Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Scottsboro Pound Cake

Here is my confessional for the day, ehem, year. Heck, this one is so good it might be good for a decade!
1. I was wrong.
2. My sister was right.
3. I made a mistake.
Actually, number 2 might last me a lifetime! Here's how it all started.

Yesterday, I found a recipe in Kathryn Tucker Windham's, Treasured Alabama Recipes, cookbook. The recipe was called Scottsboro Pound Cake. I have lived in Scottsboro most of my adult life and not once has anyone said anything about Scottsboro Pound Cake. So, being, well, nosy, I just had to give the recipe a try. It wasn't until I started pulling out the ingredients that I realized this recipe was missing some things. First there were no leavening ingredients in the recipe. I was confused. To make matters worse, there was no liquid. I was beginning to think that Kathryn Tucker Windham might have made...alright, I was SURE she HAD made a mistake in writing this recipe. It made me feel a little bit better about the editing errors I have found in my family's own cookbook.  Anyway, as I was coming to this realization, my sister called. Let me preface this by saying, in my defense, my sister does not cook. She said she had been doing a little more cooking lately, but basically, she has not been very interested in cooking. Anyway, she asked what I was doing. I told her and proceeded to explain that Ms. Windham had made some mistakes in her recipe and that I was correcting them by adding baking powder, salt and milk. My sister, in her naivety or lack of experience, or inherent bossiness, said perhaps I should bake the cake as it was written before I started changing things up. I pooh poohed this idea (and I might have rolled my eyes), because nobody in their right mind would make a cake that was not going to rise! We talked some more, ended our chat and I went on about my cake making business. I should mention, at this point, that I accidentally left out one of the sticks of butter, which would definitely make a difference in the outcome! After I got the cake in the oven, I was looking through some of the pound cake recipes in my family's cookbook and noticed one that my sister -in-law had contributed to the book. It was a recipe for cream cheese pound cake and lo, and behold...no leavening, no liquid! I sent a quick text to her to ask if she had made a mistake in typing up the recipe and she said the recipe was correct, there was no mistake. Ok! That sure got me to thinking, so I did a little of what we used to call research, but now we just call it googling. That is when I found an article about pound cakes, how they originated and what ingredients were in the original pound cakes. It turns out. pound cakes originally had four ingredients: butter, sugar, eggs and flour. No liquid! No leavening! Back in the early 1700's, when many people could not read, this was a simple recipe for them to remember. Also, it turns out, it was a good cake to make because people did not have access to many leavening ingredients.  Wow!

You know what that meant! I had to go back and do what my sister had so nonchalantly suggested and make the recipe as written. Now I am sitting here with two pound cakes on my counter. One of them lighter and fluffier and more buttery. The other one is delicious, but not AS delicious. So which is which? The Scottsboro Pound Cake is much better than my corrected version. Who knew that a cake could be light and moist and not heavy or dense without any leavening ingredients of any kind! Who knew I could be so wrong and my sister could be so right!

My "corrected' cake with leavening and liquid ingredients added, but minus one stick of butter. It looks good and it is good!
The pound cake baked "as written" by Kathryn Tucker Windham. It looks good and it was BETTER than my corrected version!

Here are the two cakes, sliced. The one on the left is the original and the one on the right is my fiddled with version. As you can see the original has more texture. Mine looks smooth, like it would be more moist, but it isn't. You can also tell how much more buttery the original is than mine. 
I don't know who the Scottsboro person was who gave this recipe to Kathryn Tucker, but they knew what they were doing. I'm not even sure if this was truly a Scottsboro invention, but I think we will try to lay claim to it anyway! After all, Kathryn Tucker Windham said it was so!

Here's the recipe, with a few tips by me, because I still cannot leave well enough alone!

Scottsboro Pound Cake

3 sticks room temperature butter
2 cups sugar
6 room temperature eggs
1 t. real vanilla flavoring
3 cups all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. This will take about 5 minutes and this step is crucial. Add vanilla flavoring and do not even think about adding imitation vanilla flavoring! Sift flour into a separate bowl. Add eggs to sugar and butter mixture one at a time, alternating with flour in 1/2 cup increments, beginning with an egg and ending with flour. Pour into a well greased and floured bundt pan. I found that this cake was more likely to stick, so lubricate that pan well. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a pick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Let me know what you think!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes...Olé!

This recipe was originally shared on my sorely neglected teaching blog, Ribbons, Recipes and Rhymes.  I think it is time to move it to the food blog, so here goes. If you are a fan of Mexican food and you love tomatoes, cilantro and avocado, this recipe is for you.  It is an appetizer, but honestly, I can make a meal out of it.  There are really three components to this recipe...sounds complicated, but it isn't and I am going to show you step by step how to make it.  The three parts are the tamale cakes, which are sweet little cakes made with masa, butter and corn.  Then, there are the toppings.  You can put whatever suits your fancy and so can your guests, but these are the toppings I usually put out for my guests to choose from: tomatoes, corn, cilantro, avocado, green onion, jalepeno, and chipotle peppers.  Finally, there is a spicy chipotle ranch dressing to drizzle over the whole shebang!  Yum!  Let's get started!

In our Leader in Me training, we were taught to begin with the end in mind, so that is exactly what we are going to do here.  We are going to start with the chipotle ranch dressing.  Why, you ask?  Because we want the flavors in that ranch dressing to have time to "marry", so we are going to make it first, put it in the refrigerator and give all those spicy flavors time to do their thing.  So, let's get going.
Here is what you will need for the dressing:  1 packet dry buttermilk ranch dressing mix, 1 cup mayonnaise, 1 cup buttermilk and 1 can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.

 Make the dressing according to the ranch dressing package instructions.  Here is a little hint...mix the mayonnaise and the powdered ranch dressing together first with a whisk.  Then add the buttermilk a little bit at a time.  This keeps your dressing smooth and without giant lumps of mayonnaise.


After you get the dressing mixed up, you are going to add the chipotle peppers...carefully!  You are not going to need the whole can of peppers, unless you have a mouth made of asbestos.  What I usually do is remove all of the whole peppers from the can.  You will be left with sauce with little bits of broken peppers.  I pour this out on my cutting board and cut it up to make sure there aren't any too large hunks of pepper.  Once you get that chopped up with your knife, add it to the dressing, mixing well.  Now taste the dressing and see if you want more heat.  If you do, you can chop up one of those whole peppers you set aside earlier.  The idea is to add a little at a time until you get it as spicy as you want without sending your guests to the emergency room.  Chop and save the remaining chipotle peppers to use as a topping on the tamale cakes.


Put your dressing in the refrigerator and let's go on to the tamale cakes.  Here is what you are going to need for those:
2 sticks butter
3 cups frozen whole kernel corn, divided ( I like white, but yellow works fine, too)
1/4 t. salt
4 T. all purpose flour
6 T. sugar
1 cup masa

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Line 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

I have done this many ways, with the corn frozen, with the corn thawed, with the butter cold, with the butter at room temperature and every combination of these.  What works best?   I think the best combination is thawed corn and room temperature butter.  If you use cold butter, it doesn't get smooth and if you use room temperature butter and frozen corn, the butter seizes up and gets hard again.  So, room temperature butter and thawed corn it is.  Put 2 cups of the corn and the 2 sticks of butter in your food processor and process until smooth.  Next, add the sugar, salt, flour and masa and process  again just until the dough forms a ball.

Now, take the dough out of the food processor, put it in a bowl and stir in the remaining corn.
Using a small ice cream scoop, place balls of dough 2 inches apart on the parchment lined cookie sheets.

Place another sheet of parchment on top of the balls of dough.  Take a glass and flatten each ball till it is about 1/4 inch thick.

When all the balls of dough have been flattened, remove the top sheet of parchment and place the cookie sheets in the preheated oven for about 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.
Here is what the tamale cakes will look like when they finish cooking.

Next we are ready for the fun part...the toppings.    I put a bowl of each topping on the table and guests can choose which ones they want on their tamale cake. Here are the toppings I like: chopped green onions, cilantro, tomatoes, jalapeno, avocado, corn (you probably have some left over from making the tamale cakes) and chipotle peppers.  After your guests put the toppings of their choice on their cakes they can drizzle the whole thing with some of the chipotle ranch dressing or, if they prefer something milder, plain ranch dressing or sour cream.

Here is what the finished appetizer looks like.  They are so yummy!  Try them and let me know what you think! ¡Buen provecho!

Generosity Eggs

I have a lot of cookbooks, some of them drifting into the category of what you might call "vintage". Looking through these old books, I have become intrigued at how much our food tastes and food preparation have changed, even in a fairly short amount of time. Hardly anyone ever uses lard now, but fifty years ago, it was pretty common. Frying food is, for most of us, a rarity, but years ago, especially in the south, frying was much more of a weekly, perhaps even daily, event. And some of the recipes I have found seem antiquated and unfamiliar not only because of their ingredients or cooking methods, but sometimes because of their odd names. So it was when I stumbled across a recipe called, Tramp Eggs. The recipe is in a book called Treasured Alabama Recipes by Kathryn Tucker Windham, first printed in 1967. Kathryn Tucker Windham, born in Selma, Alabama in 1918, was a famous author and storyteller. I must have gotten the book as a gift in 1984, because that is the year it was signed by the author.

The recipe for Tramp Eggs was written, in the great Kathryn Tucker Windham tradition, with a story to go with it. Ms. Windham related a story about how, during the Great Depression, there were many who found themselves homeless. Back then, these homeless people were often called tramps or hobos. Often, some of these poor displaced folks would turn up at the Tucker's house begging for food. As Kathryn tells the story, her mother would never turn anyone away and whatever they had to eat was shared with anyone who stopped at their kitchen door. One Sunday, her mom had prepared a dish of eggs baked in milk, butter and cheese, when there was a knock at the door. The hungry visitor was given a plate with a generous serving of the eggs. Usually, when these visitors finished eating, they would just leave their empty plates on the back porch, but this time, the man knocked again. When Kathryn's mom went to see what he wanted, he said, "Lady, would you please give me the recipe for those eggs? They're the best I ever ate!" After that, the eggs were called Tramp Eggs.

Now days, the term tramp is not used and our sensibilities have changed about putting labels on people, but the fact remains that Kathryn's mother was a generous and kind lady. I wonder how many of us would routinely feed homeless people who stopped at our homes. Likely, we would be frightened and not answer the door at all! Nevertheless, I was curious about the recipe and decided to give it a try and I am also giving it an updated name, Generosity Eggs, in honor of Kathryn Tucker Windham's mother.

Now the recipe itself was a little short on detail, so I had to wing it a bit. In fact, there were no ingredient amounts or cooking times given, so you can see this was not what you would call fully armed cooking! Here are the directions, as written:

Butter a shallow baking dish and break into it the number of eggs needed to serve guests. Sprinkle salt on the eggs and pour milk around them until the yellow tops are peeping out. Dot with dabs of butter. Grate cheese over the top. Bake in a slow oven (300 degrees) until cheese is bubbly and eggs are of desired doneness. Serve atop crisp toast or a nest of grits.

Apparently, even those limited details were too much for me because, right off the bat, I missed a step. I got out my small baking dish, but forgot to butter it. Actually, this did not seem to matter, because nothing stuck to the dish, but I used skim milk and I suspect that the Mrs. Tucker used whole milk in her eggs. Two things: I think whole milk would have been a better, creamier option in terms of taste and I also think the pan would have needed to have been buttered if whole milk was used. The milk thickens and the sugars in the milk concentrate as the dish cooks and, while the skim milk became sweeter and thickened, it did not get as thick as whole milk would have gotten.The thicker milk would have adhered to the pan more but it would have resulted in a creamier sauce.

It took quite a lot of milk to fill the pan to the point that only the sunny yellow yolk was uncovered. In Kathryn Tucker Windham's defense, it would be hard to give an exact measurement here because so much is determined by how many eggs you are cooking and the size of the pan you are using. Just gently pour in the milk until the whites are covered. Now sprinkle with salt, to taste. Next, take a small pat of butter and cut it into small pieces and dot those around on top of the milk.

I like a little heat and happened to have some jalapeño cheddar cheese, so I finely grated it and completely covered the yolk that was peeping out over the milk. If I were preparing more eggs, I would cover the entire dish with the grated cheese. I'm going to say 1 cup of cheese for every 6 eggs.

Next, the entire dish goes into an oven that has been preheated to 300 degrees. Here is where the real guesswork came into play, because I had no idea how long this dish needed to cook.  The first egg I cooked was in the oven for  30 minutes and came out with a perfectly and fully cooked yolk. I sprinkled on some freshly ground black pepper and a few chopped cilantro leaves.  It was really good! The milk had thickened a little and the egg was delicious.

But still, I wondered how it would be if someone preferred a yolk that was less done, more sunny side up, so I cracked another egg into the remaining milk in the pan. This time, remember, the milk was already warmed up, so take that into consideration here. I put the egg into the oven and this time baked it for 15 minutes. I like sunny side up eggs, but in this case, I preferred the more well done egg. The texture of the white part of the egg was better in the egg that was baked longer.

These eggs would also be good topped with chopped jalapeño or chopped green onions. Give Generosity Eggs a try and tell us what you think!

 Generosity Eggs

6 eggs
Whole milk to cover egg whites only
1 c. cheddar or jalapeño cheddar cheese
1/2 stick butter cut into cubes
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped jalapeños, green onions, red peppers or cilantro to taste

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Butter shallow baking dish. Crack eggs and place in dish so that they are equally distributed with space between the eggs. Gently pour milk into dish so that the milk covers the egg whites but not the yolks. Sprinkle salt over the eggs to taste. Sprinkle all the eggs with grated cheese. Bake for 30 minutes for fully cooked yolks. Reduce cooking time if you prefer yolks underdone. Serve with chopped jalapeño, chopped green onion, chopped red pepper or chopped cilantro. 

Now go show your generosity today!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Hooray for Bouré: Oxford Part 2

Our second day in Oxford, Mississippi found us once again back on the beautiful downtown square. Not only did we want to see the square in daylight, we also wanted to visit some of the cute shops. And, of course, we could not pass up another opportunity to check out the local grub. That is how we found ourselves at Bouré. 

Bouré is the brainchild of Chef John Currence and his New Orleans roots are definitely showing with menu options like shrimp and grits, pasta jambalaya, poboys and crawfish everything. Bouré is housed in an old drugstore and its high ceilings and big windows give it an airy, open feel, while dark wood all around makes the space feel warm and cozy. 

This hungry group started our meal with not one, but two appetizers. That was fine with me because I often find that the appetizers are my favorite part of any meal. These appetizers did not disappoint! First we had a crawfish au gratin with toasted French bread. It was creamy, crawfishy goodness. We ate it all and I think there might have been more than just a little jostling for dip position.

Then, we did a double dip with a roasted jalapeño cream cheese topped with grilled peach and bacon chutney and served with pita chips. Shut up! This stuff was righteous!

There were six of us, but only four different entrees. That is because three of us could not resist the Peacemaker, which was a giant poboy stuffed to overflowing with crispy fried shrimp, crawfish and oysters, fully dressed with lettuce, pickle and tomato and drizzled with remoulade sauce. It was out of this world! Only our sides differed here, with Missy choosing the potato salad and Anna and I adding some beautiful sweet potato fries.

Rob's also got a poboy, but his was a rib-eye version with grilled onions, horseradish cheddar, rosemary mayo, arugula and tomato. It was accompanied by a cup of pan gravy and hand-cut French fries. He ate every bite!

Kathy selected the Bouré salad, a bed of fresh, crunchy romaine topped with herb grilled shrimp, grape tomatoes, bacon and toasted walnuts and bathed in a citrus thyme vinaigrette. The salad was supposed to also come with red onion and blue cheese, but I am pretty sure Kathy nixed those two items.

 Jake chose the chicken carbonara which was fettucini tossed with a creamy parmesan sauce, topped with chicken and bacon. I am pretty sure Jake had them leave off onions and peas. It looked good, anyway.

Bouré was a perfect end to a perfect trip. Well perfect if you don't count the fact that we almost ran out of gas because we could not find any open gas stations or at least open gas stations with actual gas! And google got us lost (it was totally NOT our fault) and added an extra thirty minutes to our trip home. But, I didn't mean to mention all of that!

 Three Friends and a Fork, three brilliant seniors and three proud moms give Bouré three delicious Yums UP! Hotty Toddy, everybody!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Oxford, Mississippi...Sweet, Southern Charm

What do you think of when you think of Oxford, Mississippi? If you imagine sweet tea and even sweeter accents, the University of Mississippi and the Grove, William Faulkner and John Grisham, you would be right on track. Recently two of my friends, Kathy, Missy and I, along with our soon to be graduating high school seniors, Anna, Jake and Rob, had the opportunity to visit the campus of Ole Miss and take a tour of the college and the town of Oxford. What can I say? We loved it! 

We started our orientation in the chapel. It was a perfect way to begin our tour.

The campus is lovely, with buildings dating back to the first year the school opened in 1848. The Lyceum is the center of the campus now, as it was in the very beginning. It is also the iconic symbol for the university. The clock at the top of the building was a gift from the class of 1927. 

In 1889, Ventress Hall was constructed. This Victorian Romanescue structure, complete with turrets, was originally the library for the university. Later it housed the law school and now it is home to the college of liberal arts. All appropriate, since there is a large L in the stone arch over the main doorway.

Everywhere you looked, all over the campus, there were beautiful and historic elements, including this Confederate soldier statue and the Phi Mu fountain.

The Grove is the legendary heart of the University of Mississippi campus. Tailgating in the Grove consistently ranks as one of the best tailgating experiences in the country.

When we visited, the students had just voted for Mister and Miss Ole Miss. We aren't sure who won, but we voted for Rob!

The first night we were in Oxford, we could not wait to visit Oxford's famous town square. Since our hometown of Scottsboro, Alabama also has a town square and is currently on the brink of a revival of sorts, we were anxious to see what the town of Oxford had done with their square and, perhaps, to bring home some ideas. The first thing we noticed was that tiny white lights were strung on every single building, even the buildings on the outlying streets leading away from the square. It made the whole downtown area look as if it were cared for. It also tied all the buildings together, making all the pieces a part of the whole. Other lights were strategically placed to highlight the architecture of the buildings. Altogether the lighting helped to created quite a beautiful scene. Just like the courthouse in our hometown, the historic Lafayette County Courthouse, built in 1872, sits prominently in the middle, surrounded by a grassy lawn.  Shops of all kinds line the square, from one of the most famous independent book stores, Square Books, to art galleries and gift shops, and the oldest department store in the south, Neilson's, which opened in 1839. 

We loved this red British phone booth that sits on the square near the Courthouse and City Hall.

Of course you know this just had to happen!

The beautifully arched City Hall, erected in 1885, sported bright white lights, too.

No visit to Oxford's square is complete without getting a picture taken with Oxford's most beloved citizen, William Faulkner.

Our thoughts finally turned to food and the fact that we had not had any in a while, so we strolled down one of the side streets off the square and found a happy little pizzeria named, Soulshine. 

We had to wait a bit, but not too long. Soulshine is one large space and it was filled to capacity with tables full of chattering college students. The tables were crammed close together and the waitstaff was bustling. 

Checking out the Soulshine menu with my friend, Kathy.

We started with this wonderful plate of hummus served with pita wedges for dipping. This was my favorite thing and I could have made a meal out of just this one dish. Missy, Anna and I loved this hummus. Rob liked it, but Jake and Kathy were having no part of it. You know I always have to have one picky friend in tow and Kathy ranks right up there with the pickiest of all my friends!

Jake, being Jake!

We studied our menus. There were lots of choices, from sandwiches and salads to pizzas and calzones. All in all, we ended up with four pizzas and two sandwiches. Everyone but Kathy and me got pizzas. I can't remember exactly which pizzas they all ordered, but the menu had a funky, hipster, Mellow Mushroom feel with cool sounding names like, The Magic Mushroom, the Rainbow Warrior and CCR.  I do remember that Jake ordered his pizza with nothing but cheese and pepperoni. I think the one below with shrimp, called Sleeps with Fishes, was Rob's. All the pizzas looked wonderful.

Look at the size of Jake's pizza!

The sandwich I ordered was called the Gobbler, which was supposed to be a turkey and cheese sandwich, but I had them leave cheese off of it so it was pretty straightforward, nothing too exciting. It was so late by the time we were eating, that I knew I would regret eating anything heavy and spicy.

Kathy had a little bit more to her sandwich, the Country Club, which came with ham, turkey, bacon, cheddar and swiss. Both sandwiches were served with a pickle spear and chips.
Soulshine is the perfect college hangout. It was fun and noisy. Our group loved their huge pizzas. I would like to go back and try one of the pizzas next time. Our story does not end here. Next time we will tell you about another, very different Oxford dining experience. In the meantime, Three Friends and a Fork and this crazy, traveling group give Soulshine Pizza Factory 3 groovy Yums UP!