Cook the Book

Cook the Book: South of Somewhere

By: The Local Palate
South of Somewhere Cover Image

Born and raised in South Africa, Dale Gray set her sights on building a life for herself across the world. She writes in her new cookbook, South of Somewhere (Simon & Schuster 2023), “I still remember my words as if they were spoken yesterday: ‘My future husband lives across the oceans and that’s where I’ll start a family one day.’” Sure enough, she moved to South Korea to teach English and met her Louisiana-born husband, who was stationed there in the Army. They moved to El Paso, then Mississippi, and the whole time, Gray explored her new surroundings through ingredients available in the markets and the recipes around her. 

Her new cookbook about the intersection of her South African roots, life in South Korea, and now living in the American South (aptly titled South of Somewhere) particularly resonated with me. While my cooking practices are steeped in the Southern recipes I grew up with, I love traveling through food, whether it’s via a tiki drink that transports me to the beach or scouring the H&L Market for those chewy fish cakes I love in my takeout yaki udon. This range of ingredients and dishes falls between the covers in South of Somewhere. 

I can’t remember the last time I encountered a cookbook with so many recipes that I actually planned to make—burrata with peaches and honeycomb, tinned mackerel toasts with anchovy butter, red beans and smoked turkey, okonomiyaki cabbage “steaks”—the list felt endless. For the sake of this, I prioritized three that were a little global and a little Southern and all easy enough to make on a weeknight.

daiquiri slushies served with limes from South of Somewhere cookbook

Frozen Daiquiris

Somewhere between a tart daiquiri and a minty mojito comes this perfect specimen of a cocktail, brilliantly balanced with lime juice, sweetness, and fresh mint. I didn’t have frozen fruit on hand to use as ice in the mix, as Gray suggests, but I honestly didn’t miss it. I increased the lime juice by 25 percent because I like sour cocktails and substituted agave for simple syrup (I always do this because it mixes well and is easy to find). The ¼ cup of rum per serving shakes out to about a 2-ounce pour, which is on par with your stiff drink at a bar, so one cocktail was plenty for the evening. I recommend listening to “Kokomo” while making it.

Salmon Ssam Feast from South of Somewhere

Salmon Ssam Feast

Are you glazing your salmon in gochujang? Because this chili paste condiment presents an instant upgrade to the sheet pan dinner’s favorite fish. Ssam, Gray writes, refers to a Korean style of bundling fillings into lettuce wraps. Unlike with most lettuce wraps, the addition of rice gave these a little heartiness that didn’t leave me feeling hungry after a couple wraps. The recipe recommends using butter lettuce, but I prefer iceberg, which has slightly bigger leaves and higher water content for extra crunchiness. This dish came together in around 30 minutes, so my boyfriend and I made it as a work-from-home lunch that was so good we had it again for dinner.

Pimento cheese tomato galette from South of Somewhere

Pimento Cheese Tomato Pie Galette

This galette offers a ratio I often miss in most Southern tomato pies, which can have too much soft filling and too little crisp exterior to balance it. The galette model reverses that, with more shell-per-bite factor. I’m also not a fan of mayonnaise (truly, I hate it), and it fills traditional tomato pie with unsettling gloops. However, the pimento cheese used in this filling gave it mayo-like richness masked within a cheesy guise. Topping the baked galette with fresh cherry tomatoes added bright flavor and a tighter, popping texture that contrasted with the cooked-down beefsteak tomatoes.

Get these recipes and more in South of Somewhere, out September 5, 2023.

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