Sassy Southern Cooking with a French Twist


The Perfect Holiday Tart – Beautiful, Delicious and Easy!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you! I’m posting this recipe from Tart Love – Sassy Savory and Sweet (Gibbs Smith, October, 2011) today because there is still plenty of time to make it and it is utterly delicious and beautiful and just dripping with the colors and flavors of the season. It’s one of my favorites from the book and I hope you’ll consider it a gift from my kitchen for your holiday table.

Super-Sexy Scuppernong and Pomegranate Tartlets

(Makes 12 individual servings)

Petite, ruby-red pomegranate seeds and clunky-looking scuppernongs may seem like strange tart-fellows. Though the former is a berry and the latter is a variety of the muscadine grape, they have much in common. Both are harvested during cool weather, both are tart-sweet, and both have a very long history. The scuppernong is the state fruit of North Carolina, where it has been harvested (as well as throughout the Southeast) for centuries. It is named after a river that runs through that lush state. The pomegranate dates back to ancient times in the Middle East, where it was grown in Asia and India, though now it is grown throughout the world.

The crunchy, pop-in-your mouth pomegranate seeds form the first layer of the filling, which is topped with a lemony, cotton-white mousse. Prepared puff pastry shells form the tart casings, while the coulis swirls around the plate in unrestrained regal splendor. All can be prepped ahead and plated at the last second, making these perfect for any occasion where elegance is on the menu. If scuppernongs are not available where you are, substitute Concord grapes or another full-flavored grape.

Super Sexy Scuppernong and Pomegranate Tartlets. Beautiful photo by Helene Dujardin.


Equipment Needed: Parchment paper, baking sheet

2 packages Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Shells (or 2 Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets cut into rounds with 2-inch round pastry cutters)

1 egg-wash (yolk, splash water, pinch salt blended together)


3 cups whole fresh scuppernongs, rinsed

1 cup pomegranate juice

1/2 cup water

1 cinnamon stick

2 tablespoons sugar


1 packet Knox unflavored gelatin

1 tablespoon warm water

1 cup 2% plain Greek yogurt

Zest from one lemon

1/2 cup local honey

1 cup cold whipping cream

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Seeds from one pomegranate, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the pastry shells on it, about 1 inch apart. Brush the tops (not sides!) of each lightly with egg wash. Bake about 25 minutes, until fluffy and golden. Set aside to cool when done.

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

To prepare the mousse, combine the gelatin and water in a small glass or cup. Stir to dissolve. Once fully dissolved, whisk the gelatin in a medium bowl with the yogurt, 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 from the scuppernongs.  Drain the mixture through a fine sieve into a small bowl, pressing with the back of a ladle to release the juices. Driscard the grape skin/seed solids. The remaining liquid is your wonderful coulis! Chill.

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

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 pomegranate seeds in the bottom of each. Top with 2 heaping tablespoons of mousse. Serve on individual plates with a generous swirl of the coulis and a sprinkling of the pomegranate seeds. Keep cold for up to 1 hour until serving. Better yet, serve immediately.


Crazy Simple Canape Cups for Hassle-Free Holiday Fun

It’s getting to be that most wonderful time of the year again. As we approach the early stages of holiday planning, the best way to embrace blazing fires, cold nights, time with family and friends, and fabulous feasts, the best plan is to keep it simple, plan ahead, and have fun. Otherwise, the most wonderful time of the year can feel like the worst time of your life.

One way to have a good time without investing half your bank account and countless hours (even days) in the kitchen, is to share canapes and cocktails with a small group of family and/or friends. The little cups, cradled (in both these recipes) with prepared mini-fillo pastry cups, are beautiful, crisp and delicious, and can be prepared within minutes – 15 or less if you move along briskly. Both pair beautifully with a cold glass of Champagne or crisp white wine. It’s also a lovely way to begin a holiday dinner and whet the appetites of all those about to sit down for the more substantial feast that awaits.

Crunchy Crab Cup Canapes

(Makes 30 individual canapes)

This recipe is an even easier adaptation of a slightly more demanding version from Tart Love, Sassy Savory and Sweet. In the book, I recommend making your own pastry – which is just fine and something I believe in, big time. However, the other day when I was coming up with a new recipe for Slather Brand Foods, I encountered Athens Brand Mini-Fillo Shells, and decided that these prepared shells would provide a harried-free alternative for frustrated Thanksgiving and holiday chefs everywhere. Indeed, they’re delicious and just need a few minutes to brown, crisp and heat through in the oven. The cool, sprite, crab-rich salad is the perfect texture counter to fill the canapes and looks and tastes merrily festive.

Photo by Helene Dujardin


Here’s the recipe:

30 Athens Brand Mini-Fillo Shells (2 packages or substitute another brand)

For the filling:

1 1/2 cups pasteurized lump crab meat

2 tablespoons capers

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives

Zest of 1 lime

1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 tablespoon Dijon or sweet/hot mustard

2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

Generous dash hot sauce

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange the cups on a baking sheet, leaving space between them. Bake for 8 minutes, or until browned and warmed through. Remove and set aside at room temperature.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Very gently place the crab, capers, onion, chives, and zest in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Whisk vigorously to combine. Top the crab mixture with the blended mixture and fold gently with a wooden spoon to combine, being careful not to break up the crab. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Fill the canape cups (they can be room temperature or barely warm) within an hour of serving. Garnish with a few short spears of fresh chives, if desired.

Slathered Brie & Pecan Cups

(Makes 30 individual canapes)

Easy and elegant, these ooey, gooey cups of warm, rich cheese are topped with zesty Original Slather Sauce and a crisp layer of crunchy pecans. Prepared with the same prepared fillo cups used in the previous recipe, they look so impressive and taste so delicious, your holiday guests will think you’ve spent hours in the kitchen, when in fact they come together in just minutes. The final of twelve recipes I developed for Slather Brand Foods this past year, it’s one of my favorites. The sauce is chunky, sweet, tart, and round all at once – an incredibly versatile addition to your condiment larder. To find it, go to, for a complete listing of retail outlets and online purchasing options. You’ll be glad you did!

30 Athens Brand Mini-Fillo Shells (two packages – or substitute another brand)

1/2 pound best-quality Brie cheese, cut into 1/2″-thick cubes

1/2 cup Original Slather Sauce

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Freshly ground black pepper to finish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange the cups on a baking sheet. Place a cube of the prepared cheese into the bottom of each cup. Top each with 1/2 teaspoon of Original Slather Sauce. Top each with 1/2 teaspoon of the chopped pecans. Bake on the middle rack until golden and bubbly, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for about five minutes.

To serve, arrange on a pretty platter and drizzle the cups with the fresh parsley and a dash of freshly ground black pepper. The pepper is not mandatory, but works very nicely with the mellow flavor of the cheese and the sweetness of the sauce. These are best served warm.

Wishing you all a wonderful, delicious, and stress-free holiday season!


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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