Years ago, Ron Fryar had one of his editors call and ask me to write an article on the difference between Thanksgiving stuffing and dressing.
After all, I had a cooking business and was one of the few “Yankee” transplants to declare Middle Tennessee my true home. This made me uniquely qualified to tell the differences between stuffing and dressing (it’s simple -- stuffing is stuffed into the bird and dressing is baked in a casserole.) That led to a regular food column which focused on making food and cooking fun and easy for home cooks to enjoy.
It also lead to many years of entertainment for readers and joy for me as a writer. If you have never read one of my columns, I promise you an opportunity to share a bit of my life and some simple ideas that will hopefully expand your recipe box. If you are an old friend of my column, please help me celebrate my return to print and let your friends know I am back writing for Ron again in the The Post and the Cannon Courier!
One of the greatest things about our neck of the woods is we can all count on our communities and neighbors for caring and sharing, in times of trial and times of abundance. I have neighbors who will jump in and help cut up a downed tree, others who share the riches of their gardens and still others who think nothing of dropping off supper or a pan of brownies when they have cooked too much. This is just the kind of place we live — one that has a tradition of helping and giving. Middle Tennessee is truly the heart of the volunteer state and I am grateful and glad to be a part of it.
Many of my recipe and food ideas come from folks in our community, and some are gifts from friends and neighbors. Over the years, I have had the privilege of learning recipes from the ladies at the Methodist Church Casserole sale, the Charity Circle Hostesses for the Duck Ball Patrons’ party, the Firefighters who enter chili cook-offs and many other terrific home cooks.
If you have an idea you’d like to share, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be happy to hear from you and learn about your food favorites and welcome you to the Easy Way Gourmet family.
A perfect example of neighborly sharing is something I received from a dear friend who swears she isn’t a fancy cook.
She and her husband are just great folks — who share the bounty of their giant garden all over town. Since she got a new kitchen, she has become an adventurous cook, and she shares her triumphs! A week or so ago, she dropped off a cooler with the ingredients and instructions for what I think is one of the most versatile cool summer salads I have ever enjoyed!
It is sweet, savory and slightly sophisticated but still easy to make. While her version included crabmeat (which may get a tad expensive these days,) I have used the recipe without the crab as a refreshing summer side dish and have even used leftover chicken in place of the crab for a fancy looking lunch plate. Here’s the recipe, which you can adjust to fit your own style very easily.
Debbie’s Delightful Summer Salad
(This recipe is for four separate salads, but you could make one large platter of salad for a party. You can also substitute your own favorite dressing and add or remove specific elements depending on your own tastes and available ingredients.)
• 1 head bibb or Boston lettuce
• 1 ripe avocado
• 1 ripe mango
• 1 pink grapefruit
• 1 cup blueberries
• 1 cup lump crabmeat
• ¼ cup lemon vinaigrette dressing
First, prepare your ingredients. Wash and dry the lettuce leaves. Peel the avocado and cut it into slices lengthwise. Peel the mango and cut long wedges or slices of it (this can be a bit messy, I suggest holding the mango on a cutting board with a fork firmly planted in the center and using a paring knife to cut strips or wedges from the flesh.)
Peel the grapefruit and cut it into sections. Rinse the blueberries and the crabmeat. Now, place a few lettuce leaves on each of four medium plates. On each plate, arrange alternating slices of avocado, mango and grapefruit. Sprinkle each plate with a few blueberries and place the crabmeat in the center. Either cover each plate and keep them chilled until you are ready to serve and then drizzle with dressing or drizzle with the dressing and enjoy immediately!