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WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 2007
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Make your own Southern buffet

By Patrice Stewart
pstewart@decaturdaily.com · 340-2446

Want some ideas to include in your own Southern supper buffet menu?

Many Southern favorites such as those Larry Fite prepares start with a basic meat or vegetable and then get fancied up. You can try your own with sliced beef or pork tenderloin and add elegant sauces, such as a mango salsa. Black-eyed peas, asparagus or small potatoes can be a starting point, too, as well as cheesecakes and tarts.

Try these recipes from cookbooks such as "Southern Scrumptious" and "Southern Scrumptious Entertains" by Decatur author Betty Sims, "Dining on the Victorian Verandah" by Gene Westbrook and "Linen Napkins to Paper Plates" from the Junior Auxiliary of Clarksville, Tenn.

Black-eyed Pea Relish

2 15-ounce cans black-eyed peas, rinsed, drained

2 scallions, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 red bell pepper, seeded, finely chopped

1/2 green bell pepper, seeded, finely chopped (optional)

1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chervil (optional)

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 to 2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard

1 fresh jalapeno chile, seeded, minced

Salt and pepper

Combine the black-eyed peas, scallions, bell peppers, parsley, chervil and garlic in a large salad bowl and toss to mix. Combine the olive oil, vinegar, whole-grain mustard, jalapeno chile, salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk until blended. Pour over the black-eyed pea mixture and toss to coat. Serve or refrigerate. Serve with pita chips, etc. Makes 30 servings.

Herbed Polenta

51/2 cups water

11/2 cups yellow cornmeal or polenta meal

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon minced fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, chives, parsley)

2 tablespoons chopped green onions

Whisk the water, cornmeal and salt together in a 3-quart microwave-safe bowl. Microwave, covered, on high for 9 minutes, beating every 3 minutes until smooth; remove cover. Stir in fresh herbs and green onions. Microwave on high for 4 minutes and beat. Microwave for 4 minutes longer and beat.

Spread in a 9x13-inch dish. Let stand until room temperature. Cut into desired shapes. Reheat in the microwave, grill or sauté in oil until light brown. Serve immediately.

May be prepared in advance, stored in the refrigerator and reheated just before serving. Omit the fresh herbs and green onions to prepare Basic Polenta.

Red Garlic Potatoes

5 ounces small red or new potatoes, unpeeled

2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon margarine, softened

2 teaspoons finely chopped green onions or chives

1/2 medium sweet red pepper, chopped fine

Additional salt to taste

Wash potatoes and split lengthwise. Place potatoes, garlic and salt in saucepan; then add enough water to cover potatoes. Bring to a boil; place a loose piece of aluminum foil on top of pan and reduce heat to a gentle boil. Cook about 10 minutes or until just tender. Do not cook to mush.

Drain water, reserving potatoes and garlic. Remove garlic and crush with a fork. Return potatoes and garlic to pan; add margarine, green onion and red pepper. Toss over low heat to coat and heat. Add salt if needed. Serves 2.

Mini Cheesecakes

1 cup vanilla wafer crumbs

3 tablespoons butter

1 8-ounce package cream cheese

11/2 teaspoons vanilla

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/3 cup sugar

1 egg

Combine crumbs and butter. Press gently into the bottom of 12 paper-lined muffin cups. In a mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, vanilla, lemon juice, sugar and egg. Beat until smooth. Spoon into crusts. Bake at 375 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes; cool. Makes 12 servings. (Mini-muffin tins and a variety of toppings may be used, too.)

Mango Salsa

2 to 3 ripe mangoes, chopped

1 jalapeno, seeded, minced

1/4 cup minced red onion

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

Salt to taste

Combine the mangoes, jalapeno, onion, cilantro, vinegar and salt in a bowl and mix well. Refrigerate, covered, until serving time. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Makes 11/2 cups.

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