Thursday, June 30, 2016

Summer Squash Casserole...An Easy Favorite For a Long Weekend

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 Many of you will be getting ready for the long Fourth of July weekend and planning menus not only for the holiday but also for the meals in between.  Here's a favorite casserole that is very easy to make and goes well with grilled chicken, pork chops or steak.  A simple green salad and you are done!

I have been making this casserole for the last 40 years.  It comes from a favorite Junior League Cookbook, 300 Years of Carolina Cooking, published by the Junior League of Greenville in 1970.  Under my name it shows I bought it in Hilton Head Island, S.C. on July 5, 1976.  We spent that bicentennial weekend with two other couples on a sailboat 40 years ago! Talk about coincidences...I just realized this when I opened the front to credit the source.

Squash Casserole
Serves 6


2 lbs yellow summer squash, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 stick butter
1/2 package dry onion soup mix
1 cup sour cream
1 can diced pimentos drained (my addition)
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Boil (I steam) squash until just tender and drain well.  Starting with the butter so it melts on the squash, add the other ingredients and blend.  Turn into a buttered casserole, sprinkle some grated parmesan cheese if using, and bake for 20 minutes in 375 degree oven until mixture begins to bubble.

Note: If you want a crispy top, just sprinkle some breadcrumbs (about 2 TB) at the end and put under the broiler until golden.

Monday, June 20, 2016

This Summer's Best Dessert...Apricot Clafoutis

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If you only try one new recipe this summer, make it this one.  If you want to be transported to a Provencal kitchen in one bite, this will take you.  If you want to cheat on your diet, do it with this dessert.  Just make it.  Two nights after I made it, I wanted to make it again.  I did, but I tested another recipe.  It was a mistake.

Don't substitute anything, especially the apricots.  If you want to tweak it, control yourself.   You might feel some satisfaction by stamping it with your sifted powdered sugar initials just before you serve it, but it really doesn't need it.

The recipe comes from Lulu Peyraud who, with her husband Lucien, owns and operates Domaine Tempier, the premier producer of Bandol wine.  Throughout the years, they have hosted a parade of food and wine luminaries including Alice Waters, Paul Bertolli and Richard Olney, the author of many books on Provencal cooking, including this one. and recipient of The James Beard Award.

I have never been a big fan of clafoutis but this one is other- wordly.  Half flan, half souffle, Madame Mere and I cleaned up the whole thing in a sitting and a half.  A couple of nights later I made Julia Child's recipe just to see the difference and MM told me to throw it away and go back to the first.  This from a woman who took lessons at the Cordon Bleu in Brussels and worships at the altar of Julia Child and Gourmet magazine.  You don't get a  better endorsement than that.

Clafoutis Aux Abricots
From "Lulu's Provencal Table," by Richard Olney

Serves 6


2 TBS butter

1 pound apricots, halved and pitted (6 or 7 depending on size)
2 oz slivered almonds
2/3 cup sugar*
Pinch of salt
3 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1-1/4 cup milk


Preheat oven to 375F. Butter shallow baking dish of a size just to hold the apricots**. Arrange apricots closely, cut surface down in single layer. Fill spaces with the almonds. In a mixing bowl whisk together 1/2 cup sugar, salt, eggs. Sift in flour, whisking at the same time, then whisk in milk. Pour mixture over apricots. Sprinkle  remaining sugar over surface. Dot with butter. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden crust has formed. Serve tepid.

If your fruit is not sweet enough, sprinkle 1/4 cup over the surface instead of "the remaining sugar".

** I used an Emile Henry small rectangular dish  (Small: 11 3/4" x 7" x 2 3/4" high; 3 1/4-qt. cap.)

All photos Lindaraxa

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Hydrangeas...The Stars of Summer!

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What a year we've had!

This has been an extraordinary year for blooms.  Not only for hydrangeas, but for roses, peonies, hostas and everything that comes out of the ground.  Some attribute it to the mild winter we had. This past December, just before Christmas Day, we had a few days of Spring like weather when it was so warm, the daffodils started to come out.  Also remember that last year we had no blooms from the hydrangeas macrophylla, aka mopheads or French hydrangeas, due to a late frost we had in Spring. My poor gardenias were decimated too, but they made a return this year with plentiful blooms.

 If I have to skip a year of blooms to get this, so be it.

I started gardening "for real" when I came to this house almost four years ago. I inherited a garden "with good bones" as my friend Sandra told me.  Besides, I had nothing better to do. At that time I did not even know the names of the plants I had in the garden.  Some of my readers helped identify them from photos and that's how I came to know Sandra Jonas who later took me to my first hydrangea garden tour in Atlanta.  That was it, I was hooked.  It also helped to have been guided around some of the most beautiful gardens in Atlanta by a past president of the Hydrangea Society of Atlanta. The fact that she is not only knowledgeable and a pleasure to be with is only surpassed by her generosity and enthusiasm.    

The hydrangeas you will see below are all different varieties of hydrangea macrophylla   My daughter and I have bought them at different times and at different nurseries.  Some of them are in the ground and came with the original garden, but others, including the pink ones in whiskey barrels where bought and planted by my daughter and me in the last three years.

We have a highly acidic soil so if they are blue they go in the ground.  With the pink varieties, if we want to keep their original color, they go in one of the six whiskey barrels we have around the property.  It's as simple as that!

For me, though, this is the star of the show...Hydrangea Shooting Star, a baby just a year ago!

We have oak leaf hydrangeas also, but they are too small still to brag about!  They each have one bloom, but what a bloom!  The hydrangeas paniculata are starting to form buds.  I am sure they will be spectacular too.

Enjoy the show!

Hydrangea macrophylla Mathilda

What a great place for a tunnel....hmm

Another hydrangea Mathilda

I still have the front to share so stay tuned!

All photos by Lindaraxa
Please do not share without direct attribution and credit back to this blog.
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