I was so fortunate to have a mom who was a great Southern cook. I remember when she discovered spaghetti…not the pasta itself but the box of Chef Boyardee (pronounced Boy R D) which included pasta, sauce and “parmesan”. That was gourmet. We would eat at “fancy” restaurants…like Pancho’s in Memphis and try to replicate it at home…anything ethnic was gourmet to mom. Today her most memorable efforts would be considered comfort food. Nevertheless, there was one ingredient included in everything she did…that was LOVE. Mom cooked our every meal as if it were the last meal we would have together. Additionally, she cooked for everyone she loved who had a sniffle, brought a new baby home and funerals…MERCY!!! Funeral food was one of her specialties but that’s for another post…or two.
I feel her near me everytime I walk in the kitchen and I take great pride in including her special ingredient. This weekend our cousin Susan visited from San Diego. We had a wonderful time at Memphis Farmer’s Market…Brandt even put on a hat and went with us. Everything the farmer’s provide is so inspiring…not just for the hand picked freshness but because I get to look in the eye of the person who tilled the ground, planted the seeds and reaped the harvest. I try to make sure I offer them love, as well. As I designer I know money is great but words of gratitude and admiration have value that last much longer than the money. Getting to shop in this environment makes cooking for loved ones even more dynamic.
I can’t get enough of sweet and savory salads…where summer fruit is combined with traditional salad vegetables. Our salad combined a Marshall (MS) county watermelon with Pontotoc (MS) county blueberries, Tate (MS) county cucumber with mango and baby romaine from Fresh Market.
Cucumber, Watermelon and Mango Salad
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger, minced
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
- 3 cups watermelon balls
- 1 english (mother called them burpless) cucumber, spiraled
- 1 ripe mango, cubed
- 1 cup blueberries
- 1 small serrano chile, sliced thin
- 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
- 1/4 cup basil, chopped
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
- Baby Romaine
Whisk together the first five ingredients. Arrange baby romaine around the edge of a round bowl or shallow platter. Mound watermelon in the center of the lettuce. Arrange cucumber spirals around the melon (cut the spirals in pieces that are serviceable; I didn’t and when Marcy took the first serving she got the entire cucumber). Dot the cucumber with mango and blueberries. Just before serving gently add the pepper, herbs and nuts to the dressing and drizzle over the salad.
Serve. Eat. Feel loved.
Tomato Pie and Lady Peas
We call on the memory of our dear, sweet friend Teresa. She loved to make tomato pie and we loved to eat it. She also did this version of Lady Peas. I never did either because depended on her. And, her way was not the way mom cooked peas. Now, we don’t get to enjoy them at Teresa’s house so I do Tomato Pie because Brandt loves it and do T’s Lady Peas to feel her near… and because they are damned good.
Tomato Pie…Tim’s way
- Slice 3 large tomatoes. Place the slices between sheets of paper towel. Salt generously and let sit at least 30 minutes
- Preheat oven to 350
- While tomatoes are weeping bake your favorite pie crust until firm
- When crust has cooled sprinkle a layer of parmesan cheese over the bottom of the crust
- Arrange tomato slices evenly over the cheese
- Generously add cracked black pepper
- Mix 1 cup of mayonnaise, 1/2 cup of mozzarella, 1/2 cup of cheddar, 2 tablespoons of chopped basil and spread mixture over tomatoes
- Top with a sprinkling of parmesan
- Bake 30 minutes or until the color you prefer…I go a bit beyond golden because I like to let the cheese create a crust
Remove from oven and let set for 15 minutes. Serve and even though it’s good enough…don’t slap your momma.
Lady Peas…T’s way
- Empty a quart ziplock of Lady Peas (that’s how they come at Memphis Farmers Market) into a saucepan; add enough chicken stock to cover
- Bring to a boil; turn down to simmer; add a teaspoon of fresh thyme and cook to desired tenderness.
- Before serving bring to a boil to heat thoroughly; use a skimmer to remove the peas from the broth into a serving dish.
- Drizzle with really good olive oil and finish with your favorite finishing salt…and if you’re thinking is that all…yes, as long as you use good stock, at least try it before you add whatever.
Serve. Eat. Think about someone you love who loved you without condition.
Short Ribs and Summer Saute’
This is a 123 recipe
- Slice, cube or julienne the vegetables that looked good at market (or whatever you bought because the farmer is really cute)…this is summer squash, zucchini, eggplant, onion and red bell pepper
- Heat 30/30/30ish blend of olive oil, butter and bacon grease (that’s what mom called it) and add the vegetables to the hot oil
- Cover and let the heat do it’s magic. Stir once or twice until they are cooked to your desired tenderness. Finish with salt and pepper.
Sever hot in a bowl of love. Shown above is Stella’s china…grandmother of Brandt and Susan; passed down to Brandt’s mom Helen; passed down to Brandt.
Braised and Grilled Short Ribs
I found the short ribs at Whole Foods. They were about 4″ long and so meaty….I couldn’t pass them up. To begin, I generously dressed the ribs with kosher salt and cracked pepper. I sliced a whole onion and arranged it in the bottom of Dutch Oven. I added 4 cloves of garlic, pressed and 4 cups of red wine. With the ribs standing bone side down I started on top of the stove and brought the pot to a boil, then put the lid on and placed them in a 450 degree oven. They stayed at 450 for 20 minutes then I turned the oven down to 250 and braised them until fork tender…about an hour and a half…time will changed based on length and thickness of your ribs. I removed them and let them come to room temperature. Before serving I took the ribs to a hot grill and charred them on all sides helping to remove most of the remaining fat. I brought the red wine, onion and garlic back to temperature and added blue oyster and shiitake mushrooms I’d sauteed in bacon drippings and herbs provence.
Place the ribs on a platter, spoon the mushroom and red wine sauce over and serve. I think short ribs are the modern version of the Sunday Pot Roast. There are no words for the love a mom has to get up early on Sunday, put Sunday lunch on the stove, cook Sunday breakfast (another blog post), put on church clothes (not the same thing she’d wear to the grocery store), go to church, then come home and serve her family a meal…often with a visiting preacher, missionary or musician. When she finally sat down to a table laden with enough food to feed a small third world country she would say…”I hope I’ve got something y’all can eat”.
Now, that’s cooking with love.
I hope your house is full of love and when you sit down with your family and friends…
a good time is had by all!!!