Southern Tastes: Eggs

 

Whether sunny side up, fried over easy, scrambled or on a burger, just about everyone loves a cackleberry. We asked the Southern Tastes panelists how they like their eggs, and here is what they had to say. Share your thoughts on the Southern Tastes Facebook page at facebook.com/sotastes.

Stacey Greenberg, diningwithmonkeys.com

I like to fry an egg over hard and wrap it up in a whole grain tortilla with avocado, arugula and Sriracha.

Marisa Baggett, cookbook author

Ever seen that Portlandia sketch "Put a Bird on It!" where art and home décor is made better by just adding a bird? That's how I see fried eggs on just about any food. Steamed veggies? Put a fried egg on it. Salad? Stir-fry? Steamed fish? Pizza? Ramen? Hamburger? Kimchee? Put a fried egg on it! Chances are, whatever I'm eating at home, I'm topping it with crispy-edged, gooey-centered fried egg.

John Vergos, Rendezvous

The salmon deviled eggs at Felicia Suzanne's and the wasabi deviled eggs at Tsunami are the ultimate. I'll tell you where I don't like eggs, and that's on a pizza. I know it's European, but it may be the only thing I dislike about European cuisine.

Kelly English, Restaurant Iris, Kelly English Steakhouse

The egg and chorizo torta at Las Tortugas is positively killer. You can taste the passion that the Magallaneses cook with every dish they put out. I love that torta, and the restaurant is simply outstanding. At home, a breakfast sandwich with good sourdough, Benton's bacon, a runny farm egg and some melted havarti is my favorite.

Kathy Katz, Cooper Street 20/20

I am like Marisa -- when in doubt, put an egg on it. At home I make "Sconset" eggs. That's what we call them because we first had them on Nantucket in an area named Siasconset. They are easy and delicious. Basically, you are making scrambled eggs with cream cheese and chopped green onions. I love them with a toasted English muffin. Wasabi deviled eggs at Tsunami are also a hit in my book.

Melissa Petersen, Edible Memphis

I love the breakfast burrito from the Fuel Food Truck on Saturdays at the Downtown farmers market ... farm eggs (which make all the difference), avocado, salsa, cheese and bacon wrapped in a soft tortilla. At home, eggs are my fast food. I like them over-medium with toasted sourdough or English muffin to dip in the yolk.

Kat Gordon, Muddy's Bake Shop

I'm not typically an egg yolk person. Thomas calls it a crime against eating that I do not want runny egg on anything and will deliberately overcook my eggs so that I may surgically remove the yolk and still enjoy the "good part," the yummy white! That said, I do love the AM breakfast appetizer at Andrew Michael. It is just so delicious, and even with sunshiny yolk running all over the plate, it's far too scrumptious to bother me in the slightest!

Tiffany Langston, Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau

I find that the addition of a well-cooked egg, similar to bacon, will improve almost any savory item. I cannot think of a better combination of both of those things than the fried egg sandwich from Sweet Grass. The applewood smoked bacon and creamy avocado send it over the top, and it's perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Susan Schadt, Arts-Memphis

This is actually a Mark Bittman recipe, but one of our favorites that is now on rotation for guests as well as an at-home Sunday night supper. Take about one-half pound pancetta or bacon, cut in pieces and fry in pan and remove. Cook 1 pound spaghetti al dente. Clean two leeks, remove the ends, slice about ¼-inch thick and sauté in pan; add a little olive oil if necessary. Form four "nests" in pan with leeks. Add a little oil to each nest. Add one egg to each nest and fry until just cooked through.

Add leeks/eggs to large bowl with pasta and pancetta/bacon, and toss with Parmesan cheese. Add more cheese to top of each serving.

Marne Anderson, Glazers/Victor Robilio Co.

A summer refresher. A properly made pisco sour with frothy egg white.

Ryan Trimm, Sweet Grass, Next Door, Southward

My favorite late-night snack after work is a well-crafted egg sandwich. Keep it simple: bacon or ham, fresh tomato with salt and pepper, crisp lettuce, light mayo and an over easy egg on toasted wheat.

Angela Moon, Kirby Wines & Liquors

My neighbor Karen raises chickens and when I am very lucky, I get a dozen. Perfect yellow yolks sitting up all tall and proud. I love eggs: omelets, soft boiled, poached and fried. I recently used whites and whole eggs to make a squash soufflé with squash from the Agricenter Farmers Market -- freshest of eggs, tiny squash, and peppered bacon from The Fresh Market. Oh yes, my little foodies, oh yes.

Charles Warner, local food lover

You really can't go wrong with Felicia Suzanne's salmon deviled eggs.

Deni Reilly, The Majestic Grille

We buy our eggs at the Memphis Farmers Market from Andrew Donnell. They have delicious, bright yellow yolks and make the tastiest egg salad sandwiches -- the "other" perfect summer sandwich!

Samantha Boggs Dean, Huey's

Every day when my sisters and I were in high school, my mom would fix scrambled eggs for our breakfast. She would mix Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce in the mix, and to this day that is how I make eggs for my kids. Great way to start the day.

Felicia Willett, Felicia Suzanne's

I have a true love affair with an egg sandwich. I usually enjoy one most Sunday mornings. On Saturdays down at the Memphis Farmers Market, I buy heirloom tomatoes, artisan bread, Newman bacon and Westwind Farm eggs. I always have mayo and hot sauce. And I have been known to enjoy one from the Fuel Food Truck too -- I order the grilled cheese, add egg, bacon and avocado! Delicious!

Jennifer Chandler, cookbook author

We get our farm-fresh eggs from our friends the Keegans. She feeds her chickens organic berries and such, so her eggs are so delicious! My family's favorite way to enjoy them is scrambled in a breakfast burrito with a little cheddar and a couple of slices of Newman Farm pepper bacon. When dining out, I just love Hog & Hominy's Red Eye pizza with the poached egg on top. When you cut into it, it just slathers that runny deliciousness all over the pizza. Yum!

Jason Severs, Bari, 3 Angels Diner

I love eggs, but I guess I'm different from most people because I'm very particular about how they're cooked and what they're in. I love, love a good, almost well-done fried egg, whether it's a sandwich or by itself. I love egg salad -- anything in which the egg is firmly cooked. Anything with runny yolks, eggy-tasting sauces, egg based desserts, I just can't do it. No way.

Charles Cavallo, The Cupboard

A true eggs Benedict.

Southern Tastes: Pimento cheese

 
pimiento cheese.jpg

At Sweet Grass Next Door, you can get pimento cheese on your burger (or even, I hear, melted on your chips). Kelly English has been known to stuff okra pods with it. Elwood's Shack makes a solid pimento cheese, too. Where else can you get a good version of the caviar of the South? Well, the Southern Tastes Panel has thoughts on that. Visit the Southern Tastes Facebook page at facebook.com/sotastes to tell us who you think has the best PC.

Kat Gordon, Muddy's Bake Shop

I'm totally biased, as my favorite is the one we make here at Muddy's. It's my mother-in-law's recipe, and it's delicious! She spoiled me for life on yum-azing, super-cheesy, not-real-goopy pimento cheese. My other favorite is Kathy's new pimento cheese recipe at 20/20 Diner on Cooper. ... I think she uses olives in it. It's really different, but totally delicious, especially on whole wheat crackers!

Stacey Greenberg, diningwithmonkeys.com

My dad always kept a container of pimento cheese in the fridge growing up, and I thought it was the grossest thing ever. I never believed pimento cheese could be good until Tom gave me a taste of his at the Cooper Young Farmers Market. Now I am totally addicted to it. I typically eat Tom's on Ak-Mak crackers for a snack, but the very best way to enjoy it is on a barbecue sandwich in place of the coleslaw.

Tiffany Langston, Memphis Visitors and Convention Bureau

I am a Southerner who is not a big fan of pimento cheese, I really enjoy the pimento cheeseburger at Sweet Grass Next Door.

Josh Hammond, Buster's

I must do a shout-out for Holiday Ham in honor of my grandfather, who would have me fetch him a fresh container of their homemade recipe. My guess is they probably sell more pimento cheese than anybody in the city!

Angela Moon, Kirby Wines & Liquors

My grandmother, Carrie Arata, mother of 12 and cashier/lunch lady at Treadwell school for almost 100 years, made a simple and delicious pimento cheese, light on the mayo. My favorites now are Holiday Ham and The Grove Grill.

John Vergos, Rendezvous

Homemade with sharp cheddar, light on mayo, with a healthy dash of Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco. I love the pimento cheese sandwich at the Little Tea Shop.

Ben Brock, Amerigo

My wife makes awesome pimento cheese, and for years it was the perfect holiday gift. For many years I would pour a couple of drinks, and she and I loaded pounds and pounds of cheese into huge stainless bowls for the mixing. I would chop enough garlic to satisfy a busy Italian restaurant, dice a bag of onions, grate four to six varieties of cheese, and watch her mix secret spices and herbs to add to the mountain of cheese.

She would taste, add more secrets, taste again, and eventually it would pass inspection. Then we spent the remainder of the night putting the prized mixture into jars with ingredient labels and holiday ribbon. People became addicted and couldn't wait for the cheese to hit their desk or doorstep. We have skipped the last couple of years, opting for the easier and cheaper option of buying gifts, but I think this year we will go back to our old tradition and give the gift of cheese love. Better be nice to the Brocks! And don't worry, Tom, we won't sell it.

Kathy Katz, Cooper Street 20/20

I have had a love affair with Tom and Ross since they started their business, but Cooper Street 20/20 also makes pimento cheese. I have three different kinds: Traditional, Zesty South Westy (a Tex-Mex style with cumin, cilantro, jalapeño) and Spanish olive pimento cheese made with imported green olives and parsley. My secret in all my pimento cheeses is grated onion and cream cheese. Ugh, I just gave out my secret! And big kisses to Tom and Ross. Congratulations on your success from the other pimento cheese girl. Tom's Tiny Kitchen is the rock star, and I am just the backup band? We'll see ...

Melissa Petersen, Edible Memphis

We have so many great pimento cheeses available that I see no reason to make my own (though I do on occasion): Jones Orchard, Tom's Tiny Kitchen, Holiday Ham, Whole Foods, The Grove Grill, Sweet Grass Next Door, Alchemy, Cooper Street 20/20, Fuel, Hog & Hominy, Restaurant Iris, McEwen's ... I like them all.

Susan Schadt, ArtsMemphis

Hardly ever met a pimento cheese I didn't like but tonight's the night for Tom's debut on an Ak-Mak as an hors d'oeuvre. Normally, I would toast, well-browned (OK, my children say burned), a slice of Milton's multigrain, spread liberally with pimento cheese and run under the broiler open-faced until just bubbling.

Charles Warner, Local foodie

There are too many versions of this ingredient/staple from which to choose. Most have something unique -- often spicy (Pickapeppa sauce is a good option). The major problem with many is the addition of sugar. It ain't supposed to be sweet.

Samantha Boggs Dean, Huey's

My family really likes the pimento cheese that Hope Presbyterian Church sells in their gift shop year-round. We stock up on it before going out of town. My niece Katie eats it like a dip right out of the container, instead of putting it on a sandwich. Yum!

Bert Smythe, Alchemy, McEwen's

Homemade pimento cheese had always been top pick around our house. We love mild chilies and switching up other cheeses to add to the consistent base of white and yellow cheddar. But then, one fateful day, I purchased some of Tom's pimento cheese at the Memphis Farmer's Market... We have never looked back; it is literally that good. I bet his mom's recipe collection is full of many more great secrets, too. Thanks to Tom for sharing this one!

Glenda Hastings, Napa Cafe

I love Muddy's pimento cheese -- perfect amount of kick. It is addictive, but lucky for me they're just steps away from me.

MCS Memories

 
Hey folks! We're collecting memories about your days in the Memphis City Schools, and I want to hear about the food. In exchange, I offer you these two cookie recipes. What did you love? What did you hate? (I hated all school food, by the way. Blech. It was NEVER good.)

This is from commercialappeal.com:

It has been printed about 20 times, but still we get recipe requests for Memphis City Schools butter cookies. And when we start talking about butter cookies, someone always brings up the peanut butter cookies.

We're sharing both of the recipes with you again today, and asking you to share memories of the food you loved -- or loathed -- at Memphis City Schools, as the system's 165-year run comes to an end.

The food at Melrose High School, in the cafeteria and around the football field on Friday nights, was legendary; you can find the decadent and lengthy recipe for Melrose Dressing online at commercialappeal.com.

The cheesy spaghetti at Douglass Elementary School was a favorite of Peggy McKenzie, an assistant manager editor at The Commercial Appeal. She recalls that some of the cafeteria workers were women from the neighborhood who saw to it that even the canned green beans were spiced up with good seasoning and pieces of meat.

But for many of us, there were peas and carrots that had to be eaten, too. And the spaghetti at some schools -- say Scenic Hills Elementary in the 1970s -- was a mushy mess, the paper cartons of milk served close to room temperature. Of course, it was all made better by the tiny containers of ice cream, eaten with wooden spoons.

Here are a few of the requests that readers have sought over the years (not all of them fulfilled): Tamale pie from the 1940s and '50s; cherry cobbler from the early '60s; cinnamon rolls; and yeast rolls.

Sign on to The Commercial Appeal Facebook page at facebook.com/commercialappeal to tell us what you remember about the food at your school, and to share any recipes you might have.

Memphis City Schools Butter Cookies

Makes 7 dozen.

Ingredients

7 sticks butter or margarine (see note)

2 1/2 cups sugar

6 1/2 cups flour

1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon salt

Directions

1 In a large mixing bowl, cream butter with electric mixer until light. Add sugar; cream together until light and fluffy. Slowly add flour, vanilla and salt, mixing to blend thoroughly.

2 Drop by tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 7 to 10 minutes. Note: Cookies served in Memphis City Schools are made with margarine.

Peanut butter cookies

Makes about 3 dozen.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups self-rising flour

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine

1 cup sugar, divided

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg, slightly beaten

1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

1 Sift flour and set aside. Cream butter with 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup brown sugar until well-blended. Add egg, peanut butter and vanilla. Mix thoroughly. Stir in flour. Knead in bowl long enough to form a smooth dough.

2 Divide into two parts and roll into a roll about one inch in diameter. Roll in remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Cut into 1-inch pieces and place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets, dipping cookie tops and bottoms in any remaining sugar. Take a fork and press tops in two directions, making a crosshatch pattern. Bake in 350-degree oven for 15 minutes.

Source, both recipes: Files of The Commercial Appeal

In Sunday's Viewpoint section, reporter Michael Kelley will explore the history of Memphis City Schools as the 165-year-old system becomes part of a consolidated Shelby County Schools next week. If you are a subscriber, you can read Kelley's story today on our website, as well as our smartphone and tablet apps. Activate your account at commercialappeal.com/subscribe. Share your MCS memories at facebook.com/commercialappeal.

© 2013 Memphis Commercial Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Southern Tastes: Foods of Summer

 

Friday is the first day of summer. It's the season for getting our fill of locally grown produce, from tomatoes to lady peas to summer squash. We asked the Southern Tastes panelists to tell us their favorite bounty of the season, and here are the answers. Also visit the Southern Tastes Facebook page at facebook.com/sotastes to read all the answers, and to tell us what you'll be eating this summer.

Jennifer Chandler, cookbook author

I love summer produce! It's hard to narrow down my favorites, but I guess they would be lady peas and those sun gold cherry tomatoes Whitton Farms sells at the farmers markets. Every week I buy a pack of lady peas to eat then and one pack to put away for the winter in my freezer. All I do is blanch them, dry them well, and then seal them with my vacuum sealer before putting them up in the freezer. As for those cherry tomatoes those little golden orbs are so sweet and delicious my kids have nicknamed them candy tomatoes. I buy a couple of plants from Whitton Farms every year, but the tomatoes never make it indoors. Everyone grabs a few off the plant every time they walk by it!

Marisa Baggett, cookbook author

It's all about fruit for me, particularly peaches and blackberries. Individually, they will make their way into my salads and gazpacho. When tossed with a little Jack Daniel's, they combine perfectly in a pie. Extra points if you top the pie with whiskey ice cream.

Kathy Katz, Cooper Street 20/20

Like everyone, I love a good tomato. I am also a big fan of lady peas. But two of my favorite things to make in summer are watermelon and feta salad, and I love to soak cantaloupe in Madeira wine and crushed red peppers. Try it. It's a great summer bite.

Bert Smythe, Alchemy, McEwen's

Of the many reasons I look forward to summer, tomatoes and lady peas are right at the top of the list. Downtown at the Memphis Farmers Market, the folks at Newman Farm sometimes have bacon ends and pieces, which are delicious cooked with some onion and those delicious fresh peas. And who isn't all over a good fresh tomato sandwich in the summertime heat?

Kelly English, Restaurant Iris, Kelly English Steakhouse

I start thinking about next tomato season as soon as the current one ends.

Melissa Petersen, Edible Memphis

I look forward to endless summer-tomato sandwiches all year long. As a kid, when school was out, our countertops were lined with tomatoes from the few plants in Dad's garden. We had to endure wheat bread for school lunches, but Mom bought white bread (which we loved) just for tomato sandwiches. Nothing says summer like a juicy red tomato -- still warm from the sunshine -- dripping from soft mayo-slathered white bread.

Ben Brock, Amerigo

Nothing says "summer in the South" like a fresh-grown tomato. It needs nothing to make it good.

John Vergos, Rendezvous

It's now time for a real Greek salad: fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, a little bell pepper, good feta, olive oil, vinegar and oregano (key), and good bread to sop up the juice. Someone, however, needs to tell me how to keep the squirrels from my tomatoes. They don't touch the cherry tomatoes, only the big ones, and they don't bother them in the autumn when the acorns are abundant. Smart animals, those squirrels. We've hung Mardi Gras beads, scarecrows, hawks, old glistening Nickelback CDs. Someone told me snakes. My wife won't let me try nets. No one wants to disentangle an angry squirrel or mockingbird.

Ben Carter, wine-by-benito.blogspot.com

My favorite is the beginning of the summer squash season -- crookneck, pattypan, zucchini, and all of those weird little hybrids that can pop up when the plants are too close to each other. One of my favorites is the round green "eight ball" squash that is perfect stuffed with roasted tomatoes and peppers and onions. Of course, by mid-August I don't want to get anywhere near a summer squash, but that first part of the season is wonderful.

Margot McNeeley, Project Green Fork

Tomatoes tomatoes tomatoes tomatoes tomatoes tomatoes tomatoes. All day every (summer) day possible.

Charles Warner, local foodie

Gazpacho and ceviche.

Angela Moon, Kirby Wines & Liquors

Peas please! I go to the Agricenter Farmers Market and load up on any and every kind of pea and bean. Lady peas are my favorite; I cook them with a strip of Nueske's apple wood smoked bacon and a thin slice of Vidalia onion. I love to experiment with the different varieties. Last year we ate whippoorwills (brown and black), black-eyed, cranberry, limas, butter beans, butter peas, crowders, speckled butter beans, pink-eyes. Wow! So many! and there are as many different ways to prepare them. I've made many cold salads using black-eyed peas, or lady peas over yellow and red tomatoes with goat cheese soaked in thyme vinaigrette, or a cold succotash of freshly grilled corn and butter beans. When I was a kid, my mother would shop at the old Scott Street Farmers Market. I remember many hot Saturday mornings strolling past the bins and bags of beans and peas. The vendors would politely ask if she wanted them shelled for just a dollar extra. "No!" she would say, "I have three daughters at home." Our summers were spent sporting purple fingers while we sunbathed and shelled peas!

Stacey Greenberg, diningwithmonkeys.com

Yep, tomatoes. Especially the little yellow ones from Whitton Farms that you can pop in your mouth like candy.

Jason Severs, Bari, 3 Angels Diner

Tomatoes. Red, yellow, green, heirloom, it doesn't matter. A fresh from the vine tomato sandwich with mayonnaise, salt and pepper. Fresh tomato Bloody Marys. Gazpacho. I could go on.

Steve Conley, WKQK 94.1 personality

The seasonal fruits and vegetables! Tomatoes are my favorite (and it seems most everyone else's). One of my true pleasures is going to the Agricenter Farmers Market and perusing all of the latest harvest of fruits and veggies. Clara's Peach World grows THIRTY TWO different varieties of peaches through mid-September, all grown in Ripley. And then there are the tomatoes. Ripley's, of course, but there are so many other delicious varieties. She grows 14 different kinds and I usually get one of each: Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Mountain Fresh, Yellow Sun Quest, Jet Star and on and on. We love tomato-bread and caprese salads or just sliced and dribbled with balsamic vinegar, basil and feta. So good! The Downtown market is also full of great summer greens and peas. We are so blessed to have all these great markets to shop at during the warm months. If you haven't ever been to these markets, go support the local growers and load up. You'll help them, and live longer!

Lauren Boggs McHugh, Huey's

My favorite is avocados sliced, drizzled heavily with lemon juice and seasoned with salt and pepper!

Kat Gordon, Muddy's Bake Shop

Blueberries! I LOVE making blueberry pie with fresh from the farm summer blueberries. For every handful of blueberries that goes into the pie, there's a "blueberry tax" that goes to my mouth!

Ron Childers, WMC-TV personality

My summer faves, without a doubt, are tomatoes and fresh basil. Pesto in the making! Nothing better.

Charles Cavallo, The Cupboard

It isn't summertime until the farm fresh locally home grown Ripley tomatoes are here at The Cupboard. Ripley is best known for its famous home grown tomatoes, and one of the many reasons our customers stop by here when they are in season. It's not just about the food but the Ripley tomatoes. Our customers love them.

Southern Tastes: Who's your daddy?

 

Dads do more than light the grill when it comes to preparing food for the family. We asked the Southern Tastes panelists to share memories of their fathers in the kitchen, and this is what they had to say. Sign on to commercialappeal.com or the Southern Tastes Facebook page at facebook.com/sotastes to read all the answers and to tell us about your dad, too. And Happy Father's Day!

Tiffany Langston, Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau

My father is a pastry chef, so I got my love of baking from him. The three main things he taught me:

1. Margarine is not a substitute for butter.

2. Always use good chocolate.

3. Once your project is in the oven, it's OK to lick the spoon.

Michael Dragutsky, Cornerstone Cellars

My father taught me never to leave any food on my plate. That's why I was a chubby kid.

Melissa Petersen, Edible Memphis

My dad taught me everything about how I first started to look at and appreciate food. It was Dad who made us breakfast and our sack lunches every day. Dad taught me: How to cook scrambled eggs (which was the first thing I cooked by myself). How to experiment and laugh off the mistake. Homemade pie crust is the ONLY way to go. French fries go with everything. Don't mess with a porterhouse when all you really like is the filet. Mincemeat pie is awful -- even if Grandma made it. Drink because you enjoy the taste, not to get drunk. Grown-ups don't put sugar in their tea or coffee. Dad's Saturday morning pancakes are the best way to start a weekend. A nice note written on the paper napkin in your lunch sack can make a day special. And "try it ... it'll put hair on your chest."

Susan Schadt, ArtsMemphis

My father taught me how to cook largemouth bass fillets. He had a propane tank in the garage and a big black kettle filled to the brim with cooking oil (Wesson, I'm sure). He would delicately dip each fillet into a beer batter (basically flour, beer and some spices) and cook them to perfection -- pure nectar. He served them with hush puppies, cooked in the same kettle, and coleslaw. A fish fry at our house was a coveted invitation. The best part of all our fishing trips. Wow, what memories!

Ben Smith, Tsunami

Both of my parents worked full time when my siblings and I were growing up. When my mom was working the late shift as a nurse at the hospital, the task of cooking breakfast fell on my dad. Breakfasts were never anything over the top or extravagant, but they were always hot. My dad did not believe in sending us off to school with a bowl of cereal. (Cereal was a rare treat in our house, anyway.) What I gleaned from those days was the importance of a hot meal to start the day. Now I make an effort to send my kids off each day with a hot, healthy meal. The problem is, my kids are more content with a bowl of cereal any day of the week.

Kathy Katz, Cooper Street 20/20

Dad made French toast, but my favorite memory is the lox box being delivered every Sunday morning (this was in Memphis but don't remember the deli's name). It consisted of lox with cream cheese, bagels, capers and red onion. At an early age, I could not wait for the front doorbell to ring on Sunday morning. We would scream, "The lox box is here!!!" So the moral of the story is I was open to trying and liking all types of food at a very young age. Thanks, Dad.

Charles Warner, local foodie

My dad loved large production cooking -- lasagna, chicken cacciatore, spaghetti, gumbo -- anything that involved all day and provided lots of stuff to be frozen.

Stacey Greenberg, diningwithmonkeys.com

My dad would have eaten a steak every day if he could. Even on Thanksgiving, he would be annoyed that we were not eating steak. He always ate his rare, and made sure that everyone knew that was the proper way to enjoy steak. Now, I wouldn't have mine any other way.

Deni Reilly, The Majestic Grille

My dad taught me three important kitchen essentials.

1. The kitchen should be a place of whimsy, especially at breakfast. Long before Williams-Sonoma came up with those fancy pancake molds, we were eating Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh and "guess-the-character" pancakes at breakfast on the weekends.

2. With the right supplies, you can grill out any time. Have a shovel? Grill during a snowstorm. Have an umbrella? Grill in the rain.

3. When washing the dishes after a family dinner, hide your wineglass in the cabinet above the sink so your grandmother doesn't dump it out.

Ben Brock, Amerigo

My father was no cook, but he did love to eat. The only lesson he gave me was how to make the perfect bowl of oatmeal. To this day, my son complains that I cannot make PaPa's oatmeal and shouldn't try, but I think it's pretty good. So bring 2 cups of water to a boil, add a pinch of salt, pour in the oats, turn the stove off and read the paper. After you have decided the paper was a waste of time (some days this was an hour and others 15 minutes) stir the oats and add a splash of milk. If it is summertime, you get to add some blueberries from his bushes, otherwise a spoonful of honey. Sure miss him!

Steve Conley, WKQK 94.1 personality

Doesn't it seem that the preparation of food, or the events surrounding it, make for some of life's most cherished memories? Like many households, Mom usually handled the kitchen cooking, and Dad took over the grill. It was always a special night when Ralph Gundlach was firing up that barbecue grill. It was one of those old kind, before Weber got big, that had a grill top that was like a turntable. Steak (sirloin; we didn't know what a rib eye or filet mignon was) laid on the countertop for a considerable length of time (I supposed to get us mentally prepared for the grilling ceremony). It is a perfect example of "simple is often better than complex."

The steak was sprinkled with nothing but garlic salt and pepper. The Kingsford briquettes were perfectly stacked in a small pyramid (oftentimes hours before ignition). Then the moment came when I was sometimes given the opportunity to LIGHT the fire. After a good dousing with lighter fluid (the one thing I never use now -- I can taste the fuel!) WHOOSH! Ignition ... and we were off and grilling, watching Dad carefully sear and cook the steak to a medium-rare perfection. When we had RIBS ... man, that was a special night, usually Father's Day, ironically enough. Same seasoning and finished off with Open Pit BBQ sauce. I felt like I may as well have been at Milwaukee's finest restaurant.

Jimmy Gentry, Paradox Catering

Seeing that both parents introduced me to the industry, I would have to say Dad sparked the early culinary fire. Dad also introduced me to the wine and food pairing portion. The biggest thing I can say is thanks for is getting me that first restaurant job at 14. I can honestly say that by starting at that age, I was able to learn and see more than a lot of the people I worked beside or under in some cases. You helped me get to where I am today.

Ben Carter, wine-by-benito.blogspot.com

My father Allen Carter taught me the essential cooking techniques of resourcefulness and improvisation. At age 13 I had no problem fixing a full breakfast of bacon, eggs, and pancakes on any heat source. Campfire, upended coffee can with a candle, camp stove, barbecue grill (gas or charcoal), etc. I've written about cooking saumon en papillote on my car engine using some of those lessons. My most memorable cooking experience based on his teachings involved making soup on top of an 11,711 ft. mountain in New Mexico with a poncho covering the single burner stove during a hailstorm. Frankly I never get worried in any kitchen where I'm cooking. If the power goes out, I can make crepes over a charcoal fire. I can build a useful stove out of a few bricks and gathered twigs and still deliver a perfectly rare rib-eye. My father's teaching led me to examine what was on hand, what was in season or could be gathered locally, and build the best meal possible using the tools nearby. Confidence is the single greatest tool in the kitchen.

Angela Knipple, cookbook author

My daddy has taught me that the most important element of cooking is time. He's a great pitmaster, and I've learned that there are no short cuts to great barbecue. If you rush it, you end up with an inferior product. I've taken that philosophy of no short cuts into everything I make, and I really believe that you can taste the difference. He's also taught me the importance of family secrets. Not even I know everything that goes into his barbecue or sauce, but that's something that he's passing down to my son, and it's a skill and memory that Patric will carry forever. The main thing Paul's dad taught him was to eat ketchup on his scrambled eggs. That was his survival tip from the Navy to give flavor to powdered eggs.

Jason Severs, Bari, 3 Angels Diner

My dad didn't really teach me any techniques in the kitchen, I watched his mother cook. But my father did teach me the appreciation for Mom and Pop places, which now translates into the "eat local" movement, I guess. He always knew the best place to get a grilled cheese sandwich, or which drugstore still had a fountain and had the best shakes. He was always taking me to a hole-in-the-wall country convenience store or some tiny restaurant that was "the only place to get sausage biscuits." I remember one place around Newport in East Tennessee that we went to; it was kind of an underground/guerrilla steak house, where you had to go knock on a windowless wood door of an old boarded-up gas station to gain entrance. Of course, once you got in, it was packed, and you had a steak you wouldn't forget. I don't know how he knew about these places, he just did. That's kind of how I feel about food now, I'd rather eat in a hole-in-the-wall place or some place where I'm the only one who speaks English than most others.

Charles Cavallo, The Cupboard

My dad taught me that having an appreciation for food, and knowledge of how to cook and prepare it, is a wonderful gift you can give to your children. He used the freshest ingredients possible. We had our own herb garden to pick from. The same holds true for The Cupboard today because 80 percent of our menu includes the freshest ingredients and vegetables possible. Teaching children, like my father, the essence of food and where it comes from is something I feel very strongly about. I believe it affects greatly on their future. Healthy living is something to work hard for.

Angela Moon, Kirby Wines & Liquors

My sisters, brother and I were raised by a single mom who worked full-time. She was and is a tremendous influence as a home cook who still devours cookbooks and new recipes like popcorn. However, having seven aunts (with seven uncles) and my mother's four brothers (that's a lot of math), there was never a shortage of fatherly instruction on cooking. Uncle Pat once cooked a goat, and still does a mean barbecue bologna; uncle Bootsie could fry a turkey that was crisp and crunchy on the outside, moist and tender on the inside. But my uncle Bill was the master. He and my Aunt Helen frequented all the famed (and infamous) restaurants of the day, their favorite being Pappy's Lobster Shack, where Pappy himself showed Bill how he sawed lobsters in half while they were still alive! An original menu, with his roll recipe and comments written by Clementine Paddleford, hangs in my kitchen now. He taught me how to fry a New York strip in hot olive oil with cloves of garlic and introduced me to oysters Rockefeller and Bienville and standing rib eye, which he had carefully coaxed on the rotisserie, so smoky and juicy and delicious. His pork shoulders were prized. My aunt Helen and I revisited so many restaurants and recipes when I called her about this week's question. Thank you Uncle Bill and happy Father's Day to all my uncles!

Kat Gordon, Muddy's Bake Shop

My dad is a wonderful cook! He taught me to try new foods with an open mind and that it's OK to make mistakes in the kitchen -- most things can be fixed with creativity! He dispenses many wise words in the kitchen, but his advice I remember best is, "there's no such thing as cooking wine; if you don't want to drink it, don't cook with it" meaning that your food is only as good as the ingredients you use.

Ron Childers, WMC-TV personality

My father love to grill. He never made anything complicated. It was usually burgers or steaks but he pampered that food as if it were 5-star cuisine. For my brother, sister, my mom and I, it was 5 star. I think that's why today, no matter what I'm cooking, it's the best meal I've ever made. I wish he was still around to taste some of it. I sure miss the taste of his burgers.

Shannon Little, Huey's

Food was always a great way to get friends and family together for us. Our dad loved to grill out and was quite good about fulfilling everyone's taste preferences. Father's Day was probably the only holiday he didn't cook and we would go out for a nice brunch, usually at the Half Shell.

Southern Tastes: Labors of love

 
You know all that easy weeknight cooking that we've come to love and rely on? Well, this is something else....

Most of us want quick meals for weeknights -- and often even for the weekend. But most cooks and chefs have a recipe or two that they'll pull out from time to time, even though it's time-consuming. We asked the Southern Tastes panelists to tell us about the most difficult dishes they've cooked, and here are their answers. Find them all online at commercialappeal.com or on the Southern Tastes Facebook page at facebook.com/sotastes.

Kathy Katz, Cooper Street 20/20

Back when I was just starting out in this business, I had to make Pheasant Gumbo (for 90 people). Lucky for me, the family I was catering for said they would provide the birds. I said to myself, "Sweet, this will be easy." So the man brought me two garbage bags of pheasant -- ugh, the only thing missing was the feathers. P.S. Don't forget to pull out all the buckshot. The gumbo was great, but it was a huge ordeal that the customer never knew about.

Tiffany Langston, Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau

I wouldn't necessarily call it complicated, but I find making sushi to be extremely difficult. I haven't perfected the rice, and the precision needed to cut the fish properly is also something I haven't mastered. But it's always fun to try.

Kelly English, Restaurant Iris, Kelly English Steakhouse

Early in my career as a young cook, there was a dish on my station that was a huitlacoche (also called corn smut, the Mexican truffle, among other things) mole with fresh cheese agnolotti. The recipe was at least two pages of ingredients cooked to varying degrees of doneness and then mashed into a mole, and it was incredibly good. Rarely, though, does "complicated" add up to delicious. The simple dishes are always the ones that people enjoy the most, whether they be chefs, avid eaters or the casual diner.

Jennifer Chandler, cookbook author

Hmmm That's a hard one! Before kids, I would spend hours in the kitchen making elaborate meals. But now it's all about simple in my kitchen! I guess I would have to say the lapin au moutarde (rabbit with mustard sauce) that I made one day at culinary school in Paris. It's not that the recipe is that complicated but our Le Cordon Bleu instructors made us start by butchering a freshly killed bunny fur and all!

Paul Knipple, cookbook author

We generally go for simple dishes at home. While we were testing recipes for "The World in a Skillet," though, we had a few that were quite involved. Traditional mole negro has a lot of ingredients, but actually isn't that hard to put together. It's definitely worth the effort. Vietnamese-style pickled mustard greens are a breeze to put together, but you have to wait seven days for the fermentation to take place. By far the most complicated thing we did was rasgullah, an Indian milk sweet that required homemade cheese. That was a painstaking process.

Ben Brock, Amerigo

Caramel cake ... never got it right, it was either gritty, burned or hard. Thank goodness Sugaree's in New Albany will make it with EXTRA icing if you request it. Yum!!!

Bert Smythe, Alchemy, McEwen's

Martha Stewart's Macaroni and Cheese from her "Favorite Comfort Foods" cookbook, circa 1999. This might be the best -- no stretch -- THE best mac and cheese you've ever tasted, but it is a demanding labor of love. It calls for buttered breadcrumbs to serve as the top layer. OK ... breadcrumbs, no problem. But for Martha, they must be homemade breadcrumbs from homemade bread. And then there's making the perfect cheese sauce? Whisking to a silky, rich-textured, no-breakage perfection? I stray from her prescribed list of cheeses and use a blend that varies every time, depending on my audience. This dish takes hours to make and years to perfect, but because it tastes like homemade sin, I will buck up and tie on my apron every time.

Lauren Boggs McHugh, Huey's

My most complicated dish is homemade chicken potpie. I use all fresh veggies and make a white sauce from scratch with chicken broth. I top it with a pastry crust. It is my daughter's favorite dish and requested for her birthday. It takes 2-3 hours, but it is worth it.

Steve Conley, WKQK 94.1 personality

Baking is complicated, and I usually screw it up. I think I can "cook" most anything, but baking is almost an exact science and art, and I have a problem with it. From breads to cakes, even pizza dough, I'm just not able to do it very well. I guess I should hang out in Mary Beth Lucchesi's kitchen for a few days.

Jimmy Gentry, Paradox Catering

I won't say it was the hardest, but Gene at Aubergine used to make these candied hazelnuts. It wasn't hard; it just took forever. First, you had to slowly toast the nuts, then add the sugar and just "enough" water. Then you stir, stir and stir some more. About an hour later, you poured the mixture out. While they cooled, you tempered the chocolate, then poured the chocolate over the candied nuts. Again, you waited for them to cool. Then, you made sure they were broken into individual hazelnuts. Finally, you tossed them into powdered sugar and they were FINISHED. If it wasn't that one, it had to be his no-heavy-cream crème brûlée.

John Vergos, Rendezvous

I don't do complicated. Don't have the time or the inclination. Complicated is for classically trained chefs, or people with too much time on their hands.

Glenda Hastings, Napa Cafe

The first thing I ever cooked by myself was beef stroganoff. I was 14 years old, and it was for a boy! I secretly pulled the recipe from one of my Mom's many cookbooks, gave her a list of supplies I would need from the store, and told her I was going to do it all by myself (typical). No one was allowed in the kitchen during my "science project." (Trust me, if you could have seen me, I looked like a mad scientist!) I carefully followed the recipe, step by step. It all was very intense and seemed out of control. By the time I got to one of the steps, my Mom strolled in and calmly said, "Oh you're making the sauce," and I was immediately put at ease. Finally, it all made sense to me. My first sauce, made from a roux, and it was for a boy -- doesn't get much more complicated than that.

Marisa Baggett, cookbook author

The most tedious thing I've ever made was croissants. But all of that work was worth every buttery bite. I still dream about that experience.

Ben Smith, Tsunami

Two things come to mind. First one was during my externship for the Culinary Institute of America. I was working in a small hotel in San Francisco called the Sherman House. The chef asked me to make a some chocolate boxes to present truffles in. He wanted the boxes in the shape of an S and an H for Sherman House. It was my first time working with chocolate so I had no practical experience in tempering it. The bases of the boxes were easy enough, and the H was not too bad. But getting the chocolate tempered enough to make the curves on the S was a real challenge. I managed to get it done well enough that the chef didn't curse me out. Which was a big deal, because this guy loved to curse me. Because it was a small hotel, and the owner/managers were in an office adjacent to the kitchen, the chef would sidle up to me and whisper a litany of scathing profanity into my ear on a regular basis.

The second one was when I was working in Hawaii. I was the roundsman, which basically means I worked every station filling in for every other line cook on their days off. Naturally, they would save all of the tedious and unsavory prep work for the day I was covering for them. There was a venison dish on the sauté station which was garnished with sage sweet potato chips. Not difficult, really, just damn tedious. You had to thinly slice the sweet potatoes, cut them into perfect circles, lay them out, brush them with egg whites, place a tiny leaf of fresh sage on each one, then top with another slice of sweet potato and seal it together. Then fry them all. We put three of these on each venison dish.

Every once in a while, the general manager of the entire resort would come into the kitchen for an impromptu inspection. He ALWAYS ended up on the sauté station, and he ALWAYS managed to find the sweet potato chips (no matter how well I tried to hide them) and start munching on them. The entire kitchen would be red in the face from stifling their laughter, knowing that I was going to have to go through that entire tedious process all over again when the GM left.

Ron Childers, WMC-TV personality

When I started taking cooking seriously, I would attempt the recipes in Bon Appétit. I would literally spend hours preparing a dish that may or may not have turned out very well. My wife and daughter were my guinea pigs for the dish du jour; however, some of those meals ended with a trip to the closest fast food restaurant. After a while, they finally asked if I could just make a plain meatloaf with plain mashed potatoes. Since then, I just keep it simple.


Southern Tastes: Cold treats

 
Here are this week's answers from our Southern Tastes panelist to the question: What's your favorite cold treat?

Share yours, too.

Hot weather is here, so it's finally time for our favorite cold treats. Whether you lean to homemade ice cream or a store-bought popsicle, nothing cools you down like a treat from the freezer. Well, maybe a cold beer, or a summer soup -- those are just two of the answers provided by our Southern Tastes panelists. Read full answers online at commercialappeal.com, and come talk about it on the Southern Tastes Facebook page at facebook.com/sotastes.

Kathy Katz, Cooper Street 20/20

On a hot summer day, after being at the farmers market for hours, the cool refreshing thing I love is to grab a Mama D's Italian Ice. There are tons of great flavors to choose from, but my two favorites are Margarita and Jazzberry. The fact that there is no cream makes me feel better about indulging.

Kelly English, Restaurant Iris, Kelly English Steakhouse

There is nothing on Earth when it is hot outside that I want more than a Coca-Cola Icee ... not cherry, not blue, not mixed ... Coca-Cola flavor only.

Marisa Baggett, cookbook author

Gazpacho! I make it a little runny so I can pour it in a glass and drink it. Yum yum!

Stacey Greenberg, diningwithmonkeys.com

Ruby red grapefruit that's been in the fridge. I also like frozen grapes. And vodka with soda and fresh lime juice.

Steve Conley, WKQK 94.1 personality

The good old, original fudge pop ... Fudgsicle. I used to chase that ice cream man down the block for one of those.

Ryan Trimm, Sweet Grass, Sweet Grass Next Door

I don't eat a lot of dessert, but I love ice cream -- mint chocolate chip to be specific. I would also say a midday Jerry's Sno Cone is hard to beat. My all-time favorite cold snack is the Otter Pop. I can remember living off these frozen delectables in the summer as a young boy.

Margot McNeeley, Project Green Fork

Hendricks gin and tonic.

Susan Schadt, ArtsMemphis

Dessert Justine, simple and delicious Southern comfort!

Charles Warner, Local foodie

Root beer float, either vanilla or chocolate.

Ben Brock, Amerigo

Uh ... BEER. I'm a hops guy, but there's nothing better than a cold Budweiser after mowing the yard. I take that back: I hired a guy, so now I drink the cold beer and watch him mow and I believe I like it mo' better.

Lauren Boggs McHugh, Huey's

Homemade chocolate milk shake, light on the chocolate.

Melissa Petersen, Edible Memphis

Real lemonade (no powder, no bottled juice). Nice and tart. Over ice in a glass all foggy with condensation.

Jason Severs, Bari, 3 Angels Diner

Being raised in the South definitely make cold treats on a hot day a necessity. A simple Coke out of a bottle is really awesome on a hot day, and there is nothing wrong with a cold glass of unsweetened ice tea with a healthy bit of fresh lemon. You also can't go wrong with a bowl of fresh homemade ice cream right out of the machine.

Martha Foose, cookbook author

Swimming Pool Orange Sherbet from "Screen Doors and Sweet Tea."

Deni Reilly, The Majestic Grille

Being a Jersey girl, we'd always hit Rita's for a black cherry Italian ice and vanilla custard gelati on hot nights. I hear they've franchised nationally and there is one in Collierville. I'll be headed their way soon! Other faves include an ice cream sandwich from the ice cream boat (yes boat, not truck but same weird music) at my parents' lake house, and ice cold, ripe Halifax, Va. cantaloupe or 'lopes as they say. It is cantaloupe like you've never tasted. Cut up in little chunks, stick tooth picks in them, and they are so juicy, it's like eating a 'lope Popsicle. I can eat a whole one myself. They're that good. The closest I've come locally is the melon from Whitton Farms. Get some at the Memphis Farmers Market this summer!

Ben Carter, wine-by-benito.blogspot.com

I'm not really a fan of sweets, but when the weather gets hot, my taste in wine turns to great dry rosés. Not your everyday super-sweet white zinfandels: I'm talking about pale pink wines made from grenache, pinot noir or syrah that aren't sweet at all yet can have alluring aromas of violets and wild strawberries and many other delicious elements. On top of that, they are incredibly food-friendly and will pair well with everything from the gourmet table to the backyard barbecue.

Paul Knipple, cookbook author

Here in town, there's nothing better than Mama D's Italian Ice and Karen Febles' Healthylicious smoothies. On the road, Angelo Brocato's in New Orleans is the place.

Ron Childers, WMC-TV personality

I absolutely love the snow cones from the Peanut Shop on Summer! An equal mix of bubble gum and snow flavors make a hot and muggy Mid-South day a little more tolerable.

John Vergos, Rendezvous

A chocolate milk shake from Wiles-Smith Drug Store is always my favorite cold treat, even in the winter. In the summertime it's a honeydew melon with a lime squeezed on it. The contrast is so tangy. The problem is half the honeydews I buy are hard and taste like tissue paper, and they are expensive. Does anyone know how to tell a good one?

Ben Smith, Tsunami

When the weather is hot, I get into cold soup mode. I love a good, traditional Spanish gazpacho, especially garnished with buttery croutons. I also like chilled avocado soup with a big spoonful of spicy pico de gallo and some good tortilla chips. On the sweet side, I much prefer homemade fruit sorbets to ice cream. I particularly like a ginger ale float made with Vernor's and a couple of scoops of coconut sorbet (made with coconut cream instead of coconut milk, for extra richness.) And then there is always beer. An ice cold hoppy lager in particular.

Michael Dragutsky, Cornerstone Cellars

My wife and I are both huge gelato fans. We both agree that the best gelato in the world is found in Florence, Italy. My favorite is the lemon gelato from Gelateria dei Neri, hers the rice gelato made at Vivoli.

Kat Gordon, Muddy's Bake Shop

Definitely strawberry milkshake from Wiles Smith or a "lemon under the influence" from Slider Inn -- cold, tart, and delicious!


Southern Tastes: Memorial Day

 
What are you doing for Memorial Day? This is what the Southern Tastes panelists are planning:

Just about everything is better in summer, and that definitely includes eating. It's time to grill, time for picnics, time to enjoy the abundance of seasonal fruits and vegetables from the garden or local farmers markets. So how do you start the summer, with grilling or with a picnic? We asked the Southern Tastes panelists what they like to do for Memorial Day, and this is what they had to say. Read the full answers online at commercialappeal.com or on the Southern Tastes Facebook page at facebook.com/sotastes.

Deni Reilly, The Majestic Grille

Why choose? We do both. We attend Sunset Symphony with a picnic of cold Gus's Fried Chicken, some nice cheese and a couple of bottles of rosé. Then we normally close the restaurant on Monday, and since we all can't seem to get enough of each other, spend the day grilling out with the staff! We keep it simple with burgers, brats, ribs and lots of beer. Everybody brings a side, dessert or more beer. This year, however, we will be open on Memorial Day and pregaming for Game 4 of the Western Conference finals with all our fantastic Griz regulars! Go Griz!

Bert Smythe, McEwen's, Alchemy

When I was a kid, having a Coca-Cola was a real treat. Memorial Day cookouts with my grandmother always meant Cokes! And my favorite ... potato salad -- mustard-based, of course. And hamburgers -- with mustard. And hot dogs! With mustard. And chocolate cake ... with mustard. I kid. Mustard on chocolate cake is not good. I have tried. This year, we'll all be at Alchemy working on our up-and-coming brunch menu, and if Chef Nick makes burgers for our lunch, there'd better be some mustard! Happy Memorial Day, everyone!

Melissa Petersen, Edible Memphis

Definitely grill. Our "backyard" is a communal rooftop deck with grills, but there isn't a TV to watch the game up there, so it may have to switch to a grilled lunch. We have to keep our priorities straight. Go Griz!

Steve Conley, WKQK 94.1 personality

Personally, I don't think there is anything better in life than being outside on a lovely sunny spring day. The pool is clear blue, the kids are playing in the backyard, and the barbecue grill has a little stream of smoke wafting all over the neighborhood with that delightful smell of slowly cooking ribs, brisket, shoulder ... whatever. I live for that.

Ryan Trimm, Sweet Grass, Sweet Grass Next Door

It has become tradition over the last three-plus years that I close Sweet Grass and take my entire staff camping on the Sunday night of Memorial Day weekend. We caravan to Don Taylor's farm, and I smoke a pig and other accoutrements. We clean up early Monday morning so that we can all hang out with the fam and grill out a little bit more.

Glenda Hastings, Napa Café

Memorial Day in the Smoky Mountains! This place is magical! We camp, and the routine is the same every day: hike, snack, swim, picnic, hike, snack, swim, picnic, and then a hot meal at Miss Lily's Café in Townsend. We bring lots of gourmet cheeses, homemade granola and trail mix, and roasted chicken to make sandwiches. We make trips to Amburn's (local farmers market) in Maryville, where we buy the best fruits and vegetables, breads and jams. The picnic spots are usually out of the hatchback at our secret swimming spot, or the Chimney Tops picnic ground. Even though it would be a dream come true to sit down and have lunch with a bear, it's not really a good idea to carry food on trails.

Jennifer Chandler, cookbook author

Memorial Day is the perfect time for a backyard barbecue with good friends. I love outdoor entertaining because it is casual and fun. Cooking dinner becomes part of the party. Guests mingle with us on the back porch sipping refreshing cocktails while we grill up something delicious to be served, al fresco of course! For the kids, we probably grill burgers or hot dogs but for the grown-ups I like to make something a little more special, like marinated chicken or steaks with a flavorful dry rub. Our sides are either salads or veggies hot off the grill. Dishes with a lot of flavor but easy to prepare, because I want to have fun too!

Kat Gordon, Muddy's Bake Shop

Thomas and I don't really do a lot for Memorial Day; if we're lucky, we just spend a little quiet time at home with the pups! Our version of picnic/grill-out is a little something we call porchin'. We fix some snacks -- maybe cucumber sammies and some cold chicken -- some sips, and then just enjoy our lovely porch. It's nice to say hello to neighbors, read a little, feed the birds, and just unwind from all the busyness. My summer "sip" of choice is a shortcut-riff of the Porch Swing cocktail at Blue Smoke restaurant in New York, so I call it the Lazy Porch Swing. Mix 4 ounces Simply Lemonade, 1½ ounce Pimm's No. 1, 1½ ounces Hendrick's gin, a splash of 7 Up or Sprite (or whatever's handy). Add cucumber slices and serve over ice. Perfection!

Kelly English, Restaurant Iris, Kelly English Steakhouse

I love a picnic ... one of my first dates with my wife was a picnic near the river. The world kind of stops for a minute during a picnic.

John Vergos, Rendezvous

The thing my wife and I are most looking forward to this Memorial Day weekend is not food -- it's seeing Paul McCartney.

Ron Childers, WMC-TV personality

Memorial Day is just another day for TV folk so Joyce and I usually work that day. However, after my shift I usually throw something simple on the grill like chops or chicken and some grilled veggies. I like to leave a nice dinner for her when she gets home.

Angela Moon, Kirby Wines & Liquors

We are absolute backyard grilling junkies. And we are good with that. Our little slice of paradise is tricked out with pots of flowers, wooden wine crates filled with flowers, even a repurposed Weber grill has a belly full of flowers! My sweetie pie is a master on the Big Green Egg (yes, it does make a difference) so it's either sliders, strips, tenderloin or chicken thighs. I've been on a roasted vegetable kick for a while: fingerling potatoes, carrots, and my favorite, cauliflower, all slathered in olive oil and dusted with whatever herb or spice appeals to me. Lately it's been Penzey's Parisien Bonnes Herbes, a blend of chives, dill, basil, tarragon, chervil and white pepper. I add it at the end of roasting, just before serving. There is nothing like a chilled glass of wine, sitting on the deck, listening to music and grilling. Dorothy was right: it's in your own backyard.


Southern Tastes: Veggies

 

From today's Food section:

Next week is all about meat -- we know what the third weekend in May brings. But this week, our Southern Tastes panelists tell us about their favorite vegetables as our friends Justin Fox Burks and Amy Lawrence from the popular blog chubbyvegetarian.blogspot.com launch their first cookbook, "The Southern Vegetarian." Sign on to our Facebook page at facebook.com/sotastes and tell us about your favorite vegetables.

Steve Conley, WKQK 94.1 personality

How good is eggplant Parmesan? I made some the other night, and my daughter Aimee scarfed it down, then asked, "Daddy, is there meat in this?" So easy and so delicious. And if you really want easy, Costco sells two eggplant parm dinners in a foil tub for less than $10, and it's darn close to as good as mine.

Martha Foose, cookbook author

Spaghetti squash with pesto from "A Southerly Course" is a go-to for me -- especially if I have a mixed crowd of vegetarians and nonvegetarians.

Frank Grisanti, Frank Grisanti Restaurant

My favorite vegetarian dish is fresh eggplant and fried green tomato Parmesan served on fresh sauteed spinach with marinara sauce. Different flavors and textures makes for a super dish.

Margot McNeeley, Project Green Fork

As a non-meat eater, I rely on vegetables for every meal. But I don't like all vegetables (I know, what nerve, right?), and it seems that the ones I don't like are the ones many restaurants put on their menu, like zucchini. Yuck. My all-time favorite has to be potatoes. Guess it's the Irish in me, but I could eat them everyday, every meal. Of course, I don't, or I'd bigger than a house. My other favorite less-starchy vegetables are Brussels sprouts, beets and uncooked carrots. I'm a huge fan of The Chubby Vegetarian blog and can't wait to get my hands on the book!

Ron Childers, WMC-TV 5 personality

Ahhh . this brings back fond memories of the Babylon Café in Midtown back in the late '80s/early '90s. I could be a vegetarian if I could make those dishes every day. I remember their quesadilla "done up." Amazing with the black beans and homemade tahini. My absolute favorite!

Lauren Boggs McHugh, Huey's

I really like a baked potato with butter, cheese and either black beans or kidney beans. I also enjoy a mixed greens salad with kidney beans, boiled eggs, shredded jack cheese, avocado, tomatoes, cucumber and celery, topped with homemade vinaigrette. Of course, more often, I eat a Huey's veggie burger or black bean burger, which can be dressed like any Huey burger.

Melissa Petersen, Edible Memphis

I don't think it's in the book, but Justin's version of the cashew noodle salad from Whole Foods is a favorite vegetarian dish. I add a little sauteed broccolini to make it a meal. However, I also adore anything with beets ... or cauliflower ... or fava beans.

Ben Smith, Tsunami

My wife, Colleen, who does most of the menu planning at home, always includes at least one vegetarian meal a week. By not making a big deal about it with the kids, we hope to instill in them the importance of a well-rounded diet that doesn't always have to include an animal base protein. We focus on flavor first and foremost. And as long as we are using fresh, local in-season produce, we know that the nutritional aspect just naturally follows. After years of making spontaneous meals out of whatever ingredients I bring home from work, Colleen has gotten very good at the "Mystery Basket" challenge. I reckon she could teach the folks on "Chopped" a thing or two. Here's a vegetarian dish I like to dredge up when grilling season starts up again (see recipe at end of questions).

John Vergos, Rendezvous

My vegetarian daughter turned us all on to veggie sprinkles as a substitute for ground beef in tacos, enchiladas, and even spaghetti sauce.

Kat Gordon, Muddy's Bake Shop

I adore everything I've ever cooked from Deborah Madison's "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone." One of my favorite veggie-yummies is lemon asparagus linguine with fresh thyme. Also, pretty much any kind of lentil soup, roasted winter vegetables (dash of sea salt, olive oil, and chopped fresh herbs -- so easy and delicious), Brussels sprouts, and frittatas. I heart fruits and veggies!

Jennifer Chandler, cookbook author

Love my veggies! And I am so excited to get a copy of "The Southern Vegetarian"! Justin photographed my last book, and during that process I got to eat some of his yummy meatless dishes. In fact, he and my friend Nevada Presley of Get Fresh Memphis inspired me to go meatless for a month back in September. After that month, I felt great and now try to eat vegetarian several days a week. I post a "Meatless Monday" recipe every Monday on my blog, cookwithjennifer.com. I would have to say that veggie burgers are one of my family's favorite meatless meals. Here's my version of my friend Nevada's Black Bean Burger recipe (see it below). My kids love it with guacamole on top!

Black Bean Burgers

Serves 4.

1 can (15-ounce) black beans, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup finely diced green bell pepper (about 1/2 green pepper)

1/4 cup finely diced yellow onion (about 1/2 small onion)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 egg

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 1/2 tablespoons cumin

1 teaspoon hot sauce

1/2 cup rolled oats

Vegetable oil, for the grates

4 hamburger buns, split

2 ripe avocados, pits removed and sliced

In a medium bowl mash the black beans with a fork until thick and pasty. Place the green bell pepper, onion, and garlic in food processor and process until puréed. Place the mixture into a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and press to strain the liquid. Add to the beans and stir to combine.

In a small bowl stir together the egg, chili powder, cumin, and hot sauce. Add the egg mixture and the oats to the beans and stir until the mixture is sticky and holds together. Divide into four patties, each about 3/4-inch thick. Cover, place in the refrigerator, and chill for at least an hour and as long as overnight.

Preheat a clean grill to medium high for 8 to 10 minutes with the lid closed. Lightly brush the grates with oil.

Place the burgers on the grill. Close the lid and cook, turning once, until golden brown and warmed through, about 5 to 6 minutes on each side. About 1 minute before the burgers are done, place the buns, cut-side down, on the grill and cook until lightly toasted.

To serve, place each burger inside a bun and garnish with avocado slices. Serve immediately. Note: Do not be tempted to skip the step of draining the puréed vegetables. That extra moisture makes the black bean burgers too sticky to be grilled.

Source: Jennifer Chandler

Szechwan Eggplant

Serves 6.

4 pounds eggplant

2 teaspoons Szechwan pepper salt (see note)

1/2 cup soy sauce

¼ cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

¼ cup fresh chopped ginger

2 tablespoons chopped garlic

1 teaspoon chili flakes

¼ cup peanut oil

Cut the eggplant into 1/2-inch slices if using large ones. Or cut in half lengthwise if using Asian eggplant. Mix the Szechwan pepper salt with the remaining ingredients and toss well. Allow to sit for a few minutes then grill over a medium hot grill until tender, but still al dente.

Save the excess marinade and toss the grilled eggplant in that just before serving. Note: To make the Szechwan pepper salt, place equal parts kosher salt and Szechwan peppercorns in a dry skillet. Lightly toast over medium heat, tossing the pan, until aromatic and just beginning to smoke.

Source: Ben Smith

Southern Tastes Panel: MIM countries

 
I want all the Southern Tastes Facebook followers to be able to read what our panelists have to say, so I'll post their responses here, on Whining & Dining. Feel free to comment here or on the Facebook page.

Southern Tastes Panel: MIM countries

Staff Reports

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

This year, Memphis in May honors Sweden, and we'll take advantage of the opportunity to learn that not all Swedish food comes in a tube, like the caviar spread sold at Ikea. Southern Tastes panelist Melissa Petersen tells us all about it in today's lead story. Of all the honored MIM countries, which do you remember mostly for the great food? We asked our panelists, and this is what they said. Go to facebook.com/sotastes to tell us your favorites from years past -- and which country you'd like to see honored in years to come.

Benjamin Carter, wine-by-benito.blogspot.com

Australia in 1985 was my favorite. That was the year that the barbecue entries in the "Anything But" category read like a PBS nature special on Aussie wildlife. At the tender age of 8, it had not occurred to me that people ate kangaroos and crocodiles, but I was fascinated. It was a great year for a kid, playing with boomerangs and singing "Waltzing Matilda" in choir.

Kelly English, Restaurant Iris, Kelly English Steakhouse

I wish I would have been here for Israel and Morocco. The "cradle of food," so to speak.

Glenda Hastings, Napa Café

India!!!! I can't remember which year it was -- sometime in the last 10 years, I think. There is nothing like great Indian food. Nothing! It's funny that I feel that way now, because as a preteen I would hold my breath when I went to one of my good friends' house (his family was from India) because the spices were so pungent, and they were always cooking up a storm. I'd give anything to go back to those days. I would eat at his house every night!

Jimmy Gentry, Paradox Catering

Even though the North portion is not really a great subject of late, I would have to go with Korea. For a variety of reasons: Nothing is better than a good hot pot on a cold day (except maybe pho), kimchee, and all those side dishes you always get. Plus, Alia, my better half, is from there. Then I would have to say India, from 2000. Just some really great flavors, all that curry, and dark spice.

Steve Conley, WKQK 94.1 personality

I loved the year of Tunisia, in 2010, primarily because my buddy Jim Holt, during his diplomatic visit, brought me an array of spices from a Tunisian market: harissa, different curries, three kinds of paprika and some other Tunisian spice blends. Some I've cooked with, and others I'm trying to figure out what to do with them.

Angela Moon, Kirby Wines & Liquors

The rich spices of Tunisia (2010) and Morocco (1999) like cumin, coriander, saffron, chilies, dried ginger, cinnamon and paprika, as well as the vegetables and couscous, harira and spicy harissa are what draws me to choose these two countries. I had my first "real" Moroccan food at a small place in Paris, where a piping hot tagine sat before us, the waiter ladled a rich chicken broth laced with harissa over our food. I now cook as much with these spices as possible.

Marissa Baggett, cookbook author

Turkey jumps out at me.

Jason Severs, Bari, 3 Angels Diner

I think I'd have to go with Spain as well, but Thailand is pretty good too!

Paul Knipple, cookbook author

For culture and cuisine, I loved Spain and have always wanted to visit. The big cuisine of the pampas of Argentina is a favorite of mine as well.

Ron Childers, WMC-TV personality

Being of Hispanic descent, I was a little partial to Mexico in '84. Then again, I'm always in the mood for some good Mexican food.

John Vergos, The Rendezvous

I was always upset they never honored Greece. I guess now is not a good time.

Kat Gordon, Muddy's Bake Shop

Thailand!