12.10.2014

Spiced Pecan Linzer Cookies

Spiced Pecan Linzer Cookies  (1 of 1)

Spiced Pecan Linzer Cookies

Spiced Pecan Linzer Cookies

We've Come This Far By Faith… 

This time of year brings about traditions together with recipes that conjure up some of your fondest memories. For the holidays are normally joyous times with unforgettable moments. One memory that keeps flashing in my mind with the current state of this nation, was a story I learned as a child over sugar cookies with jelly filled centers. It would be my first time ever hearing of Mahalia Jackson as well as my first history lesson in injustice.
The same injustice that we seem to still be fighting.
It was a cold winter that year in North Carolina, which brought hopes of snowflakes and snowballs, none of which we would see that December. However the weather kept us inside, my Granny and I. Snuggled together in the interior of that little yellow kitchen with flowered linoleum floors and the washing machine that would shake the stove during it's spin cycle. They were side by side you see. As we rolled out dough and cut out cookies, I listened to my Granny sing..
"We've come this far by faith, leaning on the Lord... Trusting in his holy word.. He's never failed me yet" 
" Oh Oh Oh..Can't turn around, we've come this far by faith"
She sang this with such passion and spirit that I found myself singing along with just as much zeal. All the while having no concept of the true emotion that song brought about.
"There was a time we had to fight for the same rights, sweet pea. We sang and marched so that we could be treated equally and fairly.. it was a very sad time back then" is what she told me.
Indeed it is a very sad time right now....

Spice Pecan Linzer Cookies

She sang more songs and described the first time she heard Mahalia Jackson sing "Just a closer walk with thee".
I can't recount that part of the story word for word but her singing,just the thought has me in tears as I remember her singing, hear her voice in my head. She was just so passionate about that one particular song..
"These songs.. they filled us with hope, that God was watching and that the battle is not lost... we truly had come so far by faith.. we had to keep believing in that"
She would hold steadfast to that faith until the day she died.
The story itself was of the first time she made those cookies we were preparing and took them to a mother who had just lost her son. Like I said I can not recount her version however my mother.. her version I can recall word for angry word..
"It was 1956, his name was Lee, we were in the same English class. He was walking home from the park and cut through the wrong neighborhood. We weren't allowed to walk through they're F-king neighborhood Erika, can you imagine how that feels? They shot him, said he was a robber.. What he was... was g-damn a straight A student walking home from the park..!"
She was so angry.. so very very angry.. even some 30 years later.
Never ever in my life would I think I would have to try to explain anything like this to my kids almost 60 years later.
The story is different now but the feelings are the same.
I'm at such a loss.. Sitting in my chair watching the world unfold on my tv screen. Since I cook when I'm angry, my kitchen has been filled to the brim yet I just couldn't bring myself to post, couldn't bring myself to do anything but cry thinking of my mother's pain masked as anger over losing a friend and Granny's singing and her undying faith even during times of such adversity.
With so much of the conversations around race and diversity being driven by the media, the narrative of the events in the Eric Gardner and Michael Brown cases are sometimes confusing to the generation that will eventually lead us.
I feel this is an issue that should be rectified..
The questions from my teenage daughter are endless and heartbreaking.
"Do they really hate us.. the police I mean.. should I really be afraid of them? I don't want to be treated differently mama.."
I try to explain.. I do..
Yet, I don't understand myself and unfortunately she will always be treated differently.
So Sunday, as we made these cookies, I just couldn't help myself..I started singing..
"We've come this far by faith" She joined in and I told her as much as I could remember of the story the first time Granny heard Mahalia Jackson sing at a civil rights rally in Birmingham Alabama. What that rally was about and the change it brought about. I told her the story of Lee Washington the reason behind those actions and the heartbreak that it caused. Yet explained how far we've come and how we have to believe that there are good and bad cops.. that the battle is not lost, we will keep fighting for justice. Peacefully on the right side of the law.

Spiced Pecan Linzer Cookies

The cookies we made way back when were simple sugar cookies with a thumbprint in the middle and some peach preserves spilling over the centers, much different from these meticulous Linzer cookies my daughter chose to make. I have to say how truly blessed I was to have stood in the kitchen of Geraldine G Dortch, my granny. Where I listened to each and everyone one of her stories and sang each and everyone of her songs. To be able to hear the first hand accounts of walking for miles to boycott the bus in 1955 to how on a Wednesday in 1963 she stood on Lincoln Memorial and heard that I Have a Dream speech, her arms linked with those around her.. singing…
"We can't turn around.. we've come this far by faith"

Spiced Pecan Linzer Cookies

*Baking cookies and cakes and pies is not my strong suit..(I mean I really have to think about it) You can hear a lot of  NSFW language if you're ever in my presence while making a layer cake. Luckily my daughter picks up where I lack. She made these cookies with little help from me. She's my brightest star who stands in some of those shots that you see on this blog. However this time she was the cook and her excitement was infectious, so much so that I had to share.*

Spiced Pecan Linzer Cookies

Much Love and Peace My Friends.

Spiced Pecan Linzer Cookies 
Prep Time- 35 mins + 4-24 hours chill time   Cook Time- 12-14 mins  Yield- 12 cookies 
Adapted from Southern Living and Smitten Kitchen 


Ingredients: 
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour 
1 cup pecans halves 
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
½ teaspoon ground cloves 
1 cup butter, unsalted and softened 
1/3 cup granulated sugar 
Zest of one lemon 
1 large egg 
1 large egg yolk 
½ cup powdered sugar 
¾ of your favorite jam  
  
  
Directions 
  
In a food processor, pulse the flour, pecans, cinnamon and cloves until finely ground. Set aside 
Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar and lemon zest until butter is fluffy and the sugar and lemon zest are incorporated into the butter.  
Add in the egg and egg yolk one at a time, beating for about 1 minute. Add in flour mixture and mixture until ingredients are well combined.  
Remove dough from mixer and shape into 2 ½ inch thick rectangles. Wrap in plastic wrap and allow dough to chill for 4 to 24 hours.  
When ready to bake: 
Preheat oven to 350 
Once you take the dough out of the fridge I would allow it to soften a little as the cold dough is hard to roll out.  
When ready, flour both sides of the cookie dough and place between 2 sheets of parchment paper, roll each out into a rectangle.  
Cut each rectangle into squares.  
Place cut cookies onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Then cut out the centers of half the cookie dough using a square cutter. Or if you’re a gangsta samurai with mad knife skills you can totally free hand it.  
  
Bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Allow cookies to cool before the next step.  
Spread about a tablespoon of your favorite jam over the solid cookies.. And sprinkle powdered sugar over the hollow cookies.  

Top jam topped solid cookies with the powdered hollow cookie.

11.20.2014

Sweet Pepper Green Beans

Sweet Pepper Green Beans

Sweet Pepper Green Beans

Sweet Pepper Green Beans

Sweet Pepper Green Beans

Let's continue with the "meat and three" dialog from last week, with one more side dish, if you don’t mind.
Onward with "string beans" .. those long green poles that are tucked away in casseroles or boiled in a stock pot full of pork bits and butter. Often leaving little yellow puddles of grease along the way. Certainly I prefer them in this manner; with the grease puddles that is.
Be that as it may, I realize that for some of those living outside of the southern-fried world that I grew up in, grease is the devil. For a southerner, the devil looks more like a jar of miracle whip, however that is a conversation for later.
My Aunt Mabel would cut a major side eye at this recipe and ask me where the hell is the pork fat that should be simmering in these greens... that would be after my grandma asked why the hell I didn't "snap'em". Once the beans were prepped, they spent hours stewing in large pots. Which produced melt in your mouth greens of glory; with odd coloring. I can recall countless times, sitting on a stool snapping the ends off of green beans. So much so that it wasn't until college at this little diner, complete with checked table clothes and crackled seat spinning counter stools, that I had a run in with a different type of green bean. In an effort to ease my pangs of homesickness and longing for greasy chicken and whipped up mashed potatoes, I ordered the "country special".
Quickly, I found solace in a plate of crispy golden friend chicken, cloudlike potatoes with a well of peppered gravy and string beans so vibrant in color I thought they may have been plastic. Not to mention they were crunchy and came with the ends that granny used to so forcefully snap off. Did I say they were damn good, that bares repeating. So good that when the waitress brought me a second helping, I timidly asked for the recipe, then found myself spellbound by a long conversation about her cousins famous pole beans and sea island red peas. Which made me completely unaware of the fact she never gave me what I'd asked for, the simple process of how one would recreate those greens. Still, it was here that I returned whenever that sense of home was missing, I could always find it somewhere on the menu. A plate of candied yams, pork chops smothered in gravy and string beans nestled together with onions and red hot peppers. As well as Ms. Kathy, the waitress originally from Greenwood South Carolina, who at times, would give me a free slice of pie when no one was looking.
So here is my best rendition of those delectable green beans, complete with sweet peppers and onions..

Sweet Pepper Green Beans

Sweet Pepper Green Beans

Sweet Pepper Green Beans
Prep Time: 20mins Cook Time: 15 mins Yields: 4 servings
Adapted from a recipe that I found in Southern Living magazine a few years back. 

Ingredients:
1 pound fresh green beans
5 sweet peppers, sliced
½ medium size sweet onion, sliced
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon peanut oil
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon salt. Add the green beans to boiling water and cook until tender; about 4-5 minutes. Drain and run under cold water to cool.
In a separate bowl stir together brown sugar, soy sauce and crushed red pepper. Set aside.
In a skillet, heat peanut oil. Add in onion and sweet pepper slices and sauté over high heat for 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat. Mix together green beans with sweet peppers and onions. Pour brown sugar/soy sauce mixture over vegetables tossing to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve immediately.

11.13.2014

Cane Syrup Roasted Sweet Potatoes…. The Southern Candied Yams

Cane Syrup Roasted Sweet Potatoes- Candied Yams 4 (1 of 1)


Cane Syrup Roasted Sweet Potatoes- Candied Yams 1 (1 of 1)

Cane Syrup Roasted Sweet Potatoes- Candied Yams 2 (1 of 1)

With the "all you can eat" holidays vastly approaching, there is an abundance of holiday recipes on the internet. To be honest, the southerner in my likes to stick to the old meat and three.
I grew up on my grandma's  "Meat N Three" cooking , so I can't help but seek them out in every city I visit, which has taught me that the entire concept is a more southern culinary tradition . Nowadays  you're more likely to get a "three + no meat" type of situation.
Which is cool, but I just have this deep affection for a heaping of fried chicken, a slice of ham, or to be more fitting with the season.. a juicy turkey wing smothered in gravy. And that meat has no business on your plate without the accompaniment of 3 sides, from mashed potatoes to collards swimming in potlikker and ham hocks.
So to prepare for the up coming holiday seasons, the time when it's ok to eat everything and then feel sorry for it later. I thought I would post a few side dish recipes; a few that I’ve easily adapted from some of my favorite "meat and three" restaurants here in the south. \
From Mary Mac's Tea Room right here in Atlanta to my Grandma's place in Chapel Hill N.C.
Sweet potatoes are more widely known as “candied yams” here in the southern states. Yes, we are fully aware that they're not “yams” but the 2 terms are commonly used synonymously as one and the same. Busy Bee cafĂ©  is probably one of the best Soul Food restaurants in Atlanta. The “cook’s” special is normally what I order. Your choice of meat from meatloaf to chicken giblets, with a side of cornbread, a tall glass of sweet tea and of course 3 sides. One side dish in particular is a little off white ceramic bowl, filled to the brim with buttery, sugary roasted sweet potatoes or better known as candied yams.. So here, I’ve made my version of their candied yams with a little cane syrup and brown sugar. 

Cane Syrup Roasted Sweet Potatoes- Candied Yams 3 (1 of 1)



Disclaimer- I don’t eat like that everyday. I would recommend that you don’t either. But like I said... the holidays call for over indulgence and I’m totally ok with that. 

Cane Syrup Roasted Sweet Potatoes 
 Prep Time 30 mins Cook Time- 35-40mins Yields- 8 servings

Ingredients:
4 Sweet Potatoes, peeled and sliced
3 teaspoons olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ stick butter, unsalted, melted
2/3 cup of cane syrup
3 tablespoons brown sugar
Few sprigs of fresh thyme

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 In large bowl, place sweet potato slices. In a separate bowl, mix the olive oil, salt, butter, brown sugar and cane syrup together to combine. Pour cane syrup mixture over the sweet potatoes, tossing to coat. Arrange sweet potato slices in a single layer of a lightly greased baking pan. (There should be excess syrup mixture in the bowl).
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Turn slices over and pour remaining syrup mixture on top. Bake for about 10-12 more minutes or until golden and tender. Transfer sweet potatoes to serving dish, then top with fresh thyme.

11.05.2014

Buttermilk Sorghum Apple Cobbler

Buttermilk Sorghum Apple Cobbler

Buttermilk Sorghum Apple Cobbler

Buttermilk Sorghum Apple Cobbler

Buttermilk Sorghum Apple Cobbler

Change..
Like the seasons seems to be inevitable.
We become comfortable in our routines and at times this change can be undesired, even when you yourself put the wheels in motion. After 5 1/2 years at the same place of employment, I felt the need for change. Something a bit more challenging. I fought an internal battle of indifference while updating my resume.
Do I really want to do this? 
In the end, the constant struggle I face to stay awake amongst what have become somewhat monotonous tasks had me on Dice.com looking for a new position.
One that came within 2 weeks.
Clearly that was my sign.
However, now I had to set forth into a new frontier, pull up my anchor and drift off with the wind. That was probably the hardest part; imagine how heavy an anchor can become when one finds comfort on the island of job security.
Ha! Job Security.. Is there really such thing?
One can become blinded and mistake longevity for security. That is, until you're being thanked for your years of hard work while subsequently being escorted out the building. After days of debating, a bit of negotiation and encouraging words from family, I decided to set sail. Hopefully the weather won't turn shaky and wash me into a cyclonic tidal wave or something more titanic, like an iceberg.
Decidedly, good news calls for cobbler.. and a ridiculous amount of bourbon to ward off the morbid thoughts of "Is this the right decision".
So with a few apples, biscuit batter like ingredients and an unhealthy amount of sugar and sorghum syrup, I made y'all some cobbler.
Buttermilk Sorghum Apple Cobbler.
Then I ate it.
My Granny used lots of Sorghum or molasses in just about every pie you can imagine.
"There ain't no need for sugar" 
 Well I have to disagree a little, for the crust needed about a cup of sugar to set it off just right. Sorghum always seemed to be a bit harder to come by than molasses, if my memory serves me correct. So anytime we came about this golden sweet syrup it was mixed into just about anything. Or poured onto a hot biscuit… better yet, a hot plate of griddle cakes. Sweet Sorghum on a hot biscuit is legendary; maybe I should've made that.


Buttermilk Sorghum Apple Cobbler


Buttermilk Sorghum Apple Cobbler


*This cobbler is quite simple. Doesn't call for a lot of ingredients, making it relatively quick to put together. It's been a big hit for decades among my family. Throw in some cranberries or slices or pears to add even more depth to the flavours.*

Buttermilk Sorghum Apple Cobbler  
Prep Time- 30 mins  Cook Time- 40mins  Yield- 6 servings 

Ingredients: 
4 tablespoons melted butter 
6 cups of apples, peeled and sliced  
1 cup sweet sorghum syrup  
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon  
1 teaspoon vanilla extract  
1/2 lemon, juiced  
2 cups self-rising flour 
1 1/2 cup sugar 
2 cups buttermilk 
1/2 teaspoon salt 

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. 
in a 13*9 baking dish, place melted butter. Set aside 
In large bowl, mix together the apples, sorghum, cinnamon, vanilla extract and lemon juice.  Pour apple mixture into baking dish.  
In separate bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, buttermilk and salt until combined.  
Now add the batter to the baking dish by pouring on top of the apples.. it's fine if you can see some of the apples peaking through. This will make for a juicy cobbler with some of the apples baking right into the crust.  
Bake at 350 for 40 minutes, or until bubbly and top begins to brown. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.  

Serve with whipped cream or ice cream 

10.01.2014

Basil Red Curry Biscuits

Herbed Red Curry Biscuits 4 (1 of 1)

Herbed Red Curry Biscuits 1 (1 of 1)

Herbed Red Curry Biscuits 5 (1 of 1)

"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as you please." - Mark Twain

 At this point in our internet relationship you’ve come to understand my obsession with biscuits. Although I must confess, my grandma would think I’m a bit off my rocker with these.
Be that as it may, I’ve gotten the facts first and now I feel the need to distort them as I please..
With Red Curry.
It’s a fact that buttermilk biscuits if not prepared right will make for better door stoppers than something right for human consumption.
I’ve created a legion of these situations..
However, IF your biscuit dough resembles that of pimento cheese, your future will be bright.
On the occasion that one may add golden crispy fried chicken to the center of said biscuits, then drizzles with cane syrup, more than greatness is undoubtedly ahead.
You’re also about to enjoy a great meal.
Fried Chicken and Biscuits would be the meal I was raised on, that and a bowl of hot grits cooked with a can of salmon Q. This was a meal that could transform from a simple Sunday supper to one’s 44th annual Southern Baptist Revival celebration. Also filling the tables of every wedding, christening, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Home Going ceremony…
So one could say I’m partial to crispy crust and flaky centers..
Meaning.. I often find myself washing flour off my hands and adding ingredients not often mixed into biscuits, like red curry paste.
Far from that of the basic biscuit variety, these are giving you that chili-lemongrass-coconut milk-cilantro- garlic tasting flavor and are leaning 100% on the savory dinner biscuit side..
A side that I'm starting to favor..

Herbed Red Curry Biscuits 2 (1 of 1)

Herbed Red Curry Biscuits 3 (1 of 1)



Basil Red Curry Biscuits

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
6 tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces, chilled
2 ½ tablespoons red curry paste
1 cup of buttermilk

Use this recipe for crispy fried chicken to add to these biscuits if desired.

Steen's Cane Syrup goes well with these when drizzle on a warm biscuit. 


Directions:
Preheat oven to 450
Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl, whisk to combine. Cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal.. (think feta).
In a separate small bowl, whisk the red chili paste with the buttermilk until well combined. Add buttermilk mixture and basil, stirring gently to combine If the dough appears on the dry side, add more buttermilk. You want the dough to be wet.  Turn dough out onto a floured surface, gently pat out until its about ½ thick. Fold the dough about 5 times and gently pat out to 1 inch thick.  
Old school trick- after turning the dough out, cut in 4 sections. Stack each section on top of each other, then gently pat into 1 inch thickness.
Using  biscuits cutters, cut into rounds.
Place the biscuits on cookie sheet, baking for about 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.

For biscuits with soft sides, putting them touching each other on the cookie sheet. Placing them 1 inch apart will give you crispy sides