Archive for the ‘Southern’ Category

Shrimp and Grits

January 28, 2018

After running with some dogs at the Richmond SPCA, I spent my day cleaning the house.  I’ve had a sick pup so the rugs needed some serious attention.  I knew that after a day with the carpet shampooer I’d need a nice dinner.  Shrimp and grits is the best way to combine comfort food with treating yourself a little fancy.  And there are a million ways to make it.  Some people feel very strongly that there’s one “real” way to make shrimp and grits.  I can be happy with them just about any way they come.

Tonight I went a little fancy with grits cakes.  I made the grits this morning so they’d have time to cool and firm up.  I like my grits stiff enough to eat with a fork so the texture is right.  Use quick cooking grits for this. Not instant.  Never instant.  For savory dinner grits like this I often use some kind of stock instead of water and/or milk.  I had some chicken soup base in the freezer so I diluted that and added some salt.  At the end a little Parmesan and some butter.

Tip Have you ever had grits at a restaurant that tasted like nothing?  And no matter how much butter or salt you add, they still taste like nothing?  It’s because whoever made them, they didn’t salt the water.  You have to salt the water.  The salt has to cook into the grits.  If it doesn’t, you can never put enough salt on top of them to make them good.

Ok, if you want to make grits cakes your grits should be thick enough in the pot that they stick to a spoon.  Then you spread them in a jelly roll pan that has parchment paper lining the bottom.  Let them chill in the fridge for a few hours.  Then you can cut them in whatever shapes you like.  Tonight I used a biscuit cutter to make pretty rounds.  You could just as easily use a knife to cut squares or triangles.  With rounds you’ll have some edges leftover.  I’m all set for breakfast for a few days!

For the shrimp: peel them, remove the tails; devein them.  Please remove the tails.  It’s messy to remove the tails with a knife and fork and weird to have them left in your bowl at the end of the meal.  Besides, you end up leaving the tail meat behind.  Leave the tails on for cocktail shrimp or peel and eat, but if you need utensils to eat the dish, do yourself and your guests the courtesy of removing them.  Then run the tip of your knife down the back of each shrimp to remove the vein. You can use the flat of your knife to scrape the vein out.  Or, you can buy them already peeled and deveined.  Just don’t buy them already cooked!

For this version of shrimp and grits, there’s bacon.  Can’t go wrong there.  And again, I have plenty leftover for breakfast!  The only other ingredients are peppers, onions, garlic, more stock, white wine and lemon juice.  I added a little flour as well to thicken the sauce, but you could easily cook the sauce down instead.

Reheat your grit cakes in the oven and serve the shrimp and sauce over them.  Yum!  I even did one as a beautiful appetizer.  Perfect for an elegant dinner party or dinner for two or as the start to a lovely dinner for one!


Here’s what you need:

For the grits


  • 4 C stock
  • salt
  • 1 C quick grits
  • 1/2 C Parmesan
  • 1 T butter

For the shrimp


Tip  I keep a few of those little wine bottles around for occasions like this.  If you need a little wine for cooking, but don’t plan to open a bottle for drinking, they’re just the right thing.  It’s not the best wine you’ll ever have, but it’s absolutely drinkable.  And if you’d drink it you can cook with it.  For me, this is a great way to have 1/2 C for a recipe and one glass with dinner.

  • 3 slices bacon, cooked crisp, 1 T bacon grease reserved
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 T flour
  • 1/2 C stock
  • 1/2 C white wine
  • 1/2 lemon
  • salt, pepper, Tabasco to taste
  • sliced green onions for garnish

Here’s what you do:

For the grits

  1. Bring the stock to a boil.  Add salt to taste.
  2. Stir in the grits and cover.
  3. Stir often to keep them from sticking to the bottom.
  4. Cook 15 minutes or so until the grits are cooked, but still slightly toothy.

For the grit cakes

  1. Spread the cooked grits into a jelly roll pan lined with parchment.
  2. Chill in the refrigerator 2-3 hours or up to overnight.
  3. Cut into shapes.
  4. Place on a baking sheet.
  5. Heat in a 300 degree oven 8-10 minutes, until warm through.
  6. Keep warm for serving.

For the shrimp

  1. Fry the bacon, drain and set aside.  Pour off the grease, leaving 1 T in the pan.
  2. Add the pepper, onion and garlic.  Stir until they soften.
  3. Stir in flour until it disappears.
  4. Add stock and wine.  Stir until the sauce begins to thicken.
  5. Add the shrimp.  Cook 3-4 minutes, flipping 1/2 way through.
  6. Squeeze the lemon over the shrimp.  Add salt and Tabasco to taste.
  7. Serve over the warmed grits cakes, topped with the green onions.

Luck and Money for the New Year!

January 1, 2018

Happy New Year everyone!

New Year’s Day here means few things for sure:  a First Day 5K; the end to 2 weeks of eating junk and drinking too much, otherwise known as the Fat Fortnight; collards and black-eyed peas for dinner.

It’s a Southern thing.  Collards and black-eyed peas for the new year to represent luck and money.  The whole truth is that this is filling food for cheap.

Most years I start these with a pot liquor made with smoked turkey wings or ham hocks.  This year I went vegetarian and I’m not sorry.  These were easy, didn’t make a mess and tasted great.  I’m looking forward to leftovers!

Here’s all the stuff you need:


1/8 cup canola oil

1 yellow onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 lbs. collard greens, stemmed and chopped

1 tsp. red pepper flakes, toasted. (Toast the pepper flakes in a dry sauté pan over medium heat, tossing constantly.  Leave this out if you’re heat averse.)

1/2 cup white wine

2 cups cooked black -eyed peas

1/2 an onion, diced

1 garlic clove, minced

1 1/2 C vegetable stock or water (enough to cover the peas)

salt to taste


1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2 T butter

1 tomato, chopped

Hot sauce to taste

If you haven’t worked with collards before just know that this is a sturdy leaf.  They have to be cooked a long while to make them tender and cook out some of the bitterness.  They’re available chopped and bagged at the grocery store.  I don’t buy them that way because they have the stems in them.  I prefer to remove the stems.  More industrious people than I pickle the stems to use as garnishes.  I just toss them.

I like to chop these kind of small.  They work better in soups that way and they mix better with rice and peas.  Place the leaf face down on your cutting board.  Run your knife down either side of the stem and stack the two leaf halves on top of each other.  Set them aside.  Stem all of the leaves before you begin the chopping.

Stack 4-5 leaves on top of each other and roll them up together.  Slice the roll in half longways, turn it and slice longways again.  The roll is now in four sections.  Cut it crosswise in small pieces and you’ll end up with something that looks like a dice.

Normally you cook these in enough liquid to cover them, but this recipe is fairly dry.  The collards are easier to use when you don’t have to drain them.  Just be sure that you use a pot big enough for the collards and then to add the peas to.

Start with oil, I use olive oil for nearly everything, but canola or safflower or whatever will work here just as well.  I sauteed the onions and garlic together.  This saved me the trouble of making the roasted garlic butter that the recipe calls for.  You may need to add the collards in batches to make them fit.  Once they’ve started to cook down add the wine.  If you don’t want to use wine use vegetable broth here.

You’ve got 30-40 minutes to cook these until they’re really tender.  If the collards start to stick to the bottom of the pot add a little water and stir.  Cook them with the lid off the pot.


While the collards cook, start the black-eyed peas.  In this part of the world you can get fresh peas for New Year’s, so I recommend that.  If you can’t, frozen are the next best thing.

Again, start your pot, a small one this time, with a little oil.  When it’s hot, but not smoking, add some onion and garlic.  Saute until the onions are soft.  Add the black-eyed peas and enough water or vegetable stock to cover them.  Salt the water to taste.  Bring them to a boil and then cut the heat back to simmer.  It’ll take 15-20 minutes to cook these.  I like mine pretty soft, but be careful that they aren’t mushy.  You want them to hold their shape when you mix them into the collards.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the black-eyed peas from the cooking liquid.  Save that liquid for cooking the rice.  Add enough water to the cooking liquid to make 1 1/2 cups.  Add the rice to the small pot with the liquid, bring to a boil, and simmer, covered, until it’s done.  About 15 minutes.

And, back to the collards.  Add the cooked peas and vinegar to the collards.  Throw in the butter and salt to taste.  Cook everything another 10 minutes.  Serve over the rice.  Garnish with a few chopped tomatoes.  Add a few dashes of Tabasco or Siracha or other hot sauce if you like

I had this as my dinner tonight, but later this week it’ll make a great side dish and maybe some breakfast hash.  Stay tuned!

This is based on a recipe from Garden and Gun magazine.  Check it out here!

Hope the new year brings you all the luck and money you need!

Black-Eyed Pea, Collard and Ham Soup

January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!  Welcome to 2013.  In this part of the world collards and black-eyed peas are a good luck tradition for the new year.  They’re supposed to bring wealth and prosperity.  The story goes that black-eyed peas saved the starving Civil War South because Sherman’s troops considered them to be food for livestock and thus left those crops  while other foodstuffs were stolen or destroyed.  Most often you serve them as part of Hoppin’ John.  I love Hoppin’ John, but I was looking for a new way to have collards and black-eyed peas this year.  I stumbled on a soup recipe.  New Year’s Day in Central Virginia is gray and rainy this year.  How smart do I look for planning soup?! 

Black-eyed pea and collard soup

The original recipe actually calls for chickpeas and swiss chard, but it offers black-eyed peas as an alternative. I used the last of the black-eyed peas I put up from the farmers’ market.  I decided to use a large bunch of collards instead of a small bunch of chard.  Since collards are hardier than chard I figured they’d hold up better in soup anyway.    I also punted the chicken stock.  I had to make pot liquor for the collards anyway so I decided to use that as the broth.  That allowed me to leave out the bacon.  And I left out the tomatoes.  Tomatoes are a precious commodity around here this year because I didn’t get to do any canning last summer.  The few quarts I have left have to last 7 more months.  Now that I think about it the soup I made only vaguely resembles the recipe that I started with, but I really like it.

The pot liquor that I used in the soup and that I’ll use on the rest of the collards today is made with ham hocks, garlic salt, Seasoned Salt and Tabasco.  Sometimes I make it with smoked turkey instead of ham hocks, but pigs are good luck for the new year and fowl are not.  I used 2 ham hocks to make 3 quarts of pot liquor.  Just put the ham hock and seasonings in a big stock pot with 3 quarts of water.  Bring it to a boil; reduce the heat and let it simmer for an hour or so.  You’ll end up with a smoky, slightly salty broth with a little kick to it.

 This is a very earthy soup.  The collards and the peas both lean in that direction.  The carrot adds a little sweetness.  Next time I’d probably use 2-3 carrots instead of just one.  I love the smoky flavor of the broth and the kick from the broth and the added red pepper flakes is terrific.  Of course you can adjust that to your taste.  One note about the collards.  For New Year’s you’re supposed to cut the collards in long ribbons to represent long prosperity.  That’s what I did.  Gotta tell you eating long ribbons of greens out of a soup bowl is not a pretty business.  The soup is yummy so tuck your napkin under you chin and enjoy!

Good? Good and good luck too!
Easy? Sure, prepping the collards and broth takes time, but it’s not hard.
Good for company? Not fancy, but makes plenty for sharing.
Special shopping? Nope. I had a devil of a time finding black-eyed peas this year, but normally that’s not the case.

Black-Eyed Pea, Collard and Ham Soup


1 T olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large carrot, diced
1 (6-ounce) piece smoked ham steak, diced into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
l bunch collards, stemmed and sliced into thin ribbons
1 quart smoked ham hock broth
2 C fresh black-eyed peas
Hot sauce, as needed


Add olive oil to a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat. To the same Dutch oven, add the onion, garlic, and carrot, and saute until the vegetables are tender, roughly 4 minutes. Add the ham steak and red pepper flakes and adjust the seasonings with salt and black pepper, to taste. Add the collards and saute until they begin to soften.

Stir in the broth and black-eyed peas. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook for 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if necessary. Add hot sauce to taste.

Smoked Turkey, Collard Green and Shrimp Gumbo

October 15, 2012

This post has been a while in coming.  That’s kind of fitting because this dish takes a while to make.  I ended up making it over two days.  That’s definitely a way to do it if you don’t have 4 hours to hang out fairly close to the stove. This is one of those times when reading the recipe carefully all the way through before I started would have saved me a little inconvenience.  Turns out it doesn’t work well to start this at 5:30 thinking that you’re going to have it for dinner that evening.

 This is a rich, dark, smoky, salty gumbo.  Good stuff.  It’s a traditional flour and fat roux cooked to a dark brown.  Add some Guinness and it gets darker still.  By the time you’ve let some smoked turkey cook for 3 hours you’ve got a dark and smoky gumbo that’s reduced by about half.  Because it reduces so much be careful about the salt.  Don’t add any until the very end.  It concentrates.  That’s all I got done the first night.  I had to have time to let it cool before I put it away.  The next night I heated the gumbo, added some water and made a little extra roux so it wouldn’t be runny.  Then I added some fresh chopped collards and some I’d already cooked in smoked turkey pot liquor.  It took about 40 minutes for the fresh collards to cook down.  Five more minutes for the shrimp and you’re done – a mere 1 day and 45 minutes after I started.

A few tips.  The next time you’re going to make collards make 3-4 cups more pot liquor than you need to cook the collards and save it for making this gumbo.  You can freeze it until you need it.  Then cook enough collards that you have some for this recipe.  Freeze them until you need them.  Then chop the smoked turkey legs or wings from your collard pot and freeze it until you need it. (Are you getting the idea here?  Use your freezer!)  This way you’ve got most of the components done.  You just need to make the roux, chop the vegetables and add the elements you made ahead of time plus the shrimp.  I’m guessing you could do the whole thing in about 45 minutes that way.   

The truth is that this is worth the trouble.  I love the dark and smoky flavor.  The rice keeps it from being almost too rich to eat.  But it is rich, so start with small portions.  I made a half recipe and got 6 servings out of it.  Next time I’ll make a whole recipe and, you guessed it, freeze it!

Good? So, so good.
Easy? Not at all.
Good for company? My company enjoyed dinner and the leftovers I sent home.
Special shopping? Nope.

Smoked Turkey, Collard Green and Shrimp Gumbo

Usually I give you the recipe the way I made it, but since I messed up the timing I had to make some adjustments you won’t need now that you know what the timing is. What you see below is the original recipe from


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups small diced onions
3/4 cup small diced celery
3/4 cup small diced green, red, and/or yellow bell pepper
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 (12-ounce) bottle stout beer (recommended: Abita Turbo Dog)
8 cups dark chicken stock, chicken stock, or water
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
4 teaspoons Essence, recipe follows
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 pounds smoked turkey legs
1 pound collard greens, stemmed and rough chopped
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
Steamed white rice, for serving


Heat a large, 6-quart, wide-mouthed Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the flour and oil to the pan and stir to combine. Cook, stirring constantly, until the flour mixture is a deep chocolate brown color, about 20 minutes. Add the onions, celery and peppers to the roux and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic, stir, and cook the garlic for 1 minute. Add the beer to the roux, stir, and cook for 2 minutes. Add the stock, thyme, bay leaves, 2 teaspoons of Essence, salt, and cayenne to the pan. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the turkey legs to the pan. Cook until the turkey legs are falling-from-the-bone-tender, about 3 hours.

Remove the turkey from the pot and transfer to a plate to cool. Add the collard greens to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. When the turkey is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones and tear into bite-size pieces. Discard the skin and bones. Return the turkey meat to the gumbo. Season the shrimp with the remaining 2 teaspoons of Essence and add them to the gumbo during the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Taste the gumbo, re-season if necessary. Serve with steamed white rice.

Hoppin’ John – Not Just for New Year’s Anymore

October 1, 2012

Recently a friend inquired about my “death row meal.”  I didn’t list Hoppin’ John, but I might have to add it to the list.  This has everything going for it today.  It’s cool and gloomy out so this is a perfect comfort food.  Black-eyed peas are in season so I got them fresh at the farmers’ market on Saturday when I got the turnips.  Of course when you get turnips at the farmers’ market they come with the greens still attached – bonus!  The pepper plants around here are still producing – another check mark for South of the James market.  Dinner scores high on the “buy local” scale.  It’s mostly veggies and rice so it scores high on the cheap scale too.  I used smoked turkey instead of ham hock so it’s not bad on the healthy scale either.  Hoppin’ John is a good luck food for New Year’s, but maybe it will bring a little luck to the beginning of October too.

If you take a look at my New Year’s version of this dish you’ll note that it takes a couple of hours to put together.  This is a Monday and not a holiday so I didn’t have 2 hours.  It’s hard to rush the pot liquor, but I decided that 45 minutes was long enough.  In that time I was able to get all of the stemming and chopping of the greens and the chopping of the peppers and onions done.  A few things worked in my favor too.  The black eyed peas were very fresh – just a few days out of the field.  The fresher they are the faster they cook.  And the turnip greens were a little wilty so they cooked quickly also.  I used white rice instead of brown so that’s half time there too.  I cooked the rice in the black eyed pea water so it was almost boiling when I started.  I know, now I’m reaching, but I was hungry!

One note about this.  If you’re going to bother to make the pot liquor and stem and chop greens do lots of them.  You can always freeze the leftovers or eat them plain at another meal.  Ditto with the black eyed peas if you’re using fresh ones.  Go ahead and cook them all.  Mash the leftovers for black eyed pea cakes or serve them as a side dish.

My only complaint about Hoppin’ John is that my kitchen is a disaster. It takes four pots to put this together:  one for the greens, one for the rice, one for the peas and one for the peppers and onions.  You can use that last one to combine everything at the end.  It’s a great combination of flavors (earthy, green, smoky, sweet and salty) and textures.  Serve it with a little sweet cornbread and plenty of butter on the side.  And, of course, a big pitcher of tea.

Good? This is a favorite food of mine so it’s much better than good.
Easy? Not exactly. There are lots of things happening simultaneously.
Good for company? Absolutely. Who doesn’t need a little extra luck?
Special shopping? Nope, if you’re lucky you’ll hit the farmers’ market jackpot like I did.

Hoppin’ John


1-1 1/2 gallons of water
1 smoked turkey wing
2 T salt
1/4 t cayenne
greens from one bunch of turnips, stemmed and chopped
2 T butter
1 C fresh black eyed peas
1 T olive oil
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
2 garlic gloves, minced
1/2 C cooked rice


In a large pot heat the water and turkey wing to a boil. Add 2 T salt and cayenne. Simmer 45 minutes. Add chopped greens and 2 T butter. Simmer until greens are soft. Remove the turkey wing and pull the meat from the bone. Chop the meat finely. Discard the skin and bone.

In a small pot cover black eyed peas with water and bring to a boil. Simmer until peas are tender, but not mushy. Keep warm.

In a medium stock pot heat olive oil until it shimmers. Add peppers, onions and garlic. Saute until tender, but still crunchy.

Use a slotted spoon to dish 1/2 of the greens into the peppers and onions. Repeat with 1/2 or more of the black eyed peas. Add the rice and chopped smoked turkey. Toss gently to mix. Serve with Tabasco.

Tomato Onion Pie

August 12, 2012

I can’t believe this is my first tomato pie of the summer, but it is.  Criminal.  This is just the best stuff.  My motivation for putting it together was an invitation to “Lobsterpalooza” with some friends.  That’s right, a bunch of folks gathered around a table picking lobsters on a Saturday night.  It’s pretty hard to beat.  I wanted to take something worthy of the occasion.  There are a million ways to make tomato pie and pretty much any recipe you choose will be about the best thing you’ve ever eaten provided you get good tomatoes.  My hat is off to the folks at Rocking F Farm in Hanover County for  growing fantastic Hanover tomatoes and selling them at a very reasonable price.

Because I was cooking for 10 people I made this tomato pie in a casserole dish instead of a deep dish pie pan.  I used a store bought crust, one and a half of them actually, because Pillsbury is good at pie crust and I am not.  I’ve learned to live with that.  I started with an Emeril Lagasse recipe and made a few adjustments.  I left out the thyme because I don’t like it in this.  I used extra sharp cheddar instead of fontina because in my world tomato pie has cheddar in it.  I left off the Parmesan because I just didn’t need it.  I did like that this recipe uses less egg and mayonnaise than some without sacrificing any of the flavor.  And if you know me then you know that the key to the whole thing is that the mayo has to be Duke’s.

A few tips for making a good tomato pie.  Do not try to make this in the Winter.  It’s tomato pie so the tomatoes really matter.  Get good fresh ones.  They should be ripe, but firm enough that they slice easily.  Leave yourself plenty of time.  You pre-bake the crust.  The finished dish bakes for an hour and sits for another 30 minutes before you can cut into it and expect it to keep its shape.  Think lasagna timing.  The process is pretty similar.  You get all your ingredients together and put them in the pan in layers.  If you’ve made an actual pie then by all means cut it into slices.  If you make it in a casserole dish you can cut it into squares or serve it with a big spoon.  Just make sure you get all the way to the crust when you serve it.  Otherwise you’ll miss the flaky, buttery goodness at the bottom of the pan.

This pie has lots of cheese, sweet onions, fresh basil and just enough eggs and mayonnise to hold it together.  It doesn’t get much better than that. Two regrets:   one, in my haste to get out the door I didn’t remember to take a picture and two, I didn’t make enough to have leftovers to bring home.  It got rave reviews from the Lobsterpalooza crowd.  It’s hard to imagine a tomato pie that would get anything less than a rave.  Happy, happy summer food!

Good? So amazingly good.
Easy? Let’s call it intermediate. Lots of steps and lots of time.
Good for company? You’ll be the hit of any party.
Special shopping? Get farmers’ market tomatoes or, better yet, ones from your own garden!

Tomato Onion Pie


Note: These are the ingredients for 1 deep dish pie. I used half again as much to make a 9X13 pan full.
2 pounds ripe tomatoes, sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup panko
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 egg
1 cup thinly sliced Vidalia onions
3 tablespoons chiffonade fresh basil
3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
3/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Roll out the pie crust on a lightly floured surface to fit a deep 9 or 10-inch pie pan. Place the pastry in the pie pan and crimp edges decoratively. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes, then line with aluminum foil. Fill with pie weights and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until lightly golden around the edges. Remove foil and pie weights, and return to the oven for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack to cool.
Slice the tomatoes, discarding the stem and root ends, into 1/4-inch slices and lightly season with the salt and pepper.

Sprinkle about 1/3 of the bread crumbs in the bottom of the pie crust. In a small bowl combine the mayonnaise with the egg and stir until smooth. Place a layer of tomatoes in the bottom of the piecrust over the breadcrumbs, using about half of the tomatoes, then top with half of the sliced onions. Drizzle with half of the mayonnaise mixture, half of the basil, half of the cheddar and half of the mozzarella cheeses. Top with half of the remaining breadcrumbs then top with the remaining tomato slices, remaining onions, remaining cheddar and mozzarella, remaining mayonnaise mixture, and remaining basil. Top with the remaining bread crumbs and drizzle with the olive oil.

Place in the oven and bake until bubbly hot and golden brown, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Squash Rice Casserole

July 30, 2012

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I’ve spent the last two days in the kitchen making and canning salsa.  Hard to believe then that I was still interested in cooking come dinner time.  Turns out that the call of the squash was louder than the call of the couch tonight.  This is a favorite casserole of mine and I’ve made some improvements this time around.  All but one of the squash I used tonight came from my garden so that makes it extra special.  Hope you like it!

My only complaint about this casserole since I discovered this recipe in Cooking Light years ago has been that you can’t really taste the squash.  I fixed that by keeping the amount of squash the same and cutting the rice by half.  Then I substituted 5 oz. plain yogurt for the 8 oz. sour cream to reduce calories and increase protein.  I used one egg instead of two, just because.  I used regular cheddar because I think fat-free and reduced fat cheeses are an abomination.  All the adjustments turned out to be good ones.  The flavor is just as good and you can taste the squash!

A few tips about putting this together.  I usually do the squash and onions in a skillet just like I would if they weren’t going into this casserole.  They’re yummy that way, but it takes a while and a fair amount of stirring.  It’s a lot faster to boil/steam them.  A little water in the bottom of a pot is all you need.  Just be sure to drain them well before you add them to the mixing bowl.   In fact, drain them in a colander and press down with the back of your spoon to get out excess water.  Also, stir the yogurt into the egg before you combine it with the hot rice and vegetables.  That will help you avoid ending up with scrambled eggs.  Feel free to use brown rice if you like.  I used basmati this time because it’s what I had.  And use whatever squash you like – yellow and/or zucchini.  I used both.

This is one of those dishes I always burn my tongue on because I can’t wait for it to cool before I dig in.  And it’s one of those dishes that I always eat every bite of.  It’s terrific reheated.  I’ve also added some chicken to it to make a complete meal.  This recipe is such a keeper that I actually wrote it out on a recipe card, and that’s saying something!

Good?  Good enough that I’ve been making it for many years.
Easy? Yep, but requires a few pots to get it together.
Good for company? This has potluck/church supper/comfort food written all over it.
Special shopping? Nope.

Squash Rice Casserole


8 C sliced squash
2 medium onions, chopped
1 C cooked rice
5 oz fat-free, plain Greek yogurt
1 egg
1/4 C panko or breadcrumbs
1 1/2 C grated cheddar
2-3 T grated parmesan
1 t salt
1 t pepper


Put squash and onions in a pot with some water in the bottom. Cover. Bring to a boil. Steam until squash and onions are soft. Drain thoroughly in a colander, pressing out excess water.
In a large bowl beat egg and stir in yogurt. Add cooked rice, panko and cheddar. Add squash and onions. Stir until well combined. Stir in salt and pepper.
Press mixture into casserole dish. Top with grated parmesan. Bake 30 minutes at 350. Brown top under a broiler if needed.

Sausage and Black-Eyed Pea Hash

June 18, 2012

I don’t think I’ve ever made hash.  For many years I thought hash only came with corned beef in it and that’s not a favorite of mine.  Turns out hash, in the food world, is just a dish of diced up meat and vegetables all cooked together.  Just jumbled up food.  It’s a good way to use up odds and ends.  It looks kinda gross, but this one made for a really good breakfast for dinner kind of meal.

I followed the recipe to a tee with the two exceptions that I used frozen peas instead of canned and I drained the sausage grease out of the pan before I added the vegetables.  I’m sure that was supposed to be in the directions.  It’s a Cooking Light recipe after all.  There’s not a lot to this.  Dicing and sauteing mostly.  Two recommendations – use a sausage with a lot of flavor and do the egg over easy even if you don’t like to eat them that way.  I didn’t use andouille because I had some of the magical Della Nonna sausage from SausageCraft.  You just can’t beat the flavor a sausage made from local pork, ramps and pecorina cheese.  Seriously good.  So I guess that’s a third change to the recipe.  And a darn good one.  The thing about the egg is that the yolk helps make a sauce on the hash.  You won’t notice the yolk the way you do when over easy eggs are served to you by themselves.  Trust me.  Just try it.

This is good stuff.  It’s one of those dishes that started off good and got better as I ate.  The sauce is tangy, but very subtle.  It’s nice because the vegetables are pretty subtle too.  The strongest flavor in here other than the sausage (have I mentioned how good that is?) is the black-eyed peas.  The peas add an earthy flavor and a nice weight to the hash.  Without them I think the sausage would so over power the vegetables that it wouldn’t seem like a unified dish.  The egg gives it just enough richness.  For a dish that’s not much to look at it certainly is the perfect balance of flavors and textures.

The last few years have seen a number of Southern “home cooking” foods make their way to restaurant menus and take on a trendy flair:  deviled eggs, pimiento cheese, etc.  I think hash could just be the next local food meets Southern kitchen cooking meets restaurant menus trend.  The possibilities are endless!

Good?  Unexpectedly very, very good.
Easy? One knife, one pot, one plate. Easy.
Good for company? Maybe for a weekend breakfast with overnight guests.
Special shopping? Nope, that would defeat the purpose of hash!

Sausage and Black-Eyed Pea Hash


8 ounces diced flavorful sausage (hot italian, andouille, something unique from your local butcher)
1/2 C diced onion
1/2 cup diced celery (about 2 stalks)
1 cup chopped fresh tomato
1 medium red bell pepper, cubed
1 medium yellow squash, cubed
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 cups black-eyed peas, cooked
1 teaspoon canola oil
4 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage; sauté 4 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Remove sausage from pan and empty all but 1 tablespoon of the grease. Add onion and next 4 ingredients (through squash); sauté 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add 1/4 cup water and next 5 ingredients (through peas). Return sausage to the pan. Simmer 2 minutes or until peas are thoroughly heated. Remove pea mixture from pan; keep warm. Wipe pan with a paper towel.
2. Return pan to medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Crack eggs into pan; cook 4 minutes or until whites are set. Turn gently after 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
3. Place about 1 cup pea mixture onto each of 4 plates; top each serving with one egg. Sprinkle eggs evenly with black pepper.

Pimiento Cheese Stuffed Tomatoes

June 17, 2012

Whew, it’s been a whirlwind weekend in the kitchen.  Last night was potluck so I’ll start there.  Knowing that I had the family coming for Father’s Day dinner today I signed up to bring an appetizer for potluck.  We’ve taken to having themes for potluck.  This month was gluten free month.  Gluten free isn’t so hard to do when the vegetables are as wonderful as they are this time of year.  It was a wonderful meal of lamb roast, lentil salad and chocolate chip meringues for dessert. I kicked it all off with these lovely little tomatoes.

The challenge for me was how to serve up the pimiento cheese without using bread or crackers.  Yes, I could have used gluten-free crackers, and there are some good ones, but I was trying to avoid investing in a special food product.  I found these little ‘strawberry tomatoes.’  They’re the perfect size for something like this.  Bigger than grape or cherry tomatoes, but lots smaller than a roma.  I’m hoping that maybe my Juliet tomatoes will fit the bill later this summer.  Anyway, I halved the tomatoes and scooped out the innards.  A scant teaspoon of pimiento cheese in each one and that’s it.  Yum.  The perfect delivery system for my famous pimiento cheese.

I’ve made the pimiento cheese before so I won’t reprint it here.  Here’s the link.  I did this a touch differently.  I grated this cheese with the food processor instead of a box grater in the interest of time.  I left out the cayenne this  time, but added a little garlic powder.  I left out the white cheddar/mayonnaise fluff and stuck with straight mayonnaise this time.  Again, I was long on chores and short on hours this weekend.  Two things that are non-negotiable:  Duke’s mayonnaise (I’ll give you a pass if it’s not available in your geographic area, but only then) and a teaspoon of smoked paprika.  It really does make this something special.

These went like hotcakes at potluck.  They weren’t as cute in reality as they were in my mind, but it’s an awfully convenient way to serve pimiento cheese to a group.  And it’s leaps and bounds better than stuffing celery!

Simple Southern Supper

April 7, 2012

Today has been an “-ing” day here:  painting, baking, chopping, mowing, whipping, frosting, grilling, eating – in that order.  By the time I got to the grilling and eating part of the day I was already 18 kinds of worn out.  Fortunately during the baking portion of the day I had the foresight to do a little dinner planning as well.  I managed to put some chicken thighs in to marinate and make a little slaw.  Boy was I glad of that when dinner time finally rolled around!

Dinner tonight was kind of a family affair.  I have my brother to thank for the chicken thighs.  He makes barbeque sauce.  Really good barbeque sauce.  He makes several varieties, but this one is about my favorite.  It’s a mild to medium vinegar based sauce.  It has a little tomato and plenty of red and black pepper.  It’s thin, so perfect as a marinade, and not sugary so it doesn’t burn on the grill.  All good.  So, if you live in Alabama and happen to run across some JB’s BBQ Sauce you should check it out.  I poured some on some boneless, skinless chicken thighs and let them marinate for 6 hours or so.  When I put the chicken on the grill I put the leftover sauce in a sauce pan and boiled it down to use for dipping.  Boil it plenty so you don’t risk any salmonella.  Five minutes on each side and done.  Yum!

My slaw came from my MeMa to my mom to me.  Not much to it.  Just cabbage, mayonnaise, salt and pepper, but it’s the best slaw ever.  I know lots of folks add sugar and milk and lots of other things.  I don’t like my slaw sweet and I don’t like to have to strain it when I serve it.  Here’s the thing about this slaw.  You have to chop the cabbage by hand.  If you use a food processor it chops way too fine and you end up with a yucky texture and too much water in your slaw.  And, of course, I have to advise you to use Duke’s mayonnaise if it’s available in your area.  Accept no substitutes.  Just one more thing about tonight’s slaw – a shout out to the Farm to Family Market.  This little cabbage came from their garden!  It was a sweet and mild cabbage and just the right size.

You can’t very well have a Southern supper without some greens.  These are just chopped mixed greens with garlic and leeks, cooked down and dressed with cider vinegar.  Finished the meal with some iced tea.  And since Spring has sprung the tea is full of spearmint from my garden.  Come to think of it the spearmint came from my mom too, so that’s one more family thing.  Sometimes it’s nice to have a family meal even when your family isn’t around!

Good? Very.
Easy? Very.
Good for company? Excellent for having folks over to eat on the patio.
Special shopping? Nope.