May 2, 2013
Newly gathered asparagus, kept fresh for the table in a vase of water.
A glance through cookbooks of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries might give the casual reader the impression that our ancestors played a one note theme when it came to asparagus. (more…)
April 10, 2013
Spring in a bowl: strawberries macerated in bourbon and lemon
It’s usually a mistake to assume that someone who looks back to history is somehow bound and gagged by the past. Yet, the prejudice is commonplace, and seems to be especially prominent in the culinary community, where so-called “cutting edge” trends whiz past at light speed, seemingly leaving us dusty old historians behind to stew in our own marmite. (more…)
March 16, 2013
Scallops with Mushrooms and Scallions, or "Scallops Diane"
If you follow this essay series at all, you will have noticed that I rarely venture into the justly famous cookery of Creole and Cajun Louisiana. That’s mainly because, first of all, these cuisines are not directly a part of my own heritage, and secondly, they have more than enough champions on their own, both true Louisianans and posturing Creole/Cajun wannabes, to need any help from the likes of this old Cracker. (more…)
March 1, 2013
Jumbo sea scallops, pan-seared in clarified butter and nestled up to capellini simply sauced with butter, lemon juice, and scallions
Everyone should have such a dilemma: there was a large cache of lovely jumbo dry-packed sea scallops leftover from a class and no one else could use them. It was up to us to use them, and we were going to be out until late. I was not, however, about to let a luxury go to waste.
Besides, the lovely thing about scallops like that is that they take no time at all to cook. I walked into the kitchen at 7:45 and a sumptuous yet simple supper was ready by 8:30. (more…)
February 23, 2013
Country Style Steak, served in the Lowcountry way on a fluffy bed of rice
When the weather turns cold and damp, as it has this week, or simply when we just need comforting, nothing answers in my household like this simple but deeply satisfying dish of tenderized round steak slow-simmered in an aromatic gravy. Originally called beef “collops” (the old English word for sliced meat), this dish goes back at least to the mid-eighteenth century, and as its contemporary name suggests, has long been a staple of farm kitchens all across the South. (more…)
February 4, 2013
Ilda's casseruola al forno, or ham and potato gratin: comfort food in any language.
It was my first night in Italy. Our class had spent the day sketching in the picturesque port towns of Portofino and San Frutuoso. Soaked with Riviera sunshine and salty Ligurian air, we came back to the school, a villa that commanded its own picturesque view of the Bay of Genoa over the red-tiled rooftops of the old city. We were exhilarated, exhausted, and very hungry, as only active young people can be. (more…)
January 30, 2013
Thin Spaghetti simply sauced with Butter, Cheese, and Scallions
Sometimes the very best cooking is barely cooking at all. That’s partly because the most important skill in any cook’s repertory is that of knowing when to stop.
For example, one of the best of all possible ways to sauce pasta, whether it is fresh egg noodles made at home or dried factory pasta, involves no cooking at all: it is simply tossed with just butter and freshly grated Parmigiano. (more…)
January 25, 2013
A little change can sometimes make a big difference: our "new" breakfast room coffee station
I don’t need a physicist to prove to me the law that objects at rest tend to remain at rest. All I have to do is look around my own house.
We really are creatures of habit, and once something comes to rest in a spot, that’s where we tend to leave it. That may not be a particularly Southern trait, but anyone who visits the South could certainly build a strong argument in its favor. We Southerners are masters at design by default, (more…)
January 23, 2013
White Bean Soup II, with Garlic and Rosemary. If you're feeling the need for pig, ramp it up with pancetta or bacon
A welcome nip in the air has conspired with a touch of homesickness to bring on a craving for hearty, old-fashioned bean soup. There are so many good ones—from my father’s simple mélange of copper-brown pintos with ham and onion (eaten with hot cornbread crumbled into the bowl) to the suave, sophisticated puree of black beans that once graced so many Savannah dinner tables. I love them all, but my favorite is a simple, hearty white bean soup. (more…)
January 4, 2013
Black-eyed peas, seasoned with ham, onion, garlic, herbs, and hot peppers, are too satisfying and delicious to limit them to one day at the beginning of the year
Though black-eyed peas have become to New Year’s Day what turkey is to Thanksgiving, the uniquely marked field pea with one of the most evocative names in the vegetable kingdom is a year round staple for Southerners. And while they’re commonly associated with humble tables (the superstition associated with having them at new year is that beginning the year with such “humble” fare will bring prosperity), they really know no social, ethnic, or economic boundaries. (more…)