Couscous with Peaches and Sugarsnaps

Couscous with Peaches and Sugarsnaps

The last of peach season is here, and before it gets away, I want to give away a stellar peach recipe from Southern Cooking for Company. Book marketers don’t recommend giving away your content. If everything’s available free on the internet, people won’t buy your book. Yet so many generous, open-handed cooks shared their exceptional recipes with me, and I want to share with you. Besides, it’s important to me that people see how much Southern cooking has evolved, and yet how authentically Southern it remains. The South is a different place than it was 50 years ago. The person standing at the stove is a different race or gender, or wasn’t born in the South. The ingredients in the refrigerator would have been wildly exotic to our grandparents, and even our parents. Even some of the techniques would have been unfamiliar to a traditional Southern cook. A lot has changed, and Southern food is changing with it. I’m pleased to have been able to document a small corner of the change. And in that spirit, I present Couscous with Peaches and Sugar Snaps as a good example. Neither couscous nor sugar snaps were available in the South of 1965. And this salad would likely have included either Jell-O or mayonnaise or both. But we are lucky to have access to more and fresher ingredients now, whose full and lively flavors don’t need any help to be delicious. I thank Donya Mullins, Georgian and blogger at A Southern Soul, for a really fine recipe that’s been the workhorse of my potluck offerings for the last two peach seasons.   Couscous Salad with Fresh Peaches and Sugar Snaps 2015-08-07 12:04:37 Serves 8 The lime juice and pistachios make this salad, so avoid substitutions. Write a review Save Recipe Print Prep Time 15 min Prep Time 15 min Ingredients 11/4 cups water 1 cup couscous 2 tablespoons olive oil 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste 1 cup fresh sugar snap peas 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1 1/2 cups chopped fresh peaches 1/4 cup shelled pistachios 3 tablespoons torn or julienned basil Instructions Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan. Stir in the couscous, oil and salt. Let stand, off the heat and covered, for 5 minutes. Cook the sugar snaps in boiling water until they turn bright green. Drain and chill in ice water; drain. Combine the lime juice, olive oil and salt in the serving bowl or in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Stir or shake to combine. Fluff the couscous with a fork and transfer to a serving bowl. Add the peaches, peas and pistachios. Toss with the...

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How I almost killed Southern food

How I almost killed Southern food

It’s a relief to be wrong sometimes, like that time I predicted the death of Southern food. It’s right there on the cover of the Wall Street Journal, December 16, 1993. “This food was meant to fuel field work,” I told a reporter. “Desk workers who eat it just up and die at 55.” The Journal sent a reporter to follow me around while I reviewed restaurants. It was a moment in Nashville when few places served good traditional Southern food. More often, Southern food suffered from shortcuts and substitutions, canned and frozen ingredients, roller-milled cornmeal mix. The result was food without the fresh, authentic flavor of traditional homemade Southern food. It was close enough approximation for a few places to have a decent lunch trade, but not so good that you wanted the recipe. The really good places took the long way: snapping beans by the bushel, peeling and slicing peaches, braising meats and vegetables, seeking out stone-ground cornmeal. It was a lot of work, and when the owners retired, the restaurants nearly always closed. Besides, Nashville and other mid-size Southern cities suddenly had far more interesting food to eat. It was the era of the Silver Palate, of regional Italian, French country, and the California-fresh revolution. We could order arugula with raspberry vinaigrette, salade nicoise, and orecchiette fra diavolo. Nashville had its first sushi and Thai places in the 1980s. Maybe the older folks wanted canned green beans simmered with bacon, but we wanted sushi and pad thai. Digging deeper, there was the American Heart Association’s recommendation against a diet high in fat. The introduction of whole lines of low-fat and fat-free packaged foods in the 1990s codified the recommendation. Since a lot of Southern cooking had subtle flavors from traditional fats like ham, bacon and clabbered milk, the culture’s turn toward low fat cooking and eating was a terrible blow. Lowfat buttermilk doesn’t yield the lush-textured cornbread and biscuits of full-fat buttermilk. Low fat meant no deviled eggs, no ham beans, no collards with fatback, no fried chicken. No baked ham. Lean pork chops, hold the gravy. By the time I had my little chat with the Wall Street Journal, it was easy to dismiss Southern food. It was moribund anyway, save for home cooks and a few places doing traditional, from-scratch handmade food. In the city, Southern food was a “sometimes” food: only available sometimes, only okay sometimes in a healthy diet. What I could see moving into its place was noveau Southern—a fried chicken salad with honey-jalapeno dressing I tasted in Charleston. A chilled crowder pea salad as a side dish at a fine restaurant. Black-eyed pea cakes with salsa at the neighborhood potluck....

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That Thing Where You Can’t Find That One Recipe

That Thing Where You Can’t Find That One Recipe

This cookbook I wrote is dropping in e-book format on June 30, which I am ridiculously thrilled about. E-cookbooks aren’t new, but they never stop being super-cool. My iPad is so great in the kitchen, plus all the features like shopping list, nutritional analysis, etc. Electronic cookbooks are 100% okay with me.   My problem is that even without a big collection of e-cookbooks, I already have trouble remembering where a particular recipe resides. Is it in a hard copy book? A virtual book? On food.com? Epicurious? On my computer? Eat Your Books, an online index of cookbooks, blogs and culinary magazines, is a new-ish tool to solve the great recipe hunt problem. Once you “build” a bookshelf of your existing books, magazines, online saved recipes and blogs, it turns them into one big searchable database. You can search by title, ingredient, or probably other ways I haven’t tried.  Some cooks use it to search by ingredient, which is especially useful people with CSAs. (Also good if you shop your store’s weekly specials but aren’t sure what to make with what you buy.) Others use it to find a long-lost favorite. Some use it for bookmarking online recipes. Here’s a thread on Chowhound from some true believers in Eat Your Books describing exactly why they love it and how they use it. The general consensus is that the service has boosted their use of their cookbook libraries tremendously. The free version has a smaller range of recipes and functions, or a subscription version with unlimited everything, so every recipe you own is always at your fingertips.    ...

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Hello, I’m Nicki

I've written about food for a living since The Silver Palate was new. Discovering a new cookbook or technique is my idea of fun. And kitchen gear--I'm helpless to resist. Like kitchen projects, the posts here are occasional and open-ended, so please subscribe. You can read more about my work at the "About Nicki" page.

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