Okay, so I guess I slowly climbed on the pumpkin band wagon. It’s not the pumpkin flavored coffees at Starbucks. I can’t stand flavors in my morning coffee…too much like candy and certainly not enough kick. Nor is it the stand of cinnamon brooms whose scent assaults my olfactory system like a WWII blitzkrieg the moment I step foot in Publix. No. It was something as simple as two girl’s weekends, both with girls from college, one was sorority sisters and the other girls that I love. It got me to thinking about college days. And Fall. I went to Mercer University in Macon, Georgia where we had seasons. That’s where I saw leaves change color for the first time. I thought how I walked across the beautiful southern campus; orange, yellow and red leaves bouncing and spinning on gusts of wind as if doing cartwheels. Kind of like sorority sister Anne B. who, drunk and making her way across campus late one night, fell on her face in the middle of a cart-wheel and knocked out her big front tooth. The whole thing. Yup. Serves her right, though. She was never particularly nice to me plus she had borrowed a very expensive pair of gold earrings and when she finally returned them to me one had been completely destroyed. Apparently she had stepped on it. But she was very, very sorry. Anyway, where ever she is, she’s running around with a fake front tooth. Those Autumn nights were chilly for us Florida girls. In my mind’s eye I can see the wool plaid tweed car coat Daddy had special ordered for me. A soft, tobacco brown with ebony black and pumpkin gold flecks. It was sumptuous and luxurious. Striding across campus to get to class on time, I’d turn the collar up and dig my hands deep into my pockets to stay warm. In the dorm it was cozyand comfortable and on weekends music would spill out of our rooms into the halls as we got ready for our dates and went from room to room sharing cocktails before we went out. Those were the days of albums and turntables. We listened to everything! Boz Scaggs, Steely Dan, Marshall Tucker, Allman Brothers, the Eagles, Grinderswitch, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Wet Willie had us singing and dancing like you wouldn’t even believe. That was our kind of finger poppin’ music. As I walked out of my dorm with girlfriends or on a date with my boyfriend, you could almost touch the excitement in the darkness, the sensation of anticipation in the frosty, brittle darkness. Our eyes sparkled from the cold as we laughed, chatted and guzzled booze in the chilly night air. Fraternity parties were held outdoors on the patio of the lodges. Mammoth speakers were set up inside and out, as were the kegs and garbage cans filled with grain punch. More Atlanta Rythym Section, Doobie Brothers and Bachman-Turner Overdrive and Boston. Lord, I think back and laugh. Those days celebrated the folly of youth and the good looks that come with it. I’ll stop at the risk of divulging any ancient secrets. But, hey! Try this way easy bread pudding. It’s Fall and time for a little pumpkin!
For me figs are one of the best foods Fall has to offer. Dark, autumnal and vaguely naughty, they are a seasonal food that is quite literally “here today, gone tomorrow”. Late summer to fall is their main season and here in south Florida the availability is somewhat unpredictable since they’re trucked in from far away lands. We try to eat local produce but I’m kind of a fig trollop and I don’t care WHERE they’re from OR who cultivated them. I love me my figs! Regardless, this recipe is a wonder blending sweet and salty, spicy heat and creamy coolness. With a cocktail or two I can easily make this my dinner. This little savoury is pretty enough for your cocktail party yet sturdy enough for Sunday’s football get-together. It can be assembled in the morning and baked that afternoon or evening. In the past I’ve only used chevre, plain goat cheese. I’ve seen the honeyed goat cheese at my store, Publix, but until now, I’d never tried it. Gentle Reader, it’s pretty perfect. Just the right amount of sweetness, between the lush, sexy figs and the salty sharpness of the prosciutto, this hors d’oeuvre will have you rolling your eyes to the back of your head. Enjoy!
Figs Roasted with Honey Goat Cheese and Prosciutto
Why is it no one makes dinner rolls anymore? I understand the time crunch and lack of energy when you finally get home from work and then have to crank out dinner for the fam but weekends are the perfect time to stock up on these little luxuries that can be stashed away in the freezer to be enjoyed weeks later…maybe some evening when it’s dark, chilly and rainy. Well, this recipe is one of those kind of keepers. Soft and fluffy, slathered with warm butter and perhaps a drizzle of that honey you picked up at the farmer’s market, these rolls are a rare treat yet exceptionally easy to make. They mix and roll up quickly. There are two risings but the dough sits quietly in the corner while you go about your business.
The recipe makes 24 rolls so you’ll have plenty of leftovers to freeze, (and they freeze beautifully), or they can be served at breakfast as is or pulled apart and stuffed with a sausage patty or egg. The slight sweetness of this bread pairs well with a scoop of homemade chicken salad or spicy crab salad served in the opened middle. With cooler weather right around the corner consider stocking up on these little golden treasures. You’ll pat yourself on the back for planning so well!
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional if needed
1 sachet active dry yeast
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, room temperature
1/4 cup butter, melted, to brush on before serving
1 tablespoon honey, to brush on before serving
In the bowl of a stand up mixer fitted with a dough hook combine flour and yeast.
In a small saucepan combine milk, 1/4 cup honey, sugar, 1/4 cup butter and salt, stirring until all ingredients are combined and heated to 105° and 115°.
Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and beat until just blended.
Add the egg and beat the dough for 3-4 minutes until the dough becomes thick and soft and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. It will probably be very sticky depending on the humidity in your area. If the dough is too sticky to handle add one tablespoon of flour to the bowl and beat another minute or so. If needed add another tablespoon of flour to thicken and continue beating.
Beat the dough until smooth and elastic about 5 minutes.
Place the dough in a greased bowl and turn to grease the top as well.
Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm corner to rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
Lightly spray 2 muffin pans with non-stick cooking spray.
Punch dough down and cut in half with a bench knife or large, sharp knife. Cover half of the dough and set aside.
Cut one half of the dough into 12 equal pieces.
Cut each of the 12 pieces into 3 equal pieces, you should have 36 chunks of cut dough.
With your hands gently roll each chunk into a small, fluffy ball and drop three into each muffin cup.
Continue in the same manner with the 2nd half of the dough that was set aside.
Cover both muffin tins and set aside to rise for 45 minutes or until double in size.
Bake in a pre-heated oven for 8-10 minutes or until slightly golden on top.
Remove rolls from the oven and cool for 5 minutes.
Mix the melted butter and tablespoon of honey until well incorporated. Brush on top of each roll.
Warm any leftovers in a pre-heated 300° oven for 5-7 minutes.
We are a house divided. Jimmy and James are Greek Orthodox and I am Roman Catholic. However, I’ve spent a great deal of time in the Greek church and nothing thrills me more than when I discover a new dish. Several years back while we were in Boston, we went to church with Jimmy’s brother, George. Jimmy and all his siblings grew up in the cathedral, with all the big city hustle and bustle of downtown. All the Greek families grew up in the church. The church was the religious and social nucleus of the Greek community. The cathedral’s youth group was enormous. All the kids went to the church after school and on weekends for pick-up basketball games, church dances and just to hang out. It was where most of Jimmy’s friends met their future wives and husbands. Here we were, years later, and as always, in the church hall after Sunday service. While my husband and brother-in-law caught up with old friends I strolled the perimeter of the coffee table. A pretty, little basket caught my eye as it held some sort of coffee cake or bread or maybe it’s cake…I didn’t know but I sure was going to try it out. It was life altering. Chewy on the outside yet moist and yielding on the inside, its mysterious, warm flavors caught me off guard. Turns out it was a bread called Artos, redolent with the flavors of the Middle East. At first bite I was reminded of the gifts the Magi offered the Christ child because of the heady fragrance of cinnamon, cloves and ground aniseed. I had to make it. I had to! Well, here it is. Artos is an easy bread to make but it is a bit messy and does require a little rising time. Well worth it if you ask me. The recipe can be doubled and I feel you may as well make two then you can give one to a friend or someone special. The recipe is adapted from Anissa Helou’s book “Savory Baking From the Mediterranean”. The bread is fabulous with almond butter or Nutella accompanied by a cup of tea or coffee. It’s great as breakfast or as a snack and is fabulous as sandwich sliced, stuffed with bananas and nut butters then grilled. Try it. You’ll amaze yourself!
These sweet yet salty crab cakes are every crab lovers dream. How many times have we gone to a shi-shi restaurant and hopefully ordered crab cakes which should be crunchy and buttery on the outside, pearly white, sweet but briny on the inside only to be served a couple of heavily doctored, gluey, deep-fried, fish-like patties? Gosh, I hate it when that happens. So many restaurants trash seafood, from overcooked tiles of fish or rubbery, heavily breaded fried shrimp to our loved crab. It was different when we were growing up here in Lauderdale. As a child, there wasn’t the selection of dining spots we now have available. Our grandfather, Grandpa, had moved here from Cleveland when our grandmother passed away. He, too, lived on the water and loved to throw out a dozen or so crab cages. Every two or three days he’d let me walk down to the canal with him and pull up the cages. Each cage had small, round floater tied with a piece of monofilament making it easy to haul up the cages and check our catch. Every crab cage had been baited with either pieces of mullet, their heads, bodies and tails, or raw chicken necks. I loved everything about it!
After strolling down to the water’s edge I would lie on my stomach on the dock while Grandpa pulled up the heavy metal cages. My job was to tell him if we had caught anything. If we had he’d continue pulling, if not he’d drop the heavy box back down to the muddy depths of the canal. Most of the time, though, there were sweet, luscious blue crabs. We’d throw our haul into waiting plastic buckets, always being careful not to get pinched, then walk back to his apartment where Grandpa would spend the rest of the morning picking the crabs. I wasn’t allowed because I guess my parents thought I’d cut myself with a knife…and I probably would have. The waters were clear back then and the meat that came out of those crabs was the sweetest I’ve ever had. Grandpa made a gorgeous crab salad and his bisque was magnificent.
I’m sharing with you my recipe for crab cakes. I think they’re fabulous and they taste of crab…nothing else. No crackers, mashed potatoes or breadcrumbs mixed in. No fillers here. The Panko crumbs and butter make a light and crispy coating allowing the crab meat to positively shine. Serve with a homemade remoulade sauce or simply with freshly cut lime wedges but either way I hope you enjoy them!
Y’all ever been in the South on a Sunday? Anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line? Because Sunday in the South means church, church clothes, (NO tank tops, flip-flops or shorts!), and relaxing with family over dish after well prepared dish of southern classics. When I was in school in Macon I was stunned by the array of vegetable dishes offered in friends homes not to mention the platters of fried chicken, smothered chicken, baked ham, roasted turkey or tenderloin of beef. Remember, Mama couldn’t and didn’t cook so in our house, growing up, Sundays meant a gorgeous table laid with glistening silver and china, beautifully arranged flowers and burnt food. Yep. Mama would serve food that was completely black and burned on one side. She’d just plate that zucchini, chicken, dolphin, anything charcoal side down and keep on keepin’ on. As a result, my time spent in girlfriends houses was filled with awe and wonder. Not because they had beautifully appointed homes. Heck, no. I had that! It was that I was continually astonished at the culinary epiphanies that hit me round every corner. Strawberry jam, BUTTER, fried chicken, iced tea…grilled cheese sandwiches. And Sundays in a Southern home meant side boards groaning under the weight of every vegetable imaginable, at least six or seven, and that didn’t include the biscuits and desserts. Most Sunday dinners included squash casserole and I soon learned there are good ones and there are bad ones, however, that is completely subjective. Some featured thick rounds of squash glistening with butter, the seeds leering back at me as if to remind me of Mama’s blackened attempts of zucchini and summer squash. Ugh. Her squash was the definition of gross. I must tell you, though, there is another method of preparing squash casserole which requires you to process the cooked squash mixture and the outcome is pure magic. Smooth but still with texture this summer squash casserole doesn’t even taste like a vegetable. Yes, the squash is sweet but the addition of onions and pepper-jack cheese gives it a savory, piquant twist you will positively love. It’s the only way I’ll eat summer squash. My hope is the next time you put out a big, Southern-style spread replete with English peas, black-eyed peas with snaps, collard greens with pot likker, candied sweet potatoes, tomato aspic, stewed okra and tomatoes, sweet and sour red cabbage and fresh shelled lady peas you’ll consider serving this glorious summer squash casserole.
1 cup plain Greek yoghurt, or any plain, thick yoghurt
8 ounces pepper-jack cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon olive oil
Pre-heat oven to 350°.
In a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the chopped onion. Cook until clear but not browned.
Add the chopped squash and gently stir to coat with the oil and onions. Adjust the heat if needed so as to cook the squash but not to brown. Stir occasionally for the squash to cook evenly and for the juices to evaporate or cook off. You don’t want any liquid as that will cause the casserole to be watery. Cooking the squash may take as long as 15 minutes. That’s fine. Get rid of the water.
Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool 10-15 minutes.
While the squash is cooling mix the Panko with the teaspoon of olive oil and toss well that all the crumbs are covered. Set aside.
Transfer the squash to a food processor or blender and pulse until there are no lumps or large pieces of squash. Return squash to pan.
To the squash add the yoghurt and cheese and mix thoroughly by hand. Taste for salt and pepper.
Add the eggs and wine and stir well.
Pour the mixture into a greased 9 X 13 pan. Scatter Panko crumbs evenly over top.
Bake for 35-45 minutes or until golden brown on top.
It feels like fall, y’all! We’ve had major rain here in Lauderdale and the temperature has plummeted to 82°. It’s 3:00p.m. and the street lights are on…as well as the AC. Well, a girl can dream. And when I do, at times it’s of pumpkin. Nothing says autumn like pumpkin. Pumpkin bread, pumpkin cheesecake and, especially, pumpkin fritters. They’re like crunchy and soft bites of warm and sweet pumpkin pie. These fritters are quick, easy and cheap. You probably have all the ingredients in your pantry. It’s a great treat for your family or dessert for the casual drop-by company. There aren’t really any do’s or don’ts. After mixing it all up, letting the batter sit for a while undisturbed does enhance the flavor. And I found using a small melon ball scoop to drop the batter into the hot oil gives consistent size fritters which will cook evenly. They’re best served immediately after dusting with powdered sugar but I haven’t seen any refused the following day after preparing.
Great with a cup of coffee or hot tea, these fritters welcome all the spices you like in your pumpkin pie. Don’t care for cloves? Don’t add them. If you’re not a fan of powdered sugar, roll them in cinnamon sugar. And if you’d like to fancy the fritters up a bit, warm some caramel sauce and drizzle it over the platter as you’re serving them. You might want to try serving them with fresh fruit, such as strawberries or blackberries, which cut the richness and really add to the flavors of the pumpkin pie spices. Hope you enjoy them!