Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Lady Pea Salad

Lady Peas – the crème de la crème of Southern summertime peas. Now that’s not saying that Pink Eyes, Black Eyed, Cream 40s, Purple Hulls, Zipper, Crowder and Butter Peas are not up to snuff – not by any means. Lady Peas are just a Southern delicacy of sorts.

And, as any true Southerner can attest about their own lineage, we know our “people” and can enliven the past accordingly. The Lady Pea and her relatives are technically beans horticulturally speaking… but a good dose of familial lore and a fabulous “pot liqueur” can modify any Southern heritage. I firmly believe that my Grandparents’ stories about their childhood, home places and family became more and more glorious and even grandiose as they aged. It is only natural for Southerners to cover their “bean” roots and call themselves “peas” as they age. Such rebranding and family pride is as genetic to our makeup as our love for peas. May the circle be unbroken y’all. Amen. (And adding an “amen” is only natural too for Southerners.)





Just like a Southern Belle herself, Lady Peas have a few hallmark characteristics that set them apart from other “cowpeas” or more eloquently said “Southern Peas.” Lady Peas are not “crowded” in their shells like their “Crowder” cousins, rather resting ever so daintily in their hulls. Why is the group called “cowpeas” one may ask? Well, you try having to decide to feed your family or your livestock after Sherman ransacked your farm. Those “cowpeas” cooked up nicely and in turn, became a Southern staple foodstuff after the Civil War. Not that peas were not eaten in antebellum times, the Black Eyed and other “cowpeas” were more so thought of as fodder. I doubt though that Ol’ Bessie ate her Black Eyed peas with a hank of fatback and billowing pan of cornbread. For a refresher course on why we Southerners eat what we eat on New Years, Black Eyed peas notwithstanding, check out my New Year’s menu history! Ok, back to Lady Peas…

Lady Peas also yield a much more delicate, sweet flavor with a creamy texture and a clear broth upon cooking – not a darker, brooding broth as many of their cousins do. Oh so ladylike y’all! A direct quote from my beloved Mimi, “If all I had to do was rock babies and shell peas, I’d be in heaven.” I can’t help but think that’s what Mimi is up to now.

For my Lady Pea Salad in A Time to Cook, I wanted the very essence of the pea to be forthcoming and prominent. Thus, this salad is a blanched pea salad. Blanching peas is paramount to preserving and cooking, but I love the texture of blanched peas. A bit of crunch to soak up the dressing. This recipe is a simple and very elegant dish – perfect for a side to any summertime meal, a light snack or as a spread of sorts – a Southern caviar if you will. Besides, if you have some fine Southern ladies in your life, I’m sure they will love this recipe. Southern Ladies are a treasure and worth being served such a fine delicacy. The chiffonaded basil and minty garnish carry the flavors forward and I’m sure you’ll be having ladies upon ladies asking for seconds – ever so elegantly of course.




Photography by Helen Norman

3 cups blanched peas of your choice, e.g., lady peas
1 cup sour cream
½ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2-3 basil leaves, cut in chiffonade
mint for garnish

Combine all ingredients together in a bowl and serve warm after blanching or chilled. It’s quite tasty both ways. Chopped mint is a nice addition to the salad as well as a garnish.

Farmer’s Note: my Herbed Mayonnaise for my Tomato Aspic is also a delicious dressing for this salad

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Farmdale

If any of y’all have ever built a house from the ground up, you KNOW it is a process. You pay lots and lots of money for things you don’t even see – foundations, encapsulation, ductwork, bracing, cinderblocks that you’re just going to cover with brick... but… you’ve got to have these things before you can have your Georgia pine board and batten siding, your antique bricks (and their expensive mortar mind you), your “tin” roof and your shutters. Ahhh, shutters. Those will probably be a post in and of themselves.

 




To build from the ground up or renovate or whatever your house’s project may be, you must have a great team. Thankfully, I have such a team. Every morning, they see me bouncing out of my suburban (clad in plaid and some sort of loafer), and they know that I’ll scale any scaffolding, race across any roof, load up any ladder or meet them wherever their working to investigate the progress. Pester – maybe – but that has such a negative connotation. I prefer “check in” for that allows me to “check out” and let them finish their task at hand. If I didn’t “check out” and head back to JFI, then I’d probably stay all day on the job site and rearrange the kitchen layout a dozen times, move the steps at least once and start painting. I am terrific at starting a paint job – finishing one is NOT my strong suit. I am good with color, so maybe I should stick with selection rather than application.


 


 

I’ve known several of the guys building Farmdale Cottage since we were kids. Most all of them have worked with me on clients’ homes around Middle Georgia, and I find that very comforting. There is a trust factor and comradery almost with these guys, for we’ve moved furniture and walls together, transformed outdated bathrooms and kitchens together and now, we’re building Farmdale together.



 
My sister Maggie captured all these action shots and some construction details. I don’t covet the guys from Wall 2 Wall Construction working in this summer heat, but I do appreciate them doing so. The brick foundation is almost complete, the roof is starting this week, windows and doors arrived and some are even being installed. I’m still a good ways away from planning my first dinner party (which I’m afraid will probably be delivery pizza and paper plates until I get all moved and settled in), but I cannot wait nonetheless. Big Napp had a slogan when our church was moving from the old sanctuary to the new one – “joy of the journey.” It is a journey – amen to that right? But the joy comes in the little things – the little steps – that all slowly but surely come together and create the journey proper. The journey is the story.

 

 

 

So, from the Georgia Red Clay piles of Farmdale to you, thanks y’all for letting me share some of my joy on this journey.



Tuesday, August 12, 2014

QVC: In the Kitchen with David

ITKWD or “In the Kitchen with David” is the top rated cooking show on QVC that sells everything you could EVER want, need, dream of or not even know you need! I’d seen my friends Brandon Branch and Mrs. Paula on the show along with other authors and cooks I know or have read and always thought that such an opportunity would be so fun. Y’all, it was!!!


The opportunity presented itself several months ago and the lead time was an amazing process. Conference calls, trips to Pennsylvania for training, recipe selection, planning, planning and more planning all took time and energy to build up to the big day. If y’all are every by chance in the West Chester, PA neck of the woods, stop in and take a QVC tour – it is unbelievable in size, scale, logistics and production!

David Venable is a terrific host – warm, jovial and Southern too! Such a trait was a relief, considering that my recipe selection involved Mac-n- Cheese, Fried Okra and Sour Cream Biscuits! And, not to brag – never mind I’m bragging – my food was awarded THREE “Happy Dances” from David himself – tied for the record! Grown-up Dirt Cake, Cornmeal Catfish, Chocolate Ganache Poundcake – y’all I had enough food there for Pharaoh’s Army to feast! The food stylist and kitchen crew did an amazing job bringing my recipes to life and staging the table too! I LOVED that after the quick eight minutes of air-time, the camera and production crew descended on the table and feasted in a frenzied fashion! They kept going on and on about how good it all was… I simply told them to come on Down South for more!

 

The build up to air-time, the prep, the planning and the travel were all worth it! I hope y’all caught a glimpse of yours truly on ITKWD on QVC – it was the chance of a lifetime! I am so thankful for such an opportunity and hope to have another chance one day. Until, then, I’ll be cooking from Dinner on the Grounds and dancing a “Happy Dance” or two of my own… and maybe cooking from the pans I ordered and slicing, dicing, chopping and chiffonading from the knifes I bought too! Ha!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Iron Skillet Peach Pie

This peachy keen series has been a real peach y'all! I could (and do nearly) eat peaches nearly every meal, every day!

Early August is here and the close of peach season in my neck of the woods is drawing nigh. Thankfully 'maters and peas and other summer produce will take us into an Indian Summer and then, thankfully into fall!

I have two sets of iron skillets - one set for savory cooking and one set for sweets. There's hardly anything better than a good iron skillet, but there's hardly anything worse than a peach or apple or berry pie that tastes like onions and gravy! Trust this Farmer, keep a sweet skillet handy so you don't serve onion/gravy flavored peach pie at a dinner party!




Mimi was the source - of course - of any of my iron skillet prowess. She taught me about cooking with them, in them, seasoning them and even bringing a rusty one back to life. She told me that if the house caught on fire, grab the silver and family photos - the skillets will be just fine!

So here is one of my favorite pies in an iron skillet - peach! Followed closely by apple and bringing up the rear would be my pineapple upside cake. The iron gets so hot that the cake or pies cook quickly and give your crust some crunch and substance. Besides tasting absolutely divine, these desserts are beautifully presented in their skillet caches - one less dish to wash and allows for easy reheating!



I'm a firm believer that pies are best two ways - first out of the oven upon their baking's completion and secondly reheated in the oven. Both methods are followed by generous servings of vanilla ice cream of course. Casseroles, spaghetti and lasagna are better reheated in the oven the next day too sans vanilla ice cream!!!

As the peach season draws to a close (I'm gonna stock up on a couple late season varieties to put up), I think this dish is lovely salute to summer and Southern cooking! If you can't make it or bake it in an iron skillet, you may need to think about what you're cooking!

Enjoy y'all!

Photography by Helen Norman

2 piecrusts*
12 or so peaches, peeled or skin on
3 ½ tablespoons minute tapioca
1 scant cup sugar
½ teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons cinnamon, divided
3 tablespoons drawn butter
1/8 cup vanilla sugar**

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Roll out the piecrusts, lining the dough into a deep-dish iron skillet. Reserve the second crust for the topper; cut out leaf shapes or weave a lattice if you’re feeling crafty.

Mix together peaches, tapioca, sugar, almond and 1 tablespoon cinnamon in a large bowl; set aside.

Add peach mixture to the pie pan and then start your leaf topper. Begin in the center and work outwards, covering and layering the leaves in rough concentric rings. If not using leaf shapes, just cover the pie and seal the top edges to the bottom crust with fingers or a fork.

Glaze the top with the drawn butter and then sprinkle with a mixture of vanilla sugar and remaining 1 tablespoon cinnamon. If the top is a solid piece, cut a couple of slits for ventilation. Place pie pan on a baking sheet in case of spillovers, and bake until golden and bubbly, about 1 hour. If you want it pretty for serving, let it rest; otherwise, dig right in! Peach mush tastes just fine!

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream – or homemade crème fresh.




*Use Tart Dough recipe, page 164, or your own favorite recipe. Otherwise, a store-bought piecrust is one of the best inventions around.

**Vanilla sugar is sugar infused with a vanilla bean pod. After scraping clean a vanilla seed pod, insert the pod into a sugar container and allow the essences of the two to meld together. Keep adding pods and sugar as you use the two and you’ll have vanilla sugar for years!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Farmdale Inspiration

This a rendering of the Leroy Post Office, Leroy, Alabama - Big Napp's hometown.

 

My cousin, Julia Harwell Segar, captured in watercolor and pencil the very essence of this timber framed, metal roof clad building back in 1977 - five years before I was born. This painting has hung at my Mimi and Granddaddy's house my entire life, yet it wasn't until design classes at Auburn would I learn that roofline was a "clipped hip" type of gable... I just knew I liked the look of it.

When I first saw Spitzmiller and Norris' rendering of Farmdale Cottage, I knew it was meant to be the "look" of my home. Farmdale boasts a prominent center gable with a clipped hip: a feature I've longed for with that sense of longing a home can bring to a Southerner's nostalgic mindset. And I didn't tell my architects this either - serendipitous and divine perhaps...

We are a people influenced by our people. Genetics don't lend us eye color and balding patterns alone, they give us our taste and even design prowess I think. An artist friend of mine who moved from The South after college said longingly that he "thought Southerners were innately good artists and designers. It's in blood. Just look at their homes!"

I concur with my friend. My family has a saying we refer to as "seed corn." Meaning, that an ear of corn can drop "seed" or it's kernels and generations can sprout forth from there. Yet, the seed corn may produce exact genetic replicas or maybe even different versions. Taller stalked, longer leaved, speckled kernels ... Whatever the outcome of the seed corn's germination, sometimes something really interesting happens a generation or two later.

I love cooking, design, blue and white china, gardening and walking down our country road (not running mind you). I love my family and love feeding them. These aren't unique qualities by any stretch, but my great-grandmother, Eugenia Tate Granade, loved all these things too. These exact same things.

I'm her seed corn. Though I never knew her, my affinity for birds, love of country, bucolic landscapes, admiration for pansies and violas and nandina berries and walks in the country are directly from her. Big Napp has always told me I reminded him of his mama - one of my highest complements and honors.

Mrs. Genie Granade is my great-grandmother of mention while Jeanie Granade Farmer was my mother - a little more seed corn for y'all. Mrs. Genie loved writing too - and was a stickler for grammar. I get that from her too. Mrs. Genie would quickly correct anyone out of love, for she loved the King's English and her students too much to speak incorrectly. She believed as I do that it is absolutely and perfectly wonderful to be from towns like Leroy or Perry or Hawkinsville - just don't give those towns a bad reputation with your speech! I've terrified too many friends with grammatical corrections. I'm not a grammar saint by any measure, but I do believe that folks do not know they're using the pronoun "I" incorrectly - it's a rampant epidemic!!! Another post for another time y'all.

Mrs. Genie walked everyday from her small farmhouse to the Leroy post office. She also drank one small "co-cola" everyday too. This several mile walk was her exercise, and she tread this path nearly year round and well into her twilight years. Akin to Miss Elizabeth Bennett's belief in the nobility of walking the English countryside, Mrs. Genie's jaunts to the post office were parallel in her belief too that these walks were enlightening, dignified and superb for one's mental and physical well being.

Now, as Farmdale Cottage is taking shape, I'm seeing the roofline come to life and can't help but be reminded of the Leroy post office. Maybe this seed corn has indeed sprouted up like his great-grandmother in a landscape he loves and surrounded by family too. And maybe, just maybe, if I look down my country road with hope and whimsy and nostalgia, I might see Mrs. Genie walking towards Farmdale. I'll have a "co-cola" in a small glass bottle awaiting her.

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