Saturday, April 5, 2014

Southern Hospitality

In the South, Cheese Straws are almost always found at get togethers, family gatherings and celebrations.  Their presence is a sure sign that you're welcome at the table. They're perfect with cocktails and can also be served with salads and certain soups. Unlike many baked goods, they improve in flavor when they're made a day before they're served. Basically a mix of flour, butter, and cheese, they puff up in the oven and become crispy wands of cheese-scented goodness. Irresistible.

Smoky gouda cheese straws are perfect for an afternoon barbecue. Parmesan cheese straws for a classy dinner party. And cheddar cheese ones are always a winner for brunches and pot lucks. Whether you're in the South or not, cheese straws make a fantastic party appetizer.

I met Lizzie at the Farmer's Market. A true southerner wearing a wide brimmed hat, welcoming smile and oozing lots of charm. She was selling cheese straws. I thought they'd make a great hostess gift. 
After a few samples of these savory treats I decided to try making some of my own using Ina Garten's (Barefoot Contessa) shortcut version.   

Cheese Straws
  • 1 box frozen puff pastry (such as Pepperidge Farm) defrosted overnight in the refrigerator
  • 1 extra large egg
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme 
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • Preheat oven to 375 and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper
  • Roll out each sheet on a lightly floured surface until it is 10 x 12
  • Beat the egg with 1tsp. of water and brush the surface of the pastry
  • Sprinkle each sheet evenly with ¼ cup of Parmesan, ½ cup Gruyere. ½ tsp. thyme and ¼ tsp. salt and some pepper
  • With a floured rolling pin press the flavorings into puff pastry
  • Cut each sheet crosswise with a floured knife into 11-12 strips
  • Twist each strip and lay on a baking sheet
  • Bake 10-15 until lightly browned and puffed
  • Turn each straw and bake another two minutes
  • Cool and serve at room temperature
  • Options: Brush pastry with pesto, tapenade or sundried tomatoes instead of sprinkling with cheese
A Look to the South for Poetry 
William Wright, a southern poet,  says “there is no definable element that makes a Southern poet Southern, other than the geography he or she claims.” What’s more, the cultural fabric of the American South has been changing rapidly in the 21st century, and many of the old assumptions about Southern literature—an emphasis on bucolic landscapes, history, family, and so on—no longer hold." 

April is National Poetry Month, and it is also the month in which the first Poet Laureate of the United States, Robert Penn Warren was born. He was an American poet, novelist and literary critic. Warren is also known for his popular novel,  All The Kings Men.

Tell Me A Story

Long ago, in Kentucky, I a boy, stood
By a dirt road, in first dark, and heard
The great geese hoot northward.

I could not see them, there being no moon
And the stars sparse. I heard them.

I did not know what was happening in my heart.

It was the season before the elderberry blooms,
Therefore they were going north.

The sound was passing northward.

Tell me a story.

In this century, and moment, of mania,

Tell me a story.

Make it a story of great distances, and starlight.

The name of the story will be Time,
But you must not pronounce its name.

Tell me a story of deep delight.

by Robert Penn Warren (1905-1989)

When chopping herbs, toss a little salt onto the cutting board; it will keep the herbs from flying around.

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