New takes on food from the South
Here are some recipes that will give you a taste of the "New South."
Whether you're in the South, from the South, or never even been to the South, it's easy to appreciate this simple sorbet of pureed watermelon and strawberries from John Besh's cookbook "My New Orleans."
The secret to knowing whether you've added enough sugar to your sorbet? According to Besh, you just need to float an egg in the puree before you freeze it.
He says that if you float a clean egg (in the shell) in the mixture, you can tell whether you need to add more sugar (if the egg sinks) or more juice or water (if the egg floats high on the mixture). Ideally, the egg will float just at the surface, showing about a nickel-size spot of shell.
• 1 pint strawberries, hulled
• 1 cup diced, seeded watermelon
• 1 teaspoon lemon juice
• 1/4 cup sugar
In a blender, puree the strawberries, watermelon, lemon juice and sugar until smooth. Check that the puree has the correct amount of sugar. Add more sugar or juice if necessary (determine using method described above).
Transfer the puree to the canister of an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer's instructions. Keep the sorbet in the freezer until ready to use.
Makes 6 servings.
• Per 1/4-cup serving: 63 calories; 1 calorie from fat; 0 g fat; 0 mg cholesterol; 18 g carbohydrate; 0 g protein; 1 g fiber; 1 mg sodium.
Fried whole cherry tomatoes may sound unusual, but they are beautiful and delicious. Besh gives them a simple tempura-like batter and an easy aioli sauce for dipping.
Any small, cluster (on the vine) tomatoes work in this recipe. Most grocers sell several varieties this way.
FRIED TOMATOES WITH AIOLI
For the aioli:
• 6 cloves garlic
• 1 tablespoon lemon juice
• 1 tablespoon ice water
• 2 egg yolks
• 2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
For the tomatoes:
• 1 quart olive or vegetable oil
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• Pinch salt
• 1 1/4 cups club soda
• 24 to 36 small cluster (on the vine) tomatoes
To make the aioli, in a food processor combine the garlic, lemon juice, water and egg yolks. Process until thick and evenly pureed. With the processor running, add a pinch of salt, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil.
If the aioli looks oily, add a touch more ice water. The color should be pale yellow and the texture should be matte, not glossy. Set aside.
In a deep heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high, heat the oil to 350 F.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl whisk together the flour and salt. Add the club soda, whisking gently to keep the batter fluffy. The batter will be thin.
Use scissors to cut the tomato vines to divide them into small clusters. Rinse the tomatoes and pat them dry.
Working in batches, dip each cluster into the batter, coating them all over, then carefully slip them into the hot oil. Fry the tomatoes until the batter is lacy, crisp and golden brown, about 1 minute. Using metal tongs or a slotted spoon, carefully transfer the tomatoes to paper towels to drain. Serve with aioli.
Makes 6-8 servings.
Nutritional analysis was not available.
This dense, rich cake from Joan Aller's forthcoming cookbook, "Cider Beans, Wild Greens and Dandelion Jelly" (a collection of recipes from southern Appalachia due out in June), is remarkably easy to make, but incredibly flavorful.
She says it is based on cakes assembled at family reunions and other celebrations in the region. She says each family would bring a single layer. The collection of layers then would be assembled into a single cake at the event.
For most of us, the two layers in this recipe probably will be plenty.
MOUNTAIN MOLASSES STACK CAKE
For the cake:
• 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
• 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
• 1 large egg
• 1/4 cup molasses
• 1/4 cup buttermilk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 tablespoon baking powder
• 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the filling:
• 2 cups finely chopped apples
• 1/4 cup water
• 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
To make the cake, heat the oven to 350 F. Lightly oil and flour the bottoms of two 8-inch round cake pans.
In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream the brown sugar and butter until light. Slowly add the egg and molasses, then blend well. Beat in the buttermilk, vanilla and nutmeg.
In a second bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Slowly add the flour mixture to the molasses mixture and mix until thoroughly incorporated.
Pour half of the batter into each of the prepared cake pans. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted at the center of each cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in their pans on a wire rack.
While the cakes cool, make the filling. In a medium saucepan over medium, combine the apples and water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are tender. Stir in the brown sugar and cinnamon. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and is syrupy.
Place one of the cooled cake layers on a serving plate. Spread half of the filling on top. Place the second cake layer on top, then spread the remaining filling over it.
Makes 8 servings.
• Per serving: 452 calories; 106 calories from fat; 12 g fat (7 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 53 mg cholesterol; 84 g carbohydrate; 5 g protein; 1 g fiber; 433 mg sodium.