By Brack Johnson


Cinco de Mayo (May 5). No Diet Day (May 6). Mother's Day (May 12). Memorial Day (May 27). Or any old beautiful afternoon in the Triangle.


There are many reasons May is an idyllic month for picnics in Raleigh, Durham, Cary, Chapel Hill and environs. To dine al fresco, all you need is a blanket, a cooler, a patch of grass, and these quick-and-easy recipes from Southern cookbooks.



Martha Pullen's
Southern Family Cookbook

Published by Adams Medias







Pecan Pie
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup corn syrup
1-1/2 cups pecans
1 nine-inch pie shell, unbaked
Whipped cream (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat eggs, then add remaining ingredients. Pour into pie shell and bake for 50-60 minutes. Remove from oven, cool, and garnish with whipped cream before serving if desired.


Makes 1 8-serving pie



Baked Banana Pudding With Meringue
4 tablespoons plain flour
2 cups plus 6 tablespoons sugar
3-1/2 cups milk
3 eggs, separated
Dash salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 box vanilla wafers
6 bananas


In a heavy saucepan, whisk together flour and 2 cups sugar. Pour in milk, egg yolks and dash salt. Whisk together and cook on medium heat until thick and bubbly. Add vanilla. Let sit and cool.


Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until peaks begin to form.


Gradually add 6 tablespoons of sugar and keep beating until firm peaks form.


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.


Place a layer of vanilla wafers in an oven-safe casserole dish. Put them all the way up the sides of the dish. Slice up bananas and add them as the next layer. Next, pour the cooled custard. Finally, spoon the meringue on top. Bake for 10 minutes or until browned. Serve warm or cool.



The Sweet Magnolias Cookbook

150 Favorite Southern Recipes

Published by Harlequin









Chicken Caesar Salad Wraps
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 tablespoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
1 cup low-fat garlic croutons
1 cup homemade or store-bought Caesar salad dressing
6 eight-inch flour tortillas
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Garnishes (optional)
Fresh fruit
Celery slices
Thinly sliced carrots


Rinse and pat dry chicken. Lay side by side on a surface lined with paper towels.


Blend together garlic salt, rosemary and pepper. Evenly divide among the chicken breasts and rub into the chicken.


In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook chicken breasts about 10 minutes, turning halfway through cooking. Chicken is thoroughly cooked at 165 degrees. (Every cook should have at least one instant-read thermometer.)
Removed chicken from skillet, and let cool to room temperature.


Once cooled, cut chicken into very thin strips. Combine with lettuce, croutons and salad dressing.


On a clean kitchen work surface, lay tortillas side by side. Divide the salad mixture among the tortillas. Sprinkle Parmesan over the salad. Wrap each sandwich like a burrito. Wrap in parchment paper and refrigerate up to 8 hours before serving.
To serve: Leaving the parchment paper wrapping on the sandwich, cut sandwich in half diagonally. Serve with a fresh fruit garnish and a few pieces of celery and thinly sliced carrots.


Makes 6 servings




Spicy Pickled Shrimp

1/2 cup cane or malt vinegar
1/4 cup Creole mustard
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1 cup green onions, thinly sliced
on the diagonal
1 chopped bunch fresh parsley
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 pounds cooked, peeled, deveined large or extra-large shrimp


In a blender or food processor, combine first 5 ingredients. With machine running, add oil in a thin, steady stream. Combine remaining ingredients in a large glass bowl. Pour dressing over all. Stir well. Refrigerate at least 12 hours or up to 3 days before serving.


Makes 12 servings




A Savor the South Cookbook

Published by The University of North Carolina Press











Open-Face Tomato Pie
Pastry for a 9-inch single-crust pie (can be store-bought)
4-5 medium, firm-but-ripe tomatoes, such as Stupice or Arkansas Traveler (2-1/2 pounds)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1-1/4 cups shredded sharp white cheddar cheese, divided
1/2 cup plain panko crumbs
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup chopped basil
2 tablespoons thinly sliced chives
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.


Fit the pastry into a 9-inch pie plate and form a high, fluted edge. Prick all over with a fork. Put a sheet of foil inside the pastry and fill the foil with dried peans or rice. Bake until the pastry is set and white at the edges, 10-12 minutes. Remove the foil with the beans or rice, return the pastry to the oven and bake until it's brown in spots, 8-10 minutes. If it starts to slip down, press it back in place with a spoon. Cool on a wire rack.


Halve and core the tomatoes and cut them crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick half-moon slices, discarding the ends. (You should have a heaping 3 cups.) Place the tomato slices on a double layer of paper towels and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Let stand for about 5 minutes.


Toss 1/2 cup of the cheddar with the panko crumbs in a small bowl. Sprinkle half of this evenly over the bottom of the cooked crust. Arrange half of the tomatoes in an overlapping circle on top of the crumbs, filling the center with more tomato slices. Sprinkle with half of the red onion and 1/4 cup of the cheddar. Arrange the remaining tomatoes in the same manner on top; sprinkle with the remaining red onion.


Mix the mayonnaise, basil, chives, remaining 1/2 cup cheddar, pepper and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in another small bowl. Spread over the tomatoes with a rubber spatula, covering them completely, using your fingers to help since the mixture is thick. Sprinkle with the remaining crumb-cheese mixture.


Bake the pie until the top is browned and the filling has started to bubble at the edges, 45-50 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let stand for at least 30 minutes for easiest cutting. Serve warm or at room temperature, cut into wedges.


Makes 4 servings


Goat Cheese Spoonbread With Cherry Tomato Sauté
For the spoon bread
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 cups whole milk
2 cups stone-ground white or yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt; plus a pinch for the egg whites
4 large eggs, separated
8 ounces soft, fresh goat cheese, cut into pieces


For the cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
4 cups halved cherry or grape tomatoes, any color
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


To make the spoon bread
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 2-quart, 8-inch square glass baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter and dust with 1/4 cup of the Parmesan.


Heat the milk in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat until it just starts to bubble. Whisk in the cornmeal in a slow, steady stream. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Remove from the heat.


With a wooden spoon, beat in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, baking powder and salt. Beat in the egg yolks, then the goat cheese, a few pieces at at time, and then the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan, stirring vigorously until well blended.


Beat the egg whites and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form when the beaters are lifted.


Stir a big spoonful of the whites into the cornmeal mixture to lighten it. Fold in the remaining whites with a large rubber spatula. Scrape into the prepared dish.


Bake until the spoon bread is puffed and firm to the touch and the top is browned, 30-35 minutes.


To make the cherry tomatoes

About 10 minutes before the spoon bread is ready, melt the butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Stir in the garlic, then the parsley. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.


Add the cherry tomatoes, salt and pepper and toss to mix well. Increase the heat and cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes collapse, 4-5 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Cover and keep warm. Cut the spoon bread into pieces and spoon some cherry tomatoes alongside.


Makes 6 side-dish or 4 main-dish servings




Chefs of the Mountains
Restaurants and Recipes from Western North Carolina

Published by John F. Blair











Reza Mezze – Mediterranean pimento cheese
1 cup green olives
2/3 cup walnuts, toasted
1 red pepper, roasted and peeled
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup diced scallions
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons pomegranate syrup
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
pinch of sugar
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

salt and pepper to taste


Tzatziki sauce
32 ounces yogurt
2 cucumbers, peeled, shredded, salted and squeezed of excess moisture
4 tablespoons chopped mint
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper
1/4 cup lemon juice


Summer eggplant dip
4 onions, diced small
1 cup minced garlic
1/2 cup minced ginger
2 bunches cilantro, chopped
2 bunches mint, chopped
4 tablespoons tagine spice
4 tablespoons ground coriander
4 tablespoons ground cumin
12 eggplants, diced medium
12 tomatoes, diced medium
16 ounces yogurt


pita bread
romaine lettuce
savoy cabbage


Mediterranean Pimento Cheese

Place first 3 ingredients in a blender and pulse to combine. Add remaining ingredients except for cheese and salt and pepper. Pulse to combine. Place mixture in a bowl. Fold in cheese and adjust seasonings.


Tzatziki Sauce

Mix all ingredients together. Adjust seasonings as needed.


Summer Eggplant Dip

Sweat onions, garlic and ginger together in a a sauté pan. Add next 5 ingredients. Add eggplant and tomatoes. Cook slowly until eggplant falls apart. Keep covered while cooking. Cool and puree. Fold in yogurt and season as needed.


To Present

Serve with warm pita bread and wedges of romaine and savoy cabbage for your gluten-free guests.

Makes 6 to 8 servings