Butternut, Collard, & Pear Pizza

Butternut, Collard, & Pear Pizza

As a long time home cook it is often extremely difficult to come up with new recipes, especially quick and easy weekday meals. If you are anything like me you find yourself cooking the same chicken dish over and over. Inspiration can be hard to find.

A few weeks ago I took a gamble. I ordered a box of fresh vegetables and fruit from Misfits. The idea is way different than those meal delivery kits. For a few bucks you get an assortment of fresh produce. Each week the box is a surprise. The best part, it has actually inspired me to come up with the recipes.

This recipe is a result of a Misfit Box. One week I received a whole bunch of mismatched fall vegetables and could not think of what to do with them. So, I roasted them and threw them on a pizza. Ta-da, a unique and new recipe.

Like most savory recipes, this one is up for interpretation. You can exchange out the vegetables for whatever is in your fridge or for whatever is seasonal. It would even be cool to go to your local farmers market and use what you find there.

I threw on the pear for a pop of sweet crunch. The onion and collards add a deep umami flavor, and the base of goat cheese adds a real punch. The crust is thin as to not overcrowd the entire dish. Hope this inspires you.

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Muscadine & Ricotta on Rye

Muscadine & Ricotta on Rye

Do you know what a muscadine is? It is okay if the answer is no, considering most southerners would answer the same.

My childhood included a giant muscadine vine in the back yard, and most years it produced plethora of the juicy fruits. We had so much fruit growing in the backyard, my mother and I even tried our hand at making muscadine wine. It may have turned out a little on the vinegary side.

A muscadine is the south’s version of a grape but gooier and a bit more tart. They are in season right now and can be found by the carton full at your local farmer’s market. I naturally scooped up more than I could reasonably use in one recipe because finding them inspired me to create.

You can eat them like a grape, but after years of tasting the unique fruit, I can advise you that straight off the vine is not the best option. Roasting them at a high temperature breaks down some of the fibrous material and subdues the chewy fruit. It also adds to the overall flavor since by roasting you are caramelizing the natural sugars.

You can do a lot with a raw or roasted muscadine, but for this years bounty a muscadine toast sounded like an interesting option. A quick call to one of my all-time favorite Savannah restaurants, Cotton & Rye, and I scored a gigantic warm loaf of fresh baked rye bread.

The last ingredient I selected to round out the flavors was fresh, creamy ricotta with a squeeze of lemon.

I think you will find this recipe simple, unique, and quite delicious. Since muscadines are so unique and often difficult to find, I would love to hear you ideas on how to use the fruit.

For another childhood southern recipe click here.

 

Prosciutto + Pistachio Salad

Prosciutto + Pistachio Salad

Last week I gave you a simple recipe that used seasonal local ingredients. My Onion, Fig, & Feta tarts used cheese from a local goat farm and seasonal fresh figs. And although the tarts are extremely delectable on their own, I created them with the intent to include the pastries as part of a larger meal that is just as simple to prepare as the first portion.

Fig pastry recipe is here: Onion, Feta, & Fig Tarts

If you have thumbed around my blog, for even a second, you will notice that it is filled with hearty southern food and decadent baked goods. I am not a one trick pony, I do (quite often) make healthy(ish) food. I swear you can find a salad recipe some fifty posts ago.

Like my fig tarts, and this recipe uses fresh local ingredients; plus, you can whip it up in a dash. My homemade salad dressing, which sets any salad apart, is made with local Savannah honey and white balsamic for a punch.

I crisp of some salty prosciutto and sprinkle over pistachios. Served on the side, which add sweet and savory notes, are the fig tarts posted last week.

This one is a dinner party show stopper (along with well cooked protien) or a satisfying weeknight meal that is better than that frozen pizza we always go to.

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Lemon & Pineapple Sage Chess Pie

Lemon & Pineapple Sage Chess Pie

The history of the chess pie is debatable. Many contribute its origin to England, but those who have lived in the south their entire lives know it is as southern as peach pie.

To describe the many variations of chess pie that I have tasted, I would sum up the experience as a pecan pie without the pecans, and in their place, a little bit of cream. Just like a pecan pie, chess pie is one of the easiest pies you can make. Almost impossible to muck up.

A flaky tender crust sits at the base of the custard-like filling. And because the filling is so neutral, you can flavor the pie with almost anything.

Chess pie is sometimes referred to as buttermilk pie or vinegar pie.

For my summer version, I went with lemons and fresh pineapple sage from the garden. The custard is made using fresh lemon juice and lemon zest. I add in pineapple sage by seeping cream with it and using it throughout the recipe.

This recipe comes from my mom’s favorite community cookbook and gets an update. Here is another recipe that I did the same thing with.

I always make my own pie crust because the taste is so much better than store-bought. A ratio of half butter and half lard is my preference for fat. You are your own baker, so use any recipe for a crust that you like or even use a premade one!

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Lemon & Cream Cheese Babka

Lemon & Cream Cheese Babka

I will be the first to admit that I am not a professional baker. I have baked for many, many years, but am in no way at the level of professional. I have just as many bad days in the kitchen as good ones.

This is especially true when it comes to yeast. Yeast is my kryptonite.
Anytime I go into the kitchen with plans to bake yeast risen bread, I am fully prepared to have the bake come out wrong. The silver lining is that you can always learn by messing up.

This past weekend may have been my worst weekend in the kitchen to date. I decided to challenge myself by attempting a Babka. A Babka is a traditional Jewish sweet yeast risen bread that is swirled with chocolate or cinnamon. The bread dough itself is basically a brioche dough. Technically speaking, it is medium of the difficulty of yeast breads.

Three days and four attempts is what it took to get this recipe right. I threw out two doughs and one finished loaf before the fourth and final loaf came out soft and pillow-like. So you do not make the same mistakes, I wanted to share what I learned from my experience. What else is a blog good for?

As for the filling, (per usual) I did not want to take the traditional route. My husband’s grandmother gave me a some homegrown lemons. Her lemon tree yielded for the first time this winter. Lemon is the perfect pick-me-up during the cold months when we lack sun and fresh ingredients. I juiced and zested them, combined them with softened cream cheese, then rolled the mixture up into the dough. My poor husband had to go to the store to get me more cream cheese after I threw out my third attempt.

The finished loaf is delightfully sweet, with a hint of tang. I think a glob of raspberry jelly would adorn a slice of fresh baked lemon cream cheese babka perfectly.

Several slices of lemon cream cheese babka sitting on a wood tray

What I learned throwing out three batches of babka dough:

Batch one and two:

  • Always check your yeast. Yeast will last in the fridge, but of course not forever. Instead of wasting your time making an entire batch of dough to only realize that it will not rise, take the first 5 minutes and make sure the yeast you are using is alive. It is simple, always bloom your yeast in warm water or milk (depending on the recipe). If it sits for 5-10 minutes and it is not bubbly…your yeast is bad. If it is bubbly…it is living!
  • Make sure your ingredients are not cold. If you know you are baking with yeast, set out your eggs, flour (if you store it in the fridge), etc in advance to ensure it is they are room temperature. Cold items will slow down the growth of your yeast. Just like a warm environment will speed up the yeast’s growth.

Batch three:

  • Kneed your dough for longer that you think. Let me explain: Written recipes have various times for kneading dough with a stand mixer. Truly you can only tell when a dough is ready by touch or sight. Just because a recipe says knead for 5 minutes, does not mean that dough will be ready to rise after 5 minutes of kneading. It is easiest to tell when a dough is ready by kneading it by hand. If that is not you (me either), then you must look at your dough to see if it has been kneaded enough. If the recipe says the dough should “pull away from the bowl and form a soft smooth dough”, then make sure it does just that. Otherwise your finished bread will be more like cake than bread.
  • It often takes longer than the recipe says to let your dough double during a rise. Each home and each region is different. For example, I live in the deep south where it is humid. So during the summer it may take less time for my dough to rise. Right now it is dead of winter, and it took a bit longer for my dough to rise to double. My house was very cold. The moral of the story–watch your dough and only move on to the next step when the dough has actually doubled. Do not simply let it sit for the time designated in the recipe.
  • This is babka specific. Some methods call for slicing your rolled up dough down the middle then twisting it. Next, you stuff it into your bread pan to allow it to rise. The finished loaf has exposed filling on the top. The slicing method works great for certain fillings, but not all fillings. Cinnamon sugar or chocolate are ideal, cream cheese is not ideal to cook exposed to the heat of your oven. For my version I used a different method, I did not slice the dough. I rolled it up then twisted it together before placing it in the loaf pan. This way the filling stayed inside of the bread without being directly exposed to the heat of the oven. Consider the method of babka rolling you want to use based upon the type of filling you stick in your babka. Literally you can stuff anything inside a babka, sweet or savory.Upclose picture of the inside of the lemon swirrled babka

For more recipes click here.

Blueberry Pie & Lemon Cookies

Blueberry Pie & Lemon Cookies

The end of summer inches closer day by day. Although I am ready for cooler days, I will not miss the beautiful bounty that summer brings. So as of late, when I bake, I find myself leaning towards the best fruits of summer. You cannot argue with the proposition that lemon and blueberry are some of the best summer fruits.

Although I am not the biggest fan of fresh blueberries—it’s a texture thing–I love the way they taste baked into something. Lemon is the perfect counterpart to balance the sweet fruit. The southerner in me always leans towards making a pie or cake, but when I make something so large, my husband has trouble eating all of it. A simple solution is to make something smaller: cookies. To meet in the middle, I created cookies that taste like pie using all of the best ingredients of summer.

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A few tips for making better cookies:

  • Be careful not to overwork your dough, if you do your cookies will become tough.
  • To prevent overworking the dough, mix together your ingredients until they are just together.
  • Never kneed your dough.
  • To prevent cookie spread, chill your dough before baking. This allows the butter to harden back up.
  • Parchment paper is the perfect way to prevent your cookies from sticking to the pan.

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Mulberry & Lemon Pound Cake

Mulberry & Lemon Pound Cake

Pound cake is about as southern as a cake can be. Growing up pound cake was my mom’s go-to cake. Easy to make and always extra moist and buttery.

It was best fresh and warm, straight out of the oven. And even delicious a few days stale with a smear of butter, and toasted in the oven.

You could eat it as dessert or for breakfast (oh us fatty southerners). It was good topped with whipped cream, strawberries, or filled with lemon, chocolate, and so much more.

Funny thing is, when I met my mother-in-law I found out, lemon pound cake was her go-to cake. After moving so far away from my family, this was a comfort to have a little slice of “home” so close.

My husband is a sucker for all things lemon — me not so much. Regardless, lemon is a wonderful pairing for pound cake because it cuts right through the decadent pound of sugar, pound of butter, and a pound of everything else.

The perfect pairing for lemons, at least when it comes to dessert, is blueberry and blackberry. Again, each add a bit of sweetness to counteract the tart citrus. So when I was out watering my garden and discovered a Mulberry tree, mainly because they had fallen off the tree into my garden bed, I immediately thought to pair them with lemon.

If you do not know what a mulberry is (I did not until I discovered them in my garden), it  looks like a tiny blackberry but has the flavor of both a blackberry and muscadine.

…and if you don’t know what a muscadine is then you have clearly never been to the south. It is basically an earthy flavored southern grape. Grows on a vine too!

I had a muscadine vine in my backyard growing up, and always looked forward to picking and eating them. Don’t tell anyone, but my mom and I once made muscadine wine.

So naturally, not only did the mulberries remind me of my mother, but making a pound cake was truly an homage to her.

This one is for my mom and mother-in-law…all the other mothers in my life. Happy Mothers’ Day.

Smoked Oyster Linguine Featuring a Sous Vide Egg Yolk

Smoked Oyster Linguine Featuring a Sous Vide Egg Yolk

Oysters in Savannah are as common as gnats in the summer. During the winter, most parties feature some sort of oyster roast, fried oysters, or another oyster dish. Personally, I love oysters almost any way you can cook them, and my love for oysters did not bloom until I moved to Savannah.

Most of the time, a party leaves behind a good many oysters that the hostess has nothing he/she can do with them. Well, that has all changed.

After our most recent party (that, of course, featured oysters), I found my self with a half of a bushel of oysters still alive. The challenge became how to utilize such a large amount of fresh oysters. Again, searching my pantry, I came up with a pasta that is reminiscent of a true carbonara, but a bit more refined.

Be warned, this pasta is extremely decadent and can go a long way. The addition of a sous vide egg yolk really sets it over the edge. I liked using two egg yolks per person.

My recommendation is to start the oysters first. With about 30 minutes left, begin the bacon, then the sous vide egg. Next shuck your oysters. Once finished with the oysters, start the water for the pasta.

Smoked Oysters

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 a Bushel of Fresh Oysters

Directions:

First soak the flavored wood chips you intend on using for at least one hour prior to cooking. When ready, heat your big green egg or smoker to 175 degrees Fahrenheit. Once at the correct temperature and holding, add in a few wood chips. Be careful to watch the temperature of your smoker after adding in the wood chips because when they catch fire, the open flame can raise the temperature quickly, given the low temperature of 175 degrees. Layer your raw oysters in single layer on the grate. Close the lid, and let smoke for 2 hours at 175. If before your two hours is up the smoke slows down, feel free to add more wood.

Once two hours have passed, remove your oysters. Clean the meat from each oyster, remove the adductor muscle, and store the meat in a sealable container.

Sous Vide Egg Yolk

Ingredients:

  • 8 Egg Yolks
  • Olive Oil

Directions:

Preheat your sous vide machine to 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Gently place your egg yolks in a sealable, heat proof container. Slowly pour over enough olive oil to fully submerge the egg yolks. Cover container, and gently place into the warm water. Sous-vide for at least one hour. The eggs yolks can sit in the sous vide for up to an additional hour before over cooking.

Smoked Oyster Linguine

Ingredients:

  • 12 slices of thick cut bacon
  • Smoked Oysters, see above
  • 1 Box of Linguine
  • 3 Cups of Fresh Spinach
  • 6 tablespoons of my Parmesan Parsley Butter (find it here)
  • 1 Lemon
  • 8 Sous Vided Egg Yolks
  • 2 Cups of Grated Parmesan

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a two sheet pans with foil or parchment paper. Layer your bacon on each pan in a single layer. Bake for about one hour, until the bacon is the color you prefer. Drain on paper towels, then crumble.

While the bacon cooks, prep and cook your egg yolks.

Once you have the egg yolks going, start a large pot of salted and oiled water over medium heat.

Get your oysters cleaned and ready.

Once your pot of water is at a boil, throw in your pasta. It should take about 9 minutes to cook the pasta al dente.

Heat a large sauce pan over medium heat. Throw in your butter and let melt. Then add the spinach. Cook your spinach for 2-3 minutes until wilted. Once wilted, add it the zest of your lemon, plus the fresh juice. Stir in your parmesan, bacon, and oysters.

By this time your pasta should be ready, so drain the noodles and add to the sauce.

Serve the pasta immediately in individual bowls, topping each with 2 egg yolks and a sprinkle of fresh Parmesan.

Smoked Oysters Two Ways

Smoked Oysters Two Ways

Since the holidays are officially over, my friends and I are looking for excuse to continue having celebrations. Last year, by happenstance, we threw together an oyster smoking and Christmas Tree burning party. I can’t decide if this was due to receiving a Big Green Egg as a Christmas present making my husband and I anxious to cook every meal on it or because my friends and I ‘s had nothing to do with our leftover Christmas trees. Nevertheless, the first party was a hit. I threw together a menu with almost everything done on the egg, including smoked bread, oysters, and sea bass.

This year my friends were sure to ask that we have another party with he same oysters, but instead of preparing the entire menu I asked everyone to bring over something we could throw on the egg. The result was perfect, first course was smoked bread to rip and dunk in truffle white cheddar spread and top with prosciutto. Next, my friend, Maria, prepared a traditional Caesar with romaine we lightly grilled, then topped with homemade dressing and fresh cracked black pepper. Finally, we had smoked oysters two ways. These babies are quick and easy. Together we all quickly shucked the fresh oysters, then I topped them with the butters, threw them on the grill for three minutes, then passed around the tray. Each oyster flavor stands up on its own. The chipotle butter is balanced with sweet honey, firefly chipotle, and bitter whiskey. The Parmesan brings needed relief from the heat with the savory taste of garlic and herbs.

Once our bellies were full, we gathered around the fire pit in my backyard and picked off each tree one at a time. It is amazing the hours of fun burning dry christmas trees results in. I am not going to lie, we coordinated each tree burning with a related song. Nelly’s Its Getting Hot in Here, Snoop’s Drop It Like It’s Hot, and Lil Wayne’s Fireman were just some of the our brilliant picks.

Chipotle Bourbon Butter

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 stick of softened butter
  • 2 tablespoons of chipotle sauce
  • 1/2 clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of bourbon
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • A dash of salt

Directions:

In a small food processor, combine all ingredients until fully combined. Transfer into small Tupperware container and store in fridge until ready to use

Parmesan Parsley Butter

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 stick of softened butter
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons of finely grated Parmesan
  • A dash of salt

Directions:

In a small food processor, combine all ingredients until fully combined. Transfer into small Tupperware container and store in fridge until ready to use

Smoked Oysters Two Ways:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 bushels of cleaned fresh local oysters
  • Wood Chips
  • Chipotle Bourbon Butter
  • Parmesan Parsley Butter

Directions:

An hour or two prior to cooking, soak your wood chips in a bowl of water to prevent burning too quickly. Once ready to cook, get your smoker, grill, or big green egg to a semi-high heat; I cooked these at about 400 degrees farienhiet. While smoker is heating, start shucking your oysters making sure to keep all the briny juice in. Organize your oysters on a large tray, and top each one with a teaspoon of your desired butter. Set aside until your smoker is ready.

Once the smoker is at desired temperature, add you wood chips. Give the chips a minute or two to begin smoking. Place your oysters in single layer on the smoker, and cook for three minutes until the butter is bubbly; you should be able to shut the lid for a minute or two. Remove, place back on tray, and serve immediately.