Today's requests begin with sweetness. Joy Yates of Cleveland, Tennessee, wrote, "I am looking for a recipe to make the Sweet Celery Dressing recipe from the Mount Vernon Restaurant that closed recently. I've tried to replicate it from what I thought should be in it, and I even tried out some recipes from online, but my efforts have not worked. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. It is the best dressing I've ever tasted, and I miss it."
Former Dayton, Tennessee, resident Mary Coffey wrote next, from her faraway current home. "At night my dreams often feature a party at my home, with a few good friends well-fed and happy. But I never make that dream happen, and I suppose it's because I have a mental block that I can't do it. I read a Wall Street Journal article about 'party fare that's easy on the host.' Their ideas seemed too complicated for me, so I hope your readers can give me some very simple ideas for entertaining four to eight people. Not whole meals, but 'come over for drinks, or dessert' or some such."
Our next section is clearly marked Sandwiches, though we are still in need of the quintessential cucumber and cream cheese sandwich.
Mary Sterling of Calhoun, Georgia, wrote a quick sandwich idea in answer to Rhonda McDaniel's request. "Honey, peanut butter with raisins and chopped nuts. No refrigeration. It will stick to your ribs and hold until the next meal."
Then Mr. and Mrs. Sunday did what they always do. They gave us a gracious plenty of ideas to choose from.
They began, "The best way to talk about sandwich variations is by example. So let's explore some variations." And those variations included four logical categories: the container, the mayonnaise mix-ins, the chunky mix-ins and the grace notes.
"Container (bread etc.): White, wheat, rye, sourdough, pumpernickel, English muffin, wheat tortillas, rice paper.
"Mayo mix-ins: Dill, chili powder, marjoram, curry powder, cholula sauce, cumin, Old Bay, thyme, oregano, sriracha sauce, sage, fresh rosemary, tarragon, plain mayo.
"Chunky mix-ins: (Yes, fine dice) celery, carrot, onion, dill pickle, sweet pickle, olive, capers, pickled onions, jicama, scallion tops or no chunky mix-ins.
"Grace notes: Butter lettuce, romaine, iceberg, arugula, cilantro (don't overdo the last two), or no grace note."
The example the Sundays gave is the old-fashioned favorite, an egg salad sandwich. They continued, "This list is just off the tops of our heads, and we're up to 21 years of never repeating an egg salad sandwich even without using multiple mix-ins or toasting the bread (7,920 total variations). We're confident that there are many more.
"Over time this becomes a game: guess/create the flavors of the day. It's also useful if someone's palate needs expanding. Use a light hand with the mix-ins, and get the subject used to interesting new tastes in the context of the familiar. Maybe make Wednesday the day for the new flavor, so it can be anticipated (or dreaded). It will certainly get talked about. Chicken salad lends itself to the same treatment but with a wider choice of mix-ins. Tuna is a little narrower."
"Yeast of the Ridge" went to her collection of magazine pages to find the recipe that follows, in a Southern Living article on the best pound cakes. And why, we ask, does buttermilk make such a difference in baked goods? If you know, please tell the rest of us.
This one is fit for a special occasion.
Triple Chocolate Buttermilk Pound Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
* Mount Vernon's celery dressing
* Easy entertaining ideas
* Best summer meals
1 1/2 cups butter, softened at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
2 teaspoons instant espresso (you may omit)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup 60 percent cacao bittersweet chocolate morsels
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Beat 1 1/2 cups butter in a medium bowl at medium-high speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually add granulated sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until yolk disappears. Combine 1 1/4 cups buttermilk, espresso and vanilla. Add flour mixture to egg mixture alternately with buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed after each addition. Fold in bittersweet chocolate morsels.
Pour batter into a well-greased (with shortening) and floured 12-cup Bundt pan. (Two reviewers commented on this: "I heavily sprayed Pam Baking Spray in my Bundt Pan, and the cake popped right out." The second said, "Grease with Crisco and flour your pan very well, or it will stick.") Sharply tap pan on counter to remove air bubbles.
Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 20 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely on rack.
Drizzle warm glazes (recipes follow) over cooled cake.
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine semisweet chocolate morsels, 3 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon corn syrup in a microwave-safe glass bowl. Microwave at medium (50 percent power) 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until morsels begin to melt, stirring after 1 minute. Stir until smooth. Stir in vanilla.
1 cup powdered sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whisk together powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon buttermilk and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla in a small bowl until smooth. Add up to 1 tablespoon buttermilk, if desired.
Vacation memories often — or almost always — feature unforgettable meals, so I am hoping you will send us a recipe or two — or simply tell us some faraway foods that awakened your taste buds. We can perhaps run down the recipes, if we work together. And finally, tell us the best away-from-home meal you have had this summer.
As for this writer, full of vacation meals prepared by expert and loving hands (the perfect combination), the best meal is still coming home and sitting down to a tomato sandwich with the most important person of all. That's a feast to say grace over.
To reach us
Fare Exchange is a longtime meeting place for people who love to cook and love to eat. We welcome both your recipes and your requests. Be sure to include precise instructions for every recipe you send.
Mailing address: Jane Henegar, 913 Mount Olive Road, Lookout Mountain, GA 30750