Music can be found within the cuisine of the American South.
I grew up in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, a place of fog and fiddle music. It's no wonder that I developed a big love for bluegrass, knee-high weeds, and country cooking. But once upon a time, I had my doubts.
When I was eight years old, my family moved from New Orleans to a small town in Tennessee. As we drove around the courthouse square, my mother wept--not because she was homesick, not because she was suffering from culture shock, but because she was worried about food.
"Where will I buy oysters for Christmas gumbo?" she whispered.
Gumbo was a religion in our family. You couldn't have Christmas without it. Until now, we'd gone to the French Market for seafood, and my daddy had shucked the oysters in the backyard. My eyes brimmed as I remembered stopping in Cafe du Monde for beignets. I remembered picking berries at Mama Hughes' Mississippi farm, swimming in the bayou, and getting my hair braided by the aunts.
Maybe it wasn't too late to turn around.
Each day brought a shocking revelation, mainly culinary. One day Mama decided to bake a cheesecake, but the local market didn't sell sour cream--they'd never heard of it. The manager looked flustered. Why, he'd be put out of business if he sold rotten food.
That summer, a neighbor lady brought us pints of Appalachian blueberries. Mama whipped up a tart in her cast iron skillet, and at that moment, a down-home cook was born.
Blueberry Basil Galette
Basil brightens the berries and lemon, adding a savory edge--and a touch of mint. Lavender adds adventure and a witch's spell. Cinnamon coaxes sweetness from the berries.
2 pounds fresh blueberries
3/4 cup white granulated sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Zest from one lemon
1/2 to 1 teaspoon fresh lavender buds
2 teaspoons chopped basil
2 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 package store-bought puff pastry (2 sheets)
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon water
cast iron skillet
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Into a large bowl, toss blueberries with sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, cornstarch, salt, cinnamon, lavender buds, basil, and vanilla extract. Cover and set aside for at least 30 minutes. (Tip: to prevent basil from darkening, roll the leaves into logs, then slice.)
Defrost puff pastry and roll out. Place in greased cast iron skillet, allowing pastry to flop over the sides. Add blueberries, spreading evenly in the skillet. Gently fold pastry over the berries, crimping at the edges. Mix egg and water. Brush egg wash over pastry. Place the skillet in the hot oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the pastry browns, Remove from oven and cool. Sprinkle with Demerara or lemon sanding sugar. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.
Print This Recipe
Print This Recipe