By Brack Johnson
Ah, May in the Triangle. Warmer weather means trading armchairs for lawn chairs, white linen for checkered tablecloths, and fine china for paper plates.
We're sitting outside for casual homemade brunches marking Mother's Day, Memorial Day, graduation and a bridal shower or two.
So, gather friends and family, throw a bunch of wildflowers in a centerpiece, and celebrate al fresco with these recipes from recent cookbooks.
Tupelo Honey Café
New Southern Flavors From The Blue Ridge Mountains
Cool as a Cucumber
6 strips cucumber, sliced lengthwise with a vegetable peeler
Two 2-inch slices peeled cucumber, plus a slice for garnish
1 lime wedge
1-1/4 ounces gin
3/4 ounce St. Germain (French liqueur flavored with elderflowers)
1/2 ounce Malibu Rum (coconut-flavored rum liqueur)
1/2 ounce pineapple juice
Finely dice the cucumber slices. Muddle the cucumber and lime wedge in a 10-ounce collins glass. Add the gin, St. Germain, Malibu and pineapple juice. Add the crushed ice and topped with tonic water. Garnish with a slice of cucumber and serve.
Makes one cocktail
Rosemary Peach Lemonade
1-1/2 cups peach nectar
1-1/2 cups water
1-1/4 cups rosemary simple syrup (recipe follows)
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
In a 2-quart container, combine the peach nectar, water, simple syrup and lemon juice. Stir well. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled before serving.
Makes 5-3/4 cups, or 4 servings
— — Rosemary simple syrup — —
1-1/3 cups water
1 cup sugar
Four (5-inch) stocks fresh rosemary
Combine the water, sugar and rosemary in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
Pour the syrup through a fine-mesh strainer into a container to remove the rosemary stalks and leaves. Let the syrup cool, and store in an airtight container for up to one week.
Makes 1-3/4 cups
Gale Gand with Christie Matheson
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Slow-Roasted Salmon Niçoise Salad
For the salmon
One 1-pound Icelandic or other salmon fillet, skinned and deboned
Salt and freshly ground pepper
For the salad
4 cups torn romaine lettuce leaves
4 cups chopped iceberg lettuce
1/2 cup mustard vinaigrette (recipe follows)
2 medium red potatoes, boiled, cubed
1cup green beans, boiled and cut into
4 hard-boiled large eggs, sliced
16 pitted kalamata or other cured olives
24 cherry tomatoes, halved
Heat the oven to 225 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with foil. Place the salmon fillet on the foil and sprinkle the fillet evenly with salt and pepper. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the salmon is cooked through but still very soft, bright in color and tender. Let cool on the pan for 20 minutes, then cover the pan and refrigerate until ready to use, or for up to 3 days.
In a bowl, combine the remaining romaine and iceberg lettuces and toss them with the vinaigrette. Distribute the dressed lettuce evenly among 4 plates, placing it in the center of each. Dividing the ingredients evenly among the plates, make piles of the potatoes, green beans, eggs, olives and tomatoes around the edge of the lettuce. Break the chilled salmon into pieces and divide them evenly among the 4 plates, placing them in a pile on top of the lettuce.
Makes 4 servings
— — Mustard Vinaigrette — —
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the mustard, vinegar, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste in a jar with a lid. Screw the lid on the jar and shake the jar vigorously to combine and emulsify the dressing. Taste to see if you need more salt or pepper. The vinaigrette keeps in the jar or another airtight container for up to one month.
Makes about 1/2 cup
Chicken Salad With Dried Cranberries, Fennel and Toasted Almonds
4 cups chopped roasted chicken (about the amount from a whole chicken)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup diced fennel bulb
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Place the chicken, cranberries, fennel, almonds, mayonnaise, lemon juice, parsley and pepper in a medium bowl and stir with a fork until well combined. Use in a sandwich or on some mixed greens for a nice lunch salad, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Makes about 4 cups
One Soufflé At A Time
A Memoir Of Food And France
Anne Willan with Amy Friedman
St. Martin's Press
Shrimp and Cheese Soufflé
1/2 pound raw peeled shrimp
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
1-1/2 tablespoons butter, plus more for the dishes
1-1/2 tablespoons potato starch
6 eggs, separated
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup finely grated Gruyere cheese
3 egg whites
Eight 1-cup soufflé dishes
Start with the cheese mixture: Put the cream and butter, cut in dice, in a heavy saucepan and sprinkle with the potato starch. Heat gently, stirring with a whisk, until the butter melts and the sauce thickens,
2 to 3 minutes. Do not let it overheat or it will separate. Take it from the heat, whisk in the egg yolks and both cheeses, and return the pan to the heat, about 30 seconds, whisking so the egg yolks thicken slightly. Take from the heat, taste, and season the mixture highly. If preparing ahead, cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap; it can be set aside for up to a half hour.
Let the egg whites come to room temperature. Coarsely dice the raw shrimp and refrigerate them. A half hour before serving: Heat the oven to 425 degrees and set a baking sheet load down. Brush the soufflé dishes with melted butter and set them on a baking sheet. Chill in the freezer until the butter is set, then butter them again. To cook the shrimp, melt the butter in a frying pan, add the diced meat with a little salt and pepper, and sauté until hot, 30 to 60 seconds; set them aside.
To make and bake the soufflés: Stiffly whip the 9 egg whites in an electric mixer fitted with the whisk, adding a pinch of salt to help them hold – do not overbeat them, as they will separate. Heat the cheese mixture, stirring, until it is very warm to the touch. Add about a quarter of the whites and fold them together until well mixed; this cooks the whites slightly and lightens the mixture. Add this mixture to the remaining whites and fold them together as lightly as possible.
To fill and bake the soufflés: Spoon the mixture into the prepared dishes to half-fill them. Sprinkle the warm shrimp over the cheese mixture, fill the dishes to the brim, and run a metal spatula across the rims to level the mixture. Run your finger and thumb around the edge of the dishes to help the mixture to rise evenly. Slide the baking sheet with the soufflés onto the hot baking sheet in the oven. Bake the soufflés until puffed and brown, 10 to 12 minutes.
For serving: Prepare 8 plates lined with small napkin. Set the cooked soufflés on the napkins and rush them to the table; serve each with a small spoon.
Makes 8 servings
Hot Bacon and Egg Salad
4 - 8 eggs
1/2 cup red wine vinegar, plus more for poaching
Medium head of frisée or escarole
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
8 ounces smoked bacon, diced
Ground black pepper
Wok or frying pan
To poach the eggs: bring to boil a shallow pan of water about 2 inches deep. Add about 2 tablespoons vinegar. Break an egg into a small bowl and with the water boiling rapidly drop the egg into a bubbling patch – the bubbles will help coat the egg yolk with the white. Repeat with the remaining eggs. Reduce the heat so the water is scarcely bubbling and poach the eggs 2 to 3 minutes until the whites are set and the yolks are still soft. Test by lifting an egg on a slotted spoon and pressing the yoke with a fingertip. Transfer the eggs to a bowl of cold water and set aside.
Discard the tough outer green leaves from the frisée or escarole and trim the root. Separate the pale center leaves and tear any large leaves into 2 or 3 pieces. Wash and dry the leaves and put them in a salad bowl.
Just before serving, transfer the eggs to a bowl of very warm water so they reheat. Heat the oil in the wok and fry the bacon until lightly browned – do not over-brown or it will be tough. Lift out the bacon with a draining spoon and sprinkle it on the greens. Discard all but about 4 tablespoons of fat from the wok, reheat briefly, and pour the hot fat over the greens, tossing so the leaves wilt slightly. Add the vinegar to the hot wok (stand back to avoid the fumes) and bring it to boil, stirring to dissolve the pan juices. Cook until reduced by about half, about 1 minute, and pour the hot vinegar over the greens, tossing again, so the leaves wilt further. Sprinkle with pepper and pile in individual salad bowls. Drain the warm eggs on paper towels, set 1 or 2 eggs on top of each salad and serve at once, while still warm.
Serves 4 as a main course; 8 as an appetizer
A Savor The South Cookbook
The University of North Carolina Press
One (8-ounce) package cream cheese,
at room temperature
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons finely diced sweet onion
One (16-ounce) jar pickled okra, drained
(about 18 okra pods)
1/3 pound thinly sliced Virginia ham
(about 8 slices)
Combine the cream cheese, chives, parsley and onion. Trim both ends of the okra pods. On a large cutting board, lay out each slice of ham. Spread about 2 tablespoons of the cream cheese mixture on each slice of ham, leaving a border of about 1/4 inch.
On the long side of each ham slice, lay 2-3 okra pods, end to end, depending on the size of the ham slice. Roll the ham around the okra. Cover and chill the rolls for 3 hours, then slice them into 1-inch slices and serve.
Makes about 40 rolls
Pimento Cheese, Tomato
and Okra Cornmeal Cake Sandwiches
2 cups fine cornmeal (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1-1/2 cups water, plus more if needed
8 ounces okra, stem ends trimmed, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, mashed into a paste
1/4 cup canola oil, divided
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons pimento cheese, plus more if needed
3 large tomatoes, thickly sliced
12 large basil leaves
6 leaves butterleaf, Boston or bibb lettuce
Line a baking sheet with paper towels. To prepare the batter, in a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, baking powder and sea salt. In a second bowl or large liquid measuring cup, combine the egg and water. Add to the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Add okra, jalapeno and garlic. Stir to combine. (The batter should be thick but not dry. Add water as needed; the amount will depend on the size grind of the cornmeal. It will also thicken up a bit as it sits.)
To fry the cornmeal cakes, heat 1/8 cup of the oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Place 1/4 cup batter in the heated skillet and smooth into an even layer. Repeat with additional batter, without crowding. Cook until the bottoms are brown and bubbles form on the tops and edges, 2-3 minutes. Turn and brown the other side, an additional 2-3 minutes. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. While hot, season the cakes with salt and pepper. Repeat with remaining batter and oil until you have 12 cornmeal cakes.
Place the cornmeal cakes on a clean work surface. Over 6 cakes, spread 1 tablespoon each pimento cheese. Top each with a slice of tomato and season with salt and pepper. Place 2 basil leaves and one lettuce leaf on each cake, then top with one of the remaining 6 cornmeal cakes. Enjoy immediately.
Makes 6 sandwiches
Slow Cooker Desserts
Hot, Easy And Delicious Custards, Cobblers, Soufflés, Pies, Cakes And More
Mini Berry Cobblers
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup reduced-fat (2%) milk
2 cups fresh berries
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup hot water
In a bowl, combine the flour, 1 cup sugar, butter, baking powder, salt, vanilla and milk. Mix thoroughly to make a smooth batter.
Coat the insides of four (3-inch) ramekins with cooking spray. Divide the berries among the ramekins, sprinkle them with the cinnamon and cover with the batter. Place a trivet in your slow cooker and set the ramekins on the trivet. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour.
In a small bowl, stir together the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the water; pour over the cobblers. Cover again and cook on low for another 3 hours.
Makes 4 servings
Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter together with both types of sugar. Add the eggs and mix well. Add the vanilla.
In another bowl, combine the flour and baking soda. Using a wooden spoon, stir the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture. When everything is fully combined, add the peanut butter and chocolate chips.
Coat the inside of the slow cooker with cooking spray. Spread the cookie mixture in the bottom of the cooker. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours.
Let cool, then cut into bars for serving.
Makes 6 to 8 servings