Tag Archives: Vivian Howard

Southern Bog and an Indian Salmon and Pan-Roasted Chickpea Mash-up


Scarlett’s Chicken and Rice from Deep Run Roots by Vivian Howard.

Chicken bog is a kind of congee from the American South, specifically the low or coastal country of the Carolinas and Georgia.  It consists of a rich broth and shredded, stewed chicken and rice. It’s easy, economical, and delicious. The chicken is cooked in water for a really long time, removed and shredded, and added back to the broth with salt and pepper, maybe lemon juice and maybe butter, and sometimes sausage. It looks and sounds bland, but I’m here to tell you that once you start eating, you can’t get enough.Bog is one of those traditional  regional dishes for which every family seems to have its own tradition or variation.  Vivian Howard’s recipe, Scarlett’s Chicken and Rice, for example, is named after her mother Scarlett. Because it’s her mother’s recipe, duh.  It’s as plain as the proverbial pair of white cotton panties, and it is out of this world.

One recipe netted 5 quarts of chicken broth, two of which I used for the bog. Another two quarts I used for chicken soup, adding diced carrots, turnip, garlic, and leeks. That left me two quarts of broth for the freezer. That’s a lot of food from one little chickadee!

By accident, I made the ghahstly mistake of preparing cauliflower as a side dish.  An all-white dinner from the kitchen of a Betty Crocker Future Homemaker of Tomorrow Award winner? Horrors! Quick! Grab some cheddar to shred over the veg and pop in the microwave for a quick fix.

And for my next number, a mash-up of two recipes from Vij’s at Home: Relax, Honey: The Warmth and Ease of Indian Cooking .  


Salmon, chickpeas and garlic naan.

For some time, I’d been eyeing those huge salmon filets with the skin on at Costco, thinking I should really pick one up and cut it up for the freezer.  However, I was deterred by the skin, which I would want to remove before freezing. I like to prepare salmon by baking it in parchment bags, and wouldn’t want soggy, unappetizing skin on my plate.  So, I watched a few video tutorials on the web and figured it didn’t look so hard. I can skin chickens, after all, why not a big piece of fish?  Well, I’ll tell you why not. Because it’s bigger and slipperier than a chicken. And it’s gross. And the skin is really, really stuck to the flesh. Uch. What a mess. I managed to get a few intact portions out of it, but then I had a whole bunch of salmon bits about the size of prawns left over. I dumped them in a plastic container and stuck them in the freezer. And forgot about them.

Then, one day, I’m reading through Vij’s At Home, just minding my own business, when I come across a recipe for Prawns in Pomegranate Curry that makes my mouth water. I have to have it. I have all the ingredients, more or less, except the prawns.  Then the proverbial light bulb goes on as I remember the salmon bits.  Well, they are both pink, right?

I marinated the salmon bits in the refrigerator in marinade leftover from Vij’s Grilled Marinated Wild Salmon, which I had made a few days earlier. While the salmon was marinating, I prepared the chickpeas, also vaguely from the same cookbook.


Ingredients for Pan-Roasted Chickpeas

1 can chickpeas a/k/a garbanzo beans, drained but not rinsed
1 small red onion, sliced thin or diced
2 small carrots, diced
3 cloves garlic, sliced thin or smashed and left whole
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup diced apples and grapes (I used some of my Savory Red Grapes with its juice)
4 dried dates, pitted and chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground star anise

Ingredients for Salmon

3/4 pound salmon, cut up into bite-size pieces, if you like, or leave it whole
1 tablespoon canola
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped or grated
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses or 1/2 cup pomegranate juice
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Instructions for Chickpeas

  • Heat canola oil to medium heat in a medium frying pan;
  • Add spices and stir around to toast or cook off the raw odor;
  • Add onion and garlic until soft;
  • Add the diced carrots;
  • Add chick peas and let everything caramelize;
  • When chickpeas start to blacken, add the fruit, and lower the heat;
  • Cook the fruit through without letting it get soggy;
  • If you start to get a “sauce,” raise the heat.

Instructions for Salmon

  • Remove the chickpea mixture from the pan, don’t wipe out the pan;
  • Add 1 tablespoon of canola oil;
  • When oil is heated add the spices and let toast to cook off the raw odor;
  • Add pomegranate molasses, the garlic and the salmon (in pieces or whole), together with its marinade;
  • Cook on one side for 4 to 5 minutes, and flip the salmon  over;
  • Cook until the outside is dark and crispy looking, probably another 4 minutes;
  • Add chickpea mixture back to pan, adjust for salt and pepper.

Serve with garlic naan, or rice.

*Note:  Substitute pomegranate juice for the tamarind juice in the original recipe.

Meanwhile, I am preparing a post on restaurants, and would love to hear about what you like and dislike most when you go out to eat. How about it?

Wherein, dear reader, Mr. Darcy becomes addicted to Pork Shoulder Steaks in Red-Curry-Braised Watermelon from Vivian Howard


Watermelon and Pork from Deep River Roots.

At last, it’s here:  The long-awaited, eagerly anticipated cookbook from Vivian (A Chef’s Life) Howard.  And it’s just what we knew it would be, only even more so.  Like Vivian herself, it’s warm and engaging; it’s honest and generous. It’s full of charming stories and an astonishing variety of mouth-watering recipes. This is one of those cookbooks that you can read with enormous pleasure even if you’ve never even wanted to boil water.

Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South is a heavy book, and it is meant to be read not skimmed.  The photos are beautiful, but not slick and glossy food porno.  Even the design and layout reflect the charm and personality of the author. Deep Run Roots is divided into sections by ingredient, such as corn, figs, pecans, watermelon, rice, sausage, and blueberries. At the top corner of each page there is a charming little iconic drawing of the ingredient featured in that section.

For those of us who follow A Chef’s Life on PBS (damn PBS makes it so hard with their constant schedule changes and no notice), Vivian is the antidote to the Food Network and its cult of [chef] personality. Ironically, unlike the Food Network “Stars,” who are such non-entities, Vivian actually has a personality. With most TV cooking shows, you end up asking yourself, as Pam Frier notes in Laughing With My Mouth Full, “wait a second — wait a second! The guy’s just making soup. Why am I here?”  Not so A Chef’s Life. There is no gleaming spotless kitchen, no gleaming spotless Le Creuset pots and pans that look as if they are replaced new for each shoot, and no rows of glass prep dishes already filled with ingredients. Most importantly, there are no pan-flips, so reminiscent of the snotty SoCal blond hair toss, that make being a chef look easy, fun, and glam. So, even though she is more than smart and pretty enough to make it look all of the above, she is honest enough not to. (Note: She is honest without “sharing,” thank the Lord.}


Vivian Howard

And, bless her heart, she can write, reinforcing my notion that the best U.S. writers, including the best cookbook writers, are from the south. (Ask me some other time, and I will explain why Edith Wharton is the exception that proves the rule!) Furthermore, unlike most of the big-name celebrity chefs/cookbook writers, I will bet dollars to donuts that she actually wrote this book.  It sounds just like her. I will be working through the recipes and reporting on them, but I have no doubt that they will all be every bit as lip-smacking as the ones I’ve tried so far — both from her TV show and from the book.

Pork Shoulder Steaks with Red Curry Braised Watermelon
(click to see original recipe)


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 lbs. pork shoulder or blade steaks (4 8-ounce steaks, or whatever your butcher will do for you)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 1/2  tablespoons red curry paste
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 5 cups watermelon, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes, seeds removed.

Next time, I’m going to double the amount of watermelon!


    1. Preheat oven to 350°.
    2. Trim the pork of as much of the fat as possible without cutting into the flesh.
    3. Season the steaks with salt and pepper on both sides.
    4. Heat the vegetable oil in a 12-inch casserole over medium-high heat until almost smoking and place steaks in a single layer.
    5. Brown the pork on all four sides to get as much caramelization as possible.
    6. While the meat is browning, whisk together the vinegar, honey, red curry paste, and fish sauce.
    7. Once the pork is well-caramelized, remove the meat to a platter, and drain the excess fat.
    8. Return the meat to the casserole, and place the watermelon over it. 
    9. Pour the vinegar mixture over the watermelon.
    10. Cover the casserole and place on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 1 1/2 hours.
    11. Then bake another 30 minutes without the lid.
    12. Serve with rice. Don’t skimp on the broth.

Coming out of the oven — looks like tomatoes!

The watermelon resembles and has the texture of tomatoes, and the broth is the hands-down star of the show.


This recipe serves four. After eating both tonight and tomorrow night’s portions, Mr. Darcy looked up from his dish, announced the meal “addictive,” and asked for more. I held on to my plate for dear life.

Pickled Watermelon Rind: “I Don’ Wanna Say Goodbye to the Summer” and Summer Food


Pickled Watermelon Rind

Paraphrasing one of the great teenage beach songs of my “yoot” (My Cousin Vinny) that PBS has been playing relentlessly all week long, I don’t want summer to end. I love t-shirts and sandals, watermelon, tomato and corn. But let’s face it, I absolutely cannot wait for the end of the heat and humidity . . .  sometime in October? I am comforting myself with the thought of veggies to come:  parsnips, turnips, beets and the unbeatably scrumptious Delicata squash.


If the vegetables look wrinkled, they are, having just been steamed in the microwave!

In order to take advantage of the very last of the watermelon, Mr. Darcy and I spent two days making watermelon rind. Yes, that’s Vivian Howard’s pickled watermelon rind to you! The whole melon was too heavy for me to lift, so I bought three very large pieces and we proceeded from there.


Mr. Darcy hard at work peeling off the green.



The flesh is then separated from the rind, and the rind is cut into 1″ x 3″ pieces.


The rind is then submerged in a water and salt brine overnight.


Does anyone else remember those pretty Lilly Pulitzer summer dresses? P.S. The pink should not be there, but it was the best I could do!

The rind is rinsed and then placed in a vinegar and spice brine and cooked for 40 minutes. Some goes straight to the refrigerator and some to a hot water bath to be canned for mementos of summer during the cold and the slush of winter.


The rind takes on a slightly orange cast coming out of the salt and water brine. Reason not to leave any pink!

Digression:  What to do with all that leftover watermelon? Well, if watermelons are getting less and less “cherse” (Pat and Mike) as we approach Labor Day, so are tomatoes. Put watermelon and tomatoes together with some feta cheese, and add olive oil and white balsamic vinegar for a refreshing end of summer salad.


As a farewell to corn on the cob, I made a Blue Apron corn side dish, modified with tzatziki instead of crème fraîche, gojuchang instead of shishito peppers, plus lots of lime juice and lime zest. Grazie 1000 to La Bellezza for bringing this recipe and so many other great recipes to DishnDat’s attention!


Back on track:  Vivian says you don’t want the spice and vinegar brine to cook down to a syrup, but Kevin West says you do. I’m kind of with Kevin on that one, but I will let you know when I’ve waited the requisite one to two weeks before eating.  In any event, most likely neither will compare to BFF’s Great-Aunt Florence’s pickled watermelon rind. GAF, or as I like to think of her, “Great Aunt Hortense” from Tom Lehrer’s Smut (“As the judge remarked the day that he acquitted Great Aunt Hortense, ‘to be smut it must be UT-terly without redeeming social importance!'”), who allowed NONE of the pink watermelon flesh and declared that “other people are sloppy about this.” <erp> Guilty as charged, GAF. Guilty as charged.


And now to clean up my sticky counters. Labor Day awaits. Hurricane Hermine lurks, and the heat and humidity are due to return with a vengeance by the end of the week. Happy Holiday!

P.S. If words are sticking together in recent posts, it is not for failure to proofread; I am trying to fix a glitch in the code. Sigh. It’s not going too well!

Summer Squash Casserole


Vivian Howard’s Summer Squash Casserole.

Ah. The annual glut of zucchini and summer squash. Oh.The annual scramble to find recipes. But not for me. As has been well documented in these pages, I am no lover of summer squash and, thankfully, I don’t have neighbors who ply me with their surplus zucchini. No. I am just trolling the internet looking for more Vivian Howard recipes as I count the days before her cookbook is released. Oh yes. It’s been preordered from Amazon!

Vivian Howard’s Summer Squash Casserole


Spray for the casserole dish
4 tablespoons cornmeal
2 tablespoons bacon fat
4 cups yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
4 large garlic cloves, minced
6- 8 cups medium yellow squash and zucchini, sliced fairly thin and then into half moons
3 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups grated Fontina*
2 large eggs, beaten

*I couldn’t bear the thought of all that cheese for just the two of us, so I used only one cup. It was still very good, but it would have been so much better with two cups! I GARONTEE IT. Oh wait. Wrong dialect! That chef was from Looosiana, not EasCarolahna! Oh WELL.


A summer squash casserole!

  • Heat oven to 350°;
  • Spray a casserole dish and cover the bottom and sides with the corn meal;
  • In a large pan, heat the bacon fat, add the onions and garlic and cook until translucent and very soft;
  • Add the squash, sage, rosemary, salt and pepper, and cook about 40 minutes on medium heat, or until the pieces begin to brown*;
  • Remove from the heat and add the cheese and the eggs;
  • Put the mixture into the casserole and bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes, or until the top and the sides are brown.
*A treat for the chef:  pour off the pan juices and drink them.  The sweetness of the squash and
onion liquids combine with the richness of the bacon fat and the fragrance of the
sage and rosemary and creates ambrosia. You deserve it!
This was our entire dinner, and Mr. Darcy loved it. Summer squash lover that I am not, I would
certainly make this dish again!  It is creamy, custardy, cheesy and rich, and the corn flour
creates an almost pie-like base. It would be a perfect side dish  with meat, chicken or fish. I was
just too lazy to cook one more thing! And that’s all I’ve got for you on this lazy Sunday!

Southern Tomato Pie


Southern Tomato Pie from Vivian Howard.

You remember Vivian Howard from last week, right? The blueberry vinegar BBQ chicken chick? If you haven’t watched her PBS program, A Chef’s Life, I highly recommend it. Even Mr. Darcy, who has no interest in where food comes from or how it is prepared, likes it. But, then again, she is a very pretty woman. Bless his heart.

I am collecting all of her recipes  that I can find on line (Cornbread Coffee Cake with Fresh Figs, and Chocolate Cake with Beets), and will be reporting on same in the weeks to come. Note to Vivian: Hey, girl, hey! I am just sitting here waiting for your cookbook to be released (the day after my birthday!) Pre-ordered on Amazon. I made your Southern Tomato Pie this weekend, and we enjoyed it so much that I made four more crusts for the freezer.

Southern Tomato Pie is a dish I first heard of on my first trip to Charleston, S.C. At the hotel, I asked the concierge where to go to learn all I could about Southern food . . .  in three days. When I told her that I was even willing to eat okra, she leaned over the counter and told me, sotto voce, to go straight to the Dixie Supply Bakery and Cafe and eat everything on the menu, especially the tomato pie.  Which I did. Except for the tomato pie. It sold out every day just as soon as I got to the front of the line! But for all other Southern food? They have been the gold standard for me ever since. Shrimp and grits? Oh, don’t even talk to me!

The. Best. Ever. What can I say? The best American literature and the best American food come from the South. American qua American, of course; I don’t wear an onion roll on my head.

So, anyway, when I saw Vivian Howard’s recipe for Southern Tomato Pie, I thought, hmmmm, this is my chance to taste a real southern tomato pie. Well, of course, how would I know? I guess if I like it, it must be authentic!

The recipe is time-consuming, but not difficult. It’s two kinds of tomatoes three ways, caramelized onions (and thanks, Vivian, for not saying that the onions will caramelize in 10 minutes!), two kinds of cheese (fontina and parm-regg), basil, and mayo. Honh? Mayo? Fuggedaboutit. It works. The crust is as thin as a cookie and, even though it is not sweet, it is so delicious and distinctive that it could be eaten just like a cookie. Alone. I kid you not. The blend of tomatoes, cheeses, and mayo is exactly right. The result is sweet and salty, chewy, smooth and crunchy.  All the things that make your mouth happy. This is a dish you will keep eating until it’s all gone (hey, who ate my pie?), all the while looking forward to the next time.


The crust can be made in the food processor:  just keep a couple of extra tablespoons of ice water handy so that the dough comes together quickly.


Blind-baked crust.


Onions on their way to a deep caramel.


Cubed tomatoes draining with sugar and salt.


Cubed tomatoes going into the oven with salt, thyme and olive oil.


Cubed tomatoes coming out of the oven with a nice roast on them.

For the filling, mix the raw and roasted tomatoes, and the onions.  Scoop into the baked pie crust and add the cheeses, the mayo and the basil, which have been mixed together in a separate bowl. Top with thin slices of Roma tomatoes. Bake. This recipe makes even mediocre tomatoes taste as if they have been just picked from the vine.

In a bread-baking mood (and when am I not?). I’ve been tempted for a while now to try King Arthur Flour’s sprouted wheat flour, and the bag arrived a few days ago.  For Mr. Darcy’s snacking pleasure, I made KAF’S Sprouted Wheat Vanilla Chai Bars.  Before you say, “Oh, good. Healthy,” I should tell you that the recipe calls for two (count’ em, 2) cups of sugar. So much for whole wheat healthiness. Every notice that anything touted as low-fat (or lo-fat) never mentions that they are also high- (or hi-) sugar? Whatever is made healthier by reducing the fat, it seems, is made less healthy by far by adding in ton of sugar and other sweeteners. That’s right. You can’t win. Both the dough and the topping contain KAF’s Chai Spice, a blend of ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, anise, and black pepper. As a result, the cookies have a gingerbread plus flavor, and the really good chewy texture of a brownie. They go equally well with both coffee and tea. So, dunk alors!

SproutedWheatVanilla ChaiBars

From the side of the sprouted wheat flour bag, I made some sprouted wheat raisin bread.


Nice. Not thrilling.

While on a raisin bread roll, I gave KAF’s Harvest Bread with sweet potato and raisins a whirl. Any old raisin bread satisfies Mr. Darcy, and these were fine, but not terribly interesting.


Love the color from the sweet potato.

And, speaking of women I admire, you must know that my amazingly creative, talented and resourceful niece  — the real chef in the family — started Vermont Amber, a toffee company. You will not believe the flavors she has come up with: salted sesame, cacao nib, ginger cookie, fennel, sun-dried tomatoes, in addition to the usual suspects. This is not the jaw-breaking toffee sugar chunks you probably remember from your childhood, but thin and meltinyourmouth flavor shots. If you are ever at a loss for a gift, or party favors, or you are or know a toffee junkie, check it out. There is even a Toffee-of-the-Month Club. Go. Order on line!


Sun-dried tomato toffee? Yes, please!


“Finding My Way Home Through the Kitchen”


Is there anything so tactile and intangible, so concrete and elusive, so  illusory and entirely satisfying or not as a food memory? With all the senses, it will recall time, place, and sentiment like nothing else. I can still smell the vanilla pudding that I was fed as a baby. When I make soft-boiled eggs in the morning, I can see my father standing at the kitchen sink, looking out the window, contentedly scooping out his soft boiled eggs and eating them straight from the shell, having his buttered rye bread (never cut in half, never toasted), and drinking his coffee. Humming. Funny that even soft-boiled eggs can be an homage. That’s why I make them. I get to see my father again.

Food memories often get me into the kitchen. Food memories have been on my mind this week in particular —  partly because it has been a difficult week, and partly because I have been reading Pam Freir’s Laughing With My Mouth Full: Tales From a Gulf Islands Kitchen, and wishing that I had written it!

But it’s a long way. And it’s been a long time. So I head for the kitchen instead. You can always find your way home through the kitchen.
From Pam Frier, Laughing With My Mouth Full (2005) p. 12.

It was an odd week, gastronomically and otherwise.  Yes, the AC arrived, and yes it made a difference, thanks for asking.  There is a big difference throughout the apartment, and enough of a difference in the kitchen that I am able to function almost normally. No, it isn’t cool, but it is bearable. Especially when the oven is turned off!


The Violet Butterscotch Blondie with Caramel Shards

We had company this weekend, and for me, company is just an excuse to get into the kitchen and bake! This time, “company” was a pretext to delve further into The Violet Bakery Cookbook by Claire Ptak. First up,  Violet Butterscotch Blondies with Caramel Shards. This is a rich, gooey, sweet and salty wonder. Pssst. The caramel shards make it spectacular.


Caramel that will grow up to be shards!

Then came the Red Velvet Cake from The Violet Bakery Cookbook. This was for our friend from California whom we have not seen for quite some time.  I thought the occasion called for something that looked celebratory. The frosting is cream cheese and butter, and pink. The DishnDat tweaks included a tablespoon of espresso powder in the cake, because we can’t eat chocolate without coffee now, can we? Also a few dollops of King Arthur Flour’s Red Velvet Flavor in both the cake and the frosting. Like my MIL before me, I am always suspicious of vegetable oil as a substitute for butter, but this was a light and flavorful cake  —  chocolatey with just a hint of citrus. The cake is better than the frosting unless you are a sugar overload-lover.


Talk about loving hands at home!

Catching up with our California girl and meeting her boyfriend reminded me of the days when I lived in California. I had a boyfriend. I even had a boyfriend whose parents loved me and always wanted to take us to dinner. They lived in the San Fernando Valley (yes, the “Valley” as in Valley Girl) and the biggest deal around was a fancy steakhouse where I was introduced to Surf ‘n Turf for the first time in my life. I was flabbergasted. I had no idea such riches existed anywhere. No wonder people risked life and limb to come to America! I loved his parents, I loved the way they fed me, but, alas, after a while, I no longer loved the boyfriend and I had to do the right thing. I’ve never had Surf ‘n Turf since. Sigh. Talk about homage.


Mr. Darcy is always delighted when the kitchen produces sweets, so for a recent dinner I tried a recipe for Blueberry BBQ Chicken from Vivian Howard, chef and owner of Chef and the Farmer restaurant in Kinston, North Carolina, and the drawling, laid-back star of PBS’s A Chef’s Life. Instead of firing up our non-existent backyard grill in our non-existent backyard, I just covered a sheet pan with foil, cut up a nice Murray’s chicken, sprayed it with olive oil, and sprinkled a little salt on it. During the cooking time (one hour), I basted it  about every 20 minutes with Chef and the Farmer’s Blueberry BBQ sauce, which is essentially a blueberry vinegar. The result is hint of sweetness that plays well with the crispy, salty, sweet chicken.

VivianHoward'sBlueberry BBQChicken

And I will leave you with Mr. Darcy’s favorite bread of late.  It is a simple Monkey Bread. I use the Cook’s Country version, but I can’t reproduce it without their permission.  It has been produced elsewhere, however.  The DishnDat tweak is to omit the brown sugar coating and the glaze.  Dust the pan with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. It’s perfect for breakfast and whatEVer?