Southern Antipasto

Southern Antipasto, RRR IV, p. 57. Photo by Meghan Poole.

Meghan prepared this recipe for a party she held at her home:

The Southern Antipasto was the easiest item on the menu to make. I cut the green beans into two pieces each before blanching. I sliced one type of olives lengthwise and the other crosswise. My garlic press also has a slicer on it, so it was easy to get the garlic to a consistent size. Three tablespoons of thyme takes a while to get, so I used an herb stripper to make the process go faster. I prepared the marinade the day before the party in a plastic container with a lid. I combined the rest of the ingredients in the quart-sized bag as indicated in the recipe. I poured the marinade in the bag about 2 hours before the party, then into a serving bowl when I was ready to serve it without draining the marinade.

Ingredients
1 (12-ounce) jar pickled okra, drained and rinsed
1 cup fresh green beans, blanched and drained
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olive halves
1/4 cup pitted green olive halves
1/4 cup pimento-stuffed olives
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed dried red pepper

Directions
Combine the okra, green beans, and olives in a 1-quart re-sealable plastic bag.
Whisk the lemon juice, olive oil, thyme, garlic, salt, and red pepper in a bowl.
Pour the lemon juice mixture over the okra mixture and seal tightly. Turn to coat.
Marinate in the refrigerator for up to 1 hour, turning every 15 minutes. Drain before serving.
Serves 12

Spinach Madeline: A Thanksgiving Tradition

Spinach Madeleine, the recipe that put the first Junior League of Baton River Road Recipes Cookbook on the map! This savory and bubbly warm dish is now a traditional favorite for family gatherings, potlucks and supper clubs all around our great state for over 50 years.

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The original Spinach Madeleine recipe is found on page 63 of River Road Recipes I: A Textbook of Louisiana Cuisine.

Spinach Madeleine can be served as a warm appetizer dip with toast points or cocktail crackers, as well as, a flavorful side dish complimentary to many main dishes. Remember, Spinach Madeleine also freezes well. So consider when preparing, double the recipe and freeze half.

This dish is also a good way to introduce spinach to those who might be reluctant to try green veggies. The blended flavors and spices are sure to please even the most doubtful of picky eaters.

The original recipe calls for a roll of 6 ounces of Jalapeno cheese. Kraft Foods no longer makes the product so we have substituted 4 ounces of Velveeta cheese, cubed, and 2 teaspoons of minced jalapenos!

Spinach Madeleine

  • 2 packages frozen chopped spinach
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons chopped onions
  • ½ cup evaporated milk
  • ½ cup vegetable liquor (the liquid reserved from cooking the spinach)
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¾ teaspoon celery salt
  • ¾ teaspoon garlic salt
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 ounces Velveeta cheese, cubed
  • 2 teaspoons jalapeno, minced
  • Red pepper to taste

Cook spinach according to directions on package. Drain and reserve liquor. Melt butter in saucepan over low heat. Add flour, stirring until blended and smooth, but not brown. Add onion, and cook until soft but not brown. Add liquid slowly, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Cook until smooth and thick; continue stirring. Add seasonings, jalapenos, and cheese which has been cut into small pieces. Stir until melted. Combine with cooked spinach. This may be served immediately or put into a casserole and topped with buttered breadcrumbs. The flavor is improved if the latter is done and kept in the refrigerator overnight. This may also be frozen.

Serves 5 to 6.

Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!

Baked Cauliflower

After a long day I am sometimes at a loss for what side dish to prepare to accompany my main dish. Last week I turned to my mother, a former Junior League member, for assistance. Of course she knew exactly what I needed based solely on her knowledge of the River Road Recipe books and what I told her I had in my kitchen. Below is the easy and crowd pleasing Baked Cauliflower that saved the day!

From River Road Recipes I, page 53.

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Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Level of Difficulty: Medium

Servings: 4-6

KITCHEN TOOLS:

  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Wooden spoon
  • Sauce pan
  • Small pot
  • Glass baking dish

INGREDIENTS:

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  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pimento
  • 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup buttered bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon grated cheese, or more to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Cook the whole cauliflower in boiling salt water for about 20 minutes. Drain and place in baking dish.

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2. Melt Butter in small skillet. Add flour and stir until blended. Gradually add milk, stirring until smooth and thick. Add salt, pepper, pimento, and green onions. Blend.

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3. Pour over cauliflower. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and grated cheese. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until slightly browned.

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A History of Spinach Madeleine

It goes without saying that Spinach Madeleine is hands down one of the most famous recipes in the River Road Recipes cookbook series. In fact, Spinach Madeleine was named as one of the Century’s Best Recipes in an article that appeared in the Houston Chronicle in December 1999. For many Baton Rougeans, no holiday dinner would be complete without this delicious dish! In honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, we wanted to highlight the history of this iconic recipe.

The original Spinach Madeleine recipe is found on page 63 of River Road Recipes I: A Textbook of Louisiana Cuisine.

The original Spinach Madeleine recipe is found on page 63 of River Road Recipes I: A Textbook of Louisiana Cuisine.

The recipe’s creator, Madeline Nevell Reymond, created this legendary recipe by accident.  She was a young and inexperienced cook when she decided to use up a jalapeno cheese roll that she had in her refrigerator by adding it to a spinach dish she was preparing for a ladies’ luncheon.  The result was a dish that became one the most popular special-occasion vegetable dishes in Louisiana.  This is evidenced every year by the empty freezers in the grocery stores at Christmas time after all the frozen spinach packages have been snatched up.

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When Kraft Foods decided to discontinue making the jalapeno cheese roll, which is called for in the recipe, hundreds of distraught cooks called Kraft Foods to protest.   The powers-at be at Kraft were amused by Louisiana’s devotion to their jalapeno cheese roll, but discontinued the product anyway.  Fortunately, the River Road Recipes committee developed a new version of Spinach Madeleine in 2000 so that cooks can still serve this outstanding dish. A lighter version of the recipe appears in River Road Recipes III: A Healthy Collection.

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The recipe is versatile and can be served alone or as a warm appetizer dip with toast points or crackers. Spinach Madeleine also freezes well, so it can be made in advance of hectic holiday dinners! To make sure you have this holiday classic at your Thanksgiving table this year, check out the recipe here!

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows

Turkey…baked, smoked, or fried? Should there be a ham, too? This is Louisiana after all, so will there be something freshly caught or hunted sitting on the table as well? Preparing Thanksgiving dinner can bring so many decisions, but one thing everyone can agree upon is that it’s simply not Thanksgiving without sweet potatoes. Published in the original 1959 River Road Recipes, Baked Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows is a dish that stands the test of time and continues to bring generations asking for a second helping. The sweet, autumn-spiced aroma is sure to fill your home welcoming guests to your table. Whether served as the essential side, or as a dessert option, it will be gobbled up by evening’s end!

Sweet Potatoes RRR Blog

Photo: Kaela Rodehorst Photography

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows (RRR I pg. 61)

  • 8 medium size sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ stick butter
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • Few dashes of nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • Marshmallows

Bake sweet potatoes in a 350-degree oven until done. Peel hot potatoes and put through ricer until mashed. Scald milk and add vanilla, sugar, and butter. To potatoes add cinnamon, nutmeg, and orange juice. Stir. Add milk mixture to potatoes, a layer of marshmallows, remaining potatoes and bake at 350 degrees until very hot. Add a top layer of marshmallows and brown. Serves 8 to 10.

Black Bean Salad

This quick and easy side dish is found in River Road Recipes IV on page 274. While excellent as a side dish, this black bean salad is also quite tasty when eaten as a “dip” with tortilla chips!

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes, plus 2 hours of refrigeration time (optional)

Level of Difficulty: Easy

Servings: 6

KITCHEN TOOLS:

  • Measuring spoons
  • Wooden spoon
  • Mixing bowl
  • Chopping knife and cutting board
  • Can opener
  • Colander

INGREDIENTS:

Photo by Lauren De Witt.

Photo by Lauren De Witt.

  • 1 (12-ounce) can Shoe Peg corn, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (11-ounce) can tomatoes with green chiles, drained (such as Rotel)
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Gather kitchen tools and ingredients. Using a chopping knife and a cutting board, chop the green onions. Open the cans of black beans and the shoe peg corn and drain and rinse. Open the can of tomatoes with green chiles and drain.
  2. Combine the corn, beans, tomatoes, green onions, vinegar, and olive oil in a salad bowl and mix well.
Photo by Lauren De Witt.

Photo by Lauren De Witt.

3. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Photo by Lauren De Witt.

Photo by Lauren De Witt.

Festive Orzo Salad

Even though the summer may be wrapping up and tailgate season is kicking off, the temperature in South Louisiana is still sweltering in the 90 degree range.  For us, tailgating is considered a time honored tradition —  we love spending our Saturdays with friends and family under the Oaks, waiting for the band from Tigerland to come marching down the hill!

On any given Saturday during football season, you will find a menagerie of food being cooked on the parade grounds at LSU — anything from jambalaya, crawfish étouffeé, fried catfish, boudin balls, to gumbo.  As football season wears on, it’s always difficult to know what to take to a tailgate. You don’t want to break the bank in the process of feeding the masses, yet you want to be able to bring something that is not the “same ole, same ole.”  The Festive Orzo Salad in River Road Recipes IV: Warm Welcomes, is a nice addition to this year’s tailgate menu!  You can also add grilled chicken breasts or shrimp to make it a hearty entrée!

Photo by Jessica McVea.

Photo by Jessica McVea.

Festive Orzo Salad, RRR IV, p. 243
Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • 3/4 cup light olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar

Salad

  • 1 bunch asparagus spears
  • 16 ounces orzo
  • 1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1 (2-ounce) can black olives, drained
  • 1 small red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small yellow bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 to 1/2 purple onion, chopped
  • 1/2 (8-ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
Photo by Jessica McVea.

Photo by Jessica McVea.

For the vinaigrette, combine the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, and sugar in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and seal tightly.  Shake to blend.

For the salad, snap off the woody ends of the asparagus spears.  Steam until tender-crisp; drain.  Cut each spear into 4 or 5 portions.  Cook the pasta using the package directions; drain.

Combine the pasta, artichokes, olives, bell peppers, onion and sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl and mix well.  Add the vinaigrette and toss to coat.  Add the asparagus, cheese and basil and mix gently.  Marinate, covered, in the refrigerator for 2 to 10 hours. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

Photo by Jessica McVea.

Photo by Jessica McVea.

Member Spotlight: Eating Seasonally with JLBR Member Erin Nugent

Seasonal. Local. Organic. These are the culinary buzzwords of the last few years. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it’s almost impossible to have missed the “farm to table” movement that is dominating the national food scene. While eating seasonally and sourcing food locally may be a hot new trend for the rest of the country, in Louisiana, it’s something we have been doing for generations. In fact, we mark our seasons not by the changing temperatures, but instead by the available local fare: celebrating crawfish season in the spring, crab (and snoball!) season in the summer, shrimp season in the fall, and oyster and wild game seasons in the winter.

For Junior League member Erin Nugent, seasonal and local cooking comes naturally. With familial roots in Louisiana, Erin learned early on how to turn seasonal cooking and entertaining into a lifestyle. She was first introduced to the River Road Recipes collection by her mother in law, Simone Nugent. Drawing inspiration from Louisiana’s unique seasons and agrarian surroundings, Erin’s passion for incorporating seasonal and local ingredients into everyday recipes eventually led her and close friend Lauren Beth Landry to co-author Five Seasons, a regional cookbook devoted to “celebrat[ing] natural beauty and explor[ing] the versatility of seasonal ingredients.”

Erin with friend and co-author Lauren Beth Landry at one of their favorite spots in Baton Rouge. Photo from Five Seasons.

Erin with friend and co-author Lauren Beth Landry at one of their favorite spots in Baton Rouge. Photo from Five Seasons.

“Eating seasonally is more cost efficient, the produce tastes better, and it’s fun!” says Erin. “As they say, variety is the spice of life, and varying my produce from season to season not only forces me to be creative, it balances my diet.” Shopping at Whole Foods and the Redstick Farmer’s Market Saturday mornings in downtown Baton Rouge for the freshest, local ingredients, Erin cooks nearly every night of the week. “We eat at the table — no phones or TV. Sharing a meal each day is very important to me so we’ve done this since day one, but it’s especially important now because we put the baby to bed first, so it’s catch up time for [my husband] Justin and I (although it will also be nice when Oliver can stay up late enough to join us).” On the occasions when Erin does eat out, Baton Rouge restaurant Beausoleil is one of her favorites.

Erin sharing one of her favorite meals at Beausoleil with son Oliver: the fried oyster salad (substitute grilled shrimp) and a glass of the Whispering Angel rose`. Photo by Erin Nugent.

Erin sharing one of her favorite meals at Beausoleil with son Oliver: the fried oyster salad (substitute grilled shrimp) and a glass of the Whispering Angel rose`. Photo by Erin Nugent.

One of Erin’s favorite recipes is Chicken Pomodoro. “The chicken cooks down until shredded in a medley of fresh tomatoes, wine, and herbs so it’s light enough for warmer months, but also savory due to the addition of Parmesan cheese rinds — the perfect combination.” Her favorite dessert, found in the Five Seasons cookbook, is a Pavlova with lavender whipped cream and berries. “Berries are delicious right now!” notes Erin.

Pavlova with Lavender Whipped Cream and Fresh Berries. Photo from Five Seasons.

Pavlova with Lavender Whipped Cream and Fresh Berries. Photo from Five Seasons.

While cooking local recipes and ingredients is her forte, Erin is also not afraid to try things outside her comfort zone. “My stepfather is from Boston,” says Erin, “so every year, his family sends us live Maine lobsters. Boiling them is still a little scary for me, but they are fun to eat and so delicious — you can definitely taste the freshness!”

Like Five Seasons, the River Road Recipes collection draws inspiration from the ingredients and traditions that make Louisiana unique. Long considered “the textbook of Louisiana cooking,” Country Roads Magazine recently noted in its April 2016 article “By the Book,” by Lucie Monk Carter and Anne Monk, that the River Road Recipes collection, and others like it, “act as cultural totems – keeping Louisiana cooking traditions alive and accessible to the modern cook.” “These cookbooks act as extensions of the neighborhoods, towns, and cities in which they are founded. More so than most mass-produced cookbooks, River Road Recipes . . . and the like list the author’s name with every recipe, adding a layer of familiar—almost neighborly—assurance.”

This week, we encourage you to celebrate whatever is being harvested in your region currently by trying something new in your own kitchen. If you’re in the Louisiana area, okra, summer squash, corn, bell peppers, and eggplant all make great contenders. If you need inspiration, trust the “neighborly assurance” found in the tried and true recipes from your “neighbors” at River Roads Recipes or Five Seasons!

Corn Fritters, River Road Recipes I, page 40

While corn is typically considered a spring crop, ears of corn still abound during the summer months in Louisiana. You can use fresh corn from your local farmers’ market  or your community shared agriculture box to make these delicious corn fritters, which pair perfectly with an evening summer fish fry!

Fresh ears of corn from Luckett Farms. Photo by Lauren De Witt.

Fresh ears of corn from Luckett Farms. Photo by Lauren De Witt.

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 cups drained corn
  • 2 tablespoons shortening
After frying up your fish, drop spoonfuls of the corn fritter mixture into the hot oil to cook. Photo by Lauren De Witt.

After frying up your fish, drop spoonfuls of the corn fritter mixture into the hot oil to cook. Photo by Lauren De Witt.

Beat eggs and stir in milk, flour, and other ingredients. Drop from spoon in deep fat until brown. Note: you can get creative and add different spices, cheese, or even jalapeños to change up this recipe!

Serves 6 to 8.

Hot, freshly cooked corn fritters. Photo by Lauren De Witt.

Hot, freshly cooked corn fritters. Photo by Lauren De Witt.

Fireworks on the Levee: A Baton Rouge Tradition

Independence Day is one of my favorite holidays. Growing up, we would celebrate the 4th of July with friends and family, cooking out, soaking up the sun, and of course, setting off fireworks.  My dad would take my brother and me early in the morning to one of those massive firework dealers that seem to spring up overnight around New Year’s Eve and the Fourth, and we would buy an obscene amount of sparklers, roman candles, bottle rockets, and the like. Everyone would gather around after the day’s festivities to ooh and ahh at our firework displays that night, while our miniature schnauzers cowered inside and howled.

Upon moving to Baton Rouge, we discovered the Baton Rouge tradition of watching the Fourth of July fireworks from the banks of the Mississippi River. People arrive downtown early in the morning to claim their spot on the levee and spend the remainder of the day enjoying the nearby festivities, such as the USS KIDD’s July 4th Spectacular or the LSU Museum of Art’s 4th of July Celebration at the Shaw Center, complete with a DJ, cash bar, hotdogs, and jambalaya from Capital City Grill (check out these events and more at Visit Baton Rouge). The fun-filled day culminates with a spectacular fireworks show at 9 pm, sponsored by WBRZ 2 and the USS KIDD. This year, leave the fireworks displays to the pros and come and join us on the levee! You will be  part of a Baton Rouge tradition to remember, and, more importantly, our schnauzers will thank you.

Corn and Black Bean Salad, Warm Welcomes – RRR IV

Of course, no Fourth of July celebration would be complete without a fabulous meal. Warm Welcomes – River Road Recipes IV, features an entire suggested menu to enjoy while watching the fireworks on the levee. One of my favorites from this menu is the Corn and Black Bean Salad, found on page 229. It is cool, colorful, and flavorful, with just the right amount of kick from the jalapenos and spicy cilantro dressing.

The bright, fresh summer vegetables featured in this salad add the perfect pop of color to your 4th of July menu. Photo by Lauren De Witt.

The bright, fresh summer vegetables featured in this salad add the perfect pop of color to your 4th of July menu. Photo by Lauren De Witt.

Spicy Cilantro Dressing

  • 1/2 cup corn oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder

Salad

  • 2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15-ounce) cans whole kernel corn, drained
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 1/2 red bell peppers, finely chopped
  • 1 cup diagonally sliced green onions
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 2 jalapeno chiles, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 garlic cloves, minced
Corn and Black Bean Salad. Photo by Lauren De Witt.

Corn and Black Bean Salad. Photo by Lauren De Witt.

For the dressing, combine the corn oil, vinegar, cilantro, lemon juice, hot pepper sauce, and chili powder in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and seal tightly. Shake to mix.

For the salad, combine the beans, corn, tomatoes, bell peppers, green onions, red onion, jalapeno chiles, and garlic in a bowl and mix gently. Add the dressing and toss to coat. Chill, covered, for 6 to 10 hours. Spoon into a salad bowl and garnish with sprigs of cilantro and/or red onion wedges.

Serves 8.

Corn Pudding

Need ideas for fresh corn? Bored with the canned corn in the pantry? Tired of creamed corn or the corn veggie medley headlining as a side dish? Corn Pudding is the answer. This unique dish from River Road Recipes IV: Warm Welcomes can be dressed up or dressed down for any occasion. Serve it as a side dish or on its own as an appetizer dip for veggies, chips, and/or crackers.

Corn Pudding, River Road Recipes Blog

Photo: Kaela Rodehorst Photography

Also, for experienced cooks this recipe offers the opportunity to add another use for ramekins.   If unfamiliar with a ramekin, the Corn Pudding recipe is a great way to be introduced to using them. A ramekin is a small porcelain dish for baking and serving an individual portion of food. Many Louisianans are familiar with the white porcelain dish that restaurants use to serve a Soufflé, an Au Gratin, or a Crème Brule in; that white porcelain dish is a ramekin.

Corn Pudding (RRR IV, Pg. 122 )

  • ¾ cup heavy Cream
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter; melted and cooled
  • 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 5 eggs; lightly beaten
  • 3 cups fresh or frozen corn

To prepare, the recipe is as follows: coat the bottoms and sides of twelve ½ -cup ramekins with butter. Whisk the heavy cream, milk, 2/3 cup butter, sugar, salt, pepper, and eggs in a bowl until blended. Stir in the corn. Divide the corn mixture evenly between the prepared ramekins.

Arrange the ramekins in a baking pan just large enough to hold them. Add enough hot water to the baking pan to reach halfway up the sides of ramekins. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes or until the tops are slightly puffed, golden brown and firm to the touch. Remove the ramekins to a wire rack and let stand for 5 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the edges of the ramekins and invert the puddings onto individual dinner plates. Serve immediately. Serves 8 to 12.