Few dishes showcase Southern tradition more perfectly than a slice of pecan pie, with its dark custard filling and crunchy, nutty topping.
Sweet and buttery, the pecans that figure so prominently in that iconic pie are America’s only major indigenous tree nut. They’re native to the Deep South, where the long, warm growing season provides an optimal climate. And they’re the third-most-popular nut in the U.S. behind peanuts and almonds, according to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center.
With 10 million pecan trees producing over 200,000 tons of pecans in America today, the nut hardly needs bolstering. But recently, it has become the focus of experiments by Southern farmers, chefs and craft breweries. Inspired in part by the fast-growing farm-to-table movement, which sets a premium on local products, they are giving the pecan new opportunities to shine in the form of cold-pressed oil, gluten-free flour and even beer.
Toasting or roasting brings nut oils to the surface, and pecans are practically overflowing: 75 percent of the nut is pure oil. Compare that with the peanut, which is 50 percent oil, and the almond, which is around 45 percent oil. As with all nuts, roasting not only intensifies the pecan’s flavor but also it adds to its richness.
At Oliver Farm, an award-winning producer of artisan oils in Cordele, Ga., Clay Oliver uses an old-fashioned screw press to produce several thousand bottles of delicate pecan oil a year. He sells to Southern chefs, specialty stores around Georgia andonline. “Pecans have that mysterious extra-something and an unforgettable flavor that renders the oil and flour delicious,” says Oliver.
Native Georgia chef Steven Satterfield, a James Beard Foundation Award finalist in 2013 and 2014, uses Oliver Farm’s oil for everything from frying food to crafting pecan pesto vinaigrette at his Miller Union restaurant in Atlanta. “I love traditional Southern food,” he says, “but I want to experiment just enough to keep it fresh and interesting and new.”
Oliver Farm’s defatted, gluten-free flour has earned such a big following of Southern bakers that it quickly sells out. Dede Wilson’s Bakepedia, a baking and dessert recipe website, offers a recipe for pecan flour buttermilk pancakes with an added drizzle of pecan oil. Georgia chef Jennifer Booker, author of Field Peas to Foie Gras: Southern Recipes with a French Accent, uses the pecan oil in traditional southern shrimp and grits, and for sautéeing collard greens.
But perhaps the most surprising new venue for the pecan is a craft beer called Southern Pecan Brown Ale, produced by Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company in Kiln, Miss. Founded by husband-and-wife team Mark and Leslie Henderson, it’s the state’s first brewery since the Prohibition.
“Our pecan ale is our flagship beer and the first one in the world made with whole roasted pecans,” says Leslie Henderson. The beer won a Bronze Medal in the 2006 World Beer Cup and is now available in 17 southern states. “We were initially worried the oils would kill the foam on our beer,” says Henderson. “But the pecans ferment just like a grain and provide nuttiness and flavor unmatched in other beers. There’s still a lot of hops and malt, but the nutty flavor shines through.”
What inspired the beer in the first place? “Comfort foods like pecan pie and pecan pralines give us that old, charming, Deep South romance,” Henderson says. “We wanted to hearken back to that hospitality yet create something new. Our beer is complex but really approachable.”
Pecan pancakes and beer for breakfast, anyone?
Jill Neimark is an Atlanta-based writer whose work has been featured in Discover, Scientific American, Science, Nautilus, Aeon, Psychology Today and The New York Times.
Winter Pumpkin Soup with Parmesan Croutons & Bacon Chips
Recipe by Chef Jennifer Hill Booker
Any type of winter pumpkin or squash, such as Sugar Pie pumpkin or butternut squash, can be used for this soup. Just remove the seeds, cut it into wedges, drizzle with olive oil, and roast in a 350° F oven. The roasting softens the vegetable and reinforces its natural sweetness. The addition of stock and cream gives the soup a velvety smoothness, and the croutons and bacon chips add a nice crunch.
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 slices of Hickory smoked bacon, cut into 1-inch strips
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1⁄2 medium white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups roasted pumpkin, mashed, or unsweetened pumpkin puree
2 1⁄2 cups chicken stock
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1⁄2 cup heavy cream
2 cups stale bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1⁄4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1⁄4 teaspoon red chili flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
In a large stockpot over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the bacon and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, then add the rosemary and cook an additional 4 to 5 minutes, or until the bacon is golden and crispy and the rosemary leaves are lightly browned.
Drain the bacon and rosemary on a paper towel. Remove the rosemary leaves from the stems and roughly chop the leaves, discarding the stems. Set the rosemary aside. Discard all but 1 tablespoon bacon grease from the stockpot. Set the bacon chips aside while you make the pumpkin soup.
Add the butter, onion, and garlic to the bacon grease in the stockpot and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Stir often to loosen any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the mashed pumpkin and the chicken stock, and season lightly with salt and pepper.
Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, and cook 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream just before you serve; do not let the soup boil once the cream has been added.
Preheat the oven to 400° F.
To make the parmesan croutons, toss the bread, olive oil, cheese, chili flakes, and black pepper together in a large bowl. Spread the bread mixture onto a sheet pan and bake 5 to 6 minutes, or until the bread cubes are golden brown.
Serve the soup in warm bowls topped with croutons, bacon chips, and the chopped rosemary.
Field Peas to Foie Gras: Southern Recipes with a French Accent by Jennifer Hill Booker, © 2014
Jennifer Hill Booker, used by permission of the publisher, Pelican Publishing Company, Inc.
~Enjoy this Georgia Grown ‘ Pick Keep Cook’ crop in a Fresh New Way~
Collard Greens Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette
recipe by: Chef Jennifer Booker
1 bunch collard greens, washed
1/2 cup Pecan oil
1 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 small onion, sliced
3 cloves raw garlic, minced
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
½ tsp. black pepper
De-stem and chop the collard greens into long strips. Place strips in a large bowl. Pour Pecan oil on collard strips and sprinkle on salt. Massage the oil and salt into the strips with your hands until all pieces are well coated. Whisk together apple cider vinegar, onions, garlic, red pepper flakes and ground pepper. Pour apple cider vinegar dressing over the collard green strips. Let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours, but overnight is best. Serve chilled or room temperature.
Now that I have your attention . . . here are 6 Great Health Benefits of Eating Beets!
1. Beets are nature’s Viagra
Seriously. One of the first known uses of beets was by the ancient Romans, who used them medicinally as an aphrodisiac. And that’s not just urban legend – science backs it up. Beets contain high amounts of boron, which is directly related to the production of human sex hormones.
2. Beets are high in many vitamins and minerals
Potassium, magnesium, fiber, phosphorus, iron; vitamins A, B & C; beta-carotene, beta-cyanine; folic acid. These are but a few of the many nutrients, vitamins and minerals that can be found in beets and beet greens. Beets are particularly beneficial to women whom are pregnant, as the vitamin B and iron are very beneficial to new growth cells during pregnancy and replenishing iron in the woman’s body.
3. Beets cleanse the body
They are a wonderful tonic for the liver, works as a purifier for the blood, and can prevent various forms of cancer. Nuff said, right? Tastes good and prevents cancer? Sign me up!
4. Beets help your mental health
Beets contain betaine, the same substance that is used in certain treatments of depression. It also contains trytophan, which relaxes the mind and creates a sense of well-being, similar to chocolate. Beets can also lower your blood pressure. So if you’re already steamed about not eating beets, you can get a two-fer by diving into them right away.
5. Beets are used as a stomach acid tester
How in the world does that work? Glad you asked. If you are eating a lot of beets or beet juice, and your pee turns pink, guess what? You have low stomach acid. Pee still clear? Ratchet it up and get juicing (use the greens too)! Nutritionists use beets and beet juice to test stomach acid levels, so stay ahead of the curve by adding beets to your diet now.
6. Beets are a high source of energy
At the same time they are low in calories and high in sugar (although the sugar is released into your system gradually, as opposed to chocolate). Very few foods found in the natural world are as beneficial as beets in this regard.
Beets are a wonderful addition to any dietary need. With their high volume of nutrients, delicious taste, and multitude of uses, anyone can jump right into beets without missing a beat.
Looking for a Delicious Beet Recipe? Pick up a copy of Field Peas to Foie Gras: Southern Recipes with a French Accent, at YourResidentGourmet.net
article from fullcircle.com
photo credit Deborah Whitlaw Llewllyn
Join Chef Jennifer Booker as she signs her debut cookbook:
Field Peas to Foie Gras: Southern Recipes with a French Accent
Thursday, January 29th, 2015 6pm
Georgia Honey: Nature’s Energy Booster
The benefits of honey go beyond its great taste. A great natural source of carbohydrates which provide strength and energy to our bodies, honey is known for its effectiveness in instantly boosting the performance, endurance and reduce muscle fatigue of athletes. Its natural sugars play an important role in preventing fatigue during exercise. The glucose in honey is absorbed by the body quickly and gives an immediate energy boost, while the fructose is absorbed more slowly providing sustained energy. It is known that honey has also been found to keep levels of blood sugar fairly constant compared to other types of sugar.
Try this Delicious recipe featuring Georgia Honey, Yum!!
Honey & Lime Chicken Strips
Recipe by Chef Jennifer Hill Booker
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Georgia honey
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 jalapeño, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons Pecan oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice + 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons grated lime zest + 1 teaspoon grated lime zest
12 chicken tenders or 2 large chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 tablespoon Georgia honey
Lime wedges, for serving
Preheat the electric grill to 400*F.
In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, honey, ginger, jalapeño, cumin, cayenne, salt, pepper, Pecan oil, 2 teaspoons of lime juice, and lime zest.
Add the chicken to the bowl and toss to coat.
In a small bowl, mix the honey with the remaining lime juice and lime zest. Set aside.
Add the chicken to the grill and cook until golden brown, about 6 minutes; turning after 3 minutes. The chicken’s internal temperature such reach 165*F.
Remove the chicken from the grill and drizzle with the lime honey.
Serve the chicken with fresh lime wedges.
Ring in the New Year with
Black Eyed Pea Salad-a French Twist on on Southern Favorite!
Black Eyed Pea Salad
Yields 6 servings
4 cups black eyed peas, cooked and chilled
¼ cup yellow onion, chopped
¼ cup red bell pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon Sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
½ cup apple cider vinegar
Combine the garlic, thyme, honey, red pepper flakes, salt, black pepper and vinegar in a large bowl.
Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
Add the black eyed peas, onion, red bell pepper, and green bell pepper.
Stir to coat with the vinaigrette.
Chill the Black Eyed Pea Salad for at least 4 hours.
About our author:
Chef Jennifer Hill Booker
Building a culinary foundation on her Mississippi roots and a farm-to-table concept, Chef Jennifer Hill Booker creates a unique take on contemporary Southern cooking. Combining agrarian approaches and down-home style with classical-French techniques, Booker reinvents Southern cuisine. These 135 recipes are the culmination of summers and holidays spent in Charleston, Mississippi, at the family farm.
Available at Barnes & Nobles, A Capella Bookstore, and YourResidentGourmet.com
Chef Jennifer Booker
Born in Michigan, Jennifer Hill Booker grew up in Florida, attended college in Oklahoma, and has lived in Europe, but it’s the South that has her heart. Booker has a bachelor of arts degree in organizational communication from the University of Tulsa, an associate’s degree in applied science-culinary arts from Oklahoma State University, and a cuisine de base certificate from Le Cordon Bleu Paris. She is the executive chef and owner of Your Resident Gourmet, LLC, a personal chef and catering company.
A former culinary instructor for Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts Atlanta and a culinary arts program director for the Grayson Technical Program at Grayson High School, Booker is qualified to write about proper cooking techniques, flavor combinations, and food pairings. She teaches culinary technique classes at Williams-Sonoma, is a contributing columnist for Basil Magazine, and serves as the host of the magazine’s radio show. She has written articles and recipes for Jezebel, Atlanta Social Season, Vegetarian Times, Our Town Magazine, UrbanSocialites, Southern Seasons Magazine, ESSENCE Magazine, SOLO Woman, Sister2Sister Magazine, and Points North Atlanta.
In order to keep her culinary skills sharp, she serves as the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show’s executive celebrity chef for cooking personalities Paula Deen and the Neelys. She has made guest appearances at Chef Joe Randall’s Cooking School and the Chefs of the World: A Taste of Fame annual event. She also volunteers her time and resources to the Africa’s Children’s Fund. Booker lives in Lilburn, Georgia, where she feels right at home.
Perfect gift to bring in the New Year!
Get Your Copy!
Local Chef, Jennifer Hill Booker, offers a contemporary take on Southern cooking in “Field Peas to Foie Gras: Southern Recipes With a French Accent” (Pelican, $27).
Noon-4 p.m. Dec. 27 at Williams-Sonoma, at The Forum
5145 Peachtree Parkway, Norcross, and get a signed copy.