Anatomy of a Dinner Party: a day in the life of a hospitalityaholic

Top Tips for Spring

Written by Patti on March 26th, 2011

Good Morning Darlings!

Bon Appetit is working in conjunction with HSN this weekend to bring you HSN Cooks! Spring Weekend Event on Home Shopping Network.

Some of their top chefs got together to offer up some wonderful tips for Spring eating.


Wolfgang Puck

• Store tomatoes at room temperature. Never put tomatoes in the refrigerator, as their sugars will cease to develop and their flavor will be muted.

• When cooking fish, use olive oil and instead of making a butter sauce, make vinaigrette with tomatoes, vegetables, fresh herbs, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

• To make a fast dessert, put frozen raspberries in a food processor. Add a touch of honey, pulsate and slowly add organic fruit juice. Process until smooth. This can be done with other frozen fruits like cherries, blueberries, etc. It tastes just like a homemade sorbet.


Emeril Lagasse

• There are several vegetables and greens that abound in the Spring such as baby lettuces, broccoli rabe, fava beans, fennel, garden peas, wild ramps, mustard greens, new potatoes, and sugar snap peas.

• Less is more in the Spring as the produce coming from the soil is young and tender and full of delicate flavor.

• A simple sauté with salt and pepper and perhaps a touch of a fruit-based vinegar is all most peas, lettuces, greens and ramps need to make them spring.

Grilling Tip

• I prefer hardwood lump charcoal to traditional charcoal briquettes for several reasons. It burns cleaner and it hotter, it also permeates your food with wood flavor rather than with the flavor of chemicals you can get from a lot of household charcoals.


The Lee Brothers

• Spring has it all! It’s a wonderful transition season that embraces both long-cooking, soul-warming indoor dishes, like a roast leg of lamb and new potatoes, and fresh outdoor excursions, like a cookout with grilled burgers and salad greens picked fresh from the garden.

• Dust off the grill! In Charleston, we took a brief hiatus from backyard cooking this January and February, and by now the grill in our backyard is fired up most nights. We’re marinating simple proteins like London Broil and mahimahi (a fast-growing, sustainable fish, reaching its peak season shortly), and serving them with leafy salads.

• Salads! In Charleston, our first crop of lettuces are just coming up, and they’re as tender and as delicate as can be. We’re preparing simple suppers of salads and omelets that incorporate other Spring specialties, like shad roe, wild onions, and asparagus.

• Asparagus is coming up everywhere–wild and cultivated! If it’s still too cold to grill where you are, you can “skillet-grill” it in a large cast-iron pan over high heat thinly coated with a high-temperature oil like canola.

• Pickling season returns! The garlicky wild onions called “ramps” that grow in mountainous regions of the South are beginning to show up in the farmer’s markets, and they make powerful delicious pickles, for eating straight from the jar, for making salad dressings and sauces with, and for garnishing a martini in the place of an olive. Make a pickled relish of Jerusalem artichokes now, before they disappear, and you can spread them on grilled fish sandwiches all summer long.


• CORNBREAD SHOULD BE CRISP: Preheat your skillet in the oven with a tablespoon of butter or oil before you pour in your batter; the batter should sizzle when it hits the pan.

• BUTTERMILK IS MORE POWERFUL THAN BOURBON: Anywhere you might use milk, vinegar or lemon juice, you can use buttermilk. Bake with it. Make salad dressings with it. Whip fruit-preserves in it, to make a smoothie. It’s a liquid yoghurt, and it’s good for you!

• EAT YOUR GREENS: Southerners love their collards, mustards, turnip greens. Besides delivering truckloads of flavor, these greens are about as nutritious as a food can get.

• SEASON WITH SMOKE AND FIRE: A hallmark of southern cooking is the judicious use of smoke flavor and chili-heat. Smoked paprika, available nowadays in most grocery store spice racks, packs both!

• CORN AND RICE ARE OUR POTATOES AND PASTA: Historically, corn and rice, was grown successfully in all parts of the South, so they became an essential part of the southern diet. They still are!

• LONG, LOW, AND SLOW: Key to the soul-warming comfort of many southern foods, like greens and barbecue, is slow-cooking at low temperatures. Patience, y’all, patience!

• LIVE IT, LOVE IT: OKRA! Don’t fear the slime. Many people love the way it thickens stews, but if you don’t, there are myriad ways to enjoy this versatile vegetable crispy: first try fried okra, then pickled okra, then fried pickled okra.

• THE FIRST RULE OF HOSPITALITY: A guest should be offered a beverage as soon as possible upon stepping into your home. Ideally, the refreshments should be visible from the front door.


• DON’T FORGET TO KISS THE COOK: Especially during holidays like Thanksgiving, the cook should have close at hand something good to eat and drink while preparing the feast.


• AS LONG AS YOUR GRAVY’S TASTY, THERE’S NO SHAME IN A SHORTCUT: A southern cook is as judged by her most ambitious gesture in the kitchen, not her least. Sometimes we need to cut corners to deliver outstanding results.

• LEARN YOUR LEGUMES: Beyond black-eyed peas there is a whole world of delicious beans and field peas waiting to be discovered. Learn your Runners from your Crowders from your Zippers from your Lady Creams, and find out why southerners love vegetables!

• SASS AND SPICE ARE ESSENTIAL: On any southern home-cook’s buffet, you’ll find an array of tart, crisp pickles and relishes that add a dazzling counterpoint to the meats and vegetables that are the main event. Make them a part of every meal. Big flavor; no fat.

• DON’T FORGET THE LAYER CAKES: Pies get all the attention when people talk about southern desserts, but the iconic layer cakes–caramel cake, red velvet cake, Lady Baltimore cake–are just as delicious, and make a downright triumphant impression.

• FRY ON: Fried foods are an indulgence, not an everyday event (otherwise our ceiling fans would drip grease)

• COOK CLASSIC IN A SOUTHERN KITCHEN: Southern home cooks use true, time-tested tools and appliances in her kitchen. Only the best-performing pots and pans are handed down, from generation to generation, becoming family heirlooms in the process.

• GIVE THE GIFT OF FOOD: Nothing says love to a southerner like a gift of pickles you just made, or a quart of soup that arrives in the nick of time, around the holidays, at birthdays and funerals, or just for any time that calls for an expression of appreciation.

• LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR GLUEY GRITS: Seek out the best-quality, stone-ground, long-cooking grits you can find, because it’s bursting with a corn flavor and a toothsome texture that the instant variety can’t match. If a Ferrari cost only a dollar more than the Yugo, you’d buy the Ferrari.

• TO SEASON WELL IS TO TASTE OFTEN: Add seasonings to your cooking a little bit at a time, several times throughout the course of creating your dish; trying to correct the seasoning at the last moment is a recipe for disaster. Taste, taste and taste again.

I love it! Can’t wait for my garden to start yielding fresh, juicy tomatoes and fresh basil.

Ahhhh, Spring. Welcome!

xoxo, Patti

Today blogging to Charlie Daniels Band – South’s Gonna Do It Again


2 Comments so far ↓

  1. Jennifer says:

    What a great collection of ideas & inspiration! It makes me want to have company over this weekend! Such a wonderful kick-off for spring.

    Have a wonderful weekend,

  2. Patti says:

    Thanks, Sweet Jennifer.

    And happy birthday to your little one! How was the cake?