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Honeysuckle Sorbet

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I am a really excellent swimmer.  I’m far more coordinated and comfortable in the water than I am on land, and therefore the majority of my extracurricular activities since childhood have taken place in water.  I was captain of my swim team, a swim instructor and lifeguard, and I’m passionate about diving.  Swimming remains the only form of exercise I enjoy, and when I have the choice between swimming laps and running, I will always choose swimming laps.  I’m the girl who spent her childhood pretending she was a mermaid, a whale, or a dolphin.  All of my thesis work in college centered around how peaceful and free I feel under water.

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For all of my coordination and grace in zero gravity, I am a mess of elbows and knees on land.  Measuring in at almost six feet tall, I’m mostly limbs and I have very little control over what those limbs end up hitting.  More often than not Dan catches an elbow in the face at night, and I’m constantly finding bruises on my body.  Over the years, my family went through a few stages in reaction to my lack of coordination.  First, they pushed me to try organized sports (involving balls flying at my face- can you imagine the flailing?!?).  Later, when they saw that I was a failure at any activity that required much hand-eye or foot-eye coordination, they switched to sympathy.  That sympathy was short lived, and now they’ve settled into the habit of mocking me (the most memorable experience being when I fell down the hardwood stairs (socks) while trying to leave for swim team early one morning and heard only laughter- nobody bothered to ask if I was okay).

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Throughout the years, I was signed up for group lessons and pushed to join teams.  One summer in middle school, my grandmother, Grammy, gave me tennis lessons as a present.  My grandmother regularly plays tennis, and her hope was that I would gain enough skill to be able to play with her.  It all went okay when someone was gently lobbing balls at me, but as soon as my instructor pulled out the ball machine, my tennis career was over.  The balls just FLEW at my face with a speed that was intimidating and very, very painful.  It was not long before I was lurking in corners trying to be invisible.  All was not lost that summer, however, because it was in those corners that I discovered honeysuckle.

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The woods behind the tennis courts in our neighborhood were edged in honeysuckle.  For those that aren’t familiar, honeysuckle is a bush that grows all over the northern hemisphere and exists in 180 varieties.  In the southeast, white honeysuckle is most common, and that’s what I’ve grown to love.  The some honeysuckle plants produces berries and flowers.  The berries are often poisonous, but the flowers hold a sweet nectar that is delicious.  When I was growing up we would pluck the flowers off the plant, remove the stamen, and suck the nectar out.  The smell of honeysuckle still signals the start of summer for me, and it’s worth the bug bites and the time spent to get those few drops of sweet nectar.

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The  process of making honeysuckle sorbet includes just as many bug bites and plenty of time, but it is a worthwhile process.  The sorbet is sweet and rich with a strong, light honeysuckle flavor.  The recipe is from one of my favorite southern cookbook- Seasoned in the South by Crook’s Corner owner Bill Smith.  The most difficult part of this recipe is collecting four cups of honeysuckle flowers.  The flowers are soaked over night so that their essence (and flavor) can be transferred to the water.  The rest of the recipe is a basic sorbet- simple syrup, a little spice, and an ice cream maker.  I tramped around in the woods for about two hours collecting four cups of honeysuckle, but as soon as I put a spoonful of sorbet in my mouth I stopped complaining.

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Honey Suckle Sorbet
Source: Seasoned in the South by Bill Smith

4 cups honeysuckle flowers

5 1/2 cups cool water

2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups water

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp cinnamon

Soak your honeysuckle flowers in the 4 1/2 cups of water over night.

In the morning, make your simple syrup by bringing the sugar and remaining water to a light boil.  Allow to cool completely.

Strain the honeysuckle water so that there are no flowers left.  You probably won’t be able to get all of the pollen out, and that’s okay- pollen (especially local pollen) is good for you anyway.

Combine honeysuckle water, syrup, lemon juice, and cinnamon.  Pour into your ice cream maker and churn until frozen.  Freeze at least a few additional hours.

Serve.

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Grilled Dolphin Fish with Roasted Poblano Sauce

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One of my favorite restaurants in the south is Hyman’s Seafood in Charleston, South Carolina.  I love the town of Charleston, and don’t have the opportunity to go as often as I’d like.  My favorite thing to order at Hyman’s is the fried dolphin fish (mahi mahi) with hush puppies and collard greens.  With a sweet tea to wash it all down, it’s a quintessential southern meal.

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Since a trip to Charleson isn’t in the cards anytime soon, this weekend Dan and I made our own version of this delicious meal.  We made grilled dolphin with a poblano sauce, hush puppies, and spinach with garlic and olive oil.  Dolphin fish is one of my favorite fish, and I love fish with the fresh spicy flavors of jalapeño, cilantro, and poblano.  Dan mastered the poblano sauce, and it was so good that I even ended up dipping my hush puppies in it!

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*Lately we’ve been having some trouble with the built in RSS reader, so this past week we made the move over to Google’s Feedburner.  It seems to have fixed all of the problems, and it also lets us do a better job of tracking what’s what.  Because I’m stalking you.  Anyhoo, even if you don’t like the idea of being stalked by one North Carolinian, you should update your RSS (if you read b&s via RSS) to this.  It’ll make reading better and I promise I won’t try and come to your house.

Grilled Dolphin with Roasted Poblano Sauce

2 dolphin filets

1 lemon

2 garlic cloves

1 poblano pepper

1 1/2 jalapeño peppers

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup fresh cilantro

Salt & pepper

3 tbsp olive oil

Begin by making your sauce.  In a pan deep enough to hold the oil.  Place the poblanos and the whole jalapeño in the pan and drizzle them with 1 tbsp of olive oil.  Roast at 400 for 30 minutes.

When they’re roasted, you’ll need to pull the skin off of the poblano.  This is really easy, just let them cool down a bit first.  You’re pulling the filmy outer layer off the poblano- that’s the skin.  Chop the poblanos, the roasted jalapeño, and the fresh jalapeño, and put them in a food processor.  Add the garlic, red wine vinegar, cilantro, and salt & pepper.  Blend until smooth.

Heat up a grill or a grill pan.  Be sure to spray your pan/grill with some oil as fish can be flaky and hard to deal with.  Squeeze the lemon juice over the filets and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Grill for 10-12 minutes on each side over medium heat.

Drizzle with the poblano sauce and serve.

Serves 2.

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Caramel Fried Green Tomatoes and Ice Cream

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One of the coolest things about starting and maintaining this blog is how comfortable I’ve become in my southern cooking skin.  When I started this blog I set out with a vague, insecure knowledge of southern cooking.  I’d been eating southern food my whole life and watching it cooked and made, but I can really credit this website with helping me come into my own as a southern cook.  It’s been a wonderful tool that’s allowed me to develop as a chef, a writer, and a photographer.  I’ve been surprised and proud at how the ratio has shifted to the point where I’m writing most of the recipes I post on this website.

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Last week I bought a basket of green tomatoes at the farmers market.  I used one for the fried green tomato and arugula salad I made last weekend, but I still had two left over.  I started to mull over what I could do with them (besides just making fried green tomatoes), because I didn’t want them to go to waste.  Since I agreed to guest blog for The Love List a few weeks ago, I made the decision that I would cook a southern meal every Saturday night so that there would be a steady stream of recipes for both b&s as well as the other sites that I write for.

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I didn’t want to use the tomatoes in an appetizer, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to incorporate them into the main course so I went out on a limb- I decided to make dessert tomatoes.  My logic was that green tomatoes don’t really have a strong flavor one way or the other.  The essence of fried green tomatoes comes from the spices you use- the tomato is really just the vessel.  So I figured if I spiced the tomato with sweet and dessert spices, and served it with ice cream, I could pull it off.

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Let me tell you friends, I am SO glad I went out on that limb.  It was incredible.  Traditionally fried green tomatoes are coated in a three step process- a dip in flour, a dip in egg, and a dip in cornmeal.  This gives them a nice layered coating that provides the perfect crunch.  For the first step I combined flour, sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon.  Then, I made homemade caramel (so worth the extra work).  I whisked the caramel in with the egg.  Finally, I mixed together cornmeal and graham cracker crumbs so that the tomato was covered in subtle sweetness on all sides.  After it was fried I served it with vanilla ice cream and drizzled the whole situation with more homemade caramel.  And it was divine.

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Caramel Fried Green Tomatoes and Ice Cream

For the caramel:

2 cups sugar

4 tbsp water

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the tomatoes:

1 whole green tomato

1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup cornmeal

2 graham crackers, crushed

2 eggs

Pinch of cinnamon

Pinch of nutmeg

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Ice cream (recipe here)

Peanut oil for frying

To start, we’ll make the caramel.  Here is my advice for the caramel- just trust the directions and let it happen.  The first time I made caramel at home I was a ball of doubtful stress, checking the recipe book every two seconds to try and figure out WHAT WAS GOING WRONG.  It turns out nothing, I’m just crazy.

Pull out the most heavy-duty pan in your arsenal (at least 1 1/2 inches deep).  Combine the sugar and water.  Have the cream on hand.  For the next ten minutes or so, you’re just going to stir the sugar and water with a wooden spoon.  Pretty quickly the sugar and water will liquify and come to a boil.  When the water boils off, the sugar will return to a solid state.  Don’t panic- you did nothing wrong.  Just keep stirring.  Sugar doesn’t melt until a temperature of 365 degrees (something Dan found out the hard way when he touched a sugar-coated spoon).  As you continue to stir, the sugar should slowly start to melt and darken.

When it’s totally melted and the color of peanut butter, it’s time to add the cream.  Brace yourself.  This will seem unnatural and you’re going to want to panic.  Pour the cream in all at once and stir rapidly.  It’s going to start to bubble and steam like crazy.  Just try your best to keep stirring.  It may seem like it’s going to bubble over (and it may, a little) but resist the urge to start scooping it out into the sink.  Your stove will survive a little sugar spill over.  Keep stirring until it has stopped boiling completely.  Remove from heat and let it cool for 10-15 minutes.  Stir in the vanilla.  Pour it into a glass bowl and set it aside.

Now for the tomatoes.  Set up three bowls in a row.  In the first bowl combine flour, sugar, and spices.  In the second bowl combine eggs and a few tablespoons of caramel- whisk together well.  In the last bowl combine cornmeal and graham cracker crumbs.

Heat your oil.  You want it to be at least 350.  If you don’t have a food thermometer, you want it to bubble enthusiastically when you dip the end of a wooden spoon into it.

Slice your tomato.  Dip the slices first in the flour mix, then in the egg mix, and finally in the graham cracker mix.  Drop them into the hot oil and fry until brown.

Serve with vanilla ice cream.  Drizzle caramel over the whole bowl for a delicious dessert.

Serves 4.

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