My grandmother's biscuits


Two things I loved when I visited my two very different grandmothers as a child: buttermilk biscuits and the kind that came flying out of the cardboard tube when you hit it the right way on the counter.  Both grandmothers grew up in rural North Florida. One carried on the make-it-from-scratch tradition of her foremothers. The other was an early adopter of modern canned and frozen food. This grandmother had a closet that would rival a doomsday prepper's, full of everything from canned spaghetti to twenty-year-old salad dressing (she didn't always rotate).  She was the daughter of tenant farmers. Her father had hunting dogs, and her mother kept chickens. Food took days and a lot of work to the get to the table. She had about had it with the labor of it all by the time she had kids of her own - around the same time factory-canned food and refrigeration made their way to the middle-class. 

The scratch-cooking grandma trended modern in other ways; she worked full-time as an accountant when most mothers at the time didn't.  But she also valued traditional the skills she had been taught as a girl - crocheting doilies way beyond their fashionable era, scrambling my grandfather's eggs before heading off to work each morning, triple-rinsing massive amounts of collards to cook in a large pot all day, and making wonderful cornbread and biscuits, at least when her son and grandchildren were visiting. 

While I was closer to the biscuits-in-a-can grandmother, I have prided myself in cooking more like the scratch cooking, crafty one. I love the tools of the trade - pastry cutters, whisks, and elbow grease - and have used them extensively over many years of cooking for family, friends, and larger gatherings. But, as a grandmother myself now, I have grown more flexible - or maybe just tired. Anyway, my grandmother's biscuits came out fine (and took a lot less time!) with a food processor. But have it your way, just like Leta and Zona did. 

Buttermilk Biscuits

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5 tbsp butter, cut in little pieces (my grandmother's recipe calls for "Crisco" (shortening), which I don't use. I bet my great-grandmother used lard)
  • 3/4-1 cup buttermilk (yogurt actually works in a pinch)
  • A little more flour to roll dough out on. 

The old way: Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut butter into little pieces and, using two knives or a pastry cutter, cut into flour until dough resembles small peas.  Stir in buttermilk, a little at a time, just till dough holds together.  Roll out on "floured board" (kitchen counter) till a little less than an inch thick. But with a biscuit cutter (round cookie cutter or glass that's been dipped in flour). Place on greased cookie sheet and bake 7-10 minutes till bottoms are brown and the rest is golden. 

New way: Put dry ingredients into food processor and give it a quick pulse. Add butter and pulse 2 or 3 times till dough looks like sand (it is too quick for me to stop at pea-size). Add buttermilk (I used just a little over 3/4 cup) and give it another quick pulse. Out it goes onto the "floured board," and the rest is the same. 

These taste best straight from the oven, second-best halved and toasted. If you really want to go Southern, drizzle with cane syrup. 

Nanny's biscuit tools


Tofu Croutons Seriously Taste Like Chicken

October salad

I trust Mark Bittman's cookbooks like my grandmother trusted Better Homes and Gardens. I stumbled across his How to Cook Everything at a used book sale years ago, and I have since acquired How to Cook Everything Vegetarian and VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6

Having been a vegetarian (mostly) for decades, I thought I  had tried everything with tofu - from pressing, marinating and baking to blending into smoothies and desserts. But Bittman's recipe for "tofu croutons" (HtCEV) amazed me. It's so simple, requiring just five minutes preparation followed by an hour of passive baking.  It's versatile - a good pop of protein in salads, soup, or noodles, or by themselves as a snack.  And even my omnivore husband thinks these taste like chicken.

This simple salad had some great ingredients: tender lettuce, crunchy cukes, and sweet cherry tomatoes from our CSA from the Family Garden Farm.  The sprinkle of savory pecans and that handful of warm tofu croutons made it a truly satisfying meal. 

The croutons:

  • One package extra firm tofu
  • 1-2 T olive oil
  • A sprinkle of salt. 

Cut tofu into 1/2-inch cubes and pat dry. Toss with olive oil and and place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about an hour, turning once halfway through baking. 

The savory pecans:

  • 2 T melted butter
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • a very light sprinkle of Worcestershire sauce if you have it

Place on parchment covered baking sheet and bake at 350 for about 15 minutes. Cool before storing. 

Salad corner october

Beets Balsamico and Romanesco à l'Orange

Romanesco and orange sm

This is THE time of year for fresh produce in North Central Florida. My CSA with The Family Garden farm provided me with 8 different fruits and vegetables this week - from earthy beets to fanciful romanesco. And I finally have the time and wherewithal to share a few recipes. 

First you can find Beets Balsamico here - at our local Farm to School website. Beets prepared this way are beautitful, delicious and super-simple. I especially appreciate the technique of steaming them before cooling and peeling them. The delicious sauce enhanced the flavor and the color - although this week I had yellow beets in my share, and they work as well as the red. 

But I also want to give you this nice recipe for romanesco. I had four of these in my refrigerator this week! It's still citrus season here, so I used a tart honey tangerine and one of the mild, sweet onions that are coming into season to make a simple sauce for the lightly steamed, fancy cauliflower cousin. Here's the recipe:

Romanesco a l'Orange

One head of romanesco (or cauliflower or broccoli), very lightly steamed
1/8 cup minced sweet onion
1/8 cup white wine or rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 cup fresh parsley
one tart orange, thinly sliced then cut into small triangular sections
1/4 cup olive oil

Mince onion and and mix with vinegar and salt. Allow to sit for 15 minutes to absorb vinegar and soften. Add parsley, Orange, and olive oil Let sit for at least 30 minutes. Pour over steamed romanesco and serve. 

Romanesco a la orange sm


Do not fear the persimmon

Persimmon scones

We grow a lot of persimmons in the southeast, but some people are afraid of them. This came home to me earlier in the month when I picked 250 pounds of persimmons with a group of high school students to be served as snacks to local elementary school children. The kids loved them - despite the looks on the faces of many of their teachers and cafeteria staff. 


The problem is that some varieties of persimmon are extremely astringent until they are very ripe. These varieties - Hachiya and Saijo are two common examples - must be soft enough to eat with a spoon in order to lose their mouth-puckering quality. On the other hand, the Fuyu, the most prevalent of the non-astringent type, is sweet and tasty while it is as hard as a store-bought tomato. The challenge is that they are difficult to tell apart. I used to think the non-astringent ones were shaped like tomatoes; not true.  

So I ask before I buy and have always stuck with the delicious Fuyu variety, great for snacks out of hand, and cut up into green salads. But this year, I broke down and tried the astringent types. Do it! They are delicous in their own way. They are still available at the farmers markets and u-picks nearby. Purée from these very soft persimmons can be frozen and used all year in breads, pies, and yogurt parfaits. I made some delicious scones yesterday from mine. 

Persimmon Scones 

2 cups all purpose flour
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
5 tablespoons of butter
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup astringent-type persimmon pulp, squeezed from the peel

In one bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Grate the butter and cut into flour fixture with a pastry cutter or by rubbing between your fingers until the butter is well-distributed. In a second bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and persimmon pulp. You will notice solid pieces of persimmon mixed in with the liquid pulp; this is good. When well blended, add to flour mixture and stir quickly with a fork or wooden spoon until just mixed. Add a little bit of flour if necessary. Turn onto floured surface and gently shape into a 6-8" disc. Cut into eighths and place on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. 

This recipe was adapted from this one at Theirs used the non-astringent variety, chopped. I also substituted buttermilk for the cream (always a good idea). The scones were tender and biscuit-like, and the slivers of persimmon added a wonderful taste, texture, and color. 

Enjoy with tea and friends. 

Summer Squash Stew

Summer squash stew sm
Squash! They're driving us out of our gourd! This week we'll be serving two new squash dishes, hoping to use up what we have before the next wave hits.  Yellow Squash Stew for Wednesday's Café and Squash and Goat Cheese Tart for Friday's breakfast. 

The Summer Squash Stew recipe is below. It was great to be able to include other gifts of the season - like the lovely herbs we were given at the market, the basket of tomatoes which all hit their prime at once, and even a touch of the last of the season's citrus. Rather than cook the squash (to oblivion) in the soup, I sautéed it separately, then added right before the soup was cooked. It's good!

Summer Squash Stew

a large, sweet onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil 
4 cups roasted tomato pulp and juice - or one 24 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 cup red lentils
minced peel of 1/2 orange
juice of whole orange
2-3 yellow squash chopped into 1-inch pieces
lemon pepper
2 cups cooked garbanzo beans (or one 24 oz. can).

If using fresh tomatoes, roast whole tomatoes on oiled baking sheet at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until shriveled. Cool and remove peels. Meanwhile, sautée onion and garlic in olive oil till onion is transparent. Add tomatoes (canned or roasted fresh pulp), and 1 cup of uncooked red lentils, minced orange peel, and orange juice. Add 5 cups water and bring to a boil. When it begins to boil, turn down to low and simmer until lentils are cooked - 20-30 minutes, adding water if necessary. While lentils are cooking, sautée the squash in a separate skillet, with a little olive oil. When it begins to become tender, sprinkle with lemon pepper. Add a splash of water and cover for a few minutes so that it becomes tender but not at all soggy. 

After lentils are tender, add garbanzo beans and gently spoon in squash. Add salt to taste. Sprinkle with chopped,fresh dill and parsley. We offered the addition of mild, pickled banana peppers as a topping. Enjoy!

It has begun: Squash Season

The vegetable donations from local farms has been ramping up these last few weeks, and right now we are experiencing that sliver of time when we have the end of cool-weather veggies along with the beginning of those that thrive in the heat. So this week brought us both the last of the winter greens  in the form of chard, and the beginning of squash. Good old squash - it seems like yesterday you were lining the shelves of the fridge and appearing in every other dish we made. And here you are again. .  . 

Fortunately we also got a lovely bouquet of young purple basil, which goes so nicely with squash, and I had a bunch of onions waiting in the fridge. And then my friendly underground goat cheese provider called offering a cooler full of cheese and- voilá! A recipe is born. When the chard, dandelion greens, and other green cool-weather leafy veg are gone, you can add garden chives, or mix up zucchini with the yellow squash, to keep the colors interesting. 


  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil or butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 6 cups tender young squash, cubed (later in the season, when the skins are tougher, you may need to peel them)
  • 6 cups of chard, chopped and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup fresh goat cheese
  • A handful or so of basil leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste (lots of black pepper is very nice in this dish)

Sauté the onions in butter or oil till tender and transluscent. Add squash and stir until it becomes somewhat tender (3-4 minutes). Add chopped and rinsed chard with the water still on the leaves. Stir for a moment, then cover, lower heat, and let steam till tender. Check to make sure there is enough water from the chard and add a little more if necessary. Check after about 5 minutes to see if things are tender. When they are, salt and pepper to taste and pour mixture into serving dish. Sprinkle with fresh basil leaves, then distribrute small glops of goat cheese evenly on top. Gently mix it together and serve with additional salt and pepper at the table. 

{the image is from this, which I found after I googled "yellow squash, basil, goat cheese). It's got leeks instead of onions, no chard, and some different proportions, but it looks a lot like ours did yesterday, before we quickly ate it}

Africa-inspired Greens and Sweet Potato Soup

African Greens and Yam Soup
We are at the end of the greens season here, which means we are swimming in them, as some of our favorite farmers harvest the last of them and send them our way. We have been serving them up for months, starring in dishes like Curried Greens and Beans, regular old Greens and Beans, and tangy Spicy Orange Greens, and tucked into ones like Sweet Potatoes Mexicano, Sweet Potato Chili and every other soup we've made recently. They are a super-food, nutritionally speaking, and everyone loves them. But while their familiarity is not breeding contempt exactly, it is breeding a little boredom.

So here's something new-ish: a collard soup with an interesting mix of spices in a very flavorful broth. The original recipe is here. I intensified the flavors a little and switched a few ingredients - then muliplied it by fifty for our café! We added rice just before serving, with an ice cream scoop - for beauty and to keep it from absorbing too much of the broth. And the dollop of red you see was one of two of the Graham's hot pepper jams: Cayenne Pepper Jam for medium-hot soup, and Red-Datil Pepper Jam for fiery hot. 


  • 5 green onions, sliced, using as much of the green tops as possible
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 whole sweet potato, diced
  • 5 cups kale or collards, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 tsps cumin
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 2 tbsp dark miso paste
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • salt to taste

Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil in a soup pot until onion is transparent and garlic is lightly browned. Add spices and briefy sauté together. Add the vegetable broth, sweet potatoes and collards, stirring until collards wilt. Add more broth or water to cover if necessary. Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until veetables are tender. Just before serving, disolve the miso in a cupful of water and add to soup. Salt to taste. Serve alone or with rice. And with hot pepper jelly or sauce. Makes 2 or 3 large servings. 

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

Black krim
It's easy! I have never liked spaghetti sauce from a jar and have prided myself in making it from my mother's recipe (from a box of Mueller's) - which called for cans of tomato and tomato paste. The only time I ever made sauce from my own tomatoes was from ones I had canned! 

While on vacation, I was inspired by a recipe I'd saved to Pinterst for tomato soup made from roasted tomatoes (it was delicious). John noticed that with a few changed it might make a good sauce. He was right. 

There are already lots of hothouse tomatoes at the farmers market. Soon there will be many more - from our own garden too. 


10 plum tomatoes, halved 
5 cloves garlic, peeled and whole
one large onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 tablespoon honey
a pinch of hot pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

First, roast the tomatoes and garlic. Place them on a lightly-oiled or parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, sauté onions in a dutch oven or large pot with olive oil, adding oregano and basil as onions become translucent. When tomatoes are done, whirl them in a blender, then pour into pot with onions.  Add honey and hot pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes to two hours, adding a little water if it becomes too thick (we didn't need to). Salt and pepper before serving.

This made four large servings for people who like spaghetti a lot.  

Fixing grits

Home fries, grits, or hashbrowns?  For me, it’s always grits and always will be – even though I like home fries a little better.  The reason for this came home to me a few months ago when I was ordering breakfast with my brother.  We both chose grits and then surprised each other by admitting that we ordered them due to love, not taste. Dad loved grits.

He was a mid-20th century boy, raised in the South (about 45 miles from Gainesville). My best early memory of grits is at the yellow laminate kitchen table of his parents’ kitchen, the smell of Nettles sausage vying with the reek of chewing tobacco, the deep yellow, scrambled eggs cooked barely solid, butter melting over the speckled grits, and the country music station playing on the radio on the shelf above the fridge.

If your grits don’t have speckles and don’t take 20-30 minutes to cook, they are processed “quick grits.” Lawdy, don’t do that if you can help it. Real grits have more of the “stick-to-your-ribs" quality,and are worth the wait. My dad’s childhood took place during the heyday of grits, and all over the South people could carry their own dent corn to the local mill to have it ground for cheap.  The fine grounds became cornmeal and went into cornbread, another staple. The grittier grounds were… grits. Hardy grits got many southern families through the Civil War and the Depression, and were a staple for native people long before Europeans arrived.

Their long history and the fact that they haven’t really caught on in the rest of the country renders them even more precious to Southerners. You can get  organically-grown, local grits - the kind my grandmother bought - from Greenway Farms in Alachua. 

HOW TO FIX SOME GRITS:  To prepare them the traditional way, simply pour one cup of grits and ½ teaspoon salt into  to 4 cups of boiling water. Whisk as the water returns to a boil, to keep them from lumping together.  Simmer for 20-30 minutes (this makes enough for a grits-loving family of four).

If you are new to grits, and want to make them a little richer and fancier, substitute milk for half, or even all, the water.  These are creamy and delicious even to neophytes.

IMPORTANT: However you cook them, a visible dollop of butter melting on the top is a must. 

Curried Beans and Greens

Oh, greens, we were beginning to tire of you. We had two giant bins of collards donated this week from our friends the Grahams and from Paul, a dear friend who organizes a local middle school garden. They were fresh and pest- and sand-free, but I kind of hated to see them. This has been an unusually good year for greens. They're beginning to feel like okra in September. Enough already.

Fortunately, our morning café food prep volunteers have become extremely adept greens-prep artists. They got it all lunch- (and freezer) ready in no time. In the last couple weeks we’ve served trusty Beans and Greens, Sweet Potato Fritattas with greens, a variation of this soup with greens floating in it, and Quiche - with greens. Today it was back to beans and greens with a little twist: a little more garlic, a lot more onion, copious curry, and garbanzos – served on rice. I know you can figure out a recipe on your own, but here’s one to get you started. They were good, and people loved them as usual, and by the end of the day, I liked them again too. Good ol' greens. 

Curried Greens and Beans

1 large sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 bunches of collard greens (or mustard or turnip)
2 cups cooked garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas)

Chop and rinse greens and set aside. Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil in a large skillet or dutch oven-type pan. When onion is translucent, mix in curry powder. Add greens gradually, preferable still dripping with rinse water. Add a little water if necessary to keep from sticking. As greens wilt, slowly add the rest while turning with a spatula so new greens are on the bottom. When all the greens are in, sprinkle with soy sauce or Bragg's liquid aminos. When liquid begins to sizzle, cover and turn to low. Steam greens until tender, turning frequently. When tender (20-30 minutes), gently add garbanzo beans to pan and reheat. Serve on rice with pepper sauce, or the Graham's Hot Pepper Jelly

Side of fries

French fries
Last week's café served up black-eyed peas and rice with greens and a side of fries. We have roasted veggies before, cutting them in the traditional french fry shape that disguised (maybe) the fact that it was actually a turnip or rutabaga. As there was no disguising the unique romanescu, we sweetened the pot with a little ranch dressing on the side. We tossed sliced turnips and pieces of romanescu with some olive oil and salt before roasting them in a baking pan at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, till tender. 

Here's the recipe for the the last minute ranch dressing, which consisted of whatever white stuff we could find in the fridge, with a little seasoning - approximately: 

1/2 cup mayo
1/2 cup sour cream
enough buttermilk to thin to dressing consistency
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried dill
salt to taste.

Whisk or shake together in a mason jar. Not a bit healthy, but something familiar for folks who are a little afraid of the romanescu, and very tasty.  Moderation.  

It was another delicious way to enjoy the beautiful romanescu, and the pink-centered turnips (thank you Grahams!) were beautiful alongside.  Our guests approved!