Category Archives: salads

Eating my way through Natchez

Peoples of the South, I am stuffed. I do not need to eat another morsel for at least three weeks. After I have my seafood gumbo tonight. Not one more crumb. Except the peanut butter pie I’m having tomorrow at Weidmanns in Meridian.

So I thought I’d just catch you up on eating my way through Natchez. Let’s start with Mammy’s Cupboard, renowned for its sandwiches on homemade bread and its pies.

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Here’s my chicken salad sandwich with vegetable beef soup and potato salad at Mammy’s. They bake the bread every morning. The locals mix the potato salad into the soup. I did not.

 

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And the coconut cream pie. Yes. That is all.

The next day we had a catered lunch at Brandon Hall, which is a magnificent antebellum home off the Natchez Parkway. Hold on to your hats.

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We had the tomato bisque soup. And the chicken salad, shrimp salad and tossed salad with blue cheese, pecans and balsamic dressing. And the croissants. And the bread pudding, lemon squares and brownie bites. I had seconds. I am ashamed.

I skipped the evening entertainment, but I had smuggled a couple of mini buttermilk biscuits and sausage patties upstairs from breakfast. They were quite delicious with imitation grape jelly. By the way, the Grand Hotel has a spectacular complementary breakfast. Some of the best grits I’ve had. If I could have figured out a way to get them upstairs in a napkin, I would have.

On to today. How about a little Brandy Milk Punch at historic Linden Hall to prime the pump?

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In a silver cup, naturally. I have never had Brandy Milk Punch, which is kind of like a boozy vanilla milkshake. I rather liked it.  I had two servings. I would have had a third but I didn’t want to trip getting on the bus.

Lunch was at Routhland, another magnificent antebellum home that is privately owned. Yes, once again we crashed somebody’s private residence for a lunch from famed Natchez caterer Sissy Eidt.

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Assorted finger sandwiches, pasta salad, fruit salad and deviled eggs with:

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Chess squares and brownies. I had seconds and bought Sissy’s book – Ladies’s Legacies in Natchez, Mississippi – later in the day just for the recipes she serves at prestigious events and parties.

So, Peoples of the South, I am finding Natchez much to my liking. The people are unfailingly hospitable, the city is utterly charming and the food is irresistable. It’s a pity we have to leave tomorrow. After the seafood gumbo.

 

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Hot chicken salad: Everything old is new again

Hot Chicken Salad

Celebrity chefs may have signature dishes, but Southern girls have signature casseroles. Southern women will practically break down your front door to bring you a casserole. It’s a compulsion.

Entire cookbooks have been written about casseroles but that is not where you find the best recipes. Community cookbooks are what you want because every woman who contributes is bringing her A game. You might not care if you write a lousy casserole recipe for a mass-produced book, but you will be mortified if you turn in something substandard in the casserole genre to a community cookbook and your bridge group finds out.

In the casserole universe, everything old is new again and I rediscovered that this week while thumbing through a very fine community cookbook published by the Newnan Georgia Times-Herald in 1967.  There are the usual antiquated flourishes of recipes written at a time when Cool Whip, marshmallows and lime Jello were mainstays of the culinary landscape.

But right there on pages 57 and 60 – surrounded by recipes for Reception Salad (lemon Jello, crushed pineapple and cream cheese) and Seven Cup Salad (cottage cheese, fruit cocktail and miniature marshmallows) – was a “salad” that I first read about in a 2005 Paul Deen cookbook: Hot Chicken Salad.  A casserole that dates back at least 47 years that is still on my all-time greatest casserole hit list. It was so popular in 1967 there are two recipes for it in the cookbook, one of them almost identical to old Paula’s. In fact, I got to wondering if  Paula had a copy of the Favorite Recipes from Coweta County Kitchens since she’s from Georgia, too. No matter.

The thing that makes Hot Chicken Salad is the potato chips. Once you assemble the casserole, you top it with a gracious plenty of crushed potato chips. Golden Flake are the best in my opinion because there is more grease trapped in a Golden Flake potato chip than at a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise.

I have made this casserole mine over the years by adding rice at the bottom, more lemon juice than Paula wanted to use and a few other flourishes. One of the original version in the Newnan, Georgia, cookbook called for pickle juice and grated American cheese.

One last thing about community cookbooks. Back in the day, the authors names were sometimes included at the end of the recipes and they spoke of a time when a woman’s place was in the home and small-town addresses were easily remembered:  Mrs. A.H. Sprayberry, 4 First Street, Newnan; Mrs. J.B. Johnson, Jr., grandniece of Mrs. Parker; and Mrs. Ross Beavers, Route 1.

And when salads contained canned asparagus,maraschino cherries and tomato soup.

 

Hot Chicken Salad
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
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Serves: 6-8 servings
 
Ingredients
  • Breast meat from one rotisserie chicken, shredded
  • 1 ½ cups celery, diced
  • ½ cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • ½ teaspoon minced dried onion
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 3 cups cooked rice
  • ⅔ cup crushed potato chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix together the chicken, celery, almonds, onion, lemon juice mayonnaise and cheese. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
  3. Butter a 13-by-9 inch baking dish. Put the rice in the bottom and top with the chicken filling. Liberally sprinkle the crushed potato chips over the top.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes or until the casserole is bubbly.

 

 

 

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Gluttony and tomato salad

Noah is home from college. He is now a graduate and is about the task of finding full-time employment. He’s working hard at finding a place to work hard, but in the meantime he is setting a bad example. Since his arrival two weeks ago, he has brought into this house:

  • The ingredients for onion dip – Lipton Onion Soup Mix and sour cream (accept no substitutions). This obviously also requires kettle-cooked potato chips.
  • Two boxes of Velveeta Shells and Cheese. Noah enhances this with sour cream and butter. It is, sad to say, delicious.
  • The ingredients for compound butter, which has trace elements of vegetables cleverly hidden away in two sticks of butter. He has generously applied this to several packages of fettuccine and then finished it off with mountains of Parmesan cheese.
  • Three racks of ribs. No, Noah does not know how to smoke ribs. Mommy does. And then Mommy, of course, has to sample them. Over and over. Bad Mommy.

We just got back from my beloved Publix where we picked up the ingredients for homemade pizza. We are going to grill it so we can claim it is healthy, which it would be if we eliminated the cheese. But we’re not going to do that.

So, tomorrow I’m putting a stop to this. We’re going back to sticks and twigs. And, fortunately, a tomato salad with ingredients from the Farmers Market.  Yes, I’m on a tomato kick.

tomato salad

Cherry tomato salad
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 2 pints mixed cherry tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ⅓ cup shredded basil leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Rinse and dry the tomatoes and slice in half.
  2. Whisk the mustard, vinegar and garlic in a small bowl. Slowly drizzling in the olive oil and continue whisking until an emulsion forms.
  3. Add the dressing and basil to the tomatoes. Salt and pepper to taste.

 

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Margaret’s mother’s potato salad

IMG_4517Potlucks in the South are so amazing. Everyone brings their A game and you always discover a surprise or two on the table.

Margaret Brown - potato salad queen

Margaret Brown – potato salad queen

Friday, a women’s group I belong to had a potluck lunch and Margaret Brown brought her mother’s potato salad. Margaret is no bigger than a No. 2 pencil and doesn’t cook so I was taken aback by how good her potato salad was. “It was my mother’s recipe,” she told me. “Can I have it?” I asked. “Well, I don’t exactly know the measurements. I just make it until it tastes like my mother’s.”

This is a fundamental problem among people who don’t cook (God bless you, Margaret and King Daddy). Mark’s great-grandmother, Belle, made the most fantastic yeast rolls and heavenly blackberry cobbler. Or so I hear.

He never thought to stand at her side, watch what she did at the stove and write the recipes down. Of course, as a 10-year-old child he did not contemplate marrying me. Otherwise, he could not have found a pen and paper fast enough. Be that as it may, I was not going to let this opportunity pass me by. “Margaret, write down what’s in the potato salad, give me a little sample to take home and I will figure it out,” I told her.

Here’s why this exercise was worth it. Margaret’s mother’s potato salad is singularly delicious for what it does not have in it. No hard-boiled eggs and no sweet pickles with juice, both of which are Southern staples. Her potato salad is clean. It tastes of potatoes and everything else in the recipe is a supporting player and not a distraction. And, Margaret learned a trick from her mother that I’ll pass along to you.  She mixes everything but the mayonnaise and refrigerates it overnight. That way the potatoes set up again and the salad retains its character after the mayonnaise is added. Each dainty bite packs a total punch of flavor.

So I figured it out. I used Yukon Gold potatoes because I didn’t have the red potatoes the recipe calls for, but with every other ingredient I’d add and taste against Margaret’s sample. And then I had King Daddy taste test both of them. He couldn’t tell the difference.

If any of you out there have your mother’s, grandmother’s or Great Aunt Nellie’s unwritten recipe for the greatest thing you ever ate, send it to me. I am on a mission now to preserve those classic dishes. I don’t think Margaret will use this recipe to make her mother’s potato salad because she already knows how it’s supposed to taste. But her grandchildren will.

Margaret's mother's potato salad
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Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds red potatoes
  • ½ cup finely chopped celery
  • 2 tablespoons minced onion
  • 2 teaspoons celery seed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise with olive oil
Instructions
  1. Put the potatoes in a 2-quart saucepan, cover with water and boil until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes.
  2. Remove the potatoes and cool until they are easy to handle. Peel them and cut them into ½-inch chunks.
  3. Add the celery, onion, celery seed, salt and pepper to the potatoes and mix carefully, trying not to break up the potato chunks.
  4. Refrigerate overnight.
  5. The next day, add the mayonnaise and combine thoroughly.
Notes
Margaret minces the onion in a food processor. She also allows that her mother used homemade mayonnaise, but that just wasn't going to happen with Margaret and Hellmann's mayonnaise with olive oil is the closest thing.

 

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Grilled corn salad

Grilled Corn Salad

King Daddy is continuing on his tenacious weight loss program by consuming lots of salad. Truth be told, King Daddy hates salad and so I’m trying to switch it up and not just give him a plate of lettuce every night. This is one of those attempts. And it is delicious.

In the South, there is only one kind of corn: Silver Queen. Oh, you may see an occasional ear of Peaches and Cream. And it’s not bad. But you never see plain yellow corn down here. Silver Queen is so sweet you can literally eat it off the cob without cooking it. But I like to throw mine on the grill to add a little charred flavor.

Grilled cornI don’t brush it with oil or butter, although you could. The corn’s just that good by itself. And you won’t get the whole thing black because you know what? Corn’s not flat.

My new great find is New Mexico Chile Powder. It’s made from – ta da! – New Mexico chiles and it’s not extremely spicy. It’s more earthy and a little sweet. Williams Sonoma (where I would never shop for most anything else because I’m not a millionaire) carries it.

So poor King Daddy. No mayonnaise or sour cream in his salad. Just that heart-healthy stuff he professes not to like. He lapped it up.

Grilled corn salad
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Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 4 ears of Silver Queen corn
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon New Mexico chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil.
Instructions
  1. Preheat the grill to medium high. Shuck and remove the silk from the corn.
  2. Add to the grill and turn occasionally until all the sides are charred.
  3. Remove corn from the cob.
  4. Put the corn in a bowl and add the cumin, chile powder, cilantro, lemon juice and olive oil. Stir thoroughly and serve.

 

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Tortellini salad with salami and cheese

Tortellini Salad Salami and CheeseIs anyone else out there having trouble concentrating? This is a pandemic in the South as soon as the thermometer hits 85. All of a sudden we slow way down. And we lose our train of thought.

This morning, I went to the warehouse fully intending to be a model of efficiency and accomplishment. I will write a grant. I will learn something new about online fund raising. I will…notice that a lot of the new clothing donated from a major retailer still has the tags on. Well, I’ll just take those tags off and get back to business. Mindless, mind-wandering work.

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I return to the computer. Alrighty, then. Let’s get going. I will just give my boy, Noah, a quick call to wish him a happy 22nd birthday and then hit that grant hard. Forty minutes later, I hang up. That boy could talk to a post for five minutes before he realized the post wasn’t talking back. But I like that about him.

Grant. I’ll get back at it now. I read the instructions. It’s a grant about the arts. The only art we fool with are the paintings we get from Kirkland’s.

IMG_4328Pretty, aren’t they? Maybe I could get some grant money if we gave tours to school children. But would that be considered art education or home decorating know-how? I Probably the latter.

Oh, tortellini salad. I forgot all about it. I wrote a really good recipe for Char-Broil for tortellini salad. Noah took two gallons of it home to Knoxville and ate every scrap of it. At least I still remember who he is. Hop on over to Char-Broil LIVE for the recipe.

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Pineapple mint salsa

Pineapple mint salsaIf I were a few decades younger, I’d say I was starting to eat lighter because it’s about to be bikini weather. Truth be told, it was never bikini weather for me. It was barely two-piece bathing suit weather in my youth. Some of the reason is that I just never had that bordering-on-anorexia bikini body. Not in my DNA. But the biggest reason is that I am the whitest white girl you know and that’s not a good thing.

Growing up in Florida with the complexion of an Ivory soap bar was trying. When my friends would go to the beach, I was the one in the t-shirt and wide-brimmed hat. Not an attractive look when you’re 16. There was no “laying out” for me. That’s a lie. I tried it a few times but the results were…not optimal. Crimson red skin followed by weeks of moulting.

However, that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t lighten up as summer hits – put the beef stew and mac and cheese away and turn to salads, simple grilled foods and salsas. This one is terrific with grilled shrimp or fish, or any grilled pork.

Tip: Don’t buy those fresh herbs in the produce section at the supermarket. Get yourself a few pots and plant fresh herbs. You can use them all summer at a fraction of the cost. Plus you can pretend you’re a gardener. I do.

Pineapple mint salsa
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups diced fresh pineapple
  • 1 red pepper, cored, seeded and diced
  • ¼ cup diced red onion
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded, deveined and minced
  • ½ teaspoon fresh cilantro, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh mint, minced
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
  2. Refrigerate 30 minutes before serving.

 

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Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad

This whole thing started with the croutons entirely because I am cheap. I cannot stand to throw food away and, dammit, onion poppy seed hamburger buns come in packages of eight. I just needed two for a sandwich project. So I had six left over, staring at me every time I opened the pantry door. Taunting me to do something with them.

CroutonsSo I made croutons. I actually have a beef with store-bought croutons and I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t make their own. Store-bought croutons are generally hard as rocks and exhibit all the taste of a hardened cube of sand. And since I have become a dedicated package ingredient reader after several alarming revelations about processed foods, I just don’t want any preservatives or other funny stuff in my croutons. Plus I have to tell you if you make these with melted butter rather than olive oil, you will just end up eating them straight out of the bag without any trip to a bowl of salad.

Once I had my croutons, I had to have something to put them on. Talk about the chicken and the egg. Decided on a Chicken Caesar Salad since that’s also a beef of mine. Why are they so bad at restaurants because they’re so good with a homemade dressing and some grilled chicken?

The croutons store in the fridge for a few weeks. They never last that long at my house. I’ve eaten two bags of them already. Without the salad.

 

Chicken Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Ingredients
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • BBQ rub
  • Spray oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, minced
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • Dash hot sauce
  • 1 10-ounce bag romaine lettuce
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat the grill to medium.
  2. Trim the chicken breasts of any fat or cartilage and sprinkle with the BBQ rub. Spray one side of the chicken with oil and grill for 4-5 minutes, oiled side down. Spray the other side, flip and grill for an additional 4 minutes or until the internal temperature is 160 degrees as determined with a digital probe thermometer. Remove from the grill and reserve.
  3. Combine the garlic and parsley in a small bowl. Add the anchovy paste, mustard, lemon juice, mayonnaise and hot sauce. Combine thoroughly and chill the dressing in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  4. Put the romaine lettuce in a large bowl. Cut the chicken into strips or cubes and add to the lettuce along with the dressing. Toss thoroughly. Sprinkle with salad with the Parmesan cheese and serve.

Homemade Croutons
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • 3-4 cups leftover bread or buns
  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil or melted butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut the bread or buns into cubes and put on a foil lined, rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil or melted butter. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and oregano.
  4. Bake for about 10 minutes or until they are browned to the degree you like.
Notes
These croutons will store in a baggie in the fridge for a good two-three weeks.

 

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Fried apples and what goes together

Fried ApplesI was making supper the other night – pork chops, dressing and fried apples. And it occurred to me there are certain things that just “go together” – food combinations that I return to again and again.

Some of them could be considered odd or quaint. I have always served King Daddy’s favorite mustard chicken with buttered egg noodles. To do otherwise would be unthinkable. It just wouldn’t be right. On Sloppy Joe night, the Joe must be Manwich and it must lean along side Tater Tots. With ketchup. Ditto the ketchup with fried chicken livers.

Braised short ribs require mashed potatoes. Last night I was provisioning the refrigerator for KD because I am heading to Bunny’s tomorrow to help her unpack at her new home. I made the short ribs and mashed potatoes, but stuck some garlic bread in the oven for another meal. KD actually asked for garlic bread with short ribs. I was horrified. They don’t go together. Turkey sandwiches. Just turkey, mayonnaise, iceberg lettuce, salt and pepper. No cheese. Cheese and turkey don’t go together.

Fish and rice go together. Fish does not go with potatoes or pasta. Flat chicken and green noodles. Only a classic in our home, I’m sure. It’s just breaded chicken breasts and thin spaghetti with pesto. But the chicken breasts must be thin and the noodles must be thin, also. The calorie count is not thin. Corned beef hash with English muffins and blackberry jam. The hash must be from a can. And you must fry it with onions until it is crispy. The jam can be seedless or not. That’s where King Daddy and I part ways. He likes the seeds.

A wedge salad demands blue cheese dressing and bacon. Diet Coke must be present with hamburgers and French fries. Iced tea does not go with hamburgers or French fries. Iced tea does, however, go with chicken salad. I don’t know why.

So what foods “go together” for you? What are your odd and quaint combinations? I hope you disagree with me. It’s always more fun when you do.

 

Fried apples
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 4 tart apples, such as Honey Crisp or Granny Smith
  • Juice from ½ lemon
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Core and cut the apple into wedges. As you cut the apples, put them in a bowl with the lemon juice to keep them from discoloring.
  2. Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the apples, sugar and cinnamon. Cook until the apples soften, about 10 minutes.

 

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Filed under beef, breads, breakfast, casseroles, cheese, chicken, pasta, salads, seafood

We might starve

weather map

The Peoples of the South are, of course, petrified. As you can see from this weather map of tomorrow’s weather, there are “minus” signs. The Peoples of the South do not understand. What is a minus? And there are dangerous arrows around Memphis pointing directly in my direction. What are those arrows? I do not know, yet I am very afraid.

So I went to stock up at my beloved Publix and I could see that other Peoples of the South had seen the same map. We understand these life and death situations better than most. A few weeks ago we had flurries. I don’t even want to talk about it.

Storm 1As you can see, there are exactly three buggies at the Publix where there are usually about 180. Yes, that means others sense the impending disaster. And they’re all inside. I think I hear screaming.

Storm 2It’s just as I feared. The Peoples of the South are most fearful of running out of milk and bread during a disaster. The woman next to me fainted when she realized there was no 2 percent left. Fortunately, the paramedics revived her and assured her she could get by on skim until the thaw.Storm 5

Eggs. The symbol of life. And death. Death by starvation. I take the last carton, even though I already have two in my refrigerator. Perhaps I will attempt to whip up a frittata as my frigid hands grasp the cold handle of a cast iron skillet never to be warmed again because the power is now off and my life is ebbing away. Oh, the iron. Or irony.

Storm 4But I must live on for King Daddy, for he would surely starve without me. So I load my buggy with staples such as cornbread mix, chili fixin’s, bacon, lingonberry preserves, Smokehouse Almonds and the latest issue of People magazine. As I said, the Peoples of the South have our priorities straight. As I huddle under a blanket with my dying flashlight, I will at least dimly perceive the brilliance of Kim Kardashian’s make-up tips.

 

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