Sassy Southern Cooking with a French Twist


Recipes posted by Holly. Maybe from her books or other sources.

Tomato Time

Many of us wait for it all year, the sweet season of summer when tomatoes are plentiful, plump and delicious. The time is nigh in the Lowcountry. I’ll be the first to concede that nothing tops eating a vine ripe tomato (ideally still warm!) fresh off the vine with a dash of salt and pepper, unless it’s the uniquely Southern decadence of a thinly sliced tomato sandwich on soft white bread with a generous slather or Duke’s mayo and more salt and pepper.

Either way you cut them, tomatoes are heaven, and on top of that, they’re chock full of heart-friendly Lipocene and other good things.  Even though the thermometer is registering some cruel numbers this time of year, I still love the concentration and sweetness that roasting gives tomatoes (and most vegetables for that matter). If you buy smaller tomatoes (in the case of the recipe to follow, baby Heirloom multi-colored tomatoes), they spend less time in the oven which means less heat in the kitchen. Because the tomatoes are roasted in the same pan as the garlic, and both get brushed with the gentle flavor of a rosemary bundle that cooks with them, all the cooking happens in one easy pan. The peppers are roasted separately over an open flame, and it all goes neatly into a blender or food processor. I cook the onions separately in a large sauce pan and add the puree. A bit of vegetable or chicken stock, a few more minutes on the stove, and this soup is ready to rock and roll, tomato style. It can be made a day ahead and re-heated just before serving.

I made this soup/recipe this week for an easy summer dinner party I held for some of my great neighbor friends. It’s spectacular with a drizzle of fresh basil and a few “balls” of tiny pearl mozzarella as a surprise melt at the bottom of the bowl. My neighbor Peter (pictured) loved it and even asked for an entire second bowl!

Get out there and enjoy those tomatoes before it’s too late. Happy cooking!

Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup

Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup

(Serves Six to Eight)

5 cups (about 3 pounds), baby multi-colored Heirloom tomatoes

5 cloves garlic, skin on, drizzled lightly with olive oil and wrapped with foil

5 stems fresh rosemary wrapped in a bundle with kitchen twine

Olive oil to drizzle

Sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 red bell peppers, flame broiled over an open flame or under the broiler, skinned, seeded and lightly chopped

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped

Generous pinch red chili flakes

Sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 – 2 tablespoons (local) honey or to taste

Adjust salt and pepper to taste

Garnish: 3 tablespoons fresh basil leaves cut into thin strips, 30 pearl mozzarella balls

Preheat oven to 425F. Rinse the tomoatoes and remove any green tops. Arrange in a single layer on roasting pan with the prepped garlic (in foil)  and the fresh rosemary bundle. Drizzle all of it with best quality extra virgin olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper. Toss to coat. Place in the center rack of the oven and roast until the tomatoes collapse and the garlic has softened, about 25 minutes, tossing occasionally. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, roast the red peppers over an open flame or broiler until the skin has completely blackened. Set aside to cool slightly. Run under cool water to remove all of the blackened skin, seeds and white flesh. Chop coarsely and add to the roasting pan with the cooling tomatoes. Discard the rosemary bundle and foil. Press the flesh from the roasted garlic cloves and also add to the roasted tomatoes, discarding the garlic skin casings. Pour the entire contents of the pan, including all the lovely tomato juices into the bowl of a food processor or blender, along with the water and the stock. Blend until chunky smooth. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large sauce pan, heat the 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the finely chopped onion, red chile flakes, and salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have just softened, about five minutes. Add the pureed tomato mixture and the white wine. Bring up to a low simmer and cook for about five minutes to cook out the acid flavor of the wine. Stir in honey and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another 10 minutes or so.  (Note: The soup can be made ahead, brought to room temperature, and chilled overnight in a sealed container . Reheat before serving)

To serve, ladle the hot soup into a shallow bowl, with about 5 pearl mozzarella balls on the bottom. Garnish with a flurry of fresh basil. Serve hot!!!!




Duck Breast with Slathered Fresh Cherry Compote

Try this delicious recipe for simply, elegant late winter, early spring entertaining. Duck never tasted so good! The sweet, dark cherries pop with the mild heat of the Slather Brand Slatherin’ Sauce and triple cream brie cheese smooths all the flavors out with mellow, creamy goodness.

Photo by Helene Dujardin


Make Time for Pot Pie

Spring is tickling Charlestonians’ senses with warm weather, a blush of pale green, and bouquets of blooming beauty. It’s all so intoxicating, it’s almost easy to forgive the brutality of this past winter.

But not so fast! No matter where you live, winter has a nasty way of roaring back with raw cold and wind in the fickle month of March, and that’s the perfect time to make pot pie.

(Photo by Helene Dujardin)

Pot roast, that soul-warming classic, gets all dressed up with a flaky pastry lid in this dish. By braising the meat with the vegetable aromats until the meat’s tender and the vegetables have dissolved into the sauce, you’re ensured layers of flavor. A jolt of red pepper flakes provide a little flavor surprise that will take the chill off any cold, dreary late winter day. If you can’t find collards, substitute kale, spinach, or arugula.

This takes a little time the day before, but the taste and aroma dividends are well worth a little slow-cooked effort and handmade, buttery pastry.

Pot Roast Pot Pies
(Makes 6 – 8 individual pot pies)

Equipment needed: Six to eight 8 – 10 ounce oven-proof ramekins or bistro bowls
One 6″ round pastry cutter

For the pastry:

2 1/2 cups White Lily All Purpose flour (use only 2 1/4 cups if using another brand)
2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
2 sticks (or 1 cup) best quality, AAGrade unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/4″ cubes
Ice cold water – about 3 tablespoons or enough to just hold the pastry together

For the pot roast filling:

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds pot roast
1 onion, peeled, quartered and sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 stalks celery, trimmed, sliced into 1/4″ rounds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
1/2 cup red wine
2 1/2 cups coarsely chopped tomatoes
2 cups beef or vegetable stock (or enough to cover the roast just over half-way)
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/4 cup chopped, fresh parsley

To finish:

2 cups baby carrots
3 cups collards, washed, tough stems removed, and cut into 1″ squares
3 cups baby, fresh potatoes, scrubbed and pierced with a fork
1 – 2 tablespoons ketchup
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

1 egg wash – yolk, pinch salt, splash of water, blended together.

The day before service, prepare the pastry. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a plastic blade, pulse together the flour and the salt. Add the very cold butter and pulse rapidly, 40 – 50 times, or until the butter is the size of very small peas. Gradually, drizzle in the water in drops, while running the machine. Add just enough until the pastry forms a clumsy ball. Pour it out onto a lightly floured surface. Form a flattened disc and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate over night.

Next, prepare the braised stew filling. Heat a large, heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat. When it’s hot, add the olive oil and butter. Season the pot roast, generously, on all sides, with salt and freshly ground pepper. When the fat is sizzling (but not burning!) add the roast to the pan. Brown,undisturbed, for about five minutes. Turn the roast and repeat on the second side. Remove the browned roast from the pan and set aside. Add the onion, garlic, celery, salt, pepper and herbes de Provence to the pan. Stir to coat and pick up any brown bits. Cook until softened, about five minutes. Deglaze with the red wine, stirring to pick up all the brown bits, and reduce the wine by half.

Return the roast to the pan. Add the tomatoes and stock. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover, leaving the lid slightly ajar. After about four hours, add the red chili flakes and parsley, stirring in to blend. Remove the meat from the pan and allow to rest and cool. Meanwhile, using a shallow ladle, skim any excess fat off the surface. When the meat is cool enough to handle, chop it coarsely, removing any excess fat or sinew, which should be discarded. Return the beef to the pot and add the baby carrots, collards, baby potatoes and ketchup. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. If too much water has evaporated, add enough water to thin to a stew consistency. Simmer, covered, another forty minutes, or until the vegetables are just tender. Remove from heat, cool, and refrigerate overnight.

The following day (or the day of service), roll out the prepped pastry into a large circle (about 1/4″ thick) on a lightly floured surface. Cut into 6″ rounds, using your pastry cutter. Return the rounds to the refrigerator to chill for about twenty minutes. Meanwhile, remove the stew from the refrigerator and skim off any remaining fat which may have coagulated overnight. Arrange the ramekins or bistro bowls on a baking sheet. Fill each with 1 1/4 cups of the stew. Top each with a prepped pastry round, sealing the excess pastry down around the rim of the bowl (it should be about 1/2″ deep). Cut three slits into the top of the pastry and brush the top and sides of each lightly with the egg wash using a pastry brush. (Note: The pies can be compiled and refrigerated for several hours before baking, or go directly into the oven at this point).

Preheat the oven to 375F and bake for 35 – 40 minutes until bubbling, golden and beautiful. Set aside to cool for ten to fifteen minutes before eating.

March never tasted so good!


Super Sexy Scuppernong & Pomegranate Tartlets

Photo by Helene Dujardin

The flavor of the scuppernong is intensely grape-like. The outer skin is bitter, but the interior is sweet and gelatinous, which lends itself to the thickness of the sauce (or coulis) for this tartlet. Pomegranate juice (available at most grocery stores) adds brilliant, deep-red color and a sweet, acidic edge. So, why not pair the unlikely duo?

The results are smashing! The crunchy, pop-in-your-mouth pomegranate seeds form the first layer of the filling that is topped with a lemony, cotton-white mousse. Prepared puff pastry shells for the tart casings, while the coulis swirls around the plate in unrestrained regal splendor. All can be prepared ahead and plated at the last second, which makes this the perfect tartlet treat for your Christmas and holiday table. If scuppernongs are not available where you are, substitute Concord grapes or another full-flavored grape.

Super Sexy Scuppernong & Pomegranate Tartlets
(Makes 12 individual servings)

Equipment Needed: Parchment paper, baking sheet

2 packages Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Shells (or 2 Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets cut into rounds with a 2″ round pastry cutter)
1 egg wash – yolk, pinch salt, splash water, blended together

For the coulis:
3 cups whole, fresh scuppernongs, rinsed
1 cup pomegranate juice
1/2 cup water
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons sugar

For the mousse:
1 packet Knox unflavored gelatin
1 tablespoon warm water
1 cup 2% plain Greek yogurt
Zest from 1 lemon
1/2 cup honey, preferably local
1 cup cold whipping cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the garnish:
Seeds from one pomegranate, flesh and pulp removed (see directions below).

Preheat the oven to 400F. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the thawed pastry shells on it, about one inch apart. Brush the tops (not sides!) of each lightly with the egg wash. Bake until golden and fluffy, about 25 minutes. Set aside to cool when done.

Meanwhile, prepare the coulis. Combine the scuppernongs, pomegranate juice, water, cinnamon stick and sugar in a medium sauce pan. Bring up to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the scuppernongs have popped and the liquid has reduced by half, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, prepare the mousse. Combine the gelatin and water in a small glass or cup. Stir to combine with a spoon, or use your fingers. Once fully dissolved, whisk the gelatin in a medium bowl with the yogurt, lemon zest and honey. In a separate cold bowl, using a hand mixer or a whisk, mount the whipping cream with the vanilla. Whip until fluffy and firm. To finish the mousse, whisk one third of the cream into the yogurt mixture. Fold the remaining cream, in two batches, into the yogurt mixture. Chill, covered in the refrigerator. (Note: This can be made several hours in advance).

To finish the coulis, remove and discard the cinnamon stick and smash the cooled mixture with a masher or a fork to release as much flesh as possible. Drain the mixture through a fine sieve, pressing with the back of a ladle to release the juices, into a small bowl. Discard the grape skin/seed solids. The remaining liquid is your wonderful coulis! Chill the coulis.

Now, separate the seeds from the pomegranate. To do this, cut the pomegranate into quarters. Peel the seeds away from the pulp (also called aril). Do this with patience, it takes a little time. Your goal is to separate the bitter pulp away from the seeds and then discard it.

To assemble the tartlets, gently peel the “tops” off the baked pastry shells, along with some of the inside pastry, to form a “home” for the tart filling. Place one tablespoon of the pomegranate seeds into the bottom of each. Top with two heaping tablespoons of the mousse. Serve on individual plates with a generous swirl of the coulis, and a drizzle of pomegranate seeds. Keep cold until serving (up to one hour) or better yet, serve immediately.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all!

Adapted from Tart Love – Sassy, Savory, Sweet and Southern, by Holly Herrick (Gibbes Smith, Fall, 2011). Photograph by Helene DuJardin,

Cracking the Cookbook Code Retreat

Join me and blogger, chef and author Beckie Carrico Hemmerling March 29 – April 1, 2019 for Cracking the Cookbook Code, Writing, Cooking, Marketing, Photography + Wellness Retreat. Limited to only 8 people, we will have a blissful few days in a beautiful, relaxing setting with like-minded souls, eating delicious food and having a wonderful time. Click for details.

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