By Doc Lawrence –
Food, wine, farming, music and scholarship all combined into joie de vivre for Thomas Jefferson. The “author of America,” as Christopher Hitchens called our third president, was an accomplished gardener and wine importer who loved to entertain guests with his legendary dinners. Meals at Monticello featured local grown food from Jefferson’s revolutionary gardens served with wines from his cellar. Seasoned with ample portions of good will, Southern hospitality became an American tradition.
Lara Lyn Carter’s long overdue first cookbook, “Southern Thymes Shared,” is in the Jefferson tradition: a compilation of her original recipes she assimilated from diverse culinary archetypes ranging from a Cherokee ancestor, a beloved Italian-American uncle plus with a long line of hard-working farmers and good friends. An almost unfair advantage for the rising star chef is her good fortune to be born and raised around the fertile fields of South Georgia, where everything living and growing seems to be healthy thanks in large part to clean air and abundant water provided by the Florida Aquifer. Synthesize all this into recipes while making room for Old and New World wines and you have this wonderful book.
Lara Lyn Carter hosts the award-winning Southern cuisine show Savor the Good Life on NBC/ABC affiliate WALB-TV based in her hometown of Albany, Georgia, a gentle city and birthplace of music legend Ray Charles. As her show earned high ratings, friends encouraged her to produce a cookbook. Somewhere along the way. Lara Lyn Carter shared her book ambitions with me. I used some of her recipes and paired the dishes with wines, inspiring visions of dinner at Monticello. The proverbial light came on and a book was born.
Much more than a collection of recipes, Lara Lyn Carter outlines complete meals ranging from traditional preparations for New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas to feasts common to her part of the South. The titles are irresistible: Southern Gentleman’s Steak Dinner, Football Kick-Off Party, Old-Fashioned Fish Fry and a Salute to Columbus Day, a paean to her Italian-American great-uncle that includes some impressive original recipes like Italian Chicken, South Georgia Pecan Pesto Bread and Amaretto Chocolate Cake.
Honoring the Jefferson dining tradition, the Italian themed dinner is paired with an Old World classic wine, Primitvo from Pugglia at the heel of Italy’s boot.
Old and New World wines appear with Lara Lyn Carter’s creations. You won’t find Dry Comal Creek Black Spanish on many retail shelves outside San Antonio, but the case is established that this wine made with grapes introduced into America 500 years ago tastes wonderful with barbecue. Louisiana wine? The Elegant Seafood Dinner pairs seamlessly with Ponchartrain Vineyards’ Le Trolley. The fact that it’s 100 % Blanc Du Bois takes on meaning when the reader discovers that this wine grape was created by collaborative efforts of the University of Florida and Lakeridge Winery in Clermont, Florida and named after legendary Emile Dubois who produced heralded wines in the Sunshine State in the late 19th century. Le Trolley has flavor characteristics of great Alsatian wines and is a magnificent accompaniment with Lara Lyn Carter’s Seafood Medley of scallops, shrimp and crabmeat.
“Southern Times Shared,” earns praise from Southern Living editor-at-large, James T. Farmer III. Marsha Fottler, editor and publisher of Flavors and More, says that for those who are “passionate about food, friends and family, you want this book.” International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association president Michelle M. Winner describes it as a “perfect pairing of treasured Southern recipes, celebration menus and a primer on worldwide wine.” Often compared to the late Charles Kuralt, Carl White, the host and producer of the hit syndicated television show Life in the Carolinas lauds the cookbook as a “true culinary celebration of Southern charm and elegance.”
This is much more that a cookbook. It is a beautiful production with an impressive cover that glows on a coffee table. The recipes, photographs and accompanying anecdotes are useful and practical. The wine pairings are often daring.
If somehow Mr. Jefferson was planning a dinner at Monticello today, I believe he would have Southern Thymes Shared on a nearby shelf in his kitchen library.
For Valentine’s Day, Lara Lyn Carter created a genuine feast. Enjoy this delight, excerpted from “Southern Thymes Shared.”
For the Love of Family and Friends—Valentine’s Feast
Grilled Lamb with Rosemary
3-4 lb. leg of lamb, deboned and tied
4 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. soy sauce
Juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 lemon
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 clove garlic, minced
Place lamb in a foil-lined baking dish. Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over the meat. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator overnight. Remove lamb from marinade and discard the rosemary; reserve the marinade. Grill meat, basting frequently with the marinade, until temperature reaches 145 degrees in the center. Allow the lamb to rest 20 minutes before serving.
2 cups uncooked orzo
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
Juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup fresh basil, packed
1 cup feta cheese
Cook orzo in salted water until al dente. Drain and pour into a large bowl. In a food processor, combine oil, tomatoes, lemon juice, lemon zest, and basil until smooth. Pour mixture over orzo and top with crumbled feta cheese. Serve hot or cold.
Grilled Pound Cake with Raspberry Sauce
This is absolutely the best pound cake you will ever eat, so don’t be bashful.
1/2 cup margarine, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
3 cups sugar
5 large eggs
3 cups all-purpouse flour
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in 1 tbsp. boiling water
2 teaspoons almond extract
Melted butter, for serving
For the Raspberry Sauce:
1/2 pint raspberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 cup raspberry jam
1 teaspoon almond extract
To make the cake, beat margarine, shortening, and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Slowly add flour, buttermilk, baking soda mixture, and almond extract; heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Pour batter into a greased Bundt pan and bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours or until a toothpick comes out clean.
To make the sauce, combine all ingredients into a saucepan. Heat until sugar and jam are fully combined; simmer for 5 minutes. Pour into a blender and process until smooth. Chill until ready to serve. Reheat the sauce before serving.
To serve, slice the pound cake in 1 1/2” to 2” slices. Brush both sides lightly with melted butter. Grill for 1 to 2 minutes on each side until lightly toasted. Place grilled cake on individual plates and drizzle with raspberry sauce.
Like a precious and intimate message on a Valentine’s Day card, a bottle of Saint-Amour will bring a smile when it is poured and tasted. One of the most romantic of all wines, the name almost says it all. But, with love in the air, there’s magic when this delicious wine from the Beaujolais region of Burgundy is in a crystal glass. The wine is among the most versatile and pairs comfortably with the grilled lamb without overpowering.
Images and recipes from Southern Thymes Shared by Lara Lyn Carter and Doc Lawrence, © 2014 Lara Lyn Carter and Doc Lawrence, used by permission of the publisher, Pelican Publishing Company, Inc.