Let’s confess. It can be boring cooking the same old thing time after time. We could use some inspiration. Cookbooks are all well and good, but what if you could actually taste a dish before you make it, not just read a list of ingredients and steps. In the market for some fresh ideas? The June 25 Table Talk will have them.
This month, the Friends of the Columbus-Lowndes Library and the Hitching Lot Farmers’ Market have combined efforts to present informative guest speakers each Wednesday at noon in the library. The common denominator is food. Already, Table Talk faithful have heard Mississippi author Carolyn Haines on her new “Bone-a-Fied Delicious” cookbook, Gulf Coast marshmallow maven Sharon Hodge and, today, Oxford-based chef John Currence on his cookbook, “Pickles, Pigs and Whiskey.”
What more fitting way to wrap up June’s talks than with a recipe swap and tasting? The community is invited to share a recipe (and dish, if you will) at an indoor picnic in the library’s second-floor meeting room at 314 Seventh St. N., beginning at 11:30 a.m. next Wednesday.
“We think it will be a lot of fun,” said Friends’ president Jo Shumake. “It will be totally potluck.”
Margo Bretz Toledano, who co-chairs the event with Shumake and suggested the swap idea, said, “Columbus really has a lot of good home cooks, and we thought this would be enjoyable for everyone.” Toledano is active with Friends of the Library and also serves on the farmers’ market advisory board.
A tempting sampling
Amy King and Debbie Vallette of Columbus prepared a few personal favorites Monday that they expect to make again for June 25. Both are skilled home cooks — and fans of Table Talks, which are generally presented on Wednesdays of alternate months throughout the year.
Valette’s Creole potato salad is a nod to her former home of New Orleans. She and her family relocated to Columbus after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.
“Everybody has a potato salad recipe; this one is a Cajun potato salad I’ve adapted over time,” said Vallette, who learned to cook from her mother and grandmother. Her flavorful dish stands out from the crowd, with its creole mustard and crab boil seasoning.
King’s cashew chicken salad made with grapes and pineapple tidbits is “ideal for a luncheon or light weeknight supper,” the Friends’ board member said. After 20 years as a military spouse, King is accustomed to entertaining. One of her choice desserts is a pavlova, a meringue-based sweet believed to have been created in honor of the ballet dancer Anna Pavlova after one of her tours to Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s.
King, who has lived in Columbus about five years, enjoys working with ingredients she keeps at hand in a well-appointed kitchen and grows her own tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, beans and peppers.
Both cooks urge food lovers to participate in the recipe swap.
“There’s going to be something there you haven’t made before,” remarked King, who teaches English and writing at East Mississippi Community College. Don’t feel pressured to bring something unusual or exotic. “What may be a go-to staple for you may be exactly what someone else needs,” she added.
How to take part
Everyone bringing a dish to taste is asked to come at 11 a.m. or soon after. Provide an index card with your name and the name of the dish on it, to place next to the food. (Please also bring a serving piece.) Recipe contributors should also bring a copy of their recipe. If you prefer to email, send it to email@example.com. The collection will be compiled and distributed to everyone who supplies a recipe.
Shumake and Toledano will invite recipe contributors to tell a little of the story behind the food June 25. And if you don’t have a recipe or dish to bring, come anyway, and see what’s cooking in your neighbors’ kitchens.
CASHEW CHICKEN AND CANTALOUPE SALAD
Makes 2 servings
1 cup chicken, cooked and chopped
1/4 cup celery, chopped
1/4 cup seedless red grapes, halved
1/4 cup canned pineapple tidbits, drained
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 leaves lettuce
1/4 cantaloupe, seeded, peeled, cut into thin wedges
2 tablespoons cashews
Strawberries for garnish (if desired)
(Source: Amy King)
1 cup superfine sugar, divided (see note)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cup fresh raspberries, divided
Fresh mint and whipped cream (optional)
(Note: you can make superfine sugar by taking regular granulated sugar and processing it briefly in a spice grinder or small food processor.)
(Source: Amy King)
CREOLE POTATO SALAD
3 pounds small red potatoes
1 Zatarains crab boil bag
1 teaspoon red pepper
1/3 cup salt (to be used in water for boiling potatoes)
3 ribs celery, two chopped (1 rib to be placed in water used for boiling potatoes)
3/4 medium white onion, chopped
2 green onions, with tops chopped
1 1/2 dill pickles, chopped
10 olives, chopped (extra used on top as garnish)
2 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
3 hard boiled eggs, 2 chopped (1 sliced on top for garnish)
1/3 cup or more of favorite mayonnaise
2-3 tablespoons Zatarains Creole mustard
Black pepper and salt, to taste
Paprika, to taste and for decoration on top
(Source: Debbie Vallette)
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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