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Soul Food Love

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Ada's Rules: A Sexy Skinny Novel

Black-eyed Pea and Kale soup with Sweet Potato broth

In the spirit of one of author Alice Randall’s very favorite cookbooks, Vertamae Grosvenor’s Vibration Cooking: Or the Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl, this recipe is not meant to be exact. Improvise with what you have on hand and according to your taste, particularly when making the sweet potato broth.

  • Olive Oil
  • Medium Onion
  • 3 ribs of celery
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 large Sweet potato
  • 4 whole Cloves (spice)

Step One: Make your Sweet Potato stock. In a large stockpot, sauté sliced Onions, Celery, and the Carrot in a very small amount of Olive Oil. While the vegetables are cooking on low-heat, peel, then quarter one large Sweet Potato. When Onions are tender, add Sweet Potatoes to vegetables in pot along with six cups of Water, five Cloves, and Salt and Pepper to taste. Bring to a boil then simmer until Sweet Potato is completely soft—about 30 minutes. When Sweet Potato is completely soft, liquefy contents of stockpot in blender or food processor. Refrigerate if you are not going to use immediately. Makes about four cups.

  • 1 tablespoon Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 large Onion, diced
  • 1 large Carrot, sliced
  • 1 stalk Celery, sliced
  • 3 cloves Garlic, sliced
  • 5 sprigs fresh Thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed Red Pepper
  • 4 cups homemade Sweet Potato broth
  • 1 15-ounce can diced Tomatoes
  • 5 cups Kale leaves (bagged is fine, home grown better. You may substitute collard greens)
  • 1 15-ounce can Black-eyed Peas, rinsed


Step Two: Heat Olive Oil in stockpot over medium heat.

Step Three: Add Onion, Carrot, and Celery and cook, stirring until vegetables are soft.

Step Four: Add sliced Garlic, Thyme, and crushed Red Pepper. Keep stirring.

Step Five: Add Sweet Potato stock and Tomatoes with their juice. Keep stirring.

Step Six: Raise heat to high. Add Kale. Keep stirring.


Rebel Yell: A Novel


The French Forty-Five

Nicholas Gordon, probable spy and aging dandy, is one of my favorite characters in Rebel Yell.  This the drink Hope and Nicholas favored in Manila and it’s the drink they drink when they reconvene the conversation that is there friendship. It’s strong. Perfect for brunch on a day you’re going to stay home. Poke around on the web and you’ll find a lot of stories about it origins. I’m not vouching for any of them, but I will repeat this drink is strong. And it’s improved by all the new more floral gins.

2 oz gin (a floral gin is preferred Hendricks)
2 oz Cointreau or Grand Marnier
Chilled champagne

I prefer to keep the gin and the orange liquor in the freezer before mixing.  Pour the gin and the Cointreau or Grand Marnier  into  a champagne flute. Top off the glass with chilled champagne.

The Rebel Yell

A perfect toast for anyone who ever did the hard right thing. Starting with the heroes of the American Revolution.  When I was finishing writing Rebel Yell, and my house was in a rather unusual state of disarray, a new bar opened up in Nashville called the Patterson House. The Patterson House has six kinds of ice and is on its way to being one of the great bars of the new century. The Goldberg brothers who run it are genius. They have a drink they call a Whisky Smash. Made with Rebel Yell, the Whisky Smash propelled me through intense ponderings of the past perfect in African-American Vernacular English and Southern English. The boys at Patterson House offered to invent a drink for the novel. I had one special request, that the base of the drink be Gentleman Jack the favored liquor of my character, Abel Jones. Josh Habiger my favorite Patterson House bartender developed this recipe.

Rebel Yell

2 oz Gentleman Jack or Jack Daniels
1/2 oz honey
dash Peychaud's bitters
One lemon
Fresh Mint

Cut a lemon in half, then cut the half into quarters.  Muddle this in a tin shaker  to squeeze out all of the juice and essential oils.  Now lightly muddle some mint.  Add 1/2 oz of honey (you may need to adjust to desired sweetness), 1 dash of Peychaud's bitters, and 2 oz of Jack Daniels, or Gentleman Jack Whiskey.   Add ice to the tin and shake it for about 20 seconds.  Strain into an ice filled rocks glass and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

If you don't have a tin shaker improvise, but do muddle and shake. I would use a mason jar to muddle and shake, then undo the lid and use it to strain. Josh would do it the right way.

Cornbread Madeleines 

You will need a nonstick madeleine pan or silicone madeleine molds and a baking sheet. I use a nonstick pan from Williams-Sonoma readily available on line.  I like to think I invented the cornbread madeleine. I certainly started making them a very long time ago.In Nashville they were popularized by a friend of mine, Martha Stamps. Proust dipped a sweet Madeleine in tea and was carried back into time by sense memory. I like to think the same thing happens to me with I dip cornbread in black coffee. Madeleines also appear in Rebel Yell and in  Pushkin and the Queen of Spades.

Cornbread madeleines are very simple. Butter the mold.  Pre-heat oven to 375 or as directed. Mix a batch of your favorite cornbread. Or try this one from Epicurious.

When you take the madeleines out of the oven  use a soft spatula to help you ease one out of the mold. Inspect underside for color. If the color looks good break in half and check that it is cooked through. Return the madeleines to the over for a few more minutes of cooking if they are not brown enough or cooked through.

Skillet Corn Bread

This is my friend Martha Stamps' recipe. If you make it with yellow cornmeal and bacon fat it will be very similiar to the cornbread my Grandfather Will Randall would make. Martha is the owner of Martha Stamps Catering. She is a leader in the "eat local" food movement and a food security activist who has published three very important cookbooks including The New Southern Basics. Martha caterered many of the most amazing meals we serve at Longpage.I strongly prefer my cornbread made with yellow meal but Martha makes it both ways.



Buttermilk Cornbread – about 8 large wedges



2 c. cornmeal (Martha uses stoneground from Fall’s Mill – yellow or white)
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
2 c. buttermilk
2 eggs
1 T. bacon fat or butter
Preheat the oven to 375.  Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Pour in the buttermilk and beat in the eggs. Melt the fat in a cast iron skillet. Pour in the batter and bake in the skillet for 20 – 25 minutes, until puffy and brown. if you plan to  use this this receipe in the madeleine mold make only half and check after 15 minutes of baking.


Pushkin and the Queen of Spades


The Queen of Spades Shot

Vodka in a very pretty dress. The Pushkin and the Queen of Spades launch happened on a warm night in late May. A couple drove a giant rig into our side yard and started barbecuing ribs and chicken. Inside the house we served salads and cornbread madeleines—and  in honor of Pushkin we served individual frozen vodka shots. The best of the night was our band Willie Domann played bass and Skyler  Wilson played keyboards, Cory Younts were in the mix. They played Motown classics, in the library because the sound was too live in our dining room. It was a very good time. They called themselves for the night Driftwood Lounge, after the club in Detroit the Motown insiders favored.  I originally met them as the Swindlers and it was as the Swindlers they played on my porch when Princess Michael was glowing through town touring behind her book The Serpent and the Moon. Then Justin Townes Earle was in the band and Chitterling Eating Time in Cheatham County was a song we all liked. That was a big time—but for me this was bigger.

A vodka mini per guest to be served (The size served on planes and in hotel mini bars)
Paper cups mouthwash size, 3 or 5 oz cups
Tap Water
Rose Petals, the smaller the better

Assemble as many vodka mini’s as you wish to serve and an equal number of  small papers cups.  Place the minis in the individual cups. Fill  each cup near full with  tap water. Press rose petals into the side of the paper cup, at least two to four per cup depending on the size of the roses. Freeze.  

When you’re ready to serve the drinks, run the cups under  warm water. The bottle surrounded by a rose petal decorated "ice bucket" should pop from the cup. Serve the individual iced shots on a silver tray. Guest can hold them by their un-iced necks.


The Wind Done Gone


The Cynara Martini

This martini was invented by my very dear friend Kimiko Fox in honor of the publication of my first novel.  I tasted my first one in Los Angeles at a dinner she gave in celebration of The Wind Done Gone.  The best of the brainy black beauties in Hollywood showed up as well as a larger number of very lucky men. Two years later Kimiko gave me a much greater honor when she named her first child, my goddaughter, Cynara Jade.

1 part Stoli Vanil
1 part Stoli Zinamon
1 splash per drink Buttershots
3 Red Hots per drink
1 Cinnamon Stick per drink

Combine spirits in a beaker, pitcher, or martini shaker, what ever you have. Add ice. Stir. Place three Red Hots and a cinnamon stick into each martini glass. Strain spirits into glass.