Friday, March 15, 2013


Mrs. Banks' carrot souffle. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

The sunniest person I know was born on the first day of spring. I think it’s a sign of a great friendship. If I believed in horoscopes, I would look up March 21 and read about finding a friend with a cheerful disposition, a love of cooking, and an easy laugh, and that would be Julie.

 We met as freshmen in college, were married within a year of each other, and have raised babies up in the same town. We talk food a lot. What we eat, what we cook. The new cake recipe from Paula Deen’s magazine, or the side dish from Southern Living that we just have to try.

I may be the one who takes pictures of food and writes up recipes, but Julie is a far better cook than I could ever hope to be. She makes a killer pot roast, a fantastic potato salad, and the most beautiful layer cakes. She was born into a family of great cooks, women who know how to cook and transport potluck dishes and picnic feasts.
The Banks Family Cookbook. Lucy Mercer/ A Cook and Her Books

And now she has published her very first cookbook, a collection of her family’s recipes, called The Banks Family Cookbook. It was a limited press run, but I secured my copy. You may have dibs on a table at Ferran Adria’s next shack, but you can’t get a copy of the Banks Family Cookbook unless you know somebody, and I do. 

Banks Family Cookbook.

This book is a keeper. The introduction includes reminiscences about the family farm where her grandmother, Inez Banks, still lives. Mrs. Banks just celebrated her 102nd birthday, which I think is proof that good food leads to a long life. Among all the recipes, her children record the bounty of the family garden - strawberries in spring, and a summer filled with tomatoes, cucumbers, pole beans, corn, field peas, cabbage, okra, squash, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe and watermelon. There was an orchard, too, with peach, pear and pecan and apple trees, and even a pomegranate bush. Cows provided milk and cream for butter, chickens provided eggs and pigs were enjoyed as sausage, bacon and ham.

One of my favorite stories in the book is about the woodstove - a Princess Alan Cookstove that was half wood-burning stove and half electric. During sweet potato season, baked sweet potatoes were kept in the warming drawer, ready for an after school snack. I love my kitchen the way it is, but I sure wish I had a warming drawer for baked sweet potatoes.

There are so many great recipes in this book, many I've heard about from Julie and more that just sound good. Twice baked potatoes, curried chicken salad, baked cabbage, pineapple stuff. Plus Julie's pot roast and potato salad recipes ~ the secrets are revealed! Recipes I've enjoyed over the years ~ her Mom's summer vegetable soup and prized angel food cake. While I've been a lucky recipient of the angel food cake, I've never made it, and now I have no excuse - I have to give it a try!

Carrot souffle. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

  Here is Inez's recipe for carrot soufflĂ©, a sunny side dish just right for an Easter lunch. I added the juice and zest of an orange, but honestly, it’s absolutely lovely without it. This is like a springtime version of the Thanksgiving standard sweet potato souffle, a perfect side dish for an Easter ham.

Carrot Souffle

2 pounds carrots, sliced
Juice and zest of one orange
½ cup butter
3 large eggs
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ cups sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon

1.       Cook carrots in boiling water to cover for about 25 minutes, until tender. Drain the carrots.

2.       Place drained carrots in the bowl of food processor and add remaining ingredients, blending until smooth.

3.       Heat oven to 325. Butter a 1 ½ quart baking dish. Spoon batter into dish. Bake at 325 for one hour and 10 minutes, or until soufflĂ© is set. Serve immediately.

This story is part of #LetsLunch, a monthly Twitter party on a selected food topic. This month is Daffodils/New Life/Spring. Check out these other fantastic writers and their stories:

Annabelle‘s Red Pepper and Eggplant Confit at Glass of Fancy
Anne Marie‘s Zihuatanejo (Or Veal Shank Redemption Sammy) at Sandwich Surprise
Cheryl’s Singaporean Barley Water at A Tiger In the Kitchen
Grace‘s Meyer Lemon and Mandarin Citrus Bundt Cake at HapaMama
Karen‘s Wasabi Tuna Steak at GeoFooding
Linda‘s Brassica Fried Rice at Spicebox Travels
Lisa‘s Salad of Chargrilled Sourdough, Tomato and Haloumi Cheese at Monday Morning Cooking Club
Monica‘s Roses and Eggplant at A Life of Spice
Rebecca‘s Goat Cheese Panna Cotta with Mango Foam at Grongar Blog