The people's voice of reason

Southern Cuisine - September

A common topic for food websites, particularly during the heat of summer, is foods to avoid during a heat wave. I do not necessarily disagree with some of their reasoning, but to me the first thing I want to eat during the summer months is something cold. You can guess I want just the opposite during winter. This is not a hard and fast rule but that is usually my first choice. A common food types to avoid during hot weather according to these websites are spicy foods. I would have to quit eating during the summer. I make my salads spicy. Every salad I make has a spicy dressing, fresh sliced peppers, and a spicy flavored vinegar. I'm making a cayenne pepper infused white wine vinegar right now. I even have a hot honey. There is a thought that actually drinking something hot, like tea, will cool you down. The fine print to that theory is you have to be wearing light clothing and be in a hot dry climate. The dry part negates that theory for anyone living around here. I'll stick to my sweet tea.

I am narrowing down my offerings this time to sauces, dressings and condiments. Cold ones at that. In one of the recipes there is some heating involved but kept to a minimum, like melting butter. But of course, I came across a cold soup that I am interested in trying, and yes, it is a spicy cold soup. So back to the butter, this recipe is for a dressing on a spinach salad. You can pick what other ingredients you put in your spinach salad but give this dressing a try. Most recipes for spinach salad have a bacon dressing.

This a brown butter dressing.



4 tablespoons

(2 ounces) unsalted butter

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar


Heat the butter in a small saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, begin whisking and continue cooking until it becomes light brown and smells nutty, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the mustard, honey, and vinegar until emulsified.

Drizzle the warm dressing over the salad, toss to combine, and serve immediately.

Other recipes for dressings that are mayonnaise based can be tweaked by using a flavored mayonnaise. The possibilities are endless. Dijon mayo, Chive mayo, and Horseradish, Herb, Dill, Black Pepper, Honey Mustard. and Sun-dried Tomato mayonnaise to name a few.

Peanut butter is one of my all-around favorite foods. It can be spread on white bread to be enjoyed by kids everywhere. It can be used as a shaving cream and mouse trap bait. It can be used as an ice cream cone sealant (a dab at the bottom of the cone will keep the melting ice cream from leaking out the bottom.) I saw a website that had different concoctions of a peanut butter and something else sandwich. There was cream cheese and peanut butter spread that when combined with lettuce and tomato, you have a lunchtime meal. The spread between two slices of French toast with sliced fruit, you have breakfast.

So, it is only fitting that you make a peanut butter sauce.



1/2 cup natural peanut butter, unsweetened (only two ingredients-peanuts and salt)

2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons sriracha or any sweet chili sauce

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

3 garlic cloves minced fine

1 teaspoon ginger powder or same amount of minced ginger

2-4 tablespoons warm water


Combine all ingredients except water. Whisk to fully combine.

Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.

I found some frozen spring rolls at Costco that this sauce is made for.

My garden has shrunk over the years. I had high expectations when I first started a garden in my yard. Three rows wide and about twenty feet long. Even tried to grow corn. Now it's down to three large garden pots and four smaller ones. The three large pots are tomatoes and in the smaller pots are two poblano plants and some beautiful bushy basil plants. With the large basil plants I have, my best bet is to make pesto and put it in small jars and then freeze them. It should keep up to 9 to 12 months.


There are not many variations of a basil pesto recipe. About the only ingredient that changes are the nuts. Some people use almonds, some walnuts. But I did read an article discussing blanching the basil or using it raw. I read that blanching gave the pesto a deeper green color but the raw basil pesto had more flavor. So, it is raw basil today. If you like a smooth pesto, stream the oil into the running food processor. For a slightly coarser pesto pulse in the ingredients but add the oil at the end and pulse until everything is just combined.


4 cloves garlic

6 cups fresh basil leaves

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2/3 cup pine nuts (walnuts may be substituted)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil


In a food processor, finely chop the garlic. Add basil leaves and chop until fine. Add cheese, pine nuts, salt, and pepper; pulse until the consistency of a coarse paste. With the food processor running, slowly pour olive oil through the feed tube and continue mixing until the oil is completely combined with paste. Store in airtight container in refrigerator for up to one week. Pesto freezes well. Freeze in ice cube trays, and then store frozen pesto cubes in plastic freezer bags in freezer for up to 6 months. Pesto may also be frozen in small jars or plastic containers for up to 9-12 months.

As I was saying about a cold soup, this hits the spot. Easy to make, bright, spicy, and satisfying.



1 firm-ripe California avocado (one other avocado for garnish)

1 3/4 English cucumbers (1 1/2 pounds), cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 (8-ounce) plain low-fat yogurt (1 cup)

3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1 chopped fresh jalapeño with seeds (amount according to taste)

1 cup small ice cubes

Garnish: diced avocado


Peel and pit avocado. Blend all ingredients in a blender until very smooth, about 1 minute.

Serve immediately.

And from the “Everything you know is wrong” department. There are vegetables that are healthier to eat cooked than eaten raw. Even if mushrooms are not really vegetables, they are higher in vitamin C and other antioxidants when quickly steamed or microwaved. Cooking broccoli increases vitamin E. And cooking tomatoes increases the availability for your body to use the lycopene in the tomatoes. Cooking bell peppers increases the pepper’s ability to bind bile acids which helps to lower cholesterol. And cooking spinach breaks down the leaves cell walls thus releasing vitamin E and beta-carotene for your body to soak up.

And we end with a dressing, a sauce, a pesto and a soup. Course One - Hors d'oeuvres: Use the pesto for your hors d’oeuvres, such as a bruschetta. Course Two - Amuse-bouche: Cucumber-avocado soup served in a shot glass or espresso cup. Course Three: Use the dressing on your salad. For the Main Course: use the peanut sauce for your chicken satay or spring rolls. There, you have your next meal. All you have to decide on is dessert. May I suggest a Honey Bourbon Peach Galette.


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