Foose is no fool when it comes to good food

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 11, 2011

Another cookbook has come out by Martha Hall Foose called A Southerly Course, Recipes and Stories from Close to Home. Some of you may remember her first book called Screen Doors and Sweet Tea. I have mentioned it often in these articles and find that I have cooked much from the first book. I was looking forward to purchasing the next one, and I just got it last week.

Foose’s recipes delve deep into the Mississippi Delta flavors and foodways where she finds inspiration from local ingredients – from figs and sweet potatoes to crawfish and venison. She pairs each recipe with an anecdote or words of advice, and this makes for some fun reading.

Her lifelong bond with Mississippi is more apparent when she introduces her friends and family; she dedicates “Burgundy Duck” to a fiery group of women duck hunters called the Swamp Witches, while her cousin’s new wife inspires Korean-style “Grilled Green Onions.” In the book, she also recalls her former neighbor, Eudora Welty, who reveals to her the secret to a perfect custard pie.

I have had the time to try two recipes that I think are really fine. My husband is bringing me squash blossoms right now, and I did Foose’s squash blossom recipe. It uses soda water in the batter, which I had not used in the past, and found it to make a nice difference in the frying. Her use of crab and sweet potatoes in the recipe “Crabmeat Casserolettes” is a winner; your friends and family will like it.

For those of you who collect cookbooks, this one is good. The recipes are easy to follow, and the reading will make you laugh. With more than 100 recipes and beautiful color photographs, this book is a wonderful personal look at the South.

Squash Blossoms

Pick them early in the morning or they will close up on you, and they will be hard to stuff.

Serves 8

Tempura Batter

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

½ cup cornstarch

¼ cup rice flour

1 tablespoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 cups soda water


1 (8-ounce) log mild goat cheese, softened

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives (You should have in your herb garden.)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (You must have this one, this time of year, for your tomato basil salads. Other herbs could be substituted.)

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

16 squash blossoms

Vegetable oil, for frying

Prepare the tempura batter. Sift together the all-purpose flour, cornstarch, rice flour, baking powder, salt and cayenne. Whisk in the soda water, a little at a time, until the right consistency is achieved. The batter should coat the back of a spoon, but some should run off the spoon. Let the batter rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Make the squash filling. Combine the goat cheese, chives, basil and olive oil in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. Scoop up 1 tablespoon of the filling and shape into a ball; repeat with the remaining mixture.

Make sure the squash blossoms are well cleaned. Inspect each flower for any insects and any browned petals. Open each flower and insert one ball of the goat cheese filling. Gently press the filling into the base of each flower. Close the petals and pinch the top to seal. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat a deepfryer or a deep pot with 2 inches of oil to 375 degrees.

Hold a squash blossom by the stem and dip it into the tempura batter, making sure to coat it completely. Let any excess batter drip off. Place the blossom in the oil and fry until golden brown, for about one to two minutes, turning often to brown evenly. Remove to a paper-towel-lined plate. Repeat with the remaining blossoms. Serve immediately.

Crabmeat Casserolettes

Serves 6

4 cups (1/2-inch) diced sweet potatoes

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 cup half-and-half, or more if needed

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ pound Monterey Jack cheese, grated (2 cups)

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley (From your herb garden, too.)

¼ cup chopped green onions, white and green parts

½ teaspoon fennel seeds

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ pound fresh crabmeat


Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the sweet potatoes until soft, about eight minutes. Drain well and return to the pot. Add the butter, and let it melt over the hot potatoes. Add the half-and-half with the potatoes, mixing until they are smooth and not stiff and adding more half-and-half if needed. Add the garlic, cheese, parsley, green onions, fennel seeds and cayenne. Fold in the crabmeat.

Put the mixture into greased individual ramekins or a single baking dish and sprinkle the top with paprika. Bake for 20 minutes or until heated through and beginning to brown.