October 2010


I’m from a part of the South that’s not very southern, and my mother always cooked healthy food. As a result, I don’t actually have fond childhood memories of most traditional southern foods. It’s only as an adult that I’ve learned to cook things like fried green tomatoes and biscuits—and I still haven’t  mustered the courage to tackle fried chicken.

I do, however, have childhood memories of cheese straws. Not because my mother made them, or because they were “almost always present at celebrations,” as this recipe claims, but because they were sold at A Southern Season, the local gourmet emporium. I loved those things, but yes, even my cheese straws managed to be inauthentic and rather yuppie.

But now, having made the real thing, I see what all the fuss is about. They look like a strange malignant french fry—parsnip fries, maybe?—but they’re cheesy and crunchy and fabulous. And they are, as the recipe suggests, the perfect party snack.

Smile and say "parsnip fries."

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At some point I ended up with very definite ideas about what a party spread entails. For example, items should be okay served at room temperature (which eliminates most of my favorite fried foods) and should be largely eatable with one’s fingers. There should also be a good mix of sweet and savory; within the sweet category, there should be some chocolate and some not-chocolate, and the items should take different forms. It simply would not do to have, say, both chocolate cake and lemon cake.

So after I’d settled on a chocolaty cake recipe (coming soon!), I had to find some additional dessert that was neither chocolate nor cake. An added challenge: the chocolaty cake called for buttermilk. Usually, when I buy buttermilk for a recipe, I end up throwing the majority of it away. But if I could manage to use the buttermilk for my cookies, I would feel so terribly efficient and thrifty!

Enter these cookies to save the day. Not only do they meet my party specifications and use buttermilk, but they are tangy and moist and altogether lovely.

Not chocolate, not cake.

I still have some buttermilk left, so I might have to make many more batches of these.

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Dearest blog,

I am so sorry for having neglected you. I was packing and moving and traveling—I wasn’t just not blogging, I wasn’t cooking at all. It was a sad state of affairs.

But now I’m back, with a shiny new kitchen to boot! And thanks to a party I had last weekend, I have  thoroughly broken in that new kitchen. (In fact, I very nearly broke it.) Now I have a whole raft of new recipes to post about, and I will do my very best not to abandon you ever again.

One of my favorite dishes from the party was one of the simplest: this roasted vegetable spread. It’s  the contents of the ubiquitous (and usually not very good) roasted or grilled vegetable sandwich that is often the only vegetarian option at a sandwich shop, only reconfigured into something  absurdly delicious. I’m pretty sure this spread would make an amazing sandwich, especially with some feta cheese. I might have tested that if there had been any left, but no luck.

Sandwich in a bowl.

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