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Recipes and Stories

1 November 2014 Stuffed Zucchini in Autumn

Mama's Stuffed Zucchini with Ham, photography by John Carrington
This All-Hallows Day blew into Savannah on wintry winds, bringing with it temperatures in the thirties that have put the final cap onto our lingering post-summer summer.

For those who live in more moderate climates, the Deep South’s summer, especially in our sub-tropical corner, always lingers past September and sometimes even October. That means that while other parts of the country have long since gathered the last of summer’s harvest and prepared the garden for winter, ours are often still producing tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, and even eggplants. Read More 
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28 October 2014: Mastering the Art of French Onion Soup Gratinéed

Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée (Classic French Onion Soup Gratinéed)

One of the most enduringly popular dishes of fall and winter’s table is Gratinéed French Onion Soup. It’s one dish that we call “French” that actually is; “soupe à l’oignon gratinée” is a standard found in bistros and home kitchens throughout France.

This time of year it begins to turn up on menus throughout our country, too, from New England to South Florida without regard to outside temperatures. Unfortunately, what comes to the table is more often than not as indifferent as it is popular. Read More 

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24 October 2014: Broiled Oysters on the Half Shell

Broiled Oysters Savannah

One of the best things about autumn on the Georgia and Carolina coast is that our briny-sweet oysters come into season. Though the old maxim about harvesting them only in months with an R is no longer really observed, savvy locals know that local oysters are at their best when the weather cools and they're past their summer spawning. Read More 

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23 October 2014: Boiled Peanuts

Perfectly boiled peanuts, photographed handsomely by John Carrington

Boiled peanuts: for most Southerners, those words conjure memories of running barefoot through freshly mown grass on a warm summer evening, or of cheering on the home team from rough, weather-worn bleachers. But for the uninitiated outside our region, who have never seen peanuts any way but toasted and served forth in a bowl on the top of a bar or ground and slathered between two slices of white bread, it probably sounds like a culinary train wreck. Read More 

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22 October 2014: Sweet Potato Salad

My sweet potato salad as made by friend Betsy Hollis for the recent Manna Club gathering where my cookbooks were honored and celebrated.

After I left architectural practice and was waiting for the publication of my first book, Classical Southern Cooking, in a moment of what can only called temporary insanity, I let a former cooking student sweet talk me into opening the kitchen of her new downtown café. Though I had long been writing about andteaching home cooking, I had absolutely no professional cooking experience. But she needed a cook and I needed work and, besides, wanted the experience.  Read More 

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21 October 2014 Rejuvenating Leftovers

Sauteed Mushrooms and Pork Tenderloin with Sage and Garlic

If you live alone or, as I do, have only two people in your household, you’ll inevitably be faced with the dilemma of how to keep leftovers fresh and interesting. Yes, we’re a spoiled, self-indulgent lot: there are starving children in the world who would be glad to have our leftovers and we ought to be grateful that we have so much. Read More 

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17 October 2014: Mushrooms with Sausage-Bourbon Filling

Small Brown (also called crimini, "baby bella" and golden Italian) mushrooms are ideal candidates for stuffing with savory fillings, so long as the cook doesn't get carried away with the idea of being "interesting" with the filling.

Stuffed mushrooms come and go in popularity, but never seem to go out of style in Savannah. Anytime they appear on the cocktail buffet table, they disappear quickly. They’re so popular, in fact that I’ve always wished I could be more enthusiastic about them, especially since mushrooms are one of my favorite things. But while stuffing mushrooms with savory fillings is a great idea for a finger-food spread, most of the time the execution is a disappointment. They’re either too bland to be interesting or too interesting to be good. Read More 

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15 October 2014: Cheese Straws and Leaves

Cheese Straws don't have to be extruded from a cookie press. Here they're cut with small seasonal cookie cutters into fall leaves.

Cheese straws and toasted pecans are to a Southern party what cards are to poker, a standard for any Southern hostess worth her iced tea. And yet, these crisp morsels often intimidate novices. They needn’t: once you grasp that they’re just a savory butter shortbread—one of the simplest of all cookies—they’re a snap to make. Read More 

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13 October 2014: American Chili, Southern Style

My Southern-style chili, gussied up just a little with sliced chilies, sour cream, and grated cheddar. Photography by the incomparable John Carrington

Last week Savannah had its first real taste of autumn weather with about three days of cool temperatures, low humidity, and clear skies. It was finally, magically, chili weather, an opportunity not to be missed: my first batch of the season was soon simmering away in my well-used Le Creuset enameled iron round oven. Read More 

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6 October 2014: Remembering Daisy Redman and Chicken Madeira

Daisy Redman's famous Chicken Madeira, photographed by John Carrington in the dining room of Savannah's historic Battersby-Hartridge House, where Mrs. Redman's cooking frequently graced the table.

At the end of the 1970s, DuBose Publishing Company of Atlanta released a slim little volume called Four Great Southern Cooks. Despite its unassuming appearance, this book was destined to become one of the great treasures of traditional Southern cooks and food historians. Tattered copies that survive are fiercely guarded as family heirlooms, especially here in Savannah. Read More 

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23 September 2014: Welcoming Autumn

Shrimp Stew with Bacon and Tomatoes, the perfect warm-up for welcoming Autumn in Savannah. Photography by Rich Burkhart

It doesn’t often happen, but the first day of autumn was met here in Savannah with a hint of genuine coolness in the air. It’s not quite chili, pot roast, and hearty stew weather, but the suggestion that it is on the way is an unexpected gift that’s not to be ignored. Read More 

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17 September 2014: Leftover Chicken, Mushrooms, and Cooking for One

Quick Chicken Tetrazzini for one

One of the saddest things I ever hear as a cooking teacher is “I don’t cook much anymore, because it’s just me and it’s so hard to cook for one or, worse, it’s not worth the trouble. First, there is someone to cook for, the most important person in your life: you.

Secondly, it is not any more trouble to cook for one than for two, and it’s a heck of a lot less work than cooking for six.  Read More 

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15 September 2014: Pan-Roasting with Garlic and Learning New Tricks

Pork Tenderloin Pan-Roasted with Garlic, Rosemary, and White Wine

One is always learning: a couple of weeks ago, supper was something I’d made hundreds of times—pork tenderloin pan-roasted with garlic, rosemary, and white wine. That lean little cut is great for two people on a busy work night: it has very little waste, is just enough for us to have two meals from it, cooks quickly, and, as its name implies, is always tender, even when it’s accidentally overcooked. Read More 

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10 September 2014: Fresh Black-Eyed Pea Ragout

Fresh Black-Eyed Pea Ragout over Rice: hearty enough to satisfy that early craving for heartier fare, but light enough for late summer's lingering heat

Every year by mid-August, the ancient pecan tree that canopies our back yard and dominates the view from my office window decides “okay, I’m over this” and starts shedding its leaves. By September, more than two thirds of its foliage has abandoned its branches and become a brown, crackling carpet underneath, creating a mocking illusion of autumn amid the stubbornly lingering heat and humidity of a Lowcountry late summer. Read More 

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30 August 2014: Seafood Cocktails

A Timeless summer classic: Tybee Shrimp and Crab Cocktail

Labor Day weekend is traditionally summer’s last hurrah for most Americans, even though the season won’t officially end until the autumnal equinox later in September, and, in the Deep South, won’t be effectively over until well into October. But never mind about the calendar and heat index: Summer’s waning, whether actual or merely symbolic, is as good an excuse as any for one more outdoor party. Read More 

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19 August 2014: Summer Squash Soup

Summer Squash Soup with Sage and Thyme

Of all the produce of summer, nothing is as deeply entwined with memories of my childhood, mother, and grandmother, as yellow crookneck squash. Possibly one of the reasons that they stand out is because most of the things that came from my mother’s and grandfather’s gardens were cooked only one or, at best, two ways, but those sunny crooknecks knew no limits.  Read More 

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7 August 2014: Mama’s Pickled Okra

Mama's Pickled Okra, a classic taste of Deep South Summer

Cleaning out my fridge — not just tossing out spoiled leftovers but taking everything out, sorting through and purging half-empty jars of condiments that are no longer really usable, wiping down the ones that were still good, giving up the lame hope that my sour dough starter, untouched for more than a year, might still be alive, and scrubbing every shelf and bin—is always both cathartic and depressing. But it was especially so after the two years of neglect that had been the fallout of three back-to-back book deadlines. Read More 

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29 July 2014: Really Fresh Okra and Tomatoes—Okra and Tomato Salad

Fresh Okra and Tomato Salad

One of my favorite summer snacks is a handful of small, raw okra pods — eaten as is, without so much as a speck of salt or pepper. When very young, small, and tender, okra has a delicate flavor that knows no equal. And contrary to what you might expect if you’ve ever chopped or sliced it for a gumbo, or tried to eat it when it was overcooked, the raw pods are not in the least gooey or sticky, but are as crisp and refreshing as a chilled cucumber. Read More 

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16 July 2014: Triple Comfort

Triple comfort: my mother's china pattern, Ilda's pasta, and Marcella's voice in the background

My mother’s wedding china still stands as it did in my youth, in neat stacks in her dining room hutch. Rimmed in gold and sporting a pair of pink-tinged gardenia blossoms at its center, it was old-fashioned, feminine, and just plain “girly.” Yet it was the very essence of elegance and sophistication to my child’s mind. Read More 

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14 July 2014: Watermelon Salad

Watermelon Salad, a simple triad of melon, onion, and feta. Photograph by John Carrington Photography

One of the loveliest and most refreshing salads to be found on summer’s table is this simple triad of watermelon, sweet onions, and the bright, salty counterpoint of feta cheese. It should be no surprise, then, that over the last couple of decades, melon salads have become a trendy thing. However, back in the mid-nineties when I first developed this version for my second book, they were almost unheard of in the South, and weren’t much more familiar to the rest of our country. Read More 

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8 July 2014: Sautéed Summer Squash with Onions

Sauteed yellow crookneck squash is the very essence of a Southern summer

When we were home a couple of weeks ago, the summer squash vines in my mother’s garden were bright with yellow blossoms and the most precocious vine was sporting a single fat, sun-yellow crookneck. By the time we got back to Savannah, a bumper crop of yellow crooknecks was already coming in from local farmers. The sunny color and graceful swan necks of this vegetable are, for me, the very essence of summer. Read More 

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5 July 2014: Pan Broiled Hamburgers

Independence Day Supper without a grill: pan-brioled hamburgers, oven-roasted sweet corn, sugar-snap peas, and French potato salad

Because we don’t have a grill and a huge pecan tree shades our back yard, making it an ideal nursery for mosquitoes, I don’t cook outdoors at home. So, grilled burgers and corn on the cob, the traditional offering for Independence Day, have to be cooked indoors. I pan-broil burgers and steaks, and it’s actually a lovely way to cook them. Read More 

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20 June 2014 For the First Day of Summer—Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Buttermilk Fried Chicken, photograph by John Carrington Photography

Since tomorrow (21 June) is the first day of summer, it seems like a good idea to visit one of the great icons of the Southern table—fried chicken. Surely no one would argue with that. But it has become so commonplace and universal that most of us, Southerners included, have completely forgotten that it was once a seasonal delicacy, something that could only be had in the spring and summer, the only time of year when very young, tender chickens could be found in the barnyard.  Read More 

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27 May 2014: The Art of Balance

Butter-Braised Spring Vegetables, an exercise in judicious balance

Marcella Hazan’s husband, Victor, recently reminded us that his late wife liked to say, “If I could persuade someone to cook for six months without a single herb or spice, I’d have a chance to make a cook out of her.” Read More 

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23 April 2014: Easter Lamb Pasta

Penne with a Touch of Easter Lamb and Asparagus

One of the loveliest things about a feast day, I always think, is the leftovers. Bits of roast to eat cold with horseradish sauce or warmed in its gravy, cold ham and asparagus, potato gratin or baked macaroni, both of which warm-over so nicely. Soup that can be warmed or thinned with milk and served chilled, either as is, or with other things added to it. Read More 

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19 April 2014: Easter VI—Chocolate

Dean’s Blender Pots De Crème are drop-dead easy and never fail to impress.

For many families, Easter dessert must be a fluffy coconut cake topped with seven minute frosting, lots of flaked coconut, and often jelly bean “Easter eggs.” Or it might be trimmed into shapes that are arranged on a platter and decorated to look like an Easter bunny. If that’s your tradition, then have at it.  Read More 

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19 April 2014: Easter V—Asparagus Hollandaise

Classic Hollandaise begins as a Sabayon and should be fluffy and light

Over the last few years, there’s been a big fad for roasted asparagus. There’s nothing wrong with cooking this lovely vegetable in the oven, but it has become so commonplace that it’s in danger of being—no pun intended—overdone.

The preoccupation with one method has also made us forget that it’s not the only good way to cook asparagus.  Read More 

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18 April 2014 Easter IV—The Potatoes

Classic French pommes de terre gratinée (potato gratin)

Regardless of whether you choose lamb or ham (or neither—or both) for your Easter feast, nothing will make the dinner seem quite as special as will this classic French gratin. The ingredients are simple and few, and the preparation requires almost no real skill on the part of the cook, but you will not finding anything more elegant and yet elementally satisfying to eat. Read More 

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17 April 2014: Easter III—Paschal Lamb

Boned and butterflied leg of lamb, roasted with thyme and oregano
For many Americans, Southerners in particular, the centerpiece of the Easter feast must be a fat, pink ham. Why and how ham came into this role is lost in time. The older, and more easily understood tradition, is lamb.

The ancient sacrificial lamb of the Passover came to be associated directly with the Christ’s sacrifice at the Crucifixion (“Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the feast.”), and in the early church, roast lamb was at the heart of the Easter feast. Read More 
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14 April 2014: Easter II Spring Purees

Spring Puree, in this case made with fresh young carrots.

One of the nicest ways of beginning an Easter dinner (or any other spring celebration meal) is an old-fashioned French puree. These are not the thick, mashed-potato like “purees” that have become so fashionable lately, but fresh vegetable soups that have been pulverized to a suave, elegant cream.

Not only do purees show off the fresh, full flavors of the season’s produce, they adapt beautifully to the unpredictability of the weather, being equally as good cold as hot. Read More 

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