Martha Hall Foose’s A Southerly Course: Recipes and Stories from Close to Home, has landed on our bookshelf in the studio- then made its way into the kitchen (and our hearts and minds). In her book, Martha’s recipes are accompanied by fascinating stories of life and times in the Mississippi Delta. It makes me want to hop on a riverboat and float down the Mississippi to find her kitchen.
As a lover of food and storytelling, the intersection of life and food in the South creates a special place in my heart, as it evokes strong feelings and a love of home. The collection of stories and recipes shared by Martha is personal, easy-going and comical (with titles like “Alligator Pears and Bacon ~ Bite Me”), and even provides a short history lesson on places and ingredients. As Martha so poetically puts it in her introduction to the Peanut Slaw recipe, “Like reverse butterflies, when the showy yellow blooms of peanuts begin to fade, the peduncle bows to the ground and buries its head in the earth, forming the webbed cocoon-like shells this legume is known for.” Beautiful.
In her introduction, Martha writes, “Communality through food in many ways has helped us as a region begin to reconcile ourselves with the past.”
Thinking of the relationship between community and food, people like Martha and organizations like the Southern Foodways Alliance, have inspired us in the studio to make our own stories surrounding the food we cook and the meals we share together. What better way to enjoy it than over great conversation and local ingredients? We hope to keep this experience a constant in the studio.
All the talk about vegetables in last Wednesday’s post set the tone for sharing her recipe for Gardner’s Pie -a vegetarian version of Shepard’s Pie- that was a hit with everyone. Sealed with buttery mashed potatoes, the fresh rosemary mingled wonderfully with the assortment of vegetables.
Gardner’s Pie (No Shepard), p 150
1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes
1/4 cup half-and-half
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg yolk
MAKE THE MASHED POTATOES
Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch dice. Put the potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with salted cold water. Set the pan over high heat, cover, and bring to a boil. Once it is boiling, uncover the pan, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the potatoes are tender and easily crushed with a fork, 10-15 minutes.
Put the half-and-half and butter in a microwave-safe container and microwave until warm, about 35 seconds.
Drain the potatoes and return them, off the heat, to the warm saucepan. Mash the potatoes. Add the half-and-half and butter mixture, salt, and pepper and continue to mash until smooth. Stir in the egg yolk until well combined.
Heat the oven to 400F.
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 cup vegetable broth
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 (14-ounce) can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1/2 cup fresh or frozen shelled green peas
MAKE THE FILLING
In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the onion, bell pepper, and carrots and cook, stirring, just until they begin to take on color, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle in the flour, stir to combine, and continue cooking for another minute. Add the tomato paste, vegetable broth, rosemary, and thyme, and stir together. Bring the mixture to a boil. Add the kidney beans, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer slowly for 10 to 12 minutes or until the sauce has thickened slightly. Stir in the corn and peas.
Spread the vegetable mixture evenly into an 11 x 7- inch glass baking dish. Top with the mashed potatoes, starting around the edges to create a seal to prevent the mixture from bubbling up, and smooth with a rubber spatula. Put the baking dish on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 25 minutes or just until the potatoes begin to brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
A Southerly Course: Recipes and Stories from Close to Home, by Martha Foose
** We baked our Gardener’s Pie in a beautiful Large Covered Serving Dish from Heath Ceramics. Another thing to love about this piece- you can flip the lid over and use it as a cake or serving platter as well. We also plated our lunch on Heath Ceramics Dinner Plates.