Memorable recipes make memorable meals

A plan to offer you some outstanding brownie recipes went awry after I took another exploration through Renée Behnke’s “Memorable Recipes to Share with Family and Friends,” which was highlighted in this column in 2009 when the book was first published. (I promise, I’ll bring you Behnke’s Black and White Cocoa Bars next week, along with a few other “to die for” brownie recipes from other equally outstanding bakers.) With garden-fresh tomatoes and zucchini, not to mention fresh herbs thriving, Behnke’s recipes for Sautéed Tiny Tomatoes with Chile Flakes and Zucchini Fritters looked particularly enticing, as did Lemon and Sage Cornish Game Hens, from the book’s cover. These recipes, along with the other 140 exceptional recipes in Behnke’s book, do much to further illustrate just what makes them memorable, as do the book’s 125 full-color photographs, by Angie Norwood Brown, for dishes that include appetizers, soups, salads, sides, main courses and desserts. Behnke’s elegant, easy style is inspiring and will appeal to all kinds of cooks, from those of us who cook mostly for family and friends, to those who regularly entertain at home. Particularly noteworthy is Behnke’s do-ahead tips and sophisticated, yet unpretentious ideas for decorating. Seeing the book’s image of a table set for dinner adorned with little more than glimmering votive candles and clear vases filled with fresh-cut hydrangeas was particularly exciting, inasmuch as many of our own backyard gardens are already burgeoning with vibrant flowers (including statement-making hydrangeas) this time of the year. As the president emeritus of Sur La Table, a serious cook’s store selling quality goods for the kitchen and table, Behnke, no doubt, can create a memorable meal for any one, at any time. Thanks to Benhnke’s willingness to share, so can we. Writes Behnke, “What I want most to accomplish with this book is to give you the confidence, the building blocks, the tools to help you pull together great dinner parties, celebratory luncheons, or any other delicious gathering of friends. To learn more about Renée Behnke, or the cookbook, including where-to-purchase information, visit the publishers website at, or


Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at

Lemon and Sage Cornish Game Hens

Small game hens are usually found in the frozen food area of the grocery store and need to be defrosted before roasting; allow a couple days for them to thaw slowly in the refrigerator. Their compact size means less brine time needed than with larger birds, which is a bonus. You’ll need a large deep bowl or 2 large resealable plastic bags to brine the birds; you can double the brine if you find you need more to cover them.


4 (1¼-pound) Cornish game hens, rinsed

2 lemons, halved

8 large plus 8 small fresh sage leaves

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons lemon pepper or freshly ground black pepper


9 cups water

3 tablespoons salt

3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1½ teaspoons freshly ground white pepper

Garlic Butter

½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

5 cloves garlic, pressed or minced

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/3 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 teaspoon minced fresh sage

For the brine, combine the water, salt, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder and white pepper in a very large bowl or stockpot large enough to hold the game hens. Let sit, whisking occasionally, until the salt is dissolved. Add the game hens, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 12 or up to 24 hours. Turn the hens a few times to be sure they brine evenly.

For the garlic butter, combine the butter, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley and sage in a small bowl, and stir to thoroughly blend. Refrigerate until ready to serve, but allow the butter to come to room temperature before using. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Drain the hens, discarding the brine. Rinse them under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Place a lemon half in each hen cavity. Rub the large sage leaves between your palms to help release their aroma and add 2 leaves to each hen cavity. Lift the skin on the breasts with your fingers and rub one-quarter of the soft garlic butter between the skin and breast meat of each hen. Slip a small sage leaf into both sides of each hen breast as well. Rub the outside of each hen with the olive oil and sprinkle with the lemon pepper. Tie together the leg ends on each hen with kitchen string. Set the hens in a large roasting pan breast up and roast for 35 minutes. Turn the hens onto their sides and roast for 15 to 20 minutes longer, until the thigh juices run clear when pierced with a knife or an instant read thermometer registers 175 degrees. Transfer the hens to a platter and scoop out the lemon halves. Cover the hens with foil. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Set the roasting pan over medium heat and boil 3 to 5 minutes to reduce the cooking juices by half. Squeeze the juice from 2 of the lemon halves and add them to the cooking juices. Use poultry shears or other heavy kitchen shears to halve each bird, cutting first down the center of the breastbone, then down either side of the backbone (discard the backbone). Set the hen halves on individual plates and spoon some of the roasting juices over. Makes 8 servings.

Zucchini Fritters with Fresh Herbs

Anyone who’s ever had abundant zucchini in their garden (or been the recipient of overflow from such a garden) knows the creative challenge of coming up with enough ideas for using them up. This is one tasty option I devised for our garden’s output. I like to use both regular bread crumbs and the flakier, crisper panko bread crumbs for the different textures they provide. But you can omit the panko and simply use more regular crumbs, if you prefer. The optional sour cream sauce adds a bit of tangy richness.

1½ pounds zucchini, trimmed and coarsely grated

1½ teaspoons salt

2 eggs

½ cup minced sweet onion

½ cup plain dried bread crumbs

½ cup panko bread crumbs

½ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons minced fresh basil

2 tablespoons whipping cream or half-and-half

1 tablespoon minced jalapeno chile

1 tablespoon minced fresh mint

2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced

3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

Sour Cream Sauce (optional) 

½ cup sour cream (light or regular) 

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon minced fresh mint

¼ teaspoon garlic salt or regular salt 

For the sour cream sauce, whisk together the sour cream, lemon zest, lemon juice, mint and garlic salt in a small bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve. (Best if made at least 2 hours in advance so the flavors can meld.) Place the zucchini in a colander or sieve, add 1 teaspoon of the salt, and toss to mix evenly. Set the colander in a bowl or on a dish and let drain for 30 minutes. Squeeze the zucchini in your hands to remove excess water. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees. 

Whisk the eggs in a large bowl until frothy. Add the onion, both breadcrumbs, parsley, basil, whipping cream, jalapeno, mint, garlic and remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Stir until well blended, then stir in the zucchini. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet, preferably non-stick, over medium heat. When hot, form 3 or 4 fritters in the pan, spooning about ¼ cup of the mixture for each and flattening them to 3-inch circles. Fry for 4 to 6 minutes, until browned and crisp, turning once.

Transfer to a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while cooking the rest. Add additional oil if needed. Arrange the fritters on individual plates, top with a grinding or two of black pepper, and add a drizzle of the sour cream sauce over the tops. 

Makes 6 to 12 servings. 

Do-Ahead Tips 

The sauce can be made up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated. The zucchini fritters can be fried up to 30 minutes in advance, though they are at their best served directly from the skillet. Reheat in a 325-degree oven before serving if needed.

Sauteed Tiny Tomatoes with Chile Flakes

In recent years we’ve seen a great variety of tomatoes available, no longer just big beefsteaks and plum tomatoes, but a range of sizes, shapes, and colors that are wonderful in countless different recipes.

For this easy, colorful side dish, small grape tomatoes are best. They are conveniently bite-sized, with a slightly firmer texture than cherry tomatoes, so they hold up well to pan frying.

If you can only find cherry tomatoes, be sure to sauté them for just a minute or so, to ensure that they hold their shape.


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small yellow or sweet onion, diced

5 cloves roasted garlic, with its roasting oil (recipe follows)

1½ pounds grape or cherry tomatoes

2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

¼ cup chopped mixed fresh herbs (oregano, thyme, chives and/or tarragon)



Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

Add the onion and roasted garlic and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes, until the onion is tender and aromatic (mash the garlic a bit to help break it up and distribute it evenly).

Add the tomatoes, parsley, and pepper flakes.

Increase the heat to medium-high and sauté, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes, until the tomatoes are heated through and you see that a handful of the tomatoes’ skins have begun to split.

Remove the skillet from the heat and sprinkle with the garlic oil, mixed herbs and salt.

Transfer to a warmed serving bowl or individual plates and serve immediately.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Set garlic cloves (or a whole head of garlic) on a piece of foil, drizze 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil over, and wrap securely in the foil.

Roast in a 375 degree oven until tender, 20 to 30 minutes depending on how much garlic you’ve roasting.

Let cool in the foil, then pinch the individual tender cloves from their skins.

Some recipes call for the roasting oil, or you can save it to use in a vinaigrette or to toss with steamed vegetables.


Pioneer Potluck: Rescuing Frack and calling 911

In my other life a long, long time ago (1970s and ealy 80s), I rescued a little kitty from a couple of jerks setting at... Read more

What can I do?

In a recent conversation our friend John Turnbull had on the phone with a lady makes me stop and think what I would do! He... Read more