I had the pleasure of interviewing Ted Lee last week — he’s the co-author of the James Beard Award-winning book The Lee Bros Southern Cookbook (what they call in the trade a “category killer”) and most recently, Simple, Fresh, Southern, which is their entry into the “Everyday” category of cookbooks. (A favorite category of mine as you might imagine.) I asked Ted what I should cook from the book to prepare for our conversation and his reply sent me sprinting into the kitchen.
“Jenny, I see the weather in the NY-metro region is going to be thunderstorm-y and steamy this weekend, so go with the cold salads–Soybean and Cherry Tomato, Gingered Beets with Field Peas and Lemon, Easy Ambrosia, Cabbage Salad with Lime and Roasted Peanuts, Carrot and Turnip Slaw with Dill (sub equal qty carrots for turnips if desired). For entrees, do something quick in the broiler, like Gran’s Flank Steak or Crispy-Skin Salmon with Buttermilk Mint Sauce. And the Jersey strawberries should be slammin now: Strawberries with Port Syrup and Sour Cream. But if there are ripe Jersey peaches in yet (doubt it…) do the Cornmeal Drop-Biscuit cobbler, worth heating up the kitchen for!”
Is there any question that the guy knows how to get people excited about cooking? I instantly started plotting summer parties around each dish he mentioned. And for that particular thunderstorm-y weekend, I faithfully followed his prescription for Soybean and Cherry Tomato salad with the Crispy-Skin Salmon. With tremendous results.
Cherry Tomato and Soybean Salad with Buttermilk Dressing
From Simple, Fresh, Southern: Knockout Dishes with Down-Home Flavor, by Matt Lee and Ted Lee
2 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
1 pound fresh or frozen shelled soybeans (about 3 1/4 cups)
3/4 cup whole or lowfat buttermilk
1 clove garlic, finely grated
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
10 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes (about 2 cups), halved lengthwise
leaves from 4 springs of basil (about 1 cup loosely packed)
freshly ground black pepper
Bring a quart of water to a boil in a large saucepan, and add 2 teaspoons of the salt. Add the soybeans and when the water returns to a boil, continue to cook until the soybeans are just tender but cooked through, about 5 minutes. Drain the beans in a colander and cool them under cold running water. Shake the colander vigorously to remove excess water.
In a medium bowl, whisk the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt with the buttermilk, garlic, and olive oil. In a large bowl, toss the beans, tomatoes, and basil together. Pour the dressing over the salad, and toss to coat evenly. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. (Covered, the salad will keep in the refrigerator for about 3 days.)
This is what I like to call “psychological latch” food for the girls, i.e. no matter what new recipe is gracing the dinner plate on any given night, they will see their favorite “toast” and feel comfortable with whatever is surrounding it. To prepare: Brush sliced baguette with olive oil and a little salt and and grill face-down for about 2 minutes, checking to make sure it doesn’t burn.
Pick up a copy of Matt & Ted’s book for the Crispy Skin Salmon with Buttermilk recipe.