Recipes and Stories

23 June 2017: Seafood Stuffed Tomatoes

June 22, 2017

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Savannah Cooking, Savannah, Classic Lowcountry Cooking, Stuffed Vegetables, Stuffed Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Shrimp, Crab, Seafood, Historical Cooking

Seafood-Stuffed Tomatoes, Photographed by John Carrington Photography
One of the many things that Southern cooks share with Italians, especially those along the Ligurian coast that’s known as the Italian Riviera, is a love for filling hollowed-out vegetables with a blend of their chopped pulp, stale bread crumbs, herbs and seasonings, and often some kind of chopped meat, poultry, or seafood.

Here in the Carolina and Georgia Lowcountry, stuffed vegetables have long been a beloved part of our summer tables. Recipes for them date back well into the nineteenth century. (more…)

8 June 2017: Summer in a Bowl

June 8, 2017

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Classic Italian Cooking, Genovese Cooking, Ilda, Fruit Salad

Macedonia di Frutta all' Ilda, a lovely blend of summer fruit enhanced with Maraschino liqueur and a splash of rum.
One of the great compensations for (and means of relief from) summer’s heat is a fresh mixed fruit salad. It’s also one of the most versatile dishes of the season. Call it “cocktail” and open the meal with it; call it “salad” and serve it as the meal’s side dish or even centerpiece (all on its own or blended with cold seafood, poultry, or meat); call it “Macedonia,” “fruit cup,” or “compote” and it brings the meal to a delightful close.

Whatever we call it, and however we serve it, a fragrant bowl of well-mixed and chilled fruit is perfect warm-weather fare: it stimulates, satiates, and cools as nothing else can. It brings a ray of sunshine to a rainy day and soothing coolness to days when the sun’s rays become relentless. (more…)

30 May 2017: An Aging Palate, Wild Greens, and the Flavors of Youth

May 30, 2017

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Classic Italian Cooking, Genovese Cooking, M. F. K. Fisher, Aging Palates, Poke Sallet, Green Onions, Pasta

Fusilli (also called Rotini) with Wild Greens, Scallions, and Pine Nuts
In her later years, M. F. K. Fisher, the prominent mid-twentieth-century American essayist and food writer, once wrote poignantly of missing the ravenous, almost insatiable hunger of youth. Charmingly romantic to read in one’s twenties, it wasn’t so charming to reread years later, when that youthful hunger lingered and fought with a suddenly slowing metabolism of middle age. But there’s nothing charming or romantic about it when old age is staring one square in the face.

The problem is that, while our appetite and capacity may slow down with age, the curious cook’s palate doesn’t slow down with it. (more…)

23 May 2017: Of Sautéed Mushrooms and Pimiento Cheese

May 23, 2017

Tags: Mushrooms, Sauteed Mushrooms, Pimiento Cheese, Sauteing

Small white button mushrooms sauteed in butter
A gray, overcast day, a handful of small button mushrooms left over from styling a newspaper column illustration, a new block of very sharp cheddar, and a small jar of pimientos in the pantry: Probably those things will seem unlikely as an invitation to an afternoon of culinary nostalgia to anyone but me. But there it is. (more…)

18 May 2017: Guacamole and Southern Cooking

May 18, 2017

Tags: Guacamole, Southern Cooking, Latin-American Cooking, pushing boundaries in the kitchen

Guacamole with Scallions and Oregano: No, it's not exactly Southern, but it's an example of how our cooking continually evolves
One of the things I love most about Southern cooking is that it’s not a homogenous fabric. It’s a rich, patchwork-like tapestry, woven from many threads and patches that defy the narrow stereotypical boundaries that we all-too-often try to put around it. Even if we could confine it to the most common of those stereotypes—biscuits, barbecue, fried chicken, pimiento cheese, and sweet tea—we’d still be faced with the hundreds of different ways that each one of those things is made all over the South. (more…)

11 April 2017: Parsley

April 11, 2017

Tags: Parsley, Potato Salad, Classic Southern Cooking, Classic American Cooking, Beans Greens & Sweet Georgia Peaches

My culinary security blanket: a bouquet of fresh flat-leaved Italian parsley
Now, here’s a curious thing that I can’t explain. For reasons that are a complete mystery to me, having a bouquet of fresh parsley in my kitchen is a kind of culinary security blanket. It reassures and comforts me, even when I end up using very little of it in the pots.

Unfortunately, that’s more often the case than not. Despite the truth in the old Italian proverb “essere come il prezzemolo” (literally “to be like parsley,” that is, everywhere), I can rarely use it all up before it starts to fade. (more…)

20 March 2017: The Key Ingredient

March 20, 2017

Tags: Spring Cleaning, Love in the Kitchen, Tuna Noodle Casserole, Classic American Cooking

A little bit of love and a lot of cleaning and organizing have made my small, dark kitchen seem new and comfortable.
For nine years, I have hated my kitchen.

People are always surprised to hear it: Somehow, there’s a prevailing notion that all food writers are possessed of dream kitchens—spacious, light, airy, equipped with state-of-the-art appliances and gleaming copper cookware.

And wouldn’t that be nice?

I am blessed to have nice equipment (including gleaming copper), but the kitchen it occupies is rented and not the stuff that my (or anyone else’s) dreams are made of. (more…)

6 March 2017: Of Leftovers and Creamed Tuna

March 6, 2017

Tags: Creamed Tuna, Classic American Cooking, American Cooking, Canned Tuna, Leftovers

Old-Fashioned Creamed Tuna with Noodles
So much contemporary food writing, my own included, focuses on the importance of freshness: Using the best ingredients that our budgets will allow; taking the time and care to select the freshest, choicest things that we can find; using care in the way we store and use them. It would be nice if our cooking could always be like that. But more often than not, our day-to-day cooking is (or should be) more about not wasting what we’ve already got on hand.

Far too many people on this planet—no further away than our own neighborhoods—are hungry. No, using up that food instead of throwing it out isn’t helping those hungry people. But to squander still edible food just because it’s not at its absolute peak is self-indulgent and irresponsible. (more…)

27 February 2017: Fancy Food and Chicken à la King

February 27, 2017

Tags: Classic American Cooking, Chicken à la King, Chicken

Classic Chicken à la King served over buttered toast
During the post-war 1940s, ‘50s, and early ‘60s, when homemaking was still the most common profession for women, a popular form of entertainment was the ladies’ luncheon, either as an end in itself or as a part of a bridge party, garden club, or church circle meeting. The food for these occasions was dainty and fancy: tomato aspic, consommé, creamed chicken and seafood, casseroles, chicken, ham, and fish salads, and congealed and composed salads. How it looked was probably more important than how it tasted, but flavor was still not to be taken for granted.

The king, if you’ll pardon the expression, of all this dainty fare was Chicken à la King. Basically creamed chicken with an attitude, it dates back, as so many things of its kind do, to the late nineteenth or early twentieth century, with at least four claims on the credit for its creation. (more…)

9 February 2017: The Art of Broth and the Comforts of Chicken Soup

February 9, 2017

Tags: Chicken Soup, Classic Southern Cooking, Classic American Cooking, Jewish Penicillin

My Chicken Noodle Soup
The deep belief in the healing power of chicken soup may well be one of the most universal concepts in the world’s cuisines.
No matter where on this globe one happens to be, if there are chickens in the barnyard and sick people in the house, there will be chicken soup in the pot. The details and flavorings that go into that pot will vary, depending on the culture and the cook, as will the age and size of the bird. It’s often called “Jewish Penicillin” in our country, but the faith in it as a curative really has no territorial or cultural boundaries. (more…)