Southern Voices on Pecans : Kathleen Purvis, author
By Stephanie Burt
When author Kathleen Purvis was pegged to be a part of the Savor the South cookbook series from UNC Press, she immediately requested pecans as “her” ingredient. “I knew I could probably write 60 recipes for pecans standing on my head,” she says. She spent part of her childhood vacations in Americus, Ga. with her grandparents, and so she’s as familiar with pecans as she is with front porch swings.
Although she doesn’t recall it directly, her mother told her that shelling pecans was an after dinner hobby of her grandparents, Rosalee and Edgar Purvis. “They weren’t wealthy people, but every night after dinner, they’d sit out on the porch, cracking pecans to earn a little extra money since shelled pecans went for more,” she says. “They had this big burlap sack between them, and I can just see them shaking the shells into the flower bed beside the porch.”
During those childhood summers in Georgia, the author remembers how fun it was to just gather snacks off the ground under the wide limbs of the trees, grand old trees that were hundreds of years old and still producing every season. At her home in Charlotte, N.C., she still uses a “rocket” to shell her pecans, and keeps a bag of pecan halves in her freezer at all times because not only do they crank up the texture and flavor of a dish without cranking up the fat, “it means I always have something on hand to feed people when they stop by for a drink.” Since she also writes about bourbon and knows how to make a stellar cocktail or two, that could be pretty often. “I just toss them in butter and salt, toast for a few minutes, and set them out.”
Beyond a simple snack, one of her go-tos for potluck-style get togethers is this broccoli pecan salad from her pecan book. “People love it, and it’s a little indulgent tasting, although it isn’t really.” Whether or not it pairs well with a stirred bourbon cocktail is up to you.
Makes 4-6 Servings
• 1 small head broccoli, cut into florets (save stalks for another use)
• 1/4 cup dried cranberries or dried cherries
• 1/2 medium red onion, minced
• 1/2 cup toasted, chopped pecans
• 4 tbsp reduced-fat mayonnaise
• 2 tbsp sugar
• 2 tbsp nonfat milk
• 2 tsp cider vinegar
• 1/4 tsp salt
Toss the broccoli, cranberries, onion and pecans in a large serving bowl.
Whisk together the mayonnaise, sugar, milk, vinegar and salt in a small bowl. Pour over the salad and toss to mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.