Screen Doors and Sweet Tea: Recipes and Tales from a Southern Cook: A Cookbook

Screen Doors and Sweet Tea: Recipes and Tales from a Southern Cook: A Cookbook

by Martha Hall Foose

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Gifted chef and storyteller Martha Hall Foose invites you into her kitchen to share recipes that bring alive the landscape, people, and traditions that make Southern cuisine an American favorite.

Born and raised in Mississippi, Foose cooks Southern food with a contemporary flair: Sweet Potato Soup is enhanced with coconut milk and curry powder; Blackberry Limeade gets a lift from a secret ingredient–cardamom; and her much-ballyhooed Sweet Tea Pie combines two great Southern staples–sweet tea and pie, of course–to make one phenomenal signature dessert. The more than 150 original recipes are not only full of flavor, but also rich with local color and characters.

As the executive chef of the Viking Cooking School, teaching thousands of home cooks each year, Foose crafts recipes that are the perfect combination of delicious, creative, and accessible. Filled with humorous and touching tales as well as useful information on ingredients, techniques, storage, shortcuts, variations, and substitutions, Screen Doors and Sweet Tea is a must-have for the American home cook–and a must-read for anyone who craves a return to what cooking is all about: comfort, company, and good eating.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307885555
Publisher: Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale
Publication date: 10/20/2010
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 46,721
File size: 19 MB
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About the Author

MARTHA HALL FOOSE was the executive chef of the Viking Cooking School. Born and raised in the Mississippi Delta, she attended the famed pastry school École Lenôtre in France. She returned to Mississippi and opened Bottletree Bakery–a Southern institution in Oxford–and later, with her husband, Mockingbird Bakery in Greenwood. She makes her home in Tchula, Mississippi, on her family’s farm with her husband and their son.

Read an Excerpt

Some people might say I got what I deserve, ending up right back where I started, here in Mississippi’s delta. Growing up in and around Yazoo City, Mississippi, I spent a lot of time daydreaming about how to get out of here. Oh, we had fun, mind you. But there was the whole wide world out there, and not much of it seemed to pass down Highway 49. Food always offered a ticket to adventure for me all my life. Some of those first experiences were visits to New Orleans, a city that still fascinates me with its unique flavors and mysterious tales. I remember sneaking into Tipitina’s kitchen back door with my uncle to hear the Neville Brothers. I ate my way through the food tents with alligator po’ boys and other exotic fare at Jazz Fest each spring break and had my first dress-up white-linen-tableclothed dinner at Antoine’s. Other revelations about the world came by way of the occasional appearance of recipes brought back home as souvenirs by traveling relatives. Friends with family ties to faraway homelands informed and intrigued me with exotic spices.
Books offered alternative adventures to me as I grew up amid the kudzu. Mrs. Wilburn would read aloud to our fourth-grade class each morning from Willie Morris’s books. We hung on every word, sending up a sorrowful “awww” when she would leave us hanging until the next day. For the first time I realized that a book could be about where you were from. Until then they had been about fairy-tale kingdoms or tales of old or distant places covered by National Geographic. Later the lovely Bea Donnelly, Dean of Girls at my high school, introduced me to Faulkner’s story “The Bear,” and my love of books about the South became firmly rooted.
I went to work right out of high school in Oxford, Mississippi, upstairs in the café at Square Books, which sparked a love of cookbooks. Legendary local cookbooks Bayou Cuisine and Gourmet of the Delta never left my kitchen and were referenced until dog-eared. As I grew up a bit more, food service offered employment to a girl looking for her first taste of independence. Jobs from Austin to Aspen, Burlington to Los Angeles, and New Orleans to Minneapolis allowed me to take the ride on the ticket.
When I went off to cooking school in France, I quickly found out that to some people, being from the Mississippi Delta was exotic—as different as my fellow students’ provenances were to me. It slowly came to light that when most of these folks thought of America, they thought of the South. To many of my new acquaintances it appeared that American music meant rhythm ‘n’ blues and jazz; tales of America were learned from Miss Eudora Welty; and when it came to food, fried chicken was for dinner. This sentiment seemed to echo throughout all my travels—anywhere from Africa to South America—and was even expressed by my tuk-tuk driver in Thailand.
I moved back home to the Delta about five years ago to our family’s place, Pluto Plantation, and into the home I inherited from my grandmother. Homesickness brought me back. But what has kept me here is a love and appreciation for the land and its people. The hardscrabble life of hill-country Mississippi rolls down to the genteel seas of loam in the Delta and spreads out to a straight-lined horizon. Bordered by bayous, this place, described by Richard Ford as “the South’s south,” is in a constant state of change. The maneuverings of rivers change its borders, and migrations of people change its population. Still, folks hold on, conceivably out of hard-headedness, or perhaps because there is a unique bond here between the people of the Mississippi Delta and the alluvian plain on which they live.
All in all, this book is about my home, and I know no better way to tell its stories than through food. Recipes for collard greens and black-eyed peas capture our superstitions, but trust passes them along. Recipes like crisp, golden-rimmed tea cakes scented with nutmeg conjure dimly lit homes of elderly relations. The smell of a skillet bread browning on the stovetop transports me back in time to when this land was cleared at the end of the century before last. The slow simmering of my gumbos mimics the pace of our speech down here. The unadorned perfection of home-grown tomatoes paired with delicate lady peas is just one way for me to explain this place—and I guess myself, too.
I hope this album of recipes and memories imbues you with a sense of this extraordinary place as it lays bare the deep, rich textures, colors, rhythms, and flavors of my home. My wish is that you feel inspired to re-create them in your own home for a little taste of what life is like down South.
Gumbo Z’Herbs
Thinking of Mrs. Leah

Preparing this gumbo makes me think of Leah Chase, proprietress of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, on the corner of Claiborne and Orleans Avenues in New Orleans. Not much more than five feet tall, if even that, with a magisterial voice, Mrs. Leah Chase has commanded the cherished establishment for decades, receiving countless awards for her cooking and community commitment. In my eyes, she is the undisputed “Queen of Creole Cuisine.”
This thick, verdant filé gumbo, like the one at Dooky Chase, is often served on Holy Thursday and Good Friday and throughout Lent, when it is prepared without meat, as it is here. The number of greens included in a batch may vary from cook to cook. Some use seven, as it is the “number of completion” throughout the Bible. Others choose seven types of greens to represent the seven African powers. Some use twelve, representing the number of apostles, while others choose as many as possible with the belief that with every green you add to your gumbo pot, you will make a new friend. Leah has added untold numbers of greens to her well-seasoned gumbo pot and has the friends to prove it. Remember, as the Grande Dame says, if more friends drop on in for gumbo than anticipated, you have to baptize the gumbo by stretching it out with a little water.

Approximately 12 cups roughly chopped greens (no stems, please) of at least 5 of the following: spinach; collard; turnip, beet, or carrot tops; mustard; chicory; kale; watercress; pepper grass; poke sallet; cabbage; sorrel; or leaf lettuce
1 large onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
6 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
1 cup chopped parsley
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs thyme
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon filé powder, plus extra for seasoning
4 to 5 cups cooked white rice
1. In a 2-gallon stockpot, simmer the greens, onion, and garlic with 1 gallon water for 2 hours, or until all types of greens are tender. Strain the greens, reserving the liquid, or fish out most of the greens with a sieve and set aside.
2. In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, heat the oil until it shimmers. Whisk the flour in slowly until no lumps remain. Continue to cook and stir for 2 minutes, or until about the color of a paper grocery sack.
3. Add the green onions, parsley, bay leaves, thyme, salt, cayenne, sugar, and allspice. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the greens and the vinegar, and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Add the reserved cooking liquid and cook for 1 hour over low heat. Remove from the heat, adjust the seasoning, and add the filé powder. Stir well. Remove the bay leaves.
4. Serve in bowls over a little rice with a sprinkling of filé powder over each.
• Filé is ground sassafras leaves. Introduced into Creole cooking by the Choctaws who lived around Lake Pontchartrain, filé has become a signature ingredient of the region. It derives its name from its improper use; when the powdered leaves are added to a boiling liquid, its mucilaginous qualities come out, forming threads, or fils in French. Never add filé until the end, when there is no chance of the liquid returning to a boil—filé will gently thicken the gumbo as it sits.
• The taste of filé powder is a little like mild marjoram. The sassafras powders available in some herb emporiums are made of the roots and bark and should not be confused with filé powder, which is made from the ground leaves.
• If you are intending to freeze or reheat this gumbo, add filé only to the portion about to be served. Add approximately 1 1/2 teaspoons of filé to 4 cups of liquid.

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Screen Doors and Sweet Tea 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Veggiechiliqueen More than 1 year ago
Martha Hall Foose's "Screen Doors and Sweet Tea" is a lovely look at Southern culture and its cuisine. Many of the recipes are linked to Mississippi and Louisiana, but most are common across the South (okra, fried chicken, cheese straws, pot likker greens, cornbread). Each recipe is prefaced by a short story about its origins, full of reminiscences and funny stories. There are also helpful notes along the margins regarding possible variations and alternate ingredients. The appetizer section "Mailbox Happy Hour" includes some lovely cool summer drink ideas (McCarty Pottery Juleps, Mailbox Cocktail, Milk Punch, Cantaloupe Daiquiris) along with nonalcoholic counterparts (Blackberry Limeade, Cherry-Vanilla Cream Soda) and munchies (Roasted Pecans, Buttermilk Bacon Pralines, Yazoo Cheese Straws, Sold My Soul to the Devil-ed Eggs). In addition to old-time favorites like pimiento cheese, you'll also find ethnic-inspired gems like the Apricot Rice Salad and Tabbouleh that are directly linked to Lebanese and Syrian immigration to the South. There are also several variations on gumbo, various chicken dishes (fried, chicken pot pie, chicken and dumplings), pork (chops, glazed ham, Chinese Grocery Pork), beef (Country-Fried Steak, Midnight Brisket, Chile Lime Skirt Steak), and seafood, rounded out with tasty vegetable sides. Breads and rolls merit a chapter, and desserts include Sweet Tea Pie, Banana Pudding, Dewberry Dumplings, cobbler, fudge squares, and several cakes. The recipes themselves are easy to follow and clearly laid out. There are numerous gorgeous photographs of finished recipes, but no nutritional info. This is a lovely addition to any cookbook collection, particularly those who enjoy collecting regional cookbooks, and the recipes will take you back to a simpler, more genteel era.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had the pleasure of meeting Martha at a book signing in May and also of seeing her cook. She is as delightful as the stories in her book. If you are a true southerner, you will identify with the antedotes in this cookbook. If you have ever eaten anything IN the south ' especially if it was at a church potluck, a family reunion, or cooked by your grandmama' you will love this book. The recipes are easy to follow and are interesting enough to make you want to make all your childhood favorites again. My personal favorites are the watermelon salsa, Delta peas and rice and banana pudding. The photographs are exquisite and the stories, especially the ones about neighbors and church are dead on THE SOUTH.I sat down and read the book everyday for a week. What a lovely cookbook from a lovely woman.
BookgirlTX More than 1 year ago
I've enjoyed reading her stories and anecdotes as much as the recipes (I hear Rue McClanahan's voice in my head when I'm reading it). I've already tried two of the recipes, with many more on the list for future meals. The recipes are easy to follow and the two I've made are very good. Not as traditional southern as I expected, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, just be prepared for it - think traditional Red Eye Gravy recipe along with uptown Mahogany-Glazed Game Birds. It's a good mix of traditional and new takes on tradition as well as "big city" recipes for more formal entertaining. This isn't a "basic Southern" book, although she does have many great tips and suggestions down the sides of the pages. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking to get back in touch with their Southern roots or to get a feel for that Southern cooking style. The only knock I have against it is there aren't enough pictures of the recipes.
MS_Rhett More than 1 year ago
My husband and I enjoy cooking and Martha's cookbook is a favorite. The recipes are easy and delicious. This is a great present for any occasion.
Debra_W More than 1 year ago
As a Southerner, I love a good story almost as much as I love good "home" cooking. Martha Foose brings both together beautifully in SCREEN DOORS AND SWEET TEA. I've been pouring over it and its beautiful pictures for over a week now, and my list of people receiving it for Christmas continues to grow daily.
michellemybelle55 More than 1 year ago
Really nice to see something new!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This cookbook takes me right back to my Grandmother's kitchen. The recipes make the book worth the purchase - but the photography and the stories that go along with the recipes put it over the top. If you have ever lived in or visited the South, this book will bring back wonderful memories.
mchwest on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Unbelievable recipes and the history behind some of them too! The photos are also wonderful and I was very entertained for reading a cook book!
thornton37814 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Southern cuisine--some of it "kicked up a notch." Each recipe contains notes that point to the history of the dish or hints about the dish's preparation. Information about some of the South's interesting culinary history can also be found--such as a brief history of the Chinese groceries in Greenville or stories about the recipes or those important to its history. A great addition to any cookbook collection.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I love books that take me back to the tastes of my childhood. This wonderful cookbook's stories and recipes did just that.
Cmjm More than 1 year ago
This is a well written book. I love to read cookbooks like this one. It would be great if all the recipes were complete, but a lot of them show the quanity of ingredients as ?. .