Apple Brickle

This is a nice autumn nosh, great for a Halloween party. Soften an 8-oz. block of cream cheese, blend with 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, and a teaspoon vanilla extract. Chill, and top with a cup of toffee bits or a finely-chopped Heath bar. Serve with sliced apples or snicker-doodles.


Cheesecake at the Hoka

Ron Shapiro opened the Hoka in Oxford in 1974. He showed much of what passed as “art cinema”, but included an eclectic blend of old “B” movies, and selections from cutting-edge favorites such as Russ Meyers and John Waters. Sometime around 1978, Ron went into partnership with Betty Blair, a beautiful lady from the Delta, and together they opened up the Moonlight Café in the theater. A dining area was constructed, the plumbing was re-done, kitchen equipment and a storage room were installed. The Moonlight served sandwiches, salads and desserts, and in a short time the Hoka became a popular nightspot in Oxford, a place to see and be seen.

One of the signature desserts was a New York-style cheesecake that came to the Moonlight via two sisters, Marla and Lee Ann Frear, who hailed from Delaware. Both Marla and Lee Ann were big, buxom blondes. I vividly remember seeing them at a Halloween party costumed as Siamese twins, resembling nothing less than a battleship in full steam as their huge boobs plowed a wake through the crowd. They got the recipe from their mother, who was a caterer in Dover, and sold the cakes to the Moonlight to abet their college allowances. After they graduated, they gave the recipe to Gene Duncan, who gave it to me some forty years ago. It’s a simple concoction, but you must take care to pack the crust evenly or it will singe on the outside and be soggy in the middle

Hoka Cheesecake

Filling: ¾ cup sugar, 3 large eggs, 2 teaspoons vanilla, 24 oz. cream cheese, room temperature, 1 stick melted butter. Beat eggs, add sugar and mix well at medium speed, then add cream cheese and melted butter.
Crust: 1 box Nabisco graham cracker crumbs, 1 ½ cup sugar, 1 ½ stick melted butter.
Topping: 1 pint sour cream, room temperature, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 4 tablespoons sugar.
Mix crust ingredients, pack in lightly oiled 9”x3” spring form pan. Mix filling ingredients well at medium speed for three minutes. Pour over crust, spread evenly and bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, spoon on topping, return to oven at 475 for 5 min. Chill before slicing and serving.

Roasting Garlic

Slice tops off heads of garlic and soak in olive oil for a few minutes. Place on a heavy skillet in a hot oven until soft and browned, about twenty minutes. What a wonderful aroma!


Jezebel Sauce

Most recipes named for a person tend to have documented pedigrees; we can trace bananas Foster, Melba toast and chicken tetrazzini to a particular person and chef in a particular restaurant. But Jezebel sauce is an orphan.

Jezebel herself was a 9th century BCE Phoenician princess known best as the wife of Ahab, King of Israel, who she converted to the worship of the Lord of the Flies. Her foe Elijah, speaking through the prophet Elisha, brought about her downfall, and it’s because of her idolatry and animosity towards Hebrew prophets (she had a number of them killed) that she is remembered as a voluptuous temptress who led the righteous Ahab astray.

Jezebel sauce is most often served with ham or other smoked meats or poured over cream cheese for a cocktail dip with crackers. This Jackson, Mississippi recipe is from the splendid Southern Hospitality Cookbook by Winifred Greene Cheney, who claims, “Some of this sauce would have made Ahab’s wife a better woman.” I doubt it.

Fidelia’s Jezebel Sauce

1 (16-ounce) jar of pineapple preserves, 1 (12-ounce) jar apple jelly, 6 ounces prepared mustard (I use a Creole brown), 1 (5-ounce) jar horseradish, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. You can add Coleman’s Mustard for added kick. Blend all ingredients well with a fork or whip. This sauce keeps well for weeks refrigerated in a sealed container.

Seafood Stuffing

You’ll find seafood stuffing recipes similar to this one throughout the coastal South. It’s used with fish, shrimp, and in south Florida, lobster. Seafood stuffing is marketed in frozen 1-quart bags, and crab shells filled with stuffing were once a staple in fish shacks throughout the region. Seafood stuffing can serve as a stand-alone buffet dish with the addition of more crabmeat and/or shrimp. This recipe makes about six cups. It freezes beautifully.

Mix two cups cornbread crumbs with 2 cups coarse bread crumbs, add a half cup grated Parmesan, and set aside. Dice a white onion, a bell pepper, and enough celery for make 2 cups. Sauté in a stick of butter with couple of cloves of minced garlic until soft. Add to bread crumbs with a cup of white wine. Mix thoroughly with a pound of clean lump crabmeat; a cup of finely-diced cooked shrimp adds color. You may have to add some stock and melted butter to firm it up. Stir in two or three tablespoons of Creole or horseradish mustard, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add chopped parsley and lemon juice before use.

Winter Salad

This simple and elegant combination is a good, light side for roast meats and stews. Dress peeled, sliced citrus–here blood oranges, but also Valencias or grapefruit–with reduced, chilled grenadine, and top with grated coconut and chopped walnuts.


Commitment Cake

This convoluted confection comes from a friend on the Gulf Coast, but from what I’ve read it’s a variation on an Amish recipe, which seems fitting, since most people call it a friendship cake. It’s called that because you share the starter with your friends, and they share it with other riff-raff, and becomes an agent for social bonding. It can also become a commitment, if not to say a dire obligation.

You see, the cake is based on a yeast starter, a living thing, so passing along this starter is somewhat like giving someone a puppy to care for, since it does take tending. Of course losing a batch of smelly yeast is not nearly as traumatic or troubling as losing a puppy (no matter how smelly), but still if the donor should ask you how it’s doing, you must just fess up and admit that you didn’t care enough about him or her to keep the yeast working and make a cake, or you could just tell your buddy to lighten up, get a life and explain testily that you had more important things to do. Given the right set of circumstances the recipe is fun to pass around to your buddies at work or church, but probably not at the neighborhood bar.

For the starter, combine a package of dry yeast in a 1 gallon glass container along with a 12-can each of of sliced peaches and crushed pineapple, drained, a half cup jar of maraschino cherries, chopped, and a half cup sugar. Combine and place in mason jar with a loose cover at room temperature. Stir several times first day; then once daily using a plastic or wooden spoon. After 2 weeks this starter will have fermented enough to start the cake mix.

Mix yeast starter, with a cup of sugar and 2 cups of sliced peaches in a glass gallon jar. Cover loosely, and let stand; do not refrigerate. Set aside, stirring daily, for ten days. On the tenth day, add 2 12-oz. cans of chunk pineapple with liquid.Let stand 10 more days, stirring daily; on the 20th day, add 1 12-oz. can fruit cocktail with liquid. Let stand 10 more days, stirring daily. On the 30th day, drain juice off. This is your cake liquid; give 1 cup to 6 friends along with the recipe. You’ll have enough drained fruit for 2 Bundt or 9×13 pan cakes.

For your cake, add to 1 cup of the fruit liquid to 2/3 cup vegetable oil, 3 eggs, 2 cups flour, a teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons each baking powder and soda, a cup of sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, and a tablespoon vanilla. A cup of chopped apples, raisins, or nuts–either one or all three–can be added. Bake in a greased and floured tube pan at 350 for about an hour. Remove from the oven, cool, and heave a great sigh of relief.


Rick Louvin is a “chawmer from New-awlens” who puts on more airs than a mountain range. He loves going to little urban supermarkets “to see what the Great Unwashed are consuming” and insists on dragging me to my little neighborhood store for systematic abuse.

Finding the produce aisle nothing more than a compost heap, his withering assessment of the floral department brought a tall bald queen around the corner clicking his nails like a scorpion, so Rick bought a rose and gave it to him in a thankfully effective gesture of reconciliation.

After declaring every can in the store a ptomaine grenade, we hit the meat section. I was jittery because the butcher on duty was my buddy Charlie, who has the build of a Sumo wrestler and the disposition of a lamb. After a sweeping pathological analysis of the meat section as a whole, we came to the discount section where he grabbed a flat pack of cubed steak for two bucks and grinned. Big ole Charlie was right next to him, humming to himself and marking down hamburger. Rick slapped Charlie on the shoulder. “Hey! Is this round steak?” I tried to die three times.

“It surely is,” Charlie said with the most bountiful smile in the known universe. “We’ll tenderize anything you want, just pick it out.”

“Great!” Rick said. “Give me three pounds round. We’re gonna get some stuff in the deli, we’ll be back in a couple of minutes.” Charlie winked at me when we got the meat, and I think he was thanking me for the customer, but I’m not sure. He goes out of his way to cut me t-bones to order, and that’s a certain sign of affection, if you ask me.

Once out of the store, Rick said, “We’re going to make grillades. This is what my gammy uses. She breads it, fries it, makes a roux in that, throws in some garlic and onion, bell pepper and celery, diced tomato, cooks it down in a casserole in the oven, food of the gods and you’re cooking.”

“You never let up on me, Rick. I’m gonna die in your harness.”

“You’re one lucky hoss, Jess.”


Cream Soups

Cream soups add an elegant touch to formal cool-weather occasions. These soups involve many of the same procedures and ingredients as other soups: aromatics, broth, vegetables or seafood, and of course whole milk or cream. A bisque (“twice cooked”) usually refers to a cream soup containing seafood such as shrimp, crawfish, or lobster, though some tomato cream soups are also called bisques. Some people use béchamel as a base for cream soups, but a proper cream soup base is velouté, a white sauce made from a light stock. Velouté also makes the best base for a cheese soup, which, if you think about it, can well be considered the ultimate incarnation of a cream soup.

If you have good stock on hand, then by all means use it. If not, you can use store-bought stock, but before you do, it must be enriched with a mirepoix and a bouquet garni. Add onion, celery, and carrots to the stock, along with thyme, bay, and parsley, and let it sweat on a low heat for about an hour or so. Strain the stock. A light roux with ½ cup butter and ½ cup plain flour will thicken about a quart of stock. This is your soup base, to which add a cup of whole milk or for an exceptionally rich dish, whole cream, and about two cups of your choice of meat or vegetables diced, cooked in butter, and puréed. Let the soup rest on low heat before serving with a swirl of whole cream. This recipe makes about six 12-oz. servings.

Smoked Oyster Spread

Soften cream cheese, season with black pepper and blend with an equal amount of drained, mashed smoked oysters. Add about a tablespoon of oil from the can to kick up the smokiness. Diced green onions and/or mild chilies and black olives are a nice touch. Flavor with a smidgen of horseradish, lemon, and cayenne; no salt! Blend until smooth and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving. For a dip, thin with mayo.