Before and After: Lotus Root and Chips

By Libbie Summers
Photography by Chia Chong

The beauty of the lotus root.
Peel, slice, fry, salt, repeat.

Lotus root…before. 
Lotus Root, Food Styling, Food Photography, Libbie Summers
Lotus root…after.
Fried Lotus Root, Lotus Root Snacks, Unusual Snacks, Libbie Summers, Chia Chong, food Styling, Food Photography
Spiced Lotus Root Chips
(try with any of the finishing salt recipes below) 

What you need:
1 lotus root, peeled using a vegetable peeler
juice from one lemon
canola oil for frying
Dry Herb Finishing Salt (recipe to follow)
Chai Spiced Finishing Salt (recipe to follow)
Sweet Onion Finishing Salt (recipe to follow)
Coriander and Pepper Finishing Salt (recipe to follow)

What to do:
Line a baking sheet with paper towels and set aside.

Squeeze lemon into a medium mixing bowl filled halfway with water. Set aside.

Slice lotus root into 1/8-inch thick slices (we used a mandoline). Place in the lemon water while your oil is heating up.

Heat oil in a wok or heavy pan until it is hot, but not smoking (approximately 300 degrees F.) Working in batches, pat dry lotus root slices before lowering into the hot oil. Fry lotus root slices until golden brown, turning as needed. Remove with a spyder or slotted spoon to the paper-towel lined baking sheet and immediately sprinkle with a Finishing Salt. Allow to cool before storing in an airtight container.

Dry Herb Finishing Salt
In a small bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon dried oregano, 1 tablespoon dried dill, 1 tablespoon dried parsley flake and 1 teaspoon flaked or kosher salt.

Chai Spiced Finishing Salt
In a small bowl, stir together 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon turbinado sugar and 1 teaspoon flaked or kosher salt.

Sweet Onion Finishing Salt
In a small bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon dehydrated onion, 1 teaspoon turbinado sugar and 1 teaspoon flaked or kosher salt.

Coriander and Pepper Finishing Salt
In a small bowl, stir together 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon flaked or kosher salt.

Refrigerator Pickles

by Libbie Summers
Photography by Chia Chong

Grandma had a sunporch that was nearly falling off the southeast side of her old farmhouse. Each year, after the late-summer cucumber harvest, a rickety shelf running along the ceiling of the sunporch was lined with jars of the most unnaturally green sweet pickles a child could imagine. The same nuclear green pickles could be found in the refrigerator, for the grandkids to help themselves to. It was not unusual to be playing ball outside each summer and notice the players on both teams had green-stained fingertips. When I ate my first hot dog in Chicago, I finally came face to face with another relish as green as Grandma’s. I was relieved to know my grandma wasn’t the only crazy green pickle maker in the nation. Thank you, Vienna Beef. I’m forever grateful.
Libbie Summers, A Food-Inspired Life, Pickles, How To, Recipe, Whole Hog Cookbook
Green Grass Refrigerator Pickles
yields 2 quart jars

What You Need
4 large cucumbers, skin left on
2 banana peppers
1 medium white onion
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon celery seeds
4 drops green food coloring (optional)

Step 1.

Libbie Summers, A Food-Inspired Life, Pickles, How To, Recipe, Whole Hog Cookbook
Slice the cucumbers and peppers into thick slices, and the onion into thin slices.

Step 2: 

Libbie Summers, A Food-Inspired Life, Pickles, How To, Recipe, Whole Hog Cookbook
Put the sliced vegetables in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Toss to coat and let rest for 1 hour at room temperature.

Step 3: 

Libbie Summers, A Food-Inspired Life, Pickles, How To, Recipe, Whole Hog Cookbook
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, vinegar, celery seeds, and 1 cup water.

Step 4. 

Libbie Summers, A Food-Inspired Life, Pickles, How To, Recipe, Whole Hog Cookbook
Add the green food coloring, if using, to the vinegar mixture. Whisk until the sugar is dissolved.

Step 5. 

Libbie Summers, A Food-Inspired Life, Pickles, How To, Recipe, Whole Hog Cookbook
Transfer the cucumber mixture to 2 clean quart jars or other glass containers.

Step 6. 

Libbie Summers, A Food-Inspired Life, Pickles, How To, Recipe, Whole Hog Cookbook
Pour the brine over the cucumber mixture, cover, and refrigerate for 2 days before eating.

Libbie Summers, A Food-Inspired Life, Pickles, How To, Recipe, Whole Hog Cookbook
Pickles are ready to eat. They are best when eaten within 2 weeks.

Kool-Aid Pickles

by Libbie Summers
Photography by Chia Chong

If you have ever stopped at a roadside market along a Southern highway, these pickles are no stranger to you. Pickles floating in jars of a brightly colored brine are normally lined up at the cash register. These Kool-Aid pickles may seem odd at first, but once you bite into one you’ll appreciate the sweet and sour flavors. Let me just warn you, because no one warned me, your fingers may just turn the color of the pickle you’re eating!

Red Kool-Aid Pickles
yields 1 (90-ounce) jar

What you need:
1 (90-ounce) jar of whole dill pickles
4 packets Kool-Aid (I prefer cherry—it’s just how I roll)
2 cups sugar

What to do:
Drain the juice from the pickle jar and discard, leaving the pickles inside.

In a medium pitcher, combine the Kool-Aid, sugar, and 4 cups water. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Pour enough of the Kool-Aid mixture over the pickles in the jar to completely cover them. Put the lid on the jar and refrigerate for 1 to 2 weeks before eating.
pickles, Kool Aid, Southern Foods, Sweet and Vicious Cookbook, Libbie Summers,

 

 

Chewy Chocolate Bread

Words and recipe by Libbie Summers
Photography by Chia Chong
Model: Anne Chaddock Donegan
Supergirl costume by Jessica Duthu

I live in a neighborhood of seventeen houses and twenty- two children (the odds are against me). I’ve tested this recipe on many of my adult neighbors and they love it, but it was the children who seemed extra-excited and intrigued by the large, round chocolate loaf. One curly- yellow-haired girl in particular would punch through the crust with her #ngers when she thought no one was looking and scoop out a chunk of the soft chocolate center to eat. The young girl’s name is Anne Chaddock, and she is a supergirl who runs the neighborhood fueled by my Chewy Chocolate Bread! 

Libbie Summers, A Food-Inspired Life, Chewy Chocolate Bread, Bread Week

Chewy Chocolate Bread

(loads of chocolate but barely sweet)
yields 1 loaf 

Ingredients:
1⁄2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1⁄3 cup sugar
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 1⁄3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1⁄3 cup good-quality unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1⁄4 teaspoons salt
Cornmeal, for dusting
1⁄2 cup good-quality dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Directions:

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the warm water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon of the sugar, mixing with your finger until the yeast is dissolved. Let the mixture rest for 10 minutes, until the yeast begins to foam. With the mixer on low speed, add 1 1⁄4 cups room-temperature water, the whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Mix just until the dough is blended. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest at warm room temperature for 8 hours (I like to do this overnight).

Line a baking sheet with a kitchen towel that has been dusted with cornmeal. Set aside.

Turn the dough out onto a liberally floured work surface and pour the chocolate chunks over the top. Sprinkle with more flour before folding the dough over itself a few times to evenly distribute the chocolate. Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it, seam side down, to the prepared baking sheet. Dust the top of the dough ball with cornmeal, cover it with a kitchen towel, and let it rise about 2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450° F. Place a heavy cast-iron (or ceramic) 6- to 8-quart pot with a lid in the oven to heat until the oven comes to temperature.

Carefully remove the heated pot from the oven and place the dough in it (seam side up or down—it doesn’t matter). Don’t worry if it looks like a hot mess; it will bake up beautifully. Brush the dough with water and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. Cover the pot and return it to the oven to bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and continue to bake for another 20 minutes, or until the loaf is a gorgeous dark brown and gives a dull sound when thumped. Let the bread cool before eating.

 

2 Fabulous Flatbread Recipes

by Libbie Summers
Photography by Chia Chong

Flat breads are an easy intro into bread baking. Somehow, even if you think they aren’t going to work out…they always do! Here are two of my favorites.

Libbie Summers, A Food-Inspired Life, Bread Recipes
Flat-chested Flat Bread
(grilled, sweet, spicy, + cheesy)
yields 8

A training bread, if you will. A soft, chewy, simple bread grilled and brought alive with the sweet heat of brown sugar and chile oil. A bread to honor flat-chested girls everywhere. I was once one of you . . . spicy, sweet, and just waiting to rise.

What you need:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for the grill
3 cups warm water
2 1⁄2 teaspoons active dry yeast
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons salt
1⁄2 cup plain Greek yogurt
4 teaspoons chile oil (available in the international section of your grocery store)
4 teaspoons brown sugar
1⁄4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the 1 tablespoon vegetable oil with the water. Add the yeast and stir to dissolve. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.

Add the all-purpose and whole wheat flours to the yeast mixture and mix on low speed just until a loose, raggedy dough forms. Cover the bowl of the mixer and let the dough rest for 20 minutes.

Add the salt and yogurt to the dough and mix for 5 minutes, until the ingredients are fully incorporated and the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl to form a loose ball. Remove the dough hook, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours, until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat an outdoor gas or charcoal grill to high.

Turn the dough out onto a generously floured work surface. Divide the dough into eight equal portions and roll out each portion to 1⁄4 inch thick (or press with your hands). Don’t
worry about uniformity: the less perfect, the better. Stack
the dough rounds on the bottom of an overturned baking sheet, placing a sheet of oiled plastic wrap between them so they won’t stick together.

Brush the grill liberally with oil and, working two at a time, grill the flatbreads for 2 to 3 minutes per side, until there is a nice black/brown char on the grill side and the top is puffing up. If the dough sticks to the grill when you try to turn it, the flatbread has not cooked long enough.

When the flatbreads are hot off the grill, drizzle them lightly with chile oil (a little goes a long way) and sprinkle with a little brown sugar and cheese. Serve warm.

Libbie Summers, A Food-Inspired Life, Bread Recipes,
Forgiveness Naan
(pillowy garlic butter flatbread)
yields 10

Naan is my yeast-based guilty pleasure. Wherever I may be traveling in the world, I’m searching for this pillowy flatbread with the crisp bottom. If there is a restaurant with naan on the menu, mark my words, I will find it.

Although I have yet to taste dreamy Chef Suvir Saran’s naan (he promises to make me some one day), my favorite naan is made at a seedy back-alley restaurant in the West Indies by a guy named Sanjay (come to think of it, most of the naan bakers I’ve met are named Sanjay). I’ve been lucky enough to land on Sanjay’s island many times over the years while cooking on boats. Even luckier, he has always been around, is always wearing too much cologne, and is always willing to bake me a fresh basketful of naan—no matter what time of day. Each piece of Sanjay’s naan is the size of a roadmap, spilling over the sides of the basket of bread he brings to the table. It has the perfect charred bottom and buttery flavor . . . with just a hint of Old Spice.

Once you start baking your own naan, you’ll quickly discover what all Sanjay naan bakers already know: Naan gets better every time you make it. Like an elastic waistband, the dough is very forgiving.

What you need:

6 tablespoons clarified butter, melted
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 1⁄4 cups warm milk (110° F)
3 tablespoons plain whole-milk yogurt
1 teaspoon salt
3 to 4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted, plus more for dusting
2 tablespoons minced garlic

Use a small bit of the clarified butter to lightly grease a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the yeast, brown sugar, and milk. Briefly stir with a spoon. Let the mixture rest for 5 minutes, or until
it begins to foam. With the mixer on low speed, add the yogurt, 2 tablespoons of the clarified butter, and the salt. Add the flour, starting with 2 cups and mixing well to combine. Gradually add enough flour until the dough forms and cleanly pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl. Mix for 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Put the dough in the greased mixing bowl, cover, and let it
rest at room temperature for 11⁄2 to 2 hours, until it has doubled in size.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into ten equal portions. Use your palms to form each into a ball. Cover the dough balls with a towel and let rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 500° F. Position one oven rack on the lowest level of the oven and remove or place the other rack high enough in the oven to stay out of your way. Place a baking stone (or pizza stone) on the lowest rack. Have a spray bottle of water and a cooling rack ready.

Stir the garlic into the remaining butter.

Roll each piece of dough out (or pat the dough out with your hands and fingertips) to an 8- to 10-inch circle. Pull one end of the dough to form a teardrop shape. Brush the dough lightly with the garlic butter. Working with one shaped piece of dough at a time, carefully place it on the hot baking stone and spritz the dough with water. Bake for about 4 minutes, until brown spots start to form on top and the dough begins to puff up. Remove the naan from the oven and brush again lightly with the garlic butter. Repeat the process with the remaining pieces of dough, keeping the cooked naan covered and warm until ready to serve. At my house, the naan doesn’t stand a chance of getting cold. Every piece seems to disappear as soon as it comes out of the oven.