn Risotto with Roasted Tomato Jam

Fresh Corn Risotto with Roasted Tomato Jam

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

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

Fresh Corn Risotto with Roasted Tomato Jam

For the Jam:

1 ½ pounds plum tomatoes

¾ cup cane sugar

1 Tablespoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon smoked paprika

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

Very genoerus grindings of balck pepper

¼ cup cider vinegar

For the Corn Stock:

4 ears of corn, 

5 – 6 large green onion tops

2 garlic cloves

For the Risotto:

The kernels from 4 ears of corn

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

1 garlic clove

¼ cup unsalted butter, divided

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 cup arborio rice

½ cup white wine

5 – 6 cups corn stock

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

Sea salt

For the Jam:

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

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

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

For the Corn Cob Stock:

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

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

For the Risotto:

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

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

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

Serves 4

Salmorejo (Chilled Spanish Tomato Soup) with Frozen Olive Oil

Salmorejo (Chilled Spanish Tomato Soup) with Frozen Olive Oil

Salmorejo is gazpacho’s simpler cousin.  It’s a fresh, chilled tomato soup without the added peppers, cucumbers and other business found in gazpacho.  I’m not a huge fan of gazpacho, because it varies so wildly and people seem to put all kinds of crazy ingredients in it.  You never know what you are going to get. But Salmorejo is right up my alley.  I first tasted Salmorejo in its homeland of Andalucia in Southern Spain but forgot the exact name of the dish and didn’t do much research when I came home.  But a few years ago, I was staying with friends near the beach close to Valencia, Spain and on a trip to the grocery store, I saw cartons of chilled Salmorejo (next to the cartons of gazpacho) and suddenly remembered the lovely soup from my earlier trip.  We grabbed a couple of cartons and served them for lunch.  Unfortunately, the first carton tasted a little off… So we opened the next carton and it exploded all over the patio.  I think it had fermented.  I was kind of embarrassed that I had insisted on buying it.  Oddly, I took this as a challenge and decided when I came home, I had to explore the recipe.

I read many, many recipes and most simply blend the ingredients, chill and serve.  But this method for soaking the ingredients mellows the soup, cutting the bite of the onions and garlic and softening the tomato skins.  The soaked bread is a simple thickener often found in Mediterranean dishes.  Use half a crusty baguette and serve the rest with the soup, or use up some older, slightly dried leftover crusty bread.

I saw a picture of a chilled soup with olive oil ice cubes floating in the bowl in a magazine years and years ago and it stuck in my head waiting for the right application.  I don’t generally recommend buying specialty kitchen equipment, but I found some little round ice cube trays at a dollar store, so seek them out, they are pretty inexpensive.  You can always use them for plain ice cubes.  If you don’t have a small ice cube tray, drizzle the soup with a fruity, quality olive oil.  Salmorejo is traditionally served with whisper thin pieces of jamon Serrano and sometimes boiled eggs.  You could also serve the parsley picada from this wonderful White Gazpacho recipe.

Salmorejo (Spanish Chilled Tomato Soup) with Frozen Olive Oil
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. ¼ cup fruity extra virgin olive oil
  2. ½ small yellow onion
  3. 1 ½ pounds plum tomatoes
  4. 8 ounces baguette
  5. 2 cloves garlic
  6. 2 Tablespoons kosher salt
  7. ½ cup olive oil
  8. 2 Tablespoon sherry vinegar
  9. salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Divide the ¼ cup olive oil between the cubes of an small ice cube tray (about 2 teaspoons a cube). Freeze until firm, 8 hours or overnight.
  2. Slice the onion and place in a large bowl. Half or quarter the tomatoes (depending on size) and place in the bowl. Tear the bread into large chunks and add to the bowl with the crushed garlic cloves and the salt. Pour over enough boiling water to cover and leave to soak for an hour.
  3. Drain the tomato and bread mixture over a bowl, reserving the soaking liquid. Pick out the tomatoes, onions and garlic as best you can and place in a blender. Add the ½ cup olive oil and the vinegar and a little of the soaking liquid and blend to a rough puree. Use your hands and the back of a spatula to press as much liquid as possible out of the bread and add it to the blender. Turn on the blender and puree, drizzling in some of the soaking liquid, until you have a smooth, creamy soup. If you would like a silky soup, pour it through a strainer into a bowl, pushing all the liquid through. Let the soup cool, then cover and chill for several hours or overnight.
  4. Serve the soup cold with frozen olive oil floating in each bowl.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Creamy Fresh Corn Pasta Sauce

Creamy Fresh Corn Pasta Sauce

I adore fresh corn in the summer, but for most of my life, I never imaginged it paired with pasta until one of my favorite local restaurants had a summer special of fresh tortelloni filled with corn and ricotta. I loved that dish and it really got me thinking, though I knew I would never make my own stuffed pasta. Toothsome pasta with sweet pops of fresh local corn make for an excitingly simple summer supper that is unique but not too complicated. I love that this incredibly flavor full dish basically has five ingredients, but utilized in different ways, they create layers of flavor. The slightly smoky charred corn is a simple step but a beautifully complex layer. Fresh kernels softened in milk and set off by gently tangy green onion, with some bright fresh onion tops on top to add color and zest.

I have at times added a little thyme or marjoram to the milk and corn, but it is a little bit of gilding the lily when you want the corn flavor to really shine. I’ve also used half and half for a richer sauce, but milk is delightfully creamy. Pecorino gives a great salty hit without overpowering, which parmesan tends to do. I am partial to a sweet yellow corn, but a mix of yellow and white works well – only the color of your sauce will change. Orecchiette, or “little ears,” are perfect for this dish because they cradle the lovely little charred kernels in a pool of sauce. Shells or a mezze rigatoni could do the same thing.

Fresh Corn Pasta Sauce

Creamy Fresh Corn Pasta Sauce

4 ears corn, shucked

6 green onions, white and light green parts, with some green tops saved for topping

2 Tablespoons butter

1 cup whole milk

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

12 ounces orecchiette pasta

½ cup finely grated pecorino cheese

Char one cob of corn, either directly over the flame of a gas stove or under the broiler in the oven, turning the cob several times to get nice charred kernels. It will make some popping noises! Set the charred corn aside until cool enough to handle, then cut the kernels from the cob and separate.

Cut the kernels from 3 ears of corn and finely dice the green onions. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, then add the green onions. Sauté until soft and pale, about 5 minutes, then add the corn kernels and cook for a further 2- 3 minutes. Pour in the milk and bring to a bubble – don’t let it boil or the milk will curdle, just heat it through and cook for a few minutes to soften the corn. Season well with salt and generous grinds of black pepper. Transfer to the carafe of a blender. Remove the vent from the lid and it down with a tea towel. Blend until the sauce is completely smooth. Pour the sauce through a sieve back into the wiped-out skillet while you cook the pasta.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, then add the orchiette and cook according to the package instructions until al dente. Scoop out about 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta.

Heat the sauce over medium heat until hot through. Add the pasta and stir to coat, adding a little of the reserved pasta water to thin it out if needed. Taste again and season well – use lots of black pepper. Toss the charred corn kernels through the pasta and serve topped with the grated pecorino and thin slivers of green onion top.

Serves 4

Summer Caprese Chicken Salad

Summer Chicken Caprese Salad

The tomato-mozzarella-basil caprese salad is a true summer staple. When tomatoes are at their juiciest best, it is a joy to serve them with as little fuss as possible. The pairing of tomatoes and mozzarella is deliciously simple, creamy and fresh classic. I’ve taken the idea of the caprese in a lot of directions to maximize this lovely flavor combination, so it’s no wonder I eventually landed on this chicken salad version. I was looking for another creative way to make a wonderful cold salad for a summer meal, one that could be a centerpiece, not just a supporting character. But I wanted to do something lighter and fresher than the creamy mayonnaise form (not that there is anything wrong with that). I felt like chicken dressed in a vinaigrette style dressing would be perfect, and so I turned to this creamy flavor packed standard dressing from my repertoire. And it seemed only natural that a salad with a dressing made with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese have an Italian flair. So tender chicken, creamy mozzarella, crisp pine nuts, juicy tomatoes and a sprinkle of basil it is.

I find mozzarella “pearls” easily in the grocery store, they are little bite-sized balls of cheese perfectly suited for salad. If you don’t find these, tear a ball of fresh mozzarella into small pieces instead. I like the symmetry of round cherry tomatoes and the bright pop of red, but you could easily use oblong grape tomatoes or varicolored varieties. There is likely to be some dressing left over, but never fear. It is delicious on any green salad and will keep for a few days in the fridge.

Summer Caprese Chicken Salad

For the Dressing:

2 cloves garlic

½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar

Zest and juice of one lemon

¾ cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste 

For the Chicken:

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves

Olive oil

Kosher salt

Black pepper

¼ cup pine nuts

8 ounces mozzarella “pearls”

1 pint cherry tomatoes

1 bunch fresh basil leaves

For the Dressing:

Place the garlic, cheese, vinegar and lemon zest in the carafe of a blender and blend to a rough paste. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil until creamy and emulsified. Add the lemon juice and blend to combined. Taste and blend in salt and pepper as needed. Transfer to an airtight jar. The dressing will keep in the fridge for 5 days.

For the Salad:

Preheat the oven to 400°.

Place the chicken breasts on a roasting tray lined with non-stick foil. Brush them with olive oil, then season generously with salt and pepper. Roast until the chicken reaches 165°on a meat thermometer and the juices run clear, about 25 minutes. Leave the chicken breasts to cool completely, then cut into small chunks. Place the chicken in a bowl and add the mozzarella, then pour over about half of the dressing and stir to coat completely. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight. 

About an hour before serving the salad, toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet until lightly golden and fragrant. Add the nuts to the chicken and mozzarella in the bowl. Half the cherry tomatoes and add to the salad. Stack up the basil leaves and roll into a tight cigar, then slice into thin strips. Add the basil to the salad and stir to combine everything. Shake the remaining dressing well to combine, then add a bit at a time until the salad is nicely covered in dressing, but there is not a great deal pooling in the bowl. You may not use all the dressing. Cover and keep in the fridge until shortly before serving.

Serves 6

Margarita Shrimp Salad Platter

Margarita Shrimp Salad Platter

Summer is a wonderful time to entertain – people just seem more relaxed and its easy to do something elegant and impressive without slaving away for days. Like this colorful salad. I love the big platter salad (witness the Southern Buttermilk Cobband the Muffalettaversions). The big platter were purchased from discount stores that have proven fantastically useful. And a big, colorful display of delicious food never fails to impress. And people love to customize their meal without making a fuss – just serve up the bits you like for a perfect meal.

Below I’ve laid out my basic blueprint. This may look like a lot of work, but I promise it is not, but the reward is pretty spectacular. And the elements can be done ahead in stages with only the assembly to deal with, and that doesn’t require turning on the oven or standing over the stove if you plan ahead. Choose any big, generous platter and arrange all the ingredients attractively. I use medium sized shrimp that are easier to eat in a salad, but bigger ones are just fine. I like to line the platter with lettuce leaves, then leave some readily accessible so people can easily build the salad to their own tastes. And get creative – add any other ingredients that take your fancy, I have sometimes sprinkled over crispy tortilla strips or added wedges of lime to squeeze over everything.

Margarita Shrimp Salad Platter

For the Pickled Red Onion:

1 red onion, thinly sliced

1 cup water

½ cup cider vinegar

1 Tablespoon sugar

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

½ teaspoon pickling spice

Layer the onions in a pint jar or glass bowl. Bring the water, vinegar, sugar, salt and spices to a boil in a small pan and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the brine over the onions and leave to cool, then seal and keep in the refrigerator for a least an hour, but the onions will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.

For the Cilantro-Lime Dressing

½ cup mayonnaise

½ cup buttermilk

Zest and juice of one small lime

1 clove garlic

½ teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon celery salt

Pinch of kosher salt

1 cup of cilantro leaves and stems

Place all the ingredient in the order listed in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into an airtight container, cover and refrigerated for up to two days.

For the Shrimp:

2 pounds peeled and deveined shrimp, thawed if frozen (35- 40 count), tails removed

2 Tablespoon olive oil

2 Tablespoons tequila

2 Tablespoons lime juice

Salt and pepper to taste

Pour in the oil, tequila and lime juice in a bowl or a ziptop bag and stir or shake to blend. Pat the shrimp dry and place in the marinade. Refrigerate for 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with non-stick foil. Drain the shrimp from the marinade and place in an even layer on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, then roast 8 – 10 minutes until pink and curled and cooked through. Cool the shrimp for a few minutes, then put in a bowl or on a plate and refrigerate until chilled. When they are cold, you can cover the shrimp and keep in the fridge for 24 hours.

For the Corn:

12 ounces fresh or frozen corn

2 Tablespoons lime juice

Chile – lime seasoning (such as Tajin) or chili powder

Salt and pepper

Put the corn in a pan and cover with water by about ½ inch. Bring to a boil and cook for 4 minutes. Thoroughly drain the corn and place in a bowl, the squeeze over the lime juice and stir to coat. Season well with Tajin, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

For assembly:

One head of butter lettuce

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

5 radishes, thinly sliced

1 (8-ounce) jar pickled jalapenos, drained

10 ounces cotija cheese, crumbled

2 avocados, diced

1 lime, squeezed over the avocado to prevent browning.

Line a big platter with lettuce leaves, then attractively arrange the remaining ingredients, with some lettuce readily accessible. Serve with tongs, spoons and a ladle for the dressing.

Serves 6 – 8

Roasted Carrot Gnudi with Dill Beurre Blanc

Roasted Carrot Gnudi with Dill Beurre Blanc

I know I some time wax poetic about my love for farmers markets, but they really are a true inspiration for me. Wandering through the stalls marveling at all the fresh produce my wheels just begin to churn and my creative juices start flowing. And not only for the jam and preserves I obsessively put by, but for creative and fresh ways to dine from all the beautiful abundance. I religiously attend one of my local markets, but I also visit markets when I travel, just so marvel offer all the produce. There is a vendor at my local market that makes his own fresh ricotta cheese and I pick some up almost every time I’m there. I use it in a lot of ways, but in the spring I love it spread on a slice of bread fresh from one of the market bakers, topped with berries and drizzled with local honey.  Once he asked me what I was planning to do with it, and before I could really think it through, I answered “gnudi.” As I turned to view another stall, I lovely bunch of carrots called out to me, and as a headed home my mind put together the idea of a combination. I made this dish for several weeks, experimenting with different sauces and techniques, just as special treat for myself. But when hit on the classic beurre blanc, punched up with dill, carrots perfect partner, I knew I really had something. I posted a picture on social media and recipe requests started coming in, so here you go.

A dish like this is so simple, it is always about the best ingredients. I buy fresh, small carrots at the farmers market. If you don’t have that option, look for smaller, firm carrots that haven’t been sitting around at the market for a long time and avoid large hard ones. I also buy freshly made ricotta at the farmers market, but look for a high quality Italian style whole milk ricotta and drain it if it has a lot of liquid. Real parmiggiano cheese makes a difference too. And splurge on some European style butter for the sauce to make it extra rich and flavorful. This makes enough for 2 generous servings, but can easily be doubled.

Roasted Carrot Gnudi with Dill Beurre Blanc

For the Gnudi:

12 ounces fresh, young carrots

Olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper

1 Tablespoon fill fronds

8 ounces ricotta, drained if it is particularly wet

2 egg yolks

¼ cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup grated parmigianno-reggiano cheese

1 ½ cups semolina flour

For the Beurre Blanc:

1 large shallot, finely diced

1 cup white wine

½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter

1 teaspoon lemon zest

2 teaspoons lemon juice

3 Tablespoons finely chopped dill

Salt and pepper

For the Gnudi:

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

Peel the carrots and cut into evenly sized, rough chunks. Place on the prepared baking sheet and drizzle with a small amount of olive oil – just enough to lightly coat the carrots, you don’t want lots of oil pooling on the pan. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and roast for 30 minutes until soft when pierced with a knife and browned in some places. Cool completely.

Put the carrots in the bowl of a food processor, add the dill and blend until you have a rough puree (a little texture is good). Add the ricotta and egg yolks and blend until smooth, then scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the flour and cheese and generous pinches of salt and a few grinds of pepper and blend until completely combined, scraping down the sides as needed.

Spread the semolina in a thick layer on the bottom of a low, flat container. Scoop out about  a tablespoon of the carrot mixture at a time and drop directly into the semolina. I use a small cookie scoop which I highly recommend. Roll the ball over in the semolina, then pick It up and toss it lightly between your hands to round it off and shake off any excess semolina. Place the ball in the corner of the container on top of te semolina. Repeat with the rest of the mixture and spread the finished gnudi out, not touching each other, on top of the semolina. Place int the regrigertor uncovered for a few hours. Remove from the fridge at elast 30 minutes before cooling. (Storing the gnudi in the semolina absorbs excess moisture so the cook up light and fluffy). 

For the Beurre Blanc:

Put the shallot and wine in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook until the wine is almost totally evaporated and the shallots have a nice glaze. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in a few cubes of butter until melted and smooth. The butter must be cold for the sauce to emulsify. Continue until all the butter is incorporated. The butter should melt into the sauce from the residual heat, but as you add the butter to the sauce the temperature lowers, so when it is not melting easily, return the pan to the very lowest heat and whisk constantly. When all ethe butter is melted and the sauce is thick and almost creamy, whisk in the lemon zest and juice, then the dill and salt and pepper to taste.

While you are making the beurre blanc, bring a large pot of very well salted water to a boil. When the sauce is done, gently shake any excess semolina off the gnudi and drop them in the water. Cook until the gnudi float to the top, about 3 – 5 minutes, then remove to a colander with a slotted spoon. Spread the gnudi in a serving dish or individual bowls and drizzled with the beurre blanc.

Serves 2

Tarragon Mustard Velvet

Tarragon Mustard Velvet

Spring has always been a season of brunch for me. Easter, graduations, wedding showers. It’s a great way to entertain elegantly and with a little planning, pretty easy to do ahead. Center the affair around a ham with biscuits or rolls, a perfect platter of stuffed eggs, add some vegetables, a casserole (maybe this hash brown version) and a few indulgent treats and you are good to go. Tangy mustard with a velvety fluffy texture is a lovely complement to the best spring and summer vegetables. I developed this to go with asparagus, but it works wonderfully well with pillowy snap peas or simply steamed green beans. But wait, there’s more – this is delicious with slices of ham, even with sliced beef tenderloin. So for the Easter buffet, you get a two for one deal – this makes enough to serve with two separate dishes. 

I love a platter of lightly steamed asparagus with a tangy, interesting sauce or dressing, and this fits the bill perfectly. If you’ve ever had the old-school molded mustard mousse once a staple of the Southern ham buffet, this is inspired by the classic, but with a much smoother and cleaner taste, old-fashioned and modern at the same time. I love the bracing flavor of tarragon, but vary that up with dill or, if you have it, chervil. And the sunshine-y yellow color adds its own touch of spring to the feast. I call it velvet because the smooth, fluffy texture works either as a dip or a spread.

Tarragon Mustard Velvet

2 egg yolks

3 Tablespoons prepared Dijon mustard

2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar (use tarragon vinegar if you have it)

1 Tablespoon water

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon

¾ teaspoons kosher salt

1 Tablespoon butter

½ cup heavy whipping cream

Beat the egg yolks, mustard, vinegar, water and sugar together in a small sauce pan until smooth and combined. Stir in the tarragon and salt. Place the pan over medium heat and heat gently until thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir almost constantly to prevent the mustard from catching on the bottom of the pan. The mixture should return to the consistency of the prepared mustard. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter until melted and smooth. Scrape the mustard into a small bowl so it won’t continue cooking from the heat of the pan. Cool completely.

Whip the cream to stiff peaks, then fold through the mustard until well combined but still fluffy. Cover and refrigerate for several hours, but overnight is fine.

Roasted Artichokes with Tarragon Vinaigrette

When I was a young teenager, my mother cooked some artichokes and sat my brother and I down for a lesson on how to eat them. Apparently, when she herself was a teen, she was invited home with a friend from her boarding school and served artichokes at an elegant dinner with the family. She had never seen one before and was a bit flummoxed, and embarrassed. She worked her way through it by watching the other diners but was furious at her mother for never telling her about artichokes. When she related all this to my grandmother, she was mortified at her lapse. So she then started serving artichokes every time my mom was home from school. My mother didn’t want to make the same mistake with us, so we were given those proper lessons. I am sure at the time I sighed and rolled my eyes, but I did enjoy the artichokes. Sure enough, on several occasions later in life, I found myself at a table with an artichoke and other dinners who didn’t know what to make of it and was thankful for my mother’s foresight.

I can’t say we ate a lot of artichokes growing up, but when we did they were generally boiled then served with melted butter or, on special occasions, hollandaise sauce, though I think that was more often a restaurant thing. I sometimes buy myself an artichoke when they look good and savor it as a special meal with lots of butter. There is no getting around the fact that artichokes take some work. Removing the leaves and trimming the tips takes some patience, and they brown very quickly when cut, so you have to be work fast with the lemon. I discovered this method of roasting artichokes and I find it a little bit more manageable than finding a pot big enough to boil them in, plus it really intensifies the flavor. And this tangy vinaigrette is fresher and brighter than a heavy, creamy sauce. These artichokes are every bit as elegant the classic, but can also be presented in a more rustic way. I have put the roasting dish out next to a bowl of extra vinaigrette and a bowl for the leaves and let people pull them off and enjoy as snack. I think artichokes are a lovely way to welcome spring.

Roasted Artichokes with Lemon Tarragon Vinaigrette

4 artichokes

2 lemons

1 bunch tarragon

2 Tablespoons chopped shallot

1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard

4 Tablespoons plus ½ cup olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Cut the stalks from the artichokes so they stand straight. Cut off about ½ inch from the top of each artichoke, then remove any tough outer leaves. Snip off the pointy tops of the other leaves.  Place the artichokes in a deep baking dish that fits them close together. Cut one lemon in half and rub it over the exposed cuts on the top and leaves of the artichokes. Squeeze the juice from the lemon into the baking dish, then tuck in a few sprigs of tarragon. Pour boiling water into the dish to come halfway up the sides of the artichokes, then cover tightly with foil. Roast the artichokes for one hour.  Uncover the dish, then drizzle the 4 Tablespoons of olive oil evenly over the artichokes and cook for another 15 minutes until a knife inserted in the bottom meets no resistance and the leaves pull off easily.

While the artichokes are roasting, mix the shallots, 2 Tablespoons lemon juice, 1 Tablespoon of chopped tarragon, and the mustard and generous pinches of salt and pepper in jar. Shake to combine, then add the ½ cup of olive oil and shake until combined.

When the artichokes are done, give the vinaigrette a good shake and drizzle over the tops. Serve any extra dressing on the side for dipping.