By Vera Stewart
Photos by Peter Frank Edwards
Food is art. The craft behind preparation, the ability to recognize good design in the presentation and the final verdict have built the success of chefs, restaurants, cooking shows and cookbook authors. Our VeryVera Cooking Camp beginner students learn how to analyze the look of the finished plate and how to perfectly prepare it with the best of ingredients. This summer, the students were allowed to check out cookbooks from our extensive library to learn the aspects of choosing items that would complement each other in appearance and taste.
In choosing recipes that speak to the theme of the art scene in Augusta, I considered:
• Recipe — what was colorful and appealing to the eye.
• Ingredients — a list that would make your mouth water.
• Display — a presentation that would be creative and artistic.
• Accessories — complementary pieces for display or serving.
• Photography — the eye of the artist behind the camera.
Years ago, I told my photographer for both books, Peter Frank Edwards, that he must have a great camera. His reply was, “You must have a great mixer!” Touché! I certainly understand, through working with him on two amazing projects, that the man behind the lens is the most important piece.
For this issue, I have selected the following recipes and photography!
Pineapple Cheese Ball
This is a sweet twist on the traditional cheese ball. Keep in mind there is time needed for the cheese ball to chill, so be sure to factor that into the prep time for your event. It can always be made a day or two ahead of time!
Prep Time: 10–12 minutes
Chill Time: 2 hours
Yield: Makes 1 cheese ball (approximately 24 appetizer portions)
16 oz. (2 blocks) cream cheese, softened
1 (8-oz.) can crushed pineapple in juice, drained
1 tsp. Lawry’s® seasoning salt
1/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
2 Tbsp. finely chopped Vidalia sweet onion
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1 pineapple for garnish and serving
Crackers for serving
- In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together by hand, except the pecans, pineapple and crackers.
- Form the cream cheese mixture into a ball.
- Roll the cream cheese ball in the chopped pecans so the entire outside is covered.
- Tightly wrap the cheese ball in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.
- When ready to serve, cut the pineapple into chunks and save the green top. Unwrap the cheese ball and place the green top on the cheese ball to give it the appearance of a pineapple.
- Grill the pineapple chunks to serve on the side of the cheese ball along with the crackers.
Southern Chopped Salad
This classic salad is made with almost all Southern ingredients. It can be a delicious side salad or a great main dish, if you want something on the lighter side. Every bite has a different ingredient that will keep you going back for more!
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 25–30 minutes
8 oz. thick center-cut bacon, uncooked
8 oz. baby arugula (or spring mix if preferred)
1 Cosmic Crisp® apple, diced
1/2 cup toasted pecan halves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup white shoepeg corn
1/2 cup fresh green beans, blanched and chopped
1/2 cup shredded Swiss and Gruyère cheese blend
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 small shallot, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp. freshly grated orange peel
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tsp. prepared yellow mustard
1 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
Kosher salt, to taste
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. reserved bacon grease
1/3 cup pecan oil
- Preheat the oven to 400 F and line a sheet pan with foil. Place a baking rack on the foiled sheet pan.
- Lay the bacon slices on the rack. Cook in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the bacon is cooked and crispy. Allow the bacon to cool and reserve 1 tablespoon bacon grease for the salad dressing.
- While the bacon is cooling, make the apple cider dressing.
- In a blender, combine all dressing ingredients except for the pecan oil. Blend until combined. With the blender on low, slowly pour in the pecan oil. Continue to blend until fully combined.
- To assemble the salad, toss the arugula, apple, pecans, cranberries, corn, green beans and shredded cheese together in a large salad bowl.
- Chop the cooled bacon into large pieces. Add the pieces to the salad bowl.
- Dress the salad with the vinaigrette, as desired, and toss just before serving. Leftover vinaigrette can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Chocolate Dream Pie
This pie can be made to your personal preference by choosing how much chocolate you incorporate in the filling and whether you add almonds or coconut to the crust. It’s your dream pie so make it as you dream it! It’s a perfect dessert to help everyone cool off after a day by the pool.
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Chill Time: At least 1 hour
Yield: One 9″ pie
2 cups oatmeal, toasted
1 cup toasted coconut or sliced almonds, adjusted to personal preference
1 stick margarine, melted
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 (16-oz.) container Cool Whip®, thawed
4 to 6 (1.45-oz.) Hershey’s® bars with almonds, melted and cooled slightly
- Preheat the oven to 375 F.
- Combine the oatmeal, toasted almonds or coconut, margarine and brown sugar. Press the mixture into the pie dish and bake for 10 minutes. Push the sides of the crust up as soon as it comes out of the oven. Set aside to cool.
- In a large bowl, fold the Cool Whip® and the melted chocolate bars together. Use as much of the melted chocolate as you desire, I prefer a marbled look.
- Pour the chocolate mixture into the cooled pie crust.
- Cover the pie gently and place in the freezer until ready to serve. You may have to let the pie sit out for a few minutes before slicing it.
From the August/September 2023 issue of Augusta magazine.