Mimi’s Potato Salad…

1C51F9A2-FDC4-4AD0-9C9A-8BEA42BBD9C3Mimi’s Potato Salad is, of course my favorite- though I have to admit that any Southern cook worth her salt generally has a recipe that is her family’s favorite too! And, it’s crazy, yet many southerners add potato salad to their meals almost all year round! Mimi didn’t. She considered it a Spring and Summer side dish or even put a scoop on a plate and with a few extras like tomatoes and crackers, she considered potato salad to be a light lunch or a cool supper.  Here’s the thing. Mimi was particular about her food and the way it was prepared and for what reason and why. She instilled things like this into my brain- I can still hear her now…

‘ Now, grate that onion! Who wants to bite down on a big chunk of onion in their potato salad!’ Then later she would say- ‘Grate those boiled eggs on the coarse side of the grater!’ Why? Boiled eggs can look unattractive if they aren’t perfect and especially unattractive all mixed up ‘with a mess of potatoes’. Also Mimi simply liked the look of the coarse grated boiled eggs! Don’t ask me why. I was just a simple soldier and followed my orders. BCBE8261-9C75-45F1-AD3E-07437867028F

Mimi’s Potato Salad was singularly simple with few ingredients.  Many southern cooks add other things to theirs, which is fine and also tastes wonderful. Still. If a recipe is the flavor from your childhood or family- I believe we tend to enjoy our own version the best! Mimi used russet potatoes, in spring, she sometimes combined new potatoes and russets, making sure they weren’t peeled yet were cut to approximately the same size. There’s an art to it- unpeeled potatoes hold their shape better, then it’s easy to slip the skins off after they’ve been brought to fork tender, definitely not overcooked! Cut the cooked and peeled potatoes into approximately the same size for the potato salad. (If the potatoes were overcooked? Start over. You don’t want mashed potato salad.)

4EB9992C-96BC-4B6C-9955-046200ADADFCWhile the potatoes are cooking, grate the onion and mix up the dressing of good mayonnaise, yellow mustard and spices. Now, Mimi’s rule for the celery was to either do a fine dice or thinly sliced. You might not want to bite down on a big chunk of onion, yet the celery gave her potato salad a subtle flavor with just the right amount of crunch and a pretty color. Again, I followed orders. My mother did too! Mimi boiled her eggs along with the potatoes- claimed the calcium from the egg shells made potato salad healthier. Who knows?  I do it too. Gently mix the potatoes into the dressing and chill. This made the potatoes firm up and gave the flavors time to develop. Here’s how you make Mimi’s Classic Potato Salad:

Mimi’s Classic Potato Salad

Course: Salad
Cuisine: American
Keyword: potato

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes- scrubbed and washed
  • 2 large eggs- hard boiled, peeled and grated
  • 1 -2 stalks celery- fine sliced or diced
  • 1-2 tbs finely grated onion with juice
  • 3/4 - 1 cup good quality mayonnaise
  • 1-2 teas yellow mustard
  • 1/4 teas cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Boil potatoes with skins on until fork tender, not over cooked. Allow potatoes to cool slightly, slip skins off of potatoes and dice into approximately 3/4 inch cubes or slightly larger. Finely slice or fine dice celery. Grate onion reserving juice as well. In a large bowl, mix together mayonnaise, yellow mustard, grated onion and cayenne, until combined. Add diced potatoes, grated boiled eggs and celery, toss gently so as not to break cubed potatoes, gently to combine. Chill. Flavors will develop. Serve with a sprinkle of paprika if desired. This recipe doubles well.

With the spring and summer get togethers in full swing, I think you’ll enjoy Mimi’s Potato Salad, feel free to put whatever you want to in it. Some like pickles or olives. I personally will still be following orders… I sure wouldn’t want to think Mimi was rolling over in her grave if I didn’t! Oh me…

Love y’all, Camellia *all photographs are obviously mine!

5 Ways to Enhance Southern Cooking…

Some of the finest cooks I have ever known often left out a step or two that enhanced their southern dishes. I’ve often thought about this as I’ve tried to hang on to the heirloom recipes so near and dear to my heart. Often, as I’m cooking a flash of memory streaks through my feeble brain and I can ‘see’ the dish being made and realize what  it was that made a subtle or distinctive difference in the recipe- whether ingredient or method. I rounded up a few and they are so easy…no recipe required!6256E696-714A-4C9A-B12C-764724EB3616

  1. Citrus elevates so many southern dishes, from appetizers to desserts- it’s hard to imagine cooking without it! Roasted Lemons are a sure fire way to add interest to your meal…soft and warm… squeeze the juice over almost any vegetable or seafood and it’s a sure crowd pleaser! Yet, the zest is often overlooked in my recipes. To add zest of any citrus, be sure and do it first before cutting or juicing! 0821AFAB-51D6-4CD5-84E7-578D793F6957Here, the zest of lemon is added to a mixture of chopped garlic, dried oregano, fresh thyme leaves- all warmed in a mixture of melted butter and olive oil- then lemon juice and a splash of white wine. Added before roasting chicken, fish or shrimp- it’s amazing! Even added to new potatoes, green beans or asparagus it’s wonderful. Any recipe that calls for citrus juice is greatly enhanced by the addition of citrus zest.
  2. Grow Your Own Southern cooks have been berated for years for their use of canned goods in many of our wonderful dishes, for instance while we grow and preserve our own tomatoes- we do often add a can of good quality tomatoes to chili or spaghetti sauce. 15BBD931-73AE-4DDF-869E-B504E8FBD513What rarely reported is that good southern cooks always add fresh, often home grown produce! Tomato Relish in this beautiful mixture of tomatoes, green onions, chopped garlic along with chopped basil. Combined with a bit of olive oil, red wine vinegar and allowed to sit while the spaghetti sauce is bubbling on the stove. This mixture is used as a cool topping much like salsa. You honestly won’t believe the flavor. And I’m here to tell you- in the summer when I make it- those tomatoes, green onions and basil are home grown!
  3. Flour Power Ever wonder about the name Butter Balls? Well, you’re looking at them and those little balls of flour and butter are rarely spoken of- yet, they elevate pan juices into a silky glossy sauce,8E1FB292-AADD-4EEA-ABEE-585ECECE4B22 While everyone else is wondering why your sauce or gravy always tastes a bit better than anyone else’s. Mixture ratio is one to one- 1 Tablespoon of butter to 1 Tablespoon of Flour and rolled into little balls. I generally do an 8 to 8 ration and make up a whole sheet pan of Butter Balls- place in a single layer in the freezer, when frozen place in a freezer bag and when your pan juices are ready- add 1 or 3 or 5! Believe me, these little simple pack real flour power and elevate your cooking from delicious to amazing! Also, while we’re talking about Flour Power– many wonderful southern recipes start with this fear inducing phrase- ‘First you make a roux’… and the truth is? if you get making a roux wrong- throw it out and start over! Okay. No more fear of making a roux! On a sheet pan, put less than an inch thick layer of flour. Put in cool oven set to 375 degrees… when the oven is preheated, check the flour it should be browning nicely… however, you will need to bake the flour for up to 20 more minutes! It needs to be a rich brown and will smell toasted and warm. Remove the sheet pan from the oven and allow to cool. Store in a tightly covered jar. This brown flour is your head start to elevating your spicy thick gumbos or even rich brown gravies! Mix the brown flour in some sort of oil- we use butter or bacon fat! Stir until all of the oil is absorbed and the mixture is even darker and thick, commence with the recipe with your quicker version of a roux.  Just look at that rich mahogany  color! That color is what you’re looking for when you’ve made a roux. 14F2CD01-CCF4-47FD-95D6-413367B915DB
  4. In a Pickle Almost every truly southern table is almost groaning with the addition of pickled this or that. Pickled Beets might be one of my all time favorites! Canned beets (yes, feel free to roast your own!) are mixed with thinly sliced sweet onion- Vidalia if available- and often in the summer months we also add homegrown cucumbers too! ACFE1C73-FC6C-4280-82F4-1771A802B7E7Pack them in a heat proof jar. Heat apple cider vinegar to boiling and pour the beets and onions. Cool down before adding the lid. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight. They’re amazing with almost anything- let’s face it field peas, greens and summer squash with a side of pickled beets might be a match made in culinary heaven! And that’s not all! We tend to pickle almost anything that stands still long enough- especially our hot peppers! This is the best way to get that all important Pepper Sauce- so make lots!
  5. Turn up the Heat Folks outside the South tend to think the Southern diet is almost exclusively- fried. Not so, I rarely fry chicken… it’s a treat when I do- yet certainly not an everyday food.C6A4C3C6-BFC0-4EA4-B899-110105AA5302 And Fried Okra is a glorious treat, yet that also is an occasion. When I do? There’s a secret to that this as well. Please don’t batter okra and certainly not with flour- oh no, blend 2 parts self rising cornmeal with 1 part cornstarch! Read that again- dredge fresh cut okra (don’t rinse!) in a blend of self rising cornmeal and cornstarch! Get the frying oil hot! Add in dredged okra, but don’t crowd! Hot oil and self rising cornmeal give the okra that beautiful battered look, the cornstarch keeps it light and crisp!

Now, the next time you’re wondering if that dish ‘needs a little something’ or you want to save a bit of time- you may find these 5 ways to enhance southern cooking will work with almost any other cuisine too!

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine.

Classic Bread Pudding with Southern Creme Anglaise…

DA804797-249C-4054-B549-7500D007EAEDWith all of the beautiful cakes, the decadent chocolates and luscious pies, it seems to me that Bread Pudding deserves a place on the dessert table, especially at Easter. Many holy days serve symbolic food and Bread Pudding seems to be a teachable opportunity. It’s ‘the Bread of Life broken for you…’ It’s a rustic dessert- reminding me of that oft sung hymn ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ … Bread Pudding is a dessert made by hand with love, served humbly and simply among friends and family, even stretched to feed a crowd.

CA8ED1F5-2DD0-4A48-B944-2D64C56B64B7The Pudding and Sauce are enriched and softly scented- a very comforting combination. Wrapped in orange zest, cinnamon, vanilla and freshly grated nutmeg, the classic Bread Pudding is then dusted with unrefined cane sugar. Who would disagree that plain old broken bread is elevated to an entirely new life, beautifully sweet and dear. Just in time for Easter with its gloriously easy Southern Creme Anglaise… Here’s how you make – Classic Bread Pudding with extra easy Southern Creme Anglaise!00D687BD-B5D9-46BE-97A1-092186D06FB5

 

Classic Bread Pudding with Southern Creme Anglaise

A classic Bread Pudding made with a custard base that uses the old fashioned evaporated milk with whipped eggs and classic spices including orange zest. Served with a refreshing cool creme anglaise flavored with Bourbon giving the distinctive southern flavor associated with Bread Pudding. 
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American

Ingredients

  • 4 Large Eggs Whisked
  • 1 Large can Evaporated Milk
  • 1-2 Teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Teaspoon Orange Zest
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2- 1 Teaspoon Fresh Grated whole Nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 Cup Pure Cane Sugar Plus more for top of bread pudding
  • 5-6 Cups Torn Day Old Yeast Bread * I used 1 dozen small yeast rolls

Easy Creme Anglaise with Bourbon

  • 4 Scoops Vanilla Ice Cream Full fat and flavor
  • 3-4 Tablespoons High Quality Bourbon
  • 1/2+ Teaspoon Fresh Orange Zest

Instructions

  • For Bread Pudding- Whisk eggs until very well combined and slightly foamy. Add one large can of evaporated milk (not low fat) - whisk into eggs. Add spices, vanilla, 1 cup pure cane sugar and orange zest, then whisk to combine well. In a buttered oven safe bowl, pour this custard mix over torn Day old yeast bread. * Cover tightly and allow bread to soak up custard 4 hours or overnight. Sprinkle remainder of cane sugar on top of Pudding. Bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour or until puffed, golden and glistening with sugar crystals. Add more sugar and orange zest and a bit of melted butter if desired. 

For Easy Bourbon Creme Anglaise

  • Melt four large scoops of high quality Vanilla Ice Cream. Do not use low fat! When ice cream has melted - Add 1 teaspoon fresh orange zest (if desired) and 3-4 tablespoons of high quality Bourbon. With a small whisk blend and keep covered and chilled until ready to serve over warm bread pudding. 

Notes

Please use full fat evaporated milk and for sauce. Creme Anglaise is typically a custard sauce made with milk, eggs and sugar...which coincidentally is the same base used to make the custard base for ice cream! Hard sauce is the classic sauce generally served with Bread Pudding- most southern hard sauce calls for Bourbon. This sauce is chilled and a refreshing option to top Bread Pudding. 

Now, about that sauce- a heavier warm hard sauce (denoting the alcohol) is generally served with Bread Pudding yet seems to be more suitable in the fall and winter. This sauce is cooler and more refreshing in Spring and Summer. And… The custard base of ice cream is strikingly similar to the famous Creme Anglaise- just be sure to use full fat ice cream!

Also, you may choose to omit the Bourbon and use pure Vanilla Extract ( one of the notes in bourbon), if you do, add Rum or Almond flavoring, adjusting the quantity to taste. The ‘sauce’ is wonderful on its own as well, if high quality ice cream is used. The Orange Zest adds a crisp citrus note for Spring;  and it’s worth noting that spices played a role in the Easter Story as well. This classic bread pudding has an abundance of eggs which are also plentiful now. Eggs are symbolic in  holy celebrations. And, I omitted the butter except for buttering the baking dish, if you prefer- melt a few tablespoons and pour over the pudding right before baking. If you don’t have access to raw cane sugar, use sanding sugar, you’ll definitely want the glisten when you pull the puffed and golden Classic Bread Pudding from the oven! Here’s wishing you a beautiful meaning filled Easter!

Love y’all, Camellia * All photographs were obviously taken by me.

Doors of Alabama…

105FF74C-B6D6-4E87-A0EF-152CC880117CThree years ago, when I first started writing – I was sorely lacking in photographic skills. Not much better now, but have learned a thing or two… Anyway, award winning photographer Jeremy Miniard took pity on me and provided some stunning photographs, then generously offered to let me use them! One of the first groups of photographs I asked him about were Doors; Jeremy has a treasure trove of photographs taken during his ramblings throughout Alabama. The doors he sent to me were amazing. They still are! I posted ‘Doors of Alabama’ using some other photographs offered to me- also out of pity I’m sure. This time… a poster worthy collection of Doors of Alabama are all Jeremy Miniard’s work… be prepared to be impressed!

Doors of Alabama

30FFAE9C-D66B-4576-B7E4-35905F23C62E

7C9AC56D-50F6-4311-86EE-32B22FEC71F2Thank you Jeremy! This journey just wouldn’t have been the same without you! Now. Y’all. I hope you’re inspired as I was by Jeremy’s photography – and also the beauty and history that surely was behind these old doors…peeling paint and all! Now….on your mark, get set and.. Get out there and take some photographs wherever you are! I’d love to see what you come up with! By the way, can you believe we’re still around after three years? Me either. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, for your support, for following this blog and for your kind words; and yes! the funny comments too! And as always…

Love y’all, Camellia

And I saved one of my favorites for last! E90E7D9E-F75A-438B-BF27-6CEC82C5FA30

 

*All photographs are the sole property of Jeremy Miniard, please respect this and do not use them without his express permission. You will find his work at  Remy Photography- jeremy.miniard.fineartamerica.com

Camellia’s Spring Tomato Tart…

EAA1A2A5-F5EF-4157-8D82-E423F01FD20EI’ve said it before- the closer you live to a Tomato Vine, the better your life will be. As soon as the weather begins to warm up, southerners start dreaming of summer tomatoes. Camellia’s Spring Tomato Tart is an early start on summer- while we wait for our tomato vies to bear. Tomato sandwiches are on our minds. Simple sliced summer tomato slices make an appearance on almost every southern plate. We do everything we can, to preserve the taste of summer as long as we can. I think planting cherry tomatoes offers a head start on the taste only a fresh tomato offers, and yes- the closer you live to a tomato vine the better your life will be. 93018598-28BA-415C-8D2F-F188B0491246

I believe that fresh tomato pies are a distinctly southern dish. When colorful heirloom cherry tomatoes showed up in my grocery store last week… well, after a bit of testing, we came up with a spring version of Tomato Pie- here’s how you make- Camellia’s Spring Tomato Tart.EAA1A2A5-F5EF-4157-8D82-E423F01FD20E

Camellia’s Spring Tomato Tart

Using cherry tomatoes, this Spring version of the classic southern favorite, Tomato Pie, is light refreshing and delicious. Served with a mixed green salad and crumbled bacon for a luncheon or as a side for Spring and Easter Dinners, Camellia’s Spring Tomato Tart is a beautiful addition. 
Course: Main Course, Side Dish

Ingredients

  • 1 9 inch Prepared Pie Crust Rolled, not in pie crust pan.
  • 1 Pint Cherry Tomatoes Halved-Mixed colors preferably
  • 4 Ounces Gouda Cheese Freshly grated, may use Swiss
  • 4 Ounces Sharp Cheddar Cheese Finely grated
  • 2 Ounces Parmesan Cheese Grated
  • 1 1/2 Cups Green Onions Tops Chopped
  • 3/4 Cup Mayonnaise
  • 1/4 Cup Sour Cream
  • 2 Ounces Cream Cheese Room temperature
  • 1-2 Teaspoons Chopped Garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon Prepared Pesto
  • 1-2 Teaspoons Dry Basil Crumbled
  • 1-2 Teaspoons Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1-2 Teaspoons Cracked Black Pepper To taste

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Unroll prepared pie crust in a lightly buttered springform pan. * the pie crust should come up the sides about an inch or less. With a fork prick bottom of crust. Bake 15-16 minutes or until lightly browned. While crust is baking, combine grated Gouda, cheddar and Parmesan cheeses. Sprinkle a teaspoon of red pepper flakes and 1/4 cup of green onion tops over cheeses and toss to combine. Place on warm crust and allow to sit until filling is ready. *Do not put filling on cheeses and warm pie crust. Mix mayonnaise, sour cream, softened cream cheese, chopped garlic  and pesto until combined; mix in more red pepper flakes, 1/2 of remaining green onion tops, dry basil and cracked black pepper. * Salt is not added until Tomato Tart is served. Complete melting cheeses in tart Shell by returning to 400 degree oven for 3-5 minutes. Remove from oven. Allow to cool slightly. Smooth Filling over melted cheese while still in springform pan. Carefully remove filled tart and top generously with halved cherry tomatoes, * Discard an juices from tomatoes before topping tart.Top tart with additional green onion tops, a sprinkling of dried basil and cracked black pepper.  Cut in wedges with serrated knife.  Serves 4-6 generously. 

Notes

We found - a 10 inch springform pan is the best and easiest to use for this tomato tart. The tart shell may be baked in a shallow 9” baking pan, however, this tart does not lend itself to a deep dish pie.

Perfect for Brunch, a ladies luncheon or even as a side dish on the Easter table, Spring Tomato Tart is great on its own for a meatless meal, however, ours was served with a mixed green salad with lots of crumbled bacon. Also wonderful alongside ham, roasted fish or shrimp-this tart is beautiful, cool and delicious. Easy enough to assemble that you’ll find time to get the ground ready for those summer tomato plants! Welcome Spring with an early Tomato Tart!

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine.

*Tip: For easy, quick assembly, we decided to use prepared pie crust, prepared pesto and pre-grated cheeses may be used as well. It makes an easy weeknight meal, if you blend the cheeses and the filling ahead of time and store in the refrigerator. You may, of course, make your own piecrust or grate your own cheese. Here’s another photograph of how ours came together- .

Camellia’s Roulage…

D894872E-91AB-4372-BA0E-FD462A1AE946My first serving of Roulage was at a tiny tea room where ladies met for elegant brunch, where mother-daughter luncheons or bridesmaids’ met the day before a wedding to dine with the bride and her female family members. This beloved place was down a cobbled lane on Southside, a place aptly named Cobb’s Lane. When I was a mere teenager, yet I believed I had never tasted any dessert that was more decadent. A deep rich chocolate roll around a cloud of whipped cream. Yes, there were other dishes we enjoyed there, a beautiful salad plate, a chicken imperial, if not in name- regal in taste, though as someone recently recalled- ‘We went to Cobb’s Lane for the roulage.’ And we did.

The Roulage recipe I have is old, it has no attribution, yet I’ve always been told it was the famous Cobb’s Lane Roulage. And while I’ve updated the technique, the ingredients are essentially the same.  Eggs separately beaten, confectioners sugar, a few tablespoons of cocoa- no flour no butter- poured into a squeaky clean and dry jelly roll pan. Filled and rolled with lightly sweetened whipped cream – the presentation is always impressive even if the cocoa is uneven when dusted or whether the roll cracks a bit. It’s imperfections are just part of a fresh made Roulage.0D5D4885-50C6-4B54-BEEB-4E6A403203C1

The French call the method a roulade, other cultures call it a Swiss Roll. Some have been redundant in calling this version- a chocolate roulage- in the the South, the essence of a Roulage is that it’s a chocolate roll. I suppose I thought of roulage as a jelly roll, but it’s not exactly a simple sponge cake, since the batter does contain egg yolks, but no flour- though the baker does indeed use her jelly roll pan. There are those who’ve tried to improve the unimproveable by adding Bourbon or Grand Mariner to the whipped cream, or by setting a slice of Roulage in a pool of raspberry sauce- still, the classic is best. To be honest, I don’t make Roulage often enough. Or at least that’s what I think every time I make it. Still. When I make a roulage, it takes me back to a tiny, elegant, hidden-away place, called Cobb’s Lane. BD24B08F-2F33-4DA2-B9EA-615C94A40DD9

Here’s how Camellia’s Roulage is made….

Camellia’s Roulage

The classic dark chocolate roulage, is a light flourless sponge cake filled with whipped cream and rolled, then dusted with cocoa powder. 

Ingredients

  • 5 Large Egg Yolks
  • 1 Cup Confectioners Sugar Sifted
  • 3 Tbs Dutch Processed Cocoa Plus more for dusting
  • 5 Large Egg Whites Stiffly Beaten
  • 1/2 Pint Heavy Cream Whipped and chilled

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees. With the whisk attachment, stiffly beat 5 large egg whites and set aside. In another mixing bowl Beat 5 egg yolks until pale yellow. Add 1 cup confectioners sugar. Blend in 3 Tbs of Dutch Cocoa until blended well. Fold in gently, the stiffly beaten eggs whites. Smooth mixture lightly into an untreated 9x13 jelly roll pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 12-15 minutes making sure mixture springs back lightly to the touch. During bake time, dampen a kitchen towel *Or you may use a silicone baking mat, which is what I have used with very good results. Put 3-6 Tablespoons Dutch Cocoa in a small bowl with a small sieve. Sift cocoa over a large piece of parchment paper.  When roll is baked, turn out onto silicone damp towel immediately. (You may  need to quickly loosen lightly before turning out) Trim edges of roll, then roll in damp towel - while still hot. Cool , while covered with an additional kitchen towel. ( Note: I have had excellent results turning the Roulage base in a silicone baking mat, instead of the damp towel, then wrapping the mat in a damp towel. When cool, remove the towel covering the  roll and unroll  on a cocoa covered parchment which coats the outside of roll. Spread whipped cream over surface, then roll. Place roll on waxed paper, cover. Cover this in plastic wrap securely and chill. With a serrated knife, slice roulage and serve on dessert plates, garnished with berries. ( Roulage may be frozen,if not serving right away. Serves 6 beautifully.  

Notes

You will need a 9x14 jelly roll pan with a 1 inch rim or a similar size baking pan with rim.  The pan must be squeaky clean and undressed to accept the batter.
A silicone baking mat or a dampened flour sack kitchen towel must be used to roll the roulade for cooling. A good grade of parchment paper or a second dry silicone mat or flour sack towel  covered with sifted cocoa must be ready to unroll the  Roulage, before filling with slightly sweetened whipped cream( you will need 2 approximately 2 cups of whipped cream- please do not use non-dairy whipped topping!
Very old recipes call for the dampened flour sack towel, I used silicone baking mats to roll and cool- with excellent results. 
Roulage is best served fresh rolled, chilled and cut, however it may also be made a day ahead, placed infilled with whipped creamin freezer. The roulade must allowed to thaw  completely to unroll. Fill with whipped cream, roll gently. Slice and place carefully on dessert plates. 

 

It does take a bit of self confidence to make a Roulage, just remember that the imperfections of a Roulage, only add to its beauty. For really, it’s a dessert that shouldn’t-couldn’t-wouldn’t want to be mass produced perfection. Here’s hoping that some time, you’ll challenge yourself to make a Roulage.

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine.

Camellias,Chocolate and Love…

If there’s one thing about February that always delights me- it’s that camellias are in bloom, chocolate is on the menu or in a heart shaped box and love seems to be in the crisp cool air. This year, the red camellias are showing out, a bumper crop of ruffled blooms, and this tickles me because they’ve taken their own sweet time about getting to a point of consistent blooms- the shrub was chosen for it’s double ruffled petite blossoms- in honor of my mother in law- who I loved with all of my heart- who was petite, beautiful and …well, it just seemed fitting to plant a camellia to honor her life with our state flower, the Camellia.

Valentine’s seems to be an oddly conflicting  holiday. Oh yes, it’s supposed to be all about flowers and chocolate and romance, yet it’s often a disappointing holiday, even with all of the gift ideas, hearts and beautiful sentimental cards- disappointment often stands in the shadows. Still. Love itself comes in many forms- romantic love, yet also love of family, love of friends and yes, love of place. Other than my own home- there is possibly no place on this earth that I love more than a beautiful historic hotel in Point Clear, Alabama which combines all kinds of love… camellias bloom profusely and a certain form of chocolate stole my heart many years ago.

The Grand Hotel is her name. Close by is Mobile Bay and  a quaint town called Fairhope; just down the road is a beautiful small town named Magnolia Springs…now if fair hope, beautiful sunsets, camellias, magnolias and a grand old lady doesn’t give you a clear point of view… I don’t know what possibly could. The pace is slower, Afternoon Tea is served every afternoon, the grounds are filled with huge live oaks that have long gray beards of Spanish moss- under their spreading branches- camellias, azaleas and all manner of distinctly southern plants bloom in profusion around a mossy lagoon. I have visited there during every season of the year, yet February is the time of year I’ve probably enjoyed most- in the lower coastal south- it might get chilly but never so cold as to discourage the camellias or the guests. I’ve been there in formal dress several times in February- it seemed to me, the most glamorous place anyone could be!

Yet, my best memories of the Grand, are of the ones when my children were young and truly learned the exquisite art of dining and dressing for the occasion at a champagne brunch with live music playing softly- tunes like ‘Stars fell on Alabama’ or the more lively- ‘The Alabama Jubilee’. And if there is ever a place on earth for ‘jubilee’ it’s on the shores of Mobile Bay where that amazing phenomenon happens when it’s least expected!

The first time I ever tasted- Flourless Chocolate Cake was at the Grand Hotel, and I recall thinking- ‘What an elegant dessert! Surely, someone could have come up with a more decadent name!’ Somehow, over the years- I was given their recipe for this decadent chocolate dessert. For years, I’ve thought I couldn’t recreate it- and the truth is? Without the backdrop of the Grand Hotel it would no doubt ever taste the same. So! I took the recipe and tweaked it to make the recipe my own – and while our camellia’s are blooming their fool heads off? I decide to try my hand at making it and decorating it with those festive red blooms! So, it was only  appropriate to name it- Camellia’s Flourless Dark Chocolate Cake. It’s way easier to make it than I’d ever have thought- and decorated with red camellias grown right here at the cottage- it was downright gorgeous and…well, it took me back… Here’s how you make it-

Camellia’s Flourless Dark Chocolate Cake...

A dense rich dark chocolate cake, made with baking chocolate and cocoa, a mere 1 cup of sugar, no flour at all, and- to deepen the flavor- espresso powder is added. A small slice garnished with whipped cream is an elegant dessert. 

Ingredients

  • 2 Sticks Butter Cut in pieces- plus more for pan
  • 1/4 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder More for dusting pan
  • 2 Teaspoons Instant espresso or coffee granules
  • 1/4 Cup Heavy Cream
  • 8 Ounces Unsweetened Baking Chocolate Chopped
  • 5 Large Eggs
  • 1 Cup Granular Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Powdered Sugar As needed for dusting
  • Whipped Cream
  • Fresh Mint Leaf, Berries or flowers For garnish

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 9 inch springform pan (or a 9 inch cake pan lined completely with parchment paper) Butter pan and dust with cocoa powder. Set aside. In a heavy medium saucepan, melt butter on medium low heat, add baking chocolate pieces and carefully stir until melted. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together large eggs, add granulated sugar, espresso powder and cocoa powder until fully combined. Carefully incorporate melted chocolate and butter until th batter is blended well. Pour batter into prepared pan lightly smooth batter. Bake at 350 degrees on center rack until puffed and set, approximately 35 minutes. Allow cake to cool for a full hour in the pan. If needed run a knife around sides of pan (if a baking pan is used, lift out of pan and fold down parchment ) unmold cake on serving platter. (Cake may be wrapped well after cooling and stored for up to 2 days before serving.) When ready to serve, dust with powdered sugar, add whipped cream and  garnish as desired. This is a very rich dense cake, small slices are preferable. 12-16 slices. 

And while we’re talking Camellias, Chocolate and Love… here’s a few ideas to make Valentine’s special:

  • Give or plant a camellia shrub, a special rose even a gardenia to honor a loved one or to beautify your landscape.
  • Bake a special dessert, cookies or a cake to give to friends and loved ones.
  • And, since the Grand Hotel has a spa that has been named one of the best in the country- why not make Spa Water for yourself and loved ones- decorated with rose petals?
  • Or give a spa certificate to a loved one, a friend or even treat yourself to a manicure or pedicure? Maybe find some seasonal flowers (like Camellias) and give a bouquet?

I know. I know. We tend to think of Valentine’s Day as just for couples in love…. I’ve come to believe- love, the sweetest kind is love that’s spread around a bit… so my best idea this year- Determine in the next few days to find folks who could use a hug or a bit of extra love and care- make a card, send a goofy text, write a note, give a call or just visit for a while? Sometimes the best thing of all is to say-

. Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine. *The photograph of that gorgeous sunset was taken by me at the Marriott Grand Hotel several years ago- I’ve been reassured the sunsets are still glorious! *Choose flowers to decorate food or water that are organically grown or that you know the source. *The dark chocolate flourless cake can be made ahead two days before it’s served- so you’ll have plenty of time to make it this week!

Health and Beauty tip: Tea Tree Oil is an amazing oil for skin treatments and comes from the same family as the Camellia. And did you know? Dark Chocolate has been known to soothe a cough more readily than hot tea or chicken soup? Of course, that a bite of dark chocolate that slowly melts in your mouth! And, if the weather permits at all- the best health advice I can give you this week- is to try to spend 15-20 minutes outside everyday- it lifts the spirits and fresh air is a total body treatment!

Lemon Squares…

From the cradle to the grave, in the South- at every occasion of any importance – you can mark this down, a dessert, or two or more will feature lemon. Lemon desserts are legendary and iconic… Lemon Meringue Pue, Lemon glazed Pound Cake, Lemon Ice Box Pie, wedding cakes filled with lemon curd…even our sweet tea is laced with lemon juice! However, these Lemon Squares make a regular appearance on tea tables, at baby showers, holiday dessert tables, bridal teas, anniversary and retirement parties and yes, grieved though we may be for the dearly departed- we tend to consume Lemon Squares in quantities to comfort ourselves. How do I know this? Almost every dark suit and black dress that’s been anywhere near the bereavement buffet bears a sprinkle of a telltale streak of powdered sugar! On one occasion I helped with –  Lemon Squares were assigned to more than one trusted baker- but all agreed that Bennie Sue’s recipe should be used for uniform quality. Okay, I made up Bennie Sue’s name to protect the innocent. You know, there’s always at least one Bennie Sue in any southern community whose recipe is considered the gold standard. Rustic and humble in looks- not Bennie Sue, for heavens sake! No, the rustic and humble Lemon Squares- tend to take on a heavenly appearance with their light cloud-like dusting of powdered  sugar. I think even the formidable  Bennie Sue would approve of this recipe for Camellia’s Lemon Squares! 

Lemon Squares...

Cut in bar cookies or tiny squares, Lemon Bars are welcome any time. A shortbread type crust topped with baked lemon  curd and dustEd with a snowy powdered sugar topping - it’s a near perfect addition on dessert tables or as a stand alone confection. 

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Cup Butter Softened
  • 1 Cup Flour Sifted
  • 1/4 Cup Sugar
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • Zest Lemon from 1 large or 2 small lemons
  • 3/4 Cup Sugar
  • 2 Tbs Flour
  • 1/4 teas Baking Powder
  • 3-4 Tbs Lemon Juice * Freshly Squeezed - use zested lemons
  • Powdered Sugar for Dusting

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine softened butter, 1 cup of flour and 1/4 cup of sugar for crust. Do not overmix. Press into an 8x8 glass baking dish for crust. Bake 12 minutes or until pale but dry. Do not overtake, crust will complete baking later. While crust is baking, make lemon filling with remainder of ingredients, except powdered sugar. Mix well. Pour mixture over partially baked crust. Complete baking at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes or until Lemon Mixture is done. ( press lightly with your finger, if no fingerprint remains, the Lemon Squares are done. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and continue to cool. Dust again with powdered sugar.
    When ready to serve, for parties, cut into small squares. As a dessert, larger squares may be preferred. * Serving suggestion: When ready to serve, top with additional lemon zest for a pretty presentation and a tart fresh taste. 

While they can be made year round, winter is a perfect time for Lemon Squares. Citrus fruit is fresh and abundant. And while we do make these lemon squares for special occasions, they’re the perfect ending for a Sunday Dinner, when they can be cut generously with no complaints!

I do recommend using three small kitchen hand tools when making lemon squares- a wooden lemon reamer – less cleanup for just one or two lemons, a small hand held specialty lemon zester for those pretty little strands and curls that add a zip of flavor, done as a flourish right before serving and- a small fine mesh strainer in stainless steel to seed and pulp the lemon juice for the filling and again for the pretty finale- the sifting flourish of powdered sugar! And we do love to add a flourish, accessorize if you will. And if there’s one thing Southern women know how to do- it’s to accessorize! Oh me, hope you’ll try them some dreary winter day soon!

Love y’all, Camellia

Health and Beauty Tips: Citrus fruits including – maybe especially lemons,  are full of antioxidants, Vitamin C and those all important B for Beauty Vitamins. Some think that lemon juice even in a spa juice does help ease symptoms of the common cold. Here’s a Spa Water I made this week, with sliced ruby red grapefruit, oranges and lemon slices. if nothing else it sure was pretty- so pretty, I was enticed to drink more water! And that has to be good for your skin and keep you healthy and hydrated!

  • * You can find the small kitchen tools, such as the citrus reamer, the specialty lemon zester and the small stainless steel/fine mesh sieves-  at fine kitchen shops, including Williams Sonoma. (This is not a sponsored post) And! that pretty green plate? It’s made by Earthborn Pottery right here in Alabama!
  • We do have some ads now, to keep the lights on… Camellia’s Cottage does not guarantee the quality of any products or services in these ads!
  • *And… I just made up Bennie Sue’s name- to protect the innocent you know…
  • *All photographs are obviously mine!

Camellia’s Celery Blossoms…

Celery is so common in Southern cooking that I would say it’s an unsung hero. What surprises me is that there are so few recipes where celery is the star! Oh yes, we must have in almost everything from soups, stews, casseroles and even our beloved salads from chicken , shrimp, mixed greens and even congealed- we tend to add the refreshing crunch of crisp celery. One of my favorite family stories is when my grandmother… who was meticulous in keeping her spice drawer up to date- tossed a handful of celery seed into her small kitchen garden and was rewarded by surprise! Her own home grown celery! She was delighted and never lived it down! I think she would have loved these fun appetizers!

 

Camellia’s Celery Blossoms

An excellent crisp appetizer of celery filled with a cream cheese mixture- great with Hot Wings or  a welcome appetizer anytime! 
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American

Ingredients

  • 1 Large Bunch Celery Organic if possible
  • 1 8 oz. Cream Cheese Softened
  • 1/2 Cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese Grated- not pre-shredded
  • 1 Tablespoon Finely Grated sweet Onion With juice included
  • 1 Teaspoon Garlic Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Fresh Ground Black Pepper Or to tastes
  • 1 Tablespoon Milk
  • 1 Tablespoon Finely Chopped Green onion Tops Optional

Instructions

  • Separate Celery Stalks. Trim tops and bottoms of stalks and wash well, removing any heavy strings or bruises. While celery dries, combine cheeses and blend until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and blend well. Spread cheese mixture into center of each celery rib. Press 3 cheese filled ribs together with filling facing the center. Tie each celery bundle with kitchen twine or string. Chill filled ribs for at least one hour. * covered tightly this is a great make ahead recipe. Slice celery blossoms into 1/2 to 3/4 inch slices. Arrange on large edible leaves, such as cabbage or collard leaves. Serves 12-16. 

Notes

These celery blossoms are wonderful with Hot Wings. Any leftovers should be chilled. They are also a wonderful snack alone or served on a party cracker! 

Camellia’s Celery Blossoms are easy to make and a nice alternative to celery sticks on a vegetable platter or even alongside your favorite hot wings . A pretty and delicious appetizer, too! If you’re watching the Super Bowl or managing the food table during the game…I think you’re gonna love them!

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine.

* Health and Beauty Tip : Celery is loaded with fiber, high in Vitamin K, helpful in lowering cholesterol and of all things may reduce inflammation and inhibit the growth of certain bacteria in the intestines! That’s a lot of benefits, y’all ! And we all know healthy insides help us be good looking on the outside!

‘Where the Sugarcane Grows’ Gingerbread…

The Gulf Coast states from Florida on over to Louisiana is where the sugarcane grows; you’re in cane syrup and molasses country. Sugarcane is responsible for the famous Southern Sweet Tooth, and most folks think the old fashioned molasses pie was responsible for what we know today as Pecan Pie- and where would be without that? Sugarcane is the number one cash crop in Louisiana, molasses is made by milling sugarcane and sugar beets together, it takes an astounding one ton of sugarcane to make just five gallons of molasses! So… what does that have to do with this gingerbread – well… this adaptation of an old gingerbread recipe calls for one full cup of molasses! And it’s full of spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, black pepper along with coffee and cocoa- we southerners have always loved our spices! Then, for good measure- this one also uses the zest of several oranges and at least half a jar of orange marmalade and who would argue that southern states like Florida produce bumper crops of citrus! When I was tweaking this recipe- I recalled how my grandmother wouldn’t let a grain of sugar near her cornbread but occasionally she would butter me a slice straight from the oven and say- ‘Put some of that marmalade on it!’ And oh..  it was so good! I don’t recall eating gingerbread very often- mainly it would be a wintertime cake topped with a lemon curd… any citrus does seem to brighten up a winter day! And… while I was at it? Why not make a cream cheese frosting- the classic for Carrot Cake- another wintertime favorite!

So! that’s how ‘Where the Sugarcane Grows’ Gingerbread came about! Now, you don’t even have to put frosting on it- it’s good with orange marmalade or on it’s own. And since molasses is nutrient rich- and the spices tend to settle a queasy stomach- you might even get away with calling it health food…It’s a dense rich cake filled with enough spices to make the whole house smell wonderful, maybe seem a bit warmer and have a little something sweet on hand! Here’s how you make it: 

 

'Where the Sugarcane Grows' Gingerbread

A moist spicy gingerbread, glazed with orange marmalade while warm then topped with cream cheese icing.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup molasses thick and dark
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons dark cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg freshly grated preferred
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 eggs large lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup hot strong coffee
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest or the zest of one small orange
  • 6 oz. orange marmalade

Cream Cheese Icing

  • 1 stick butter softened
  • 1 8 ounce package cream cheese softened
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 one pound package of confectioner's sugar sifted

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add molasses mix well. Add eggs, mixing well, then add vanilla extract. Sift flour, salt, cocoa, baking soda and spices together. Add dry ingredients- in 3-4 portions mixing well. Add hot coffee and orange zest to mix. Mix thoroughly but do not overmix ingredients. 
     Put mixture into a 9x9 well greased baking dish, bake 30- 40 minutes, or until center is still slightly moist. (If you prefer to make a gingerbread loaf, add an extra large egg; butter and line a loaf pan with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for up to one hour.)  Remove gingerbread from oven, allow to cool slightly then glaze with 3/4 cup of orange marmalade being generous. When the gingerbread has cooled- frost with Cream Cheese Icing.  

For Cream Cheese Icing

  • In a mixer cream softened butter and cream cheese, add vanilla extract. Then mix in confectioner's sugar one cup at a time until thoroughly mixed and fluffy. Ice glazed Gingerbread. * May decorate with thin strips of orange zest. Chill iced gingerbread for 15 minutes before slicing.

Notes

Gingerbread often dries out quickly, the glaze and icing help keep it moist. After the initial chilling, any leftover gingerbread should be wrapped with plastic wrap and covered. Makes 9-12 servings. This is a very spicy gingerbread that I think you will enjoy.

Next time you feel like you need a bit of spice in your life – I hope you’ll try… ‘Where the Sugarcane Grows’ Gingerbread.  And as always…

Love y’all, Camellia

* If you want to make a loaf cake- add an extra egg and an extra 20 minutes more bake time, just don’t peek while it’s baking or it will fall! Or, if you prefer more of a bar cookie- pour the batter in a 10x 15 inch sheet pan- seriously reducing the bake time… just until the center is almost set. Cut in cute shapes or squares… oh just do whatever you want to!

*All photographs are mine.