blueberry hand pie

Blueberry, Basil, and Goat Cheese Hand Pies

I once found them dull, but they’ve grown on me, the blueberries. They’re the stray marbles populating the bottom of my basket, rolling across the red cottage oak floor, staining the soles of my bare feet. No, they aren’t as brash as blackberries or succulent as summer peaches, but their mild mannered disposition plays well with others. They don’t upstage, and when baked they burst into a sweet, sticky jam.   Plentiful and thus affordable this time of year, I stock up on them weekly at the market, and they find their way into everything from smoothies to ice cream to whatever baked good I’m playing at that week. Yes, they’ve grown on me, but it’s not just because they’re delicious or because they please the man I love (thought the latter reason alone was enough to possess me to buy them in bulk…) but because in addition to all of that they contain an abundance of powerful phytonutrients that possess magical healing properties. The blue of the berry comes from a high concentration of anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant. These are responsible for the vibrant blue pigmentation. Blueberries also contain a host of other antioxidants, those crusaders of the blood stream that combat dangerous free radicals. If you’re compelled, as I am, to buy them in bulk when they’re in season, take note: they freeze well, retaining their nutritional properties. Shown to improve overall cognitive functioning and combat the effects of aging, blueberries are commonly cited amongst the “super

Heirloom Tomato Tart

Roasted Tomato & Scallion Tart with a Whole Wheat Cheese Crust

It’s tomato season, or ‘mater season as it were, and summer is bearing down on us with apocalyptic might. I find myself daily brewing iced tea with new found diligence, but being a cold natured thing (and arguably a masochist), I actually rather enjoy the heat. It’s thick, substantial. Heat slows us down, forces us to rest, to retreat. It reminds me of New Orleans’ summers draped in weeping Spanish moss, of channelling Blanche DuBois à la Vivien Leigh in A Street Car Named Desire, and of watching Jim Jarmusch films in a dilapidated mansion on Magazine Street when I was twenty years old wearing nothing but high heels, lingerie, and red lipstick with a nameless three-legged cat, drinking gin until I couldn’t speak. Suffering is very authentically southern after all. Summers every where are hotter than ever, but my internal climate is milder now. The only thing I sip these long afternoons is hibiscus iced tea, but I still feel like a green eyed Vivien Leigh when I stretch out in the sun on the front porch in nothing but a slip, brushing the little black ants off my legs as lazy beads of perspiration roll down both my glass of tea and my forehead or when, in the muggy evenings, I sit at our dining room table eating a midnight snack of cornbread in a tall glass of buttermilk with a spoon, windows open to the strobing fireflies & the chorus of crickets. It may be painfully hot, but this sweltering season is also, in

Blueberry Buttermilk Scones

Buttermilk & Berry scones: Blueberry Lemon & Blackberry Thyme

Not being a Briton, I don’t believe I can weigh in on what constitutes a “proper” scone, but I do know that the ubiquitous dry lumps languishing in coffeeshop display cases do not tempt me. Except for one, a long time ago. I discovered the first scone-love of my life while working at a coffeeshop on Magazine Street in New Orleans called Café Luna for an opinionated cat lady named Nanette. She hated children but animals of any kind were welcome in the shop, and being more of a dog person than a child lover, this was fine by me. My favorite regular was a bulldog named Grendel that greeted me behind the counter with a sloppy full body wag each time she and her owner came in. In contrast, if a family with children came in she would order me to sweep around their feet in hopes that this rude gesture (which she expected me to make) would encourage them to vacate the premises. She also refused to allow me to bring people their orders but rather insisted that I yell from behind the counter because I was “a barrista not a waitress”. None of our pastries were made in house but were delivered to us each morning by a man that ran a small baking company out of his home. The delivery consisted of pastry case staples: croissants, pain au chocolate, cookies, bagels, and these large, triangular cranberry scones with a sparkling sugar crust on top. I don’t think

Buttermilk Brined Southern Fried Chicken

Buttermilk Brined Fried Chicken

Hoe Hop Valley Farm’s Chicken brined & battered in Cruze Farm’s buttermilk In the south, fried chicken is like religion, and like religion everyone believes that their way is The One True Way. When Patrick requested it for his birthday I felt a twinge of terror. I’d never fried chicken before. I’d never deep fried anything before. So I did research, a lot of research. I read about fried chicken for days. And it seems I’m no different than everyone else because I have emerged from my chicken meditations, and I’m here to tell you that I have found the One True Fried Chicken. May it keep us always. Speaking of chicken and religion, when my mother called to ask how the party went, she told me she actually prayed for my fried chicken to turn out well. Well, evidently the God of Chicken & Biscuits (a very prominent deity in this part of the country) heard her, because this is momma slappin’ chicken. That is to say it’s chicken that “tastes so good, it makes you wanna slap yo momma”. I give you Urban Dictionary’s break down for your edification: 1. Tastes so good, it makes you wanna slap yo momma  When you try some new food that tastes so delicious it makes you wonder “why can’t my mom cook this well?”. This thought makes you so angry that you feel like slapping your mom for feeding you mediocre food… Kid 1: Yo dawg, I’m tired of eatin’ at home. My momma feeds me

Peach Curd & Rosewater Tartlets

Peach Curd & Rosewater Tartlets with Basil Whipped Cream and Nasturtium Flowers

The summer solstice is fast approaching, and this is food for the denizens of summer, the fair folk of the emerald isle of Tír na nÓg, the faeries. I used to believe in them. I believed in diaphanous winged fay with golden hair, in wizened hobgoblins of the kitchen fire, mean hair pulling pixies and sprites that bite, changeling children, watery sylphs, salacious nymphs, and all the descendants of the fiercely private sidhe. Growing up I left them offerings on my bedside table, bowls of rose petal water and honey sweetened fairy cakes.   As I got older I constructed elaborate metaphysical theories that allowed for the existence of elemental beings that flickered in and out of our plane, passing through like vapor or illusive gravitons, their force felt but rarely seen in this dimension. I grew up by a lake in the woods of north Georgia, and it was easy to believe that faeries lived in the mad rose bushes that flanked our house, the abandoned well in the woods, and the willows that dripped off the banks of the lake. I swore I saw their wings glint, reflected in the green waters. I believed in them for a very long time. I chose to do so. I was in the closet about it, but I believed in them well past the age at which one usually believes in such things. Given, I believed in my own special formulation of them, and I met it with a reverence usually reserved for either science

mini peanut butter cake with chocolate ganache frosting

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cake: Perfect Imperfection

I prefer a life lived in. Real perfection is necessarily imperfect: it’s polymorphous, in flux, crooked, and warm, cluttered and lopsided. You won’t find it in a catalogue. That contrived, mechanical sort of perfection is impossibly dull. Rather, you’ll find it in spiraling cells, in organisms multiplying, unfurling, evolving, wilting, copulating, decomposing, and dying. Seas and mall courts alike teem with it. Prime numbers self-contain it. It is things as they are. For me perfection is to live in the imperfect now, a now that is populated by mad curls, cast iron, cracked tea cups, whole milk, scars, asymmetry, dirty dishes, anxiety, crow’s feet, four letter words, chicken hearts, finger nail clippings, and, in this particular instance, a homely cake on an upended beer glass cake stand.   This roughly hewn cake was my very first cake, peanut butter layers with a ganache-like dark chocolate frosting and a sprinkling of fleur de sel. Nothing ground breaking here, just peanut butter and chocolate. It was a baby cake, 4″ across, and perfect in its imperfection. I’ve baked flourless chocolate cakes in bain-maries, angel food, and cupcakes before. But never a real cake, which is, as every southerner knows, a layer cake. This attempt was, as you can see, far from pristine. Some of the icing seeped into the center through what I assume was a crack in one of my layers and not some frosting worm hole in space-time, but as far as outlines and rough drafts go, this was a stalwart little cake. A small


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