Wouldn't you know that as soon as I bowed to the common ingredient list including box cake mix and strawberry flavored gelatin in the making of my strawberry cupcakes, that I'd come across a bone fide strawberry cupcake recipe? Just my poor old luck, really. But sort of scary, too. Like somehow, months ago when Foose dreamed up this cookbook, she included this recipe just for my sake. To redeem my hurt feelings about whether my cupcakes were "from scratch," for real. It was predestined.
Screen Doors and Sweet Tea arrived a day or two ago via our U.S. Postal Service. Couldn't help myself from browsing it immediately. The cover photo is super inviting; just completely appealing to my particular preference for food styling. And I'm the first fool in line handing over her credit card to buy almost any and every southern-themed cookbook. Now I don't call myself a fool because these cookbook authors are fooling me into something. No matter that they all have almost the same recipes inside. There are always a few gems in each one. And certainly that is the cake with SCAST.
I'm referring to her Ponchatoula Strawberry Cupcakes recipe. Batter made from scratch, and icing too, just what I dreamed of about a week ago. It's not too late though. There are still fresh, locally grown strawberries around. Must seek them out. Sadly, I barely used a whole pint of the gallon I bought.
Frigid fruit and veggies taste terrible to me, so my berries sat out on my counter, and we're using that natural air conditioning a.k.a windows open. So they spoiled quicker than they should have if they were tucked into my fridge. Can you imagine knitted woolen strawberry cozies to keep each one warm inside that dreadful old icebox? I can. The sad thing was throwing most of the lot out. Actually, the white fuzzy, almost projectile, mold forming on my berries reminded me of those fuzzy winter muffs that you see little girls of Currier & Ives era paintings carrying along on a sleigh ride, or an ice skating jaunt.
Foose covers a Delta meal from cocktails and appetizers on through magnificent, decadent traditional southern desserts. She grew up in the Mississippi Delta, then traveled a bit to work in big city kitchens. Then went off to cooking school in France, so her rendition of these southern favorites is well-informed. Right off her Cantaloupe daiquiri tempted me to throw caution to the wind about fetal alcohol syndrome and imbibe in such a delight. Yet, I shouldn't drink. And won't. But I'm keeping this one in mind for when I can have alcohol again.
But I could have her Blackberry Limeade which looks refreshing and like it would soothe my nerves. The food photography/styling is delicious and enhances Foose's recipes. Unfortunately the scenic photography of the Delta, interspersed with those glimpses of heavenly southern food, appear more like stock photos and lack the intimacy and lushness of the latter.
Each recipe begins with a Foose anecdote. Readers learn about her great uncle Thompson alongside Catfish Ceviche. Thompson preferred sleek cars to big old trucks so popular with all the Delta menfolk, and opened his catfish farming business in 1958. A large sidebar following the recipe teaches the reader about the spawning and hatching of catfish.
There are lots of expected dishes like gumbo, turtle soup, cheese, grits, mac n cheese, country fried steak, and dumplings. Then there's the unexpected: Barq's Root Beer-Glazed Ham. This one, we'll have to try. Despite the kitsch factor of cooking meat in a soda pop brine, I declare that the end product tastes mighty good and receives rave reviews from our families.
The combination of her photo of egg salad and the recipe for Good Sandwich Loaf bread tempted my tummy, and pulled up to the Shamrock's drive-thru and bought an egg salad sandwich for lunch yesterday with eventual making of my own in mind. Already got lots of eggs for the egg salad and all the makings for the sandwich loaf.
Those desserts...well, none of them jumped out at me like Sweet Tea Pie. Ooooooo-eee. I'll have to try that. Foose described it like so:
The flavor tastes like state fair saltwater taffy, and the texture is like pecan pie without the pecans. I think you will enjoy it.
Last night on the phone I told Ian about the book and it's banana pudding recipe from scratch. Since we had a bad experience with the last from scratch banana pudding we made, um, we're reluctant to try it again. Another recipe that caught my eye was Brown Sugar Angel Food Cake. It takes 14 egg whites. Now that is a lot of cracking and separating of eggs. Though I don't ever yearn for angel food cake, that brown sugar twist might keep my interest long enough to try one.
Be sure to read Fosse's notes to the left or the right of each recipe. She says to separate your eggs a day before making the Brown Sugar Angel Food Cake and that night-before step will result in a higher cake. When it comes to Angel Food, the higher, the better, you know, closer to the Pearly Gates and all those angels with their harps and halos.
Come July Ian and I head west to Nashville and then south down the Natchez Trace, so I'm mostly hoping that we'll get a taste of good Mississippi cuisine, though it may not be Delta in origin, least not until we arrive at Natchez proper. Any recommendations, anyone?