“Song of the South your music weaves a magic spell. Song of the South, I see the scenes I know so well. Cottonwoods in blossom over my cabin door, pale moonlight on a field of white, you bring them back once more. I seem to hear those gentle voices calling low, out of the long, long ago. This heart of mine is in the heart of Dixie. That’s where I belong. Singing a song, a Song of the South.” – By Sam Coslow

This time of year always makes me a bit nostalgic. Growing up in eastern North Carolina, the month of May brings back memories of tobacco and cotton fields just starting to turn green and flower. Back in the day, harvesting for both used to begin at just about the same time that industrious teenagers got out of school for the summer. In the late 1970’s and early 80’s, many of my friends made ridiculously huge amounts of money “putting tobacco on sticks” during our summer vacations. My son-of-a-tobacco-farmer Daddy wouldn’t let me toil in the barns, so I made my summer cash by sewing sundresses for my newly wealthy and hard-working girlfriends. If you look in a 1981 yearbook from any of the three high schools in Wilson County, you’ll see multiple examples of my handiwork. I think a lot of people believe that North Carolina and South Carolina are pieces of the same puzzle. In reality, the Carolinas are two different planets. I love the scent of South Carolina pluff mud, but sometimes my heart aches for a whiff of cured tobacco and freshly turned North Carolina soil. This week’s recipes are some of my favorites from both of the Carolinas. (photography by Mark Shaffer)

Pimento Cheese and Cornbread

For the pimento cheese:

16 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated

½ to ¾ cup mayonnaise

1 (8-ounce) jar chopped pimentos, drained

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Dash tabasco sauce

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir with a fork until thoroughly mixed. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

For the cornbread:

¾ cup yellow cornmeal

1¼ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons butter, melted

2 eggs

1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, stir together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together vegetable oil, melted butter, eggs and milk. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the wet ingredients. Stir just until mixture is moistened. Pour batter into a lightly greased 8×8-inch baking dish and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until top is golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Serves 6.

Buttermilk Chicken and Waffles with Maple Gravy

For the chicken:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

2 cups buttermilk

2 cup corn flakes cereal, crushed

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon mustard powder

¼ teaspoon garlic salt

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 tablespoons butter, melted

Marinate chicken in buttermilk for a least 8 hours. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine cereal, cheese, mustard powder, garlic salt, and pepper in a shallow dish or pie plate.  Shake excess buttermilk from chicken and dip each piece in the cereal mixture, coating well on both sides.  Place chicken on a baking rack on a foil-lined baking sheet. Spay the rack with cooking spray.

Drizzle chicken with melted butter.  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until chicken is golden brown and cooked through.

For the waffles:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

2 eggs, separated

2 cups buttermilk

¼ cup butter, melted

Combine flour, soda and salt; set aside. Combine egg yolks, buttermilk and butter; add to flour mixture, stirring briskly until blended. Beat egg whites (at room temperature) until stiff peaks form; carefully fold into batter. Bake in preheated oiled waffle iron.

For the maple gravy:

1 (2.64-ounce) package country gravy mix

½ cup pure maple syrup

Prepare gravy mix according to package directions. When gravy is thickened, stir in syrup and heat through.

To assemble chicken and waffles:

Place of piece of chicken on top of a waffle and drizzle with generous amounts of maple gravy. Garnish with shredded cheddar cheese, crumbled bacon and/or hot sauce, if desired. Serves 4.

Southern-Style Broccoli Salad

1 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons white vinegar

1 large bunch broccoli, cut into florets

½ cup diced red onion

¾ cup raisins

8 to 10 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

½ cup chopped pecans

Stir together first 3 ingredients in a small bowl.  Cover and chill the dressing for at least 3 hours.  Mix broccoli, red onion, raisins, bacon and pecans. Toss gently with dressing to coat.  Serve with a slotted spoon. Serves 4 to 6

Quick Peach Cobbler

2 tablespoons butter, melted

½ cup self-rising flour

½ cup sugar

½ cup milk

Dash ground nutmeg

1 (29-ounce) can sliced peaches

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour melted butter evenly into a one-quart baking dish. In a small bowl, mix together flour, sugar, milk and nutmeg. Slowly pour the flour mixture into the baking dish. Pour the can of peaches into the center of the flour mixture. Bake, uncovered, for 30 to 40 minutes or until cobbler is lightly browned. Serve warm. Serves 6 to 8.

Carolina Belle

1.25 ounces bourbon

2 ounces freshly squeezed ruby red grapefruit juice

.75 ounce ginger liqueur

Fresh mint leaves, to garnish

Combine bourbon, grapefruit juice and ginger liqueur in a martini shaker. Add ice and shake. Strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a fresh mint sprig. Serves 1.

The writer owns Catering by Debbi Covington and is the author of three cookbooks, Celebrate Beaufort, Celebrate Everything! and Dining Under the Carolina Moon. For more great recipes and to view her cooking demonstrations, visit and subscribe to Debbi’s YouTube channel. Debbi’s website address is www.cateringbydebbicovington.com. She may be reached at 843-525-0350 or by email at dbc@cateringbydebbicovington.com.