, Muskogee, OK


April 18, 2012

Food plays role in tale that shows coming of age not just for young

Clyde Edgerton addresses youth and aging in “Walking Across Egypt” (Algonquin Books, 1987), a coming of age novel set in North Carolina. As in all good Southern literature, food plays a prominent role in the story. Septuagenarian Mattie Rigsbee is as well known for her spunky attitude as she is for her cooking. Widowed for five years and as yet without grandchildren, Mattie knows the longing every good cook feels of having someone special to cook for; someone who will appreciate the love and effort put into preparing a pound cake, pork chops, or biscuits and gravy.

When a stray dog shows up in her yard, Mattie feeds him, but insists she’s “too old to keep a dog.” Her evidence is that she just washed the toilet with Listerine and put chili powder on the potato salad, proof enough that she is slowing down. But a stray of another kind shows up, a juvenile delinquent named Wesley Benfield, nephew of the city dog catcher. Having moved from orphanage to reform school, Wesley takes to Mattie’s grandmotherly demeanor. She makes him a pound cake and some sweet tea. He possibly steals a car. Together they learn that coming of age issues are not the domain of only the young. Look for Edgerton’s latest novel, “The Night Train,” about two teens from opposite sides of the track who share a love of Thelonious Monk and jazz.

The pork chop figures large in Southern cooking, but can dry out quickly if not cooked properly. Brining helps retain moisture and protects pork chops from overcooking.

Spinach Salad

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

3 green onions, minced

3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon tarragon

1 teaspoon grated orange peel

4 Cuties fresh mandarin oranges

1 package baby spinach

2/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted as below

Whisk first 7 ingredients in small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Place spinach in salad bowl. Peel oranges and separate segments; add to spinach. Toast almonds in small skillet with 3 tablespoons sugar, until sugar melts and almonds begin to brown. Add almonds to spinach. Toss with dressing when ready to serve.

Roasted Spring

Vegetable Paella

1 leek, washed, trimmed and quartered lengthwise

12 oz. baby carrots, trimmed and peeled

1 turnip turnips, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch pieces

8 ounces 1 1/2-inch red-skinned new potatoes, halved

1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon salt

1 onion, chopped

4 plum tomatoes, chopped

2 cups arborio rice

1 14-ounce can vegetable broth

2 cups water

3/4 cup dry white wine

1 pound asparagus, trimmed

1 cup drained canned garbanzo beans (chickpeas)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss leek, carrots, turnip, potatoes, and 1/4 cup olive oil in large bowl. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Transfer to large rimmed baking sheet. Roast until tender and brown around edges, about 1 hour.

Finely mince 1/4 cup parsley and garlic together. Transfer to small bowl. Stir in paprika, turmeric, and 1 teaspoon salt.

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until soft, about 8 minutes. Add tomatoes; sauté 2 minutes. Add rice and parsley mixture; stir 2 minutes. Stir in broth, water, and wine; bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 15 minutes. Stir in asparagus, garbanzo beans, and roasted vegetables. Increase heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 20 minutes. Season paella with salt and pepper. Transfer to large platter and serve. This and salad recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, April 2002.

Brined and Smoked Pork Chops

6 loin pork chops, 1 – 2” thick

3 cups water

1/2 cup kosher salt

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon coriander

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup chopped yellow onion

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 orange juiced, or 1/3 cup fresh orange juice

1 tablespoon thyme


1/4 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon paprika

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon coriander

Bring 1 cup water to a boil and add salt, bay leaf, coriander, pepper, brown sugar, onion and garlic. Whisk at simmer until salt is dissolved. Add remaining 2 cups water, orange juice and thyme. Cool. Place pork chops in ziplock bag and pour brine over chops. Refrigerate 4 to 12 hours. Start medium hot fire in grill using charcoal briquettes. Remove chops from brine and scrape off spices. In a large non-stick skillet, sear chops about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to platter. Lightly coat each side with dry rub. Add wood to prepared fire; cover if wood catches on fire to control the heat and flame. When wood is smoking, put pork chops on grill and cover. Cook covered approximately 4 – 5 minutes per side to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.. Serve with a sauce of 1/4 cup Dijon mustard mixed with 1/4 cup Polaner’s Apricot All Fruit. Adapted from Louis Lambert’s “Big Ranch, Big City Cookbook.” A truly delicious pork chop recipe.

Lemon Chambord Pound Cake

Cooking spray

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour Click to see savings

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups granulated sugar

3/4 cup butter, softened

3 large eggs

1 1/2 tablespoons grated lemon rind

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3/4 cup fat-free buttermilk


3/4 cup powdered sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons Chambord (raspberry-flavored liqueur)

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. To prepare cake, coat a 12-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray; dust with 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Set aside. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, stirring well with a whisk. Place 2 cups granulated sugar and 3/4 cup butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy (about 4 minutes). Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add rind, 1/4 cup juice, and vanilla; beat until combined. Beating at low speed, add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; beat just until combined (batter will be thick).

Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack. Loosen cake from sides of pan using a narrow metal spatula or knife. Place a plate upside down on top of cake; invert onto plate. If desired, pierce cake liberally with toothpick and brush with 2 tablespoons Chambord. To prepare glaze, combine powdered sugar, 2 1/2 tablespoons liqueur, 1 tablespoon juice, and 1 tablespoon butter, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Drizzle over warm cake. Cool completely. Source: Cooking Light, October 2006.

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