A warm summer day in the deep South calls for one thing -- a garden party! This is the time to call up some friends and family, dust off the porch swing, and get cooking!
The first requirement for a summer garden party is an ice cold glass of Southern-style Sweet Mint Iced Tea. It's cool, refreshing, and the perfect way to welcome your guests. For this recipe, start by brewing plain, unflavored tea. Then prepare a sweet mint syrup. Combine the mint syrup with the brewed tea and garnish with lemon and fresh mint!
While your guests are sipping their sweet tea, it's easy to whip up a classic Southern appetizer -- Pimento Cheese. In fact, I like to do everything in my food processor. I start by shredding the cheese (both white and yellow cheddar) using the shredding disc. Then I use the mixing blade to combine all the ingredients with just a few pulses.
Pimento cheese can be used as a dip for crackers or vegetables, but for our garden party I wanted to serve it the traditional way as Pimiento Cheese Finger Sandwiches. Simply spread the pimento cheese on white bread, make a sandwich, and cut off the crusts. Then slice each sandwich into three sandwich "fingers." I promise these will disappear quickly!
Deep frying is a way of life in the South, so it's no wonder we need to add a few deep fried favorites to our garden party menu. Start by heating corn oil in a large cast-iron Dutch oven. I couldn't live without my 9-1/2 quart LeCreuset Oval Dutch Oven. It is the perfect size and shape to fry up hush puppies and catfish without crowding the pot or overflowing onto the stove top.
I also like to mix up a batch of Jalapeno Hush Puppies. Stone-ground cornmeal is combined with flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, buttermilk, and egg. The not-so-secret ingredient is finely chopped jalapenos! Don't worry, these hush puppies aren't too spicy. They have just enough heat to really get the party going!
While the oil is still hot, it's time to fry up some catfish. My favorite preparation is an easy and classic Cornmeal-Coated Fried Catfish. A simple cornmeal coating is all you need for perfectly crisp fish. A squeeze of fresh lemon and the garden party menu is complete!
Once bellies are full, there's no better way to spend the afternoon than with a friendly croquet match! Southern garden parties are all about good food and good friends enjoying the day outdoors together.