Southern Recipes from The Boston Globe Magazine – go figure

The Boston Globe Magazine published a food issue last weekend that looks like a keeper, particularly some southern recipes that appear to be worth trying.  The burgers with pimento cheese recipe has been making the rounds a lot lately – we made them last night (with a store bought version of the cheese from Whole Foods) as sliders on tiny brioche buns.  Williams Sonoma also has a recipe for miniburgers that’s very good).  But the tomato rice recipe and the pecan bars are the ones that look really good, and that’s why I am posting this link.


Mashed Potato Cakes with Sauteed Leeks

It’s more of a winter dish, for sure, but on a coolish Saturday night with grilled ham steak and a fresh arugula and summer tomato salad, it hit the spot – especially when the mashed potatoes were left over.  Sauteing the leeks first and laying the potato cakes on them eliminated the possibility of over browning the onions while browning the cakes and also allowed the non-onion eaters to avoid them. 

  • 3 cups mashed red potatoes*
  • 2-3 medium leeks, white and light green parts trimmed and washed and thinly slice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2/3 cup flour, for dredging
  • kosher or sea salt
  • black pepper (optional)
  • olive oil
  • unsalted butter

Bring the mashed potatoes to room temperature so they will form cakes more easily.  Put the flour on a plate or piece of waxed paper.  Form the potatoes into small cakes about three inches in diameter (the photo is deceptive – my hands are very small) and dredge them in the flour, shaking off an excess.  Once you have made all the cakes season with the salt and pepper and set aside. 

Heat a large enameled cast iron pan to medium and add 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and one Tablespoon of butter.  add the garlic and saute for one minute, then add the leeks and cook until they are cooked but now brown, 3 or 4 minutes.  Remove to a warm serving platter and wipe out the pan before rewarming it.  Once it is back up to medium heat, add 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and one of butter, making sure the bottom of the pan is covered before placing the potato cakes in to brown.  Mange the heat and check the cakes often until they form a brown crust before turning them – careful, if you press down on the with the spatula they may fall apart (they will still taste good, though).  Once turned they will brown more quickly on the other side.  Remove them and place them on top of the leeks in the warm serving dish.

*The mashed potatoes I used here were red potatoes (not creamers) boiled and fork-mashed with a mixture of butter, kosher salt and heavy cream that was reduced by half on the stove.

Served with grilled ham steak and an arugula, tomato and goat cheese salad with Stonewall Kitchens Balsamic Fig Dressing.

Red Velvet Cake with Mascarpone Cream Cheese Frosting

Back before they pulled Red Dye #2 off the market my mother made this cake for her birthday, which fell just before the 4th of July.  She always brought it to the celebration at a friend’s home on the Cedar River.  For better or for worse, you can get red dye in bottles again and so I decided to recreate this food memory.  I tried one recipe last December and it was okay but the texture was too crumbly – the cake I recall was very dense, more like a pound cake.  I took what I learned from that recipe and applied it to a cupcake recipe I found and came up with this recipe for a layer cake. 

Even though I know they did not have mascarpone cheese in Iowa in the 70s, this frosting tastes just right to me for this cake.  I’m sure the Iowa heat on the 4th is the reason Mom refrigerated this cake before we drove up to the river.  None of the recipes that I have call for keeping it cold, but I think it tastes best if kept cold right up until about 15 minutes before serving.  Also, my brother suggested it might be even better if the layers are split, allowing for even more of the lovely frosting.  He has a point – it might be just as good and easier to accomplish to just divide the batter among 3 8-inch pans instead of 2 9-inch ones.

I don’t have a photo of the cake – it went too fast!


  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) red food coloring
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons high-quality unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature1 cup (8 ounces) cream cheese at room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) mascarpone cheese
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans, and line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper.  Some cake pans have removable bottoms, which is helpful but not required.

In a small bowl, combine the food coloring and cocoa together to make a paste. Set aside. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and the sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition, then add the cocoa paste. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and beat the batter for about 4 minutes. In a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour, all-purpose flour, salt, and baking soda. Stir the vanilla into the buttermilk.  Add the flour mixture in 3 increments alternately with the buttermilk, starting and ending with the flour. Beat on medium speed just until the ingredients are combined. Add the sour cream and vinegar and beat on low until combined.

Divide the batter between the two cake pans. Bake on the center rack of the oven 25 to 35 minutes, just until the cake is firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Do not overbake, or the cake – already delicate – will fall apart and be too dry. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then unmold onto a wire rack and let cool completely before frosting.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, cream cheese, and powdered sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the mascarpone on very low speed until just combined. (Be careful; once you’ve added the mascarpone, excessive beating can make the frosting curdle.) Stir in the vanilla.

Frost the cake (garnish with blueberries if you are serving it on the 4th) and place uncovered in the refrigerator until ready to serve.  If you are worried about it  picking up flavors in the fridge, you can place it in a cake dome or carrier inside the fridge, but covering it with plastic wrap will ruin the frosting at least until it is thoroughly chilled.

Blueberry Lemon Tart



This recipe is adapted from one I found on a few years ago.  It is particularly good with small wild blueberries, if you can find them.

  • For the shell
    1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
    1/4 cup sugar
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
    1 large egg yolk, beaten with 2 tablespoons ice water
    raw rice or pie weights for weighting the shell

Note:  European-style butter, such as Plugra, makes an especially nice dough.

  • For the filling
    1 cup buttermilk
    3 large egg yolks
    1/2 cup granulated sugar
    2-3 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest
    1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    2 cups picked over blueberries

Make the shell
Sir together together the flour, the sugar, and the salt in a medium bowl.  Add the cold butter, and blend the mixture with a pastry cutter or your fingers until it resembles coarse meal. Add the yolk and water mixture, and toss the dough until the liquid is incorporated, and form it into a ball. Dust with flour and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, for 1 hour. Roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick on a floured surface, fit it into a 10-inch tart pan (if it cracks just put it back together again) with a removable fluted rim, and chill the shell for at least 30 minutes or overnight (covered). Line the shell with foil, fill the foil with the pie weights, and bake the shell in the middle of a preheated 350° oven for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and rice/weights carefully, bake the shell for 5 to 10 minutes more, until it is pale golden, and cool in the pan on a rack.

Make the filling
Spread the berries over the bottom of the shell – if they are big, you can put them in a single layer.  In a food processor blend together the buttermilk, yolks, granulated sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, butter, vanilla, salt, and flour until the mixture is smooth, and then pour them over the berries in the shell.

Bake the tart in the middle of a preheated 350° oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the filling is just set.   Let it cool completely in the pan on the rack and serve it at room temperature or chilled (it has more flavor at room temperature, though).