Spicy Green Tomato Soup with Crab & Country Ham

  Romaine Salad with Texas Ruby Red Grapefruit & Roquefort in Pomegranate-Port Vinaigrette

  Striped Bass with Oyster Stew

  Carolina Grits Soufflé

  The Chef's Favorite Lemon Tart

Spicy Green Tomato Soup. Photo by Ann Hawthorne.
Spicy Green Tomato Soup with Crab & Country Ham

This has become an early fall signature dish at the restaurant, and it is one of our more requested recipes. We suppose everyone needs another use for all those end-of-season green tomatoes besides frying them.

This soup is equally successful chilled or hot, and you can modify the garnish depending on your preference.


5 ounces country ham, julienned
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 medium onions, peeled and sliced thin
6 cloves garlic, sliced
2 jalapeños, stemmed and sliced, with seeds
4 green Anaheims, stemmed, seeded, and sliced
2 green pasilla chiles, stemmed, seeded, and sliced
2 bay leaves
3 1/2 pounds firm green tomatoes, cored and cut into eighths
1 1/2 quarts shrimp stock or homemade chicken stock
1 handful fresh basil leaves (about 1 cup)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons Tabasco (or to taste)
salt to taste


country ham (see above)
1 pound crabmeat, picked over for shells, or 1 pound peeled, cooked
shrimp, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 cup sour cream, thinned with 2 tablespoons milk
1 cup fresh tomato concass?, combined with 1/4 cup capers, chopped
1/2 cup scallions, sliced

1. Cook the ham in the vegetable oil until crisp and golden; drain, reserve the ham, and return the oil to the pot.

2. Cook the onions in the oil over moderate heat until soft but not colored. Add the garlic, jalapeños, Anaheims, pasilla chiles, and bay leaves and cook 5 minutes.

3. Add the tomatoes and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook 15 minutes, until the tomatoes soften.

4. Remove the bay leaves, add the basil, and purée in a blender, working in batches.

5. Season with lemon juice, Tabasco, and salt. Cool and reserve.

6. Gently reheat the soup over medium heat and adjust the seasoning. Place crab or shrimp in warm bowls. Ladle the soup into the bowls, and garnish with sour cream, tomato concassé and caper mixture, country ham, and sliced scallions.

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Romaine Salad with Texas Ruby Red Grapefruit & Roquefort in Pomegranate-Port Vinaigrette

This somewhat incongruous combination of ingredients yields one of our favorite salads: visually, the deep pink grapefruit, blue-veined cheese, and "jewels" of pomegranate seeds on crisp lettuces are dramatic. The flavors integrate sweet, salty, and tangy, and come with a textural crunch. Serve this salad in December and January, when you desire a light but complex salad to precede a roast or braised dish.


8 cups romaine hearts, cleaned and torn
pomegranate-port vinaigrette (see recipe below)
salt and black pepper to taste
2 1/2 cups ruby red grapefruit segments (about 2 grapefruit)
3/4 cup Roquefort, crumbled
3/4 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and skins rubbed off
seeds from one ripe pomegranate (see note)

Dress the romaine with the pomegranate-port vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper. Divide between 8 chilled plates. Divide the grapefruit segments between the salads. Sprinkle crumbled Roquefort, then walnuts, and finally pomegranate seeds on top of the salads. Serve immediately.

Note: Fresh pomegranates usually are available from November until January. Look for deep red fruit with firm skins and heavy weight for their size. Cut the fruit in half, pick the seeds from the membrane, and keep refrigerated until ready to use.


1/3 cup ruby port
1/3 cup orange juice
1 cup pomegranate juice (or cranberry juice)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon shallots, minced
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup safflower or peanut oil
2 tablespoons walnut oil
salt and black pepper to taste

1. Combine the port, juices, and garlic in a nonreactive saucepot. Bring to a boil and simmer until reduced to 1/3 cup. Put the shallots in a stainless bowl, strain the reduction over them, and cool.

2. Add the egg yolk, reduction, and red wine vinegar to a bowl and whisk to combine. Combine the safflower and walnut oils and drizzle into the yolk mixture, whisking to emulsify. Season with salt and pepper and reserve. Refrigerate if not using immediately.

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Striped Bass with Oyster Stew

At one time, striped bass flourished in the Pamlico Sound on North Carolina's coast. Overfishing and pollution seriously diminished the bass population, however, resulting in severe restrictions on their commercial harvest. Through better fisheries management, there has been a resurgence in the bass population on the East Coast, and we are now regularly able to offer this delicious fish at the restaurant.

This preparation accentuates the terrific crispness that can be achieved by searing the skin side first. In the fall, the fish are particularly fatty from a summer of feeding, and this method protects the flesh from overcooking and drying out.

Serve the bass with the first oysters of autumn and accompany with tomato gumbo and Beanie's cornbread.


6 wild striped bass or rockfish filets (6 ounces each), skin on and scaled
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
peanut oil for sauteing


1 pint shucked oysters
2 ounces country ham, sliced thin and cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1/2 cup onion, cut into small dice
1/4 cup red bell pepper, seeded and cut into small dice
1/4 cup celery, cut into small dice
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup bourbon
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups roasted chicken stock
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon chopped sage
salt, black pepper, and lemon juice to taste
1/2 cup scallions, sliced crosswise (use both white and green parts)

1. Strain the oysters and reserve the oyster liquor; refrigerate the oysters until ready to use for final assembly. In a medium saucepan, cook the ham in the peanut oil until lightly caramelized. Add the onion, red bell pepper, and celery and cook until caramelized. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf; cook 1 minute.

2. Add the bourbon, lemon juice, wine, and reserved oyster liquor. Cook until greatly reduced and nearly syrupy, stirring frequently. Add the roasted chicken stock and simmer over medium heat, skimming as necessary, until reduced by half. Cool and reserve until preparing the bass.

1. Remove the bass from refrigeration and dry thoroughly with paper towels. With a sharp knife, score an X in the skin side to prevent it from curling when the fish is cooking. Season the flesh side with salt and pepper; rub the skin side with some of the softened butter.

2. If serving with tomato gumbo, heat the gumbo and stir in the cooked rice as indicated in the last step of the recipe. Keep warm. Return the stew to low heat and add the heavy cream; bring to a slow simmer.

3. Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add a film of peanut oil, then carefully lay the filets in the pan, skin side down. Reduce the heat to medium and press firmly on the filets with the back of a metal spatula to flatten slightly and aid in the searing; cook 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the filets. When the edges of the filets begin to show doneness, turn carefully and cook 1 minute longer. Remove the filets and keep warm.

4. Raise the heat on the stew to medium-high, stir in the oysters and butter, and cook just until the oysters are plumped and beginning to curl. Remove from the heat, stir in the sage, and season with salt, black pepper, and lemon juice to taste.

5. Warm 6 wide, shallow bowls. If serving with tomato gumbo, spoon 3/4 cup of gumbo in the center of each bowl. Place a filet in each bowl, on top of the gumbo, if used. Spoon the stew around the filets, dividing the oysters equally between the bowls. Sprinkle liberally with scallions and serve immediately.

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Carolina Grits Soufflé

This wonderful side dish is inspired by a recipe from Ben's mama, fancied up a bit. It's cheeze-a-licious!


2 cups homemade chicken stock + 1 cup water (or use 3 cups water instead)
1 cup half-and-half
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup white grits (preferably stone-ground, definitely not instant)
5 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups white or yellow sharp cheddar, grated
1/4 cup roasted garlic pur?e or 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
salt, coarsely ground black pepper, and Tabasco to taste
1/2 cup scallions, sliced thin crosswise

1. Butter a 2-quart casserole or soufflé dish.

2. In a 3-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the stock, water, half-and-half, and salt to a boil. Stir in the grits, reduce the heat to medium, and cook, stirring often, until thick, smooth, and creamy (the consistency of polenta).

3. Beat the egg yolks, temper with a spoonful of hot grits, and then stir into the grits. Stir in the cheese, garlic purée, and butter, and season with salt, pepper, and Tabasco to taste. Cool at room temperature.

4. An hour before serving, preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a stainless steel bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold the egg whites and scallions into the grits mixture and spoon into the buttered souffl? dish. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, until the grits are set. (If the surface appears to be browning too much, cover with foil until set.) Serve immediately.

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The Chef's Favorite Lemon Tart. Photo by Ann Hawthorne.
The Chef's Favorite Lemon Tart

The chef's favorite lemon tart is a somewhat sophisticated take on Southern-style lemon chess pie. This simple tart really is one of Ben's favorite desserts and has been a standard in Karen's repertoire for close to 20 years.

We most often serve this with a mixture of seasonal berries and lightly whipped cream. You can substitute a simple raspberry sauce made from frozen raspberries if it is not fresh berry season.


1 1/4 cups + 2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon milk
1 egg white, lightly beaten, reserved for baking


4 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon, grated
zest of 1 orange, grated
1/4 cup heavy cream


fresh berries (or berry sauce)
whipped cream

1. In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the egg yolk mixture and pulse just until the dough can be gathered into a ball. Flatten into a 6-inch disc, wrap in plastic, and chill several hours or overnight. Let the dough soften slightly at room temperature before rolling.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 13-inch round. Fit the dough into a 10 1/2 inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Trim the dough flush with the rim and freeze the tart shell until firm.

3. Line the shell with foil or parchment, and fill with pie weights, rice, or dried beans. Bake for 20 minutes until set. Remove the foil and weights and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes until lightly golden. Remove the shell from the oven and immediately brush the hot pastry with the egg white.

Hint: When rolling tart pastry, always save all the dough scraps in case you need them to repair a crack in a partially baked shell. If the pastry "bubbles up" during the baking process, gently prick the pastry with a fork to release air bubbles. Check several times and repeat if necessary. The egg white serves to seal the pastry, which is especially helpful with a liquid filling such as this. It is essential that there be no cracks or holes visible in the partially baked shell. Make any necessary repairs prior to filling.

1. When the pastry is almost done baking, assemble the filling. Whisk together the eggs, sugar, orange juice, lemon juice, lemon zest, and orange zest and cream till smooth. Transfer the tart shell to the oven. Place the filling in a pitcher and slowly pour into the shell as high as possible without overfilling. There might be a bit of filling left over.

2. Bake the tart for approximately 25 minutes, until the filling is barely set. Check the tart after 20 minutes and keep checking it every few minutes after that. It is crucial to not overbake this filling!

3. Cool to room temperature before serving with berries and whipped cream.

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