Southern Living Cookbook for Two

Special occasion meal from Southern Living Cookbook for Two

“Cooking for two can be exciting and fun, particularly when you consider its distinct advantages: you can purchase and serve fewer items in larger quantities; you are able to plan interesting meals when satisfying only one or two tastes or palates; you are allowed greater flexibility in the type and amount of food being served; and you use less time and energy when cooking for two.”

“Southern Living Cookbook for Two” by Audrey P. Stehle, p. vi (1981, Oxmoor House, Inc.)

Although it may seem counterintuitive for a blog called “table for one” to review a cookbook called Cookbook for Two, this is the next one on my bookshelf and my cookbook challenge is to review each book, one at a time, in the order they appear on the shelf. And, to be honest, the author’s explanation of the benefits of cooking for two apply equally to cooking for one, which is the majority of my home cooking.

Southern Living Cookbook for Two by Audrey P. Stehle is another of the cookbooks I inherited from my grandmother’s collection. This one was published in 1981, so I don’t think it would be considered vintage. Well, I hope that 1981 isn’t yet vintage, or that makes me an ancient relic. This particular copy was given to my grandmother as a Christmas gift in 1987 and is inscribed, “I hope you enjoy this as much as we enjoy ours. Love, Francis and Betty.”

dedication on inside front cover
This is the dedication to my grandmother for Christmas 1987

My grandfather died unexpectedly in 1950 and my grandmother never remarried. By the time I came along in the 60s, it was already firmly established that my grandmother and one of her sisters, my Great Aunt Margaret, were living together and they were almost like an old married couple until Aunt Margaret’s death in the late 1990s. A cookbook for two was a natural addition to their collection since most of their meals were meals for two.

This is one of dozens (if not hundreds) of cookbooks published over the decades by Southern Living. According to the Wikipedia entry, “Southern Living is a lifestyle magazine aimed at readers in the Southern United States featuring recipes, house plans, garden plans, and information about Southern culture and travel. It is published by Birmingham, Alabama-based Southern Progress Corporation, a unit of Meredith Corporation. The magazine was started in 1966 by The Progressive Farmer Company, the publisher of Progressive Farmer magazine. In 1980, the company changed its name to Southern Progress Corporation to reflect its increasingly diverse business, and in 1985, it was purchased by Time, Inc. for $498 million.”

One of the major topics in Southern Living is food, and since 1979, the magazine has published a popular Annual Recipes book each year. In addition, they have published specialty cookbooks, including this one by Audrey P. Stehle.

The author provides a couple of excellent chapters with handy tips on cooking for two. The “Creative Cooking for Two” chapter offers suggestions on grocery shopping, food storage, and how to book larger quantities of certain items which can them be repurposed as part of other recipes. In the “Double-Batch Cooking” chapter she discusses how to double recipes and then how to store the leftovers for future meals.

Special occasion meal from Southern Living Cookbook for Two

The first third of the book contains a series of 55 menus for full, multi-course meals for two. These are arranged thematically (Breakfast, Brunch, Take-Out Lunch, Special Occasions, Ethnic Cooking, etc.). Each one contains full meals including beverage pairing suggestions (often wine). The wine pairing suggestions are all California-based wines, but the author does suggest what style of wine would be best in case the cook prefers Old World vintages.

Summer picnic
For a special Summer Picnic just right for two, select a bottle of Fumé Blanc to serve with Chilled Strawberry Soup, Avocado Stuffed with Shrimp, Deviled Eggs, Cocktail Cheese Biscuits, and Picnic Lemon Bars.

The one odd moment in the first third of the book is a chapter titled “All-Occasion Entertaining.” This section contains full menu suggestions for larger gatherings like New Year’s Day Buffet, Wine Pairing Party, etc. In general, the recipes are designed to feed as many as 20 – 30 guests. What this is doing in a cookbook titled Cookbook for Two is a mystery to me. Still, some of the buffet meal options are intriguing and a few of the recipes could be adapted down for fewer portions.

From page 141 to page 253, we finally get into the sections with individual recipes for two. This portion of the cookbook is divided into more traditional cookbook sections: Appetizers, Desserts, Vegetables/Side Dishes, Poultry, Meat, Seafood, etc. Nearly everything is simple and straightforward in ingredients and preparation.

Overall, I recommend this cookbook for anyone who wants simple, uncomplicated meals for one or two people. None of the recipes make me think, “Wow! That’s spectacular and unusual and I must try it.” Rather, most of them make me think, “Nice. That’s easy and sounds pretty tasty!” For me, this will be a utilitarian cookbook that I can come back to for inspiration when I need something different to get me out of the occasional cooking rut that I tend to fall into from time to time.

For the more visual of you, here’s a link to my YouTube video review of Southern Living Cookbook for Two. You can find a hint to the randomly-generated page and the recipe I am going to prepare at about 6:30 into the video:

I’ll be back soon with my cooking demo!

Epicuriously Yours,

Lentil Soup

As you may recall from my last post, when I used the random number generator to pick a page in How to Roast a Lamb by Michael Psilakis, I got page 90 and a recipe for Lentil Soup. Overall, this was an easy preparation, not particularly daunting or long. The results were superb (if I do say so myself). The video review is at the bottom of this post, but first I wanted to say a bit about the wine pairing dilemma I faced with this recipe.

As I began to consider possible wine pairings with the Lentil Soup, I was stumped. The velvety mouthfeel and savory/umami of the soup, combined with the smoke from the ham hocks and bacon, were a puzzling combination for me to pair. Luckily, I have friends who are wine experts so I contacted by good friend Cindy Rynning. She has a website called Grape Experiences and has been one of my primary “go to” friends over the years when I need excellent wine pairing suggestions. She also has an impressive list of credentials!

Cindy Rynning, Photo Credit: Rebecca Peplinski – Location: Winestyr Chicago LoungeCindy has completed the Wine and Spirit Education Trust Level 3 class and passed the exam allowing her to hold the WSET Level 3 Advanced Certificate with Merit. She was listed as one of Exel Wines’ Top 100 Most Influential Wine Bloggers of 2015 and received the awards, Best Wine Blog 2016 – United States, Best Wine Blog 2017 – United States, and Best Wine Blog 2018 – United States from Lux Life International Magazine. In both 2017 and 2018, one of her articles was a Finalist in the Millesima Blog Awards in the Wine Travel category. An email in January 2018 informed her that Grape Experiences was awarded Best Wine Blog 2017 by Drizly. Recently, she was ranked #9 in Feedspot’s ‘Best 100 Wine Blogs, Websites and Newsletters to Follow’ in 2019 and in October and November 2018, she was featured on Good Day Chicago on Fox 32.

(Cindy Rynning (photo above) – Photo Credit: Rebecca Peplinski – Location: Winestyr Chicago Lounge )

For the Lentil Soup recipe, Cindy came up with several stellar wine pairing recommendations. I am listing all of them here, including her notes about each and why she picked them for this particular pairing:

  • 2009 Christian Moreau Père et Fils Chablis – Intense minerally, flinty nose. Crisp, racy acidity and ample bright green fruit flavors. Wonderful focus, definition and flavor concentration. Excellent mid-palate weight and breadth. Very long minerally finish. You just want to make sure there’s a bit of oak in the Chablis – you don’t want it too crisp!
  • Marco Felluga Pinot Grigio (from Collio in Italy) – Broad, rich, flavorful with bright acidity, minerality and citrus notes. I was in Collio at the end of May and Marco Felluga is a top producer – find this wine and give it a try!! My husband and I just had a bottle at dinner in Chicago on Saturday night-amazing!
  • St. Urbans Hof Nik Weis Riesling from Old Vines (slightly sweet) – Intensearomas of petrol, white flesh of ripe peaches, granite, damp stone, pears, lime zest, banana pudding with vanilla wafers, and orange peel. Bright acidity and snappy minerality frame pure and fresh flavors of ripe golden apples, sweet and succulent pears and dried apricots. 
  • By Dr. Thanisch in Germany:  Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Kabinett 2016 reflects the goal of the winemaker: to “build a trilogy of fruit, minerality, and acidity”. Elegant and balanced with notes of tropical fruit, berries, and hint of salt, this is a wine everyone will appreciate. Just as flavorful, the Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Kabinett 2017 offers bright fruit notes, incredible balance, minerality, and that velvet-like mouthfeel I’ve come to covet in a wine.
  • Lambrusco (it will love the bacon and smoked ham hock!) Ca’ de’ Medici Lambrusco Rosso or whatever else you find! There are plenty – you’re looking for vibrant acidity, red fruit, refreshing, light. 
  • A quality Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley in California or a New Zealand Pinot Noir such as Mt. Beautiful Pinot Noir 2015. Generous aromas of luscious red fruit, blueberries, blackberries, violets, and vanilla were a dazzling entry. On the palate, I discovered elegant and sophisticated notes of zesty spice, red and black fruit, and a touch of earth, all framed with bright acidity and gentle tannic structure. The lingering finish was incredibly satisfying. Aged for ten months in French oak barrels, the Mt. Beautiful Pinot Noir 2015 is from a vintage year that, by all accounts, was sterling in New Zealand.

In the end, I opted for the most unusual (to me) of all the pairing suggestions – the Ca’ de’ Medici Lambrusco Rosso. Believe me, this is not that horrific stuff that people were quaffing in the 1970s. I won’t mention any brand names here (to avoid a lawsuit) but if you think of the phrase “On ice, so nice” you will know what sort of beverage I am talking about. In reality, Lambrusco has a long and solid history in Italy and if you are lucky enough to sample it there, you will find it to be one of the most versatile and fascinating of the frizzante wines produced in Italy.

Since so many people have old prejudices about Lambrusco, however, I decided to give it a try here in the hope that (1) it would be a great pairing and (2) people might get over their prejudice and go buy a bottle or two to try.

The results were just what I had hoped. The slight sparkle of the wine was a surprising and welcome sensation when put up against the smooth, umami mouthfeel of the soup. The bright fruit and slight sweetness of the wine helped to balance and round out the intense savory, salty, and umami elements of the soup – and Cindy was correct in her assessment of the beautiful interplay between smoky bacon/ham and the wine.

Clearly, Cindy knows her wine! Be sure to check out her website: Grape Experiences.

Here’s the full YouTube video presentation of me cooking (and eating) the Lentil Soup.

Stay tuned for a new cookbook review soon!

Epicuriously Yours,