Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook

The Recipes

Mediterranean Brunch

Chicken and Sweet Potato Hash

Southern Style Shrimp and Grits

Winter is about to fold as longer days of sunshine entice green shoots from the earth. It's just about time most of us have about had it with those cold windy days-on to some blooms and vegetables from the garden. So ho hum, while we wait there are still some locally grown/produced foods that can just get us through 'til spring.

Foods like root veggies-sweet potatoes, onions, winter squash, milk, yogurt, eggs, cheese, mushrooms, sausage, poultry, seafood are still to be had at a farmers market or buying club.

Brunch fits the bill for many of these foods and it makes a weekend something to look forward to. If you use a brunch menu to entertain, life is really easy. The recipes below are  uniquely yummy -quick and fulfilling.  Each brunch dish is enhanced with some fresh fruit on the side.

Mediterranean Brunch

Serves 4

The fun part about this elegantly simple brunch is that all ingredients are perfect served at room temperature plus, it’s basically an assembly of quality ingredients to make rustically lush meal.


  • 4 hard boiled farm eggs, peeled and quartered
  • 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives
  • 1-2 cups sliced farm cucumber (or hothouse cucumber)
  • 2 medium ripe tomatoes, quartered
  • 8 (1-inch) cubes Feta cheese
  • Freshly chopped oregano or basil
  • 2 medium soft pitas, toasted and halved


To assemble:

Simply place equal portions of each ingredient on each plate or let folks serve themselves from a main platter. Sprinkle with the herb and pass the olive oil and pepper mill.


Smoky Chicken Sweet Potato Hash

Serves 4-6

Here you have a little twist on the potatoes; using sweets instead of white potatoes resulting in a nice alluring sweetness to balance the smoky paprika and lemon juice. Since most of us aren't outside cooking with the grill, the paprika from Spain adds a bit of that essence. Just make sure to use it sparingly.

  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
  • Kosher salt and coarsely ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (Spanish)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 (3-pound) roasted chicken or a store-bought rotisserie chicken, meat removed and diced
  • 2-4 tablespoons chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Bring a large pot or water to a boil over medium heat. Add the sweet potatoes and cook until tender, about 12 to 14 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a large oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat, add the butter. When bubbling, add the onions, bell peppers and garlic and saute until the onions are soft. Add the cayenne, salt, pepper, smoked paprika and thyme. Stir in the chicken and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until chicken is warmed through. Season with more salt and pepper, if needed. Stir in the chicken stock to add some moisture. Allow to simmer for a few minutes. Add the cooked potatoes and put into the oven until the potatoes are crunchy, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle with parsley and serve.


Southern Style Shrimp and Grits with Sausage

Serves 4

If you have never tasted creamy textured corn grits with shrimp, you are missing a treat! When I lived in North Carolina and traveled throughout the South, grits were common fare, but 'Shrimp and Grits' was a positive feast.

Keep your eye on time as you will be making the shrimp and sausage about 15 minutes before the grits are finished,.




  • 1 cup coarse yellow corn grits, soaked overnight if necessary according to package
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon cream cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce, or to taste


For the Shrimp and Sausage Stew

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 20 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 4 medium plum tomatoes, diced
  • 2 Cubanelle chiles, diced
  • 1 cup cooked and crumbled smoked breakfast sausage (from your farmer)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice, or to taste
  • Hot sauce
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley



For the grits

Follow package instructions for cooking the grits, seasoning with salt to taste, and adding the bay leaf halfway through cooking. At the end of cooking, mix grits with butter, cream cheese, pepper, lemon juice and hot sauce. Adjust salt as needed.


To prepare shrimp and sausage

Place a large sauté pan over medium heat, and add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the shrimp in a single layer. When they are seared on one side, about 1 minute, turn them to sear on the other side, then remove to hold on a warm plate. Add tomatoes, chiles, sausage to the same pan and heat Bring to a simmer and season with lemon juice, hot sauce and salt. Add the broth if the mixture seems dry. Return the shrimp to the pan and heat for about 2 minutes.

To serve, place equal portions of grits on four rimmed plates or shallow soup bowls. Top with equal portions of shrimp sausage stew. Garnish with remaining parsley and serve.





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