Perfect in pink with FRESH strawberry cake

fresh strawberry cake

Traditionally in my family there was no better way to show your love for someone than feeding them something delicious and homemade. Not one to break that tradition, I always attempt to make something for Dear Hubby for Valentine’s Day that involves his favorite food, chocolate. Well, that is until this year. He has decided to curb his chocolate consumption and since I do not want to be the one who tempts him “off the wagon” I took on the challenge of creating something he would love.

And while, as a chocoholic, he may never love any food ever as much, he did appreciate my sincere effort. I wanted to bake a strawberry cake that was not made with a cake mix (this is pretty much a no-no with me) or one that derives its flavor from boxed strawberry Jello. Mine would be a FRESH strawberry cake.

After researching and testing I came up with an excellent, moist cake that is just the right shade of pink and carries an outstanding FRESH strawberry aroma and taste. It is based off the basic vanilla cake from Southern Living magazine with many tweaks. I am proud of myself with this one!

There are a few things to take note of, however. The frosting uses FRESH strawberries as well, so the amount of confectioners sugar required may vary according to the juiciness of your strawberries. The frosting was on the thin side, but thick enough to hold onto the cake. Just allow the cake to cool completely before frosting. I also set the frosted cake in the frig for about 10 minutes to “set” the frosting, and I stored leftover cake (covered) in the frig as well. Personally I thought the cake got an even richer strawberry flavor after the first day too. So it is ‘make ahead’ approved.

I would venture to bet it would also make nice petit four type cakes, set on racks with the frosting poured over the top and topped with 1 perfect strawberry. Maybe small heart shaped cakes! A beautifully homemade, non-chocolate, valentine goodie for your sweetheart!

Fresh strawberries always make me feel the love!

Fresh strawberries always make me feel the love!

The fresh strawberry puree - there should not be any "chunks" but you should recognize it as strawberry.

The fresh strawberry puree – there should not be any “chunks” but you should recognize it as strawberry.

Mix the unflavored gelatin into the puree and allow to dissolve (stir it well). Add the milk to this mixture.

Mix the unflavored gelatin into the puree and allow to dissolve (stir it well). Add the milk to this mixture.

In the mixer cream the butter and sugar, then add the eggs one at a time. Once that is done you will add the extracts and then alternately add the flour mixture and the puree/milk mixture.

In the mixer cream the butter and sugar, then add the eggs one at a time. Once that is done you will add the extracts and then alternately add the flour mixture and the puree/milk mixture.

The pretty in pink batter! It smells devine too.

The pretty in pink batter! It smells devine too.

Pour the batter into prepared pan(s). I used a 9 x 13 inch pan lined with parchment.

Pour the batter into prepared pan(s). I used a 9 x 13 inch pan lined with parchment.

After baking, it is still pink! Allow to cool in the pan a bit, then remove to a rack and remove parchment paper. It should be completely cool before frosting!

After baking, it is still pink! Allow to cool in the pan a bit, then remove to a rack and remove parchment paper. It should be completely cool before frosting!

Here is another image of the sliced cake.

Here is another image of the sliced cake.

Strawberry Cake

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon butter flavor extract
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk (at least 2%)
  • 1 cup strawberry puree (from fresh strawberries)
  • 1 tsp unflavored gelatin
  • Strawberry frosting
  • Extra strawberries for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare baking pans by lining with parchment paper.

With mixer beat sugar and butter at medium speed until creamy and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until yellow disappears after each addition. Beat in extracts.

Mix strawberry puree with 1 tsp gelatin and the milk. Set aside. In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; add to sugar mixture alternately with milk/puree mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at medium-low speed just until blended after each addition. (Batter will be thick.) Pour into prepared pan(s).

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven. 35-40 minutes in a 9 x 13 cake pan or 25-30 minutes in (2) 9 inch cake pans. Remove from pans, peel off parchment paper, and place on rack to cool. Frost with strawberry frosting.

Frosting

  • ¼ cup strawberry puree
  • 2-3 tbl minced fresh strawberries
  • 3 oz cream cheese (regular or light)
  • 5 tbl butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups + confectioners sugar

Whip butter and cream cheese until creamy. Add vanilla extract and puree. Slowly mix in the sugar until frosting reaches your desired consistency. Stir in the minced strawberries. Add more confectioners sugar, if necessary.

Spread on cooled strawberry cake and top each slice with fresh strawberries.

Ramblings: Gullah on my mind, part 1.

The newly freed slaves and one of their Union liberators on Hilton Head Island. These Gullah ancestors became the first Freemen of Mitchelville.

The newly freed slaves and one of their Union liberators on Hilton Head Island. These Gullah ancestors became the first Freedmen of Mitchelville.

In the last several months I have had the pleasure to work on a project about Gullah culture and heritage. If you’ve never heard of Gullah, honestly I would not be surprised… but if you read on you should be prepared to be the one surprised.

Now the term Gullah refers not only to a “people” but also to a language. So one could correctly state that a person could both “speak Gullah” and “be Gullah”. For a long time, it seemed to me like most people outside of the Gullah community, only knew the term as it relates to language. However, over the past two decades or so, Gullah has become more known to outsiders and rightfully recognized for its many contributions to southern culture.

Gullah heritage encompasses art, food, religious practices, music, dance, folklore, and some of the most note-worthy political, social and military history since the founding of the United States. There does exist a good bit of research and written history about the Gullah and I have listed at the end of this post some of the resources I’ve found helpful. By no means am I any kind of expert or even all that knowledgeable on the subject – I’ve been intrigued by Gullah history and captivated by it’s culture and people.

A Brief Overview

First off let’s begin with a very general and brief introduction of Gullah and then I’ll cover one of the most dynamic and important subjects in Gullah history… Mitchelville.

Gullah artisan creating a one-of-a-kind sweetgrass basket.

Gullah artisan creating a one-of-a-kind sweetgrass basket.

But who are “Gullah”, anyway? Truly the history of the Gullah is like a blueprint for the history of America – a desire and ensuing struggle for freedom at all costs. But unlike the European immigrants who came to the New World by choice (for the most part) the Gullah were brought here forcibly, as slaves. The Gullah are descendents of enslaved peoples brought to the South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and north Florida coasts from West Africa to work the indigo, rice, sugar cane, and later cotton fields. The word “Gullah” may refer to Angola, where some Gullah people may have originated or from from Gola, an ethnic group living in the border area between Sierra Leone and Liberia in West Africa. The name “Geechee”, another common name for the Gullah people, may come from Kissi, an ethnic group living in the border area between Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

While enslaved Africans worked and lived on inland plantations, some that worked along the coast lived on actual islands – like Hilton Head, Daufuskie, St. Helena, Edisto, and Sapelo. For as much as these folks were so very isolated, even after winning their freedom in the Civil War, those that remained on the sea islands were able to hold on to many of their traditions and preserve their language, foodways, and culture due to that very same isolation.

There was no bridge to the mainland – one had to use oar, bateau and brute strength to reach “civilization”. This remained the case (there was ferry transportation for some after 1910) until the 1920’s for St. Helena Island and believe it or not, 1956 for Hilton Head Island. The famous spiritual “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore” was a song sung by the islander’s rowing the ferry across Port Royal Sound to St. Helena. It became popular when missionaries and others wrote down the words and melody and began to use it.

Gullah community members take part in a “ring shout” in Georgia, circa 1930. Photo courtesy of the Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution.

Gullah community members take part in a “ring shout” in Georgia, circa 1930. Photo courtesy of the Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution.

I find the most far-reaching “story” of the Gullah intertwines politics, the military, and an inspiring narrative. It is an important bit of American history which has, for the most part, been sidestepped in textbooks, and pretty much everywhere else.

In Hilton Head Island, on what is now Port Royal Resort, there was a Confederate fort, Fort Walker. The fort was a station for Confederate troops, and its guns helped protect the 2-mile wide entrance to Port Royal Sound, which is fed by two slow-moving and navigable rivers, the Broad River and the Beaufort River. Basically it is the body of water between Hilton Head Island and Beaufort/Port Royal to the north.

On October 29, 1861, the largest fleet ever assembled in North America moved south to seize Fort Walker during the Battle of Port Royal. On November 7, 1861, it fell to over 12,000 Union troops. Hilton Head became an important base of operations for the Union blockade of the Southern ports, particularly Savannah and Charleston and was also the site of a military hospital.

Mitchelville

After the occupation by Union troops, hundreds of ex-slaves flocked to Hilton Head Island to become part of the First South Carolina Volunteers and/or reside as full-fledged citizens in the first self-governed
 freedmen’s town in America, Mitchelville.

The Battle of Port Royal, made Hilton Head Island a Union stronghold and brought freedom to the enslaved people there.

The Battle of Port Royal, made Hilton Head Island a Union stronghold and brought freedom to the enslaved people there.

Before the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863 and at the height of the Civil War, a group of escaped slaves, considered “contraband of war”, set about creating their own town on the grounds of the former Drayton Plantation called ‘Fish Haul’. Here Union General Ormsby Mitchel, created an actual town – instead of one of the more prevalent camps – with orderly streets, simple but accommodating wooden homes, a church, and most importantly, gave its inhabitants the freedom to govern themselves.

The newly minted citizens went about their business with elections, enacting various laws, collecting taxes, making a living, and naming their town “Mitcheville”, in honor of the forward-thinking General Mitchel. A compulsory education law for children was enacted— most likely the first such law in the South. Fort Howell, an earthworks garrison constructed in 1864 by the newly emancipated men of the 32nd U.S. Colored Infantry Volunteers, protected the town’s growing population of 1500.

Today, over 150 years after the Civil War began, local Gullah, direct descendents of Mitchelville, carry on the traditions of their history-making ancestors and work with a diverse group of Islanders to preserve and promote Mitchelville and its story of freedom.

Mitcheville had 1500 residents by November 1865.

Mitcheville had 1500 residents by November 1865.

While a work in progress, The Mitchelville Freedom Park has been fitted with a covered gazebo, an observation platform looking out toward Port Royal Sound, and kiosks telling the Mitcheville story through words and historical images. Plans are in process by the Mitchelville Preservation Project (www.mitchelvillepreservationproject.com) to construct replica structures and offer learning opportunities to the public through lectures, exhibits, tours and special events.

Like me, the folks involved in the Mitchelville Freedom Park see this project as a positive lightening rod for discussion, contemplation, and a place to ‘come together’ not just here in the Lowcountry, but for the entire country. As I heard just today in a lecture by the Reverend James E. Moore, “It’s not about you or me any longer in America… it’s about us”. I think Mitchelville Freedom Park is the perfect place to put that beautiful thought into action.

Want to learn more about Gullah culture? I’ll be adding more posts on various Gullah related and inspired topics but in the mean time check out these resources:

There are several Gullah-inspired festivals and events held through the calendar year and sprinkled across the Lowcountry of South Carolina. In January and February, it’s time for the Hilton Head Island Gullah Celebration with its myriad of fun, educational, and delicious events. Photo: The Native Island Business and Community Affairs Association, Inc., (NIBCAA).

There are several Gullah-inspired festivals and events held through the calendar year and sprinkled across the Lowcountry of South Carolina. In January and February, it’s time for the Hilton Head Island Gullah Celebration with its myriad of fun, educational, and delicious events. Photo: The Native Island Business and Community Affairs Association, Inc., (NIBCAA).

Everybody wins with satisfying chicken pot stickers.

on the plate 1

Today’s foodie treat is something for the health conscious Super Bowl fan! What?!? Using the words ‘health” and “Super Bowl” is the same sentence is blasphemy!

I consider these pot stickers healthy because they are NOT fried, covered by cheese, or swimming in any kind of artery choking sauce. Now don’t get me wrong. I do like tasty fried foods covered in cheese and/or sauce but as I am watching my weight right now, I went straight to my favorite go-to low fat/low calorie snackie that, even in all it’s own reduced fat glory, fits in at a party. Because on a diet there’s one way I really, really don’t want to feel, and that’s deprived.

This is an oldie but a goodie. It is not my original recipe but comes from a lady you may have heard of…wait for it… Betty Crocker. It’s the 1997 “New Choices Cookbook” published by Macmillan. Over the years I have tried several recipes out of this cookbook and the ones I tried, I deem very good, for a dieting cookbook. Every recipe includes nutrition information, including these pot stickers, which should have about 125 calories, 4 grams of fat (only 1 gram saturated fat) and 11 carbs per 3 pot stickers.

Now I could easily eat 3 or 4 times that many pot stickers. Yes, one could, but that defeats the purpose of eating better, right? So 6 pot stickers would be still be healthier and less fattening than 6 chicken wings (half the calories, 1/5 the fat and less than half the carbs). And these actually taste really good – light but satisfying. If hot-n-spicy is your thing feel free to add some red pepper flakes to the filling, or stir some Sriracha sauce in with the broth and soy at the end.

Leftover rotisserie chicken is a great option for these pot stickers, making them both economical and a snap to prepare. And because they freeze beautifully, it’s no muss, no fuss.

Check out that 'do... perfectly coiffed thanks to a good dim sum steam'in!

Check out that ‘do… perfectly coiffed thanks to a good dim sum steam’in!

I also love pot stickers because they remind me of a scene from the 1980’s movie, “Working Girl”. The main character, Tess, suggests that her boss serve trendy Chinese appetizers that she read about in a magazine, at her upcoming cocktail party. Her boss loves the idea and the next shot shows a high heeled, exhausted Tess dutifully offering dim sum from her steaming cart. Her big ‘80s hair is so huge and frizzy it should get it’s own cast billing. Ahh, those were the days…just kidding!

Enjoy Superbowl weekend and may your favorite team win!

The ingredients, well except I left out the Mirin. Oops.

The ingredients, well except I left out the Mirin. Oops.

Once you get all the parts prepared, the filling goes together in a snap. Lots of fresh, colorful ingredients too.

Once you get all the parts prepared, the filling goes together in a snap. Lots of fresh, colorful ingredients too.

Brush each wonton with a bit of water, to help it stick together.

Brush each wonton with a bit of water, to help it stick together.

Spoon a teaspoon or so of the filling in each wonton.

Spoon a teaspoon or so of the filling in each wonton.

Fold the wonton over and press the edges together, seal with a fork.

Fold the wonton over and press the edges together, seal with a fork.

Get to work! There are pot stickers to make. Grab a friend and make a bunch at once - they freeze beautifully.

Get to work! There are pot stickers to make. Grab a friend and make a bunch at once – they freeze beautifully.

Brown the pot stickers in batches.

Brown the pot stickers in batches.

Cover the pot stickers and allow to steam a bit, then uncover and they're ready!

Cover the pot stickers and allow to steam a bit, then uncover and they’re ready!

These tasty bites fattening but they're not!  Life is good!

These tasty bites fattening but they’re not! Life is good!

Chicken Pot Stickers

  • 2 cups finely minced cooked chicken
  • ½ cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • ½ cup finely shredded cabbage
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 tbl minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • ¼ tsp ground pepper
  • 1 egg white
  • ½ package wonton wrappers
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth plus 1 tbl
  • 6 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbl Mirin

Line cookie sheets or jelly roll pans with parchment paper. Mix first 8 ingredients in a large bowl. Make pot stickers by brushing about 6 wonton skins with water. Place about 1-2 teaspoons of filling in the center of each wonton. Fold the wonton skin over and press with a fork to make a pleated edge. Remove wontons to the parchment lined sheet pan. If room is warm, place in refrigerator as you make each batch of pot stickers. Repeat process until all filling is used.

At this point you may freeze the pot stickers on the sheets, removing them to plastic freezer bags once they are frozen solid.* If not, proceed.

Heat a large sauté pan and spray with cooking oil. On medium heat, cook 6-9 pot stickers at a time about 2 minutes or until light brown. Turn over and stir in ½ cup broth and 1 tsp of soy sauce. Cover and cook another 2-3 minutes. Remove the cover and allow liquid to evaporate. Remove to a warmed platter.

Repeat with remaining pot stickers. Once all pot stickers are cooked add 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 1 tbl Mirin and about 1 tbl broth back into saucepan. Heat about 20 seconds on medium and then pour over all the pot stickers.

Makes approximately 32 pot stickers. Recipe can be doubled for a crowd of pot sticker eaters…

* To cook frozen pot stickers: remove from the freezer, place in a single layer on a sheet pan, and allow to defrost at room temperature about 20 minutes. Prepare as directed above.

By golly, it’s butternut firefly chiffon pie.

butternut firefly chiffon pie

We’re in the thick of winter around these parts. As I write this, note that it about 70 degrees today with a light southerly breeze and sunny skies, so perhaps my choice of description, i.e. thick of winter, isn’t totally accurate. Sorry to all you folks out there whose weather is not, errr… ‘ideal’. Got to love the Lowcountry, though!

However, if we look at comparables in produce that can be found at the local grocery during this time of year, I think we are all in the same boat. Yes, I see zucchini from Mexico and pineapple from Costa Rica but what about  fresh, local (or regional) veggies and fruit? In my case this means gourds, greens (like kale and collards) and perhaps some carrots (from the farmers market). Butternut and acorn squash have both been long-time favorites in my family. But what to make? One can only eat so much roasted acorn squash in one winter.

After choosing a butternut squash, I dusted off some old family cookbooks, and thought about which combination of ingredients could be delicious and unique. I settled on a pie, similar to the rich butternut ones I made with my mother back in the day, but with a lighter consistency. Nothing says “light” like chiffon so voilà, the butternut chiffon pie was born.

I also have been experimenting in the kitchen with one of my favorite spirits, Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka, in different ways and I must admit it is exceptional in this recipe. I used the “skinny’ version of this flavored vodka, the tea-infused essence really gives the filling an extra punch and compliments the spices nicely. I think either the “skinny” or the regular version would both result in equally delicious fillings.

Firefly Distillery is located in nearby Wadmalaw Island (just outside Charleston, SC) and you can read more about their products, history and what not on their website. They also offer several other flavored small batch vodkas, a bourbon and produce a very good muscadine wine. The grapes for the wine are grown on-site and the tea used in all their tea-infused products comes from their neighbors at Charleston Tea Plantation.

I believe there isn’t anything much better than a cool Firefly lemonade on a warm Lowcountry afternoon… especially if there is a porch…a breeze… and like-minded friends involved. Toss in some local seafood on the grill and this butternut Firefly chiffon pie, and by golly, you’ve got yourself a party!

preparing butternut squash

Prepare your squash by splitting in half and scooping out the seeds.

After roasting the squash, open the foil and allow to cool enough to handle.

After roasting the squash, open the foil and allow to cool enough to handle.

Puree the cooked butternut squash. It should be very smooth.

Puree the cooked butternut squash. It should be very smooth.

Measure out the Firefly Vodka, add the water and dissolve the gelatin.

Measure out the Firefly Vodka, add the water and dissolve the gelatin.

In a heavy bottomed pot or double boiler you will cook the egg yolks, half & half and the pureed squash. Stir in spices...

In a heavy bottomed pot or double boiler you will cook the egg yolks, half & half and the pureed squash. Stir in spices…

Add the gelatin mixture to the egg/squash mixture. Mix well,add the vanilla extract and allow to cool completely.

Add the gelatin mixture to the egg/squash mixture. Mix well,add the vanilla extract and allow to cool completely.

Whip the egg whites with the sugar until stiff and then fold into the squash mixture. Yes, this recipe uses raw egg whites so if your immunity is compromised or you do not feel comfortable about using raw egg whites, please refrain from making this recipe.

Whip the egg whites with the sugar until stiff and then fold into the squash mixture. Yes, this recipe uses raw egg whites so if your immunity is compromised or you do not feel comfortable about using raw egg whites, please refrain from making this recipe.

Pour the filling into the prepared pie shell and refrigerate.

Pour the filling into the prepared pie shell and refrigerate.

After setting up in the frig for a bit (1 hour at least) the pie should slice beautifully. I add some lightly sweetened whipped cream and grated nutmeg.  Just like heaven!

After setting up in the frig for a bit (1 hour at least) the pie should slice beautifully. I add some lightly sweetened whipped cream and grated nutmeg. Just like heaven!

Butternut Firefly Chiffon Pie

  • 1 envelope gelatin
  • 3 tbl Firefly Vodka mixed with 2 tbl water
  • 1 ½ cups cooked, mashed butternut squash*
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Ginger People spread (or 1/2 tsp ground ginger)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup half & half
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar and 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 baked & cooled graham cracker crust
  • Ground nutmeg, for garnish

Separate the eggs. In a large bowl beat egg yolks and add 1/2 cup sugar, squash, half & half, salt, and spices. Cook until thick in double boiler stirring or whisking constantly. Soak gelatin in vodka/water mixture until dissolved, stir and add to the squash mixture. When it begins to thicken, remove from the stove, stir in the vanilla extract and allow to cool completely (to room temperature).

Beat egg whites with the 1/3 cup sugar, adding 1 tablespoon at time until stiff peaks form.** Fold into the squash mixture until combined. Pour into a baked and cooled pie shell and chill to set, at least 1 hour. Garnish with sweetened whipped cream sprinkled with nutmeg just before serving.

* To prepare the puree from fresh butternut squash: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Split a medium to large butternut squash in half and remove seeds. Spray with canola or light olive oil and wrap in aluminum foil.PLace on a cookie sheet and back in the oven until cooked through, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Remove from oven, unwrap and allow to cool so you can handle. Scoop out the cooked flesh and either puree in a food processor or blender, or run through a food mill to get a smooth puree.
** This recipe uses raw egg whites in the filling.

Persimmons! It’s what’s for dessert.

persimmon white chocolate roll

Okay, I will admit that I have become obsessed with persimmons. Once I tried fresh persimmons last fall I fell in love with their flavor, their texture and even their pretty orange/coral color. Their taste remind me of mangos and a little of peaches and papayas. But I guess they are simply “persimmons”- with their own great flavor. My first recipe was to make some tangy persimmon jam, using a recipe from the Hot & Hot Fish Club Cookbook by Chef Chris Hastings. Chef Hastings makes a quick jam from wild persimmons, to accompany a foie gras first course.

Now not having access to any fresh foie gras nor wild persimmons, I nevertheless purchased some cultivated fruit at the market and set about making preserved persimmon jam. It came out quite nicely! We’ve enjoyed it on biscuits and in an appetizer I made with Camembert cheese and toasted pecans. I’ll share that recipe when the timing is right.

Having persimmons on my mind, I thought they would be delicious used in a dessert as well. Maybe a mousse? Or a perhaps a cake… thus I decided to work with them incorporating my recipe for a white chocolate jelly roll cake. This fit the bill for our Christmas dinner dessert. In the future I think I may add a drizzle of  crème anglaise just to add interest to the plate as admittedly my photography does not do justice to this recipe.

One other thing to point out is that this keeps beautifully if wrapped tightly in plastic and refrigerated. So it’s a great do-ahead dessert that impresses! And, surprisingly just today, I saw a large basket of persimmons at my local market. Persimmons seem like an undervalued fruit, to me, so allow me to spread the “good persimmon word” before some Food Network ne’er-do-well proclaims them the next big foodie thing…and they cost $5 a piece.

Peel the persimmons. They should be soft to the touch when ripe, not hard.

Peel the persimmons. They should be soft to the touch when ripe, not hard.

puree the persimmon

Persimmon puree. It has the consistency of mango (to me) and purees like them too.

Dissolve the gelatin in some rum or orange liqueur. Then warm it some so it is smooth.

Dissolve the gelatin in some rum or orange liqueur. Then warm it and stir so it is smooth.

Add the warm gelatin mixture to the puree while the processor is running and blend.

Add the warm gelatin mixture to the puree while the processor is running and blend.

CHill the puree and then fold in the sweetened whipped cream. Hold in the frig while the cake cools.

CHill the puree and then fold in the sweetened whipped cream. Hold in the frig while the cake cools.

To make the cake start by preparing the jelly roll pan. Line with parchment AND spray with oil.

To make the cake start by preparing the jelly roll pan. Line with parchment AND spray with oil.

The cake batter begins by beating the heck out of 3 eggs, adding sugar and whipping it up some more. It will more frothy like this...before adding the butter/chocolate mixture.

The cake batter begins by beating the heck out of 3 eggs, adding sugar and whipping it up some more. It will be frothy like this… before adding the butter/chocolate mixture.

Use cake flour like this NOT regular all-purpose flour. OR make your own cake flour by sifting all purpose flour, and measuring out 1 cup. Remove 2 tablespoons of flour (per cup of flour). Then add into that 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Sift again and you've got cake flour...

Use cake flour like this NOT regular all-purpose flour. OR make your own cake flour by sifting all purpose flour, and measuring out 1 cup. Remove 2 tablespoons of flour (per cup of flour). Then add back to that 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Sift again and you’ve got cake flour…

Pour the batter into the prepared jelly roll pan, bake  and in about 12-15 minutes you've got cake!

Pour the batter into the prepared jelly roll pan, bake and in about 12-15 minutes you’ve got cake!

While the cake was baking you should have prepared the powdered sugar covered kitchen towel. LIBERALLY sprinkle with powdered sugar!

While the cake was baking you should have prepared the powdered sugar covered kitchen towel. LIBERALLY sprinkle with powdered sugar!

Place the hot cake on the prepared kitchen towel. Peel off the parchment and roll it up. Allow to cool on a rack for at least an hour.

Place the hot cake on the prepared kitchen towel. Peel off the parchment and roll it up. Allow to cool on a rack for at least an hour.

After the cake roll is cool, spread the filling all over.

After the cake roll is cool, spread the filling all over.

Now wrap that baby up in plastic and allow to cool in the frig. Slice and serve with reserved persimmon puree, whipped cream, a sprinkle of powdered sugar etc.

Now wrap that baby up in plastic and allow to cool in the frig. Slice and serve with reserved persimmon puree, whipped cream, a sprinkle of powdered sugar, etc.

Persimmon White Chocolate Roll

For the White Chocolate Roll Cake

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbl unsalted butter
  • 2 oz white chocolate
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbl water
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

Lay out a clean kitchen towel that is larger than the jelly roll pan. It also helps if the towel has no texture so don’t use a terry cloth towel. Dust with a generous amount of powdered sugar.

In mixer bowl beat eggs on high speed until thick and lemon colored (5 minutes). Meanwhile melt the butter and white chocolate in small heavy bottomed pan over low heat (or use a double boiler). Stir to combine and then aside to cool.

Gradually add the sugar to the eggs, mixing well. Mix water and vanilla extract to cooled the butter/white chocolate mixture and stir. Add to egg/sugar mixture with mixer running. Add flour, baking powder and salt to the egg mixture and beat just until batter is smooth.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Loosen edges with a knife and while cake is hot, turn out onto the powder sugared towel. Roll up the cake – with the kitchen towel.

Set the cake rolled into the towel on a rack to cool, about 1 hour. After cake has completely cooled unroll the cake and towel and spread with the persimmon filling. Roll back up, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, cut into slices (1 inch seems right). Sprinkle with a little powdered sugar, a dollop of persimmon puree and whipped cream.

Makes 8-10 servings. Leftover roll should be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated.

For the Persimmon Filling

  • 5-7 Persimmons (to make about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 1/3 cup orange liqueur (good quality rum will also work)
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream

Peel the persimmons, chop and grind to make a puree in a food processor. Measure out so 2 cups of puree is in the processor and mix ¼ cup sugar to the puree. In a small saucepan dissolve the gelatin in the liqueur. Heat slowly over low heat. With processor running pour the gelatin mixture into the puree. Pour the persimmon puree into a mixing bowl and place in the refrigerator. Meanwhile whip the cream with the powdered sugar until set. Fold 1 cup of the whipped cream into the persimmon mixture.

Reserve any remaining persimmon puree and whipped cream to serve with the Persimmon White Chocolate Roll.

Ramblings: “doing better” on ML King, Jr. Day, plus a poem…

laurel beach jump!

I think we can all do better. This thought has occurred to me over the last several days as I wrote a blog post about upcoming ML King Jr. Day events in my community. While I was familiar with the basics of Dr. King’s life and work, I realized in the process of researching that post that I knew very little about this man. Reading through the materials found at The King Center website especially, I found myself transfixed by this time in American history and moved by Dr. King’s sermons and speeches.

The fact that I have also been working on a significant project about the Gullah people and culture over last 7 months has probably also heightened my awareness and interest in African American history. Never heard of the Gullah? This term refers to both a language and a people, descendents of enslaved Africans who live from the Wilmington, North Carolina area to Northern Florida. A large concentration of these descendents lived in relative isolation on the sea islands in South Carolina (the Lowcountry) down into Georgia, from the Civil War through the modern era. (Visit the new Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor website for more information).

The Gullah have an incredible culture and history, which is finally being recognized more widely for their numerous contributions to American food, art, language, and religious beliefs. For instance, if you love Southern food like pit cooked barbeque, okra and shrimp-n-grits, then thank the Gullah! It is a fascinating, LIVING culture – thanks to many Gullah who have worked tirelessly to keep it from sinking into obscurity. I’ll write more soon about the Gullah, so stay tuned…

ML King, ForbesFor now I’ll salute Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy of creating a better, more just world through personal accountability, non-violence, and service to others, with a poem I find fitting for this day. While Maya Angelou’s poem The Rock Cries Out To Us Today, has been explained as an ode to environmentalism and to rally respect for our natural world, I also infer that taken as a whole, the poem directs the reader to look for courage in the eyes of your family, causes that you find just and worthy, and in your country.

The poem encourages the reader to separate themselves from fear and violence and allow hope, dreams and your own personal resolve to determine your future. Thanks to heroes like Dr. King, African Americans (and women, folks with disabilities, minorities, children and pretty much every American), obtained the right to create (“mold”) their own futures.

Yes, “doing better” when compared to Dr. King’s remarkable deeds and legacy, seems like a formidable task, but there exists the opportunity of hope, and this begins with you. As Ms. Angelou so poignantly says, “The horizon leans forward, Offering you space to place new steps of change.”.

The opportunity to “do better” for yourself really starts by helping others.

_________________________________________

The Rock Cries Out To Us Today
 by Maya Angelou

A Rock, A River, A Tree

Hosts to species long since departed,

Marked the mastodon.

The dinosaur, who left dry tokens

Of their sojourn here

On our planet floor,

Any broad alarm of their hastening doom

Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.

But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,

Come, you may stand upon my

Back and face your distant destiny,

But seek no haven in my shadow.

I will give you no more hiding place down here.

You, created only a little lower than

The angels, have crouched too long in

The bruising darkness,

Have lain too long

Face down in ignorance.

Your mouths spilling words

Armed for slaughter.

The Rock cries out today, you may stand on me,

But do not hide your face.

Across the wall of the world,

A River sings a beautiful song,

Come rest here by my side.

Each of you a bordered country,

Delicate and strangely made proud,

Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.

Your armed struggles for profit

Have left collars of waste upon

My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.

Yet, today I call you to my riverside,

If you will study war no more. Come,

Clad in peace and I will sing the songs

The Creator gave to me when I and the

Tree and the stone were one.

Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your

Brow and when you yet knew you still

Knew nothing.

The River sings and sings on.

There is a true yearning to respond to

The singing River and the wise Rock.

So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew

The African and Native American, the Sioux,

The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek

The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,

The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,

The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher.

They hear. They all hear

The speaking of the Tree.

Today, the first and last of every Tree

Speaks to humankind.

Come to me, here beside the River.

Plant yourself beside me, here beside the River.

Each of you, descendant of some passed

On traveller, has been paid for.

You, who gave me my first name, you

Pawnee, Apache and Seneca, you

Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, then

Forced on bloody feet, left me to the employment of

Other seekers–desperate for gain,

Starving for gold.

You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot …

You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought

Sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare

Praying for a dream.

Here, root yourselves beside me.

I am the Tree planted by the River,

Which will not be moved.

I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree

I am yours–your Passages have been paid.

Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need

For this bright morning dawning for you.

History, despite its wrenching pain,

Cannot be unlived, and if faced

With courage, need not be lived again.

Lift up your eyes upon

The day breaking for you.

Give birth again

To the dream.

Women, children, men,

Take it into the palms of your hands.

Mold it into the shape of your most

Private need. Sculpt it into

The image of your most public self.

Lift up your hearts

Each new hour holds new chances

For new beginnings.

Do not be wedded forever

To fear, yoked eternally

To brutishness.

The horizon leans forward,

Offering you space to place new steps of change.

Here, on the pulse of this fine day

You may have the courage

To look up and out upon me, the

Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.

No less to Midas than the mendicant.

rainbowNo less to you now than the mastodon then.

Here on the pulse of this new day

You may have the grace to look up and out

And into your sister’s eyes, into

Your brother’s face, your country

And say simply

Very simply

With hope

Good morning.

Crunchy southern-style mixed salad: Carrot “slaw”

carrot slaw on the plate
In life there are some people who just do not like certain things and when this phenomenon relates to food the term that comes to mind is “picky”. As a self proclaimed “foodie” it pains me that I must deal with someone in my life who is rather “picky”, as well as a 5-year-old. Now the 5 year-old enjoys steamed oysters and grilled salmon, so for someone her age I think she’s on the right track to appreciate most foods as she grows older.

But the other person in question is, ahem, my husband. And at the risk of causing hurt feelings in my marriage I will leave it at that. However, I will acknowledge that Dear Hubby has loosened up a bit about the foods he will try, i.e. sushi & sashimi, okra, and on occasion, tomatoes and grits.

However, when it comes to mayonnaise he slams the refrigerator door. So, I am reticent to make anything that obviously includes mayo in its ingredients AND expect him to eat it. I came up with the following recipe to provide something similar to southern-style coleslaw, which I like to pile on barbeque sandwiches (and sometime shot dogs!). It does not contain any mayo but lots of fresh veggies (and a fruit) in a piquant, lemony dressing. The addition of radish kicks up the spice so add more if you’re a radish-lover!

Beautiful organic and locally grown carrots and radish.

Beautiful locally grown, organic carrots and radish.

Mix up the tangy dressing. The ground coriander adds a nice light lemon flavor.

Mix up the tangy dressing. The ground coriander adds a nice light lemon flavor.

Shred the carrots - I use my Cuisinart which makes quick work of it.

Shred the carrots – the Cuisinart makes quick work of it.

Use the same size shred for the pears which also should be under ripe. No need to peel them either but do remove the center and seeds.

Use the same size shred for the pears which also should be under ripe. No need to peel them either but do remove the center and seeds.

Slice the radish as thinly as possible. A mandoline would be perfect for this job!

Slice the radish as thinly as possible. A mandoline would be perfect for this job!

To assist in keeping the veggies and fruit from turning color, add the dressing to the carrots before shredding the next ingredient, mixing that in with the dressing coated mixture.

To assist in keeping the veggies and fruit from turning color, add the dressing to the carrots before shredding the next ingredient, and mixing that in with the dressing coated mixture.

Here is this slaw served with grilled sugar cane shrimp (wrapped in bacon).

Here is this slaw served with grilled sugar cane shrimp (wrapped in bacon).

Crunchy Carrot “Slaw”

Nice as a side for southern-favorite barbeque cookouts or as a first course with grilled shrimp or fish. Uses winter time in-season produce like carrots, pears and radish too!

  • 2 tbl rice vinegar
  • 1 tbl honey
  • Juice of half a lemon (remove seeds)
  • 2 tsp Ginger People Spread (OR 1 tsp fresh grated ginger plus 1 tsp honey or agave nectar)
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbl grape oil (or light olive oil)
  • Fresh carrots, enough to make about 3 cups shredded carrots
  • 5-6 fresh radish, washed
  • 2 pears, washed, peel left on and seeds removed. Do not use soft pears.
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 cup fresh parsley, washed and chopped

In a small bowl mix the first 6 ingredients and set aside. Grate the carrots into a large bowl and drizzle with the vinegar dressing. Stir gently to combine. Next grate the pears and add to the mixture, stirring so that everything is coated in the vinegar dressing. Slice the radish paper thin with a mandoline (or a very sharp knife) and add to the slaw with the red onion. Stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate at least an hour for flavors to meld. Just before serving stir in the fresh chopped parsley.

Serves 6-8.

Where for art thou, my sugar cane? On the grill with sugar cane citrus glazed shrimp… and an oink!

sugar caned shrimp wrapped in bacon

My trip to the local Farmers Market (Port Royal) this past weekend was quite successful. Not only did I snag some tasty and beautiful greens, carrots and radish but also something that is probably unusual to most folks, although I would bet most Americans eat it in one form or another every day. As I turned the corner at the market after my inaugural “once through” I spied a few pieces of something carelessly laying in the back of one farmer’s pick up truck.

I have been on the look out for this specific item since I started this blog and there it was! I immediately beelined it for the farmer, inquiring about said item. “Oh yeah, sure they’re for sale. A dollar a stalk.“ he replied. My heart leapt with joy…finally I have a whole stalk of real sugar cane!

Once I procured the “cane” I made my way through the jammed packed crowd, and felt many eyes on my sugar cane. I’m sure I heard at least one “What is that?” as a stalk of sugar cane is large – a good 5 feet plus. Not something you can tuck into a reusable market bag. But my head was reeling with ideas and I had to get back home. No time to strike up a conversation and besides the next question would be, “So what DO you do with that?” and honestly at this point, I had no definitive answer.

During my formative years there always seemed to be sugar cane around our house or at our neighbors, who were real honest-to goodness farmers by the way. As kids we would eat it as a snack – it’s basically pure sugar after all, so of course one did not refuse sugar cane. You could also use it to whack the ever lovin’ you-know-what out of someone. Even then it was more of a novelty, although I have been to a few folk-life festivals in Georgia where they actually go through the sugar making process to get (sulfured) molasses and well, sugar. Let’s just say it is a long, arduous, process. Be grateful for the 5 lb bag (Now 4 lb!) conveniently purchased at your local Publix or Kroger or Whole Foods or what have you.

Anyway, my sugar cane and I proceeded home where I tested Dear Hubby on knowing what this ‘thing’ was that I had purchased, and by golly, he got it right. Then I showed Girly Girl the sugar cane, explaining that the white sugar I make cookies and cupcakes with comes from this plant. Needless to say she was flabbergasted. She was further surprised when I whacked off a section with a large knife and a hammer, peeled back the bark and chewed on the pulpy inside. Let’s just say Mommy earned some coolness points with all this!

So after some thinking and pondering and a trip to the seafood market I came up with the idea of using the sugar cane to skewer some shrimp (which is not new, I realize) and making a glaze from the sugar cane juice. The fact that our weather was a lovely 75 degrees, added to our keen urge to grill so we were off to the races…

I served the shrimp with a super fresh and healthy “slaw” featuring those local carrots and radish from the farmers market plus under ripe pears and a light coriander dressing. If you dislike mayo or cook for someone who does (like me – Dear Hubby hates mayo) then this will make everyone happy. Plus it makes me feel better about indulging in these bacon-hugging shrimp!

stalk of sugar cane

Girly Girl with the stalk of sugar cane.

cutting sugar cane from the stalk

To get at the good stuff, use a heavy, sharp knife and a mallet or hammer.

sugar cane, peel the bark

Use a smaller sharp knife to cut away the “bark” – this part is fairly easy compared with stripping the “bark”.

sugar cane pulp

Here is a piece of sugar cane with a strip of bark removed. The inside is slightly spongy.

raw sugar cane

Here I have cut the sugar cane into chunks and spears (for the skewers). The chunks go into a pot with some water to cook out the juice.

cooked sugar cane pulp

Once the sugar cane has cooked down (it will still be in chunks and quite firm) grind it in a heavy duty food processor until it is very fine. Then squeeze out the juice by hand over a strainer.

Use that sugar cane "juice" to make the glaze for the shrimp. Vindaloo seasoning from Penzy's Spices and fresh citrus juice makes a flavorful glaze.

Use that sugar cane “juice” to make the glaze for the shrimp. Vindaloo seasoning from Penzy’s Spices and fresh citrus juice makes a flavorful glaze.

wild American shrimp

Here are the WILD American shrimp. These had been frozen but thawed they they were still beautiful, LOCALLY caught and tasted superb!

skewered shrimp

Use the sugar cane sticks to skewer each shrimp. To make it easier make the skewers narrow and …

Cut both ends of each stick at an angle. Cut a few more than you'll need in case a couple break.

Cut both ends of each stick at an angle. Cut a few more than you’ll need in case a couple break.

Prepare the bacon by cutting away the fatty part and just use the more meaty strips. You don't need much bacon per shrimp and less fat will means it will catch on fire less easily!

Prepare the bacon by cutting away the fatty part and just use the more meaty strips. You don’t need much bacon per shrimp and less fat will means it will catch on fire less easily!

bacon wrapped shrimp

Wrap each shrimp with the bacon and use a toothpick to secure, if needed – no one will tell, just remember to remove them before serving!

Place the bacon wrapped shrimp on the hot grill and rush with the glaze.

Place the bacon wrapped shrimp on the hot grill and rush with the glaze.

shrimp wrapped in bacon and skewered with sugar cane

Cook the shrimp on each side and brush with more glaze. When the bacon is cooked they’re ready!

Sugar cane citrus grilled shrimp – with an oink!

  • ¼ cup sugar cane “juice”
  • juice ½ of a large fresh lemon
  • juice of ½ of a large, ripe fresh lemon
  • ½ tsp (or more!) Vindaloo seasoning
  • 1 dozen extra large or jumbo fresh shrimp, peeled with tails left on
  • 12 sugar cane ‘sticks’
  • 6-12 slices thick bacon, excess fat removed*

To make the cane “juice” chop up about 2 sections of peeled sugar cane. Place this is 2/3 cup of water in a saucepan and heat until boiling. Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook like this for at least one hour. Stir occasionally and when the liquid has reduced to about ¼ cup remove from the heat.

With a heavy duty food processor grind the sugar cane stalks and the liquid using the highest speed to get a fine pulp. Place a mesh strainer over a medium bowl and pour the sugar cane pulp/liquid into it. With clean hands squeeze the pulp to release the juice (much like squeezing cooked spinach). Discard the dry pulp left in the strainer. You should have about ¼ cup juice.

Mix this juice with the lemon and orange juices and the Vindaloo seasoning. Set aside.

Skewer each shrimp with a sugar cane stick (cut ends of each stick at an angle for easier skewering). Skewer all the shrimp and then wrap each with bacon securing with an extra toothpick if necessary. Place the shrimp in the refrigerator while preparing your grill.

When grill is very hot, remove shrimp from the frig and place on the hot grill. Brush with the vindaloo/sugar cane mixture and grill about 3 minutes. Turn over and again brush with the vindaloo/sugar cane mixture. Continue to grill until the bacon is cooked, avoiding burning them or over cooking the shrimp. Take off the grill, remove any toothpicks and watch them disappear! And the sugar cane skewers are edible so that’s a conversation topic for your next dinner party!

* On a diet? You can also leave off the bacon and simply grill the shrimp on the sugar cane skewers without the added “oink” calories and fat. It is still excellent!

The sweet taste of success: meltaways (or, how to break that new years resolution)

meltaways almond

Are you up for a challenge? For the bakers out there, today’s post may, or may not, be just that. For those of you who forcefully pronounce ala Rachel Ray “I do not bake”, you may as well not click through, even if the image above is deliciously enticing. And, add to that if you’re in a hurry go on and pass by my post today…

What I’m offering up today is a challenge that requires several hours of your time and an oven. If you’re not scared yet, then by all means please read on…

Before moving back to the Lowcountry of South Carolina my family and I lived in Birmingham, Alabama for approximately 2 years. While the time there had both challenges and some good times, I did learn at least two things: there’s NO place for me to live happily but the Lowcountry and Savage’s Bakery in Homewood makes the best danish I’ve ever eaten.

Savage’s is a hole-in-wall type place (aren’t all the best places?) on the southern edge of Birmingham, a sort of suburb called Homewood. It is “sort of” a suburb because you’re simply ‘over the mountain’ (literally a 1,000-foot-high chunk of rock) and you are in Homewood, rather than technically B’ham. Homewood is cute, Pottery Barn cute, where what used to be called “yuppies” propagate numerous chill’in (Alabamanese for ‘children’), drive university-collaged SUV’s (‘Bama or Auburn) and are lucky to dine at some of the best farm-to-table restaurants in the country.

Within approximately a ½ mile area, exist all of the following bastions of southern eating:

  • Saw’s BBQ
  • Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q (the original)
  • Dreamland BBQ (outpost)
  • Highlands Bar & Grill (Frank Stitt*)
  • Chez FonFon (Frank Stitt)
  • Bottega (Frank Stitt)
  • Hot & Hot Fish Club (Chris Hastings – James Beard 2012 Best Chef in the South)
  • The J. Clyde (70 years old and still rockin’)
  • Savage’s Bakery (home of those meltaways)

Plus, travel afield in any direction and within 15-20 minutes you’re among farmsteads that many times sell their produce and products to local restaurants and/or at any of the numerous farmers markets. There are indeed a lot of “foodie-centric” reasons to like B’ham. Anyway back to Savage’s…

I passed by their storefront every weekday (twice a day!) taking Girly Girl to preschool. Right after we moved there, I stopped in to pick up a few treats for incoming out-of-town company, and that was it. Those meltaways were a carbohydrate drug. Dear Hubby and I determined early on which one was our favorite “ flavor” – almond. We tried them all, believe me, over those 2 years. I was told that the recipe was super-secret. While I lived in B’ham, I bided my time deciphering their taste, look, texture, filling consistency, size and glaze.

Now ensconced in Beaufort for the last year and half, I feel secure that I can reveal my own doppelganger meltaway recipe. My advice centers on three things: use the best butter you can, don’t over bake, and take your time – this recipe is the opposite of a “quick bread”. Oh, and don’t expect to serve just one per person – that would be both impossible and extremely disappointing for the eater!

* If you enjoy upscale Southern food then you should thank Frank Stitt! Frank Stitt is a James Beard awarded chef and cookbook author. Having worked for Alice Waters at her restaurant Chez Panisse, he met Richard Olney. Influenced by Ms. Waters, Olney, Julia Child, Jeremiah Tower and others he met while working there, he came back to his native Alabama to open Highlands Bar & Grill in the early 1980’s. Here, he elevated Southern cuisine and advocated the “buy local” and slow food movements, influencing a myriad of chefs, including Chris Hastings, in the South and across the nation.

Fresh zested orange. This and the cardamon gave the dough a very nice subtle flavor, especially good with the almond filling and lemon laced glaze!

Fresh zested orange. This and the cardamon gave the dough a very nice subtle flavor, especially good with the almond filling and lemon laced glaze!

Kerrygold butter

This was the brand I chose to use on this day, a recommendation of my mother-in-law, Kay. I found it excellent for baking!

butter and flour

Whip the butter and flour until light and creamy. Hold at a cool room temperature until it’s needed.

If you're a 'baker' then making this dough is a snap especially if you have a good mixer with a paddle or dough hook. If not, it still isn't really hard to make.  Here the orange juice is mixed with the yeast mixture.

If you’re a ‘baker’ then making this dough is a snap especially if you have a good mixer with a paddle or dough hook. If not, it still isn’t really hard to make. Here the orange juice is mixed with the yeast mixture.

Here the dough is mixed  and kneaded (either by the mixer or by hand). Use a little extra flour as it will be somewhat sticky to the touch. Wrap it in plastic and allow to rest in the frig.

Here the dough is mixed and kneaded (either by the mixer or by hand). Use a little extra flour as it will be somewhat sticky to the touch. Wrap it in plastic and allow to rest in the frig.

Take the dough from the frig and roll out to a large rectangle. It will be about 18" x 13".

Take the dough from the frig and roll out to a large rectangle. It will be about 18″ x 13″.

Spread the the butter mixture over about 2/3 of the dough.

Spread the the butter mixture over about 2/3 of the dough.

Next fold the left side of the dough over once to cover about half of the the buttered dough...

Next fold the left side of the dough over once to cover about half of the the buttered dough…

Then it over again. Now place the dough on a sheet of plastic on a cookie sheet and wrap it in the plastic. Allow to rest in the frig again.

Then fold it over again. Now place the dough on a sheet of plastic on a cookie sheet and wrap it in the plastic. Allow to rest in the frig again.

Here it is after it's rest in the frig. Roll it out again to a large rectangle....

Here it is after it’s rest in the frig. Roll it out again to a large rectangle….

Here's the rectangle. Fold one side (left) over a third of the way and then the other side (right) over. Cover with plastic and allow to rest in the frig. You will do this rolling out and folding again 3 more times for a total of 5 times. You do not spread any more butter in, however. The folding, rolling out and resting incorporates the butter through the danish and makes it all light and flaky. See?

Here’s the rectangle. Fold one side (left) over a third of the way and then the other side (right) over. Cover with plastic and allow to rest in the frig. You will do this rolling out and folding again 3 more times for a total of 5 times. You do not spread any more butter in, however. The folding, rolling out and resting incorporates the butter through the dough and makes it all light and flaky. See?

meltaways, spread on filing

When you are ready to make your meltaways, roll out the dough one last time and spread on the filling. You can also create your own filling: cream cheese, raspberry, rhubarb, blueberry – whatever you like.

Solo almond filling

Here is the store-bought filling I used. It was actually quite good. I did add extra sliced almonds, though.

Here you can see I left a good 1/2 inch edge all around. Then I brushed on some water  - it helps to keep the seam together once you roll it up.

Here you can see I left a good 1/2 inch edge all around. Then I brushed on some water – it helps to keep the seam together once you roll it up.

meltaways, slice into pieces

Roll up the dough jelly roll fashion. Then slice. I find slicing in half and then each part in half again after that, helps me create more evenly sized pieces. A sharp knife is key also!

Place the slices into prepared muffin tins. I also place a few extra sliced almonds on each one of them as well.

Place the slices into prepared muffin tins. I sprinkled a few extra sliced almonds on each one of them as well.

Allow the meltaways to rise in a warm spot for at least 45 minutes ad they will look like this!

Allow the meltaways to rise in a warm spot for at least 45 minutes and they will look like this!

almond meltaways ready for glaze

Fresh out of the oven! Allow to cool a few minutes but glaze while still slightly warm. Remove to a rack to cool completely.

gooey almond meltaways

Gooey almond meltaways! So good with a cup of coffee on a cold winter morning (or anytime – as my waistline attests!). There is some work involved, but are so worth it!

Meltaways (or how to break your New Year’s Resolution!)

  • 1 tbl yeast
  • 1/2 c. whole milk
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, chilled
  • 1/4 c. fresh orange juice
  • 3 1/4 c cup all purpose flour plus extra
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 pound cold unsalted butter (bets quality)
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • Almond filling (1 can)
  • 1/2 – 2/3 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar (more or less)
  • 2 tbl. fresh lemon juice
  • 1-2 tsp milk

Make the dough:

Combine yeast and milk in bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Mix on low speed. Slowly add the sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, eggs, and orange juice and mix well. Change to the dough hook. Combine the flour and salt and add 1 c. at a time, increasing the speed to medium as it is incorporated. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, or until smooth. Add a little more flour if it is sticky. Transfer the dough to a floured baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge for 30 minutes.

Make the butter block:

Combine the butter and flour in the bowl of your mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream on medium speed for 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle. Cream for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free. Set aside at room temperature.

When the dough has chilled for the 30 minutes, transfer it to a lightly floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to a rectangle about 18 x 13-inches. The dough may be sticky. Keep dusting it with flour. Spread the butter evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough. Fold the left edge of the dough to the right, covering half of the butter block. Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third. The first turn has now been completed. Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap and place in fridge for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes has passed, place the dough lengthwise on a floured board (work surface). The open ends should be to your right and left. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into another 13 x 18 inch, 1/4-inch thick rectangle. Again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third. (No butter is placed on the dough this time). The second turn has now been made. Repeat this process 3 more times, allowing the dough to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes in between.

Refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 4 hours or overnight. The Danish dough is now ready to use*.

*If you are not going to use it within 24 hours, freeze it. Roll it out to 1-inch thick before freezing as this makes it much easier to defrost.

Put together the Meltaways:

Butter or oil 2 muffin tins. Roll the Danish dough into 18 x 13-inch rectangle. (If the dough seems very elastic and springs back when you roll it, let it rest for 5 minutes, then roll again.)

Spread filling evenly over the dough, leaving about 1/4 inch edges all around void of filling. And sprinkle with ½ cup of sliced almonds. Dampen the edges with water.

Starting at the long edge closest to you, begin to roll up the rectangle, like a jelly roll. Roll tightly at first, then ease up and push the dough into a log. Pinch the edge.

Using a metal bench scraper or sharp knife cut the roll in half and then each piece in half to get approx. ½ inch slices. Place in muffin tins and top with a few additional sliced almonds if you like. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let proof at room temp for at 45-60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400F. Place a rack in the center of oven. Bake for about 12-14 minutes. Don’t over bake. Makes 2 dozen meltaways.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan a few minutes. In a small bowl mix the confectioner’s sugar and the lemon juice. Stir in 1 teaspoon milk to make a thin glaze. Use 1 teaspoon more milk if it is too thick for your liking. Drizzle the glaze on each meltaway and allow to cool a few more minutes in the pan before placing on a rack to cool completely. I find  these do not need much glaze and you’ll probably have some glaze leftover.

Field Trip: Travel through time on a stroll down Savannah’s Bull Street

Camelia's like this one bloom throughout the winter in Savannah (and the Lowcountry).

Camelia’s like this one bloom throughout the winter in Savannah (and the Lowcountry).

Just before the hectic frazzle of the holidays struck a chord with our family, we hopped in the car and made our way down the road a bit for a lovely afternoon in Girly Girl’s hometown of Savannah, Georgia. After a quick stop at the mall for something very specific and realizing there is no longer a Brookstone store there, we headed through our old ‘hood of Ardsley Park and into the historic district. It was a busy Saturday and we were happy to find a parking spot just off Bull Street – one of my most favorite streets in the world and a place where a family like ours can find a little bit of everything.

The chocolate case at Wright Square Cafe - the place is brimming with delectable goodness - this is just one display!

The chocolate case at Wright Square Cafe – the place is brimming with delectable goodness – this is just one display!

When we lived in Savannah our house was (and still is, but it’s not “ours” any longer) actually located on the corner of Bull and a numbered street just over 2 miles south of Forsyth Park. Traveling north of the park though, i.e. the “ritzy” side of Forsyth Park, Bull Street skewers several of Savannah’s famous squares including Monterey Square (home to the Mercer House of Johnny Mercer and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil fame), Madison Square, Chippewa Square, Wright Square and Johnson Square before ending at the US Customs House and the Savannah River. For the day tripper, a walk along this street is a great introduction to the hostess city and for my family was and still is, exactly like coming home!

Now I am not an expert on Savannah nor a travel professional, but I offer a few highlights from our walk, showcasing some of our favorite stops. If you like art, architecture, history, great food, interesting people and are considering a visit to a historic city in the South, please consider Savannah (along with Beaufort, Bluffton and Charleston).

"Dammit Doll" - solves most of life's problems with just one whack!

“Dammit Doll” – solves most of life’s problems with just one whack!

The winter is actually a great time to visit the Lowcountry, as it should not be congested with tourists and the weather is, in my opinion, quite nice on most days. Not exactly beach weather, but perfect for long walks, a carriage ride, playing golf, what have you. I adore Savannah, so if you have any questions about visiting here, please feel free to send them on to me, I am happy to make recommendations or in the least, point you in the right direction to get an answer.

Forsyth Park: 30-acre public park on the southern side of the historic district. Bordered by trees, mostly live oaks all around and anchored by much-photographed Forsyth fountain on one end. The AAA 4-Diamond hotel, Mansion on Forsyth Park, is located next to the park and several public concerts and civic events are held here annually.

One never knows what you may see on a walk down Bull Street. This is a downspout on a house gutter.

One never knows what you may see on a walk down Bull Street. This is a downspout on a house gutter.

“Squares” are synonymous with Savannah. They were designed by Savannah’s founder General James Oglethorpe and originally intended to provide colonists space for military exercises. Originally intended to have just 6 squares there are 24, all within about ½ square miles. The five squares along Bull Street—Monterey, Madison, Chippewa, Wright, and Johnson—were intended to be grand monument spaces and have been called Savannah’s “Crown Jewels.” Many of the other squares were designed more simply as commons or parks, although most serve as memorials as well. They are all beautiful and unique – just like Savannah.

Monterey Square: Closest to Forsyth Park, this square commemorates the Battle of Monterrey, in which American forces captured the city of Monterrey during the Mexican-American War. The Mercer House is on one side and was home to Jim Williams who featured prominently in John Berendt’s book, Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil which was made into a movie filmed here too. Locals refer to it eerily as “The Book”. The square is also home to Congregation Mickve Israel, which boasts the only Gothic-style synagogue in America, dating from 1878. Between Monterey and Madison Squares are several fancy antique shops.

Madison Square: Named for James Madison, 4th President of the US. Famous for marking the start of several main roads in Georgia and features a statue of Sgt. William Jasper, a soldier in the Siege of Savannah (Revolutionary War) who, though mortally wounded, heroically recovered his company’s banner. One corner houses Shop SCAD and across the street is SCAD’s Gryphon Tea Room. SCAD is the Savannah College of Art & Design, a private university founded here in Savannah in 1978. Their success has been Savannah’s success over the past 25 plus years with much in economic growth and historic restoration in the city due to SCAD.

The Six Pence Pub is easy to find on Bull - just look for the British red telephone box (booth). The Julia Roberts/Dennis Quaid movie "Something to Talk About" shot scenes here, if you happen to recognize it. Good hearty fare found here.

The Six Pence Pub is easy to find- just look for the British red telephone box (booth). The Julia Roberts/ Dennis Quaid movie “Something to Talk About” shot scenes here, if you happen to recognize it. Good hearty fare found here.

Between Madison and Chippewa squares there is the Six Pence Pub, Gaucho (upscale women’s clothes) and Gallery Expresso, Savannah’s oldest coffee bar that offers a few outdoor tables and excellent coffee drinks.

Chippewa Square: Named in honor of American soldiers killed in the Battle of Chippawa during the War of 1812. Features statue of Gen. James Oglethorpe, British General and founder and defender of the colony of Georgia. The park bench scene in the movie, “Forrest Gump” was filmed at this square, although the bench used in the film was a prop as there is no bench actually on that spot.

Between Chippewa and Wright Square you’ll find hole-in-the-wall Angel’s BBQ (off West Oglethorpe), Bull Street Station (old fashioned hobby store) and the birthplace of Juliet Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts – USA.

Wright Square: The second square built in the city, originally named Percival Square. It is the burial site of Tomochichi, a leader of the Creek nation of Native Americans. Tomochichi was a trusted friend of James Oglethorpe and assisted him in the founding of this colony. This is my family’s favorite square as its home to both the Wright Square Café AND the Cupcake Emporium plus thousands of beautiful azaleas that bloom profusely in the spring! There is also a neat art glass gallery and a retail store called Simply Irresistible next door to Wright Square Café, that carries some cool handmade items. I gave my sister a “Dammit Doll” purchased here during our day in Savannah.

Between Wright Square and Johnson Square you’ll cross East Broughton Street (Savannah’s ‘main street’) and several ordinary buildings, nothing really of note except for Jen’s & Friends, a local’s watering hole that offers 150 kinds of martinis. People love this place!

There's a pretty lady in this side garden, 'peek" gardens are similar to those found in Charleston, SC.

There’s a pretty lady in this side garden -‘peek” gardens are similar to those found in Charleston, SC.

Johnson Square: The first and largest of Savannah’s 24 squares. Interred in the square is Revolutionary War hero General Nathanael Greene. An obelisk in the center of the square now serves as a memorial to him. The cornerstone of this monument was laid by the Marquis de La Fayette in 1825. Today, the square is surrounded mostly by bank buildings – I used to work around the corner (now that makes it famous!). During the summer there is a free concert here on most Friday afternoons. Keep walking north from here to cross Bay Street and then BAM! you’re at the Savannah River (or at least in front of the buildings that face the river…).

So, what do you think about my Savannah? Remember this is just part of one street …there’s lots more to see and do. Maybe I’ve piqued your interest a bit? I would be grateful for your comments!

James Oglethorpe's statue at Chippewa Square.

James Oglethorpe’s statue at Chippewa Square.

A girl and her candy are not soon parted at Wright Square Cafe.

A girl and her candy are not soon parted at Wright Square Cafe.

This building houses Shop SCAD - a must every time we visit.

This building houses Shop SCAD – a must every time we visit.

The display case at Wright Square Cafe. They serve a great lunch too, but the sweets are the draw here!

The display case at Wright Square Cafe. They serve a great lunch too, but the sweets are the big draw here!

The historical marker for Juliet Gordon Low. Lots of girl scouts visit in summer - but not in winter (if you're planning a trip here!).

The historical marker for Juliet Gordon Low. Lots of girl scouts visit in summer – but not in winter (if you’re planning a trip here!).

Auld Lang Syne: Flounder meuniere with “champagne” lemon buerre blanc

Flounder meuniere with lemon beurre blanc

Whilst we were still in the year 2012, I made a resolution to lose weight and adopt a more consistent exercise routine in 2013. But before that promise was to come to fruition, I decided to indulge in one of my favorite entrees, a fish dinner swimming in my absolute favorite, decadent butter sauce – lemon buerre blanc. Setting off to my local fish market (The Sea Eagle Market here in Beaufort), girly girl and I made a purchase of local flounder and two pounds of fresh, locally caught shrimp. Girly girl likes to check out all the whole fish lined up behind the counter, watch the fish mongers furiously clean and slice the whole fish, and most importantly, counts on getting a quarter for the candy machine every time we stop here.

Now flounder (similar to sole and turbot) is a delicate fish, perfect for a hot pan sauté. And as I am proud that my 5-year-old loves salmon, a rather oily, very “fishy” fish, I can count on her liking flounder too, so I was satisfied it would fit into my dinner plan. The fillets at the market were just the right size, reasonably priced and as I noted above, locally caught. My version of a French classic: Prepared Southern-style with flounder and pecans!

I remembered that I also had at a bottle of decent champagne  (the real stuff) in the refrigerator (it had been there a while!) and it should be perfect in the sauce. So once I sent Dear Hubby out for some pecans (ran out during the holidays), I was all set for a “final meal” worthy of sending out 2012 in style.

Fresh flounder fillets, washed and dried. They are firm (but flexible), NOT slimy and do not have a strong fish odor. Fresh fish!

Fresh flounder fillets, washed and dried. They are firm (but flexible), NOT slimy and do not have a strong fish odor. Fresh fish!

I'm sure ya'll know what pecans look like, but I thought these were especially nice ones and you can see the chop size.

I’m sure ya’ll know what pecans look like, but I thought these were especially nice ones and you can see the chop size.

Here are the pecans after I ground them in my small food processor. Small but you can still tell what it is...

Here are the pecans after I ground them in my small food processor. A small grind, but you can still tell what it is…

Cook down the shallots in the "champagne" and the lemon juice to concentrate the flavors.

Cook down the shallots in the “champagne” and the lemon juice to concentrate the flavors.

After adding the cream, whisk in the butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Adjust the heat on the stove as necessary - do not allow the mixture to  boil! Yes, it uses a lot of butter...but that's why it is so decadent!

After adding the cream, whisk in the butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Adjust the heat on the stove as necessary – do not allow the mixture to boil! Yes, it uses a lot of butter…but that’s why it is so decadent!

dredge flounder fillets

Dredge the fillets in the pecan/flour mixture just before sautéing.

sauté flounder fillets

Sauté the flounder fillets in hot, melted butter on both sides until browned and cooked through. Do not overcook! Remove the fish to warmed plates and cover while sautéing all the fillets.

flounder fillet meuniere with champagne lemon buerre blanc

Here’s another shot of the finished plate. This was MY plate – notice all the sauce! More than a drizzle…better to soak up with some good French bread!

Flounder Meuniere with “Champagne” Lemon Buerre Blanc

  • 6 flounder fillets, washed and dried
  • ½ cup pecans, rough chopped and divided
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground pepper
  • 3-4 tbl all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbl. salted butter
  • 1-2 shallots, minced – to make about 3 tablespoons
  • 2 tbl fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup sparkling wine or champagne (a rich white wine will work too)
  • 1-2 tbl heavy cream
  • 10 oz cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes (about 1 tbl. each)
  • 1 tbl grape or vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a small saucepan combine the shallot, wine, and lemon juice in a non-reactive saucepan over high heat and reduce to about 2 tablespoons. Lower the heat slightly and add the cream to the reduction. Bring heat up to just under a boil and then reduce heat to low. Add butter one tablespoon at a time, whisking continuously. Keep whisking until all butter is incorporated. Keep sauce warm on a heated pad or stove-top (stir occasionally) while you cook the fish.

In a food processor or blender grind about ¼ cup pecans to a fine consistency. Reserve the rest of the pecans and set aside. Mix the ground pecans in a small bowl with the flour, ½ tsp salt and pepper. Transfer this mixture to a flat plate or platter. Meanwhile heat 2 tbl butter in a sauté or fry pan until hot (but not smoking).

Drizzle oil over all the fillets to coat. Dredge the flounder fillets in the ground pecan/flour mixture on both sides and place in the hot butter cooked about 3 minutes per side. Sprinkle with just a little salt and pepper. You may need to cook the fillets in 2 batches. Remove to a warmed, covered plate while you finish up cooking all the fillets.

Serve fillets with the warm beurre blanc sauce drizzled on top and a sprinkle of the remaining chopped pecans.

Celebrate a proper Southern New Years: Black-eyed peas, cornbread and mustard greens

traditional southern new years plate

The Southern US is a superstitious place, especially when it comes to welcoming the New Year. The household of my childhood was no exception. Specifically my mother adheres to the traditions that will supposedly usher in happiness, money and just general good luck in the upcoming year.

The two main traditions revolve around eating (of course!). The first is to always enjoy a bowl of black-eyed peas and the second is to follow those peas with a good helping of cooked greens. Black-eyed peas equal good luck and greens mean money. My mother prepares either mustard greens or turnip greens, even though collards is what most folks think of when they think “cooked greens”. Collards are okay, but I prefer mustard greens with their peppery overtones and subtler flavor (and smell!).

A big bowl of black-eyed peas with rice, some mustard greens on the side and a hunk of homemade buttermilk cornbread round out a traditionally southern new years meal. Even if you believe superstitions are all bunk and hooey, with one spoonful of black-eyed peas and a bite of crispy, buttery cornbread and you’ll know today is truly your lucky day.

New Year’s superstitions with a southern twist

  • Empty pockets or empty cupboards on New Years Eve predict a year of poverty.
  • Black-eyed peas bring good luck (see above).
  • Eat greens on News Years Day to bring money in the New Year. Apparently each bite of greens you eat is worth $1000 in the upcoming year.
  • Eat cornbread as its ‘gold’ color represents “coin” money or pocket money. Plus, it goes well with collard greens, peas and pork.
  • On New Years Day avoid:

            Breaking things

            Throwing things away

            Paying back loans or lending money

            Crying

How about you? Do you have any usual superstitions (New Years or not) to share?

From my childhood: Does your ear itch? Then someone is talking about you. Does your nose itch? Then you will kiss a fool within the next 24 hours.

From my mother-in-law Ginny here’s one: If the first words you say on the first day of the month are: “white rabbit”, you’ll have good luck all month. (Sounds sort of “groovy ’60s” to me, but I like it!)

The "four food groups" for a successful Southern style New Year's Day feast: black-eyed peas, cornbread, greens and rice.

The “four food groups” for a successful Southern style New Year’s Day feast: black-eyed peas, cornbread, greens and rice.

Easy black-eyed peas with rice (This is the way I grew up eating black-eyed peas)

  • (1) 10 oz package fresh or rehydrated black-eyed peas* (find in the refrigerated produce section)
  • 2-3 slices hog jowl or 1 small smoked ham hock or 3 slices chopped bacon
  • 1 cup vegetable stock or broth
  • 1 cup water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup sweet onion, chopped (optional)
  • hot sauce (optional)
  • cooked rice

In a medium saucepan (with lid) cook the hog jowl over medium heat until rendered. Add broth, water and black-eyed peas. Stir. Bring heat to a low boil, stir and allow to boil (low to medium boil) about 5 minutes with the lid off. Lower heat to a simmer and cook another 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Lower heat again, add the lid and cook another 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to your taste.

Serve on hot cooked rice, topped with chopped sweet onion and hot sauce.

* You can also use dried back eyed peas, however the cooking time will be much longer (several hours) and require more liquid (4-5 cups water or broth in total).

Hoppin’ John: the concoction you hear more often than the plain ‘black-eyed peas and rice’ above. It’s more of a one-pot meal.

(from Hoppin’ John’s Lowcountry Cooking)

  • 1 cup small dried beans such as cowpeas or black-eyes
  • 5 to 6 cups water
  • 1 dried hot pepper (optional)
  • 1 smoked ham hock
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about ¾ cup)
  • 
1 cup long-grain white rice

Wash and sort the peas. Place them in the saucepan, add the water, and discard any peas that float. Gently boil the peas with the pepper, ham hock, and onion, uncovered, until tender but not mushy — about 1½ hours — or until 2 cups of liquid remain. Add the rice to the pot, cover, and simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes, never lifting the lid. 

Remove from the heat and allow to steam, still covered, for another 10 minutes. Remove the cover, fluff with a fork, and serve immediately.

Mustard greens. Be sure to wash the greens very, very well. All those pretty, fluffy curled sprigs catch every grit of sand they were grown in.

Mustard greens. Be sure to wash the greens very, very well. All those pretty, fluffy curled sprigs catch every grit of sand they were grown in. Trust me – wash them at least 3 times!

You also need to strip the thick stems from the center of each stalk. You just eat the leafy part.

You also need to strip the thick stems from the center of each stalk. You just cook the leafy part.

In a large pot cook the pork - you can use fat back, bacon, pork jowls or here I used pork sides and a pig tail. Yes, that is a fresh piggie tail.  Once that is cooked, add the greens and then the broth/stock.

In a large pot cook the pork – you can use fat back, bacon, pork jowls or here I used pork sides and a pig tail. Yes, that is a fresh piggie tail. Once that is cooked, add the greens and then the broth/stock.

The green will begin to wilt. Then cover and allow to cook on low heat awhile until the green are very tender. Season as you like with salt and pepper. I find that by using vegetable broth/stock I don't need to add extra salt.

The greens will begin to wilt. Then cover and allow to cook on low heat awhile until the green are very tender. Season as you like with salt and pepper. I find that by using vegetable broth/stock I don’t need to add extra salt.

Here are the mustard greens ready for your plate.  If each bite of greens is worth $1000 I'll be be enjoying a HUGE bowl today!

Here are the mustard greens ready for your plate. If each bite of greens is worth $1000, I’ll be be enjoying a HUGE bowl today!

Another shot of my Southern style New Year's Day lucky plate special.

Another shot of my Southern style New Year’s Day lucky plate special.

Mustard greens

  • ½ lb. bacon sides, hog jowls, ham or combination*
  • 1 cup vegetable stock or both
  • salt to taste
  • sugar, optional

Wash the mustard greens 3 or 4 times in fresh water, draining them each time. This is very important – tiny bits of sand cling to greens and will ruin all your hard work if you do not wash them thoroughly. Strip the leafy part from the stems and add the stems to your compost bin.

In a large pot cook the bacon, hog jowls or ham until rendered, about 3-4 minutes. Add the leafy mustard greens. Stir together until greens start to wilt. Add the vegetable stock. Stir again. If necessary, add another splash of broth. Stir and allow to cook, covered, on low heat until greens are tender, at least 45 minutes. Stir frequently and do not allow the greens to burn. Season with a little salt – to your taste. Usually I find they need no additional salt. I’ve heard some people add a bit of sugar – 1 teaspoon – but greens are meant to be tangy and mustard greens are peppery so I’ll leave that up to you!

Serve with malt vinegar or pepper vinegar if desired.

* I  used a fresh pig’s tail and several slices of pork sides (pork belly)