Picture this: you’ve just found the most perfect recipe for homemade pumpkin pie. You’ve cleared you schedule, cleaned your kitchen, purchased the ingredients…and now all there is left to do is bake.
You begin adding ingredients to the mixing bowl with precision and care until you come to the pinnacle moment that gives your pie its very essence: the can of pumpkin puree. (Of course, if you take the time to process your own pumpkin every time you bake a pie, my hat is off to you. Sometimes we only have time for a two hour project, so a can of the sweet orange stuff will have to do!)
After adding the necessary puree to the bowl, your stomach falls to the floor. You realize, hands shaking, that you have an odd amount of leftover pumpkin in the can. You know logically that if you cover it with cling film and try to save it, it will kick around in the fridge for longer than you’d like until you find some use for it or at last throw it away. Even the dogs have started rolling their eyes at you when you continue to offer them spoonfuls…they’ve seen this all play out before.
Fear not, reader. There is an easy, delicious use for the odd amount of pumpkin puree that you’ve always wondered what to do with. The solution in this case, and in many other cases, is: pasta.
For those of you who are paying attention to how much dairy you consume, this recipe was created with the intention of making it vegan. (If you’d rather have your dairy, feel free to substitute heavy whipping cream for coconut cream and parmesan for capers.) With the holiday season upon us, I found myself craving something relatively healthy and light.
This recipe can all be made in one pot, for those of you who prefer to do less dishes. I have a feeling I am not alone in this…
Toast the walnuts while you are making your sauce. Chop them up to your desired coarseness when they are cool enough to touch. Add red pepper flakes, torn parsley, and capers.
Creamy Pumpkin Pasta (Vegan)
This healthy, one-pot dinner makes a great ending to a busy day.
Let’s face it–some sourdough recipes are anything but no-fuss. On the coattails of sourdough’s great, quarantine-inspired resurgence, many bread lovers with lofty aspirations of achieving the perfect loaf have come to the same conclusion: working with sourdough can be kind of hard.
It’s not that caring for a starter poses an insurmountable challenge. If anything, neglecting–or simply forgetting–about your starter in the fridge can be the biggest hurdle, if you don’t bake every day, or even every week.
What Does It Mean To Care For Sourdough Starter
The fact is, sourdough is alive with wild yeasts and lactobacilli, an umbrella term for bacteria strains typically found in yogurt and dairy products. These strains of bacteria excel at converting sugar into lactic and acetic acid, which translates, happily for us, into flavor. (This is why we love our artisan bakers for intimately caring for their cultured loaves, from the beginning stages of liquid starter to a gorgeously shaped levain.)
Dreamy as the sourdough life may seem, not all of us can shape our lives around a schedule dictated by bacteria, temperature, and flour. The good news is, there are many uses for sourdough starter other than making bread, many of which take much less time to master.
Ways to De-Mystify Your Starter
If pulling out the scale once a week becomes a pain-point in the process of caring for your starter, ditch it.
The deeper one digs into the realm of sourdough culture (pun intended) the more involved (and superstitious) recipes for sourdough become. A baker may weigh every ounce to the proper decimal, consider every variable impacting culture activity, and plan their life around their starter–and still bake a crummy loaf.
Don’t view your starter as a complex adversary–it is a new friend you are getting to know.
Feed your sourdough culture 1 cup of water and 1 cup of flour when you pull it from the fridge. Clean the container, pour the fed starter back into its vessel, and use what doesn’t fit in a recipe like No-Fuss Cinnamon Rolls. (This is called sourdough discard.)
If you are unsure of how to use your sourdough discard, consider these ideas:
A simple rule of thumb for understanding sourdough starter behavior is, the warmer the environment, the more active the starter. This is why if you keep sourdough starter on your fridge, it requires daily feedings–versus the weekly feedings required when kept in the fridge.
Resources For Further Sourdough Recipes and Research
The New York Times produced a deep dive into making a sourdough loaf, with illustrative pictures and step-by-step instructions.
Breadtopia hosts a wealth of information about different kinds of flours, sourdough care, loaf-shaping methods, and also boasts a large collection of recipes.
King ArthurFlour is a trusted source for recipes with predictable levels of success for bakers of all experience levels.
Cultures For Health is an excellent resource for many “alive” products, including milk and water kefirs, sourdough, kombucha, and more.
But enough about starter care: let’s get to the good stuff.
This recipe is for the casual sourdough fan,
who may have acquired a starter during quarantine but still would unabashedly consider themselves in the “training wheels” phase of Sourdough Understanding. Personally, I’ve had my starter for years, and I’m still getting to know it–I am still baking loaves that cause me frustration, and, occasionally, I bake beautiful ones.
These cinnamon rolls, however, have yet to disappoint. This was one of the first recipes I ever followed which yielded successful results from a starter and made me believe that maybe I was, in fact, developing the accompanying intuition for translating my starter’s behavior into an end result I wanted to eat.
Assemble the ingredients for the dough and mix.
It is very important not to overmix the dough at any point in this recipe!
When you first begin mixing the ingredients together, feel free to use your hands so you can experience the textural change the ingredients undergo as they combine. The dough should barely come together, feel shaggy, and also very tender. The more you “knead” the dough and mix it together, the tougher it gets (and nobody wants a tough bun!) due to gluten networks forming. Treat this dough as gently as possible and you will be rewarded with airy, delicious buns.
On paper, this shaggy mixture should hang out at room temperature overnight–but since it’s been a little colder at my place in these winter months, I let it sit on the counter, covered, for about 18 hours. Again, don’t go overboard adhering to a strict schedule on this one. I’ve made these before letting the dough rest about 10 hours with great success. This is not a recipe to stress about…promise.
Here’s what the dough looked like after resting for a glorious 18 hours:
Sprinkle baking soda, baking powder, and salt over the dough and mix gently until incorporated. Dough should be incredibly soft, tender, and supple at this point and will literally feel like (and resemble) a dimpled baby’s bottom. Roll dough out over a floured surface into a vaguely rectangular shape.
Filling ingredients are mashed together with a fork until a paste forms. Spread over the dough, roll into a log, and cut.
No-Fuss Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls
This simple dough relaxes at room temperature overnight before being rolled out, rolled up, and baked into sweety cinnamon-y goodness.
12 hours or so before you wish to bake, prepare the dough.
Using a food processor or a pastry cutter, combine butter and flour until the mixture looks sandy and uniform. If using a food processor, empty contents into a large bowl. Add starter, sugar, and milk and very gently mix until dough only just comes together. It is important not to overmix at this stage. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a clean, damp towel and let rest at room temperature 12-18 hours.
In a small bowl, mix salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Sprinkle over the rested dough and mix with your hands until the ingredients are incorporated. Dough should slacken considerably and feel very tender and light. Again, be careful not to overmix.
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Lightly flour a clean level surface and roll out the dough until it is roughly 1/4" thick, and in a rectangular shape.
In a medium bowl, mash warm butter, sugar, cinnamon, and ginger with a fork until a paste forms. Spread the paste evenly over the dough using the back of a spoon or a spatula.
Roll the dough up lengthwise as tightly as possible. Cut the ends off of the log, then cut the remaining dough into roughly 1" thick rounds.
Place buns in a buttered cast iron skillet, cookie sheet, or muffin tin and bake 20-25 minutes, or until buns are golden brown at the edges.
Meanwhile, prepare the icing in a medium bowl. Combine room temperature cream cheese, vanilla, salt, and milk with a whisk or spatula. Gradually add powdered sugar until incorporated, adding more sugar as desired.
Drizzle buns with icing and serve immediately. Keeps in the fridge up to 3 days. Reheat in small bursts in the microwave for delicious leftovers.
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Sometimes, you move across the country and have to coast on very limited funds until your first paycheck.
Sometimes, you have to shop at the grocery store with your brain instead of your heart (isn’t that a lucky thing, to be able to say “sometimes” about that?) and choose cheap and abundant over exoticism or quality.
Sometimes, this is a great challenge. Other times, it is a great challenge. Am I being clear?
So when I went to the grocery store wondering how I was going to pick up sustenance for the next month or so while my finances slowly regulate, I had to choose my purchases very carefully.
Already blessed with an abundance of spices, grains, flours, condiments, and dried beans, I chose several things very deliberately such as a can of full fat coconut milk, chicken thighs, and a laughably large bundle of fresh collard greens. (The leaves leapt out of the bag towards my elbow during the way to the car and would not fit in the vegetable drawer in the fridge when I got home, point blank.)
This recipe came together beautifully after a full day at work. Best of all, it all gets thrown into one pot.
I started by flavoring the broth I used to cook the rice.
After this simmered gently for a few moments, in goes the rice, then chicken, coconut milk, soy sauce, sweet chili paste, and mirin.
In go chopped collards…
One dirty pot later, is dinner!
Creamy Coconut Collard Greens (A One Pot Dinner)
Coconut milk, rice, chicken thighs, and collards come together for this delicious one pot meal.
1small bunch collard greens(or 1/2 of a large bunch)
Combine broth, ginger, lemongrass, lime juice, soy sauce, mirin, red pepper flakes, and sweet chili jelly in a large, heavy bottomed saucepot with a lid and stir. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook for 3-5 minutes, until the ginger and lemongrass release their odor and chili flakes begin to bleed color into the broth.
While the broth is developing flavor, salt both sides of the chicken thighs with a pinch or two of salt each. If desired, strain flavored broth using a collander into a large bowl to remove chunks of lemongrass and ginger, then pour broth back into the warm saucepot.
Add rice, chicken thighs, and coconut milk, taking care to scrape coconut fat in with the rest of the can. Stir to combine, then cover with a lid. Cook 10 minutes over medium heat.
Meanwhile, remove the stalks of the collard greens and roughly chop them into approximately 1" thick pieces. Add chopped collards and cover. Cook another 20 minutes or so, until rice is al dente and chicken thighs register at least 155°F on a thermometer. Serve immediately. Keeps well in the fridge for up to one week.
Any fellow cranberry junkies out there? (It’s okay to raise your hand, this is a safe space…!)
Consuming cranberries is my favorite way to maintain basic urinary health while boosting my immune system. Drinking a glass of unsweetened cranberry juice is like absorbing pure vitality; even the shocking taste is bracing, like taking a polar bear plunge or throwing back a shot of fresh ginger juice.
With every passing year, I place more and more cranberry sauce on my plate for Thanksgiving dinner. It becomes a welcome addition to turkey, bacon sprouts, creamy sweet potatoes…I pass it around my dish like a rumor, allowing it to shapeshift and add brightness to every decadent bite.
So this year, when I passed by the cranberries in the grocery store only to discover that they were on sale, I ended up celebrating this fact by buying a lot…as in, over five bags of fresh cranberries…
After making cranberry relish, I still had four bags of cranberries. These are destined to become a cranberry curd tart, cranberry simple syrup, cranberry apple handpies…anything left over will head straight to the freezer for mocktails.
Before the holiday was up, I’d made cranberry cookies. The recipe is fresh-tasting, delightfully simple, and can all be combined in one large mixing bowl. (I don’t know about you, but during the holiday season I try to minimize the amount of unnecessary dishes I have to do.)
Once combined, the dough is shaped into a log, rolled in sugar, and placed in the fridge for at least two hours.
With these flavorful, sightly cookies, erring on the side of underbaking, rather than overbaking, is key.
In a food processor or blender, combine cranberries and 1/4 cup sugar and blend until the cranberries are fine and mostly uniform in size. Place in a large bowl.
Wipe out the blender or food processor, add walnuts, and cut until they resemble coarse meal. Add to the large bowl with the cranberries.
Wipe out the blender or food processor once more. Add the flour and remaining sugar, and pulse. Add the butter and pulse until you have very fine crumbs. Add to the bowl with walnuts and cranberries. Add orange zest, orange juice, and almond extract. Stir to combine.
Knead the dough until a ball comes together, adding orange juice as needed to moisten the dough. Form into a log about two inches in diameter, and roll in sugar if desired. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge between two hours and three days.
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Cut cookies using a large knife to about 1/2" thickness. Place cookies on a baking sheet with at least 1" of space between them. Bake 13-15 minutes, being careful not to overbake.
Let cookies cool for 10 minutes on the warm baking sheet before removing and placing on a wire rack to continue to cool.
Save in an airtight container up to 4 days, or freeze, well-wrapped, for up to 3 months.
One of the best parts about buying a loaf of bread is knowing that whatever doesn’t make the cut for your sandwich or piece of toast has the potential to end up as bread pudding.
Bread pudding has never been the glamorous girl at the dance, but she’s got a heart of gold and can break it down with some funky moves. Perhaps criminally underrated, bread pudding really is an amazing vehicle for flavor.
This holiday season, I decided to make savory bread pudding in lieu of stuffing a bird. This decision was based on economical and food safety reasons; I happened to have stale bread which was moments from molding and, and am also a little wary of stuffing a bready sponge into the cavity of a bacteria-ridden carcass. (Edit: I have heard stuffing successfully crafted this way is unparalleled–maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to face it…)
Maybe you’ve heard of bay leaf ice cream, if you are an adventurous eater. If you have, bay flavored bread pudding might not be too far of a leap. Stick with me. Edison didn’t invent the lightbulb by sticking to tradition. Sometimes we must take bold leaps if we are to forge ahead. Right?
It’s delightfully simple: chop everything and put it in a bowl, make your custard, and let it soak for at least 15 minutes.
Butter a 9×5" bread pan and set aside. Place milk, salt, peppercorns, and bay leaves in a saucepan and heat over medium. When the mixture is just beginning to boil, turn off the heat and let it cool to room temperature.
While the milk mixture is cooling, cut or rip bread into one inch chunks and place in a large mixing bowl. Cut leeks and add to the bowl.
When the milk is at room temp, whisk in the beaten eggs. Pour this mixture over the bread chunks and let sit 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F. Pour soaked bread chunks into the baking pan. Dot the surface of the bread mixture with small dabs of butter, and bake in the oven 20-30 minutes, until toasty and golden on top. Serve as a Thanksgiving side or with a dollop of creme fraiche.
Keyword bay, bay leaf, bread pudding, leftovers, savory, savory bay bread pudding, savory bread pudding, stale bread, stuffing, thanksgiving, thanksgiving sides, use what you have
This week, pie is all over the social media feeds.
“To bake, or not to bake” seems to be a pertinent question this year–and for those who are paring down on the festivities, this question comes into even more glaring focus. I’ve seen suggestions for hand pies, or lemon bars, as supplicant solutions to the pie dilemma. While these tasty baked treats would be a welcome addition to any day of the year, they don’t exactly scream “special occasion.”
Enter an alternative to the alternatives: tart.
And not just any tart, mind you–this is Julia Child’s pear tart we are talking about. With three distinct steps, a few hours of work, and a decorative topping as ornate as one has the patience to craft, this tart can be a real showstopper, and tastes amazing.
Musky, nutty, creamy, and sweet: one forkful and you might even forget it’s the weirdest holiday season ever.
This recipe is a good exercise in some traditional culinary skills, and presents a good challenge to continue ones quarantined gastronomic exploits. If you’ve never tried a Julia Child recipe before, this is a great one to start with! So make it, and impress your loved ones. Or better yet, rope them into the process too. There are plenty of opportunities to sneak sweet bites in between steps…
To begin with, I made the sugar crust and let it chill for an hour. As it firmed up in the fridge, I made the almond paste.
Julia instructs us to beat the eggs and sugar until very pale yellow and forming ribbons, about to this stage:
(I did deviate slightly from her directions as I added a pinch of salt to the mix as well, but this is a matter of personal preference.)
As the frangipane cooled, I pealed, stemmed, and cored the pears, then simmered in wine, lemon juice, cinnamon, and sugar for 8 minutes.
By this stage, the dough is ready to be rolled out and baked, and the tart assembled. Traditionally, the pears are cut in thin slices widthwise and laid in a circular tart in concentric circles, maintaining the suggestion of their original pear shape. Since this year has been anything but traditional, I decided to mix things up a bit and change the shape from a circle to a rectangle, and lay the slices in a different pattern. My goal was to achieve a more even distribution of pear, so that every slice is guaranteed a generous portion of fruit.
1/4cupred currant jelly(or other preserves with mild flavor)
Whisk together dry ingredients. Cut in butter using a pastry cutter or food processor until it resembles small, uniform crumbs. Add egg and vanilla until combined, flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 375°F.
On a floured surface, roll dough out to about 1/8th of an inch thick. Transfer dough to the tart pan, crimping or pressing the edges with a fork if desired.
Line tart with foil and fill with pie weights, or dried beans or rice. Bake 9-10 minutes, or until pastry is set and the top of the crust has begun to change from shiny in appearance to matte. Bake 7-10 minutes more, or until crust is lightly browned and cooked all the way through. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, taking care not to burn them. Blend in a food processor or blender until they are pulverized into small, homogenous chunks.
Whisk egg and egg yolk in a large mixing bowl until combined, then gradually add sugar, whisking as you do so. Mixture should grow paler and paler yellow, and grow shiny after about 3 minutes. Thin ribbons should form from the end of your whisk or electric beater when held about a foot above the bowl, about five minutes. Add flour and combine.
Heat milk in a medium saucepan on the stove until simmering. Add a few tablespoons to the egg mixture, and whisk to temper the milk into the eggs. Gradually add the rest of the milk, whisking as you do so. (Do not rush this process or you might end up with scrambled eggs!)
Place milk and egg mixture back in the saucepan over medium heat, whisking continuously 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and add pulverized almonds, vanilla and almond extracts, and butter. Let cool completely, covering custard with buttered parchment paper to prevent a skin from forming.
Bring wine, lemon juice, sugar, and cinnamon to a boil in a medium saucepan on the stove.
Peel, stem, and core the pears. Drop pears into the boiling wine and cook 8-10 minutes, until stained and seasoned, but still firm enough to retain their shape. Turn off the heat and let the pears steep for 20 minutes in the liquid, then place pears on a wire rack to drain.
Place the wine solution over high heat until it is at 230°F, then add jelly. Once the preserves have dissolved and the mixture coats the back of a spoon, remove from heat and let cool.
Brush the bottom of the baked tart shell with the reduced wine/jelly mixture. Fill shell with frangipane, and smooth with a spatula. Cut pears into 1/4 inch thick slices and arrange atop the frangipane. If desired, brush pears with more jelly mixture. Chill before serving.
Keeps up to 5 days in the fridge.
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I’m sure we can all agree that the circumstances surrounding this holiday are less than ideal. It’s challenging for families to come together, connect, and share food due to travel limitations. It seems most folks are celebrating on a smaller scale than usual, reducing their menu for the day if they’re even observing the holiday at all–at least, this is what I’ve observed on my food-saturated social media feed.
If you, too, are cooking for two, or four, or even just yourself–you may consider a roast chicken as your centerpiece rather than larger fowl.
Of all the chickens I have ever roasted in my life (and I love roast chicken!) this buttermilk chicken from Samin Nosrat is the juiciest, most chicken-y roast chicken I have ever had the sublime pleasure of sinking my teeth into. It really is about quality of ingredients because there are so few: take care to use a fine grain salt, like a sea salt or kosher salt, good buttermilk with few additives (or make your own like I do!) and a chicken that you can wager, with reasonable certainty, lived a good life. I don’t know if it’s all in my head, but I feel pretty certain that one can taste the difference in quality meat.
If you treat this recipe with the respect it deserves by investing in quality ingredients, you will be rewarded with beautiful results. For me, this was a life-changing, eureka moment, holy-smokes-this-is-it recipe for roast chicken. (You should probably buy yourself a copy of Salt Fat Acid Heat if you haven’t already.)
I like to keep the ingredients fairly simple in accordance with the original recipe. The lemon, herbs, and half an onion featured are optional, but delicious, additions.
After I drained the chicken of buttermilk, I tucked the thyme under the skin near the breast meat, and stuffed the cavity with half of a small onion, a small bundle of sage, and a squeezed lemon half. The legs get tied together with twine.
The first time I tried this recipe, I was slightly daunted by the recipes–shall we say, specific–roasting instructions. However, I followed them to a T and, I have to say the results made a believer out of me. Just try it. It will work. Trust me. (If you can’t trust me, trust Samin.)
After you pick clean the carcass with the most delicious chicken you’ve had, maybe ever, save the bones/carcass to make stock. It’s soup season, after all…
1/2lemon, juiced into the cavity and shoved inside,optional
One to two days before you cook the chicken, generously season it with salt, and rub into the skin. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Do not be shocked if you go through 2-3 Tablespoons, bearing in mind what is not absorbed by the bird initially will dissolve into the buttermilk as it marinates.
If using any aromatics like fresh herbs, onion, lemon, garlic, etc, tuck under the skin or in the cavity of the chicken now.
Place chicken into a large zip top bag and seal the buttermilk inside. Place in the fridge for 24-48 hours, turning the bag whenever you remember; ideally this is every 8-12 hours.
An hour and 15 minutes before you plan to cook the chicken, remove it from the fridge to thaw. After an hour has passed, preheat the oven to 425°F and take care your rack is centered in your oven.
Drain the chicken of the buttermilk over a sink or garbage can. When the chicken is completely drained, place it in a shallow cast iron pan. Slide the cast iron to the very back of the stove and into one corner of the oven, so that legs are pointing in the corner. Bake this way for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes has passed, reduced oven heat to 400°F, and continue roasting 10 more minutes. Then, rotate chicken so that it is in the other backmost corner, with legs facing in the opposite corner. Bake for another 30 minutes, or until the chicken is a beautiful brown on top, juices pricked from where the drumstick meets the carcass run clear, or until the breast meat clocks in at 155°F-165°F.
If chicken is getting too crispy as you wait for it to reach temperature, feel free to cover the top with foil.
Let bird rest for 10 minutes before carving. Enjoy.
Do you have once a week pizza night in your house? Do you WISH you had once a week pizza night in your house, but are intimidated by the “hassle” of homemade crust?
Worry no more. The simplest, tastiest pizza crust recipe is now available to you. The hardest part about making this recipe is waiting the extra 48 hours for the flavor to develop in the bulk ferment in the fridge. But if you have the patience to wait three full days for your pizza (yes, anticipation IS part of the flavor) your dinner will taste high calibre even if you’re simply using up leftovers from your fridge to top your ‘za. So, for the sake of your tastebuds, try and give this dough the full time to “grow” into itself.
Another perk of this recipe is there’s flavor without the fuss of sourdough. All this batch of dough needs is 1 gram of yeast. That’s it. The rest of the flavor comes from natural yeasts in the air, and time.
I mean, just look at this beauty after she’s been partitioned into individual bowls and left to come into her own:
Add some of your favorite toppings while your oven sits at 550°F and bake for 8 minutes. And boom! Hearth-fire-style pizza, right at home. Date night with your Other just got a little bit better.
But why trust a picture? This cheap project yields handsome rewards. Besides, there’s a pandemic. You’ve got nothing but time! (Sorry, sorry…too soon? …it might be too soon.)
I topped my most recent pizza with a few hearty spoonfuls of ricotta, fresh basil and red sauce, ground Italian sausage, and a generous crack of fresh pepper. Needless to say, there were no surviving pieces to enjoy for lunch the next day.
Add the water and mix with a wooden spoon, spatula, or your hand until just combined, being careful not to overmix. Once mixture is combined, lightly flour a countertop and knead for several minutes to remove clumps. Dough should easily come together in a ball.
Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit at 24 hours at room temperature, undisturbed. It should bubble and roughly double in size.
Lightly flour a large cutting board or your kitchen countertop and place the dough on it. Divide dough into 4 equal portions for 10 inch pies.
Place the dough balls into oiled, airtight containers or small bowls covered in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for another 48-96 hours.
Remove from the fridge at LEAST 1 hour before use to allow the dough to come to room temperature. This lets the gluten relax and allows you to more easily shape the dough into a disc for baking.
To make pizza, preheat the oven to 550°F while the partitioned dough is coming to room temperature from the fridge. Place a pizza stone, flat baking sheet, or cast iron in the oven to preheat while you stretch the dough into a flat shape. Place onto a pizza peel or another flat baking sheet with a fine dusting of rice flour or cornmeal, so the dough can freely slide off and into the oven. Add desired toppings, and bake for 8 minutes, or until browned and bubbling. Let rest at least 1 minute before cutting.
After wandering through an antiques store in Little Mountain, South Carolina, I managed to emerge with only three vintage cookbooks. This, truth be told, was nothing short of a miracle. As it turns out, there are a lot of antique cookbooks to be had here, which, as a newcomer, I found terribly hard to resist.
I leafed through the recipes hungrily, looking for different culinary influences in the ingredients which might have contributed in some way to southern cooking’s unique charm. I suspected to encounter a lot of butter and refined sugar–and it’s true, those ingredients were star players on many of the pages–but I was excited to see ingredients more on the “earthy” side, like turnips, greens, root vegetables, and grains.
Colonialist ingredients clearly do not stand on their own, in this cuisine: the more “rooted” ingredients add a lot of richness to a well-rounded palate, much fuller than the myopic view fast food chains would lead us to believe.
When I saw a tantalizingly simple recipe for key lime pie, I figured I’d best give it a shot. I’m trying to pinch my pennies right now, after all. The South is a pretty good place to do this; plus, freshly made key lime pie makes it easy to forget one is doing so.
This was a great excuse to break in my new food processor, besides…blitzing the sleeve of graham crackers was delightfully easy, and made perfectly uniform pieces.
This recipe was dead simple. Only a handful of ingredients, and just a few steps. The hardest part was waiting for the pie to chill…
Because you need whipped cream on a key lime pie, I added a few finishing touches, and…voila! Will definitely be eating this for breakfast until it’s gone…
Southern Key Lime Pie
This recipe based off of a vintage Southern Living cookbook, as simple as it is sweet!
Blitz graham crackers in a food processor or blender until they are uniform in texture and size. Add melted butter and salt and combine until the mixture resembles coarse sand.
Press graham cracker mixture into a 9-inch pie dish until it is evenly dispersed in a thin layer across the bottom and up the sides.
Bake for 7 minutes, or until the tops of the crust are golden brown and releasing a pleasant aroma. Cool at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, beat sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, and freshly squeezed lime juice in a medium bowl with a whisk until combined. Pour the mixture into the cooled pie crust. Zest fresh lime peel evenly over the top of the custard mixture, and chill at least two hours.
Before serving, whip cream and powdered sugar in a deep bowl and beat with an electric mixer. Using either a piping bag or a spoon, place 12 dollops of cream around the edges of the surface of the pie in a circle, then one dollop for the middle. If desired, zest more lime peel over the top. Serve immediately.
Within the first week of arriving in the South, I made it a priority to track down a hot serving of shrimp and grits. Fortunately, it wasn’t too hard to find a place producing this southern classic.
I was amazed by the flavor such simple ingredients can pack; it’s safe to say I’ve never tasted anything like it, having rarely encountered southern cuisine in my daily life until recently.
When I saw locally-sourced blue corn grits, I felt inspired to give this dish the old college try. I purchased my first ever container of Cajun seasoning (made in Louisiana!) and prepped my ingredients as I let my thoughts wander backwards to what it was that made that first forkful taste so…significant. Perhaps a splash of cream over the top added to the sweetness of the moment?
There’s no shortage of dairy and salt in this take on the classic. Go easy on the Cajun seasoning if you are sensitive to spice. Don’t skip the bay leaves. Cut your peppers and onion uniformly. And remember: relax! Southern cooking and stress do not go well together (don’t ask me how I know !)
Best served immediately. A spicy red wine would be a divine compliment to this dish.
South Carolina Shrimp and Grits
I added quite a bit of Cajun seasoning because I like my food spicy–however, it's important to taste as you go.
Place water, milk, grits, bay leaves, and salt in a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and cook, whisking attentively, 30-40 minutes, adding small amounts of water and lowering heat as needed if grits begin to stick to the bottom of the pot. Remove bay leaves, and add butter and parmesan and stir into the grits, tasting for salt. Stir in heavy cream and simmer about 1 more minute, or until the cream is incorporated. Cover until ready to serve.
Meanwhile, finely slice red bell pepper, jalapeño, and onion into uniform slices. In a large cast iron pan, sauté bacon over medium high heat until crispy, then drain on paper towels. Add the two sausages to the pan with reserved bacon fat and sear on both sides of the sausage until crisped and browned, about 4 minutes each side. Add sliced vegetables and sear, about 3 minutes. Add beer and Cajun seasoning and stir until vegetables and sausages are coated. Cover and turn heat to medium, leaving undisturbed for 5 minutes.
Remove lid, remove sausages using tongs and place on the same draining plate as the bacon. Add butter and heavy cream to the pan and simmer until sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes. While sauce is reducing, snip drained bacon into 1” pieces and add to the pan. As soon as sausages are cool enough to handle, cut each lengthwise, then into half-inch-thick half-moons. Add to the pan and stir.
Partition grits into bowls and ladle meat and sauce over the top. Garnish with a pinch of watercress and serve immediately.
Keyword blue corn, Cajun, crumbs, crumbs on crumbs, crumbsoncrumbs, from scratch, grits, homemade, intuitive eater, intuitive eating, shrimp and grits, South Carolina, southern cooking