When C and I moved in together, my cooking abilities were limited to scrambled eggs, grilled cheese sandwiches, frozen skillet meals, pasta with sauce from a jar, and Publix Rotisserie chickens. (Okay, that last one is cheating; but we survived on those buttered-up deli birds for our first several months as mortgage-paying grownups.)
My mom gave me a copy of the Better Homes and Gardens: New Cook Book that year, and it became my kitchen bible. It was the perfect starter guide, filled with classic recipes that were easy to follow with familiar ingredients that were easy to find in the grocery store. I spent a lot of time with that red gingham cookbook: I planned menus, made shopping lists, hit the grocery store on Sundays, and made new recipes for dinner throughout the week. I used the time in the kitchen to unwind after my 9 to 5, and learned a lot of cooking basics along the way!
That was more than a decade ago, before Pinterest, food blogs, small business ownership, and my addiction to the convenience of takeout; these days, my cookbooks sit neglected on their shelf, collecting dust. But last Saturday, while C was out golfing and I was tidying up the kitchen, I found a copy of The New Southern Table: Classic Ingredients Revisited by Brys Stephens. I did a quick flip through the pages; the recipes looked simple and delicious, and reminded me of the southern dishes I grew up on, but with a cleaner, healthier spin (no lard or deep fryer required). Before I knew it, I was sitting in the sunshine with iced tea and a notepad, planning a menu and making a shopping list for the week, just like old times.
It’s been so great trying new dishes and getting reacquainted with our kitchen, and C is feeling spoiled with homemade meals every night. Now I’m feeling inspired to go through all of my cookbooks!
After the jump: some of my favorite recipes from The New Southern Table: Classic Ingredients Revisited, including a hearty breakfast bowl with quinoa and fresh blueberries, a roasted brussels sprouts and avocado dish with country ham that I made three times in one week, sweet potato cornbread, an easy lima bean and potato soup, and a quick dark chocolate and sea salt peanut brittle.
Breakfast Quinoa with Bananas, Blueberries, Honey and Pecans
Quinoa is a hearty and filling alternative to oatmeal, with protein, fiber and amino acids. You can easily customize these breakfast bowls with different mix-ins, like berries, dried fruit, coconut flakes, flax, or chia seeds. I like to use toasted coconut almond milk as a substitute for milk in this recipe.
One batch makes several servings that can be divvied up into separate containers and stashed in the fridge for easy grab-and-go breakfasts through the week. Also: how did I not know about toasting quinoa before cooking to bring out the nutty flavor?!
- 1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
- pinch of salt
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 2/3 cup pecans, broken into pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala or cinnamon
- 1 1/2 cups milk, divided
- 1/2 cup raisins, or dried currants or cranberries
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 cup fresh blueberries
- 1 banana, sliced
- Toast the quinoa in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, until dry and lightly toasted, 3-5 minutes.
- Add the salt and water, stir, cover the pot, bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Cook, covered, about 10 minutes, or until the quinoa is tender and you can see it’s tail-like tendril.
- Meanwhile, toast the pecan pieces in a dry skillet for 2-4 minutes, or until the pecans are lightly browned. Transfer the pecans to a plate to cool.
- Uncover the quinoa and stir to let most of the water evaporate. Stir in the garam masala, or cinnamon, 1/2 cup of the milk, the raisins, currants, or cranberries, and the butter. Cook, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes, or until most of the milk has evaporated.
- Add the remaining 1 cup milk, the honey, blueberries, banana, and one half of the pecans. Fold the quinoa together for 3-5 minutes, or until it reaches the desired consistency.
- Garnish with the remaining pecans.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Country Ham, Pecans and Avocado
I’m in love with this recipe. It’s really easy to throw together for dinner, and I like to serve it over buttered white rice.
- 1/2 cup pecans, roughly halved
- 2 pounds Brussels sprouts, stem ends trimmed away and discarded, outer leaves discarded, halved
- 6 ounces country ham, cut into 1-inch squares
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
- 1 1/2 medium avocado, diced
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
- balsamic vinegar for drizzling (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Toast the pecans on a baking sheet about 5 minutes, or until lightly browned and fragrant. Transfer to a plate to cool.
- Increase the oven temperature to 400°F.
- In a large bowl, toss the brussels sprouts and country ham with the olive oil, season with salt and red pepper flakes (keep in mind that the country ham is already salty) and spread evenly on a large baking sheet.
- Roast 15-20 minutes, or until the brussels sprouts are brown in spots and cooked through.
- Transfer the brussels sprouts and country ham to a bowl, toss with avocado and thyme, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Top with the toasted pecans, and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.
Chocolate and Sea Salt Peanut Brittle
I think the trick to getting the best result from this brittle is using a good quality dark chocolate and freshly-shelled roasted peanuts. I recommend waiting until the chocolate has set a little in the fridge before adding the sea salt, otherwise it sinks right into the chocolate and you don’t get that pretty dusting of salt on the surface.
Now I want to keep some of this brittle stashed in my fridge at all times!
- 8 ounces 70% dark chocolate, roughly chopped
- 2 teaspoons corn syrup
- 1 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- Place a metal or glass bowl over a large saucepan filled halfway with water to make a double-boiler. Bring the water to boil, and then reduce it to a gentle simmer.
- Place the chocolate and corn syrup in the bowl, and cook, stirring often, until melted and smooth.
- Stir in the peanuts and immediately pour this mixture out onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
- Using a spatula, evenly disperse the peanuts and spread the mixture into an even thickness.
- Sprinkle with the salt.
- Refrigerate until hardened, then break or cut into pieces for serving.
Lima Bean and Potato Soup
I used frozen Fordhook lima beans that I cooked separately before I started this soup, and added fully-cooked diced chicken sausage for extra protein. I served it over buttered white rice with a slice of sweet potato cornbread. So good!
If you haven’t cooked with leeks before, check out this helpful video to learn how to trim, cut and wash them.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 leeks, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
- salt and white pepper
- 2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
- 4 cups cooked lima beans, preferably large white limas
- 2 cups lima bean cooking liquid or chicken stock
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and a light sprinkling of salt, and cook, stirring often, 2 minutes.
- Add the potatoes, lima beans, and lima bean cooking liquid or chicken stock. Add enough water to cover, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are very tender and the lima beans begin to fall apart. You may need to add a little water if the soup gets too dry.
- Season to taste with salt and white pepper.
Sweet Potato Corn Bread
My husband, who doesn’t usually like baked goods or homemade breads, went back for thirds of this sweet and savory corn bread. It takes a little extra work, but it is so worth it. A tip: I like to bake several sweet potatoes at once so I have them on-hand to heat up for dinner or lunch (or even breakfast with a little almond butter!)
- 1 pound orange-fleshed sweet potato (about 1 large)
- unsalted butter for preparing the baking pan
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/2 cup full-fat plain yogurt
- 2 1/3 cups finely ground cornmeal
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 tablespoons fine salt or table salt
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Pierce the sweet potato all over with a fork and bake directly on the middle rack of the oven for about 1 hour, or until tender all the way through.
- Let the sweet potato cool slightly, then peel and puree with a potato ricer or masher. You’ll need 1 cup of puree.
- Butter a 9x9x2-inch (or similar size) baking pan.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the 1 cup pureed sweet potatoes, eggs, buttermilk, yogurt and lemon zest.
- Place the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, ginger and cayenne pepper in a food processor, and pulse until combined.
- Add the butter to the food processor, and pulse until the mixture resembles course meal.
- Add this cornmeal mixture to the sweet potato mixture, stir until just combined, and pour into the prepared baking pan.
- Bake 35-45 minutes, or until the corn bread is golden brown on top and a paring knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Let cool slightly before serving.
These are just a handful of the great recipes in this cookbook, and there are LOTS more, so on your next trip to the bookstore, see if you can find a copy!