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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Onion, Feta, & Fig Tarts

Onion, Feta, & Fig Tarts

I cannot say that this recipe is a traditional southern one, like most of my posts are. But maybe you will find it so delicious that it will be incorporated into your traditions or celebrations.

The idea behind this recipe is simple: using farm fresh, seasonal, sustainable, and local ingredients.  A tenant which can be said to be southern. Edna Lewis and so many other inspriational southern cooks just like here based their kitchens around this idea.

Truly, there is no better food that what is local to your area and what is in season.

It is finally fig season. It lasts a very short time, but if you are lucky enough (like I was) to source fresh figs you buy them all up. Unlike my husband, I was not lucky enough to grow up with a giant fig tree close by which produced an abundant amount of the unique fruit. My mom preferred her peach tree.

As for the feta, it is locally sourced from Bootleg Farm. Savannah’s beloved goat farm which produces fresh goat cheese. Read more about them Here.

A quick carmalization on some onions and I had a winning recipe. Buttery puff pastry sits at the base for these ultra savory and slightly sweet seasonal tarts.

You can eat these savory puff pastry tarts on their own or pair them with dinner. I will post later detailing what I did with these little beauties.

An overhead photo of the warm tarts

Cajun Meat Bread

Cajun Meat Bread

Most southern food is bone sticking and hearty. A style that can be contributed to the economics of survival.

This recipe is not different. A full loaf of bread is stuffed with meats, cheeses, and vegetables before being baked off. The result is a spicy gooey filled bread that acts as the perfect appetizer for any party.

This is a dish that I have eaten since I was a little girl, even considering it is difficult to find many versions of it in cookbooks or online.

Everyone in my family loves it. It originates from my Aunt’s mother, Mary Joyce, who is Cajun through and through. It is one of those items that is always present at family gatherings – especially large ones. A fact that is evident by the size of the portions used in the original recipe that was given to me:

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Personally, I do not cook for 80-100 people. I have a small family. So, the challenge with recreating this recipe was doing so in a way that would feed a smaller group. Lets say 10-12 people.

During my first test run of the condensed version of this recipe, I realized that the original recipe was missing some important instructions. A lack of instruction can easily be attributed to the fact that May Joyce has made this time and time again, so writing down all of the finite details was not something she needed to do. She has them all memorized.

To fill in the gaps, I did a little digging.  I found a recipe for creole meat bread by Emeril Lagasse, click here.

There is a large difference in creole and cajun food. Creole food is the result of many nationalities who settled in New Orleans. In many creole recipes you will find inspiration from West African, Spanish, Haitian, French, and many other cultures.

Cajun food comes from the Acadian people and has a French influence. You will find Cajun food primarily outside of the city…where my family lives.

Comparing the two, although one cajun and one creole,  helped fill in some of the gaps.

I present my version of meat bread. Of course it will never be good as the original I ate growing up. It is not easy to include the love that is thrown into every family recipe that is made for you, instead of by you.

For another Louisiana inspired recipe, click here.

Georgia Brunswick Stew

Georgia Brunswick Stew

Today marks the day that I institute some changes for my blog. Lately I have been very inspired to learn more about the history of Southern cuisine, which forms the basis of my food history and influence.

I cannot list one specific reason as to the inspiration, but a slew of events accumulated over the last few months that pushed me here. Getting an invite to the private screen of Netflix’s Chef’s Table episode on our local chef, Mashama Bailey, was the starting point.

Next came the discovery of the Southern Foodways Alliance (here is there website) which documents the history of southern cuisine. I quickly became a proud member.

Not long after I visited with my dad and my Uncle Dusty (who is Cajun) and naturally fell into conversations about food of each of their regions. It seems as though I always fall back on or lean towards making food that has roots in the south.

Finally, I have realized that as a food writer in Savannah, I should educated myself more on the food I am writing about as to bring my readers some knowledge of their region.

To implement this change, I am going to start with a dish that I ate all the time growing up. When you live in certain parts of Georgia, semi-rural, there are only so many restaurants available. Most are chain restaurants like Long Horns or McDonalds, so the legitimate food selection is scant at best.

Birthdays and certain holidays resulted in eating out at the ‘fancier’ restaurants or the local mom and pop restaurants that the entire family loved. On our short list of go-tos was Wallace Barbeque, a shack of a BBQ restaurant that serves pulled pork by the pound with a bowl of vinegar-based barbeque sauce on the side. It is loved so much by my family that anytime my Uncle Dusty visits Georgia from his home in Louisiana, Wallace Barbeque is his first stop.

Like any good Georgia barbeque restaurant, Brunswick stew is readily available on the menu. As a result I have eaten gallons and gallons of Brunswick stew in my lifetime.

Brunswick stew is a hunter’s stew which combines any meat that is available, sometimes even squirrel, with any vegetables that are locally available. The result is a bone sticking stock that is chock-full of sustenance.

It is also important to note that Brunswick stew recipes change by the region. Georgia’s versions is traditionally sweeter due to the use of a barbeque sauce poured in the stock. Virginia’s version just uses a tomato base.

A good point of reference for the difference in each region’s Brunswick stew is the Southern Floodway Alliance’s Community Cookbook. It lists a recipe for North Carolina Brunswick Stew. I could not find one for Georgia. Instead of using a sweet barbeque sauce like in my recipe below, the recipe calls for the combination of ketchup, vinegar, and sugar.

Regardless of the region, the modern Brunswick stew features two meats, pork and chicken. Gone are the days where most southerners used what they caught or what was readily available on the farm to cook. The surplus of local supermarkets has made placed cheap meat in every home.

The recipe below is merely a starting point. I based my recipe on the countless bowls of Brunswick stew I ate growing up. You can switch out the vegetables, lookup versions from other regions or just throw in anything that suits the moment.

A big pot of hearty brunswick stew and slices of bread

If you do not feel like making stew at home, here is my recommendation on a good local bbq spot.

Apricot Roasted Chicken

Apricot Roasted Chicken

There are often extremely difficult moments in life—days during which you feel as though you will not be okay. In the end, time will heal almost everything, but waiting seems impossible.

In those moments, food plays an important role for many. Personally, I gravitate towards homecooked meals that warm and ease my soul.

Two weeks ago I made the difficult decision to let go of my dog and best friend of 13 years. Although I know it was the correct decision to ease her suffering, it was the most difficult decision I have ever had to make. My friends and family really stepped up to be there for my husband and I. The showering of food (and booze if I am being honest) kept my home full while my heart was empty.

I cannot think of a more soul warming meal than roasted meat and a couple of sides. A meat and two or three (or four) is a staple southern meal. Growing up, dinner most nights included meatloaf, country fried steak, pot roast, salmon patties, or pork chops.

So when you go through something difficult you often lean towards bits of nostalgia—the good moments. A full plate of love-filled food is a plate full of nostalgia for me. A lot of my childhood consisted of sitting in the kitchen with my mother as she cooked me dishes from the heart.

Although she never roasted chicken like this, I think this recipe is easily one that you can add to your repertoire of food to cook and share with others. The preparation calls for an arrangement of vegetables at the bottom of your roast pan and a slathering of sweet sticky apricot preserves. The result is a juicy home roasted chicken with a slight Asian flare.

I am going to leave this recipe here because it is my hope that you share a homecooked, heart-filling meal with friends or family. Even if you are not going through your own battle, and just want a good meal, this dish will serve you well. Now get in the kitchen and make memories.

Seasonal Citrus Salad

Seasonal Citrus Salad

Citrus was put on this earth to help get everyone through the cold winters in the south. You see us southerners, especially in the low country, thrive in thick sticky heat. The second the temperature drops below 70 degrees, madness ensues.

Around the same time the winter blues make us yearn for a day on the boat and some warm salt air, citrus comes into season. A little fresh vitamin C pick me up always helps make the long winter nights seem shorter. Every time I peel a juicy ripe orange I am immediately reminded of sipping a Mai Tai by the pool.

If you look in my pantry this time of year, you will always find a mound of sumo oranges. My husband loves to bring them home to me as a treat, unless I really need some chocolate.

This recipe came together by walking around my local market and picking out what was ripe and in season–citrus. And of course I included sumo oranges.

I love a recipe that is a simple-to-make showstopper. When you use really good in-season ingredients it does not take much work to make the finished dish taste good. All together this Seasonal Citrus Salad took around ten minutes to throw together, and the result was one I was proud to serve to my friends for dinner. This salad would also be a lovely addition to any brunch or breakfast.

Because this recipe is seasonal, you can use any citrus that is available near you. Please do not feel constrained to use what I have listed, go out and grab your favorite winter citrus.

The Ultimate BLT

The Ultimate BLT

A bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich is one of those dishes that instantly triggers nostalgia for me. A good BLT is one of my mom’s favorite foods, which means so often growing up she would throw together a BLT for our supper.

Her recipe did not require special ingredients or fancy techniques, just a bit more care. She would quickly pan fry some bacon, which she usually had on hand in the fridge, slice some tomatoes from the garden, and slather toasted white bread with mayo. After watching her prepare countless sandwiches I realized what made her homemade version my favorite version. Aside from the addition of love, my mom seasoned every layer of her sandwich with salt and pepper.

First the mayo is lacquered on the bread then hit with a sprinkling of seasoning, the next layer is added and seasoned, and so on. As you can imagine, building a sandwich with tomato that has a sprinkling of salt and pepper far exceeds a sandwich with plain tomato.

And although I feel that you can never go wrong with classic BLT, I wanted to push the limits on what a BLT can be. With that in mind, I did not want to change the backbones of the sandwich by adding or using a bunch of random things. In the south people love to throw a fried green tomato onto a BLT in an attempt to heighten the recipe–I was not about to do that.

My approach is to amplify the already existing ingredients of a BLT. Add some garlic to the mayo, use better tomatoes, etcetera.

I use this Balsamic Onion Jam recipe to make the jam I use on the sandwich.

A few notes:

  1. Garlic confit can make you very sick if you do not cook it and store it properly. I recommend using it immediately and if you want to save it, freeze it.
  2. I purchased a loaf of homemade bread from a local baker. I recommend opting for a better bread than normal sliced bread from the grocery store.
  3. The true secret to making any BLT so much better is to salt and pepper every layer, even your smear of mayo.
  4. Finally, bake your bacon. This is a trick I learned during my short time as a line cook. Most restaurants place bacon in a single layer on a sheet pan and bake it instead of pan frying it. It keeps the kitchen cleaner (bacon grease does not spatter everywhere) and you are able to tend to other things in the kitchen while the bacon bakes.

 

 

Butternut Squash & Lentil Curry

Butternut Squash & Lentil Curry

Colder weather means throwing something in the crockpot before work, letting it cook all day, and coming home to a bubbly, home cooked meal. The preceding is especially true when your book club decides to host their monthly meeting at your house.

I can think of no better way to feed a bunch of hungry ladies than to prepare something that is quick and easy.

If you are like me, crockpot cooking can be difficult because there are so few dishes or variations of dishes that you can make in a crockpot—soup, roast, or chili seem to be the go tos.

I tested out this recipe a few weeks ago on my husband, so when my book club meeting was scheduled for my house I thought the recipe would be perfect. The most work this recipe requires is steaming some jasmine rice for the side.

A beautiful bowl of lentil and butternut squash curry

There is no added fat or meat, which results in a relatively healthy dinner. The base is made entirely of vegetables and a little bit of low sodium chicken stock. Low calorie cooking means more room for wine.

As the seasons change you can trade out the butternut squash for something more seasonal like mango or sweet potato. You literally throw everything into the crockpot the morning before your meal is planned, and let the lentils cook down with the vegetables until a thick creamy curry is created.

Just like you can switch out the vegetables that fill this curry, you can pick any of you favorite toppings to sprinkle over each finished bowl. I opted for cilantro and pickled onion, but the leftover seeds from the butter squash would have also been delicious roasted then peppered over the top.

Chopsticks sit besides this rice filled bowl of curry

Balsamic Onion Jam

Balsamic Onion Jam

For us in the low country, summer’s end is marked by the beginning of hurricane season. It is a period of months that I absolutely dread, especially considering I did not grow up here. Where I am from, our only worry was the occasional lighting storm or tornado.

With summer marking its end, last week I dug up my summer garden to replant my winter one. Now I am not so certain my tiny little plants are going to make it through the impending storms of hurricane Florence that everyone on the east coast is tracking so closely. Even if Savannah does not get hit directly this week, I can assure you that a gust of torrential rain and wind will likely wipe out my tiny plants.

Part of summer ending and fall/winter replanting means using up the last bit of fruit from the garden. For most southerners this results in canning and saving for the winter. When canning comes around, I tend to lean towards jams and pickles.

Making a jam doesn’t only have to be reserved for fruit or sweet items. I often make onion, bacon, or tomato jam to keep and pair with a hefty cheese plate or put out for a gathering.

The basics of jam are easy, unlike jelly which often requires the addition of pectin or gelatin. To make a jam I employ a few standard techniques, cooking down the star ingredient with a liquid and sugar until it becomes sticky and reduced.

For this jam recipe I use two types of onion, Vidalia and red, to achieve a well rounded flavor. The addition of balsamic vinegar cuts through the sweetness and adds a deep savory flavor.

You can save the recipe by canning the finished jam or store it in the fridge for up to a week.

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Georgia Hotdogs + Low Country Boil Corn

Georgia Hotdogs + Low Country Boil Corn

Today, you get two recipes in one post. Thanks to none other than my fried and fellow blogger: A Common Connoisseur.

A few days ago, she asked that I come by, spend the day cooking, and take pictures of what we made. What we came up with were funky grilled hotdogs, a side to go, and of course a dessert. She has a pool at her house, so we were naturally drawn to hanging out by the pool while making yummy food.

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I wanted to go with all things southern because I am slightly obsessed with southern food, and her portion was a bit more tropical. Both flavors are perfect for grilling on a lazy summer day lounging by the pool while avoiding turning on the oven.

Hotdogs (and hamburgers) are the perfect summer food, but we did not want to make just any old hotdogs with ketchup and mustard. For this recipe, we take hotdogs up a notch by topping them with simple, delicious, and unique ingredients.

My topping pays homage to my home state, Georgia, with the use of fresh peaches and Vidalia onions. To take the dog over the edge, bacon and a creamy buttermilk mayonnaise were added.

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The side, corn, is inspired by elote, the delicious Mexican street corn, and Savannah’s favorite party food — low country boil.

For those that have never had low country boil, let me explain the basics of what it is. Most of the low country has a favorite food that they love to serve at parties, mainly because it feeds a ton of people and highlights the coast’s sweet local shrimp. Low country boil is comprised of a huge batch of corn on the cobb, sausage, shrimp, and potatoes all boiled together in Old Bay seasoning or something the like. After it is cooked, the entire batch is dumped out onto a table that is covered in newspaper for everyone to gather around and eat with their hands.

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Maria went with a bahn mi inspired hotdog, which turned out absolutely yummy due to the use of a homemade peanut sauce. She also took care of dessert, which was a no churn ice-cream layered with fig and orange jam. The crazy part, she made it into an adult ice-cream float by topping it with sparkling rosé.

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Here recipes can be found here.

As for the photos, some of hers can be found on this post as well as all of mine!

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Georgia Hot Dogs

Ingredients:

• 12 Hotdogs
• 12 Hotdog Buns
• 2 Peaches, halved
• 1 Vidalia Onion, sliced with the rings in tact
• 1/2 Package of Bacon
• 1/2 Cup of Mayonnaise
• 3 Tablespoons of Buttermilk
• 3 Tablespoons of Fresh Parsley, chopped
• Salt and Pepper to Taste
• Olive Oil

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Directions:

1. Prepare and heat your grill.
2. While the grill heats, in a small bowl whisk together your mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons of parsley, buttermilk, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside in the fridge.
3. Grill your bacon to your desired doneness. Remove bacon from grill once cooked and drain on a plate covered with paper towels
4. Lightly coat your onion and peaches with olive oil to prevent sticking. Grill the onion and peaches until they have light char marks.
5. Remove from the grill and set aside to cool.
6. While the peaches and onion cools, grill your hotdogs.
7. Chop your onion, bacon, and peaches into large chucks then combine together. Set aside.
8. Remove your hotdogs from the grill, and lightly grill your hotdog buns.
9. Prepare your hotdog by placing the hotdogs into the hotdog buns, topping each hotdog with your peach and onion mixture, then pouring your mayonnaise sauce over the peaches.
10. Sprinkle with remaining parsley.