The people's voice of reason

Southern Cuisine for May

Let us pray that May will be kinder to the food industry than it was with April. My wife and I spent an evening checking UPC codes on our egg cartons and trying to find out where our lettuce came from.

Luckily, our eggs were not of the 200 million eggs that were recalled due to Salmonella fears. In addition, the romaine lettuce we had was not part of a prepackaged salad mix. The lettuce recall was for about 8,750 pounds of salad mix. I am not going to say I told you so but I did tell you several times that the more the food is processed that more likely something can go wrong with it. If you bought your romaine and other lettuces separately and

practiced safe food handling procedures you will rarely be scrambling around locating UPC codes after you have consumed the product that has been contaminated. This is not the first big recall for lettuce that was bagged and pre-chopped romaine grown in Yuma, Arizona.

The egg recall is another thing altogether. Egg producers and suppliers must follow a host of safety measures since we wash and refrigerate our eggs. The washing removes a thin membrane form the eggshell that prevents moisture and bacteria from getting into the egg. Europeans skip the washing in favor of vaccinating the chickens. Washing and cooling the eggs lengthens the shelf life from 21 to 50 days. No matter what procedure is used, there can still be contaminated eggs. A properly cooked egg is the best defense.

After I read the articles about the lettuce and egg recalls, I started my usual surf through the web. Lo and behold, Sonic is selling Pickle Juice Slushies starting in June. This is the first pickle slushie sold by a national chain. There is a local spot in Sparta, Tennessee where the pickle slushie is available. There is a pickle snow cone called the Piccadilly that is popular in the Southwest. I guess it is just an extension of the pickle vodka, pickle Pringles, and Heluva Good dill pickle dip. You can dip your fried dill pickle chips in your dill pickle dip. The use of pickle brine has been common in southern restaurants for some time. Used as a marinade for chicken thighs before breading and frying and used to tenderize chicken wings before frying. It is added to the mayonnaise in potato salads and pimento cheese to subdue the richness of the cheese and mayonnaise. The pickle juice can also substitute for the vinegar in salad dressings.

Once you get your lettuce and eggs under control, besides celebrating that the third week in May is International Pickle week, you can celebrate that the month of May is National Egg Month and National Salad Month. Salads do not fill me up unless I load it up with everything besides greens. Eggs fill me up but they all taste the same unless you add many other yummy bits. My favorite item to add to salads and eggs is cheese. It fills you up and there are hundreds if not more types of cheese. Food fact: there are over 1800 specialty cheeses from over 70 countries. Just in the United States, the list starts at acapella, a goat milk cheese that has a buttery taste and comes from California, to zwister, a cow’s milk cheese that is tangy and semi hard from Utah. These are two of the over 200 varieties of cheeses in the United States. I counted nine types just in the cheese drawer of my refrigerator.

Cheese adds a variety of tastes and textures to a menu. Moreover, it can be eaten for every meal during the day. Moreover, you will not be surprised to know that cheddar cheese and mozzarella are by far the most popular cheeses in America. Cheddar is typed by its taste, mild, medium, or sharp. In addition, it is classified as a semisoft to hard cheese. A low moisture content variant of mozzarella has been specifically formulated and prepared for use on pizza. Breaded mozzarella sticks and string cheese are popular snack foods.

There are cheeses that you can grill. The best to grill or fry is Haloumi due to its high melting point. It is delicious, and as such, one of the biggest issues it poses is the risk of overeating. Tip: An 8 ounce chunk equates to 680 calories, 54 grams of fat and almost 3000mg of sodium, hence when it comes to haloumi, portion control is crucial.

Like any perishable food, there are procedures to follow so you do not end up as a statistic from the CDC.

Keep your cheese refrigerated and in a sealed airtight container.

Store between 32 degrees and 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Remember high-moisture and soft cheeses have a shorter shelf life.

Hard and semi hard cheeses may be frozen for up to 8 weeks, but should then only be used for grating, shredding and cooking.

We have covered eggs, salad, and cheese. Let’s make a pizza! The recipe I found did not want me to make the pizza crust from scratch, but I wanted something that would work eating it with my hands.

Breakfast Pizza

This easy, homemade breakfast pizza has bacon, eggs, tomatoes, spinach, and cheese. Note, I tried this recipe with garlic-flavored naan, but the pre-cooked bread over-cooked before the eggs were cooked.

I need to tweak the recipe some, because the naan worked well with this recipe. Serves 2


Packaged store bought pizza crust, any brand you like, just do not use a pre-cooked crust. Enough to make two eight-inch pizzas.

2 ounces cream cheese softened (optional)

Handful baby spinach

4 ounces (1/2 cup) shredded mozzarella cheese or more to suit your taste

8-10 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

Two large eggs

Four strips cooked bacon, chopped

Kosher salt

Fresh ground black pepper


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Spread the cream cheese thinly on each crust.

3. Top the crust with spinach, mozzarella, and tomatoes, leaving the center open for the egg. Make a slight indentation in the center of the crust to keep the egg from running out. Gently break an egg the center of each crust and finish with bacon.

4. Bake 12 to 14 minutes, until the crust has browned and the egg white is set. Season with salt and pepper.

You have seen the warnings on menus about eating undercook eggs, so cook them accordingly.

I have been finding recipes for typical Southern meals that are not your run of the mill recipes. I am a fan of fried catfish, but it tastes so much better when someone else that has the right equipment and the practice to turn out corn meal battered catfish, steamy hot and tender. I have been cleaning up my BBQ pits, in anticipation for a long productive grilling season. And I plan to grill more fish this summer. Therefore, what better way to start than with grilled catfish?

Grilled Catfish

with Tomato Olive Relish


1 cup chopped Kalamata olives

1 ½ cups chopped cherry tomatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil

One tablespoon chopped parsley

Zest from one lemon

¼-cup feta cheese

Two six-ounce U.S. farmed raised catfish fillets

Serves two


1. Pre-heat grill to medium high and wipe with olive oil to prevent sticking.

2. Combine the olives, tomatoes, olive oil, feta, lemon zest, and parsley in a bowl.

3. Gently warm the relish so it is not cold when you top the fish.

4. Grill the fish fillets until they start to flake. About 3-4 minute per side.

5. Place fillets on warm plates and top with relish.

If you were eating fried catfish at a fast food restaurant, French fries would be a common side. So why not have potatoes with your grilled catfish. Since the catfish is not fried, we will not fry the potatoes either. These potatoes will have a much better plate presentation than ordinary fries.

Tattooed Potatoes

with Parsley and Rosemary


2 ounces (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter

1/3 cup olive oil

4 small-medium baking (russet) potatoes

8 fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves and/ or fresh rosemary sprigs

Coarse salt

Fresh ground pepper

Roasting pan or glass baking dish

Serves 4 to 8


1. Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Place roasting pan or dish in oven with olive oil and butter; once butter has melted, just a minute or two later, remove from oven.

2. Halve each potato lengthwise. Place one parsley leaf in the center of four halves and a rosemary sprig on the other four, then sprinkle cut sides generously with salt and pepper.

3. Arrange face down in pan with melted butter; try not to nudge them around or the leaves will move.

4. Roast potatoes for 35 to 45 minutes (depending on size) until tender. There is no need to turn the potatoes over unless they get so dark under-neath that they risk overcooking before becoming fully tender. This can happen with a metal roasting pan or an oven that runs hot. If the potato is tender, lift up one and check underneath for some browning of the

potato. Serve immediately; cut sides up.

May is the last month of spring, so enjoy your days outside.

Summer is coming!

“Preserve summer in glass jars. Make jam.” Helen Simpson

“It is harder to be unhappy when you are eating” Kurt Vonnegut,Jr.


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